Tag Archive: The Story


Creative Block or Wall

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I sat down to write a blog post and nothing comes to mind. I think about the current series of messages we are on and think there must be something to write about…nope!

Have you ever had one of those moments that you believe there is nothing creative left in your body?

As a congregation Gloria Dei went through a 31 week journey through God’s Word. It was a fantastic journey as we witnessed together God’s redemptive work that has been happening from the beginning of time. We personally witnessed God coming to us and speaking to our hearts through his Word and message. All good things that came from a great journey. But…

I do have to tell you though, and honestly it is not complaining or throwing a pity party, I poured a lot of myself into creating blog posts, coordinating people and making it an overall enjoyable online experience…but I was left feeling extremely drained. Which explains the reason I started his post the way I did. I have been sitting at my screen for the last three weeks, since we finished, trying to figure out what to write next. Trying to figure out how to continue to engage the reader and be creative about it. I came up with nada, nothing but a blank page with no thoughts to produce.

And so I wait…

Waiting is not easy. I always think there must be something I’ve done wrong. There must be a three-step process for me getting back on track. I don’t think it is going to be that easy.

What am I really waiting on? Am I waiting on my creativeness (yes its a word) to kick in? Is my waiting centered on me?

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:14

I’ve waited on my strength and power to return, but I’ve been waiting on the wrong thing. The day of Pentecost should have given me a clue, but I remained clueless. Jesus tells his disciples to wait for power that would come from on high.  When I trust in my own power I end up failing every time because I will eventually run out of energy.

So today I will wait, I will wait on God to give me the strength and courage to move in the places he would have me go.

What are you waiting for? Have you been placing too much waiting time on you and your power and not enough on God?

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

“The Story” Quiz

The Story logo

After a long study it is good to follow-up with a test. How many of these can you get right? There could be some prizes for the winner. Try not to use any resources unless you have given up. I’ll be posting answers to the test next week

Kings

1. Who held the final reign over the united monarchy of Israel which ended in 931 BC?

2. Who was the king by whom all other kings were measured?

3. Who is the king that lacked the wisdom of his father Solomon because he rejected the advice of the elders and split the kingdom?

4. Who is the evil king of Israel that set up Baal worship and even sacrificed his firstborn son in the rebuilding of Jericho?

5. Which king became king of Judah at twelve years old and perpetrated horrific evil, including shedding innocent blood, star worship and idolatry in the temple?

Prophets

1. Which prophet did God tell to marry an adulterous woman as a lesson on Israel’s unfaithfulness?

2. Who is the greatest of writing prophets that helped King Hezekiah thwart Sennacherib’s Assyrian threat?

3. Who promised that the Shunammite woman would have a son whom he later raised from the dead?

4. Who was the last Old Testament Prophet and said that Elijah would come before the great and dreadful day of the Lord?

5. Who is the prophet that was the shepherd of Tekoa and warned Israel to prepare to meet her God?

Locations

1. After fearing for his life, what mountain did Elijah flee to where the Lord spoke to him in a gentle whisper?

2. Which mountain did Elijah call down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice to defend God against Baal?

3. What capital city of the Persian Empire did Mordecai live when King Xerxes took Esther as queen?

4. What city became the capital of the Northern territory of Israel?

5. What is the name of the place Jeroboam placed a golden calf, installed priests, offered sacrifices and instituted a new festival to mimic authentic worship and hold onto his power?

Exile

1. Which Babylonian King destroyed Jerusalem in three sieges and took thousands captive?

2. Which young Judean nobleman was put in charge of the province of Babylon after correctly interpreting the king’s dream?

3. Who reigned over Israel when they were taken captive by Assyria?

4. Which prophet was already in exile when he warned Judah of coming doom for their unbelief?

5. Who was reigning over Judah when he and ten thousand Judeans were taken prisoner to Babylon?

Home Again

1. Who prophesied that Judah would be in exile for 70 years and then return to the land?

2. Which King of Persia issued a decree allowing the people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple?

3. Which festival celebrates God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from Haman’s attempted genocide?

4. Which leader is credited with rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem?

5. Which prophet did the people obey who warned Zerubbabel to get back to work on the Lord’s house?

Teachings of Jesus

1. Which parable did Jesus use to explain what it means to love one’s neighbor?

2. Which parable did Jesus use to explain different people’s responses to the gospel?

3. Which parable did Jesus use to explain why he has compassion for sinners?

4. Which long teaching of Jesus began with many “blessed” and came to be known as one of his greatest sermons?

5. Which Pharisee did Jesus teach the need to be born again of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God?

Signs and Wonders

1. What was Jesus’ first miracle that reveled his glory?

2. Who’s 12-year-old daughter was raised back to life?

3. What items did Jesus feed the 5000?

4. What are the names of the sisters that witnessed their brother being raised to life?

5. Which disciples healed a man lame from birth and were then arrested?

Notable Quotes Who said,…

1. “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

2. “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called Son of God.”

3. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

4. “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

5. “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

Book of Acts

1. Who was the author of Acts?

2. On which festival day did the Holy Spirit come upon the disciples?

3. Who was the first Gentile to receive the Holy Spirit?

4. Which apostle went to Samaria to preach the gospel there? (Hint: you should recognize his name)

5. Which prophet did Peter quote when he explained their speaking in tongues?

Church on Mission

1. Where was Paul’s home base church that sent him out on his missions located?

2. Which city did Paul and Silas share the gospel with their jailer and his family?

3. Which couple did Paul stay with during his year and a half in Corinth?

4. Which city did Paul spend more time building a church than in any other?

5. Which island was Paul shipwrecked for months while on his way to Rome?

When it comes down to it these are all facts that you may remember or you may not. My prayer is not that you have memorized some facts or have all the knowledge of the world, but I hope God’s story has moved the foot from your brain to your heart. It is sometimes the hardest distance to overcome.

What has been the most memorable part of “The Story” for you? What are the areas that you have a hard time taking out of your head and believing them in your heart?

The End of Time (Bible Study)

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Recap of Chp 31

“Yes, I am coming soon.” —Jesus.

Of the original apostles, only John remained to hear these words.   He had experienced the climax of salvation history, but God was not yet finished.  He had one more message to share with John and the growing churches to show His servants what must soon take place.

John was exiled on the island of Patmos for his faith in Jesus.  It was here that the glorified Christ appeared to John with a message of His second coming.  John saw someone “like a son of man” dressed in a priestly robe and ready to judge.  He fell like a dead man at His feet.  This John who had leaned against Jesus’ breast (Jn. 13:25) could not even stand before Christ’s unveiled glory.  Jesus presented Himself as the resurrected One who has authority over life and death.  He stood among seven golden lamp stands which represent the seven churches located in the province of Asia Minor on the mainland close to the island of Patmos.

Jesus had messages for each of these seven churches.  From the three churches addressed in this chapter, a pattern emerges.  First, there’s a unique description of Jesus that is related to the message.  Then each message contains both a word of commendation and a rebuke for the congregation.  He then gives an instruction or warning before an encouraging promise to those who listen and overcome the problem.  Jesus who stands among the lamp stands was carefully watching His churches.

John then saw the throne room of heaven where he was shown visions of future events.   God sat upon His throne in unimaginable splendor and beauty.  He was surrounded by living creatures and elders who worshiped Him without ceasing.  He held a scroll that no one was found worthy to open, causing John to weep.  But John’s hope was restored when he saw the Lamb standing as if slain.  For the Lamb was worthy to open the scroll and also to receive power and glory and honor and praise!

Shortly thereafter, the bride who symbolizes all faithful believers was ready, wearing clean linen and prepared for the marriage supper of the Lamb.  Then John saw heaven opened, and Jesus descended in full glory on a white horse ready to wage war and judge mankind.  The King of Kings was ready to rule with blazing eyes and a blood drenched robe, a sharp sword and filled with the fury of God’s wrath.  He was accompanied by the armies of heaven.  His appearance is a dramatic reminder of the awfulness of God’s coming judgment upon those who reject the Lord.  God’s final judgment from His great white throne is the final event of human history as we know it.  The dead stand before Him in judgment.  Those not found in the book of life are cast into the lake of fire.

Then John saw the New Heaven and New Earth and the New Jerusalem.  In this future re-creation, God dwells among His people where He wipes away every tear.  Many themes from His redemptive Story find their culmination in this place where all things are made new.  The majestic and glorious New Jerusalem will be home to all the redeemed.  Nothing impure will ever enter it.  The water of life flows from the throne of God, the tree of life bears much fruit, and all are invited to partake.  This place is the hope of every believer, for it is where God’s Upper Story and His Lower Story finally merge into one.  It is here that the redeemed will enjoy the presence of God and of the Lamb forever.  As Jesus concluded His message to John, three times He said, “Look, I am coming soon!”  No wonder we are called blessed!  Our King is coming!  Come, Lord Jesus, come!

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The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Hear and Overcome

John the Apostle had a longer history with Jesus than any of the other apostles.  He was probably a first cousin of Jesus, the son of Salome (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40) the sister of Mary (Jn. 19:25).   John, along with his brother James, and Peter became the most trusted of Jesus’ disciples.  He had an especially intimate relationship with these three men who would later play significant roles in the life of the early church.  John was the “beloved disciple.”  He was there when Jesus healed Jairus’ daughter.  He witnessed firsthand the glimpse of Jesus’ glorification at the Transfiguration.  John and Peter were charged with preparing the Passover supper (Lu. 22:8) where he later reclined against Jesus’ breast.  Hours later, he saw the agony of Gethsemane.  John was at the cross and it was to him that Jesus entrusted His beloved mother and gave John to her as a son (Jn. 19:26-27).  After the ascension of Christ, he was a “pillar” as a leader in the young church (Gal. 2:9).  He outlived all the other apostles and is probably the only one of the original disciples who was not martyred for his faith.

Yes, John had a long history with Jesus.  They were more than familiar, they were intimately close.  But none of that prepared him for the vision that he saw on the island of Patmos many years later.  The unveiled glory of Jesus took his breath away!  He could not stand in the presence of this One who stood amongst the lamp stands.  He fell to the ground in fear like a dead man.

The One who stands among the seven golden lamp stands is none other than the glorified Jesus Himself.  John describes Him with similar details to the Ancient of Days described by Daniel (Dan. 7:9).  God the Son has the same wisdom, purity, eternity and piercing judgment as God the Father.  No wonder John fell at His feet like a dead man!  The Apostle Paul had a similar response on the road to Damascus and Peter fell on his face at the Transfiguration—a glimpse of Christ in His glory.  Jesus described Himself as the Living One, once dead but now alive forever!  He alone has the keys to death and Hades.  The Christian’s fate is not in the hands of Satan, evildoers or chance.  Our life, death and resurrection unto eternal life is at in the hands of Jesus alone—the Worthy One!

Jesus stands among the lamp stands which He interpreted for John as the churches (1:20).  He is not distant in His ascension and glorification.  He is present and watching over the churches, for they are His body.  He is the judge who has the right to encourage, admonish and correct each church community.  But He is also the sovereign ruler who has the power to reward those who have an ear to hear!

I.    Learning Activity:  Charting the messages to the churches:  Charts are an excellent way to organize the Scriptures, discover patterns and then analyze and synthesize them. 

Messages to the Seven Churches (Rev. 2-3)

Church

Christ

Commendation

Rebuke

Exhortation

Promise

Ephesus(2:1-7)          
Smyrna(2:8-11)          
Pergamum(2:12-17)          
Thyatira(2:18-29)          
Sardis(3:1-6)          
Philadelphia(3:7-13)          
Laodicea(3:14-22)          

If you struggle with the chart please let me know I have one that is filled out I can send you

II.    Lessons from the seven churches:

A. What relationship do you discover between Jesus’ description of Himself to each church and the message to that church?

B. What were the strengths of each church?

C. For what did Jesus rebuke them?

D. Which church would you have wanted to be a member of and why?  Not a member of?

E. Do contemporary churches experience these same strengths and problems?

F. Do you think Jesus still stands among the lamp stands (churches) today to commend, judge and correct them?

G. What lessons can we apply today?

III.    Who are the overcomers and what are they promised?

Are the promises to overcomers in these letters to the churches limited to those people in those churches at that time in history, or could we be included in these promises?  Let’s explore some other Scriptures that talk about overcomers to see who they may be. 

A. First John is a letter written by the same author—John—who wrote the Gospel and Revelation (also 2nd and 3rd John).  We should expect that the same author would use the same words in largely the same way.  Therefore, we should not be surprised that he talked about overcoming five times in this letter.

  1. 1 Jn. 2:13  I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning.  I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.  I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.
  2. 1 Jn. 2:14  I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning.  I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
  3. 1 Jn. 4:4  You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
  4. 1 Jn. 5:4  For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
  5. 1 Jn. 5:5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

B. He who sits on the throne explained to John the inheritance of the overcomers.

  1. Rev. 21:7-8  He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.  But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. 
  2. What are “these things” that the overcomer inherits?  The New Heaven and New Earth and New Jerusalem!  The contrast between “he who overcomes” and the “unbelieving” tells us that all believers are overcomers!  All believers—you and I—will inherit the unspeakable blessings of this eternal kingdom wherein God will be our God and the overcomer will be His son.
  3. By contrast, those who do not believe and practice the sins of unbelief will be excluded from the inheritance and judged with the lake of fire that was prepared for Satan and his demonic minions (Rev. 21:8; Matt. 25:41).  This place of righteous punishment is a place of torment day and night forever (Rev. 20:10).
  • What would a person miss if he was not an overcomer?
  • Then how does someone become an overcomer?
  • Are YOU an overcomer?

IV.       Applications and Implications

A. Christ is coming back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

B. Jesus watches His churches diligently.  He is not absent or distant.

C. Individual churches have people in them who are redeemed believers and also some who are not.  Therefore, the message to repent and turn to God by faith must go out.

D. From Ephesus, we will continue to serve the Lord by hard work and good deeds but service does not replace a relationship with Jesus.  I will not get so busy with “good deeds” that I substitute them for the best thing.

E. From Smyrna, I am willing to suffer for Christ in this life because I know that eternal life awaits me.  When I am not suffering, I can provide prayer support and financial support to persecuted Christians around the world.

F. From Pergamum, I will test all teachings against Scripture so that the purity of the gospel is not stained by idolatry.

G. From Thyatira, I will continue to grow in faith, service and love but I will not tolerate immorality and idolatry within the church community.

H. From Sardis, some people in the church can look good on the outside but be dead on the inside because they lack the life-giving Holy Spirit.

I. From Philadelphia, I will persevere in all those things in the church and in my own life that are good.

J. From Laodicea, those Jesus loves, He reproves and disciplines.  I will honestly assess myself to see if I am lukewarm.  But blindness may not give me a true assessment of myself, so I need a trusted “hot” believer or two in my life to be honest with me in my walk with the Lord.

K. As an overcomer, I will keep God’s Upper Story in view.  I look forward to the rewards and benefits of the eternal kingdom even when the Lower Story seems overwhelming.

L. I will heed the warnings of these churches and overcome by faith any areas in my life that mirror those things that Jesus rebuked.

M. Setting my hope on the New Heaven and New Earth motivates me to holy living now.

Bride of Christ, Royal Wedding

Revelation 19:6-10; John 3:16-36; Matthew 9:14-17; 22:1-14; 25:1-13

I can’t believe this is our last Bible study of “The Story.” I don’t know about you but I have been learning just as much as I have been teaching. For the last time in this series, let’s open up the pages of Scripture and see what God is going to teach us today. We focus in on the last book of the Bible; Revelation.

The Book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible; it is God’s last inspired word to mankind, and concludes His message in a glorious shout of victory. A few snapshots from John’s masterpiece are brought together in chapter 31 which wraps up “The Story” God sent this message to encourage the Church however John uses a form of writing that is unique to the New Testament and more common to the Old Testament (Ezekiel, Daniel etc.).  Layers of repeating metaphors that intertwine make interpretation of the book very difficult.  But one thing rings clear: God’s promise in Genesis—that Satan would be crushed—comes true through the work of Christ, and God will reunite with His creation.  Then the victory party will begin “because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7).

I. The Bride.

Weddings, brides and grooms, and married love may resonate with people today.

Three women are mentioned in Revelation: the mother (12:1-17), the harlot (chapters 17—19), and the Bride of Christ, (19:8 through the end of the book).   The metaphor of the bride is not new in Revelation; it has been a running theme throughout God’s Word, and we have followed it through “The Story.” Discover what we can know about the bride.

1.  What does Paul use to teach about the relationship of Christ and his church? Ephesians 5:22-32

2.  Ezekiel 16 describes God’s love for his people in violent terms that are hard to read.  What is revealed about the “bride” and what does God do about it?

3.   How much does the groom love the bride? Ephesians 5:25-27; Isaiah 49:16

Psalm 45 was commissioned for the wedding of the king’s son but, “he felt himself commissioned by the Spirit of God to write about the heavenly King, the Messiah, taking a bride” (Elwell).

4.  How does the bride look? Psalm 45:11-14

5.  What is her wedding gown made of? Revelation 19:8

6.  In Revelation 21:2 and 21:9-21 we see two metaphors layered together. What is the bride and what is she compared to in John’s description of the “bride and wife of the lamb”?  How is she adorned in these two passages?

II. The Bridegroom.  John 3:16-36; Matthew 9:14-17, Revelation

Discover the clarification about Jesus that John gave to his disciples from John 3:16-36:

1.  Describe the actions and desires of God, the lover of mankind? John 3:16-17

2.  What terms does John use to describe his own relationship with Jesus?  John 3:27-29

3.  What terms does John use to describe Jesus? John 3:28-29

4.  How does he then explain Jesus’ superiority?  John 3:30-31

5.  What is John’s warning? John 3:32-36

Discover the clarification that Jesus made about himself to John’s disciples from Matthew 9:14-16:

6.  How does Jesus describe His followers? Matthew 9:15

7.  How does Jesus describe Himself? Matthew 9:15

In weddings of our day the bride usually steals the show.  But in Revelation, the groom is most important because he is the Lamb of God.  What do the following passages say about the bridegroom?

Revelation 5:6, 9

Revelation 7:9-10

Revelation 7:17

Revelation 19:7

Revelation 21:23

Revelation 22:1

Why is it so important to see that the lamb and the bridegroom are one and the same? (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19)

III. The Wedding

Some familiarity with traditional Jewish wedding customs helps us understand the wedding metaphor.  The marriage begins long before the wedding!  There are four parts to the process.  The betrothal is an agreement between the groom and the father of the bride that is much more serious than our engagement.  When the agreement is made they are man and wife.  A waiting period follows during which the groom pays the dowry or provides a service equal to the amount owed to the father of the bride.  The bride is occupied as well; during this time she prepares herself for the wedding.  After the agreed upon interval the groom, along with a procession of his friends, takes the bride from her home to his home, or to the home of his parents.  At last the celebration begins with a wedding feast that may last seven to fourteen days!

Match the following scriptures that correspond to a part of the Jewish marriage:

_________________“I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him” 2 Corinthians 11:2; Hosea 2:19-20.

_________________ “In my Father’s house are many rooms….I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” John 14:2-3.

_________________ “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom!  Come out to meet him!’” Matthew 25:6 (from the Parable of the Ten Virgins, Matthew 25:1-13, also see 25:31-33).

_________________ “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son” Matthew 22:2ff.

It’s no accident that men and women are ‘wired’ to need a loving relationship. God makes no apology for His desire to have a loving relationship with his creation. Jesus knew his role because the bride and groom are God’s idea! It is right and good to celebrate a wedding because it is the picture of the great celebration to come, when Jesus and His church can be together, face to face, for eternity.

IV. The Bride of Christ: A Saved Church or Saved Individuals?  YES!

If the church is the bride of Christ, how do we fit in as individuals?  In 1910, Scottish theologian, Peter T. Forsythe explained God’s love for the whole world as love “directed upon the world in such a way that it should be taken home in every individual experience”.   The church is the bride of Christ but we have the assurance of God’s Word that Jesus is the lover of each soul.

1.  Fill in the blanks to learn about the relationship between the lamb and His bride:

God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out and find him, though he is not far from ___________  _________ of us.” Acts 7:27

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has                                                                                     into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:5

 

“All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to __________  ________, just as he determines.” 1 Corinthians 12:11

“You should keep your relationship with God to yourself.” Sadly, this false teaching even confuses believers.  But we cannot simply be “satisfied with a personal union with Christ, securing our own future.  The gospel deals with the world of men as a whole” (Forsythe).

 2.  Determine how the individuals who make up the “Bride of Christ” relate to one another:

I Corinthians 12: 12-31

Ephesians 5:21

3.  Explain in your own words how the church, made up of many individuals, is the Bride of Christ.

William Hendriksen explains in More than Conquerors that the Bride of Christ was chosen from eternity and for eternity.  “And now, after an interval which in the eyes of God is but a little while, the bridegroom returns and, ‘it has come, the wedding of the lamb’.  The church on earth yearns for this moment.”

Key Question:  Are you a part of the Bride of Christ, prepared to join the lamb for the wedding feast?

For additional reflection:

1.  Paul explains in Romans 2:6 that “God will give to each person according to what he has done”. (See also, Psalm 62:11-12).  From the context and from our study of the Bride of Christ, what is the most important thing for each one of us to do? (Hint: Romans 3:21-26)

2.  How can you make more room in your heart and life for God’s Treasure?

3.  What righteous deeds will make up the “fine linen” in your wedding gown?

4.  What meaningful truth have you discovered in your journey through “The Story?”

The End of Time (4 Perspectives)

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Perspective 1- Kelsey Rath

When reading the final chapter in The Story something that stood out to me was when God said,

“I am the alpha and the omega, who is, and was, and is to come, the almighty.”

Since alpha and omega means the beginning and the end, this gives us a feel of God truly won’t leave us. He will always be there for us. He will be there in the beginning and the end.  Who is, and was, and is to come. This to me means that he is God, he was God, and will always be God.  This how God was telling the disciples that he and only he was the true Lord almighty. He is the Lord, was the Lord, and is the Lord to come.

Perspective 2- Pastor Ron

My first reaction to chapter 31 of The Story? How am I am going to do a 20-minute message on the entire book of Revelation! My second reaction was one of sadness that the journey is coming to an end. I know that it is not the end and the book of Revelation makes that very clear. The upper story of God goes on for all eternity. Yet, it has been such a great journey for us as a congregation to read through God’s Word in a chronological order, to have so many “ah ha” moments, and to share our thoughts with one another, that it is sad to see it come to an end.

With all those thoughts going through my head as I read the chapter, the one question that kept coming up was how can we now tell this story to others? The reality is Jesus will return one day, and to those who know Him as their Savior, a paradise beyond comprehension awaits them, but for those who do not…It is a sobering thought. It is a great responsibility. It is an honor that God would entrust the spreading of His story to us.

The personal challenge I took away from this chapter is how can God use me so that more people will drink from the living water and eat from the tree of everlasting life.  Secondly, how can God use Gloria Dei to do the same? Have you given that much thought?

Perspective 3- Barb Miles

The end? The End of Time?

No, not the end, but the beginning.  The beginning for us who are victorious.

Count the references to ‘Victorious’ in Chapter 31 – Victorious – the right to eat from the tree of life Victorious – the right to be dressed in white – pure Victorious – the right to sit with Jesus on His throne Victorious – the right to drink the water from the spring of life A victory for our God who, since the beginning wanted to come down from the Upper Story and dwell with His people.

The apostle John received a new vision and was told to write it down. John saw the new heaven and the new earth coming down out of heaven.  Through John, we have his record and description of a place so spectacular that we can scarcely imagine.  A place that does not require a sun or a moon to provide light but is illuminated by the radiance of God.

Apostle John says this day will surely come.  Until that day, all believers share in the new covenant of Jesus as written by the apostle Paul – to go to our Jerusalem; to go to our Judea; to go to our Samaria and to go to the ends of this earth to share with those who have not heard the story of Christ Jesus.  Share the Good News.

So while we wait for the new world that John described, we have our work to do.  Bringing Jesus Christ to people for the first time and for a lifetime.

Come Lord Jesus – Come!

Perspective 4- Dan Petrak

Paul’s Final Days (Bible Study)

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Recap of Chapter 30

If one could earn frequent traveler miles two thousand years ago, Paul might hold a record.After spending nearly three years in Ephesus, he retraced his steps through Greece and Macedonia before docking in Miletus. There he summoned the Ephesian elders for a tearful and final farewell. He charged them with shepherding the church of God. After a brief stay with Philip in Caesarea, Paul headed for Jerusalem, knowing that chains awaited him there.

Paul seemed to always be able to stir up a controversy. Just walking into the temple court stirred up trouble. The Jews tried to kill him in Jerusalem so the Roman authorities stepped in to arrest him. While being taken into custody, Paul gave his testimony before an angry crowd. The Roman commander brought him before the Sanhedrin to get some answers, but that only made the problem worse. Paul remained in protective custody and was transferred to Caesarea’s higher court where he remained for two years before appealing to Caesar.

When Paul wrote to the church in Rome while still on his missionary journeys, he told them that he planned to visit them. He probably did not anticipate his “fourth missionary journey” to be under these circumstances. Luke joined him on this cruise to Rome with Julius, a kind Imperial centurion, as Paul’s personal escort. Paul warned the crew that sailing on in bad weather would be disastrous, but they continued anyway. Conditions worsened to hurricane force winds off the coast of Crete driving their ship every which way. Weeks later the storm had not weakened, but all thoughts of survival surely had. Food was low; gear was gone; hope was gone. What seemed like a bad episode of Gilligan’s Island became unlikely opportunities for Paul to talk about God. The next morning they arrived safely ashore on Malta where the islanders showed exceptional hospitality. When Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake without incident, the people thought he was either a criminal or a god. Paul healed many of the locals during their winter stay there. Three months later they were finally able to set sail for Rome.

Paul was greeted by believers at the port of Puteoli, modern-day Pozzuoli, about 150 miles south of Rome. They encouraged him, and he spent a week there before traveling on. When the Roman Christians heard he was coming, they joined him for the final forty miles of his trek to Rome where Paul was confined to house arrest under the supervision of a soldier. Paul invited the Jewish leaders to come to his house. There he told them about his conflict with the Jerusalem Jews and the fulfillment of the Scriptures by Jesus. Some believed, but others rejected his message. So once again Paul pronounced his mission to the Gentiles. He spent the next two years boldly teaching anyone about Jesus who would stop by (60-62 A.D). In his spare time, Paul corresponded with some old friends.

Paul had a special place in his heart for the church in Ephesus. He had spent three years there developing the new church (Acts 20:31). He wrote to remind them of the high calling in Christ that is the basis of God’s plan to unite all believers—Jews and Gentiles alike—in one body, the Church. Therefore, those who are called are to conduct themselves in the highest of ethical standards. Although the world is hostile, believers are to preserve unity in the Spirit. During his final Roman imprisonment (67-68 A.D.), Paul wrote to Timothy to encourage him to be faithful in preserving the gospel in the midst of persecution and false teachers. Timothy faced hardship in Ephesus. So knowing he was probably facing execution soon, Paul penned a heartfelt letter to strengthen this son even from a damp, cold dungeon in Rome.

Life Lessons from the History of Ephesus

Amy Carmichael knew what it was like to suffer for the gospel.  She left her life of relative comfort in a small Irish village to pursue a call from the Lord to mission work in India.  She was born in 1867 and at the age of twenty, she heard missionary Hudson Taylor speak of his experience in China.  Shortly thereafter, she applied to follow Taylor and serve the Lord in China also.  But the Lord directed her path elsewhere when the missions board deemed her unfit due to health problems.  Amy suffered from neuralgia, a disease of the nerves that weakened her body and made her achy all over.  Carmichael spent fifteen months in Japan before she found her true call in India.

Much of her work in India included rescuing children from forced prostitution in the Hindu temples.  Mostly young girls were dedicated to the gods and then pushed into prostitution there to earn money for the priests.  Never married, she served there for fifty-six years without furlough.  She poured her life into her own organization called Dohnavur Fellowship, which became a sanctuary to more than one thousand children in three homes, a hospital and evangelistic work.  She was badly injured in a fall which left her confined to her bed for most of the last twenty years of her life.  Nevertheless, she used that time to direct the operations at the Fellowship and write some of her 35 published books.  She died at the age of 83 in India in 1951.

Amy Carmichael had much in common with Paul.  Her missionary work led her to rescue temple prostitutes from idolatrous destruction.  Paul’s stay in Ephesus included rescuing women from the temple prostitution at the temple of Artemis (or Diana as the Romans knew her).  The spiritual conditions of India and Ephesus both included god and goddess worship as well as sorcery.  Both Amy and Paul were afflicted by painful physical ailments—Amy’s neuralgia and Paul’s eye disease.  Both Amy and Paul used their confinements—her bed and his imprisonments—to serve the Lord in writing, teaching and developing other leaders.  But the thing these two saints have most in common is their perseverance to the end of their lives.  Their passion for sharing the gospel with lost souls compelled them to “fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith,” (2 Tim. 4:7).  Perhaps Amy was thinking of Paul who wrote to the Philippians that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21) when she answered a letter from a young woman.  She asked Amy, “What is missionary life-like?”  Amy wrote back, “Missionary life is simply a chance to die.”

India was Amy’s Ephesus.  Neither Paul nor Amy hesitated to take Christ to a less than ideal place.  Both poured out their lives for Christ.  Paul’s special relationship with Ephesus is evidence by his length of stay there, but also by the other leaders that he must have sent there to continue to nurture the church.  Arguably no other church has had the kind of discipleship that Ephesus did.  And because of the church leaders who were there, we have a glimpse into their history that we do not have with any other early church.  Their history teaches us some very important life lessons that we would be wise to apply today.

I.       Ephesus Before—Go to Ephesus!

Learning Activity:  Brainstorming

Brainstorm a list of features that would make an ideal location to start a church. Then brainstorm a list of the features of Ephesus that you can find in chapters 29 and 30. Is Ephesus a good place to start a church?  Why or why not?

A. Paul was not afraid to get his hands dirty, so to speak.  He chose strategic cities that were often visited by travelers and whose influence stretched outside of city limits.  So it was with Ephesus.  Paul visited Ephesus briefly on his second missionary journey, but his lengthy stay of nearly three years was during his third missionary journey.

B. However, Ephesus might have appeared to have its share of obstacles for the gospel and for Paul personally.  It was the home of the temple of Artemis.  This goddess of fertility, hunting and various other assignments shaped the idolatrous culture of the community, but also the economic stability of the city.  These two factors combined to create a growing hostility toward Paul after he settled there.  Artemis (Greek) or Diana (Roman) was firmly established in this city and her worshipers were not about to give up ground to another.

Artemis temple

Temple of Artemis

Artemis statue

Statue of Artemis found in Ephesus

C. Ephesus had a great deal of wealth.  Wealthy people can often perceive themselves as self-sufficient, without need of any Savior.  There were plenty of reasons for Paul not to go to Ephesus, not to waste his valuable time going to a place where success might seem unlikely.  But he did anyway.

Life Lesson One:  Go to Ephesus!  Paul did.  Amy Carmichael did.

Discussion Question: 

Where is your Ephesus, and will you go there?

II.       Ephesus During—Discipleship Matters.

No church enjoyed the intense discipleship and leadership from such a strong lineup of early church leaders as did Ephesus.

A. Paul’s first visit to Ephesus was brief.  After spending a year and a half in Corinth, he set sail and came to Ephesus.  Paul’s typical approach to discipleship began with meeting people where they were and sharing the gospel of Christ.  But he did not stop there.  He usually continued to teach them beyond the elementary principles of the faith.  Paul taught briefly in the synagogue of Ephesus where he reasoned with the Jews, as was his habit (Acts 18:19-21).  Unlike many of his other synagogue experiences, these Jews actually wanted to hear more!  They asked him to remain longer, but he went on to his home base of Antioch.

B. Priscilla and Aquila stayed in Ephesus.  Priscilla and Aquila were strong believers.  This couple had left their home in Rome for Corinth when the emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from the city (Acts 18:2).  They were already in Corinth when Paul arrived (Acts 18:1-2).  They had shared the trade of tent making so Paul lived with them.  While it is unknown whether Priscilla and Aquila were already believers in Jesus when Paul met them, they certainly became strong and able disciples from their relationship with him.  Certainly they carried on the gospel message and discipleship process in Ephesus after Paul’s departure and should probably be credited with the real start of the church there in their home (1 Cor. 16:19).  When Paul wrote to the church in Rome in 58 A.D., they had left Ephesus and relocated there.  He described them as “fellow workers in Christ” who had “risked their own necks for my life.”  While in Ephesus, they discipled a gifted and enthusiastic believer named Apollos too.

C. Apollos was a Jew from Alexandria, Egypt, whose arrival in Ephesus was noticed right away.  He was a learned man, thoroughly knowledgeable in the Scriptures.  He was a powerful and persuasive speaker.  He taught about Jesus with great enthusiasm (Acts 18:24-25).  While Apollos’ teaching regarding Jesus was accurate, it was deficient.  So Priscilla and Aquila invited him to their home where they discipled him to fill in those deficiencies.  Priscilla and Aquila were not jealous of Apollos’ gifts.  They helped him grow in the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ so that he could be a more effective minister of the gospel in Ephesus and beyond.  The Ephesians benefitted from Apollos’ time there.  He built strong and trusted relationships with them.  “When he wanted to go to Achaia, the believers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him,” (Acts 18:27-28).  He went beyond evangelism to discipleship in Ephesus before he set out for Corinth.  These characters teach us more life lessons about discipleship:

  1. Discipleship is best within the context of a relationship
  2. Apollos’ humility gave him a teachable spirit that could be discipled;
  3. We can only disciple others to the degree that we have been discipled
  4. The mission field is big enough for all of us.

D. Paul returned for an extended stay in Ephesus (sometime between 52-56A.D).  This was during his third missionary journey.  The total time of his two visits was three years (Acts 20:31).  His reception in the synagogue this time was well received as his first visit had been.  When they became difficult, he left the synagogue taking with him the believers and his message to the Gentiles.  As Ephesus was a strategically located city, all the Jews and the Greeks in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord (Acts 19:10).  Paul took discipleship seriously and spent his time building up this church.  In his farewell address with the elders of Ephesus in Miletus (57 A.D.), he recalled how he spent his time in Ephesus discipling others.  “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia.  I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of the Jews.  You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.  I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus,” (p. 363, Acts 20:18-21).  He “did not hesitate to proclaim to you the whole will of God,” in Ephesus, (p. 364, Acts 20:27). While he was there the name of Jesus was held in high honor and many turned away from their sorcery to the Lord (Acts 19:17-19).  So many turned to Jesus that the silversmiths revolted and nearly killed Paul, so Paul moved on from Ephesus.  Paul’s discipleship of this church did not end with his departure.  He wrote to them from his house arrest in Rome, between 60-62 A.D.  By studying this letter, we discover that this church has no particular problem that Paul feels the need to address as he did to most of the other churches.  This reveals the fruit of the investment that Paul and others had made here.  He reminded them of their call in Christ and of the conduct that should result from a new life in Christ (p. 373-376).

E. Timothy spent time ministering and discipling in Ephesus.  By the time Paul wrote to his son in the faith, problems were beginning to creep in there.  Paul encouraged him to “remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines nor pay attention to myths and endless genealogies,” (1 Tim. 1:3-4).  Timothy was reminded that “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith,” (1 Tim. 1:5).  Timothy battled those who wanted to teach the Law in Ephesus.  Paul encouraged Timothy to persevere in his teaching (1 Tim. 4:13, 16) the believers in Ephesus in doctrine and in lifestyle–discipleship.  Timothy was still in Ephesus when Paul wrote him a second time in 67 A.D.  Discipleship was on Paul’s mind when he instructed Timothy that “the things which you heard from me…entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also,” (2 Tim. 2:2).     Paul  -> Timothy -> faithful men -> others  Paul understood the necessity of discipleship for duplication.

F. Onesiphorusserved the Lord well in Ephesus.  We only know what Paul said about him—that he often refreshed Paul, that he eagerly sought out Paul in Rome and that he, like Timothy, knew very well the services he rendered in Ephesus (2 Tim. 1:16-18).

G. Priscilla and Aquila were back in Ephesus by the time Paul wrote to Timothy in 67 A.D. (2 Tim. 4:19).

H. Tychicuswas a friend of Paul’s who was with him in Corinth (Acts 20:3-6) and was from Asia minor, possibly even Ephesus.  He was a “beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord” (Eph. 6:21) who probably carried Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (60-62 A.D.) and whom Paul was again sending to Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:12, 67 A.D.).  Though it is not explicit, we can safely assume that Tychicus discipled the believers in Ephesus.

I. John the revelator probably lived and served in Ephesus in the late first century.

Life Lesson Two:  Discipleship Matters. 

It is the only way to protect the church from going astray.  It protects believers from deceivers.  It builds up the church, grounds new believers, fosters the maturation process of developing saints, and results in more disciplers.  Discipleship must be deliberate, determined, doctrinally sound and with an aim for duplication.

Discussion Question/Application: 

Will you commit to an intentional discipleship relationship?  With whom and how?  Will you seek a Paul or be a Paul?

III.       Ephesus After—Persevere in devotion to Christ.

A. John the revelator, while exiled to the island of Patmos, received the revelation of Christ.  He was told to write to the churches in Asia, including Ephesus.  Most evangelical scholars date Revelation at 95 or 96 A.D.  Extra-biblical sources place John in Ephesus in his later years serving as a bishop of sorts over the churches in the province of Asia.  Tradition holds that John the apostle who was charged by Jesus to care for His mother also took Mary with him to Ephesus where early church father wrote that she died.  The message to the church in Ephesus comes from Christ himself and gives us a glimpse into the spiritual condition of this church approximately 25 years after Paul’s death and some 45 years after its birth.  Ephesus is the only church in the Bible that we can trace throughout such a long history and glean its lessons from history.

B. By this time (95 A.D.), the church in Ephesus was made up of second generation believers who were known for their exemplary hard work.  “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake and have not grown weary,” (Rev. 2:2-3).  From this we can see the fruit of all the Christians who poured their lives into this church, growing it up in service.  They did not tolerate false teachers.  They had learned discernment.  They did not tolerate evil men of any sort.  They were a serving church.  Need a Habitat for Humanity team?—they were there.  Need to feed the homeless?—they were there.  Need to organize a Sunday School program?  They were there, and they never grew weary in faithful service in more than 40 years!   We can now know that the false teachers that Timothy began to ward off have paid off.

C. BUT.  The last thing that anybody should want to hear from Jesus is but.  “But this I have against you, that you have left your first love,” (Rev. 2:4).  In spite of all they had right, they were lacking a deep devotion to their first love—Christ.  How far they had fallen since Paul had written his epistle to them and said, “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,” (Eph. 1:16-17).   Just like in Paul’s letter, their love for one another abounding out of their overflowing love for and faith in Christ.  The two cannot be divorced one from the other.  Faith in Christ rightly produces love for His body.  Genuine believers are in view here as losing sight of the main thing.  They were doing what was right, but for the wrong reason.

Life Lesson Three:  Persevere in love for Christ. 

Doctrine is no substitute for devotion; labor is no substitute for love.  It is possible for believers to serve and sacrifice for “My name’s sake” and still lose passion for the Lord Himself.  We should evaluate ourselves personally, and we should cautiously examine the church as a community.  It was the church that Jesus held accountable for the loss of passion.  It was a problem bigger than an individual.  It was a community problem.  The last Christian generation could be us—you and me—unless we do cling to Christ and disciple new saints.  We must introduce others to Jesus. The Christian life is based upon a PERSON.  It is a relationship with Christ first and with His body.  We are to worship God and out of that flows a love that compels us to do good deeds.  It compels believers to respond as Jesus did—compassionately, mercifully and sacrificially.  The church today would do well to ask as Amy Carmichael did when she screened those who wanted to work in her ministry, “Is the cross the attraction?”[1]

Learning activity:  Design the perfect church based upon what you have learned.  What are its distinguishing characteristics?  Programs?  Values?


            [1] Elisabeth. Elliot, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael (Tarrytown, NY: Revell, 1987) 198.

Dianic Wicca – The Rebirth of an Old Cult

Not long ago, Americans would have scoffed at the idea that people would return to the ancient cults of goddess worship, honoring nature as the creative force.  Yet that is exactly what has happened.  Americans and Britons—especially women—are flocking to this revival of worship of Diana. Estimates vary, but several sources say there are between 100,000 and 200,000 practicing Wiccans in the U.S. today.  Dianic Wicca is one sect of Wicca that has given rise to a new deceit from the old Artemis (or Diana) of Ephesus.  Wiccan rituals include spells, as noted in Acts 19.  But unlike Satanic witchcraft, Wiccans are forbidden from engaging in destructive or manipulative magic.  The hit television show Charmed featured young women practicing the art of magic.  Sadly, teenage girls are prime participants in goddess worship. You can learn more about this by going to, Articles about Dianic Wicca from www.templeofdiana.org or Wikipedia.

There is nothing new under the sun, as King Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes. How can the people of God use this info? Do you know anyone who needs to freed from these demonic forces?

Submissive: Ephesians 1:17-23; 5:15—6:3; Colossians 3:1-25, Philippians 1:27—2:11

We are on our second to last study as we have journied through “The Story” together. Let’s turn to the pages of Scripture and see what God has revealed in his Word that he wants us to know about today. Today we study a topic that no one really likes to hear or study; submission. It is a theme that we will see in some of Paul’s letters.

“Paul’s Final Days”, chapter 30 of the THE STORY, tells us how one of the most influential men in history “finished the race”.  His conversion from a murderer of Christians, to a fervent ambassador of Christ shows the great power of Christ in us.  The letters he wrote from prison to the churches he established give us a glimpse of what was on his mind: the unity of believers in the love of Christ and under the Lordship of Christ. The church is God’s plan to bring all people to Christ, but the family is not only supposed to illustrate that relationship, it is the real life workshop where the skills to relate to one another are learned.  Submission to authority is the key.  If only we would submit.

I. All Power and Authority. Genesis 3:1-13; Ephesians 1:17-23

As we near the end of THE STORY, we find ourselves returning full circle to the dilemma that faced Adam and Eve.  Perhaps Paul was thinking, “By now, we should understand submission.”  But the truth is the struggle still goes on in every life and in every relationship.  Discover what God wants people to understand through Paul:  that our best choice in life is submit to God.

1.  What was the question that Eve was forced to answer and how did it convict her? (Genesis 3:13)

2.  What had she chosen not to do? (Genesis 3:2-3)

Many years later Paul was praying for the Ephesian Christians with thanksgiving because, in Christ, they had something Eve didn’t have.  Eve didn’t have the knowledge and power of Christ dwelling within.

3. What kind of authority does Christ have in the church? Ephesians 1:22

4. Fill in the blanks:  He is seated “in the heavenly realms, far above all _____________, and

______________ , _________________, and _________________, and every ____________

that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:21).

Explain what Christ’s total authority means to you in your own words. (cf. Rev. 1:8)

5.  How much power is working in the lives of Christians? (Ephesians 1:19-20)

6.  What does Paul pray that the Ephesian believers would have? What are the two things he wishes they would know? (Ephesians 1:17-18)

Sometimes we get confused because we try to “overthink” an issue.  But we don’t have the ability to think like God does.  There are some things we trust God with.  That God is the source of all power and authority- truth.  That He has placed all power and authority in Jesus Christ- truth.  That the  Holy Spirit dwells in Christians– truth.  When people submit their minds to the truths of God’s authority, God will open the door to the restoration of our relationships.  The letters of Paul that come toward the end of his life include instructions about personal and family relationships.  Discover why our best choice regarding relationships is: submit to God.

II. Power and authority in the family. Colossians 3:1-25

In light of the truths about Christ’s authority, as explained in Ephesians 1:17-22, analyze the Colossians passage about the family.

1.  What advice does Paul give as introduction to this passage? 3:1-2

2.  According to this passage, how can we allow Christ the right to control the way we relate to each other? 3:9-11

3.  List the controlling attitudes that Paul suggests for dealing with interpersonal difficulties. 3:12-17

4. Note the specific instructions about family relationships from Colossians 3:18-21.

Wives-

Husbands-

Children-

5. Paul anticipates that each individual will hold this personal reservation in his or her heart:  “But what about my needs?”  What will we receive if we obey these teachings? 3:23-24

(Note that this assurance begins the closing thought that applies to the whole passage, not just for verse 22.)

6.  How does Paul classify the lack of submission to these instructions? 3:25

7.  Reread Colossians 3:1-25 in its entirety and find who has the power and authority in all personal relationships?

IV. Power, authority and the church.  Philippians 1:27—2:11

Bradley Blue writes “early Christianity expanded throughout the Empire house by house,” (Marshall & Peterson 474).  That was not just the early evangelist’s missionary strategy; it was God’s missionary strategy.  God has designed just two social structures: the family and the church.  The early church met in family homes. Ideally the church and home would mirror one another. The mission of each is parallel: the birth and nurturing of children.  Discover what is true about submission in the church.

1. What were the Philippian Christians facing, and can we relate to the same things today? 1:29

2.  How should we conduct ourselves then? 1:27a

3. How should we relate to one another in the church? 1:27b

4.  What would complete Paul’s joy as well as bring joy to Our Lord? 2:2

5.  What are the results if we live this way? 2:1

6.  What should our treatment of others be, and what is the motivation for it? 2:3-4

7.  Paul describes the attitude of Christ in 2:6-8.  Which concept is most meaningful to you? Explain.

8. What will be the final result of Jesus’ humbling of himself? 2:9-11

9.  Fill in the blank:  Power and authority came to Jesus through _________________ to God.

V. The Mystery explained.  Ephesians 5:15—6:3

Our human minds can’t understand how submission will ultimately give us power, or how humility will ultimately result in exaltation.  But if we demand power and if we try to exalt ourselves we will never understand.  Paul seems to portray the family as a working lab where Christians can test how the knowledge and power of Christ in us functions.

1.  What is the family structure? How should we view submission in this context? (5:22-32)

2.  How  are the children viewed? (5:1; 6:4)

3.  Fill in the blanks to find the characteristics of a healthy family (and a healthy church):

“Be ______________ of God…and live a life of (1) _______________.”  Ephesians 5:1-2

(2) ___________________ to one another out of __________________ for __________________.”

Ephesians 5:21

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be (3) ______________ to his wife, and the

two shall become ___________ flesh.  This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about

_____________   and the _________________.  Ephesians 5:22-33 (See “Who’s Who in the Family” by Carol Stine)

4.  How do we know that Eve was a part of Adam (one flesh) at the creation? Genesis 2:18-24

5.  When a man and woman are joined in marriage they are ____________    ________________.

6.  When we become Christians, who joins our spirit? Acts 2:38; Ephesians 3:14-21

7. To summarize then, write the three main characteristics of the church and of the family from the

passages above (1) _________________,  (2)_________________, and  (3) _____________. (see question #3)

The biblical teaching on marriage reveals that it is a spiritual relationship, that God designed it, and that He needs to be involved in the relationship for intimacy and unity to develop.  It’s easy to see why the world rejects God’s pattern for marriage, in fact, rejects marriage at all.  A marriage between a believer and a non-believer presents some difficulties, although that is not to say love and unity are absent.  Nor is every Christian marriage trouble-free.  But the Bible speaks to this issue as well.

8.  How should a wife influence a non-believing husband? 1 Peter 3:1-4

9.  According to Paul, should a wife divorce a non-believing husband if she is a follower of the Lord after she has already married? I Corinthians 7:12-13

The truth is, Satan destroyed God’s plan for marriage when he led Adam and Eve to rebel against God.  But an even more powerful truth is that through our marriage relationship God can purify our hearts and bring out the gold in us.

Key question:  How will you submit to the Lord in an important relationship in your life?

For additional reflection:  Answer the following questions regarding the marriage relationship from Ephesians 5:25-29?

What would indicate a husband’s submission to the Lord in his relationship with his wife?

What is the example he should follow regarding his wife?

Why should an unmarried Christian consider a prospective spouse’s relationship to God?

Paul’s Final Days (4 Perspectives)

scrren-one

Perspective 1- Pastor Phil

What’s your story?

In this chapter Paul shares his story or testimony with a number of people. It doesn’t always lead people to conversion or make people weep with sadness or joy. Unfortunately people will sometimes reject your story but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell it.

Paul had an experience with the risen Christ that changed his life forever. We see it once again as he retells the Damascus road story in chapter 30. It changed his life in such a way that he couldn’t avoid talking about it with the people he came into contact with. There was no way that he was going to shut-up about this, even if he was threatened with beatings and death. There was no stopping it!

When Jesus comes to us in our messy lives today, how can we stay unchanged and not talk about it? Have you spent time thinking about your story? What are the experiences you have had that God used to shape you? Who are the people whom God has put in your life to shape who you are?

We all have a story to tell. So what’s yours?

Perspective 2- Barb Miles 

Paul proclaimed the gospel among all classes of people, from the palace to the prison.

He knew he would not be on earth forever, so he wanted people – believers to use their gifts to be continual witnesses throughout the generations.  He spent time in jail twice  through these years of teaching and witnessing.  He did not wait for anyone to ask him who he was or what he was professing, but went first into the synagogue in the town he was visiting.

What a life well lived….What an example God has provided us. Whenever we feel down or discouraged, let us remember Paul.

Perspective 3- Dan Petrak

Perspective 4- Pastor Ron

The Apostle Paul has always fascinated me.  His tenacity, intellect, and mostly his passion for sharing the Gospel are inspirational.

In the later part of his ministry he feels compelled to go to Jerusalem.  The Holy Spirit tells him that he will be imprisoned.  The prophet Agabus demonstrates it for him by binding his hands and feet with Paul’s belt and declaring this is what is going to happen to you.  The people plead with him not to go.  Paul, convinced that God wants him to return to Jerusalem is relentless in his journey.  Sure enough they nearly beat him to death in Jerusalem, but what does he do as the Roman soldiers are carrying him off to jail where he will be safe?  He asks for permission to speak and starts making a case for the Gospel!  You read all of this and you think okay he has passion for the message, but I am not so sure about his intellect.  Just wait!

The next thing you know he is in front of the Sanhedrin – the Jewish court.  He knows that there are Pharisees and Sadducees in the group.  Pharisees believe in the resurrection from the dead for all people, while the Sadducees do not.  So Paul announces that he is a Pharisee and says that he is on trial because he believes in the resurrection of the dead.  Brilliant!  The Pharisees in the room come to his defense and begin arguing with the Sadducees.  The end result is that Paul is happy you see!  (I couldn’t resist that last line, but it does demonstrate Paul’s keen intellect.)

Paul is a powerful example of what happens when God gets ahold of your heart.  He uses all the uniqueness that He poured into you to bring about good for the kingdom.  How has God used all of your uniqueness to bring about good for the kingdom?

A Very Special Church

Ephesus IEntrance to the Library in Ephesus

Ephesus was home to the goddess Artemis, or Diana as the Romans knew her.  Her temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and pilgrims flocked to Ephesus to worship her.  This provided ample opportunity for silversmiths to peddle their wares.  Ephesus was a large and important city on the coast of Asia Minor.  Its seaport made it the most important trade center west of Tarsus.  Nearby Pergamum was the capital of the province, but Ephesus was larger with an estimated 300,000 residents.  Ephesians prided themselves on their culture.  The ruins betray her community baths, gymnasiums and impressive buildings including a huge library.  Excavations have uncovered very wealthy homes with frescoed walls.  But her adoration of Artemis was her real draw.  Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and daughter of Zeus.  She was known as the hunting goddess, a fertility goddess and the moon goddess.  Temple prostitution was commonly practiced in Ephesus, as well as magic.

Paul had a special place in his heart for the church at Ephesus.  It should come as no surprise since he spent more time ministering there than he did any other single location.  Ephesus provides a unique opportunity to track the life of one church to glean insights into its successes and its struggles.  While Acts and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians provides us with the most comprehensive look at the church there, digging into the details of other Scriptures provides details that help to piece together its distinctive history.

Arguably no other church had the intense and continual discipleship from early church leaders that Ephesus enjoyed.  It was a very different church than Corinth.   As we analyze the topics that Paul addressed in his letters to Timothy, we gain further insight into the struggles that this young pastor endured.  Paul cared about this church from his imprisonments.  He wrote to them from his house arrest in Rome, and later he wrote to strengthen and encourage Timothy there even while his own death was imminent.

The Church today needs discipleship to be the sustaining lifeblood of the Church. We see in Ephesus that discipleship was ongoing, deliberate and intentional.  These babes in Christ were nurtured by mature believers and in the end were able to stand firm against false teachers.

What is your definition of discipleship? Why would discipleship be the lifeblood of the Church today?

How are you actively being discipled? Who are you actively discipling?

Paul’s Mission (Bible Study)

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Recap of Chapter 29

Saul began his career as a radical Jewish scholar who was so convinced the Christians were wrong that he had them imprisoned and stoned.  After an encounter with the resurrected Jesus he became a Christ-follower.  Saul became Paul (his Greek name) who proclaimed Christ to the Jews first and also to the Gentiles.  Led by the Holy Spirit, the believers in their home base of Antioch in Syria commissioned Paul and Barnabas and sent them out as missionaries to spread the news that Jesus the Messiah is raised from the dead.  Their first missionary journey took them to the island of Cyprus where they encountered a Jewish sorcerer who opposed them, and a Roman proconsul who embraced the gospel.  They set sail for the region of Galatia (present south-central Turkey).  They were invited to preach in the synagogue in Antioch, and after an initial favorable reception, they faced persecution so they turned their sights toward the Gentiles.

Paul was joined by Timothy, Silas, and eventually Luke for his second missionary journey.  They visited many cities in Macedonia, including Philippi where a church was begun in Lydia’s home.  The evangelists were beaten and thrown in jail where their faith convicted not only their jailer, but apparently the other prisoners as well.  Many Jews and Greeks from Thessalonica believed before Paul and Silas were sent away for their own protection.  Paul then met Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth where he was again opposed by the Jews.  But Gentiles believed, so Paul stayed and ministered there for about a year and a half.  He also wrote letters to these churches to teach and encourage them.  He wrote the Thessalonians to encourage them to continue to be the model of Christianity that they had become in expectation of the Lord’s return.

After returning to his base of operations in Antioch, Paul set out on his third journey.  As he strengthened the churches in the Galatian region, Apollos showed up in Ephesus where he met Priscilla and Aquila. He was a powerful speaker and strong disciple, but needed further teaching.  Paul arrived in Ephesus, a hotbed of pagan idolatry, and as he began teaching in the synagogue, most Jews rejected his message.  He stayed more than two years teaching both Jews and Greeks.  Many people from the region came to hear him as the word spread.  Some of the Ephesians believed and left their idols and witchcraft in exchange for a new life in Christ.  This did not set well with the idol artisans who staged a riot to drive Paul out-of-town.  While in Ephesus, he penned letters to churches in Corinth, Galatia and Rome, though he had not yet visited there.

The Corinthian church had enjoyed a who’s who of early church leaders.  This privilege should have prodded them onto Christian maturity but instead they chose sides like children on a playground.  Paul chastised them for their divisiveness, corrected their immorality and answered questions that they had about spiritual gifts.  They needed to practice sacrificial love for one another.  Some were even denying the resurrection so Paul gave them a remedial lesson on the essentials of the gospel and the hope of a future resurrection.  The Galatian churches were confused by Jewish Christians who insisted they practice the Jewish ceremonial rites.  Paul’s letter is a masterpiece on Christian liberty as he defended justification by faith alone.  Paul’s pastoral desire to minister to the believers in Rome prompted him to write a letter to convey the foundations of the Christian faith.   In spite of every form of opposition, the word of God could not be contained.  God sovereignly saw to it that obstacles became opportunities for Paul and others to take the gospel “even to the ends of the earth.”

The Christian Life in a Corinthian World

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!  Just do it!  You only live once!  Our culture is marked by indulgence, immorality and self-gratification.  But as the wise Solomon once wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun,” (Eccl. 1:9c).  The parallels between ancient Corinth and contemporary America are uncanny, which makes the lessons from this letter particularly applicable to us today.  While all of the books of the Bible are best understood within their historical context, the issues addressed in this particular epistle can only really be appreciated within the broader context of the cultural influences of the time.  As we explore the challenges that Paul faced in Corinth, we will begin to see that his challenges were not so different from our own.  Therefore, we will find a wealth of practical application from this portion of Scripture.

I.       The Corinthian World

A. The Corinthian world was fraught with vice and sin, wealth and decadence.  When Paul was rejected by the Jews there, he must have thought that there was no one else who would hear the gospel, let alone believe it!  This helps explain the vision that Paul had in Corinth that Luke recorded for us.  The Lord spoke to Paul and encouraged him to be unafraid.  He said, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.  For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city,” (p. 344, Acts 18:9-10).

B. The Corinthian world was a stronghold of worldly philosophy, cultural immorality and pagan idolatry.  With Athens only 45 miles away, the Greeks prided themselves on their philosophical debates and their refined knowledge.  The Corinthians’ purposed to embrace the philosophical wisdom of her Athenian neighbors.  Because of her strategic port location, the immorality of Corinth was legendary.  The economy was kept afloat with trade, sailors and prostitution, gambling and other vices that accompanied the unsavory crowds that frequented this major metropolis.  The temple of Aphrodite was known for its temple prostitutes and the term corinthianize was coined to describe sexual immorality.  Along with Aphrodite, Apollo was also worshiped there in a huge temple.  The city was made up of both have’s and have not’s.  It had a wealthy class and it also had freed slaves who were poor which created some socioeconomic friction.

C. The ancient Corinthian world had much in common with our contemporary culture.  Many people lament that America was once a Christian nation, a beacon of freedom to worship, a society of law abiding citizens.  Now, however, like Corinth, our culture has become corrupted (if indeed it was ever a Christian nation which remains a topic of debate beyond the scope of this lesson).  A worldly philosophy permeates our educational system.  Sexual immorality has become so mainstreamed that we are desensitized to its far-reaching tentacles, and the chaste are viewed with a wary eye.  Pockets of vice provide a playground for otherwise sensible people.  We are a culture of “anything goes,” even using our own lusts a marketing tool to draw people toward decadence and self-gratification regardless of the high cost financially, morally or personally.

II.       The Corinthian Church Correction

A. It was Paul’s habit to go to the synagogue first.  Those in the synagogue would be prepared to receive the gospel of Jesus as their Messiah made ready by their knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures that anticipated the coming One.  The Jews were steeped in the Law, so they understood sin and its implications for judgment, as well as the hope that comes from the One True God.

B. While some Jews gladly embraced Jesus as Messiah, most did not.  Paul was thrown out of the synagogue so he brushed himself off and took the Good News to the Gentile population.  As already noted, the Gentile populations’ only knowledge of gods came from their pagan surroundings.  Sin was not shameful, for it was not even known to be sin!  It is from these roots that the baby church in Corinth sprung forth.  Paul had his work cut out for him.  He, along with Timothy, Silas, Priscilla, Aquila and eventually Apollos and Peter all schooled these Gentiles in the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ.

C. Paul eventually moved on.  While residing in Ephesus on his third missionary journey, word came to him that there were big problems in the CorinthianChurch.  He had poured a year and a half of his life into them, so he had earned the right and had the responsibility to correct these carnal Christians.

D.    The Corinthian Church was marked by immaturity.

Paul said, “I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ….You are still not ready.  You are still worldly,” (1 Cor. 3:1-3).  Grow up!  They were not acting with Christian maturity but with immaturity.  Their immaturity was manifesting itself in diverse ways.

  1. Divisions in the church:  Instead of maturing in the faith under the discipleship of the great church leaders that came to Corinth, they splintered into groups around the different leaders.  Paul said, “I appeal to you…that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be united in mind and thought… One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’ another says ‘I follow Apollos’ another ‘I follow Cephas’ still another, ‘I follow Christ,’” (1 Cor. 1:10-12).
  2. Divisions in worldview:  While Paul spoke the wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit, many Corinthians were shaped by the worldly philosophical “wisdom” of the Greek culture.  (1 Cor. 2)  This caused further divisions between groups there.  Paul encouraged the Christians by showing that the Spirit provides true wisdom.
  3. Divisions in daily living:   The believers had many questions about living out their faith in the real world.  They still had to learn to navigate through decisions in daily life in a culture hostile to holy living.  So they wrote to Paul for guidance in specific areas that caused them problems.  First Corinthians 7-16 is the part of Paul’s letter that speaks to these problems.  Believers were filing law suits against one another instead of settling matters privately and justly among themselves.  They needed guidance in marriage, divorce and living singly.  They did not know how to handle dietary problems that were associated with the idolatry around them.  Christians were disruptive during worship and were failing to honor the Lord’s Supper as holy.  A mature person would have understood that God’s purpose for spiritual gifts is for serving the Body in love.  However, these immature Corinthians were arguing over whose gift was more important, more glamorous even. Paul corrected their misguided notions and admonished them to love one another sacrificially instead of elevating one person’s gifting over another.
  4. Divisions in doctrine:  Paul was aghast that some among them had apparently dismissed a crucial aspect of the gospel and its implications on the Christian life.  They were denying the resurrection!  Paul gave them a written remedial lesson in the essentials of the gospel, including the non-negotiable point that Jesus was raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:3-8).  Based on Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, Paul argued that all believers should look forward in hopeful expectation of our own future redemption of our bodies.  Just as Christ was resurrected to live forever, so too can all Christians look forward to eternal life in a resurrected body.  Paul reminded them that this teaching was THE basis of the Christian faith.  If we all will not be resurrected, then Jesus Himself must not have been resurrected because He too is fully man.  If Jesus was not resurrected then we are all still dead in our sins and our faith is worthless (1 Cor. 15:13-17).

Paul corrected these misguided believers and urged them to grow up in Christian maturity.

E.    The Corinthian Church was marked by immorality.

Immaturity necessarily leads to all kinds of problems including sexual immorality.  These believers were coming from a culture that accepted immorality as the norm.  In fact, temple prostitution was itself a form of pagan worship.  Not only was it accepted and normal, it was spiritual too.

  1. Paul was stunned to hear of the immorality within the Church.  In one case, a man was sleeping with his father’s wife—a sin that even the Gentiles in the community repudiated (1 Cor. 5:1).  While the questions surrounding this particular sin are beyond the scope of this lesson, the point remains that believers in the Church were participating in sexually immoral behavior. (1 Cor. 5-6)

  2. Paul was even more astonished with the Church’s failure to address the sexual immorality among its members (1 Cor. 5).  Paul knew full well that to live in the world means to live among sinners.  But sin in the Church that goes unchecked will eventually pollute the whole body.  “Your boasting is not good.  Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” (1 Cor. 5:6)

  3. Many of the believers in this Church were coming out of sexual sin and into a relationship with Christ.  They came from all forms of immorality including fornication (sexual relations outside of marriage), adultery, and various forms of homosexuality.  But, like all sinners, they had been washed and sanctified by faith in Christ Jesus and were now in the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

  4. Sexual immorality is a unique kind of sin because it is in one’s own body.  The body is now the temple residence of the Spirit which was purchased at a very high price.  Therefore, every believer must flee from sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:15-20)

III.       Christian Living in a Corinthian World—Application for Today

A. What then should we learn from this brief overview of the Corinthians’ problems and Paul’s mid-course correction of them?  Given the uncanny parallels between our own culture and the ancient but decadent Corinthian culture, Paul’s letter gives us insight into our own church today, warns us of pitfalls and directs us for discipling.

B. The Christian life is marked by maturity.  Grow up!  It still applies to our church today.  Christian maturity would solve many of our problems.  A healthy church will always have believers at every level of maturity on the spectrum.  A healthy church should have new converts who are rightly babes in Christ.  It should have believers who are always growing, learning to navigate their faith in a Corinthian world.  A healthy church also has mature believers who serve as the church’s rudder, guiding and nurturing the younger believers in the faith.  New converts who are rightly babes in Christ are not the problem.  The problem erupts when those who have been believers for awhile continue to subsist on “milk” instead of “meat.”  Their failure to mature as believers will breed divisions within the Body, divisions in worldview, divisions in negotiating daily living and divisions in the doctrines of the faith.  Without mature believers to nurture others, a church is doomed to disunity.

  1. Christian maturity produces unity in the Church.   Some of us have experienced the painful occurrence of a splintered Body or worse—a church split.  Splintering is often a result of a small thing that could have been resolved maturely, but instead snowballed into a full split.  Maturity does not necessarily result in uniformity, but mature believers will choose unity over winning.  The mature give up their rights!
  2. Christian maturity produces a biblical worldview.   Most new converts to the faith today bring with them a secular worldview.  Many Christian homes cannot be distinguished from the non-Christian home in their approach to thinking about the world.  Paul wrote to the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect,” (Rom 12:2).  We begin to view the world through God-tinted glasses, looking for His Upper Story work in Lower Story events.  We consider carefully and thoughtfully what are God’s priorities and how might we shape the world with them instead of allowing the world to shape us.  We begin to treat people with Christ-like compassion, respect and dignity instead of treating people as does the world.
  3. Christian maturity produces holy living.  In our ever-changing world we encounter new obstacles that are not necessarily addressed in the Bible.  A mature Christian learns to apply biblical principles to new situations as he or she navigates through the choppy waters of daily living.  Mature Christians respect one another’s freedom in Christ to make different decisions within the context of a biblical worldview.
  4. Christian maturity produces unity in essential doctrines and charity in the non-essentials.  The mature Christian also knows the difference.  There are some teachings that must be adhered to or else fellowship should be broken.  Here is a good place to draw out thoughts from your students.  What are the essentials?  Paul was a staunch advocate for maintaining the purity of the gospel, for salvation by grace through faith and nothing more, and sanctification by faith.  We should defend the Triune God at all costs.  We should hold to the truth of who is Jesus—fully God, fully man, fully paid the price of sin through His death and resurrection.  We stand firm on the truth and reliability of the Scriptures as the revelation of God to us.  But there are also many non-essentials that we can allow for in Christian love and freedom.  What are some non-essentials?  Instrumental music is one issue our church has dealt with.  There is considerable debate about the order of events and the timing of the Lord’s return among Christians.  This is a non-essential doctrine which warrants our gracious charity toward our brothers and sisters who might interpret it differently.

C. The Christian life is marked by morality.  Like the Corinthian Church, our converts into our church are coming out of a culture saturated in immorality, especially sexual immorality.  In years past, even non-Christians in our own culture adhered to moral standards that mirrored our own.  It was difficult to know who was a Christian and who was not from a cursory observation.  It is now sadly true that it is still difficult to know who is a Christian and who is not because our morals have been more shaped by our culture than by our relationship with Christ.  Statistically, Christians’ morality is just like our non-Christian neighbors’ in fornication (pre-marital sex), adultery, pornography use, and divorce.  It should not surprise us because our Christian converts are coming from a culture steeped in immorality.  In other words, the starting point of most new Christians begins with a moral deficit.

What are the implications?

  1. More intentional discipleship will be required than in the past.  Just like Paul’s time (and Timothy, Silas, etc.) with the Corinthian Church was more pastorally intensive, so must be our discipleship of new converts today.

  2. Jewish converts already understood sin, God, and their long history of His work in their lives.  Gentile converts began at square one.  Today most converts to the faith are also at square one and we need to take care to nurture them as babes beginning with the most basic lessons.

  3. While salvation and sanctification is by faith and the work of the Spirit in us, we must learn to walk by the Spirit through practice.  The writer of Hebrews said, “By this time some of you ought to be teachers, but you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food…But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil,” (Heb. 5:12, 14).

  4. Many Christian converts have dabbled in other “spiritual things” that amount to idolatry just like the Corinthian Church.  We must be intentional about helping these converts unlearn their former experiences and learn afresh the freedom and joy of a relationship with Christ.

Discussion questions/Issues to think about 

  1. Some of us come from a rich heritage of faith.  Others of us came to faith out of very worldly circumstances like Corinth.  In general, what are some advantages and disadvantages of both sides?
  2. Choose no more than five traits that define what it means to be a “mature Christian”. Why is maturity important in the church?  Be prepared to share your table’s five traits with the class.
  3. How does the morality of our culture shape our Church and what are the implications for evangelism and discipleship?
  4. Have you ever personally experienced or observed church infighting?  What were the consequences?

Chapter 29: Lydia

Open Door: Acts 15:36—16:40

Let’s now turn to the pages of God’s Word to see what he is planning to teach us today.

With little fanfare Luke describes how Paul arrived at Philippi, where he met a woman who opened her door for the first church in Europe!  The Story, chapter 29, summarizes the missionary work that Paul and his teams accomplished.  Upon arriving in a new area, Paul’s strategy was to connect with the local synagogue where he knew he would find followers of God.  He would introduce Jesus to them as the promised Messiah, through whom they would find salvation.  Often the doors to the synagogue soon closed to him, as well as the minds of the synagogue leaders. However Philippi was not a Jewish region, and there was no synagogue.  God led Paul straight to Lydia.

I.  Led by the Spirit.  Acts 15:36—16:10

The second missionary journey began with what might have seemed like a step backwards– a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas.  Actually, hindsight gives us the advantage of seeing that the ministry was doubled as two teams were now evangelizing.  Discover how God led Paul and Silas to Philippi.

1.  What was Paul’s desire? (15:36)

2.   Who joined them in Lystra? (16:1)                     Who joined them in Macedonia (16:10)

3.  Why didn’t Paul travel into northern Asia (Bithynia) like he desired? (16:6-10)

4.  Note that Paul’s team was redirected two times. What door was open to them? (16:12)

Christians had been scattered all over the known world during the years of persecution in Jerusalem, yet there is no record of any churches that had been established in Macedonia before Paul arrived. Now the Lord had prepared the way, and He had opened the hearts of some who would carry on the responsibility even after Paul’s team had to leave.

II. “Meet Me By the River”. Acts 16:11-15, 40

“Meet Me by the River” is a praise song that reminds us of the hope of that river of everlasting life that flows from God’s throne (cf. Revelation 22:1).  One day I’d love to sit by the ‘Eternal River’ and talk to Lydia about her life and to learn about those god-fearing people whom Paul found by the river near Philippi.

1. On the Sabbath, what were Paul and his team looking for when they headed to the river? (16:13)

2.  Describe who they found there.  (16:13-14)

3.  How did the evangelists take advantage of this open door? (16:13)

4.  What are the two distinct terms that Luke uses to explain how Lydia received the teaching? (16:14)

5.  Besides the words of the evangelist, what influenced her heart? (16:14)

6.  What was her response? (16:15)

7.  What did she persuade Paul and his team to do? (16:15)

8.  How many people do we know were travelling with Paul? (15:40, 16:10-note the pronoun “we”)

9.  Where did the church of Philippi meet? (16:40)

III. The Philippian Church.  Acts 16:14-40.

Lydia is the second woman mentioned in Acts who made an important contribution to the body of believers in her area.  Her story is similar to the story of Mary, the mother of John, about whom we studied last week.  She was a Jewess in Jerusalem who offered her home as a meeting place for believers, even during a time of persecution. Lydia was a Gentile who opened her doors to the largely Gentile Philippian believers. The first converts to the Philippian church make up a cross-section of the culture of the day.  The interesting thing is they could have come from any city in the world today!

1.  The next time Paul and his team went to a place of prayer whom did they rescue? (16:16-18)

2.  How did that good deed affect Paul and Silas? (16:19-24)

3.  As you read the story of what happened next, note the things that only God could have done. (16:25-29)

4.  How did the jailer respond when Paul taught him the Word of God? (16:30-34)

5.  After the magistrates had to apologize to Paul and Silas, what did they do? (16:39b)

6.  Where did they go before they left town? (16:40)

7.  What did they do there? (16:40b)

There is no doubt that God orchestrated the establishment of the church in Philippi.  He worked miraculously in the lives of the first three converts in Philippi.

8.  Note briefly how God opened the doors to their hearts.

Lydia___________________________________________________________________

The slave girl_____________________________________________________________

The jailer________________________________________________________________

9.  God also provided a benefactor for this new church plant.  Note some things that we know and that we can assume about Lydia:

Her profession and resources. (16:14a)

Her character.  (16:14b)

Her dedication. (16:15)

Her sacrifice. (16:40)

Her home. (16:15, 40)

10.  Considering the treatment Paul and Silas received, what kind of risk would Lydia and the other believers have been exposed to?

IV. Our Open Doors. 

The birth of the church in Philippi was lovingly and carefully brought into being by none other than Jesus Himself, through His Spirit.  He held their hearts and, we can almost imagine, the hands of the evangelists and their first converts.  But is the story any different today?  Is our Lord still so vitally interested in the birth of new churches around the world?  Let’s analyze.  Answer the following questions about churches you know:

1.  Prayer was a key characteristic of both New Testament churches that we know met in the homes of godly women (Acts 12:12; 16:13).  How has prayer been a key characteristic of the churches you know?

2.  Describe the details and situations that you know only God could have brought about.

3.  Tell how God has moved someone’s heart to pay attention to the teaching of the Word and to act upon it.

4.  Now that you know the story of the Philippian church, read Philippians 1:3-6.  In your own words, explain why Paul wrote that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.

Key Question:  How is God opening the door in your heart to help you to pay attention and respond to Him in some area of your life?

 

For additional reflection:  List the assurances that Paul shares with the Philippian believers in his letter to them:

1:7

1:12-14

1:29

3:20

4:8-9

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Perspective 1- Diane Schmidt

This week’s chapter is about Paul and his mission. What was his mission? To spread the Gospel, to tell everyone he met about Jesus, how he lived, how he died, but most importantly how he defeated death and the devil for each and every one of us. So I sit here writing this perspective and yesterday I would have written something different. Why you ask? Because I sit here after serving at a funeral. The funeral was for a young mother, age 42. The theme verse, which she picked out, was 2 Timothy 4:7. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” These are words that Paul wrote to Timothy, reflecting on his ministry and how he lived his life. These are words that help us to keep our focus on Jesus. As I recall the words of Pastor Burcham during the message about how Tanya lived her life, walking beside Jesus, showing His love and His message to all she met it reminds me of the example that Paul set for us. That no matter what life throws at us, what blessings and what trials we can share the Gospel, we can tell everyone we meet about Jesus and what he did to defeat death and that someday, like Tanya, we will live with our Savior!

Perspective 2- Dan Petrak

 

Perspective 3- Barb Miles

This chapter covers a long period where Paul and Barnabas were doing so much traveling and witnessing. In most cases when they arrived in a town they visited Jewish synagogues first. After the Jews rejected the news about Jesus, Paul would start preaching to the Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas were received with mixed reactions. Some wanted to hear the word of God, that “through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin.” Some would not believe and expelled them from their region. They healed a man who was lame. They were prisoned from removing a corrupt spirit from a woman, but after praying and singing hymns, the chains of all the prisoners were released. They chose not to escape but remained in the prison and witnessed to the jailer. After the jailer was told to release them, Paul told him to go and get the magistrates to escort them out of town. Paul was not going quietly but left in a way where he was acknowledged for being imprisoned wrongly because they were Roman citizens and had no trial.

Paul and Barnabas were truly standing up for Jesus. They had success and disappointment. But they were unwavering witnesses to God’s word.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Ye soldiers of the Cross!
Lift high His royal banner,
It must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory,
His army shall He lead,
Till every foe is vanquished,
And Christ is Lord indeed!

Perspective 4- Pastor Ron

New Beginnings (Bible Study)

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Recap of Chapter 28

What could turn a group of gutless deserters into courageous, outspoken evangelists willing to be imprisoned and even die for their cause?  They had witnessed the resurrected Christ. He had proved Himself alive for forty days to various people in a variety of circumstances and places.  Just before His ascension, Jesus told the disciples to wait for the promised power of the Holy Spirit so that they could be witnesses to His resurrection in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  Ten days later on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit stormed in like tongues of fire.  He empowered each disciple to declare the gospel.  Peter became the first mega-church preacher and that day three thousand new believers were baptized.  This new community of believers embraced teaching and fellowship and enjoyed the favor of nearly all the people.  All but the powerful Jewish rulers, that is.

The new church continued to grow rapidly.  The apostles were even able to perform miracles similar to those Jesus had done!  As the apostles spread the word of the resurrection in Jerusalem, they incited outrage and opposition from the Jewish rulers.  Peter refused to be silenced and continued to speak in spite of orders to stop.  Even a severe flogging could not curb his zealous proclamation that Jesus was the Messiah. Stephen’s scathing sermon before the Sanhedrin showed how the Jews had repeatedly rejected God’s prophets and resisted God’s Spirit.  The Sanhedrin dragged him outside of Jerusalem to stone him.  He saw a vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God and entrusted himself to the Lord.

Sparked by the martyring of Stephen, persecution drove Christians like Philip out of Jerusalem and into outlying areas like Samaria. While the opposition grew, so did the spread of the gospel message.  A Pharisee named Saul made it his personal mission to defeat this movement once and for all, but his blinding come-to-Jesus moment on the road to Damascus really “opened his eyes.”  Meanwhile, God prepared Ananias to deliver God’s marching orders to Saul: he had a mission to be God’s witness to the Gentiles.  As Ananias laid his hands upon him, Saul’s sight was restored, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Within a few short days, this persecutor of Christ became a preacher of Christ.  Needless to say, his turnaround was met with suspicion and doubt, but trusted Barnabas vouched for him to the apostles in Jerusalem.  Saul soon found himself on the receiving end of death threats, so he too was sent away from Jerusalem.  The church spread throughout Judea and Samaria as God used even persecution to achieve His Upper Story purpose of spreading the news that Jesus is the risen Messiah.

God’s next move was so radical that He had to prepare both Peter and Cornelius for this new revelation.  While an angel told Roman centurion Cornelius to send for Peter, Peter was given a vision of unclean animals on a sheet. A heavenly voice instructed him to eat this meat that was definitely not kosher. What Peter called impure, God now called clean.  As Peter was trying to interpret the meaning of this vision, Cornelius’ servants arrived and summoned him to their master’s home.  When he explained the gospel to a full house, the Holy Spirit was poured out on these Gentiles too!  The Holy Spirit was now available to all who believed!  Peter now knew his vision was not about food but about God’s plan to declare all people “kosher” who would believe in Christ. Peter’s ministry continued in Jerusalem where Herod Agrippa’s persecution grew deadly.  Peter was imprisoned but even prison bars could not stop God’s plan.  As his friends earnestly prayed for him, an angel miraculously freed him.  Kings, rulers and prison guards all found themselves fighting against God and helpless to stop His plan.  While the Lower Story of persecution drove believers away from Jerusalem, the Upper Story of resurrection drove many to God.  He alone can redeem even the worst of circumstances.  After all, He alone is the God who raised the dead!

Chapter 28: New Beginnings 

The first lesson focuses on discovering more about God the Holy Spirit.  While it is not the intent of this lesson to provide a thoroughly inclusive study of the Holy Spirit, it is the goal to broadly survey the Holy Spirit in a comprehensive way.

The Trinity is rarely taught any more.  Most of us assume that all Christians have a firm grasp on the unique Triune God that we worship and serve.  However, few actually do.  And why would they?  This is one of the most crucial doctrines of the Christian faith and it is rarely taught.  Mature believers tend to assume that everyone understands the concept of the Trinity.  But unless we as teachers make an effort to explicitly do so, we are neglecting our flocks by failing to provide solid teaching that helps our learners know the God who has revealed Himself as three persons but one essence.  Perhaps we shy away from doing so because of our own inability to put a concept so profoundly mysterious into language that we know will be inadequate.  Yet, it is the Trinitarian God who sets Christianity apart from all other forms of religion.  It is the Trinitarian God who is the target of heretical, pseudo-Christian cults.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on my door yesterday.  Their Watch Tower publication states, “…God’s Holy Spirit is not a God, not a member of a trinity, not coequal, and is not even a person…It is God’s active force…”[1]  It is the goal of lesson option one to focus on the Person of the Trinity that seems the most distant but is in fact the most near to us.


[1] The Watch Tower, July 15, 1957, 432-433, cited by Walter R. Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (rev. ed., Minneapolis:  Bethany, 1997) 102.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

I.       Who is the Holy Spirit?

A. Many Christians find the Holy Spirit to be confusing, elusive or even distant.  We are much more comfortable with the familial terms of “Father” and “Son.”  The term “Spirit” does not seem very personal, familiar or uniquely identifiable.  The Holy Spirit is mentioned infrequently in the Old Testament, is spoken of occasionally in the gospels, but takes center stage in Acts and this chapter of The Story.  The outpouring of the Holy Spirit marks a revolutionary change in God’s historical plan of redemption.  It is therefore crucial that we gain the best understanding possible of this change, diligently strive to know the Holy Spirit as He is revealed in the Scriptures and embrace Him as the One through whom we draw near to Jesus.

B. The Holy Spirit is God.

  1. Our relationship with God is through the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, how we perceive the Holy Spirit will directly impact how we relate to Him and how we understand our religious experiences.
  2. Our study of the Old Testament makes very clear that no thing should be worshiped, for that is idolatry.  God is jealous and He alone is to be worshiped.  So to worship the Holy Spirit, if He is not God, would be idolatry.  To fail to worship the Holy Spirit if He is God would rob Him of the adoration, love and surrender that He is rightly due.
  3. The Holy Spirit is closely associated to both the Father and to the Son.  He is called the “Spirit of the Father” (Matt. 10:20).  He is called the “Spirit of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:11) and the “Spirit of Jesus” (Acts 16:7).  He must be divine to be so closely associated to the Father and the Son.
  4. The Holy Spirit has divine attributes.  He does what God does.  He participated in creation (Gen. 1:2).  He convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (Jn. 16:8-11).  He is the one who reveals the word of God and inspires the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Pet. 1:20-21).

C. The Holy Spirit is a distinct person, an equal person of the Godhead.

  1. Yet the Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son.  However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.  But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (Rom. 8:9)  He is the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 8:11), so He is distinctly not Jesus, and He dwells in believers.

  2. The Great Commission gives the instruction to baptize in “the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).  These three are associated with the divine Name.

  3. The Spirit knows the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:10-14).  He has intelligence that is His own.  And it does not possess intelligence — a personal being does.

II.       Who is the Holy Spirit to the Church?

A. This chapter emphasizes the birth of the church and the role of the Holy Spirit.  The two are intimately connected.
B. The Holy Spirit reveals the mystery of the Church.  Prior to Pentecost, Israel had been the primary community of faith through whom God worked to reach the world with His message of redemption.  After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit marked both believing Israelites and Gentiles as “one new man” (Eph. 2-3), Jews and Gentiles as one Body, the Church, with Christ as the head (Eph. 5:23-32).
C. The Holy Spirit works to form the community of faith.  The Church is God’s idea and God’s work.  As we see in this chapter of The Story, no man can conjure up the Spirit at will.  God does all the work, even if He graciously allows the Apostles to participate in His work.
D. The Holy Spirit indwells the community of the Church in a special way.  Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor. 3:16).  The Greek “you” here is plural.  There is one body and one Spirit (Eph. 4:4)
E. The Spirit turns the hearts of believers toward one another in love.  The baby Church is marked by love, compassion and generosity because of the work of the Spirit.  The Church is called to “be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” (Eph. 4:3).
F. Although men and women received the gospel as individuals, Paul always wrote to the Church as a whole community.  This community is an organic, vibrant and living Body (1 Cor. 12-14).  First Corinthians 12-14 was written to correct the Corinthian church because they were more concerned about outdoing one another than they were about preserving unity in the Body.  The spiritual gifts that come from the Holy Spirit are for “the common good.”  (1 Cor. 12:7, Eph. 4:12)  They are not meant for personal aggrandizement, but for the equipping of the saints for service.  The good of the Church as a community should never be eclipsed by an individual’s expression or exercise of a gift.

G. The Church is now the primary community through whom God works to reach the world with the message of redemption found in Christ Jesus and is uniquely empowered through the Spirit to disciple the saved to maturity  (Eph. 4:1-16).

III.       Who is the Holy Spirit to me?

A. He is the Indwelling One.  Many of us remember our lives before we came to Christ, before our spiritual births.  When we were empty and found ourselves drawn to Christ, placed our faith in Him and experienced a new and fresh infusion of the Lord’s presence in our lives, it was the work of the Holy Spirit. The activities of the Spirit touch us directly.  The indwelling Spirit is not to be confused with our own spirit, but nevertheless, He lives and works within us.

  1. It is through the Spirit that we are born again (Jn. 3:5).  This chapter of The Story from the book of Acts shows the saving work of the Spirit on the various groups of people as they came to faith in Christ.
  2. Prior to Pentecost, the Spirit’s presence came upon believers temporarily.  We studied young king David who was anointed with the Spirit.  Judge Samson was anointed with the Spirit and then it left him without him even noticing.  The Spirit was upon John the Baptist.  The Spirit came and went rather than abided with the believers.  This Indwelling Spirit was a major transition in the program of God.
  3. The Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you (Rom. 8:11).
  4. The anointing you receive from Christ abides in you and teaches you and is true (1 Jn. 2:27).

B.     He is the Sanctifying One.  While we are justified before God by faith in the finished work of Christ, the Spirit works to transform us.  He convicts us of sin and helps us to be holy which we can never be without Him.

  1.  If by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body you will live (Rom. 8:13).
  2. The Spirit leads all who are sons of God (Rom. 8:14) through Whom we are adopted as sons (Rom. 8:15) and Who assures us of our sonship (Rom. 8:16).
  3. The Spirit is the one who transforms us from the inside out into the likeness of Christ. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we , with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with every-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:17-18).
  4. He is the one who teaches us (1 Cor. 2:10-13, Jn. 14:26).  He illumines the Scriptures so that we can understand them.  He reveals the deeper truths of God.  He guides, speaks, testifies and convicts.  He tells what He hears.  These are things that only a personal agent can do.
  5. Submitting to the Spirit will prevent us from carrying out the desire of the flesh (Gal. 5:16-21).
  6. The Spirit produces fruit in the life of the believer (Gal. 5:22) so that we may exhibit Christ-like qualities and attributes.

C. He is the Helper. On the eve of His crucifixion, in Jn. 14:16, Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.”  Jesus went on to say, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”  For those of us who wish we would have experienced the earthly ministry of Jesus, we should take notice that Jesus said we actually have it better than those who experienced His ministry then.  The Holy Spirit is a distinct advantage to us!

  1. The Greek words for “another comforter” are allos paracleton.  Jesus is also a paracletos (1 Jn. 2:1).  The paraclete had various meanings to the Greeks.  In its most literal sense, it means “one who comes along side.”  In the ancient world, it had a legal sense in which a paraclete would plead a person’s case in a court of law.  Some Bible versions use the word Advocate rather than Helper to convey this meaning.  While the judge in a courtroom sits, the Advocate stands.  Remember the stoning of Stephen?  While the earthly Sanhedrin judged him and sentenced him to death, Jesus his Advocate stood at the right hand of God in heaven to plead his case.
  2. The Holy Spirit is our Advocate and Helper too.  He helps us in our weaknesses to pray for us before the Father.  Likewise the Spirit helps in our weaknesses.  For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  (Rom. 8:26-27).
  3. He is our Helper and Advocate before the world.  But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak.  But whatever is given you at that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speaks, but the Holy Spirit.  (Mark 13:11). 
  4. Another sense of the word paraclete is one of comfort.  He is our Comforter.  We take comfort knowing He is called alongside us through whatever trial we may face.  Certainly the Holy Spirit provides tender mercy for God’s people in their times of grief and pain.  His comfort consoles the brokenhearted.
  5. The paraclete is the one who gives strength in times of battle.  In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  (Rom. 8:37)  He is the One through Whom we receive great power (Acts 1:8)!  Paul prayed for the church at Ephesus, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,” (Eph. 3:16).

IV.       Applications and Implications:

A. God desires to be known as He revealed Himself through the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is therefore worthy of my worship, love, and obedience.
B. The Holy Spirit personally indwells me, empowering me to stand firm in battles against sin.
C. The Holy Spirit is to be obeyed.  I am to walk in Him so that I bear fruit in my life.
D. The Holy Spirit transforms me from the inside out.  It is His work, not my own.  But we don’t treat grace lightly.
E. The Holy Spirit indwells the Church in unique ways.  I am not to be disconnected from the community of faith.  I am to be part of the living, vibrant Body called the Church.  I will be missing a vital part of God’s best for me if I neglect the community of the Spirit.
F. I can rest knowing that the Spirit knows how to pray for me when I do not know how to pray.
G. The Holy Spirit will bring comfort and peace to me in a supernatural way when I am grieving and in pain.
H. It is through the Spirit that I have been reborn, renewed and made holy.  Praise Him!
I. It is better for me that Jesus is not here now because He sent the Spirit.

J. The Spirit assures me that I belong to God, that I have been adopted by Him.  When I doubt, the Spirit gives assurance.

Chapter 28: Mary, John Mark’s Mother

Safe House: 

Acts 12:12-17, 1 Peter 3—4

It’s that time once again this week to get your Bible’s open and take a look at what God has for us today. We take a look today at the early church and what helped them thrive as a community of faith.

Though it was not a safe time to be a Christian, the early church persevered; one of the things that helped them endure faithfully was prayer.  In “New Beginnings”, chapter 28 of THE STORY we read how the Apostles taught the gospel message of salvation and how the church began.  The early growth was explosive and impressive.  But when the Jewish leaders saw how their whole power structure was threatened, they turned on the Christians; the enemies of Christ continue the same pattern to this very day. These believers revealed the characteristics of the victorious Church when they met together at the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, to pray for the safety of a brother they loved.  May we follow their example in life and in prayer.

I.  Best of Times, Worst of times. Acts 1—12

When He established the church using signs and wonders, God fulfilled what the prophet Joel predicted, and He did this to verify the apostles’ teaching.  Peter and the Apostles explained who Jesus was and invited their listeners to become his followers.  In his sermon, Peter invited them to come to Jesus and to receive the indwelling of His Spirit to guide their lives—something the Old Testament law couldn’t offer.  In the beginning, the new believers “enjoyed the favor of all people.”  But that soon changed.

1.  Note the events from the Acts passages that show how the new believers were threatened as the church grew. (Dates are approximate).

AD30-37-

  • 2:1-13, 41________________________________________________________________
  • 4:1-4____________________________________________________________________
  • 5:17-21,29-33____________________________________________________________
  • 7:54-59__________________________________________________________________

AD 39-40

  • 8:1-3____________________________________________________________________

AD 44

  • 12:1-2___________________________________________________________________
  • 12:3-4___________________________________________________________________

II. God Led Peter to Safety.  Acts 12:5-17

The believers saw God demonstrate His power and protection, even in the midst of severe persecution.  The Jewish (and later the Gentile) opposition used all the human power that was available—from politics to purely vicious physical attacks, including murder.  These enemies were sure they were doing the right thing, but their efforts seemed to inspire growth rather than thwart Christ’s church.  The friends who assembled to pray for Peter when he was arrested could have told them why.

1.  What was happening while Peter was in jail? (v. 5)

2.  Who woke Peter up? (v. 7)

3.  What was Peter’s state of mind as the angel led him away from the jail?  (v. 9)

4.  Where was Peter when he “came to himself”? (v. 11)

5.  When Peter finally realized he had been delivered from Herod by God, where did he “just happen” to go?  (v. 12)

6.  What was the reaction of the people when they saw Peter in person? (v.16)

7.  When Peter finally gained entrance into the home, what did he tell them? (v. 17)

8.  To whom did Peter send the message about his experience? (v. 17; Acts 21:17; Galatians 1:19)

9.  What would this testimony mean to the people who met in Mary’s home, and to the church leaders who were under persecution?

 

III. Mary, the mother of John.  Acts 12:12-13; Mark 14:51

This Mary is only named one time in the New Testament, but studying the events and people that surrounded her gives us some important information.  We can discover several reasons why Peter knew that Mary’s home was a safe place. Her example will still benefit those who want to serve God in our day as well.

Mary’s home: Acts 12:12-13

Though the early Christians met in homes (Acts 8:3), it was also the practice for many Jewish synagogue meetings to take place in an extra room or a home that would accommodate a group.  It would actually have been the natural thing for the Christians to meet in homes especially after the persecution of Christians by the Judaizers.  These people used what they had to benefit the Kingdom.

1.  What does an outer entrance tell us about a home, even today?

2.  How many people were gathered there?

3.  What kind of people were they?

4.  What does the fact that Mary had a maid imply?

Mary’s influence:  What we can learn about Mary’s family also gives us knowledge about the kind of woman Mary was.  Answer the following questions about Mark:

5.  Who was her son and what did he write about? Mark 1:1; Mark 14:51,

6. Whom did he accompany in ministry? Acts 12:12, 25

7.  How did the following evangelists describe Mark?

Peter- 1 Peter 5:13                                                     Paul- 2 Timothy 4:11

8.  Who was a relative of Mary and John Mark? (What was his relation to Mary?) Colossians 4:10

9.  What kind of man was he?

Acts 4:36-37

Acts 11:22-26

Acts 13:2

10.  What are fair conclusions that we can draw from this information about Mary’s home and influence?

IV.  A Safe Place I Peter 3—4

Jesus taught his followers that the world would know them by their love for one another (John 13:35).  Love creates a safe place for those who would be drawn to the church.  Later, Peter wrote two letters of encouragement and instruction to the churches.   His good friend, Mary, had lived out many of the same characteristics that Peter wanted to see in all believers.  From the selected passages in chapters three and four of 1 Peter, make a description of a brotherhood of love.  (Try to imagine Mary’s thoughts if she had read this letter.  What memories would some of these suggestions have brought back!)

 3:1-6

3:8

3:9

3:10

3: 14

3:15-16

4:1-2

4:7

4:8

4:9

4:10

4:11

Key question:  Which characteristics will you develop in your life to create a safe haven for your family and church?

For further reflection:  Study the fellowship of the early church and note how they applied the above characteristics:

Acts 2:42-47

Acts 4:32-36

Acts 6:1-7

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