Bible Study faith

Chose life

Have you ever played “Would you rather”? My husband and I are youth directors at our church and if you’re around youth long enough, you will be drawn into a game. The rules are simple, someone listed two things and you choose which one you would rather do. Let’s play a quick game.

Would you rather be able to fly or read people’s minds?

* be blind or be deaf?

* eat skittles or m&ms?

* have a paper cut on your tongue or a booger you can’t reach all day?

* live or die?

If each of us were truly honest today, we would all say that we want to live? That’s a no-brainer! “I want to choose life!”

We are all very partial to the oxygen that we breathe and really prefer that our hearts continue to pump blood. So, why would I ask such a dumb question?

I was reading a book a while back and I came across a passage of Scripture in the book of Deuteronomy where God gives the choice to choose life.

Moses & the Israelites

In the events leading up to these verses, the Israelites were in slavery under Pharoah, led out by Moses, and were now grumbling and complaining. Once the Israelites have crossed the Red Sea, they are now on their way to the Promised Land. Because of their disobedience, an entire generation must wander in the desert and die before they would be allowed to cross into the Promised land. For the next 40 years, the Israelites wander around in the desert and wilderness. In order to claim the promised land, the people had to cross the Jordan River.

we are going to start with Moses giving a pep talk to the Israelite people. He has led them to the entrance of the Promised Land. It is now time to cross over the Jordan River and claim the land that God had given them. Moses begins his pep talk by telling the Israelites to obey the Lord God and follow His commands.

Moses explains to them the curses for disobedience and the blessings for obedience. He renews the covenant made that God had made saying that He would be their God and they would be His people.

He also reminds them of the miraculous things that God had already done for them. Sounds pretty good so far, right? Obey God, receive blessings. Disobey God, receive the curses. Then, Moses tells them a strange thing. He says that the Lord is giving to them an offer of life or death. Strange? Let’s pick up there and look at this offer to choose life or death.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that You shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go and possess. I call heaven and earth, as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

Choose Eternal Life – Salvation

He tells them to choose life, that you may live.

Choose life. That you may live. What exactly does that mean?

Well, yeah, who wouldn’t want to do that? But, I think there is a little more to it than just breathing.

What does that look like? Choose life???

So, to find my answer, look to the Creator of Life. It says in Genesis 2:7 that “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

If God is the Creator of Life, and He is the one telling me to choose life, that I may live, then I think He should be the one that I should ask.

In Job 33:4, it says, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

1 John 5:12 says, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

If we are to “choose life” we need to understand what it means. We all know that in life we have many choices to make. We have to choose what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, what to do this weekend, how we will act in a given situation. Life is full of choices.

Just as the game “would you rather” that we played earlier made you make some kind of choice. This is also what God calls us to do.

Because he loves man so much, He allows them to make a choice about where they will spend eternity. He allows us to choose to spend eternity with Him in Heaven or He allows us to choose to spend eternity in a place called Hell.

Simple as that. We have a choice. It is this choice that He is referring to in Deuteronomy. He has set before us life and death. In His love, He wants each of us to choose life, that we may live in eternity with Him. This is His desire.

It says in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

But, again, it is a choice. Do we wish to choose life and live? Or, do we choose to reject God and live a life completely separated from Him for eternity?

Bible Study Joy

Joyful Life

‘So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.’ Galatians 5:16-24

A joyful life in Christ is one that is characterized by walking by the Spirit. It is disciplined enough not to gratify the desires of the flesh. It is a life where the fruit of the Spirit is made visible.

In His letter to the Galatians, Paul listed the essential parts of the fruit of the Spirit. Oftentimes, I hear Christians mis-read this part of Paul’s letter to the Galatians as the fruits (plural) of the Spirit, but it clearly says the fruit (singular) of the Spirit.

The singular sense of the word ‘fruit’ suggests that the fruit of the Spirit is just one but it consists of all the listed virtues which are ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’, Galatians 5:22-23.

It is a complete package of virtues that should be evident in our lives as God’s children. This again implies that the life of a Christian is such that should constantly radiate the joy of the Lord as much as it does not preclude self-control from being an essential aspect. Christ told His disciples to be joyful because their names are written in heaven. This is the right reason to be joyful as people of God.

Nehemiah told the people of God that the joy of the Lord is their strength, Nehemiah 8:10. If this is true, why should God’s people not be joyful?

To the Romans, Paul says ‘there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’, Romans 8:1. If there is no condemnation, then this calls for constant joy.

‘The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.’ Proverbs 10:28

‘The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’ He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’ Luke 10:17-20

Bible Study faith Joy

Finding Joy

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
James 1:2–4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Trials of life come in various forms, shapes and sizes and it is extremely difficult to be joyful when faced with various trials, but the outcome makes it inevitably important and hence, we should count it all joy because by the help the Spirit provides, we shall be victorious.

Steadfastness is inevitable to a viable Christian life. Paul encourages the Christians in Corinth to be steadfast (or immovable). This suggests the idea of consistency in faith and in our resolve.

A rock-solid faith is one that demonstrates steadfastness in upholding the truth in word and in deed. However, steadfastness does not come by accident!

Most times, it is produced through the ability to endure trials. James persuades us to allow steadfastness to have its full effect as this brings completeness. Paul admonished the Christians at Philippi to ‘rejoice in the Lord always’.

This is critically important that it necessitates emphasis. He goes ahead to repeat it: ‘I will say it again, rejoice!’ The word ‘always’ implies that our rejoicing should be all the time. This includes times of trial because we know that the Lord will never forsake us and He will see us through just as He saw Job through.

James 1:2-12
‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.’

Every Christian will face hard times and trials, this is inevitable. However, how we face those trails and what we learn from them help us grow and builds our faith. Life is like a bed of roses, in the beauty of it all there are thorns. Don’t allow those thorns to scar you for life. Heal them through Jesus and come back stronger.

Acts Bible Study

Acts: Peter Preaches to the Jews

Acts 3:11-26 New International Version (NIV)

Peter Speaks to the Onlookers

11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’

24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

Solomon’s Colonnade was like a long walkway with a wooden roof, on the east side of the Temple. Jesus had walked there and he had taught there (John 10:23).

In verse 12, the people were staring at Peter and John. They had just seen Peter and John heal the lame man. But Peter gave all the glory to God. God may use us to help someone or witness to someone. But we must remember to give all the glory to God. God is the one that gave us the means and opportunity to do what we do.

Peter used the words ‘The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’. These are the same words that God used in Exodus 3:6, This was when God introduced himself to Moses. The miracle here in Acts had happened because God had glorified Jesus. Jesus was in a special place in heaven. He had given power to his disciples to act in his name. When Jesus was on earth, he had done miracles. Now the disciples had his authority to do miracles like those.

Peter wanted to convince the Jews that Jesus was their Messiah. So, he used language from the book called Isaiah in the Old Testament. It was from a part where the writer describes the Lord as a Servant who suffers (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Like Isaiah, Peter said first that God had glorified his Servant (Jesus). Then Peter talked about how the Servant had suffered. He blamed the people for this. They were responsible. Pilate (a Roman ruler) had wanted to free Jesus. But the people had asked for Barabbas instead. They had wanted Jesus to die. Jesus was their Savior. He was completely good. But they had chosen a criminal instead.

The Jews had not expected the Messiah to die like a criminal. But Peter was saying that Jesus was innocent. God had known already how Jesus would die. The prophet Isaiah had described it all when he wrote about the Servant. This was the Servant who suffered. (See Isaiah chapters 42, 49, 50, 52 and 53.) The Servant who suffered was Jesus, the Messiah. God had proved this. He had made Jesus alive again after he had died. Peter and the apostles knew that this was true. They knew because they had seen it.

Everyone could see that the man’s legs were now strong. The man had not been able to walk. But Peter had told the man to walk by Jesus’ authority. And the man had done this. Christ’s power had made the man strong because of the man’s faith. Jesus was the Servant that God had glorified. This was evidence that they could all see.

The people in Jerusalem had killed their Messiah. But they had not known that he was their Messiah. Even their rulers had not realized this. They had not expected that their Messiah would suffer. Jesus’ death on a cross was one part in God’s purpose. Isaiah spoke about God’s Servant who suffered. The Old Testament also contains the stories about men like Joseph (Jacob’s son) and Elijah. These are examples of God’s servants who suffered. So, it should not surprise the people that the Messiah should suffer too.

They knew that they had done a terrible thing. They did not have an excuse. God wanted to forgive them. But first, they had to repent.

To repent means to realize you have sinned and turn away from that sin. We apologize for sins that we have done. And we decide not to do any more sins. We do what God wants. We change how we think and we change how we live.

Peter said that if the Jews repented, three good things would happen.

1.  God would forgive their sins (verse 19). The Greek word here for ‘forgive’ means that God will ‘wipe off’ their sins.

2. The Lord will give to you times when you have spiritual strength (verse 19). God would not just take away their sins. He would give rest to their spirits. And he would give relief to them.

3.  He would send Jesus. Jesus was the Messiah that God had already chosen for them (verse 20). Jesus will forgive them and he will give them strength. But he ‘must remain in heaven until a certain time. Then God will put all things back as they should be’ (verse 21). Christ would return. Then God would do wonderful things (Romans 8:19-21; Isaiah 11:6-9).

Moses was the first prophet for the Israelites. The words in verses 22-23 are from Deuteronomy 18:15. People believed that these verses were a prophecy about one particular prophet. This prophet would be like Moses. He would be like a bridge between God and the people. He would tell the people what God was saying. And he would tell God what the people wanted to say.

Samuel was the prophet who anointed David as king. To anoint means to mark a person with oil. And this shows that God has chosen that person. God made promises to David about a new kingdom. These promises became true when Jesus came. Many things that the other prophets had said about God’s kingdom happened, too.

Peter called the Jews the ‘sons of the prophets’. He meant that God’s promises belonged to them too. Abraham’s ‘children’ meant the Jews. Jesus, the Servant who came to save all the people on earth, was a Jew. He had gone to the Jews first but they had rejected him. God was giving a second chance to them. They had to accept Jesus as their Saviour. Otherwise they would not share in the blessing that God had promised.

Acts Bible Study

Acts: A New Disciple

Acts 1:21-26

21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

The 11  disciples that remained had been very close to Jesus all the time. He had taught them when they were away from the crowds. They had helped him in his special work on earth. They had also seen him many times after his resurrection. They had watched him leave the earth. And they had watched him go up to heaven. They wanted the new disciple to be someone who had known Jesus like this. He must tell everyone that Jesus had beaten death. So, he needed to have seen with his own eyes that Jesus was alive.

Barsabbas means ‘son of the  Sabbath’. Maybe he was born on the Sabbath day. Justus is a Gentile name. Many  Jews had both a  Jewish name and a  Gentile name.

Eusebius lived from about  AD 260 to  AD 340. He wrote history. He said that the 70 disciples in Luke 10:1 included Matthias and Barsabbas. But we do not really know that. Luke does not write about Matthias and Barsabbas again.

Verse 24 ‘Then they prayed’. The  disciples asked God to choose between Matthias and Barsabbas. God always knows what is best. Therefore, we should pray about everything that we do.

Philippians 4:6-7 New International Version (NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Judas chose to leave his life as a disciple. Therefore, the place ‘where he belongs’ was not with the disciples. He had been chosen into one place by Jesus, but had made another choice for himself, which had ended in destruction. That “his own place” when thus used was, to the Jewish mind, an equivalent for Gehenna = the place of torment, may be seen from the Baal Haturim on Numbers 24:25, where it is said “Balaam went to his own place, i.e. to Gehenna.”

‘Then they cast lots.’ This was the usual way for  Jews to make a choice. It was used many times in the Old Testament.

The practice of casting lots is mentioned 70 times in the Old Testament and seven times in the New Testament. In spite of the many references to casting lots in the Old Testament, nothing is known about the actual lots themselves. They could have been sticks of various lengths, flat stones like coins, or some kind of dice; but their exact nature is unknown. The closest modern practice to casting lots is likely flipping a coin.

The practice of casting lots occurs most often in connection with the division of the land under Joshua (Joshua chapters 14-21), a procedure that God instructed the Israelites on several times in the book of Numbers (Numbers 26:55; 33:54; 34:13; 36:2). God allowed the Israelites to cast lots in order to determine His will for a given situation (Joshua 18:6-10; 1 Chronicles 24:5,31). Various offices and functions in the temple were also determined by lot (1 Chronicles 24:5, 31; 25:8-9; 26:13-14). The sailors on Jonah’s ship (Jonah 1:7) also cast lots to determine who had brought God’s wrath upon their ship. The eleven apostles cast lots to determine who would replace Judas (Acts 1:26). Casting lots eventually became a game people played and made wagers on. This is seen in the Roman soldiers casting lots for Jesus’ garments (Matthew 27:35).

The New Testament nowhere instructs Christians to use a method similar to casting lots to help with decision-making. Now that we have the completed Word of God, as well as the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us, there is no reason to be using games of chance to make decisions. The Word, the Spirit, and prayer are sufficient for discerning God’s will today—not casting lots, rolling dice, or flipping a coin.

When people ‘cast lots’, they wrote people’s names on stones. They put the stones in a jar. Then they shook the jar until a stone fell out. The name on the stone was the person that they must choose. This was the last time when they cast lots in the New Testament. After the Holy Spirit came, the  disciples did not need to do this. Instead, the  Holy Spirit guided them.

Acts Bible Study

Acts: The Return to Jerusalem

Acts 1:12-14

12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Verse 12 ‘The Mount of Olives’ was very significant in the Bible.

Old Testament references

The Mount of Olives is first mentioned in 2 Sammuel15:30, David’s flight from Absalom: “And David went up by the ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went up.” The ascent was probably east of the City of David, near the village of Silwan. The sacred character of the mount is alluded to in the Book of Ezekiel (11:23): “And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city.”

The biblical designation Mount of Corruption, or in Hebrew Har HaMashchit (I Kings 11:7–8), derives from the idol worship there, begun by King Solomon building altars to the gods of his Moabite and Ammonite wives on the southern peak, “on the mountain which is before (east of) Jerusalem” (1 Kings 11:7), just outside the limits of the holy city. This site was known for idol worship throughout the First Temple period, until king of Judah, Josiah, finally destroyed “the high places that were before Jerusalem, to the right of Har HaMashchit…”(II Kings 23:13)

An apocalyptic prophecy in the Book of Zechariah states that YHWH will stand on the Mount of Olives and the mountain will split in two, with one half shifting north and one half shifting south (Zechariah 14:4).

Many Jews have wanted to be buried on the Mount of Olives since antiquity, based on the Jewish tradition (from the Biblical verse Zechariah 14:4) that when the Messiah comes, the resurrection of the dead will begin there. There are an estimated 150,000 graves on the Mount, including tombs traditionally associated with Zechariah and Absalom. On the upper slope, the traditional Tomb of the Prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi is situated. Notable rabbis buried on the mount include Chaim ibn Attar and others from the 15th century to the present day.

New Testament references

The Mount of Olives is frequently mentioned in the New Testament as part of the route from Jerusalem to Bethany and the place where Jesus stood when he wept over Jerusalem (an event known as Flevit super illam in Latin).

Jesus is said to have spent time on the mount, teaching and prophesying to his disciples (Matthew 24–25), returning after each day to rest (Luke 21:37, and John 8:1, and also coming there on the night of his betrayal. At the foot of the Mount of Olives lies the Garden of Gethsemane. The New Testament tells how Jesus and his disciples sang together – “When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” Gospel of Matthew 26:30. Jesus ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives according to Acts 1:9–12.

‘A Sabbath day’s walk’ was the distance that Jews could walk on the Sabbath day. The Sabbath is the day when Jews rest. On that day, they must not walk further than 2000 cubits. (This is about two thirds of a mile.)

Verse 13 The disciples had eaten the Passover meal with Jesus in a room upstairs (Luke 22:7-13). This was probably the same room.

Here Luke names all the disciples except Judas Iscariot. But he mentions only Peter, James and John again in Acts.

Verse 14 Luke shows that women were important. These women had traveled to Jerusalem from Galilee with Jesus and his disciples (Luke 8:2-3, 23-55). Mary, Jesus’ mother, was also there. This is the last time that anyone mentions her in the New Testament. For the first time, Jesus’ brothers were together with the disciples. Jesus’ brother James became a leader in the church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17; 15:13-21; 21:18).

The disciples were doing actually as they were told. They were to be Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem and they were waiting for the Holy Spirit to come on them.

Think about the last three months or so of these peoples lives and what an emotional roller-coaster it was? They were 3 months earlier listening to Jesus teach and watching him perform miracles. Then he was betrayed, arrested, beaten and crucified. Then they had buried him, he arose and had fellowship with him for 40 days. Finally they saw him ascend into heaven.

Acts Bible Study

Acts: Jesus Returns to Heaven

Acts 1:9-11

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Verse 9 Luke also described this event in his Gospel (Luke 24:50-53). Jesus had showed his disciples that he was alive, over a period of 40 days. The cloud contained God’s glory. The last time when the disciples saw Jesus on earth, God’s glory surrounded him.

Verse 10 They were ‘staring up at the sky’. Some students say that Jesus did not actually rise up to heaven. But Luke uses words like ‘watched’, ‘see’, ‘staring’, ‘look’ and ‘seen’. With their own eyes, the disciples saw everything that happened!

The ‘two men in white clothes’ were angels with a message. Two men also appeared in front of the women in Luke 24:4. These men in Acts were like them. Luke wants us to consider them as witnesses. There had to be two witnesses that saw an event. (Two was the minimum number.) Only then, people would believe that the event had happened (Deuteronomy 19:15).

Verse 11 Jesus went from the earth in power. And he went with glory. He will return to the earth in power. And he will return with glory. Nobody knows when that will be. Until then, the Holy Spirit is here. The Holy Spirit lives in people believe in Jesus and they trust in him. Our Lord is alive and he is in heaven. We can talk to him. We can do this by means of the Holy Spirit.

Stop and think about the impact of these 3 verses. Jesus had died for our sins and come back for 40 days. Now He has returned to heaven, but that is not the end, he is coming back. Praise God! Jesus is Coming Back!

Acts Bible Study

Acts: Why the Book is Important

Acts 1:1-3

1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

Verse 1 Luke referred to his Gospel here as ‘my former book’. Acts is the second book in the history that Luke wrote. He wrote both books for Theophilus. This Greek name means ‘someone who loves God’. Perhaps Luke was using it to mean any Christian reader. But it is more likely that Theophilus was a real person. In Luke 1:3, Luke called him ‘most excellent’. Therefore, Theophilus might have been an important man that worked for the government.

Verse 2 Luke wrote that his Gospel was about everything that Jesus began to do. And it was about everything that Jesus began to teach. After he had returned to his Father, Jesus continued to do things. And he continued to teach. Luke’s second book describes these things. Jesus continued his work by his Holy Spirit, by means of his apostles. The Greek word ‘apostolos’ means a person with a message. That person (an apostle) had special authority from the person who had sent him. Therefore an apostle could act for the person who sent him. So, the apostles too would be leaders of Christians, as Jesus was their leader. Jesus chose his 12 disciples to be his apostles.

Verse 3 The disciples were sure that Jesus had overcome death. He had proved to them many times that he was still alive. His resurrection had really happened. It was true. This was the most important part in their message.

Jesus continued to teach them about his favorite subject. This was God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom had come by means of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Acts 1:4-8

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Verse 4 Jesus was eating with his disciples after his resurrection. He also did this on other occasions after the*resurrection (Luke 24:30-31, 42-43). This was not because he needed food. It was to prove that he was real.

In his Gospel, Luke recorded the Father’s (God’s) promise. The Father had promised that power from above would come to the disciples (Luke 24:49).

Verse 5 In this verse, Luke reminds us about John the Baptist’s words. John said this about Jesus: ‘He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and he will baptise you with fire’ (Luke 3:16).

Verse 6 The Jews were proud that God had chosen them as his people. They wanted other nations to know that they (the Jews) were important. The Jews seemed weak and the Romans ruled over them. The Jews wanted God to prove that they were superior. They wanted him to give them power over all the other nations. So, the disciples asked Jesus, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’

Verse 7 Jesus did not answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the disciples’ question. Instead, he said that this information belonged to the Father only. He did not want them to think about political power. He wanted them to preach the gospel. He wanted them to concentrate on that.

Verse 8 The power that they would receive was not power over other people. Instead, it was power from heaven. This power would make them able to continue Christ’s work on earth.

‘You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem. You will also be my witnesses in all Judea and Samaria, and all over the earth.’ A witness has seen something with his own eyes. Therefore, he knows that it is true. The Greek word for ‘witness’ is ‘martus’. It also means ‘*martyr’ (a person who is willing to die for his or her beliefs). A witness must be willing to die for Christ if this is necessary. In verse 8, Luke tells us what the whole book is about. In the first 7 chapters, he describes how the good news spread in Jerusalem. In Acts 8:11-11:18, he describes what happened in Judea and Samaria. In the last part, he describes how the gospel spread through the Gentile world.

Of course, the story did not end there. Today, Christians must continue to tell people in every nation about Jesus. God wants everyone in the world to hear the good news.

Luke is writing Acts as a continuation of his Gospel that recorded the life of Christ. Acts is to be a record of the acts of the apostles after Christ’s death and resurrection.

Acts Bible Study

Acts: Introduction

We are about to embark on a study into the book of Acts. But before we delve into the book, we will be getting some background on the book.

The writer

Most people agree that Luke wrote Acts. Luke also wrote the Gospel of Luke. In Acts, he told how the good news about Jesus Christ spread to the world beyond Jerusalem.

Luke was a Gentile and he was a doctor (Colossians 4:14). He worked with Paul and he traveled with Paul (Philemon 1:24).

Luke was very careful about what he wrote. At the beginning of his Gospel, he wrote, ‘You have heard many things. I am writing this account so that you will know the truth about them’ (Luke 1:4). In Acts, he continued with this account.

Luke was traveling with Paul. Luke wrote about what happened during that time (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16). In these verses, he used ‘we’ instead of ‘they’ or ‘he’. So, we know that Luke was there at those times.

After Luke had arrived in Jerusalem (Acts 21:17), he stayed in Judea. He stayed there for two years. Then he left to travel to Rome (Acts 27:1). He went to Rome with Paul. While Luke was in Judea, he probably spoke to other witnesses. They told him about the other events that he describes.

The purpose of the book

Luke had several reasons why he wrote Acts. People were telling false stories about Christians. They were afraid that Christians wanted to make trouble. Luke wanted the Roman rulers to know that this was not true. Christians helped other people. He wanted to show that to the rulers. It was good for the Roman government.

Luke wrote about many miracles. God gave to Christians the power to cure people, for example. Also, God rescued Peter from prison by a miracle. So, anyone who opposed the Christians was opposing God. He also wanted to show to the Jews that the Christian faith was not a separate religion. Instead, it made Judaism complete, because Jesus is the Messiah.

However, Luke had one main reason why he wrote this book. The good news about Jesus had traveled from Jerusalem to Rome. Luke wanted to record how that happened. Rome was the most important city in the world. Luke showed that the gospel was for all people in every nation. It was for Jews and it was also for Gentiles.

We can divide Acts into 6 parts. Each part ends with a report that more people were joining the church.

1. Acts 1:1-6:7

In the first part, Luke describes how the church grew in Jerusalem. This part ends like this: “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

2. Acts 6:8-9:31

From this part, we learn how the good news reached Samaria because of Stephen’s death. This part ends like this: ‘Meanwhile, the church all over Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a peaceful period. The Holy Spirit made the church strong and he encouraged the Christians. They respected the Lord and more people joined the church.’

3. Acts 9:32-12:24

In this part, the writer tells us how Paul met Jesus. This happened on the road to Damascus. Damascus is a city in Syria. We learn how the gospel reached Antioch, the capital city in Syria. Also, we learn how Peter accepted Cornelius into the church. Cornelius was a Gentile. This part ends like this: ‘God’s message continued to grow and it continued to spread.’

4. Acts 12:25-16:5

In this part, Luke describes how the gospel spread through more countries. It ends like this: ‘So, the Christians became stronger in the faith and more people joined the churches daily.’

5. Acts 16:6-19:20

We learn from this part how the good news about Jesus reached Europe. Paul started a new church in Corinth, a city in Greece. He also started a new church in Ephesus. Ephesus was a very important city. It was in the same country that is called Turkey today. It is near Greece. This part ends like this: ‘In this manner, the Lord’s message continued to increase in power and it spread widely.’

6. Acts 19:21-28:31

In the final part, Luke tells us that Paul reached Rome. When it ends, Paul is in prison. There, ‘he preached boldly about God’s kingdom. He taught the facts about the Lord Jesus Christ and nobody tried to stop him.’

When Luke wrote Acts

When the book ends, Paul is in Rome. The Romans had arrested him. Luke does not say what happened to Paul next. So, many students think that Luke completed Acts very soon after this. Also, he said nothing about Nero. Nero was an Emperor. He killed many Christians in AD 64. Probably Luke had finished the book in AD 62. But we do not know the exact date.

Fear Uncategorized

Daniel in the Lion’s Den

I was writing this lesson for the youth class at our Vacation Bible School and something told me it needed to be shared.

The story of Daniel in the lion’s den is one of the best-known and best-loved stories in all the Bible. It has encouraged the people of God for thousands of years. And why shouldn’t it? The story is filled with unexpected twists and turns and the good guy wins big and the bad guys … well, the bad guys are torn to pieces. Along the way, we learn the secret of Daniel’s success. Somehow he managed to survive and thrive in a spiritually hostile environment.
That point is a good place to begin because Christians live in a world of spiritual hostility where the temptation to compromise our faith is with us every day. The world doesn’t want to have a conscience and doesn’t reward those who dare to stand up for what they believe. In some parts of the world, standing up for Christ means suffering and death. In America (and in most countries in the West) it means being treated as a weirdo, a freak, or crazy, being left out and perhaps being passed over.
The book of Daniel tells us how to live for God in a hostile environment. His example shows us that it can be done but not without discomfort. If you don’t compromise, you are sure to come into trouble sooner or later. The story of Daniel and the lion’s den reminds us that there is a spiritual battle raging all around us. The devil himself is like a roaring lion who would devour us if he could (1 Peter 5:8). Therefore, it should not surprise us if the devil has an army of supporters whose major call in life is to harass us, trick us, and trip us up if they can.
You can tell a lot about a person by the quality of his enemies. Daniel must have been a good man because he had the right kind of enemies. The people who hated him were no friends of God. They came after his faith because they could find no fault in him, and they had no answer for what he believed.
Before we jump in, remember these two facts: 1) Daniel is now a very old man. He came to Babylon as a teenager. All his adult life has been spent serving in the courts of various pagan rulers. Now he is over 80 years old. 2) He is now serving under a new king named Darius who rules over a new kingdom, the Medo-Persian empire. The names have changed but the spiritual challenge is the same. Will he remain faithful when the pressure is on?

Daniel is once again about to be promoted to high office. Evidently, Darius recognized him as a man of integrity and wanted to make him second in command over the entire kingdom. That’s when the intrigue begins.
At this, the administrators tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally, these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God” (Daniel 6:4-5).

This is what his enemies discovered when they examined his life:
He was faithful in his duties.

He was faultless in his character.

He was fervent in his prayers.

These are three marks of godliness even unbelievers could see. The people who watch you can tell if you work hard at your job. They know what kind of character you have. And if they watch long enough, they will learn whether or not you are a person of prayer. Whatever is in your heart will come out sooner or later, and people who don’t know the Lord will know the truth about you. In Daniel’s case, even his enemies had to admit he had no glaring weaknesses.
No finer thing could be said that for your enemies to admit that they can find nothing wrong with you. Daniel was hated because he was successful and he was godly. Let’s suppose that your enemies decided to check you out the way they came after Daniel. Suppose someone hired private investigators to look into every aspect of your life, public and private, past and present. What would they uncover? Suppose they checked out your …
School records, phone calls, shopping habits, internet usage, favorite TV programs, what you do on vacation, every relationship you’ve ever had, every corner of your bedroom, your vocabulary at home, jokes you tell, and places you visit

Could any of us survive that kind of scrutiny? Daniel did. The investigation revealed that he had no obvious moral weaknesses. Try as they might, his enemies found nothing wrong in his life. He lived so consciously in God’s presence that he was a man “above reproach.”
Daniel’s One “Flaw”
But Daniel did have one “flaw.” He was utterly predictable in his daily prayers. He prayed every day at the same time in the same way so that his enemies realized this was where they could catch him. I’m sure you’ve heard this question: “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” When they arrested Daniel for being a man of prayer, the evidence against him was overwhelming.
So his enemies asked Darius to pass a 30-day law forbidding anyone to pray except to Darius himself. In effect, they said, “O king, how would you like to be God for a month?” Sure, why not? That appealed to his pride. Why not be God for a month? It might be fun. So Darius signed the law, knowing that it could not be repealed, not even by himself. He had no idea that Daniel was the intended target.
They knew Daniel would break the law. That is, they knew Daniel would keep on praying just as he had always done. He was predictably faithful to God. If he had been a flaky believer, this evil plot would never have worked. His troubles came not from his weakness, but from his strength.

So what do you do when you discover that your enemies have passed a law aimed at one person, and you are that person? It’s like walking around with a bull’s eye on your shirt. How you respond at that point tells a great deal about your character. Daniel 6:10 reveals the secret of his greatness:
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

Note the last phrase—”just as he had done before.” For perhaps 85 years Daniel had prayed three times a day. Perhaps it was 7:00 AM, 12 noon, and 5:00 PM. I did the math and asked myself, “How many times would Daniel have prayed if he prayed three times a day for 85 years?” The answer comes out to over 93,000 prayers. No wonder he simply went back to his room and started praying. An 85-year habit is hard to break. For him, prayer was like breathing. He wasn’t about to stop praying just because some snot-nosed men threatened his life. After all, he was 85, he wasn’t going to live forever anyway, and he wasn’t afraid to die. So when they tricked Darius into signing the 30-day law, Daniel just went ahead with his daily routine. No big deal. He went home, knelt down, faced toward Jerusalem, and offered his prayers to God. He did it knowing that his adversaries would catch him.

Remember who Daniel is. He’s one of the top three men in the empire. No doubt he had a plate full of heavy responsibilities. Yet he still had time to pray three times a day. And I’m sure the reason he prayed that way was that he knew if he didn’t live by a scheduled prayer would soon be squeezed out. Prayer was so important to him that he was willing to die rather than give up his right to pray to God.
If you stop praying, the world will stop bothering you. The Lions won’t come near you. Your family will finally think you are normal again. Your boss will think you are one of the boys. The Lions win when we are silent. The great mark of true faith is that we keep praying.
It’s easy to think of reasons why he might have disobeyed. He could have simply closed the windows and no one would have seen him pray. Or he could have said, “I’ll pray in my heart. No one will know.” After all, he was being forced to do this against his will. And it was only for 30 days. He might have reasoned that by going along with the law, he could use his influence to help others. Certainly, he must have known that if he didn’t go along with the law, the lions would eat him alive. But none of those excuses were needed because long ago Daniel had made up his mind to serve God no matter what. In a sense, his prior obedience made it easy for him. He had no decision to make. He just kept on doing what he had been doing all along.

So what do you do when they call for the lions? You don’t change a thing. Keep on serving the Lord, keep on doing right, keep on living for Christ, and then let the chips fall where they may.
Darius now realizes he has been tricked. He likes Daniel and immediately begins seeking loopholes to prevent him from being thrown to the lions. But even the king could not repeal his own law because that would make him look weak and ineffective. No, the law must stand and Daniel must go to the lion’s den. But Darius is rooting for the old man. In verse 16 he wishes Daniel well with these words, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” (Daniel 6:16). What a testimony this is to the reality of Daniel’s faith. Even unbelievers recognize true faith in God, and they respect it.
So Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den, which was a pit dug into the ground with an entrance from the side for the lions and with a huge boulder placed over the top so there could be no escape. It was a crude and very effective form of capital punishment. No one ever got out alive. And certainly not an old man over 80. Daniel was as good as dead the moment they threw him in. Or so they thought.

Notice Daniel’s Three “Did Nots:”

He did not try to escape the consequences of his decision to obey God.

He did not know what would happen.

He did not make a deal with God to save himself.

Evidently, Daniel was not afraid to die. He may have suspected that God would rescue him. He could hear the sound of the lions breathing a few feet away. But there were no roars, no menacing movements, no teeth tearing into his flesh. As the seconds ticked away, he began to relax. Minutes passed and then hours and the lions did not touch him. Daniel later said that an angel came to rescue him. Did he have a conversation with the angel? We do not know for sure, but I think he probably did. Who knows? Maybe the lions became like cuddly kittens and Daniel played with them all night long.

That night the king didn’t sleep well, but Daniel slept like a baby. The king tossed and turned, paced the floor, refused all offers of entertainment, and even refused to eat. Early in the morning he rushed to the lion’s den, hoping against hope that Daniel had somehow survived. When all is said and done, it is better to be a child of faith in a lion’s den than to be a king without God in a palace. I don’t doubt that Daniel slept well, using one lion for a soft pillow and the long flowing mane of another lion for a blanket.

It’s true that God didn’t prevent him from being thrown in the den. But the Lord went in with him. That’s why, when morning came, he was still alive, unharmed in any way. When they pulled him out, he had no wounds. No one had to apply any first aid, they didn’t call 911, and Daniel didn’t have to go to the hospital for observation. Though he was an old man, he came out at least as healthy as when he went in. Thus does God take care of his own.

God shut the mouths of the lions so they could not harm his servant. Consider the matter from the lions’ point of view. How frustrating to see a large meal and be unable to eat it. If they don’t get Daniel out of there, the lions will die of hunger. You’ve heard it said that Daniel was in the lion’s den. It turns out the lions were in Daniel’s Den.
Back to Darius for a moment. When he came rushing to check on things early in the morning, he cried out, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” (Daniel 6:26). The pagan ruler is cheering for Daniel’s God to come through. He recognized the genuineness of Daniel’s faith and though he did not believe himself, he hoped that Daniel’s God would deliver him.
Verse 23 tells us why the miracle happened. “He trusted in his God.” Nothing fancy there. For over 80 years Daniel’s faith had rested in the God of Israel. That wasn’t about to change at this late date. Daniel simply kept on trusting in God, and as a result, the Lions couldn’t touch him. Faith believes God, even when belief is unbelievable.
The end of the story comes quickly. First, the enemies who plotted against Daniel are thrown to the lions, along with their wives and children (verse 24). Then Darius offers public praise to “the God of Daniel” (verses 26-27) who is the living God who endures forever. He rescues and he saves, and he is the One who delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. What amazing words coming from the lips of a pagan king. Or perhaps he is a pagan no more. Perhaps like Nebuchadnezzar, he became a believer in the one true God. We won’t know for sure until we get to heaven, but I would not be surprised to see Darius there.
Lessons for Modern-Day Daniels
Let’s wrap up this study by considering five lessons for modern-day Daniels who find themselves facing the lions every day.

It is possible to live a pure life in the midst of a thoroughly pagan world.

Daniel’s story demonstrates that if you make up your mind (or “purpose in your heart”) to serve God, you can do it even in the very center of pagan government. There is always a way to compromise for those who want to compromise. And there is always a way to obey God for those who want to obey God.

Christians who live for God should expect opposition.

Daniel had his share of opposition and he lived a blameless life. If you set out to live for the Lord, sooner or later (probably sooner) trouble will come your way. This is part of what Jesus meant when he spoke about “taking up your cross daily” and following him. Jealous men are never far away.

God can use us to touch unlikely people when we are faithful to him.

Daniel 6 emphasizes the powerful effect that Daniel’s personal integrity had on Darius. While it is true that many of his colleagues envied Daniel and plotted to kill him, it’s also true that he made a huge impact for good on the mightiest man in the world.
We never know who is watching us or what they are looking for, but this story teaches us that not every unbeliever hates Christians. For every satrap out there planning our downfall, there is a Darius keeping an eye on us, hoping that our faith may prove to be genuine. Such people have little or no faith and deep inside, they want what we have. Even though they may never say so, they are cheering for us because they hope that what we believe will turn out to be true.

God is able to deliver his people from any danger they face.

If God can deliver Daniel from the lion’s den, he can surely deliver you. Generations of Christians have taken strength from this story because, in the end, the hero isn’t Daniel, it’s Daniel’s God. That same God is sovereign over those who plot against you. And he is sovereign over the lions who surround you. Take heart and trust in God. He can deliver you from whatever is troubling you this very moment.

God always delivers in his own time and in his own way.

This is the necessary balance. Does God always deliver his people? Yes, indeed, but not always in the way we expect. Not all our prayers are answered in the way we pray them. And in the end, we must confess that it is good that God has veto power over our fervent petitions. Sometimes God overrules because he sees the bigger picture and knows that he can glorify himself in some way other than by delivering us from a difficult situation. This story ought to be a great encouragement to us because from it we learn that God can and sometimes does deliver in amazing and miraculous ways. Therefore, let us pray with confidence to a God who can stop the mouths of any lions we may face. And if God should choose to answer in some other way, we may rest secure that God makes no mistakes and (as King Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way) “everything he does is right” (Daniel 4:37).