Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Great People Of the Bible- Week #13- Paul (Saul)

No person, apart from Jesus himself, shaped the history of Christianity like the apostle Paul. Even before he was a believer, his actions were significant. His frenzied persecution of Christians following Stephen's death got the church started in obeying Christ's final command to take the gospel worldwide. Paul's personal encounter with Jesus changed his life. He never lost his fierce intensity, but from then on it was channeled for the gospel.

Paul was very religious. His religious training was the finest available. His intentions and efforts were sincere. He was a good Pharisee, who knew the Bible and firmly believed that this Christian movement was dangerous to Judaism. At this time he hated the Christian faith and persecuted Christians without mercy.

Paul got permission to travel to Damascus to capture Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem. But God stopped him in his tracks along the road. Paul personally met Jesus Christ and his life was never the same.

Until Paul's conversion, little had been done about carrying the gospel to non-Jews. Phillip had preached in Samaria and to an Ethiopian man; Cornelius, a Gentile, was converted under Peter; and in Antioch in Syria, some Greeks had joined the believers. When Barnabas was sent from Jerusalem to check on this situation, he went to Tarsus to find Paul and bring him to Antioch, and together they worked among the believers there. They were then sent on a missionary journey, the first of three Paul would take, that would carry the gospel across the Roman empire.

The thorny issue of whether Gentile believers had to obey Jewish laws before they could become Christians caused many problems in the early church. Paul worked hard to convince the Jews that Gentiles were acceptable to God, but he spent even more time convincing the Gentiles that they were acceptable to God. The lives Paul touched were changed and challenged by meeting Christ through him.

God did not waste any part of Paul, his background, his training, his citizenship, his mind, or even his weaknesses.

Read Acts 7:54-8:3
-What effect did Stephen's death seem to have on Saul?

Read Acts 9:1-19a
-What was still Saul's purpose?
-In what dramatic way did God get Saul's attention?
-In harassing the Christians, who had Saul really been persecuting?
-What did Jesus tell Saul to do?
-How did this encounter affect Saul physically?
-How did it affect his traveling companions?
-Why do you think Jesus chose to meet Saul in such a dramatic way?
-What words would you use to describe Ananias?
-What job did the Lord assign him? Why did he hesitate? What reassured him?
-How did his obedience demonstrate his faith?
-What was Saul's attitude as he waited to hear from God?

Note:In Galatians 1:15-18 we learn that Saul spent 3 years in Arabia. Exactly when Saul left for Arabia is not clear. However, shortly after his conversion he went away to spend time alone with God.

Read Acts 9:19b-31
-How is Saul different from verse 1 to verses 20-22, 27?
-Why would preaching in the synagogue demand courage?
-How did Paul identify Jesus to the people?
-How disturbing was Paul's preaching to the Jews?
-Why do you think God's purposes for Paul include suffering?
-Why were the Jerusalem believers hesitant to accept Paul?

Paul's letters give us encouragement and strength. They instruct us in the ways of Christian life and point us to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

This is the last week of our on-line summer study. Please watch this blog as well as CHIMES for more Bible Study opportunities. May God bless you as you continue to study His word.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Great People Of the Bible- Week #12- Peter

I apologize for posting this study so late. With school starting this week I somehow overlooked posting it. Next week will be the last week in our summer series. Please stay tuned to this blog for various articles and words of inspiration.


Jesus' first words to Peter were, "Come follow me" (Mk. 1:17). His last words to him were, "You must follow me" (Jn. 21:22). Every step of the way between those two challenges, Peter never failed to follow-- even though he stumbled.

When Jesus entered Peter's life, this plain fisherman became a new person with new goals and new priorities. He did not become a perfect person, however, and he never stopped being Simon Peter. We may wonder what Jesus saw in Simon that made him greet this potential disciple with a new name, Peter, the "rock". Impulsive Peter certainly didn't act like a rock most of the time. But Jesus wasn't choosing based on earthly qualities. He chose people who were real. He chose people who would be changed by his love and would be sent out to communicate that grace was available to all-- even to those who fail.

We may wonder what Jesus sees in us when he calls us to follow him. But we know Jesus accepted Peter, and, in spite of his failures, Peter went on to do great things for God.

Read Matthew 4:18-20
-For what purpose did Jesus call Peter?
-What does this mean?
-When Peter followed Jesus, what did he leave behind?
-What have you left behind at the call of Jesus?

Read John 21:1-14 (These events occurred after Jesus' death and resurrection)
-What do you learn about Peter from these verses?
-How could the Lord use Peter's character traits for his purpose of making Peter a fisher of men?
-What character traits has God created in you?
-How can God use these traits for His purposes?

Read John 21 15-19
-Three times Jesus repeats another purpose he has for Peter's life. What is it/
-How is this purpose linked to Jesus' original call to Peter?
-What does Jesus' commission indicate about his confidence in Peter's future ministry?
-What more does Jesus tell Peter in this passage?
-What purpose will Peter's death serve?

Note: Ancient writers state that about 34 years after this, Peter was crucified, and that he begged to be crucified with his head downwards, not considering himself worthy to die in the same posture in which his Lord did.

Read Acts 4:8-13
-What astonished the leaders about Peter and John?
-Of what did they take note?
-In what ways was Peter fulfilling God's purpose for him?

Next week = Paul

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Great People Of the Bible- Week #11- Mary (The mother of Jesus)

Motherhood is a painful privilege. Young Mary of Nazareth had the unique privilege of being mother of the very Son of God. Yet the pains and pleasures of her motherhood can be understood by mothers everywhere. Mary was the only was the only human present at Jesus' birth who also witnessed his death. She saw him arrive as her baby son, and she watched him die as her Savior.

Until Gabriel's unexpected visit, Mary's life was quite satisfactory. She had recently become engaged to a carpenter, Joseph, and was anticipating married life. But her life was about to change forever.

Angels don't usually make appointments before visiting. As if she were being congratulated for winning the grand prize in a contest she had never entered, Mary found the angel's greeting puzzling and his presence frightening. What she heard next was the news almost every woman in Israel hoped to hear-- that her child would be the Messiah, God's promised Savior. Mary did not doubt the message, but rather asked how pregnancy would be possible. Later her song of joy shows us how well she knew God, for her thoughts were filled with his words from the Old Testament.

Mary was used by God to bring a blessing into the world. We can learn a lot about her willingness to serve. Looking at Mary we can ask, "How is God using me to bring a blessing into the world?"

Read Luke 1:26-40, 46-56

-What did Gabriel say about Mary's relationship with God?
-Why did the announcement trouble Mary?
-What did this reveal about her character?
-How did Gabriel describe her future child?
-Why would the news about Elizabeth have been an encouragement to Mary?
-How was Mary's response in verse 38 an act of worship?
-What attitude toward God did her response indicate?
-Following Gabriel's dramatic announcement Mary went to her cousin Elizabeth's home. What did Elizabeth recognize about Mary's relationship with God?
-Verses 46-55 contain Mary's song of praise, commonly called the Magnificat. What do these verses reveal about her relationship with God?
-How would you describe Mary's concept of God? What did she know about him?
-What had Mary learned about God from history?
-Compare her expressions of praise with these from the Old Testament: Psalm 130:17, Isaiah 40:22-24, Job 5:11-12, Psalm 107:9.
-How do you think Mary knew all these great truths about God? (See Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
-What characteristic of Mary is shown in Luke 2:19, 51-52?
-What did Mary do after Jesus' ascension? (Acts 1:12-14)
-Why is our concept of God important to worship?
-How can we grow in our knowledge of God?
-How can Mary's life encourage you in your walk with God?

Next week = Peter

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Great People Of the Bible- Week #10- Daniel


Daniel's early life demonstrates that there is more to being young than making mistakes. No characteristic wins the hearts of adults more quickly than wisdom in the words and actions of a young person. Daniel and his friends had been taken from their homes in Judah and exiled. Their futures were in doubt, but they all had personal traits that qualified them for their jobs as servants in the kings palace. They took advantage of the opportunity without letting the opportunity take advantage of them.

Our first hint at Daniel's greatness comes in his quiet refusal to give up his convictions. He had applied God's will to his own life, and he resisted changing the good habits he had formed. Both his physical and spiritual diets were an important part of his relationship with God. He ate carefully and lived prayerfully. One of the benefits of being in training for royal service was eating food from the king's table. Daniel tactfully chose a simpler menu and proved it was a healthy choice.

While Daniel limited his food intake, he indulged in prayer. He was able to communicate with God because he made it a habit. He put into practice his convictions, even when that meant being thrown into a den of hungry lions.

Here is a Bible character who, unlike many of the others, had to live in a hostile culture that made no pretense of serving the Revealed God of Israel. In this way he closely parallels the modern Christian. All who have ever felt conspicuous because of a conviction will find Daniel a fellow pilgrim.

Do you hold so strongly to your faith in God that whatever happens you will do what God says? Such conviction keeps you a step ahead of temptation; such conviction gives you wisdom and stability in changing circumstances. Prayerfully live out your convictions in everyday life and trust God for the results. Look what happened to Daniel.

Read Daniel 1:1-21
-Why was Daniel initially taken into King Nebuchadnezzar's court?
-How are Daniel and the other Israelites described?
-How were Daniel and his friends equipped to fulfill the king's expectations of them?
-Why did Daniel refuse the rich foods and wines provied by the king?
-How did he obtain official permission to maintain his conviction?
-Why was it important to obtain permission not to eat the king's food?
-Why did he not simply refuse it or despose of it without the officer's knowledge?
-How did God honor Daniel's commitment to personal purity?

Read Daniel 2:27-49; 4:19-37; 5:5-30
-When Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar's first dream (ch.2), the interpretation was a favorable one. How did Daniel demonstrate his personal integrity in the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's second dream (ch. 4)?
-What risks did Daniel take in offering the second interpretation?
-Nebuchadnezzar's son Belshazzar called Daniel to interpret the "handwriting on the wall". What details show that Daniel gave an honest and accurate evaluation of the message?
-What risks were inherent in this interpretation?
-What did his refusal to accept Belshazzar's gifts reveal about Daniel's personal character?
-Both in his personal practices and in his interaction with foreign kings, what principles did Daniel adhere too? What do they demonstrate about Daniel's character? About his relationship to God?

-Although many Christians now days don't live in exile or under service to foreign powers, they often face circumstances that challenge their personal beliefs and actions. What circumstances do you face in daily life that challenge your faith? Have you had any recent successes (or failures) of personal integrity when you have been tempted to compromise? How can Daniel's example of integrity be an encouragement to you?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Great People of the Bible Week #9- Elijah


Elijah's single minded commitment to God shocks and challenges us. He was sent to confront, not comfort, and he spoke God's word to a king who often rejected his message just because he brought it. Elijah carried out his ministry for God alone. He experienced isolation from others who were also faithful to God.

It is interesting to think about the amazing miracles God accomplished through Elijah for he had a unique relationship with Yahweh. Elijah seemed to know God in a different and unique way even when he was treated as an outcast and a bearer of bad news. After God worked an overwhelming miracle in defeating the prophets of Baal, Queen Jezebel retaliated by threatening Elijah's life. Elijah ran away and was scared. He felt depressed and abandoned. Despite God's provision of food and shelter in the desert, Elijah wanted to die. So God presented him with an "audio visual display" and a message he needed to hear. Elijah witnessed a windstorm, an earthquake, and fire. But the Lord was not present in any of those powerful things. Instead God displayed his presence in a gentle whisper.

Elijah, like us, struggled with his feelings even after this comforting message from God. So God confronted Elijah's emotions and commanded action. He told Elijah what to do next and informed him that part of his loneliness was based on ingnorance: 7,000 others in Israel were still faithful to God.

Even today, God often speaks through the gentle and obvious rather than the spectacular and unusual. God has work for us even when we feel fear and failure. And God always has more resources and people than we know about. Although we might wish to do amazing miracles for God, we should instead focus on developing a relationship with him through his son Jesus Christ. Through Christ our broken relationships can be made whole again.

Read 1 Kings 18:1-19
-Why did Elijah return to Israel?
-What was Elijah's attitude as he confronted King Ahab?
-What was the source of his security?

Read 1 Kings 18:20-29
-Describe Elijah's confrontation with the people on Mt. Carmel.
-How did the prophet summarize the nation's spiritual dilemma?
-Why did the people have no answer for Elijah?
-What were the "rules" of the contest and how was a "winner" to be determined?
-What did the prophets of Baal do to get their god to answer their prayers?
-How does Scripture emphasize the futility of their efforts?
-Why was there no answer?
-What was Elijah's mocking rebuke? (giggle-giggle)

Read 1 Kings 18:30-40
-After carefully preparing the bull according to the law, what did Elijah ask the people to do? Why?
-How did Elijah address the Lord in his prayer? Why? What specific petitions did he make?
-How did God answer?
-What was the reaction of the people?

Read 1 Kings 18:41-46
-What was Elijah's advice to Ahab?
-How did Elijah describe his expectation of the rain? What does this show about Elijah's faith?
-How do you think Elijah's servant felt as he reported six times, "There is nothing"?
-What might his wording of the seventh report indicate about his faith?
-What was Elijah's response to the seventh report?

Read 1 Kings 19:1-18
-Having just experienced the extraordinary power of God on Mt. Carmel and the successful seige of prayer for rain, what do you think Elijah anticipated as he speed toward Jezreel, the headquarters of Jezebel and the nation's center of Baal worship?
-What was Jezebel's reaction to the news of the events on Mt. Carmel.
-What was Elijah's reaction to Jezebel's threat?
-How did Elijah's desire in verse 4 contradict the very reason he ran away?
-What did God do for Elijah? What did he not do?
-What did God ask Elijah to do?
-What was he teaching Elijah by refusing to show himself in exciting displays of natures power?
-Why was this an important lesson for the prophet to learn?
-What was God's remedy of Elijah's depression?
-What effect might Elisha's appointment have had on him?
-What effect might his learning about the seven thousand faithful people have had on him?

-How has God encouraged you in the low times of your life?

Next Week = Daniel

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