In only fifty days Peter was radically transformed. He went from being a man in the shadows denying even knowing Jesus, to a man boldly proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus in the middle of the temple courts. How did the change occur? And more importantly, can such a change occur within us—today, in the here and now?
For fifty days, I invite you to dwell in the first twelve chapters of Acts. Here we meet Peter face-to-face and encounter the source of his power. We become challenged to grab hold of that power ourselves, believing that God wants to do something in and through us that is unexplainable apart from Him. Let’s give God fifty days and see what He might do.
The purpose of this study isn’t simply to reiterate a message. (You can find many studies on Acts.) Our purpose is to reignite a movement of the power of the Holy Spirit in each of us individually and in our churches collectively. Are you ready?
— Erica Wiggenhorn
Participants will enjoy:
- A verse-by-verse study spread over ten weeks (5 lessons/week)
- Many biblical, theological, and historical insights
- Text-based discussion questions that truly provoke thought
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An Unexplainable Life
Recovering The Wonder And Devotion Of The Early Church (Acts 1-12)
By Erica Wiggenhorn
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2016 Erica Wiggenhorn
All rights reserved.
WEEK 1 | DAY 1
When our Lord looked at us, He saw not only what we were — He was faithful in seeing what we could become! He took away the curse of being and gave us the glorious blessing of becoming.
— A. W. Tozer
In only fifty days Peter becomes radically transformed. From being a man crouching in the shadows who denies even knowing Jesus, to becoming a bold preacher proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus in the middle of the temple courts, Peter is a new man. How did the change occur? And more importantly, can such a change occur within us — today, in the here and now?
For the next fifty days, you and I are going to dwell in the first twelve chapters of Acts. In this portion of Scripture we meet Peter face to face and encounter the source of his power. We become challenged to grab hold of that power ourselves, believing that God wants to do something in and through us that is unexplainable apart from Him. Let's give God fifty days and see what He might do! How about it, friend — are you game?
The purpose of this study is not simply to reiterate a message. You can find many Bible studies on the book of Acts. Our purpose here is to reignite a movement of the power of the Holy Spirit in each of us individually and in our churches collectively. As Obadiah said to Elijah, "The Spirit of the Lord will carry you I know not where" (1 Kings 18:12). Indeed! No one knows but the Spirit Himself. But unlike the case in Elijah's day, the Spirit has already come. If you have put your faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Spirit now dwells inside you (1 Corinthians 12:7). So where does He want to take you? Where does He want to take your church? The Holy Spirit desires to be a manifest presence in your life to authenticate Christ's claims as Lord.
Here's the thing. The disciples understood from the beginning that Christ had called them to be a part of a movement. Each one of them jumped at the opportunity. What they didn't understand was the mission of the movement. They thought they were pursuing civic and social change, not individual change that would result in a universal overhaul of the entire world.
As Christians we, too, fundamentally understand that Jesus has called us to be a part of His movement. We have tapped into Christ's mission for individual change in each of our lives — and we like that part. The problem is that many of us haven't embraced His bold claims that our individual change will result in turning the world upside down. Maybe once the kingdom reached us individually, we became satisfied. As long as Jesus added something to each of our lives personally, we felt good. Therefore, if we become better people as we try to live by scriptural principles, we believe we have fulfilled our mission.
Can I rock your world for a moment? If that is how you and I approach our mission as disciples of Jesus Christ, then we've missed the mission. We've made it too small and self-focused. We've sought our own betterment and advancement through His kingdom, but then reflect, "I thought I signed up to be part of something that was bigger than myself," and wonder if something went wrong.
Well, thankfully you did!
But sometimes many of us lose our way and make it all about ourselves. As a result, we forfeit our power. See, the Holy Spirit was sent to authenticate Christ's claims of deity (John 16:14 — 15). The Spirit powerfully manifests Himself in order for Christ's prayers that the church will demonstrate an unexplainable love for Him and for one another are fulfilled (John 17:20-26). Yet we can lose our dependence on the Holy Spirit and attempt to manufacture our own power.
Here's the remedy: "Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:45). The Holy Spirit's desire is to continue to magnify Christ. He is our Counselor who guides us into all truth. He is the One who enables us to understand the Scriptures. He is the One who empowers us to live out the mission. You will be My witnesses. Your life was meant to authenticate My power! He is able to work in and through us so the world may know the power of Christ.
Are we brave enough to admit that there may be some things we have misunderstood?
Over and over again in the story of Acts, we read of people being in awe of the believers' lives, astonished at their courage, baffled by their wisdom, and in admiration of their lifestyle. Francis Chan writes: "I don't want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit. I want people to look at my life and know that I couldn't be doing this by my own power. I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for Him to come through."
Oh, that this would be my heart's cry!
How about you? Are you up for an unexplainable life? Being a witness for Christ means we verify His claims. We demonstrate His power. We embrace that Christ's mission is so much bigger than ourselves and finally fess up that we are "sick to death of ourselves already." We begin to live in such a way that the world's people are left scratching their heads. We leave them baffled.
Acts is the story of Christ's mission becoming reality in the lives of His followers. To study it is an invitation for it to become your reality and mine. Let's get started, shall we?
You may be a brand-new Christian, so this next exercise may be a little difficult for you to complete. I hope it excites you, though, and stirs within you an anticipation of what Christ wants to do in and through your life.
If you're not yet a believer, I hope these questions whet your appetite to know Him!
Let's take a trip down memory lane. Let's breathe in the sweet fragrance of Christ's presence in your life. Recapture some of the moments when Jesus was very much a reality in your daily life.
List three or four specific answers to prayer you have experienced. Perhaps some of the answers were no, and you now understand why.
List a few times when God obviously directed your path through detours, closed doors, or opened doors.
List some times when you unexplainably felt God's presence or power.
List three or four passages of Scripture that jumped off the page and spoke to you in your time of need.
List a few people God graciously brought into your life to teach you truth. (These could be a pastor/author/teacher/speaker, as well as a direct relationship.)
Dear one, these are some of the ways the Holy Spirit demonstrates His power and presence in our lives. Please do not be discouraged if you cannot answer them all. Obadiah was right: We do not know where the Spirit will take us. But we know He is here — living inside us. Let's invite Him to speak, guide, direct, and teach us new discoveries about the One He loves to exalt: Jesus. Let's embrace an unexplainable life.
WEEK 1 | DAY 2
JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED
Please read aloud ACTS 1:1
Here we are on Day 2 and we haven't even opened up the book of Acts yet! So let's jump right in.
Look at Acts 1:1.
How many books has the author of Acts written?
To whom is he addressing this current work?
What was the subject matter of his first book?
Scripture gives us strong clues as to who wrote the book of Acts in this opening verse. Read Luke 1:1 — 4 and record the commonalities you see between Luke's opening paragraph in his gospel and Acts 1:1.
Luke was a Gentile. In fact, he is the only Gentile author in the New Testament and by trade he was a physician (Colossians 4:14). I find this interesting because I am married to a doctor. Luke's scientific background provides great insight into his approach in writing not only the gospel of Luke, but also the book of Acts. He writes in the same systematic manner as my husband, Jonathan, does.
When Jonathan first sees a patient, he does several things to arrive at a diagnosis. First, he takes an overall look at the patient. Does he appear generally healthy with only the specific ailment in question plaguing him, or does his health seem com- promised in multiple areas? From there, Jonathan takes an assessment of a variety of possible symptoms by posing a litany of questions to the patient, taking all the answers and putting them together as one would arrange puzzle pieces to form a final picture. Once he is certain he has gathered all of the pertinent facts, the doctor finally arrives at a diagnosis. He then develops a treatment plan to restore the patient to health.
This is the approach Luke takes in his writing. By diligently researching all the facts regarding Jesus, he arrives at his verdict: "You may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught" (Luke 1:4). Jesus is indeed the Christ. By the end of the book of Luke, he is firm in this conclusion. From there, he moves on to Acts: the treatment plan. Acts lays out for Theophilus the steps that the followers of Jesus took based on their conclusion that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah. It is the treatment plan for a disciple.
In a physician's mind, a diagnosis is meaningless if the patient remains untreated. It is the treatment plan that makes the knowledge of the diagnosis worthwhile. Thus it is for Luke: "I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and to teach" (Acts 1:1, emphasis mine). Keep reading, Theophilus. Were talking about more than just an intellectual understanding that Jesus is the Messiah. Did you get that, friend? Accepting Jesus as your Savior is just the beginning.
Luke continued this intense investigation as he wrote Acts. He interviewed the original disciples and other witnesses firsthand. For example, the book of Luke tells a lot about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Perhaps he sat down across from her and asked her to tell her story.
We will see that Luke went to great personal lengths to gather all of the facts firsthand, often putting his own life at risk. For the majority of the book of Acts, Luke writes in the first person, letting us know that he is recording the events as an eyewitness in real time. When he was not present, he switches to the third person, making it clear which events he experienced firsthand.
This determination to conduct such exhaustive research leaves us wondering who Theophilus may have been.
How does Luke address him in Luke 1:3?
How is he addressed in Acts 1:1?
There are competing ideas about Theophilus. His name in Greek means "loved by God" or "friend of God," so some have sought to depersonalize him and conclude that Luke's audience is anyone and everyone who loves God. However, I don't believe this is so. First of all, to address someone as "most excellent" refers to someone of high authority in the Roman world. Luke uses the term twice later in the book of Acts, in reference to Felix (24:2) and to Festus (26:25).
So why does Luke disregard this address in his second book? Some possible explanations are that Theophilus became a Christian after reading Luke's gospel. Out of reverence for the lordship of Christ, he felt unworthy to continue to tout earthly titles of power and authority. Or due to his political position, maybe he wished to maintain his anonymity. And perhaps by this time Luke's relationship with him had deepened, and a formal title wasn't necessary. Or maybe it's not significant at all. We could speculate for days, but due to Luke's two different manners in how he addresses him, I believe Theophilus was an actual person.
In any case, Theophilus is not the most important figure in our story. If we were to indelibly print one particular word in this verse in our minds as we begin this journey in Acts, it is the one following the word "Jesus." Read Acts 1:1 again carefully and fill in the following:
All that (everything) Jesus to do and to teach ...
Today, my friend, is a new beginning. My prayer is that when you finish this study and set it on your shelf, you will say, "That was the time when Jesus began to do and to teach me ..."
We covered a lot today, but before you put your book away, stop and reflect:
If someone were to examine all of the facts and details of your life, would they diagnose you as a Christian? Why or why not?
How has becoming a Christian changed your treatment plan — the way you live your life?
What is one thing you are hoping Jesus may begin to teach you or do in your life as you make your way through this study?
Thank you for the courage to take this journey toward an unexplainable life with me. I am honored that you are here.
WEEK 1 | DAY 3
WE'VE ONLY JUST BEGUN
Please read aloud ACTS 1:1-5
Luke made it clear to us yesterday that his gospel set out to prove that Jesus was indeed the Christ. All that Theophilus had been taught about him was true. Acts picks up right where Luke's gospel ends.
I liken the two books to the ways my husband and our children approach their gifts on Christmas morning. When Eliana and Nathan run out to our family room and behold all of those wrapped presents under the tree, they cannot wait to get their hands on them! As soon as the paper is ripped from a package and they discover what is underneath, though, they immediately begin to scan the tree to see if there is another wrapped surprise with their name on it. Herein describes the gospel of Luke. Theophilus has unwrapped the mystery of Christ and now knows who He is, but rather than immediately set Him aside, Luke challenges him to more closely examine all that He is.
This is how my husband, Jonathan, approaches a Christmas gift. Once it is opened, he rolls it over in his hands, examining it from every angle. He removes the manual (it's usually some sort of gadget or electronic device) and begins to pore through it, discovering all the capabilities of the object. He wants to know every last detail about what it can do and how to best use it. He wants to understand how it works. This is the book of Acts: Jesus at work in your life.
Read Acts 1:2 — 3.
Where does Luke's gospel end?
How does Jesus now give instructions to His disciples?
Jesus began His work on earth as recorded in the Gospels. He died and rose again, but He was still teaching and working. Though He had conquered sin and death through His crucifixion and resurrection, He still had more to explain to His disciples, and He was commissioning them to carry on His work.
What did Jesus prove to His disciples?
About what did Jesus instruct His disciples?
It was of utmost importance that there was no doubt in the disciples' minds that Jesus had, in fact, risen from the dead in a bodily resurrection. It was also important for the spread of the gospel. While many would claim that the disciples only imagined that Jesus had actually risen from the dead, the early church writers share several examples verifying that Jesus was actually physically alive for forty days after His resurrection.
According to Luke 24:1-12, to whom did Jesus appear first?
Jesus remained on the earth forty days after His resurrection. In Jewish thought, the number forty often symbolized the fulfillment of a promise or the accomplishment of God's purposes.
Who else did He appear to that same day? (Luke 24:13-35)
When the disciples were still in hiding, how many times did He appear to them? See John 20:24-30.
See John 21:1. Where else did He appear to His disciples?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. After He had appeared to His disciples on several occasions, who else saw Him?
What promise was going to be fulfilled soon? (Acts 1:4-5)
In case they weren't sure what He meant, what did He specifically say the gift was?
Read Joel 2:28-29 and explain how the gift of the Holy Spirit was the fulfillment of a promise.
Refer to John 16:5-11. In what way would the gift of the Holy Spirit be a form of judgment?
The day that this marvelous gift of the Holy Spirit arrived was a greatly significant one on the Jewish calendar. It was fifty days after Passover. On this holiday, Pentecost, the Jewish people brought wheat sacrifices to the temple. They celebrated the covenant God made with Israel when He gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The Holy Spirit's arrival ushered in aspects of a new covenant. Additional promises of the new covenant will be fulfilled when Christ returns to earth again.
What did Jesus call the true bread of heaven in John 6:32-33?
Describe the new covenant God will make with His people Israel (see Jeremiah 31:31-34).
God divinely orchestrated the death and resurrection of His Son to occur at a time when Jewish people from around the world would converge on Jerusalem in celebration of these holidays. He had instituted these holidays thousands of years prior, commanding that they be migratory feasts in which all adult Jewish men must return to the Holy City of Jerusalem. The holidays foreshadowed His ultimate plan of redemption in the death and resurrection of His Son.
The coming of the promised Holy Spirit was to be no different. This holiday of Pentecost, when He unleashed His power on the apostles, was also a migratory feast. No one who was committed to God was going to miss the scene. Everything was unfolding exactly as God had planned.
What does God say about Himself in Isaiah 46:9-10?
Friend, know this today: God is not finished yet. He has a purpose for your life.
He wants to give you an unexplainable life. His timeline is unfolding just as He has planned. Don't give up. Don't get discouraged. Don't run ahead of Him. Just wait. The gifts He has for you will arrive right on time. We've only just begun.
Take time to think about what having an "unexplainable life" might look like for you personally. Record your thoughts below.
WEEK 1 | DAY 4
THE GAME PLAN
Please read aloud ACTS 1:6-9
Have you ever been in the middle of telling someone something when they suddenly interrupt you with what feels like a random question? Not only do you wonder if they heard a word you said, but you also question how valuable they find your information to be! This is exactly what the disciples did to Jesus in our passage of Scripture today. Jesus had important instructions to give them during some of their final moments together. He was trying to explain to them the importance of the Holy Spirit's arrival, but they interrupted Him with questions regarding their own agenda.
See Acts 1:6-7.
What question did the disciples ask Jesus?
How did Jesus respond?
The disciples are still seeking a literal kingdom in which Jesus serves as king and they get handed some official titles of importance. Jesus had told them when He set up His kingdom, His twelve disciples would sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (See Matthew 19:28.) The mother of James and John requested that her sons' thrones be in the most special places of honor (Matthew 20:21). They expected a literal kingdom, its arrival imminent, and one in which they would hold special positions of authority. No wonder Jesus admonished them to not be like the Gentiles in how they govern (Matthew 20:25 — 28). Here are the real questions they have:
So when is my payout? When do we begin ruling?
Have You figured out what my role is going to be yet, Jesus?
Are You finally going to take some of that miraculous power of Yours and use it to overthrow the Romans?
We've followed You around for three years now. When are You going to get with the game plan, Jesus?
Actually, guys, He's trying to give you the game plan, but you're interrupting Him with your self-absorbed questions! The disciples still did not understand the spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom. Maybe today we have gone too far in the opposite direction. We have focused so much on the spiritual aspect of the kingdom that it is nearly invisible to the world. We have ceased to expect the power of the Holy Spirit to be lived out in a literal and tangible way before our eyes. We have failed to understand that the way we live our lives is supposed to serve as proof of the kingdom.
Christ gives us the power to overcome self — to put an end to our selfish ambitions and desires and to serve one another in love. Jesus is trying to explain to them that through the gift of the Holy Spirit they will accomplish this, but they are still wrapped up in their own agendas.
We ask Jesus these same questions, they just sound a little different. We might say:
I've been obedient. Why aren't You blessing me?
Why are You making my life so hard? My coworker is unreliable, but he gets a raise!
Why wont You allow me to serve in the area I want to in the church? Why does that Jessica always get to be in charge of everything?
Excerpted from An Unexplainable Life by Erica Wiggenhorn. Copyright © 2016 Erica Wiggenhorn. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsLet's Open Our Minds, 9,
Making the Most of This Study, 11,
Week One: Living an Unexplainable Life, 13,
Week Two: Unexplainable Change, 39,
Week Three: Unexplainable Courage, 69,
Week Four: Unexplainable Mission, 99,
Week Five: Unexplainable Vision, 121,
Week Six: Unexplainable Expansion, 145,
Week Seven: Unexplainable Unity, 173,
Week Eight: Our Unexplainable God, 199,
Week Nine: Unexplainable Discipleship, 225,
Week Ten: A Journey Toward an Unexplainable Life, 253,
Some Parting Thoughts, 281,
What People are Saying About This
An Unexplainable Life is more than a Bible study; it is a transformational fifty-day experience with God that will open your mind to a fresh understanding of Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit. Erica Wiggenhorn will inspire you, equip you, and challenge you to not only learn the Word but live it boldly. A must have resource for every church and women’s ministry desiring to be courageous followers of Christ who turn the world upside down like the early church.
KATHE WUNNENBERGAuthor, speaker, mentor, and founder of Hopelifters Unlimited
One hundred and twenty simple, ordinary people were gathered together in a room when the Holy Spirit came and incredibly, wonderfully, and unexplainably empowered them to go change a world! He changed their lives and He changed the city, region, and world through the message they shared and lives they lived. He wants to do it again, today, through you and me. He wants us to live an unexplainable life of power, mission, and perseverance! You will be blessed by this study from Erica Wiggenhorn and challenged to allow Him to live through you an unexplainable life!
STEPHEN ENGRAMSenior Pastor, Desert Springs Community Church, Goodyear, AZExecutive Director of Southwest Church Connection, CBAmerica
Wiggenhorn whets the appetite of the reader to move from a vanilla Christian experience to an unexplainable adventure that is based in biblical truth and authored by the Holy Spirit. This well-written, integrative study challenges every Christ follower with something more—an unexplainable adventure based on God’s Word and authored by God’s Spirit. A must-read for every person who longs to be used of God to make an eternal difference.
DOUG SCHMIDTPastor of Woodside Bible Church, Troy, MI
I have been a pastor for over eighteen years and reading An Unexplainable Life was like a breath of fresh air for my heart. Erica captures the deep longing we have when we love the church and yet long for something more, something deeper, something authentic and real. It’s not something new we long for, but rather a restoration of the joy and awe of life in Christ. Biblically robust and warmly personal, An Unexplainable Life will be like sitting down with a friend to consider the deep things of God together.
MATT VALENCIALead Pastor, ReGeneration Church, Scotts Valley, CA
If you’re longing for more out of your Christian life, dive into the book of Acts with Erica Wiggenhorn. Dare to ask the Holy Spirit to open your mind and awaken your heart to all that He has for you to embrace. Erica brings Scripture alive with purpose and passion!
BECKY HARLINGInternational speaker and the author of The 30 Day Praise Challenge
Ready to go deeper? Erica Wiggenhorn takes us on a journey to “deeper” in the verse-by-verse trek through Acts 1–12. Anytime we come to God’s Word with a yearning to let Him change us by it, we’re simply never the same. And Erica approaches this powerful passage with authenticity, clarity, and a sweet savvy, heading us straight for that change. Biblical, historical, easy to engage—the whole package. We’re not talking about a little dusting across the surface here. Erica shows us those deep places and offers us practical helps in how to walk out our faith. Gear up for some spiritual spelunking!
RHONDA RHEATV host and author of 10 books including Espresso Your Faith
Erica Wiggenhorn’s heart for connecting women to a deeper and greater understanding of biblical truth beats across the pages in her new Bible study, An Unexplainable Life. Her fresh, biblically sound teaching will help you gain new perspective while transforming and strengthening your faith.
SARA HORNSpeaker and author of My So-Called Life as a Proverbs 31 Wife