Tuesday, Sept. 16

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Tuesday


Everybody loves an underdog – the unlikely hero, the one nobody believed in, the classic Cinderella story.  In sports (NCAA tournament, the Masters) and in life, who doesn’t like to see the little guy succeed??

When you think about it, the Bible has some wonderful stories about underdogs and unlikely heroes.  The most famous in the Old Testament is probably the shepherd boy David killing the Philistine giant Goliath.  But there are many others:
  • Old crazy Noah building a boat and saving the world.
  • Abram, wandering the desert, having a son in 90s!
  • Gideon, going from hiding in a hole to defeating the Midianites
  • Moses, from living in obscurity in the wilderness to defeating Pharaoh!

The truth is that God seems to like doing things this way (1 Cor. 1:27).  “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, the weak things to shame the strong.”

There is a sense in which our whole faith is a kind of underdog story – a story of an unlikely hero, born in a manger, in obscurity, to a poor family, lived a wandering, homeless existence, had no military background, wrote no books, founded no schools or political institutions.

And when we come to the story of the church, that may be the biggest Cinderella story of them all.  Think of it.  Only 120 confused and isolated Christians, uncertain about what to do (Acts 2 - Pentecost).  The contemporary secular view of the church is usually the opposite: huge institution, wealthy, controlling, often corrupt, hardly an underdog.

But even secular historians marvel and wonder at how this tiny insignificant group of 1st century Jews could grow into something that would shake the Roman Empire and form the foundations of Western civilization.

How did this happen?  What caused the rapid and explosive growth of the early church?

Former Yale Professor of History, Kenneth Scott Latourette:
“The more one examines the various factors which seem to account for the extraordinary victory of Christianity, the more one is driven to search for a cause underlying them all.  It is clear that at the very beginning of Christianity there must have occurred a vast release of energy virtually unequalled in history.  Without it, the future course of this religion is inexplicable.  Why this occurred may lie outside the realm in which modern historians are supposed to move.”

He is pondering a question which simply cannot be answered from a purely historical point of view.  And the book of Acts gives us the answer.
  • Acts 2:4 – “Filled with the Spirit”
  • Acts 2:17 – “Pour out my Spirit”
  • Acts 2:47 – “The Lord added to their number”


God is in their midst!  God is doing something!  The Spirit is on the move!  “The cause underlying them all” is the Holy Spirit.  That same Spirit lives in us today!  We are a part of this remarkable story that God has been writing throughout history by His Holy Spirit.

Jeff Frazier

Monday, Sept. 15

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Monday

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,  until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”  - Acts 1:1-5

I am glad that God puts it in the heart of some doctors to do more than medicine. Every doctor I know in this church has dreams bigger than mending bodies and making bucks. I thank God for that. But the doctor I am most thankful for in all the world is the doctor called Luke. In Colossians 4:14 Paul calls him "the beloved physician." We meet him for the first time in Troas where he joins Paul and Silas and Timothy on the second missionary journey, he may have been converted there and joined the missionary team as a kind of staff doctor.

But O how much more than a doctor he became! He traveled with Paul for years and went with him finally to Rome where Paul died. I find one of Paul's most moving sentences in his last letter 2 Timothy 4:11, during his final imprisonment in Rome. He says simply, "Luke alone is with me."

All these years in all these travels, including two years in Palestine, Luke is taking notes about the works and words of Jesus and the progress of the church. Finally God moves him to write a two-volume work that makes up more of the New Testament than what any other New Testament writer wrote, including the apostle Paul.


Now we should never minimize the finality—the once-for-allness—of the saving work of Jesus on the cross and in his resurrection. Hebrews 10:12 says, "When Christ had offered FOR ALL TIME a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God." When Jesus cried "It is finished," the debt was paid, the sins were covered, the wrath was removed and Satan was mortally wounded. 

But we do need to understand that while Christ accomplished our salvation completely on the cross, that does not mean He is done working in the world!  Notice what Luke says here—that what Jesus did on the earth in his tough, compassionate, loving, healing deeds and what he said on the earth in his truthful, authoritative, convicting, comforting teaching was only the beginning of his doing and his teaching. This is absolutely crucial for understanding the purpose of the book of Acts and who we are as a church and what this age is all about. Because the clear implication is that NOW—now that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father—he is NOT finished. He is not done with his work and with his teaching. He is not dead and he is not absent. He is alive and he is present and He is active in the hearts and lives of His followers!
Jeff Frazier

Friday, September 12th

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Friday, September 12


Acts 1:1-11


In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”


So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."


A few weeks ago I spent 3 days and nights in the Boundary Waters that separate Minnesota from Canada. A friend from FBCG helped me set up the trip in honor of my son’s 21st birthday, which was a year late because I didn’t apply for the permit in time a year ago.

My son invited 3 of his buddies from his high school Discipleship Group, all now working or in college, to reprise one of their favorite trips while in FBCG’s youth ministry years ago.

Now you have to understand that my son and I don’t fish or camp very often, so everything about camping and fishing for three days in the Boundary Waters was out of our comfort zone. In some cases, like taking a 30-inch northern pike off the hook, WAY out of our comfort zone. Fortunately we had a couple of guys who were pretty much wilderness survival experts and could not only take the fish off the hooks but cut them up and fry them for lunch as well.

But even though we lack most wilderness skills, we had a blast! We spent hours fishing on a pristine lake; we sat around a campfire at night roasting marshmallows; we watched bald eagles soar across the sky and coated ourselves in enough mosquito repellent to kill a moose.

It was fun because it was an adventure. It was an adventure precisely BECAUSE it was outside our comfort zone. And that brings me back to the great Book of Acts.

The Book of Acts tells the story of how 12 men (the 11 disciples plus the Apostle Paul) who knew Jesus and were filled and guided by the Holy Spirit changed the world. It’s a story filled with faith, courage and a relentless willingness to share the story of Jesus to anyone who would listen and often to those who wouldn’t. It’s a story filled with riots, angry mobs, prison, shipwrecks, snakebites, miracles and long journeys. It’s a story of adventure; the adventure of the church; the adventure of the gospel.

My brother was once returning from a short term mission trip somewhere in the developing world. He had just spent a couple of weeks sharing the love of Christ in tangible ways to some of the poorest people on the face of the earth. He had mixed concrete by hand in helping construct an orphanage for children; he had bathed in a river and slept on a concrete floor; he had held malnourished children in his arms; he had lived the adventure of the gospel in a way that brought joy and satisfaction to his soul.

On the last leg of his flight home he sat next to an extremely well-dressed man who appeared to be traveling for business. At some point my brother struck up a conversation. It became clear that the man was indeed a very successful executive in his industry and definitely enjoyed talking about his success. At some point he asked my brother what he did for a living and my brother explained that he was a pastor and was returning from a mission trip to the Dominican Republic.

When my brother tells this story he says the man nodded and said something like, “Hmmm, good for you,” but couldn’t have been less interested.

In that moment my brother says he felt intense pity for that man. He felt pity because even though that man might have had a net worth of 100 times his own, he wouldn’t have traded places with him for any amount of money in the world. The reason he wouldn’t have traded places with that man, no matter what the financial or material benefits, was the adventure of following Jesus.

Some mistakenly think that becoming a follower of Jesus will make one’s life tedious and boring. Read the Book of Acts and you’ll find that quite the opposite is true!

G.K. Chesterton said it this way:

“And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to let the good things run wild.”

The Book of Acts is the story of what happens when the good things run wild; when the gospel is turned loose in the world. What happens is the great adventure of the church; and we are each invited to join the journey!

Pastor Brian Coffey

Thursday, September 11th

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Thursday, September 11

Acts 1:1-11


In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”


So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."


Remember back in middle school or high school when the teacher would give an assignment and then leave the room? For me what happened next depended greatly on whether or not I believed my teacher was going to return before the class period ended!

If I was reasonably sure that the teacher was not coming back then I was quite likely to spend the class period goofing off with my friends instead of doing the assignment. But, on the other hand, if the teacher said she was coming back and I knew her to be true to her word, then I would make sure I finished the assignment before I did anything else to make sure I was prepared when she returned!

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."


This is one of the great promises of our faith as followers of Jesus. He’s coming back! This promise is reiterated throughout the New Testament.

Jesus promises to return to take us to be with him (John 14).

Paul tells us that when Jesus returns the dead will be raised and we will receive our new spiritual bodies. (1 Corinthians 15)

In the Book of Revelation we see Jesus revealed as the King who will return to judge all sin and rule in absolute authority.

In 2 Timothy 4:8 Paul writes:

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

It seems to me that there are two sides to the promise of Jesus’ return. First; as believers the promise of Christ’s return is to give us great hope! We can rest in his promise that whatever may happen around us, or whatever hardship of suffering we may endure, in the end he will take us to be with him forever. Second; the promise of Jesus’ return also compels us to invest ourselves fully in the mandate he has given. Time is finite. History as we know it will have an end. He has called us to take the gospel of salvation to the whole world before that time comes.

Many scholars believe the “crown of righteousness” that Paul talks about is a special reward - above and beyond salvation - promised by Jesus for those who have served the cause of the gospel here on earth. We don’t know what that reward entails, but we do know that Jesus left us with a mandate and that he will honor those who have served that mandate well.

May we be people who long for his appearing; but until then, may we also be among those who share the gospel of Jesus with the world.


Pastor Brian Coffey

Wednesday, September 10th

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Wednesday, September 10

Acts 1:1-11


In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”


So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."


The songs and slogans are permanently embedded in our brains.

“I’d like to buy the world a Coke...”

“It’s the real thing.”

“Things go better with Coke!”

“Open happiness.”

Just by reading and remembering these marketing campaigns some of you are starting to crave a cold Coke!

I have often said that Coca-cola is arguably the greatest marketing success the world has ever seen. One researcher claims that the phrase “Coca-cola” is the second most recognized phrase on the planet, just after “OK.”

From its humble beginnings in Dr. John Pemberton’s back yard to sales in over 200 countries today, Coke has become the most recognized trademark in the world.

What I want to point out is that Coke’s success didn’t happen by accident. It happened because somewhere, sometime, some executive cast a vision for Coca-cola as a global product and then set about the business of penetrating as many markets, cultures and languages as possible.

In other words, someone established a mandate for the Coca-cola company; we will sell Coke to the whole world! As the Book of Acts begins Jesus gives a similar mandate to a small group of his followers.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."


See it? The mandate is clear: we are to be witnesses of Jesus and we are to be witnesses to the whole world.


What does it mean to be a witness of Jesus?


To “bear witness” is simply to testify to that which one has seen, heard or experienced. It doesn’t mean we have to have a theological degree or be able to quote whole books of the Bible from memory. It just means to be willing to share what we have seen, heard or experienced of Jesus.


The church I grew up in had a Sunday evening service. My Dad was the pastor and on Sunday evenings he often reserved a time for “testimonies” when people could stand up and share with their church family something that God had done or was doing in their life.


One Sunday night a lady stood up two rows behind where my brother and I were sitting with our Mom. I didn’t recognize the woman because it turns out that she was brand new to our church. I don’t remember everything she said but I do remember that she shared that she had only recently heard the gospel and invited Jesus into her life. Then she said, “I know I have a heckuva lot of changin’ to do, but with Jesus’ help I’m gonna change.” Only she didn’t say “heckuva,” she said a word that people aren’t supposed to say in church! My brother and I started elbowing each other as if to say, “Did you hear that? She said a bad word! I’m sure our mother had to give us “the look” to keep us from giggling right there in the pew!


Looking back there were two great things about that woman’s testimony. First, it was genuine. She didn’t know enough not to use that word in church but she knew Jesus had begun his work in her life. Second, everyone in church that night (with the exception of two little boys who giggled) celebrated with that woman and accepted her with love and grace because she simply bore witness to Jesus and what he had done.


She did what Jesus told his followers to do in the Book of Acts. She became a witness!
If you are a follower of Jesus; if you have believed the gospel and received the gift of eternal life; then you, too, are a witness. The only question is whether we are willing to stand up and share the story of what Jesus has done in us and for us, or just sit in the pew and keep it to ourselves.

Pastor Brian Coffey

Tuesday, September 9th

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Tuesday, September 9

Acts 1:1-8


In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”


So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." 


It’s the high school football season so maybe you can understand why I thought of football when I read this text. Then again, maybe not! 


But imagine a locker room filled with high school football players gathered in front their coach before the first game of the season. Before the coach has a chance to give his pre-game speech, one of the players raises his hand and says, “Coach, is this when we get the championship trophy?” 


I think the coach would be pleased that his players were dreaming of such an accomplishment, but he would also want to make sure they understood that such a dream would only become a reality if they, themselves, were totally invested in the process of making it happen. In other words, they would have to go out and make it happen on the field! 


These early disciples had to be both overjoyed and overwhelmed to have the risen Jesus back with them for a time. I can certainly understand their enthusiasm!


So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"


They had to be thinking this was it! The “Kingdom of God” that Jesus was always talking about during his ministry was actually going to happen! Jesus would be King and each of them would play a prominent role in his kingdom.


In essence Jesus says, “Not so fast.”


He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." 


Simply put, Jesus is saying that his goal is to take the gospel to the whole world, and his method for doing that is his followers.


In Jesus we see that God is a “reaching God.” In Jesus God reached into human history with the good news of salvation. The Book of Acts tells us that the church is to be a “reaching community;” that the church is to carry out the mandate to take the gospel to the world.


That means that we are to be “reaching people;” that every believer has both the responsibility and the opportunity to reach others with the gospel.


Have you ever thought of yourself as a “reacher?” It might surprise you that Jesus thinks of you as just that! Jesus is saying that we are his marketing plan! 


As someone once wrote, “Christians are the only Bible most people will ever read.” 


Pastor Brian Coffey

Monday, September 8th

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Monday, September 8

Acts 1:1-5


In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

 
In my experience, it’s difficult for most movie sequels to measure up to their predecessors. I mean, there’s just no way “Rocky II” could measure up to the first “Rocky!” But in “The Book of Acts” we have a sequel that is, in almost every way, just as exciting and dramatic as the first episode.

The Book of Acts begins with these words:

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach...

Scholars widely believe that Luke was the author of both the Book of Acts and the Gospel that bears his name. Therefore when he refers to his “first book” he is pointing to what we know as “The Gospel of Luke,” the third book of the New Testament. 

In his gospel, of course, Luke tells the great story of Jesus’ birth; his public ministry of teaching and healing; along with his death and resurrection. In “The Book of Acts” Luke tells the story of the birth of the church and how the gospel of Jesus changed the world.

So who is “Theophilus,” and why does Luke seem to address his book to him? Throughout the centuries scholars have developed several main answers to these questions.

First, the name “Theophilus” is Latin and can be translated as “Friend of God,” so some think this was Luke’s way of addressing his second book to believers everywhere. In other words, if you are a “friend of God,” this book is for you.

On the other hand, since Luke refers to “most excellent Theophilus” in the opening of the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:3) it is possible that Theophilus was a person of some significance, perhaps a Roman official of some sort who was either a believer himself or at least sympathetic to the story of Jesus.

In either case it is certain that Luke, as a Gentile, was writing primarily to a Gentile audience, which, of course, includes us!

He wants us to know that where his first book dealt primarily with Jesus; his second book is going to deal with the promise Jesus made to send the Holy Spirit!

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

 
We’ll talk much more about the Holy Spirit in coming weeks, but here’s what Luke wants us to know as we begin our journey through Acts.

This story is for “friends of God” and those who are freinds of God will love what God loves. And what does God love?

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

God loved the world enough to send Jesus, and through Jesus to give us the gospel. Now we see that God also loved the world enough to send the Holy Spirit to build the church and that through the church the gospel would reach the world.

But I’m getting ahead of the story just a bit! The point is as those of us who are friends of God, who have received the gospel and follow Jesus; we are now part of the great adventure of the church.

So I hope you’ll pick up your personal Bible and start reading through the great Book of Acts this week because Luke isn’t just telling us a story, he’s telling our story!

Pastor Brian Coffey