Tuesday, September 30th

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Tuesday, September 30

Acts 2:42-47
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

A few years ago I read the story of Joe Ehrmann, a former NFL football player who became a volunteer coach at a small local high school. What made his story unique was his coaching philosophy. After every practice and every game he asked his players 2 questions.

He would gather the sweat and dirt covered players and ask, “What’s our job as coaches?” To which the 16-18 year old boys would respond, “To love us.”

Then he would say, “What’s your job as players?” And again the players would yell back, “To love each other!”

At first it seems like some kind of weird oxymoron; coaching young men to play an aggressive and sometimes violent game by teaching them to love each other; but the more I thought about it, the more I got it.

It’s one thing to block the guy in front of you because it’s your assignment and the coach will yell at you if you don’t. It’s quite another thing to block the guy in front of you because you love your teammates, and because you know your coach loves you.

It should not surprise us that Joe Ehrmann was not only a very smart football coach but a committed follower of Jesus Christ. He knew that the greatest motivation in the world is not fear, but love; and he knew that that love for each other is the foundation of both a team and the church.

Read again how Luke describes this early body of believers:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship,

And all who believed were together and had all things in common...


They were devoted to each other.

The word Luke uses is koinonia, an ancient Greek word that carried the meaning of communion, joint participation, the sharing of life. The English word most often used to translate koinonia is fellowship. Now “fellowship” is a good word but I fear its meaning has been watered down a bit so that many of us think of a potluck supper rather than the deep and powerful bond that Luke is trying to describe.

Koinonia fellowship is what high school football players feel after sharing 100 days of body breaking practices and then 10 games during which they give their blood, sweat and tears to reach the goal of becoming a championship team. Even though they are just kids playing a game, they give real commitment; feel real pain, and exult in real joys; and they do it together.

The men and women Luke is talking about did more than worship together on Sunday morning, they shared life. They worshiped together, prayed together, ate together, shared their homes and possessions with each other. One gets the sense that they needed each other for survival.

I’m not sure we can recreate that same sense of intensity and devotion to koinonia today. We live in a different time and culture. The threats to our faith and to the church are not opposition and persecution but, rather, comfort and busyness. We have our own homes and our own stuff and we live our own lives. If we have time we will worship together for an hour on Saturday night or Sunday morning. That’s good, but it’s not koinonia!

But the truth is that we do still need each other, we just don’t feel the same need to need each other!

Just yesterday I received a text message in the middle of the day that informed me that a person from our church family had been rushed to the hospital in critical condition. The message said some FBCG staff were gathering for prayer at the East Campus. By the time I arrived 10 minutes later there were about 20 FBCG staffers gathered in the sanctuary praying together for the hospitalized person. About 20 minutes later I was at the hospital where 10 more people were already gathered to care for and pray with the family of the person who was in the Intensive Care Unit. There were tears and hugs and more prayer as we all learned the gravity of the situation. But there was more than just concern over a friend who was very sick. There was the joy of koinonia.

As I left the hospital an hour or so later I realized I had just been blessed to be part of an Acts 2 experience. I realized I was part of a church family of people who are devoted to one another. I realized that the koinonia that the Holy Spirit forged 2000 years ago is still possible today, even for self-sufficient and hyper-busy people living in the suburbs of North America.

May we be people who do more than worship together. May we also pray together, serve together; laugh together and cry together. May we be a people and a church devoted to the fellowship.


Pastor Brian Coffey

Monday, September 29th

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Monday, September 29

Acts 2:42-47
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

A number of years ago I had a very good friend who was serving as a Youth Pastor in a church in Florida. He had been hired to build a ministry that would attract junior and senior high school students and their families from the surrounding community. My friend was a creative and outgoing guy so he threw himself into the task and within a few months was filling the church with teenagers. His approach was to create an environment that kids would enjoy and that meant lots of loud music, lots of noisy and sometimes messy games, and lots of food. His reasoning was simple; if students were having fun and enjoying being at church they would be more open to hearing and responding to God’s word.

But the church had never had a Youth Pastor like him before and the music and the messiness of a dynamic and growing youth ministry made some of the long-time members a bit nervous. Eventually one of the elders in the church took my friend aside and encouraged him to tone down the volume a bit and run a more conventional (and quiet) ministry.

At one point he said, “Son, you won’t find this in the Bible, but God says...” and then finished the sentence with something about loud music not being God’s preferred choice for youth ministry, especially not for youth ministry in his church!

My friend is no longer at that church but that story still makes us laugh. We laugh because it’s a humorous example of how we tend to prefer to create our own truth than to seek God’s truth.

In Acts we find that one of the signs of a healthy church is devotion to truth.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching...

The natural question to ask is, “What teaching is Luke talking about?” What did the Apostles teach?

Well, if we look back just a few verses in Acts 2 we see Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost. When a mocking crowd accused the Apostles of being drunk at 9 in the morning, Peter delivered what amounted to the first sermon in church history. He simply preached what he knew.

What had just happened was the fulfillment of what the prophets had written.

Jesus was sent by God, crucified by sinful men, and raised from the dead as Lord and Christ.

And finally that forgiveness from sin and the Holy Spirit are  received in the name of Jesus Christ.

Peter preached what we know as the Gospel; the good news that salvation is found not in religion, but by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Now, a couple of things about truth.

First; truth, by definition, is exclusive. To say one thing is true is to say another thing is not true. Two plus two cannot equal both four and five at the same time.

Second; truth makes us uncomfortable. Not all truth makes all of us uncomfortable, perhaps, but certainly some truth makes some of us uncomfortable. I can’t imagine who might find “Two plus two equals four” to be offensive, but many, many people find, “Jesus is Lord” to be offensive.

When it comes to mathematics, most of us agree on truth. But when it comes to spiritual matters, many would prefer to create our own truth. If Jesus is truly Lord, then we are all accountable to him and there is no forgiveness or salvation without him. Many would rather believe that salvation is based on good deeds or good intentions rather than the grace of one who died in our place.

But the gospel is either true for everyone or it is true for no one. The early church, and every healthy church since then, was devoted to the truth of the Gospel.


Pastor Brian Coffey

Friday, Sept. 26

Friday

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”  And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.   - Acts 2:36-41

"These things," Peter says, "are proof that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord and Christ." "Lord" means ruler of all things, king over all men, the One who holds the key to life and death, heaven and hell, in his hands. All power in heaven and in earth is committed unto him. And there is no authority or power that exists which does not take its direction and its limitation from him. "Christ," of course, means "Messiah." We say the words, "Jesus Christ," and many of us think that Jesus is his first name, and Christ his last. But that is not the case. Jesus is his name; Christ is his title. Christ means Messiah -- the promised One, the Deliverer, the only hope that mankind has ever had. Suddenly all this made perfect sense to this multitude. The full force of Peter's arguments thudded home, and they realized that they were in a very precarious position. This One whom he had proven, by indisputable evidence, to be Lord, was the One they had crucified 50 days earlier.
Can you imagine how they felt? It would be very much as if you went down to apply for a job, and on the way you got into an automobile accident. And when the other driver got out, you started beating and cursing and kicking him in anger. Then you got into your car and drove off, and went on to apply for the job. When you were all cleaned up and ready, you were ushered into the presence of the man whom you had just beaten and cursed out in the street. That is what these people felt. No wonder they were cut to the heart and cried out, "Brethren, what shall we do?"

This is where Christianity rests its case. Jesus Christ is Lord, whether we know it or not. The very forces which control our lives are dependent upon Him. It would be almost laughable, if it were not so sad, to hear people - old and young alike - dismiss Jesus Christ as though he were an option, as though they had the choice either of believing or not believing in him, whatever they felt like, and it did not make much difference one way or the other.

The declaration of Peter on this day is that Jesus is inevitable, and unavoidable. There is no way you can avoid him. Your very life is dependent upon him. He is Lord over all things. And, sooner or later, you have to deal with Jesus Christ, whether you like it or not. The appeal of this crowd is, "What shall we do?" Peter's answer is wonderful - it is the Christian gospel.


Our Father, we thank you for the truth in this mighty declaration that Jesus Christ is indeed Lord, that you have exalted him and give him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father  - Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Thursday, Sept. 25

Thursday

Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.  - Acts 2:22-24

Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.  - Acts 2:36
Right here in Peter’s great sermon, we see the power of God among men — the resurrection power of God, a power which man cannot duplicate. Resurrection power is the ability to bring life out of death, to restore a situation which is hopeless, to change a person who is irremediable — that is resurrection power!
Years ago I met with a young man in high school who told me about his conversion, and the reaction of his father. His father was baffled by this conversion. It fit no psychological pattern he knew of. He could not explain why his son was so suddenly and drastically different. Because he could not explain it, it angered him, and he reacted against it, and was fighting it all the way.  This is not an infrequent reaction of those who come into contact with this power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
Man is always dreaming of finding ways to beat death. Baseball great Ted Williams had his head frozen in the hopes that he might someday be restored.  There are people today believing that you should get yourself deep-frozen, and your body put away in a storage vault and kept there for 50 to 100 years. Then, when science has supposedly solved the problem, found a cure for the disease you are dying of, they will thaw you out, and you will get a chance to go on living then. 
What a far cry from resurrection! This is not what happened to Jesus Christ when he rose from the dead in all the fullness and vitality of his person.
Peter says, “We disciples are the witnesses of these things. We saw him.” The remarkable thing is that not one voice is lifted in protest in this whole crowd of people. One of the greatest proofs of the resurrection of Jesus is right here — that this man could stand up in the city where these events had taken place, a little more than a month earlier, and tell these people that Jesus had risen from the dead, and not one voice challenges him! They had not seen him — he appeared only to his disciples — but they had known that the body was not there. They could go out to the tomb and see that it was empty. They knew that the authorities could not produce the body of Jesus. They had heard all the wild rumors that spread through the city that Jesus was alive and that he was appearing to his own disciples from time to time. There is not one voice who challenges what the apostle says. Instead they stand there in mute and stricken silence as the apostle drives home with powerful blows the sword of the Spirit, convicting them of the truth of his claim.
Father, thank you for the truth in this mighty declaration that Jesus Christ is indeed Lord. I pray that any who have never come to know this One as Lord may now open their life and cry out to him as these men and women did and hear this saving word to repent and to believe, and thus receive the promised Spirit  - Amen.

Jeff Frazier


Wednesday, Sept. 24

Wednesday

Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine. Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.

Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
         
- Acts 2:12-18


The first thing Peter does is to explain to this crowd that it is not what they think. Literally what the Greek said was, “He stood up and said to them, ‘Not as you suppose are these men drunk.’” In other words, they are drunk, but not from what you suppose. It is not new wine that makes them drunk; it is what Joel said would happen — the Spirit of God has come upon them. It is true that to be controlled by the Holy Spirit does affect one somewhat like alcohol does. Paul implies the same thing in Ephesians when he says, “do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph. 5:18).
When this crowd looked at these men and women they noted they were excited and bold, speaking freely and easily, and acting rather strangely. It was not totally unusual that they should conclude that they were drunk. But Peter responds with some humor saying, No, you have the wrong explanation. The reason you're wrong is because it is only nine o'clock in the morning. Everyone knows that hardly anyone drinks before eleven o'clock!  So it can't be that they are drunk with new wine; they are filled with the Spirit.
Peter then quotes an amazing passage from the prophet Joel in. His explanation is very simple. This, he said, is what Joel declared would happen. The key to this passage from Joel is the phrase, all people. “I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.” If you read the prophecy as it occurs in Joel, you will find that, before this passage, the prophet had predicted that the Lord would visit his people. He would come to them and would live in their midst. Then, after this visitation, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.” The contrast is between the visitation of God to Israel, and the pouring out of the Spirit upon all peoples everywhere — Gentiles as well as Jew. 
The good news about Jesus Christ is to go out to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. Up to this point it had been confined to the Jewish nation. Now Peter announces that the time has come when God would pour out his Spirit upon Jews and Gentiles alike. Not only all people everywhere, but all kinds of people — young men, young women, male and female. “Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions.” Note the emphasis upon youth. God is saying that in this age of the Spirit, leadership, effectiveness, and power will not be limited to grey hairs, but also young men and young women shall speak and lead. Even servants, menservants and maidservants, obscure people, insignificant people, upon them God would pour out his Spirit; and they would prophesy. All classes are affected by this.

Thank you, Father, for this amazing phenomenon of the Spirit and for the fact that I still live in the age of the Spirit when all that you are doing today is done by the might and power of the Holy Spirit. Grant that I may understand and experience this - Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Tuesday, Sept. 23

Tuesday

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.
- Acts 2:14-21

I have read that the number one fear that people have is the fear of speaking in public. It ranks ahead of the fear of death! The fear of speaking in public would increase if a person knew that he would be speaking to a hostile audience. Add to that the fact that the audience is not just a small group, but at least five to ten thousand hostile people, and you must address them without a public address system! To make matters worse, you have made a fool out of yourself just weeks before in such a manner that many in your audience would have heard about it. And, you have no time to prepare your message. The opportunity presents itself and you’re on—without any notes!
Such was the situation facing Peter on the Day of Pentecost. The sound of the rushing wind from heaven had drawn a large crowd, which then heard all the believers speaking of the great deeds of God in the many different native languages of the crowd. This perplexed them as they asked, “What does this mean?” (2:12). But others in the crowd were mocking and accusing the believers of being drunk. It was to this Jewish crowd in the city of Jerusalem, where Jesus had been killed just over seven weeks ago, that Peter delivered the sermon that launched the church. In terms of results—about 3,000 got saved that day—it was one of the greatest sermons ever preached.
Peter begins with a touch of humor. Some mockers were accusing the believers who spoke in tongues of being drunk. Peter could have ignored them or responded defensively, but instead he says, in effect, “It’s too early for us to be drunk!” The Jews would not normally have eaten or drunk at this hour during the Feast of Pentecost. Then, Peter explains that the phenomena they had seen and heard were “what was spoken of through the prophet Joel. He proceeds to quote Joel 2:28-32. Later Peter will cite Psalm 16:8-11 and Psalm 110:1. He did not have a Bible in book form, since books as we know them were not yet invented. And he did not unroll several scrolls to the right text so that he could read these verses. Rather, he recited them from memory! 

If you want to be an effective witness for Jesus Christ, you must memorize certain Scriptures that explain the gospel.

Jeff Frazier

Friday, Sept. 19

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Friday

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.  - Acts 2:1-4

This initial outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost was marked by three symbolic phenomena. First, there was the sound of a violent rushing wind that filled the house. Then, there was the visible sign of tongues of fire resting on each person. Finally, there was the miraculous speaking in foreign languages which none had previously learned.

The sound of the violent rushing wind was primarily a picture of invisible power. As you know, the wind, which you cannot see, exerts incredible power in a tornado or hurricane. In this case, the disciples heard the noise, but there is no indication that they felt it blowing. It was rather a miraculous sound that came from heaven. The noise was loud enough that it gathered the crowd to find out what was happening (1:6).

Both the Hebrew and Greek words for wind and spirit are the same. In Ezekiel 37, God commanded the prophet to prophesy to the winds to breathe on a valley of dry bones. When he did so, the breath of life came into them. God explains that He will put His Spirit within His people and they would come to life (Ezek. 37:9-14). In John 3, Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about the need to be born of the Spirit. He explained, “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (3:8). The Holy Spirit, like the wind, is a mighty power, but we cannot see Him. We can only see His effects. One of His most powerful effects is when He imparts spiritual life to those who were dead in their sins.

The second phenomenon was the appearance of tongues of fire resting on each person in the room. Throughout the Bible, fire symbolizes God’s holy presence. Moses in the wilderness saw the bush that was burning and yet not consumed. God Himself was in the bush. Later, Israel in the wilderness was guided and protected by the pillar of fire. John the Baptist predicted that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  Hebrews 12:29 says that our God is a consuming fire.

The fire on the Day of Pentecost appeared in the form of tongues to symbolize God’s holy power through the proclamation of His Word, burning right to the heart of people.  James 3 actually compares the tongue to a fire, able to destroy, or set the word ablaze with His glory!

Down through church history, the sovereign Spirit has moved unseen as the wind, where He wills, to bring revival to God’s people. Invariably, it starts with the church, purifying God’s people, igniting their cold hearts with a renewed passion for knowing God and burning in their hearts.  Through them, it spreads as the gospel is proclaimed and the Spirit imparts new life in Christ to those who trust in Him. 

We should all be praying that our hearts would burn with a Holy Spirit fire and passion for God and His glory!


Jeff Frazier