Wednesday, October 22nd

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Wednesday, October 22

Acts 4:23-31


When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, "'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed'-- for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus." And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.


Last spring a friend of mine named Tom Randall, a career missionary to the Philippine Islands and now a pastor at my brother’s church in Ohio, was arrested while on a trip to visit ministry partners in the Philippines.

To make a very long and scary story short he was falsely accused of some horrific crimes and, due to how the law works in the Philippines, he was immediately thrown into prison and had to try to defend himself from there.

Prison conditions were both harsh and extremely dangerous. The temperature was over 100 degrees; prisoners were jammed together in tiny cells and violence was rampant. On several occasions Tom’s life was in real jeopardy.

But Tom saw things a bit differently. He didn’t want to be in prison; he knew the accusations were false; but he also trusted that God would work in and through even that terrible situation. So Tom started ministering to fellow prisoners. He started sharing the gospel with them and offering to pray for them. He even did so with the guards.

As word got out dozens of churches and thousands of people began to pray for Tom’s safety and for his release. Tom was able to communicate sporadically with my brother, Joe, when he was allowed to use his cell phone.

At one point my brother said Tom sent him a text saying, “Tell the people who are praying to pray that I won’t get out too soon - because a lot of people are getting saved in prison!”

Now, Tom wanted to get out of prison and return to his wife and his ministry; but Tom also trusted that God was sovereign and could use even that terrible circumstance for his eternal purposes.

We see the same trust in the prayer of the early believers:

And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

They don’t ask God to punish those who are threatening them. They don’t ask God to wipe out their enemies. They ask for more boldness.

That’s revolutionary prayer!

Most of us will never spend time in a Philippino prison! But most of us will, sooner or later, find ourselves in a situation that we would have never chosen for ourselves. Maybe it will be a time of unemployment; or a time of sickness and hospitalization; maybe even a time of loss.

What we can learn from these earliest followers of Jesus is the kind of faith that allows us to trust God’s sovereignty in all circumstances; the kind of faith that leads us to pray for boldness in those circumstances.


Pastor Brian Coffey

Tuesday, October 21st

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Tuesday, October 21

Acts 4:23-31

When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, "'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed'-- for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus." And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.


A couple of weeks ago we lost our friend and colleague, Pastor Roger, after a 13 year battle with cancer. It is a sad time for our church family but, as often is the case when a faithful follower of Christ leaves us, it is also a time of deep  appreciation and sweet remembrance.

One of the stories I found especially meaningful had to do with how Roger spent his many hours hooked up to the dialysis machine. For the past 6 or 7 years Roger went three times a week - for five hours each time - for dialysis treatment. Turns out he used much of that time to pray.

Rather than pass the time reading, watching T.V. or sleeping, Roger spent hours praying for staff members and their families, including praying for our children by name.

When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them...

These early Christians were being threatened by the same   people that conspired to send Jesus to the cross and notice that they begin their prayer by acknowledging the sovereignty of God. This is not insignificant.

By recognizing who God is; the sovereign creator of all things; they are anchoring their faith in a troubling and confusing time.

For if God is creator of all things then all things belong to him, including the religious authorities that are threatening them. If God is sovereign Lord of the universe, then nothing is beyond his authority; nothing surprises him; nothing can happen to them that he does not allow for his eternal purposes.

Anchoring their prayer in God’s sovereign wisdom and power gives them great comfort and freedom even in a time of uncertainty and pain.

Back to our friend Roger. I believe Roger could spend all those hours hooked up to a dialysis machine praying for others because he also trusted the sovereignty of God. Roger didn’t want to be sick; he didn’t enjoy being on dialysis; but he trusted that God could use him and his life for a greater purpose even as he suffered.

This is a unique kind of prayer that I like to call “revolutionary prayer.” Ordinary prayer is, “Lord, please help me with this....help me with that...remove this difficult circumstance from my life.” And there’s nothing wrong with that kind of prayer! God wants us to come to him as our Heavenly Father with everything we need.

But revolutionary prayer is, “Lord, you are sovereign and you are good. You are able to heal my body and get me off this dialysis machine; but you are also able to use my situation for your glory and for your purposes; use me even here!”

Ordinary prayer focuses on asking God to change our circumstances; revolutionary prayer asks God to change us IN our circumstances.

Do you pray revolutionary prayers?


Pastor Brian Coffey

Monday, October 20th

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Monday, October 20

Acts 4:23-31

When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, "'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed'-- for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus." And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.


We have a door frame in our house where we measure the growth of our four sons. Year after year the little lines are etched higher and higher as we track their physical height. I’m pretty sure that most of us would agree that the growth of a child is a good thing!

And yet with that growth come certain inevitable problems. Those growing bodies are almost constantly in need of new clothes and shoes. The grocery bill climbs ever higher. There are trips to the emergency room and to the orthodontist. Then comes driving and girlfriends and college...you get the picture!

The Book of Acts is the story of the birth and early growth of the church. In Acts 2 we see the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and 3000 people respond to the preaching of the gospel. In Acts 3 we see the lame man healed and the number grows to 5000 who have come to faith through the name of Jesus.

Then in Acts 4 the growing pains start. Peter and John are arrested and thrown in jail overnight. The next day they are interrogated by the authorities and ordered to cease teaching and preaching in the name of Jesus.

This is a very real threat to the early believers. Imagine if the police showed up at your home today and threatened to arrest you if you went to church again! How would you respond if being caught reading the Bible could land you in prison?

Here’s what these early followers of Jesus did:

When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God...


They gathered together and they prayed.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the content of their prayer, but for today just notice that they prayed together.

I think we tend to see prayer most often as a private, personal experience. We see prayer as something we do when we are alone; and, of course it is. But prayer is also, according to the New Testament, a relational experience. We are to pray when we are alone, but we are also to pray when we are together.

We remember from Acts 2 that the early believers were “devoted to the fellowship.” The Greek word is koinonia; meaning, the sharing of life together. Here we see that being devoted to the fellowship included prayer.
We live in a much different culture than the people we are reading about in the Book of Acts. We are much more isolated from each other; we live at a greater velocity; we struggle to find time for our families let alone for church. Yet the blessing of corporate prayer is also for us!

So how do we experience “prayer together” today? Most of our church’s midweek ministries include a time for group prayer. Those committed to C-Groups gather in one another’s homes regularly for fellowship and prayer. We have groups like “College Moms in Prayer,” or a group for parents of children serving in the military that meets regularly to pray for their children.

Do you have anywhere in your life where you gather with others for prayer? If not, I encourage you to make an effort to find and connect with a group of fellow believers with whom you can share the great blessing of prayer!


Pastor Brian Coffey

Friday, Oct. 17

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Friday

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.   - Ephesians 6:18-20


In this passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he (Paul) asks them (the Ephesian Christians) to pray for him.  Twice he repeats his request, that he might speak boldly.  This is the same Greek word translated “confidence” in Acts 4:13. 

The phrase, “the mystery of the gospel,” does not mean that it is a hidden secret, but rather that it is divinely revealed truth. It is not logical truth that anyone can deduce on his own. Rather, God must open blind eyes to see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4-6).  So Paul asked for prayer for boldness as he proclaimed this revealed mystery.

When you read through the Book of Acts, you don’t get the impression that Paul was lacking in boldness! In fact, he was in prison because he had boldly proclaimed the gospel to a mob that had attempted to kill him! When you read what he had endured for the sake of the gospel, it seems that nothing could stop him. So why was he asking prayer for boldness in witness?

Paul was about to go before Caesar, who would either acquit or condemn him. There would be the strong temptation to be diplomatic and to avoid talking to Caesar about his need for repentance from his sin in order to receive God’s forgiveness in Christ. Perhaps Satan tempted Paul with the thought, “Think of how many more you could reach if you get out of prison! Just play it safe when you go before Caesar and you’ll have your freedom.” But Paul wanted to proclaim the gospel boldly and clearly to Caesar. So he asked for prayer.

In our culture, Evangelical Christianity is increasingly viewed as a negative term, synonymous with right-wing fanaticism.  It is more and more common for Christians to feel marginalized and even attacked for their beliefs.  However, our prayer should not be that God protects from a hostile culture, but that God gives us opportunities to demonstrate and share the love of Jesus Christ! 

It’s amazing to me that Paul did not ask for prayer that he would be released from prison or for prayer for his health needs. Rather, he asked for prayer that he would proclaim the gospel boldly and not miss any opportunities. While it’s all right to pray for your personal needs, Paul’s example here, as well as the Lord’s Prayer, teach us that our primary focus in prayer should be furthering the kingdom of God, not making ourselves more comfortable. So make Paul’s passion your passion, to pray that you will be used to proclaim the gospel to the lost with clarity and boldness.


If Paul had on his prayer list the need for boldness as a witness, then perhaps you and I should add it to our lists! We all should seek to proclaim with confident boldness the good news that there is salvation in no one else except in Jesus Christ, whom God raised from the dead.


Jeff Frazier

Thursday, Oct. 16

Thursday


And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.  And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.  On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”   - Acts 4:1-12


The Sanhedrin had asked Peter, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” (4:7). So, Peter told them: We did it “by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead” (4:10). Furthermore, His name is the only name by which anyone can be saved: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (4:12).

Even though the Sadducees were known for not believing in the resurrection, and Peter knew that this would be a sore spot for them, he didn’t hesitate to confront them with the truth. He tells them boldly, “Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health” (4:10-11). The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of the Christian faith. If it can be disproved, our faith is worthless.

1 Corinthians 15:17 - “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

F. F. Bruce states, “It is particularly striking that neither on this nor on any subsequent occasion (so far as our information goes) did the Sanhedrin take any serious action to disprove the apostles’ central affirmation - the resurrection of Jesus. Had it seemed possible to refute them on this point, how readily would the Sanhedrin have seized the opportunity! Had they succeeded, how quickly and completely the new movement would have collapsed!” 

We live in an age where tolerance has become the primary virtue. People don’t object if you say, “I’ve found Jesus as my personal Savior.” They say, “That’s nice for you, but I’m into something else.” Or they say, “Well that’s fine, but all that really matters is that you’re a good person and believe in something. All roads lead to God.”  Although most people do recognize it, the prevailing view in our culture which says that "all religions are equally true or valid", and that nobody should claim to have "the truth", is itself a claim to have the truth.  In other words, those who accuse Christians of being exclusive narrow since they claim that Jesus is the Truth, are actually being narrow and exclusive themselves by making such a claim, they just don't see it or won't admit it.

The statement that "all religions that claim to have the truth are arrogant and wrong" is, on its own terms, arrogant and wrong!

It is no more narrow to claim that one religion is right than to claim that one way to think about all religions (namely that all are equally valid) is right.  As the Christian philosopher Peter Berger said, "Relativism eventually relativizes itself."

But Jesus Christ cuts across the relativism and “tolerance” of our culture and proclaims, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). “There is salvation in no one else ...” (Acts 4:12). But what about sincere Buddhists or Muslims or Hindus, who are kind and loving people? They are not saved unless they trust in Jesus Christ alone. What about faithful Church goers, who who pray, and who pile up good deeds in their efforts to go to heaven? They are not saved if they are depending on any good works or ceremonies or religious devotion to get into heaven. There is no other way to God except through faith in Jesus Christ alone.  And before you start to get irritated, keep in mind that this is what the Scripture proclaims.


But while there is salvation in no one else, the good news is, there is salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ for all who will trust in Him alone!  To trust in Christ means to abandon your trust in your own good works.  It means to let go of your pride and acknowledge that you are a sinner, alienated from God. Like the lame man, there is no hope for you to heal yourself. Only Christ can heal your soul. And He will save you, if you will cast yourself upon Him.


Jeff Frazier

Wednesday, Oct. 15

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Wednesday

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.   - Acts 4:5-13

Peter and John have managed to get themselves into hot water with the most powerful group in Jewish society, the Sanhedrin.  They are in this trouble primarily for continuing to talk about the love of Jesus Christ even after this council has put Him to death on the cross.  Although they were on trial before this intimidating council (the Sanhedrin), Peter quickly turned the tables on the Sanhedrin, showing that it was they who were on trial. He points out that it was not a crime to do a good deed to a cripple. Then he indicts the Sanhedrin be- cause they had crucified Jesus, whom God had raised from the dead and in whose name this lame man had been healed. Further- more, Peter let them know that “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (4:12).

The members of the council were amazed at the confidence of Peter and John, who had not been educated in the rabbinical schools, they did not come from prominent families, they did not have social or economic status of any kind.  
The council was amazed at Peter and John’s boldness, especially since they were uneducated, untrained men (4:13). But they also began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. The boldness of Peter and John reminded the council of the boldness of Jesus Christ, who also was not trained in their schools.  

Think about this for a moment...this means that there was something about the way these two men responded to persecution, something about the way they faced imprisonment, something about the graceful confidence with which they handled themselves under questioning...they were not out looking for a fight, but they were not afraid to take a stand for Christ when the moment came...all of this led these Jewish leaders to recognize that these men had been with Jesus.  Is there a greater compliment, than for people to recognize that we are like Jesus because we have been with Him!

I often hear people say that they want to be more like Jesus, but I think we have some misconceptions about what Jesus was really like.  I remember hearing a fellow grad-student in theology say that he thought pastors should be more like Jesus and less like the Apostle Paul.  When I asked him for some clarification, he said that Paul was too confrontational, but Jesus was always kind and loving!

I’m not sure which translation of the Bible he was reading!  In Matthew 23, Jesus confronted the scribes and Pharisees, calling them hypocrites, whitewashed walls, and a brood of vipers.  In Matthew 21, Jesus took a whip and drove out the money changers from the temple courts.  In Luke 11, Jesus was invited to lunch at a Pharisee’s house. He went out of his way to pronounce woes upon the Pharisees for their hypocrisy!  He was not exactly a polite dinner guest!  On many other occasions, Jesus deliberately did something to provoke controversy and point out hypocrisy or injustice.

The point is, if we’re going to be like Jesus, we will be kind and loving, but we will also be bold witnesses who confront religious hypocrisy and injustice where we have the opportunity.  We won’t be mean or rude. We will have the fruit of the Spirit, including kindness and gentleness. But we will have spent enough time with Jesus to learn from Him the importance of speaking out when God’s truth is being compromised. 


Jeff Frazier

Tuesday, Oct. 14

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Tuesday

And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.  And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.  On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”   - Acts 4:1-12

To picture this scene correctly, we need to understand how threatening it was for Peter and John. The Sanhedrin was like their Supreme Court and Congress all rolled into one. They had religious and, to a great degree, civil authority in Jerusalem. The high priest was the most powerful Jew in the city and the captain of the temple guard was second behind him. Furthermore, they had just been the main force behind the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Even if they didn’t go so far as to crucify Peter and John, they certainly could make life very uncomfortable for them. They were powerful men. The fact that they arrested Peter and John, kept them over night in jail, and then threatened them with dire consequences if they continued speaking in Jesus’ name shows their use of power to intimidate.

We also need to remember that just a few weeks before Peter, in order to avoid possible arrest, had denied that he knew Jesus Christ to a lowly servant girl. But here he is before this powerful body of men, boldly reminding them that they had crucified Jesus, that God had raised Him from the dead, and that He is God’s only way of salvation. If Peter had been fearful, he would have said only what he thought was necessary to secure his release. But instead, he boldly witnesses to these murderers of Jesus. What made the difference?

The answer is in 4:8 - Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Some people are by nature more daring souls than others, but we’re not talking here about natural inclination, but supernatural power.  Jesus had told the disciples that they would be brought before the rulers, but not to worry in advance about what to say, because the Holy Spirit would teach them in that moment what to say (Luke 12:11-12).  Later He again told them that they would be brought before rulers for His name’s sake, and that it would lead to an opportunity for their testimony.  He promised that He would give them the words of wisdom which none of their opponents would be able to resist or refute (Luke 21:12-15).  

So Peter’s witness before the Sanhedrin was not due to his natural boldness or to his brilliant oratory.  It was due to the filling of the Holy Spirit.  What does this mean?

It is not magic, nor is it only something reserved for the super-spiritual.  Some people confuse being filled with the Holy Spirit with conversion or salvation.  While every believer receives the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation (this is a fact, not an experience), the filling of the Spirit is repeated often in the life of a believer.  I remember hearing it said that we need repeated fillings because we tend to leak!



Assuming that you are a believer (that you have trusted Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and for your eternal security), the main requirement for being filled with the Holy Spirit is to be yielded completely to Him.  A Spirit-filled person is not self-willed, but rather is submissive to God’s will.  A Spirit-filled person is more concerned about obeying God’s will rather than man’s will (Acts 4:19).  Since the Holy Spirit’s main ministry is to glorify Jesus Christ (John 16:14), a person who is filled with the Spirit will seek to glorify Jesus.

Jeff Frazier