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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

September 2013

Acts 2:43-47 – A Natural Response

Read the passage Here

My first thought when I read this passage was: “Man, what an incredible church!” They’re generous, they study hard, they worship sincerely, they have joy regardless of circumstances, they love being together, no wonder people wanted to join them!  My next thought was, what did those believers in Acts have that we don’t have?

The answer: Nothing. They served the same God and had the same Holy Spirit. They weren’t special at all, they were simply responding naturally to the work of Christ.

See, I suspect that if our eyes were unwaveringly fixed on what Christ did for us and the empty tomb; then we’d live differently.  Instead of wishing we always had more, we would realize that even the neediest among us is still wealthier than 99% of the people on earth. We would stop bickering about preferences and focus on things that will actually matter in eternity.  We wouldn’t gossip. We would prioritize God’s Word. We would be the first to point out sin and the first to forgive and restore.  When people around us screw up, we would extend to them the same grace that God has given us.

These believers were not super-Christians with an extra dose of the Holy Spirit. They, by God’s grace, were simply trying to do what Paul did:  “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith”

Discussion starters for the comment board: Out of all the activities mentioned in the passage, which one do you need to grow in most?  What are the things that most often distract you from fixing your eyes on Jesus?

I’ll hint at one of mine: The word starts with “gen” and ends with “erosity”

Read Acts 2:14-42

9-st-peter

Can you imagine the crowd watching this spectacle? Can you imagine their reactions to this small group of people, that by some standards where unruly, noisy and loud? Can you imagine the crowd scoffing the disciples and their followers?

They are drunk!- some voice in the crowd shouted out.

This is no way to act in the Temple!- some other voice trying to get to them.

And in the middle of all this commotion, Peter’s voice booming with a simple message: It’s only 9 o’clock in the morning, and what you see is men and women changed by the one that was crucified. What you see is men and women talking about the life of an innocent man, that some called a miracle worker, other a great prophet, but to us, Peter said, this man is “Master and Messiah, this Jesus” whom you crucified.

In many ways this temple court story, is a reflection of our own world. In part because it’s the place where life happens, people come and go, they work, meet friends, share their own opinion and so on. In many ways we can identify with the story, sometimes the apostles and their followers and sometimes the passerby distracted by the noise.

It’s 9 o’clock in the morning… this is life as real as life is. And you and I are part of that. What do people see in us? What do they say when they whisper? Can they hear our own testimony above all the noise, and busyness?

It’s 9 o’clock in the morning … and somewhere around you someone is asking: So now what do we do? Can you see and hear that person? Can you see their own struggle?

The beauty of this story is that no matter what your 9 o’clock looks like there is a message that sounds as true today as in the day that Peter spoke in the plaza:

38-39 “Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites.”

It’s 9 o’clock…

Acts 2:1-13: “Astonished and Amazed”

Click here to read the passage.

First and most important – thanks to the over 70 individuals who have said they would like to follow this blog…it is a great start and I hope each of you finds God working in your life to energize your personal spiritual growth.  One other note – it is encouraging to read your comments – this is how I learn and continue to grow myself so I encourage you not to just hit the “like” button as in Facebook but consider how you can contribute through your comments.

Now…on to today’s passage

Jerusalem is abuzz with activity – a festival is taking place.  Pentecost is, after all, the festival of the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai – 50 days after the Exodus…There are “God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven” gathered and it is here…at this particular time and place that God chooses to act – in a city with a small band of mournful individuals.

Peter and the disciples had been waiting a long time…They saw Jesus die, resurrected and ascend.  Imagine their thoughts – were the promises Jesus made going to come true?  They have been waiting 50 days.  They remembered Christ’s promise of the Holy Spirit and being baptized to grow the church in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.  50 days they waited…to be sent into the world…to change the world.

They are gathered and the Holy Spirit descends upon them – tongues of fire – you know, Pentecost Sunday…it was May 19th this year.  These believers were gathered together in one place – they were worshipping God…and the sound of of God – his awesome power is so loud it can’t be ignored. They are startled…their sensory perceptions were overloaded…adrenaline is flowing.

Can you “see” and “feel” the unimaginable liveliness – maybe even bordering on chaos in that house that day?  Can you sense this too – the sound, energy and feeling of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon you in worship?

These individuals were “astonished and amazed”…in worship.  These individuals who would come to be known as Christians – these individuals stood humbled in the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Some, though, mocked them – after all there was no plausible explanation for what happened.  Today, there are a great many who mock Christians.  Our culture is suffering from a lack of “astonished and amazed” – everything must be proven true or false…and I am afraid faith is being slowly sidelined.

As I think about those gathered that “first” Pentecost Sunday when the church was born, I think about our weekly worship here.  Is there room for “astonished and amazed” every Sunday?  God chose to act in Jerusalem that Sunday – with so many gathered…you see, he wanted his church to grow…to go into the world.  I believe, to my very core, that God continues to act today, every Sunday (and every day) with a sound…an energy…and a presence in our midst.  I think this passage challenges us today to be “astonished and amazed” at the working presence of our God in our midst and I pray that our senses would be enlivened and that our adrenaline will be flowing.

Come this Sunday with an expectation of experiencing God…he chooses to act in each of us!

Acts 1:12-26

Click here to read the passage.

We see the unintended consequences of good intentions in Acts 1:12-26.

The good intentions; a new 12th Disciple, go unfulfilled or unrealized in a way. The disciples and community of believers are instructed to wait for the coming Holy Spirit.  “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about” (Acts 1:4).  Why?  Why wait, pray, discern, hope in God?  “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).  Our Church Mission Statement is based upon Acts 1:8 (Servants of Jesus Christ in ministry to one another, our community, and our world).  And the disciples and the community of followers of Jesus do follow the Lord’s guidance for a while.  They gather, meet, pray, and study the scriptures. They pray and they wait but it’s challenging to just …wait… wait…wait… Finally, Peter has had enough waiting and preaches passionately about the need to take action.  “Therefore it is necessary to choose” (Acts 1:21) a 12th Disciple. Oh, how hard it is to pray and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

How difficult it is to pray and wait for clear direction from the Lord.

How challenging it is to slow down and be quiet until we discern the direction Jesus wishes us to take.

Like Peter we want to do something, take action, and get something good accomplished, and make a difference.  I like Peter and I’m a lot like him.  I don’t know about you but this waiting stuff is hard. Through Peter’s leadership the community selects a 12th disciple to replace Judas. They believe they are discerning what God wants and they choose Matthias as the disciple to replace Judas. At this point in the life of the community of Christ-followers, Matthias is the only one chosen to be a disciple who was not chosen by Jesus. And what happens? We never hear of Mathias again in the New Testament. God has other ideas, plans, and ways.  God chooses Saul.  Jesus meets Saul, the persecutor of Christians, on the Damascus Road and chooses the 12th Disciple. And Saul becomes Paul a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, the 12th Disciple.

There’s a time to pray and wait.  There’s a time to take action.  May we know when it’s time to pray and when it’s time to act as Jesus would so lead us.

Craig

A Great Start

Thanks everyone for being so enthusiastic! Our little study group has grown to 40 in the last 20 hours. The post for this morning (Acts 1:1-11) actually went out last night.  Apparently our blog sites default setting is Greenwich Mean Time:)  If you were confused, fear not.  The first reading in Acts is on the blog and ready to go!

Acts 1:1-11

Click Here to read the passage

Luke begins the book of Acts by giving a recap of the last days of Christ. I’m sure at this point the disciples were still getting over that whole crucifixion thing that had just happened.  They were ready for Jesus to get to work building his kingdom, instead Jesus says: I have to go! Right after that He promises the Holy Spirit.  In fact, in the Gospel of John, Jesus says that its better that He leaves because only after He leaves will the Holy Spirit come (John 16:7)  I’m sure the disciples would rather have had him stay but (shocking as this is) God was much more interested in what they actually needed than what they wanted.

The truth is: God has given us exactly what we need to accomplish our purpose on earth.  This morning I’m thanking God for the Holy Spirit and the fact that He’s given me all I need.

Intro to Acts

The book of Acts was written by Luke. Luke was a historian, physician and companion of Paul. He also wrote the Gospel of Luke and probably wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts as a two volume set.  What I love about the Book of Acts is that its a book of action.  Luke stresses the urgency of us, as the church, going out.  He talks a little bit about the life of the church when it meets, but his main topic of conversation focuses on the fact that the church is called to take the message of Christ to a broken world.  Everyone: Jew, Greek, Roman and Ethiopian are all offered salvation through the death of Jesus Christ!

A thought: Use the comment sections to give your own thoughts on the daily posts.  Tell everyone what you learned about yourself, about God and what actions you’ll take.

Fall Devotional Blog

This blog isn’t really a blog at all, it is a community devotional.  Starting Monday, September 16, we as a church will read the same passages in Acts each morning. Every morning (except Sunday) a staff member starts the discussion with a post and everyone else contributes with a comment.  The goal is to make spiritual disciplines a community project.  Community offers encouragement to keep going, fresh insights and even some accountability.  Join us as we study the book of Acts and as 1st Thessalonians 5 says: …encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

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