Friday, April 29, 2016

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of these servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received the one talent came. “Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground, See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I harvested where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then,. You should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“’Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside. Into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’"
- Matthew 25:14-30

As we come to the end of a week thinking about the “Parable of the Talents," I have to admit that for many years this parable bothered me. It bothered me that the one talent servant was judged so harshly after playing it safe with his master’s money. I think it bothered me because, by my personality, I tend to be a bit conservative and “risk-averse.” It also bothered me that his one talent was taken away and given to the ten talent servant. Not only did it seem a little harsh, it didn’t seem fair!  It bothered me, that is, until I met a guy named “Randy.”

I met Randy almost 30 years ago on a short term mission trip in rural Mexico. I was leading a group of high school students from FBCG and Randy was with a team of young adults from Colorado. We were all serving together in a rural project for an organization called “Food for the Hungry.” Randy was about 25 years old and suffered from cerebral palsy. He was bright and loved Jesus, but he was limited by his disability. He used crutches and had to have someone help him get around. I remember wondering why he decided to come on this kind of trip because he kind of slowed everyone else down. We were digging irrigation ditches in a field to prepare for the planting of a crop of corn and beans. But Randy couldn’t do that kind of work because of his limited mobility. He spent the week putting a handful of soil and seeds in little plastic bags so that they could be planted once we had prepared the field. But after four of five days of that, Randy got bored. He wanted to be out in the field digging with the rest of us.

On the next to the last day of the trip, Randy talked a group member into carrying a chair out to the field for him. Randy dragged himself by his crutches to the ditch we were digging. Randy’s leader, a guy named Kent, was frustrated with Randy for coming out into the field because it put him at risk for falling and hurting himself. But Randy ignored Kent’s glare and sat in his chair on the edge of the irrigation ditch and asked for a pickaxe. He took it in his strong arms and flung it into the ditch to dig. On his second attempt, the power of his swing threw his whole body off the chair and into the ditch headfirst. Kent and I ran to Randy’s aid. After we pulled him up out of the ditch, Kent said, “Randy, what in the world are you doing!??” Randy smiled a big toothy grin - I’ll never forget it - and said, “I’m just having fun serving Jesus, Kent.  What are you doing?”

I have thought about Randy often over the years. He wasn’t a five talent guy, he wasn’t a two talent guy, we didn’t think he was even a one talent guy. But what he had, he invested with passion and joy for Jesus. Oh, that I would do the same!

Ask Jesus how you might more boldly invest your time, talents, and treasure in His eternal kingdom!

Pastor Brian Coffey

Thursday, April 28, 2016

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of these servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received the one talent came. “Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground, See, here is what belongs to you.’
Matthew 25:14-30

Have you ever offered a lame excuse for failing to do something you know you were supposed to do? Something like, “The dog ate my homework,” or “The sun got in my eyes,” or “I was just driving the speed of traffic!” Most of us have, but perhaps the lamest and saddest excuse in the whole Bible is right here in this parable.

The master in Jesus’ story has invested significant resources as well as trust in three servants. Two of these servants go out and re-invest these resources and double their master’s investment. But the third servant, who had received just one talent or money, played it safe, burying the money in the ground.

When his master returns and it’s time to settle accounts, this servant sees that the five-talent servant now has ten talents to offer his master and the two talent servant has four talents. And he realizes that he has failed to do anything with the gift he was given. So, instead of confessing his fear and laziness, he decides to try to blame his failure on his master. He says, in effect, “Because you are such a cruel and vindictive taskmaster, I did the only prudent thing and buried your money in the ground.” In other words, he makes his master responsible for his own failure, and in so doing, he demonstrates an almost breathtaking misunderstanding of his master’s nature.

Imagine blaming your credit problems on a boss that pays you too much, or a speeding ticket on a dad who gave you a car for graduation! The one talent servant essentially blames his master for his own laziness. I wonder how often I might do the same thing without recognizing it. Do I ever say to myself, “Well, I would give more if I had more,” or “I would read the Bible more if I had more time,” or “I would spend more time with my family if the kids didn’t fight so much!?”  When I allow myself to say or think such things, I am actually blaming God for my own laziness, disobedience, or both!

The sad thing is, if the one talent servant had simply admitted his failure and asked for forgiveness, his master most certainly would have gladly offered him a second chance.

Thank God for the many gifts He has placed in your life and for the greatest gift of His forgiving love!

Pastor Brian Coffey

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of these servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!
Matthew 25:14-30

My teacher in 6th grade was Mr. Cundari. He was the first male teacher I had in school.  And while he could be tough on us (he used to make us write out a whole page of our history textbook if we misbehaved. I can still remember the page about “The Island of Formosa”.), I liked him because he let us play softball at recess. He was also the high school basketball coach in our town and I used to go to those games and dream about someday playing ball for Coach Cundari.

That year our gym teacher organized an intramural basketball tournament between the boys of all the different sixth grade classes. We didn’t have coaches.  We just kind of organized ourselves in the chaotic way sixth grade boys do that sort of thing. My team made it to the championship game, which was held at lunch time in front of the whole student body. I remember the game started poorly for us. We were behind at one point 9-0 and things looked grim. But then I called a timeout and told my teammates that for the rest of the game we would apply a full court press, I did NOT want to lose that game in front of all those kids! We went out and scored something like 19 points in a row and won the sixth grade intramural championship. But what I remember most is walking off after the game and seeing Mr. Cundari step out of the bleachers and stick his hand out, As he shook my hand, he said, “Good job.” And I remembered seeing him do the same thing to his players after the high school varsity games. “Good job.” Just two words, but I have remembered them for over 45 years!

Jesus is teaching us that God is not only the God of the generous gift, but He is also the God of the settled account. At the end of this earthly life, the God who created us and invested us with His own resources will hold each of us accountable for what we have done with His resources. Now, it’s important to say that Jesus is not talking about salvation here. Salvation is a gift from God; we receive it by grace through faith. We can never earn or deserve it! But the Bible indicates that Jesus will indeed reward those who have been faithful in service and obedience. While we do not fully know what that reward will be (perhaps certain kinds of service in heaven), we do know that the first words we want to hear from our Master as He welcomes us into His eternal kingdom are, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Ask the Lord to remind you often to live with His reward in mind!

Pastor Brian Coffey

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”
Matthew 25:14-30

Several years ago, I came across the story of a man named Leopoldo Pujals. Mr. Pujals grew up in South Florida, the son of a Cuban immigrant family. He spent many years trying to climb the corporate ladder at Johnson & Johnson and wound up selling surgical equipment in Spain. While in Spain, he noticed the rising popularity of fast food as well as the cultural shift of more and more women entering the work force. Becoming somewhat frustrated with his “dead end” job, he eventually decided to invest his entire life savings to open a pizza delivery business called “Tele-pizza.” His vision was to make it easy for women to use the telephone to call and order food delivered straight to their home instead of having to cook after a long day at work. Ten years later, “Tele-pizza” was opening a new store every three days, and Pujals' investment of $100,000 had become $665 million.

Few of us experience the financial success of a Leopoldo Pujals, but like Mr. Pujals, we are all in the investment business! That is, we all make decisions every day about how and where we will invest the precious resources of our time, our talent, our treasure – and our lives. We make choices, consciously or unconsciously, to invest ourselves in work, in family relationships, in entertainment, in hobbies, in community service, in our church, and in a thousand other ways. Some of those investments are here today and gone tomorrow with nothing gained. And some of them are multiplied many times over and actually have an eternal return. The trick, of course, is to know which is which!

Jesus is teaching us that the Master wants us to invest His resources both boldly and wisely. He wants us invest in that which is precious to Him and that which will produce an eternal return in His kingdom. Ask the Lord to help you review your own personal and spiritual “investment strategy.” Are you investing your life both boldly and wisely in the things that Jesus would hold most precious? Are you building a legacy that will far outlive your own life? Ask Him to help you so orient your priorities so that He will be pleased with the return on His investment in you!

Pastor Brian Coffey

Monday, April 25, 2016

Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.” Matthew 25:14-30

I remember an old black and white television show called The Millionaire. From what I can remember, the show started the same way every week: a very wealthy man (whose face you never saw) would write a check for $1,000,000 and give it to his assistant with instructions to deliver it to someone he had identified as needy or deserving in some way, and who had no idea the gift was coming. Then the rest of the episode would follow the story of the unsuspecting recipient of the millionaire’s gift – what they did with the money and what the money, at times, did to them.

I can remember wondering what it would be like to be on the receiving end of such a gift. I’m sure I had no idea how much a million dollars was, but I was pretty sure it was more than my allowance!

In this parable, Jesus is telling a similar story, only the “master” is not an anonymous millionaire, but God himself. And we are the recipients of His generosity.

Hold on just second,” you might say. “Where is my million bucks?” While it is true that a “talent” in Jesus’ day was a very large amount of money (actually a weight of silver), the truth is that God has entrusted each of us with all kinds of gifts and resources.

We have received what I would call “personal gifts”: life, health, intelligence, the ability to taste chocolate chip cookies, hear music, and smell the sweet spring air. We have received “relational gifts”: the love and joy of family and friends. We have received “material gifts”: houses, cars, clothes, computers, iPods, iPads, and all manner of stuff. And, if we have become followers of Jesus by faith, we have received “spiritual gifts”; that is, the Holy Spirit has enabled us to minister to others in the name and power of Christ.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of other, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Romans 12:6-8

Most of us, I think, tend to resist the idea that we are “gifted” or “talented.” We like to think of superstars like LeBron James or Luciano Pavarotti as gifted or talented and ourselves as just “normal folks.” But the truth is that we are all gifted! We might be a five-talent person or a two-talent person or a one-talent person, but the Master has invested His own resources in each one of us. And the only question is whether we will recognize and use the gifts He has given.

Take a few moments to consider the “giftedness” of your own life and ask God to keep you from comparing yourself to those whom you may see as more talented than yourself. Instead, celebrate and use the gifts He has given!

Pastor Brian Coffey

Friday, April 22, 2016

Revelation 19:6-9

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

Years ago I heard author and speaker Brennan Manning tell a story that I have remembered ever since. He told of growing up in a very dysfunctional home – a home in which love had to be earned by good behavior. But because his parents both struggled with alcoholism, he never knew when he had been good enough to receive their love. He told of a time when, as a young boy, he won some sort of contest. His parents were happy, so they threw a party in his honor – but they invited all their adult friends. Of course, he was very excited to be the focal point of a party – so he behaved as any excited young boy might behave. At some point during the party, his parents decided he was attracting too much attention to himself by his behavior so they banished him to his room for the rest of his party. As he lay in his bed with his party hat on his head – he suddenly had the thought that since he had been so naughty, his parents would soon come into his room and take his party hat away from him. So he hid his party hat under the pillow and decided that when they came to take it, he would lie to them and tell them he didn’t know where it was. Many years later, as he worked through his own struggles with alcohol and depression, Manning recalled this incident with a wise counselor. The counselor encouraged him to “re-live” the story of the party hat – only this time to imagine that it would be Jesus – and not his parents – that came into the room. As Manning once again experienced the shame of being punished at his own party, he also imagined Jesus coming into his room. Jesus said, “Hi Brennan, where’s your party hat?” “It’s under my pillow,” the little boy, now a man, replied. Jesus said, “Take out your party hat and put it on again.” Brennan said, “But I was going to lie to my parents.” Jesus said, “Don’t worry about that now; put on your party hat – and I’m never going to let anyone take it away!” With that, Manning said, he felt Jesus reach under his pillow, take out the party hat, and place it gently on his head.

This is a story about love; it’s a story about joy; it’s a story about grace; it’s a story about two lost sons, and, perhaps most importantly, it’s a story about each one of us!

The younger brother in Jesus’ story lost his party hat when he wound up feeding pigs. The older brother refused to wear his party hat because he didn’t think his younger brother deserved a hat as much as he did. In the end, their father offered them both brand new party hats – not because they deserved them at all – but because his grace was greater than their sin!

Whether you have spent your life to this point as a rebellious younger brother; as a prideful, resentful older bother; or as a little of both – Jesus is saying that there is a party hat with your name on it! And he wants you to allow him to put it on your head so that you can join the party he is throwing for you!

Pastor Brian Coffey

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Isaiah 25: 6-12
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines.

On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.

In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

We’ve all seen images, heard news reports, and read terrible stories after natural disasters: earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes. In one short-lived super storm, hundreds might die; thousands might be left homeless; and millions of lives may be changed forever--in the course of a 30 minutes. Events like this illicit two reactions: Firsts, we find ourselves asking, ”Why does God allow such suffering in the world he created?” Second, we sense deep in our souls that things are not as they should be – that something is broken in our world – and we long for the day when things will be made right again.

While there is no easy answer to the question of human suffering, the Bible does indicate that God is not the author of sin, pain and death. The Book of Job teaches us that Satan is the enemy of God who desires to destroy everything God made as good – including us. In his sovereignty, God has, for his own reasons and purposes, allowed Satan certain limited freedom to “roam the earth” wreaking havoc and inflicting pain and suffering. The Bible teaches that God entered into the human experience through Jesus – and that Jesus endured all the pain, suffering, temptation and death that Satan could dish out – in order to provide forgiveness, redemption and hope for each one of us. The whole Bible resonates with the great promise that one day God is going to destroy his enemy, and deliver his people and his world from the “shroud that enfolds all people.”

Notice that the celebration of God’s ultimate deliverance of his people is expressed in the language of a feast!  

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines.

The imagery of a feast is a theme that is repeated often throughout the Bible. The ancient Israelites celebrated many different feasts as part of their worship and remembrance of God’s goodness. It was during a celebration of the Passover Feast that Jesus first used the broken bread and poured cup to symbolize his body and blood. And the book of Revelation speaks of heaven itself as the “Wedding Supper of the Lamb.”

We don’t use the word “feast” so much in our modern culture – but I think we know what it means. We celebrate many of the significant moments of life – graduations, birthdays, weddings, and retirements – with dinners, banquets and parties. We celebrate by gathering together with the people we love and sharing food, drink, love and laughter – by feasting together!

For now we live in a world that is broken by sin and death. For now the enemy of God has limited authority to inflict pain and suffering. But this is not the end of the story! The story will end with a feast, a celebration, a party thrown by our God himself! And it will be a celebration of such joy that all the sufferings of this world will simply fade into nothingness by comparison.

Some derisively call this “pie in the sky” thinking. I call it hope.

Pastor Brian Coffey