Thursday, June 30, 2016

Thank you for reading 10 Minutes With God - we wanted to let you know we will be taking a break over the summer. We have enjoyed sharing devotional thoughts with you and thank you for reading! 
Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babies and infants,

you have established strength because of your foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.
 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
 what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?
 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings[b]
    and crowned him with glory and honor.

You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;

    you have put all things under his feet,

all sheep and oxen,

    and also the beasts of the field,
 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! - Psalm 8:1-9

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. – Matthew 5:21-22

This passage is the first of six contrasts that Jesus gives between the traditional teaching or interpretation of the Torah (Old Testament law) and his new teaching of what we might call “kingdom righteousness”. Six times Jesus quotes a traditional teaching (most often from the Torah itself) and six times he demonstrates how there is more that God wants for us. Each time Jesus does this, he uses the same pattern. It goes something like this, “You have heard it said….But I tell you…” 

One of the amazing things about this is that Jesus does not give any other authority to back up his teaching. Other Rabbis and teachers of Jesus’ day would always base their interpretation or teaching of the law on what some other Rabbi had previously said or taught. Jesus never does this; apparently he thinks it is authoritative simply because he is saying it! 

This is one of the reasons why, at the very end of the Sermon on the Mount, the people are so amazed at Jesus’ teaching. 

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. - Matthew 7:28-29

Here in the first of the six contrasts, Jesus is comparing the consequences of breaking the sixth commandment; Thou shall not kill, with the consequences of having anger and resentment in our hearts. Of course it is no surprise to hear that murder is wrong. However, Jesus implies that to harbor anger and hatred toward another person is essentially to murder them in our hearts. Whoa! Think about that for just a minute…

Jesus is telling us that murder begins with the seeds of anger, resentment and hatred in the human heart. If these seeds are allowed to take root and grow, over time they can lead to terrible consequences. 

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
 - Hebrews 12:15

In light of all this, consider this question – Who are you in danger of murdering in your heart?

It is very tempting to rationalize all this and say to ourselves something like, “Come on, let’s not be too extreme here. Oh, sure, I may have a few people that irritate me, a few that I could do without, and some that I just can’t stand, but I am not murdering anybody.” But look at what Jesus says next. He says that we put our souls at risk even when we call somebody a fool! The word ‘Racca’ which Jesus uses, literally means “empty headed”. In other words, whenever we think of another person as a nobody, an idiot, a moron, or a good for nothing, we violate the law of God and we damage our hearts (not to mention theirs).

Take a few moments to consider the following questions…

Have you ever wished any harm on another person?

Have you ever rolled your eyes (even internally) at someone who you thought was just stupid?

Have you ever ignored someone who you just didn’t feel was worth your time?

Have you ever found yourself talking with another person about how annoying or foolish “so and so” is?

Is there someone right now that you despise in your heart?

Confess these things to your Father and ask him for the grace and strength to release you from your anger, scorn and/or bitterness…

Lord Jesus we recognize that you alone have all authority in heaven and on earth, and we know that you alone have the words of life that we desperately need. Forgive our unforgiving hearts and free us from all anger and resentment. Teach us to love others as you love us – Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:19-20

Once again we see Jesus making a radical and somewhat confusing statement. What does he mean when he says that we must be “more” righteous than the Pharisees and the teachers of the law? They were the religious elite of their day - righteousness was their profession for crying out loud. How can we compete with the pros?

The Pharisees were absolutely fanatical about keeping the law. They talked about building a “fence around the law/torah.” For example, the law said that they were not to do any work on the Sabbath. In order to avoid breaking this law, the Pharisees developed an extremely detailed and complex list of what did and did not count as “working,” even to the point of limiting the steps you allowed to take to and from your house on the Sabbath day! These detailed and complex moral codes were the “fence” which they believed would keep them far away from ever breaking a law of God. 

For the average person in Jesus day, the Pharisee’s idea of obeying the law (being righteous) was simply an impossible standard. Then, along comes Jesus, who says that you have to be even more righteous than they guys who set the seemingly impossible standard!

What does Jesus mean??

There are really two things that Jesus is saying about what it means to be righteous in God’s eyes. 

First – Righteousness is not merely a matter of conforming to the external rules or laws. Righteousness is a matter of the heart. The greatest commandment is love. However, it is possible for a person to act in kind and loving ways on the outside while harboring bitterness and anger on the inside. The Pharisees were good at keeping the external rules, but many of them had judgmental and hard hearts. Jesus put it this way in Matthew 23:25-26: 

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

Jesus is teaching us that surpassing the righteousness of the Pharisees means to go beyond mere external obedience and conformity to a transformation of the heart.

Second – The Bible makes it abundantly clear that nobody is righteous on his or her own. 

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one. Romans 3:10 

None of us can keep perfectly keep the law of God internally or externally. We all fall far short. Ah, but the Bible also tells us that there is One who has kept the law and it is through him that we can become truly righteous! Romans 10:4 puts it this way:

Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. 

You see, when Jesus said that nothing will disappear from the law until everything is accomplished (Matt. 5:18), he was talking about himself! He totally and completely fulfilled the requirements of the law – for us! 

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
 - 2 Corinthians 5:21

Do you realize what this means?? Because of Jesus Christ, your righteousness does surpass that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law! This is the beauty and mystery of the Gospel!

Take a few moments to praise and thank God for his gift of righteousness to you in Jesus Christ…

Ask Jesus to help you see where your external actions and your internal attitudes need to brought into conformity with his gospel…

Lord Jesus we acknowledge that without you we have no righteousness and no hope at all. We trust you completely as our righteousness before God and we humbly ask you to transform our hearts conform our lives into your image – Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Monday, June 27, 2016

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 
– Matthew 5:17-18

Doesn’t this strike you as a rather odd thing for Jesus to say? Why would he be concerned about people thinking he was going to abolish or do away with the law & the prophets?

The Jewish people believed deeply in the law (Torah). An important aspect of this OT was law was the concept of retributive theology. In other words, God punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous. According to retributive theology, it was unjust that God’s chosen people (the Jews), were governed and oppressed by foreign pagan rulers (Rome). Jesus comes along and tells them that what they viewed as the problem was in actuality the natural outpouring of a holy life and was a blessing to them. Throughout the beatitudes Jesus telling them that persecution results in blessing and if you are persecuted, it is not really a problem, but rather a sign that they were on the right track. Jesus even compares those who are persecuted for righteousness sake to the Holy Prophets! 

Jesus is really deconstructing their understanding of the law, which was really the entire worldview for a faithful Jew. Jesus wants to make the point clear that He is not interested in destroying the OT law and starting over, but He is actually fulfilling the law the way that God always intended!

This was not immediately apparent to Jesus’ first century audience. In fact his own disciples would not fully grasp his message until after his death & resurrection. I think perhaps we are at times a little too quick to “understand” what we think Jesus is saying. Many, if not most, of those original first century listeners considered the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount harsh and even strange. 

When was the last time the words of Jesus caused you to ponder and reflect deeply on what he really means for you?

When was the last time you were surprised or shocked by anything Jesus said or did?

When was the last time you were confused or troubled by anything Jesus said or did?

In other words, the moment you think you have Jesus “all figured out” you should think again!

(If you would like to read a wonderful little book on this idea, read Philip Yancey’s book, The Jesus I Never Knew)

Lord Jesus, help us to hear your words afresh. Keep us from becoming comfortable and complacent in our minds and teach us how to live in and for your kingdom – Amen. 

Jeff Frazier

Friday, June 24, 2016

Your statutes are wonderful, therefore I obey them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name. Psalm 119:129-132

Thank God today for his word and ask him to bring light and understanding to your heart and mind today.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. 
Matthew 5:13-16

When I was a freshman in college I was rather quiet about my faith. I was a Christian, and I wanted to follow Christ, but I wasn’t anxious to be identified as such by my new classmates. I suppose, looking back, that I didn’t want to start off my new college life being identified as “weird” or “different.” But about two weeks into my first semester, a bunch of us were up just hanging out at about 1 a.m. when a fellow freshman – known to be quite the party animal – looked at me and said, “Hey Coffey, what makes you tick?” I said, “Uh, what do you mean?” He said, “Well, you don’t drink, you don’t cuss – you’re just different – are you religious or something? What makes you tick?” I remember mumbling something about being a Christian – I’m sure not the most dynamic testimony by any means – and my classmate just said, “That’s cool, I was just wondering.”

I’ve often thought back to that late night conversation. Even when I was trying to hide the light of Christ “under a bowl” – it still leaked out! Yet, even so, I wasn’t ready to put my light on a stand and share it with my dorm mates. The truth is that I had unintentional impact, accidental influence on the guys in my dorm. I think Jesus is calling us to more than accidental impact - he’s calling us to intentional influence. That doesn’t mean we have to be the kind of “in your face” kind of witness that frightens people or turns them off. It does mean that we should not hide our light – but rather we should always be ready and willing to share the light of truth, the light of Christ, with those who are trying to find their way. 

Can you think of a person in your life who might be searching for God – or who should be searching for God? Ask God to provide an opportunity for you to be the spiritual influence he can use to draw that person to himself. Ask him to prepare you with the right words to either explain why you are a follower of Christ – or to invite them to join you for a worship service or ministry event at FBCG!

Thank the Lord for being faithful to spend time with you this week – and for his presence in your life!

Brian Coffey

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:4-5

As you begin your time today, offer your thanksgiving to God for his love and faithfulness expressed to you in so many ways.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Every now and then, we will be watching the news on TV, driving in our van, or sitting at yet another ball game of some kind, and one of our boys will witness some simple act of kindness or generosity by a total stranger. It might be a guy letting someone merge into traffic ahead of him or someone volunteering to serve and care for others in need. And upon witnessing the act, without knowing the person involved, one of our boys will say something like, “I bet he’s (or she’s) a Christian.”

Sometimes I wonder if other people do the same thing. I wonder if people watch how I drive, or how I treat the cashier at the grocery store, or if I take time to bow my head in prayer before a meal at a local restaurant. I wonder if people watch me living my everyday life and say to themselves, “I bet that guy’s a follower of Jesus!” 

Jesus is saying that the way that we live, the way that we act, the way that we speak, the way that we treat other people; our patience, our kindness, our generosity, our joy – all of it reflects on him. All of us are either pushing people away from Jesus or drawing them toward Jesus – all of us, all the time.

Now, I want to be careful here because I don’t think Jesus wants us to live our lives as some kind of performance! I think he wants us to live in a genuine and personal relationship with him – to know his love and grace in our hearts – and to simply reflect that love and grace naturally to others. It shouldn’t be an act, it should be genuine. And while it may require some practice and some discipline to learn to see others the way Jesus sees them – it shouldn’t be a burden, but rather a joy!

Ask God to make you more and more aware of the opportunities – both small and large – that you have every day to shine the light of Christ’s love through both words and actions. Ask him to use your life in such a way that others can see him through you!

Pastor Brian Coffey

Wednesday June 22, 2016

Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seem him with all their heart. Psalm 119:1-2

Thanks God today for the truth of his word and ask him to use his word to shape your values, your behavior, and your life.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. Matthew 5:13

One summer day my wife and I went to watch our two younger sons play in a travel baseball game. After we got ourselves settled into our “portable” chairs, Lorene produced a bag of peanuts for our mutual enjoyment during the game. I happily cracked the first shell and popped the peanut into my mouth – only to discover that these particular peanuts were unsalted. I don’t know about you, but nothing is quite as disappointing as munching on unsalted peanuts at a ball game! I put the unopened peanuts I had in my hand back in the bag, crumpled it up and left it under my seat until the end of the game. If they weren’t salted I wasn’t going to waste my calories on them!

In a way, Jesus is saying the same thing. Only he isn’t talking about peanuts – he’s talking about us; he’s talking about his church. 

In our world we see salt mostly as a “flavor enhancer.” We like our peanuts, chips and pretzels to be coated in salt! In Jesus’ day, before the advent of refrigeration, salt was seen more as a preservative – used to keep meat from spoiling. Because of this preservative power, salt was an extraordinarily valuable commodity in the ancient world. Historians tells us that, at times, Roman soldiers would actually be paid in salt for their services.

Jesus, therefore, is saying something very significant with this simple analogy. As his followers, we are to exert a kind of preservative influence in the world around us. Because, as followers of Jesus, we ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness,’ and because Christ lives in and through us, he wants to use us to preserve our world and our culture from corruption. Furthermore, he says that if his people do not have this kind of influence – we are like salt that has lost its saltiness and is good for nothing.

Now, we must be careful here. Jesus is not saying that if we aren’t having a positive spiritual influence on those around us we are not saved, or that he doesn’t love us! Our salvation is secured by the Holy Spirit when we confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 1:13-14). But he is saying that when he saves us by his grace – he doesn’t intend that we keep that gift to ourselves – but rather that we share it in all kinds of ways with the world around us. In short, he wants us to be salty!

Close your time with God today by asking him to help you see and understand how he can use you to exert a preserving influence in the small circle of your life. Ask him to make you salty enough that those around you might become thirsty for him!

Brian Coffey