Friday, July 30

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Ask God to make his word clear to you today – and to help you trust in and act out his truth – even when it seems counter-cultural to do so.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-24

Upside down and inside out. That phrase could be used to describe Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. From the Beatitudes, to his teaching on forgiveness and anger, Jesus is telling us that life in the Kingdom of God is lived upside down and inside out – when it comes to values, priorities and lifestyle.

Our culture says, “Store up as much treasure as you can on earth.”
Jesus says, “Store up treasure in heaven.”
Upside down.
Our culture says, “If it looks good – buy it!”
Jesus says, “See beyond what looks good to what is good!”
Inside out.
Our culture says, “Live to bless yourself.”
Jesus says, “Live to bless others.”
Our culture says, “Follow your heart.”
Jesus says, “You heart belongs to me!”
Upside down, inside out.

Jesus understands that we all have to live in this earthly world – a world filled with work, stress, bills and busyness. But he is also calling us to live with one foot planted firmly in a different world – a heavenly world; to march by the beat of a different drum; to live by the values of a different kingdom; to serve a different Master; and to invest our lives and our wealth in that which is eternal. Jesus calls us to all this not because he wants to make our lives difficult or because he wants us to look weird, but because he knows that this is the way to joy, peace and fulfillment – both now and throughout all eternity in heaven.

Take some time to thank God for his word, for his invitation to “kingdom living” and for the promises of heaven!

Brian Coffey

Thursday, July 29

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11

As you begin your time with God today, ask the Holy Spirit to shift the focus of your mind and heart from the pressures and activities of this world to the promises and hope of the heavenly world for which you were created.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38

Why is it sometimes hard to give? We want to give; we know that God is pleased when we are generous and that he calls us to continually grow in our generosity – yet still, we sometimes find it hard to give. Why?

While I think there are probably many possible reasons – one of the big ones is fear. We are fearful that if we give some of our money away we won’t have enough left over to meet our own needs and desires. We fear that the economy might go down the tubes; or that our job situation might change; that we won’t have enough for retirement; or that our children might not have enough for the college of their choice.

Fear is real. And while some degree of fear can be appropriate and actually helps us manage our lives and our finances with wisdom, I also believe fear can play a huge role in the way we think and feel about money – and that fear is one of the forces that discourages and even kills generosity.

When we are fearful that we won’t have enough – we struggle to give.
When we are fearful that the economy might collapse – we struggle to give.
When we are fearful that our job might be eliminated – we will struggle to give.

There are two antidotes to fear when it comes to money; one is sound financial management, and the other is faith.

Most Biblically oriented financial experts teach the 80-10-10 principle. That is, we are to live on 80% (or less) of our income; give at least 10% of our income to God (the Old Testament standard was giving the “tithe” – the New Testament teaching is giving “generously”); and then invest or save 10%. Generally speaking, if we built our personal finances around this model – we would be much more likely to feel peace rather than fear when it comes to money. The problem is, we live in a culture that teaches us to live on 110% of our income – and therefore we live on the edge of financial stress and fear.

So then, where does faith come in? Faith is trusting that God wants to bless us – not to harm us. Faith is trusting that if we give God the first 10% or our wealth – that the remaining 90% is enough to live on and to save for future. Faith is trusting that when we are generous, God pours out blessing – on others as well as in our own lives. Faith is trusting that God is always more generous than we are – and that our generosity is simply a response to his generosity.

Take a few moments to think about your own relationship with money. When you think of your own financial situation – do you feel peace or do you feel fear and anxiety? If you feel some level of fear – perhaps God is urging you to begin to take steps – no matter how small – to move toward the 80-10-10 principle!

Brian Coffey

Wednesday, July 28

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Matthew 6:24

Begin your time with God today by confessing that your heart is drawn at times to serve the “lesser gods” of money, work, achievement and the like. Ask him to help you establish an eternal perspective on all these things and invite him to be the ruler of your heart.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18

If I were a Hollywood movie producer – I would make a movie about this story from the Old Testament! It’s got everything you need for a great story; a megalomaniacal king, a life threatening dilemma, spine-tingling courage, and a miraculous ending. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were Hebrew young men who were taken captive by the Babylonians along with their friend Daniel. They were “drafted” into the service of the pagan King and eventually were forced to bow down to the giant gold idol (likely of himself) that Nebuchadnezzar set up. But they refused to bow down before any god but their God – Yahweh, the God of Israel. Even when threatened with being burned alive in a furnace – still they refused. With the fire hot enough to feel on their faces, these young men said, “…the God we serve is able to save us…But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Wow! I don’t know about you – but that gives me goose bumps!

I mention that Old Testament story in the context of the Sermon on the Mount – because Jesus said, “No one can serve two Masters…” We, too, live in a world where a giant golden idol has been set up. The idol, of course, is consumerism – and we are all expected to bow down before it and behave like good consumers! We are expected to want what we see and to buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have. We are expected to believe that “storing up treasures on earth” will make us happier. We end up, of course, serving a god named “debt” or “financial pressure” or “bankruptcy.”

Jesus wants us to know there are two “gods” vying for supremacy in our hearts. One is the God who created you; the other he calls “Money” (or “Mammon” in the original language). Both can capture our hearts, drive our priorities and enlist our service – but one loves us and seeks our eternal joy and the other couldn’t care less so long as we pay the bills. Jesus wants us to know that our hearts have room for only one God – and that Money makes a lousy god.

Ask God to help you resist the cultural god of consumerism and materialism – and to listen to the God who loves you and wants to bless your life!

Brian Coffey

Tuesday, July 27

Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. But now Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Psalm 39:6-7

Begin today with a time of confession – perhaps of sin in your heart – but certainly of the “bustle” of your life. Ask God to give you a new perspective on your “pursuit of wealth and happiness” so that you will be more aware of the true source of your joy.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
Matthew 6:22-23

People who study these things tell us that the average American sees something like 50,000 television commercials by the time they are 18 years old. We also know that the average American family carries significant credit card debt. I believe there is a connection, don’t you?

Why do companies invest so much money in creating advertising campaigns for their products? The simple answer is – because it works! Marketers have learned that “the lamp of the body is the eye” – that is we have a seemingly instinctive tendency to want what we see. Therefore, if an advertiser can get the product in front of our eyes, and make it look attractive enough, there’s a good chance we will want it and buy it – even if we don’t need it!

Jesus is challenging us to acknowledge and understand our own desires and priorities. He wants us to learn to discipline our eyes. He wants us to pay attention to what we see and how we see. He wants us to learn to see the difference between that which is material and temporary, and that which is spiritual and eternal.

Take a few moments to think about your eyesight. What do you see? On what kinds of things are your eyes, your mind and your heart focused on? Are you an easy target for the marketers of this world? Do you look for and see that which is eternal as often as you see and look for that which is material and temporary?

Ask God to improve your eyesight – that you will learn increasingly to see the things he wants you to see!

Brian Coffey

Monday, July 26

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. Psalm 24:1

Begin your week with God by spending a few moments acknowledging his sovereign ownership of all things – from the earth itself – to the chair you are sitting on – to the totality of human civilization – all of it belongs rightfully to him!

“Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
Matthew 6:19-24

Everyone has treasure. Your treasure may or may not be a pile of money in the bank – but you do have treasure. Your treasure might be a vintage car, your high school letter jacket, or the heirloom grandfather clock passed down through your family – but you do have treasure!

In this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is not questioning whether or not we should have “treasures” – but rather he is questioning the nature of our treasures. In a nutshell, he is teaching us that there are two kinds of treasures – earthly treasures and heavenly treasures. Jesus simply wants us to know that earthly treasures, while necessary in many ways, are material and temporary. Like the beautiful new car that inevitably winds up in a junk yard somewhere – earthly treasures either lose value or disappear over time. On the other hand, spiritual treasures are eternal in nature. These treasures do not rust away and cannot be stolen. Heavenly treasures represent an investment that provides an eternal dividend. The question is – what are they and how do we make such an investment?

The Bible teaches that only two things in human experience are eternal – the Word of God and people. Once we understand this truth we begin to understand the nature of heavenly treasure. When I buy a new car – I make an investment in myself that will last as long as that car functions. The return on my investment ends the day I sell, trade or junk that car. On the other hand, when I serve, for example, in Vacation Bible School – and help an eight year old understand how much Jesus loves her – I make an investment in a person that can last for all eternity. When I give a portion of my financial wealth toward the purposes of God’s kingdom, giving to my church or to a missions organization, I make an investment in that which is eternal – in sharing the Word of God with people.

Jesus want’s us to store up treasure! He just wants us to store up the right kind of treasure – treasure that promises an eternal return on the investment.

Take a few moments to think deeply about the treasures of your life and heart. Ask God to help you increasingly to shift your personal investment strategy from earthly treasures to heavenly treasures!

Brian Coffey

Friday, July 23

Psalm 62:5-8
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my might rock, my refuge. Trust in him all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him for God is our refuge.

We often talk about a “quiet time” with God. That time is a sacred appointment each day for God to speak to you. The longer you are able to steal away from the cares and pressures of this world, the more you will be able to focus your heart and your hearing on the words the Lord has specifically for you. In prayer, wait patiently on the Lord.

God invites you to come to him with confidence. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time need.” Hebrews 4:16. Embrace your prayer time alone with God each day and you will grow in the assurance that he loves you and will give you daily direction. God has blessed you to be a blessing to someone he places on your path of life today.

O God, when I become anxious about my life and the world around me, draw me back into your sacred presence. May your peace which truly transcends all understanding guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. AMEN

Roger Crites

Thursday, July 22

Psalm 40:1-4
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the one who makes the Lord his trust.

Perhaps at some point in your life you have found yourself stuck in a difficult place. Trusting in your own abilities and resources, you came up short. God never intended for you to go it alone. In Proverbs 3:5, he calls you to trust in him with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Confess to the Lord in prayer the occasions when you have sought your own preferences by trusting in your own abilities, rather than trusting in the Lord.

God will set your feet on a solid path. Psalm 37:23-24 reminds all, “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” Trust in the Lord and he will reveal his strength for you and direct your path.

O God, I confess that at times in my life I have sought my own private path rather than seeking your way with all of my heart. Renew a steadfast spirit within me and set my feet on a solid path that I might honor you. AMEN

Roger Crites

Wednesday, July 21

Psalm 118:1, 8, 24, 28-29
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.

When my African friends meet each other on the street, one will say “God is good all of the time.” The other will respond, “All of the time God is good.” Regardless of the challenges of your life, God is good. In all things God works for the good of those who love him and respond to his call for his purpose. In this day, rejoice and be glad. This is your choice – what you can control.

Take time today to reflect and write down the ways that God is working for good in your life. Focus on and respond to what you can control and give over to God all of the relationships and realities that you cannot control. Give thanks that his love to you will endure forever.

O God, regardless of how I feel, I choose to trust and rejoice in you. You alone are the one who will reveal your plan and purpose for my life. I will trust, day by day, in your faithfulness to me. AMEN

Roger Crites

Tuesday, July 20

Psalm 5:3-4a, 5b, 8, 11
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; you hate all who do wrong. Lead me, O Lord in your righteousness. Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.

When you were fully awake this morning, what was the first thought on your mind? How has that thought flavored the rest of your day? Even if you are not a morning person, I want to encourage you to take a few moments to wait before God in prayer every morning. Regardless of what lies before you in your day, praise him that he has given you a new opportunity to know him, love him, and discover his plan and purpose for your life.

Sometime during this day, find a quiet place where you can write down the non-negotiable not for sale values of your life. What are the absolutes that are not subject to being blown away by the winds of change? You will discover that when you declare before God what you hold close as the desires of your heart, you will find confidence and assurance to awake each morning with the hope of God filling your soul.

Thank you, O God, for welcoming me into your presence just as I am. I praise you that you love me enough to transform me into a new creation today by your power and in your grace. AMEN

Roger Crites

Monday, July 19

Isaiah 55:6-7
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

Think back to your first mental image of God. For some people, God was big, smiling and loving. For others, their image of God was one of a harsh judge on a throne. Perhaps that fits your image or somewhere in between. Your image of God either presents a barrier or offers a bridge when you come before him in prayer. Barriers are often erected from negative experiences with earthly parents or through relationships with people who have not honored God in their words and actions.

Allow me to suggest that you find a quiet place and seek a true image of who God is and how he desires to manifest himself in your life. Ask God, in his grace and mercy, to reveal to you both healing for your past and hope for a healthy future with the one true God who is both loving and just. Today, seek the Lord for he is near to the humble in heart.

O God, help me see in you the hope and healing that you alone offer to all who trust completely in you. I desire to see you as the one true, everlasting God who has mercy on those who seek you with all of their heart. Create within me a true vision of your holiness and your hope as I walk with you by faith. AMEN

Roger Crites

Friday, July 16

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- Matthew 5:48

This is the final verse of chapter 5, and it has always made me a little uncomfortable. It just sounds so impossible, who can possibly be perfect? Don’t we say and isn’t it true that “nobody is perfect”? Not even Mary Poppins was perfect, she was just “practically perfect in every way.” But seriously, doesn’t the Bible teach that we are fallen creatures and that nobody is without sin? If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (John 1:8).

Well then, how are we to understand this command of Jesus?

The word translated "Be perfect" in verse 48 is the Greek word teleios. It means "complete, perfect, or mature". It comes from the verb root tele, "bring to an end, finish, complete, carry out, or accomplish." Teleios means 'having attained the end or aim'; if anything or anyone has fully attained that for which they were designed, they are perfect.

Jesus is using this word in the context of God’s love (which is what the entire section has been about). He is saying that we must strive toward becoming mature in our understanding and expression of God’s love.

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:4

In other words, growing in God’s love is a process. We are all learning to grow up and become mature in our understanding and application of the amazing love of God. The more mature, or complete we are in his love, the more we will forgive, sacrifice, serve, and willingly surrender our rights. The more we do that, the more we will look like our Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:45).

We say that Jesus Christ is our example don’t we? Aren’t we trying to be imitators and followers of his example? We also say that Jesus was perfect right? Well…think about the implications of that for a minute…

You might be thinking, “yeah, but will we ever attain such a lofty goal?” Well, the answer is both yes and no. No, of course none of us will ever be completely sin free or on a level with our Lord Jesus. But yes, we can and should become more mature and complete in our love for God and for other people!

The Kingdom Christian must never use the phrase “nobody is perfect” as a justification for not growing in the love of God. We must not reinterpret the law (as the Pharisees did) to justify our lack of love or to rationalize our sinfulness. Remember, Jesus said that our righteousness was to surpass, that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law (Matt. 5:20).

We don’t redefine the law to meet our standards, the law of God redefines us and raises us up little by little to meet his standards!

Father, we have such a long way to go in our love. Forgive us for our selfishness, our pettiness. As your children, we want reflect your character to others. Teach us to love our enemies, to overcome evil with good. Have mercy upon us as we learn to have mercy on others - Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Thursday, July 15

The very first disciples were an extremely unlikely group, and fascinating case study for the power of the gospel. A tax collector (Matthew), a Zealot (Simon), and a group of fishermen from the same clan (Peter, Andrew, James and John) laid the foundation for the centuries to follow in Christian practice. Tax collectors were naturally hated, and reciprocated by despising others. Zealots, having been taught that hatred of their enemies was a virtue, were naturally judgmental of anyone who didn’t share their views. Fishermen were their own breed - sticking together, and being naturally suspicious of those outside their trade. They loved those within their own sphere of life but that was nothing special. Jesus fired an arrow right into the center of their hearts when he commanded them to love all men. He went so far as to describe their love for one another as the distinguishing characteristic of Christians:

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. - John 13:35

These are the men to whom Jesus first said these words…

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? - Matthew 5:46-47

In other words, you are called to be different than the rest of the world! It is natural to love those who are “like you”, those who are “my kind of people”. But the Kingdom call of Jesus goes beyond the natural human reaction. It is a supernatural call!

This supernatural “Kingdom Call” was evident in the lives of Rachael Saint and Elizabeth Elliot as just a short time after their brother and husband respectively had been brutally killed by the Auca Indians, they moved among these people to share with them the gospel of Jesus Christ. How do you love someone that has robbed you of your spouse, and left your infant daughter fatherless? You cannot do this by natural means. Grace alone can transform a heart to love this way. (You can read their amazing story in Elizabeth Elliot’s book, Through Gates of Splendor.)

The supernatural grace of Jesus Christ can overcome the natural tendencies of hatred and revenge to the point that the believer can love those he or she thought impossible to love.

Questions for reflection:

How open am I to people that are different from me? (economically different, politically different, socially different, different interests or hobbies, racially different, etc.)

Am I only friends with people that are “like me”?

Is there anyone in my life that I love, but probably would not have chosen to be my friend, if not for the grace of Jesus?

Lord Jesus you have reconciled us all to yourself. When we were far away from you and from each other, you brought us near by your love and grace. Teach us to live this way for your sake – Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Wednesday, July 14

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. - Leviticus 19:18

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. – Matthew 5:43-44

Did you notice the difference between the Old Testament law and the interpretation of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day? It seems pretty straight forward in Leviticus 19, so why all the confusion on divine commands? It came about due to rabbinic reinterpretation. "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy." The first half of the command was a direct quotation from Leviticus 19:18 but with parts left out. The original states, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But the rabbis added a second half: "you shall...hate your enemy."

Search the Old Testament and you will not find this command. It is just not there. Instead, it was either inserted by the rabbis or construed by them due to passages inferring divine judgment. We know that there are those commands that the Lord gave Joshua and others to destroy certain peoples. There is also what has been called "imprecatory psalms" in which the psalmist calls upon the Lord to bring justice for his people and to protect the glory of his holy name among the nations by judging particular enemies of the Lord. In each of these cases there are clear reasons for divine judicial action. None are examples of personal animosity in which a person tries to take revenge upon his personal enemy.

But the Pharisees did not want to be bound by such a narrow understanding of loving others. So they reinterpreted the Scripture to fit their motives. Their "neighbor" was only their Israelite brother, their fellow Jew, and certainly not a Gentile. They deduced that since the Gentiles did not believe in the Lord that they were therefore to hate them as their enemies. They felt quite spiritual in doing so due to their reinterpretation of Scripture. They were fully convinced in their minds that their hatred was just as pleasing to God as that of loving his family.

The ancient Pharisees are not the only ones who are guilty of reinterpreting the Scriptures to fit their worldview. This happens still today, and many Christians are consciously and unconsciously guilty of distorting or ignoring God’s word.

Sometimes this happens simply because we have not read, studied or reflected enough on what the Bible actually says.

Sometimes this happens because we are led astray by the inaccurate interpretations of others and we do not stop to prayerfully consider how well their teaching really matches up with the Scriptures.

Sometimes we overemphasize one aspect of Scripture to the exclusion of another and we distort God’s word (even without realizing it).

Sometimes we just don’t want to hear what God’s word has to say because we know it will mean we have to make changes in our lives, and we stubbornly don’t want to change.

Lord, open the eyes of our heart so that we might see clearly the truth of your word. Keep us from ignoring, neglecting and distorting your commands and give us the humble courage to obey them – Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Tuesday, July 13

And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. - Matthew 5:40-42

This passage used to really bother me. It is not that I was against giving to people in need or sacrificing for the good of others or anything. It is just that it sounded to me like Jesus is telling us to let ourselves get walked on, or taken advantage of. Shouldn’t we be allowed to stand up for ourselves? Perhaps some of you have similar feelings in regards to this passage.

I remember a time when I opened myself up to a man who was seeking my help both spiritually and materially. His story was one of great pain and struggle and he seemed very sincere in his desire to “get right with God” and get his life back together. After spending a lot of time and resources to help him, it became clear that he was really only interested in the financial assistance I could offer and the spiritual talk was just a ploy to endear himself to someone like me. Eventually he just disappeared when he didn’t get what he wanted from me. I admit that for a while, I was really angry. I felt like a fool, like I had been duped.

In this passage Jesus gives us a couple of examples of what it looks like to live out his Kingdom principle of self-less generosity. First, he says that we should be generous even to those who might be looking to take advantage of our generosity. The taking of a cloak was forbidden in Exodus 22:26-27. The poorest Jewish person always had the right to a cloak, which was a garment that they would use at night as a basic defense against the elements.

In his second example, Jesus addresses the question of someone taking advantage of your time and your energy when you have something better to do, coercing you into their agenda, or getting you involved in their program. Roman soldiers were allowed to impress those who were under their political control to carry their pack for up to one mile. If a Roman soldier was tired of carrying his pack and saw you standing there, he could say, "Hey, I'm walking a mile down the road. You take my pack and carry it." He could do that just because he was in charge and you weren't. That is what happened when Jesus stumbled with the weight of the cross; they just picked someone out of the crowd and made him carry the cross (Matt. 27:32). Roman soldiers could always put burdens on people whenever it occurred to them.

Jesus is pressing this point because he wants us to understand that life in his kingdom means to live with an attitude of radical, and selfless generosity. The best way to learn this lesson is to give ourselves away for the sake of the Gospel. To give up our rights on purpose, with a smile on our face. So we need to learn to yield at times, to have the experience of not fighting back, not claiming victimhood, not insisting on our rights, not advancing our cause above someone else's. When we do this, we become the kind of people who are so supported by Christ that we don't have to have our rights. We can give them away. We can give freely to any and all (even the undeserving) because Christ has freely given his grace to us when we were undeserving!

Father may we become like your Son and learn to give ourselves to others freely for his sake, just as he gave himself freely for ours – Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Monday, July 12

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:3

This verse is how the Sermon on the Mount begins. It is Jesus’ opening line for the greatest sermon ever preached. You may remember that to be poor in spirit means to have an accurate view of yourself in relation to God. It means to understand your spiritual condition apart from him; if to be poor is to be in great need, then to be poor in spirit is to be in desperate need of God. The passages we will meditate and reflect on throughout this week (Matt. 5:38-48) is really just a deeper explanation by Jesus, of what it means to be poor in spirit.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. - Matthew 5:38-39

Jesus is referring here to the part of the Old Testament law that dealt with retribution and justice, in other words, setting the wrongs right. We actually find the words “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” in the Old Testament (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21) referring to the civil or national law of retaliation. This law protected the innocent and guaranteed the limits of retaliation. It made sure that the punishment fit the crime. If someone knocked out your tooth, you had the right to knock out his tooth (but you could not smash in all of his teeth!) This law prevented the offended person from taking law into his own hands and using any retaliation he wanted.

This kind of thing may sound harsh to our modern ears, but it was actually very wise and merciful. It was wise in that it took into consideration the natural human tendency to want revenge more than justice. (If somebody hurts me, I want to hurt him even more.) It was merciful in that it sought to prevent personal vendettas and vigilante justice. The law was given to the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people. It was to be a moral civil code, enforced by the appointed leaders of God’s people. It was never intended to give individuals permission to exact personal revenge.

When you first read Jesus’ teaching on this concept, it sounds almost like he is contradicting this ‘eye for an eye’ principle. He seems to be saying that we should just go ahead and let them poke our eyes out!? In order to get what Jesus is really saying here, we have to understand what the Pharisees and Rabbis were teaching at that time. They (the Scribes and Pharisees) had extended this principle of retribution intended for the legal system to the realm of personal relationships. They were using the law to justify personal revenge, which was the very thing it was intended to prevent!

The Bible clearly teaches us not to seek personal vengeance.

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. - Romans 12:19

This is why Jesus teaches us to lay down our desire to get even, surrender our need to make the other person pay, even relinquish our rights of retribution. We are to leave all of that in the hands of the authorities, and ultimately in the hands of our God.

If you are wondering how you will ever find the inner strength to live this way, consider Jesus himself for a moment. He is the ultimate example of one who voluntarily set aside his rights for the sake of another. He is the one person in the universe who could have exacted retribution and be justified in doing so, yet he surrendered himself into the hands of sinful men and gave himself up for us!

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
- 1 Peter 2:23

Have you been wronged by someone?

Are you looking for some way to get even with them or teach them a lesson?

Are you wishing they would pay for what they did to you?

Lord Jesus, you gave up your rights so that we might have life. Help us to surrender our hearts to you and to leave all of our desire for self-defense, self-justification and self-preservation at the foot of your cross – Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Friday, July 9

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. - Matthew 5:33-37

I used to think when I first became a Christian that all prayers had to end with the phrase "in Jesus' name, Amen," sort of like an e-mail address; if you didn't put that in there, God wouldn't receive it and it would bounce back to you because you hadn't addressed it right. That thinking came, of course, from the Lord's words: "Whatever you ask in my name will be done for you" (John 14:14). But what he meant was that to pray in Jesus' name is to pray with full consciousness of who he is, his character, promises, glory, mercy, and love. When we pray in his name, it means that his glory and his personality fill every thought and word. It doesn't really matter what verbal formula we begin or end with.

The same is true of our other communications. We often use inflection or body language or adjectives to mislead each other, to orchestrate a response that is not based on truth? Do we give ourselves the right to say one thing and mean something else? All of that was the kind of problem Jesus was addressing in this section.

The OT law was actually pretty clear on this issue. For instance, the third commandment in Exodus 20:7 says, "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain...." Leviticus 19:12 says, "Do not swear falsely by My name, and so profane the name of your God; I am the LORD." Deuteronomy 23:21 says, "If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it." All of these are reminders that God is concerned about our word and our integrity and we should take them seriously.

But the problem was that the Pharisees and teachers of the law interpreted these passages inaccurately. What they had done over the centuries was to teach people to rationalize, manipulate, introduce exception clauses, and find a way around some of the hard realities that the Law demanded.

For instance, those who had commented on these Old Testament statements and principles said that the key issue was the verbal formula that was used in taking oaths. The Lord meant, If you take a vow, keep it for God's sake. But it had gotten twisted to mean, The only vows or oaths you are responsible for are those that have the phrase "in God's name" attached to them. If you could learn to be slippery with your language and vow something without actually using God's name, you were not really required to keep that vow.

So Jesus is saying, “Don't swear or take any oaths at all. Just do what you say you are going to do.” Jesus' words here are a powerful reminder that we have the capacity not only to lie to and mislead others, but we have a remarkable capacity to lie to ourselves. You are who you are: Either your "yes" means "yes" and your "no" means "no," or they don't. The phraseology you use, and the intensity of your language, are not going to make you more or less likely to keep your word. You are a man or woman of character, or you are not. You are someone whom God is transforming within so that you are trustworthy, or you are not.

But we do not have authority over heaven or earth; we can't swear by them. God has all the authority. He is the only one who can make us different than we are. He is everywhere and he owns all things, therefore, every oath is made in God's name. Every declaration we make, every opinion we offer, every word that we speak, whether true or false, he takes seriously.

So Jesus says no expression of change in your life is going to make you different if you're not different. You can't swear by anything and be more likely to tell the truth. Your only option is to say humbly, "By the grace of God, and only that, I'm going to tell myself the truth, and I'm going to tell you the truth. If I say "yes," it's "yes." If I say "no," it's "no." If I offer an opinion, it's my truly felt opinion.

Questions for reflection:

Have I lied to or misled anyone recently?

Have I twisted the truth to, or colored my words to give anyone a false impression?

Have I said anything to anyone that I did not really mean?

Have I been lying to myself in any way?

Sovereign Lord, you are the God of all truth. You are light, and in you there is no darkness at all. Transform us by your Holy Spirit to become men and women of truth and integrity in our hearts. May the light of your truth shine through our hearts and lives - Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Thursday, July 8

It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. – Matthew 5:31-32

Whew! Jesus does doesn’t let up does he? We are not even through chapter 5 yet and he has tackled anger and conflict, lust and adultery, and now he brings up divorce! It is as if Jesus wants us to understand that there is no area of our lives that is exempt from the impact of his message of the kingdom.

When we surrender ourselves, and come under the rule and reign of Jesus as our king, nothing will remain the same. There is no aspect of our lives and no corner of our hearts that Jesus is not interested in transforming!

When Jesus begins to talk about divorce, he is not changing the subject. He is actually just moving from the previous section where he talked about adultery in the heart (lust) to addressing the actual physical act of adultery and how it impacts the marriage relationship.

The question that Jesus is addressing in Matthew 5:31-32 comes from the OT teaching in Deuteronomy 24. If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house (Deut. 24:1) There were two schools of thought regarding the interpretation of this phrase, the conservative and the liberal approach.

The liberals interpreted 'indecency' very broadly to include anything the husband did not like about his wife. In fact, one rabbi wrote about a hundred years after Christ that it was acceptable to divorce your wife on the basis of this verse if you found somebody prettier. The liberal school had made this word broad enough to include everything - no fault divorce.

The conservative school limited this word to immorality or adultery. They said the only thing encompassed in 'indecency' is marital infidelity. This is the background behind Jesus' statement in Matthew 5. (Jesus' interpretation of this question is continued more fully in Matthew 19 when the question is raised to Jesus.)

Jesus’ clearly lines up with the conservative interpretation. He pushes us to consider God’s intent and design for marriage. The Old Testament starts out in Genesis with God establishing marriage. It closes out in the Book of Malachi with God saying He hates divorce. Even though divorce is being practiced, God's attitude toward it has not changed. From fifteen hundred years before the time of Christ when Moses wrote the Book of Genesis down to Malachi's time, God has not changed His position. It is the same in spite of the fact that divorce and remarriage have become a common practice. The fact that divorce statistics are mushrooming today does not mean that God has changed His mind. His attitude toward divorce is the same.

Jesus is saying in Matthew 5 that in spite of the prevailing practice of divorce among the Greeks and Romans of His day, the central issue is still adultery.

Jesus only refers to the husband divorcing his wife because, among the Jews, the wife could not divorce her husband. But the guilt is true for either side. In our society, it has become acceptable for divorce to be initiated by either party. However, God's attitude toward divorce has not changed.

What about a believer who has been divorced and remarried unbiblically?

This is a tough question and one that is a sensitive issue for many individuals.
First of all, we should praise God that he picks us up where we are. There is no indication anywhere in Scripture that you must break off such a marriage relationship. Whether your present marriage is your first or your fourth is not the issue. Your previous actions may have involved sin, but God picks you up where you are.

Second, if you have previously been divorced unbiblically and have since remarried, when that marriage was consummated physically, you became one flesh. That may have been an adulterous act before God. But the former marriage is broken. As far as your past goes, you must recognize the fact that God has forgiven you. Then you should go on from here. Praise God for his forgiveness! You are just as forgiven as anybody else for any other sin. There are no limitations in Scripture on that forgiveness.

Obviously, there are more aspects and implications of this teaching than can be dealt with here in this little devotion (which is already way past “10 minutes”).

The primary point for us as Christians is not to be bogged down with every nuance and possible exception, but rather to remember that God designed and invented marriage. He is very serious about it. His intent is that a Christian marriage should be a witness to the world of God’s faithfulness and love toward his people!

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
– Revelation 21:12

Jeff Frazier

Wednesday, July 7

If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Matthew 5:29-30

Ouch! This is a really harsh passage. Is Jesus advocating some form of self-mutilation? What exactly is Jesus teaching here?

The primary message here is that we must take sin very seriously. Sometimes, in focusing on the grace of Jesus, we forget the significance of the enormous price he paid for the forgiveness of our sins. The fact that by the grace of God we have been forgiven of our sins, must never become an excuse for us to live with flippant attitude toward the sin in our lives. Jesus is saying that ANYTHING which tempts or entices us to sin must be ruthlessly eliminated from our lives.

The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Romans 6…

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. - Romans 6:12-14

The second piece of wisdom Jesus is giving us is that we must pay attention to what we see and what we do if we are to avoid sinful behavior. Think about it for just a minute… Jesus could have used any body part he wanted as an example for his message. Why did he choose the eye and the hand?

Eye – What you see; the TV shows you watch, the websites you view, and the images you expose yourself to have a tremendous impact on your heart and mind!
Hand – What you do; the kind of activities you engage in, the kind of environments you put yourself in, all have incredible potential to help you or harm you in your efforts to avoid sin.

It is easy to rationalize this and make the excuse that we live in a culture where it is unavoidable. Temptation surrounds us on all sides everyday. How are we possibly to avoid it all? This only demonstrates how much more seriously we need to take Jesus’ words. The problem is really not our society (although our world is certainly full of temptation) - the problem is us!

D. L. Moody (certainly one of the more godly men of the modern era) wisely recognized the source of the problem when he said, “I have more trouble with D. L. Moody than with any man I know. The man I see in the mirror each morning is my greatest impediment to holiness and godliness.”

Take a few moments to reflect on Jesus’ teaching on the impact of your eye and your hand on your spiritual life…

Consider what changes you need to make in order to live the life that Christ is calling you to…

Ask God to help you make the necessary changes in your habits and lifestyle…

Lord Jesus, you have given us the words of life and you have taught us the way to live in your kingdom. Now grant us your grace that we might live this way – Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Tuesday, July 6

In Matthew 5:28, Jesus teaches that to look at a woman lustfully is the same thing as to commit adultery with her in your heart. To many people, this teaching sounds like an almost impossible standard. If looking is the same as doing in God’s eyes, then what hope is there for any of us!? The problem stems from a basic misunderstanding of what lust is.

First of all, lust is not looking. Jesus does not say that it is wrong to look at or notice a woman. He says that it is wrong to look at a woman “lustfully”. God created us as visual beings and it is not wrong to notice the physical beauty of His creation, even if it is the physical beauty of another person.

Second, lust is not the same thing as sexual desire. Too many Christians believe that to think about or desire sex at all is sinful, and they live with a tremendous amount of secret guilt and shame for the natural feelings and desires that come with being human. God created us as sexual beings. In fact, God invented sex! For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame (Genesis 2:24-25). It is natural and good that we should have these desires.

So…what is lust?

The word that Jesus uses for lust here is a Greek word ‘epithemea’ which means a desire out of control, it is a word most often used for idolatry.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
Colossians 3:5

In other words, Jesus is saying that when looking and noticing lead to a desire that becomes obsessive and idolatrous, then you are lusting. To lust is to desire pleasure without a person and without a promise. When you lust, you really don’t want the person as an individual with dignity and value in the sight of God. You want their body and the physical pleasure of an experience. Neither do you want the boundaries of a committed relationship (i.e. the covenant of marriage). You simply want something from them, but you don’t really want them. Lust depersonalizes sex and dehumanizes people. It is incredibly destructive to both parties.

Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
- Ephesians 4:19

For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world. – 1 John 2:16

The truth is that we can and do lust after more than just people and sex.

Questions for reflection:

Where are my desires out of control?

Have I been guilty of wanting pleasure without a person or a promise?


Thank you Lord for the gifts of sex and physical beauty. Forgive us for desiring your gifts more than You, and teach us to pursue purity in every area of our lives – Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Monday, July 5

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 5:20
Not too long ago, after a family dinner, I asked one of my children to empty the dishwasher. I came back into the kitchen several minutes later to find many clean dishes from the dishwasher stacked on the counter, but not put away. I asked my child why they didn’t do what I had asked them. To my surprise, the response I received was, “But dad, I did. You asked me to empty the dishwasher, and it is empty.” I was completely caught off guard somewhere between frustration and amusement. My child had obeyed the literal directions that I had given them, but they had missed the intent of their father’s instruction.

In a sense, this is how the Pharisees of Jesus’ day approached the Old Testament law. They were so concerned with the letter of the law that they often completely missed the spirit of the law. This is a very real spiritual danger for all of us!

We must guard against becoming what Jesus warns against in Matthew 15:8, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

Nowhere is this more important than in the issue that Jesus deals with next, the issue of sexual purity.

You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:27-28

The Pharisees had reduced what it meant to keep the Old Testament law on this issue to simply avoiding the physical act of adultery (i.e. do not have sex with someone who was not your spouse). Apparently they assumed that if the adultery was only happening in their imaginations God either wouldn’t know or wouldn’t care about it. Jesus says, in effect, of course that is a law of God, but that is only the beginning of what God desires for His people when it comes to the issue of sexual desire and temptation.

In November 1976, former President Jimmy Carter made these remarks during an interview with Playboy Magazine, “The Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ Christ said, I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery. I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times.... This is something that God recognizes, that I will do and have done, and God forgives me for it.”

But what happened after that interview? Yes, you guessed it.

Playboy had record sales that month. President Carter became a public laughing stock. His political enemies had a field day with his comments and the TV show Saturday Night Live had their next four months of material for political jokes.

The reality is that our culture laughs at the notion of looking at another person lustfully as being wrong. Yet, at the same time, our culture is being destroyed by the devastating effects of lust and adultery.

We have said that the Sermon on the Mount is all about life in the Kingdom and Jesus’ Kingdom message is radically counter-cultural. I am convinced that one of the most counter-cultural applications of this Kingdom lifestyle is with this very issue.


God grant us the grace and strength to seek your kingdom and your righteousness. Make us men and women of purity in mind, in body and in heart – Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Friday, July 2

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. Matthew 4:17

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. Matthew 4:23

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10

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 5:20

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. Matthew 9:35

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. Matthew 11:12

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. Matthew 13:24

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Matthew 13:44

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field". Matthew 13:31

And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven". Matthew 18:3

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Matthew 21:43

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14

Here is a rather obvious statement at this point– Jesus talked a lot about the Kingdom. Jesus refers to it 55 times in Matthew and over 150 times in the four Gospels. In fact the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), which we are studying this summer, is all about what it means to live in the Kingdom.

Here is a rather obvious and important question – What exactly is the Kingdom?
At the risk of reducing what Jesus himself took a good deal of time and effort to explain, illustrate and describe, the Kingdom is living life with Jesus as your King.

We don’t talk or think much about kings and kingdoms in our culture these days, but it is worth considering for a moment. To have a king means to be a subject, to be under the reign of another.

Living with Jesus as your King means that Jesus is in charge. He gets to decide what is best for you. You submit yourself to his laws and obey his commands.

Living with Jesus as your King means that you owe him your allegiance. He is your first loyalty, before country, family, work, friends, or self.

Living with Jesus as your King means that you serve him. You are willing to sacrifice for him and give to him your time and treasure.

Living with Jesus as your King means that your honor and revere him. You respect his name and reputation. You recognize that your life represents the honor of your King.

It is not always easy to live this way. There is a part of us that doesn’t want to bend the knee to another. We don’t like having someone else call the shots for us. We want to be our own king. If we only had an earthly king, we would have good reason to be uneasy. The kings and rulers of the world operate with on this principle – your life for me. They rule at the expense of their subjects.

But Jesus is a different kind of King and his kingdom operates on a radically different principle. The kingdom principle of Jesus is – My life for yours! He sacrificed himself so that we might rule and reign with him! He is the King who became a servant of all! There is none like Him! He is Jesus, your King!

Jeff Frazier