Friday, March 30


(We apologize for not having the audio version for today's blog - audio will resume next week)

Then he said to them all:  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?  - Luke 9:23-25

We have been reflecting all week on what Jesus really meant when He said that in order to follow Him we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily.  Admittedly, the idea of self-denial and cross bearing is not the most pleasant image (especially in our culture of comfort).  However, in 9:25, Jesus gives us the perspective we need in order to understand why self-denial is so important for the true disciple.  A disciple of Jesus understands that this world is insignificant and fleeting in light of eternity.

Richard Baxter, in his profound book, The Saints’ Ever- lasting Rest, writes,
“Lord, what a strange madness is this, that men, who know they must presently enter upon unchangeable joy or pain, should yet live as uncertain what shall be their doom, as if they never heard of any such state; yea, and live as quietly and merrily in this uncertainty, as if all were made sure, and there were no danger! Are they awake or asleep? What do they think on? Where are their hearts? If they have but a weighty suit at law, how careful are they to know whether it will go for or against them! If they were to be tried for their lives at an earthly bar, how careful would they be to know whether they should be saved or condemned, especially, if their care might surely save them! If they be dangerously sick, they will inquire of the physician, What think you, sir, shall I escape, or not? But in the business of their salvation, they are content to be uncertain.”

The irony of Jesus’ perceptive statement is magnified by the fact that few of us ever come close to gaining the whole world. But even if we could do it, Jesus says, what good is it if we forfeit our own soul?  The famous evangelist George Whitefield once told of seeing some criminals riding in a cart on their way to the gallows. They were arguing about who should sit on the right hand of the cart with no more concern than children who are going somewhere with their parents. It seems absurd that men who are about to die would be arguing about who gets the best seat in the cart!  Yet isn’t that an indictment of us all?  We’re all about to die!  This life is so fleeting and uncertain. Eternity is ahead. Yet we devote ourselves to gaining position and possessions in this world, with no thought of the world to come!

The Christian life must be lived daily by keeping in view the shortness of this life and the insignificance of the things of this world in light of eternity. When he was just 19, Jonathan Edwards wrote down 34 resolutions that he committed himself to practice for God’s glory. Number 9 was, “To think much, on all occasions, of my dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death”.  That may strike you as a bit morbid for a young man, but Edwards was seeking to live in the light of eternity. A few months later he wrote, “I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age”.

To apply this, think about being at the end of your life.  None of us knows how long we’ll live, but assume that the Lord gives you 80 years.  In light of eternity, what would you want to accomplish as you look back on your life from that point?  In light of this, write out a purpose statement that sums up what you want God to do through you in the years He gives you.  Then write out some specific goals for the coming year in light of that overall purpose.  Then, whether you live to be 40, 80, or 100, you won’t spend your time trying to gain the world while losing your soul.

Jeff Frazier

Thursday, March 29


(We apologize for not having the audio for today's blog - audio will resume again for next week)

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them,  “Who do the crowds say I am?”  They replied,  “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.” “But what about you?” he asked.  “Who do you say I am?”  Peter answered,  “The Christ of God.”  Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.  And he said,  “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then he said to them all:  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.   – Luke 9:18-23

In the last 30 years, there has been an explosion of books, lectures, and articles written about the importance of having good self-esteem. Building your self-esteem and learning to love and accept yourself unconditionally are at the heart of the popular psychology and self-help movements.  Pay careful attention to the words in this add for a secular spiritual retreat focused on discovering self-esteem;  "Start the major love affair of your life by spending a weekend by yourself.  Take two days out of your life to spend just with you. to explore and discover yourself in ways that you cannot do by yourself.  Discover the most fascinating, wondrous, magnificent person you will ever know - you! - in an experience you’ll never forget."

The self-esteem philosophy is not just a secular phenomenon, it has firmly taken root in American Christianity as well.  It is like the thistle, which is not native to our forests, but has spread everywhere since it was introduced.  You can hardly pick up a Christian book or listen to a Christian radio program today without hearing something about the importance of self-esteem.

I have come to see that the entire self-esteem concept is actually opposed and even condemned by Scripture.  And I have grown increasingly concerned that as a result of the pervasiveness of this teaching in our culture and in our churches, there are many who think that they’re following Jesus, when actually they are only following self. They have been taught that the Christian faith and even Christian minis- try are the avenues toward self-fulfillment. They’ve been told that Jesus will help you learn to love yourself, when in fact Jesus taught nothing of the kind. Rather, He clearly taught that ...

If you’re living for self, you’re not following Jesus.

Jesus’ words about self-denial follow Peter’s dramatic confession that Jesus is the Christ of God, which was followed by Jesus’ jarring prediction of His own death and resurrection (9:20, 22).  In effect, Jesus was saying to the disciples, “I am not the kind of Christ you may think.  I am not going to fulfill your desires for power and glory, at least not yet.  I am not going to give you everything you want in this lifetime. I will come again in power and glory (9:26), but first comes the cross.  And all who follow Me must follow in the way of the cross.” So He outlines for them all what it means to be His follower or disciple.

The word “deny” is the same word used of Peter’s denials of Jesus. It means to repudiate, renounce, or disown. The verb tenses of the three commands in 9:23 indicate that denying self and taking up one’s cross are basic decisions that result in a life of continually following Jesus. Jesus wasn’t talking about denying yourself some little pleasure, like giving up chocolate for Lent.  He was talking about a complete way of life that involves renouncing your own selfish interests and embracing a life for the sake of Christ and His Gospel.  Self-denial means turning away from the idolatry of self-centeredness and every attempt to orient one’s life by the demands of self-interest.  It means to give up the right to control your life and to give that right to Jesus Christ.

Jeff Frazier

Wednesday, March 28


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Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 
– Matthew 10:38-39

Several years ago I had an encounter with a man that caused me to ponder deeply what Jesus really meant when He said that we are to take up our cross and follow Him.  This man came to me for pastoral counseling about a pattern of sinful behavior in his life.  He told me that he had been dealing with this issue for many years and that he had never really been able to get free from it.  He said that he had prayed many times for God to help him, but it had done no good.  Then he told me that he was convinced that this particular sin & temptation was just his cross to bear.

Do you see the problem in this kind of statement?  Let me try to make the problem clear - If Jesus calls us to carry our cross, and if a cross can be defined as a sin, then Jesus is actually calling us to live in sin!  This cannot be!

Jesus Himself taught us to pray, “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13).  Over and over again, the Bible tells us that God does not desire for us to live in sin.  He desires for us to be free from sin and increasingly free from temptation!

1 Corinthians 10:13 - No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Galatians 5:16 - So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Mark 14:38 - Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.

Psalm 119:11 - I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Jesus does not burden us with sin, He frees us from it! 

When Jesus carried His cross up Golgotha to be crucified, no one was thinking of the cross as symbolic of a burden to carry. To a person in the first century, the cross meant one thing and one thing only: death by the most painful and humiliating means imaginable.  Two thousand years later, Christians view the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love.  But in Jesus’ day, the cross represented nothing but torturous death. Because the Romans forced convicted criminals to carry their own crosses to the place of crucifixion, bearing a cross meant carrying their own execution device while facing ridicule along the way to death.

Therefore, “Take up your cross and follow Me” means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. This is called “dying to self.” It’s a call to absolute surrender.  The question we should be asking ourselves is – Where am I not surrendered to Christ?

Jeff Frazier

Tuesday, March 27


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Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  – Matthew 16:24-25

What did Jesus mean when He said that, to be His disciples, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and give our lives for Him?  In the context of this passage, Jesus had been predicting His death (Matt. 16:21-22).  Peter rebuked Him, and Jesus responded to Peter by calling him Satan, and by telling him that he was not thinking in line with God’s will (Matt. 16:23).  Then Jesus made the statement about taking up our cross and following Him.  Jesus is actually referring back to what He was discussing before Peter interrupted Him. He had said He must die.  Peter had shown a desire to follow his own will regarding this, instead of God's will.  So Jesus showed how His death proves we must not follow our own desires, as Peter had just done.

If we want to come after Jesus (i.e., be His disciple), we must (1) deny self, (2) take up our cross, (3) follow Jesus. (4) This is then described further as losing our life.

Deny self
Denying self requires us to give up anything that we want or seek that would hinder our doing the will of God. This does not mean that, if we want something, it is necessarily wrong.  It means we must take our wants and desires down from the throne and place Jesus and His will as the governing power in our lives.

There is room in each life for only one master!

If God is to rule in our lives, then our will must be made subservient to His. We must be willing to give up anything in life in order to please God.
Romans 12:1-2 -  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Take up your cross and follow Jesus

Many think this means suffering hardships for the Lord.   Of course there will be times of suffering and difficulty in the Christian life, but there is a deeper meaning if we consider the context.

(1)  What is a cross for?  It was not just a burden to be borne.  Far more than that, it was an instrument of death and total sacrifice.
(2)  Jesus said take up our cross and follow Him. He bore a cross and we must bear our cross and follow Him. But where was He going with His cross? He had just said He was going to die.
(3)   In the next verse Jesus said we must give our lives for Him.

In other words, "taking up your cross" refers to giving your whole life to God, as Jesus was about to give His whole life for us. This involves bearing burdens, but it is deeper than that. It is a total dedication of life.  Our whole life is given to His service in anything He says. This will lead us to willingly deny self. Following Him then requires us to live as He lived His life.

It is interesting that in his gospel, Luke adds "take up your cross daily" (Luke 9:23). There is a sense in which Christians must give their lives to God every day.  This is not a decision you make once and then you don’t have to think about it any more.  This is a daily struggle to deny yourself (actually for me it is more of a moment by moment struggle).  Whatever He wants with my life is what must be done with it.  What I want no longer matters, but I give myself for Him, just as He gave Himself for us!

Jeff Frazier

Monday, March 26


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A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.  – Mark 15:21

Who was Simon of Cyrene?  We do not know too much about him, but we can make some pretty good guesses. Cyrene was the capital city of the province of Cyrenaica, which was in the eastern part of present day Libya in North Africa.  Mark tells us that he was the father of Alexander and Rufus. (Mark 15:21, Acts 13:1.)  And since the gospel of Mark was directed to the Romans, it is seems likely that the sons were well known in the church at Rome.

The greatest honor ever given to a human being was when Mary conceived and gave birth to Jesus Christ.  The next greatest honor given to a human being may have been the honor of carrying Jesus' cross.

But how unexpected the honor was!  When Simon left home he had no idea that he was going to play such an important part in history!

We often hear that a cross is something that we voluntarily pick up; but this is not always so. The text tells us that Simon was compelled, at the point of a roman sword, to carry the cross.  What is it that compels us to carry burdens for the sake of Christ?  It is the power of His love. The love of Christ in our hearts is what compels us to follow wherever He leads and to carry whatever cross He lays before us.  His love compels us, and we would not have the courage to obey, if we did not have His love in our hearts.  Hatred, fear, duty, ambition, pride, these are all things that can motivate people, but nothing compares to love!  Love is the most powerful force in the word!

The task Simon was asked to complete was not a very spectacular one. His job was simply to carry a cross several hundred yards; tradition tells us that Jesus Himself had already carried the cross most of the distance.  Although the job looked insignificant at the moment, it turned out to be extremely important!
It is often easier to get people to assume big crosses with a lot of publicity attached to them, crosses that the multitude can see.  But it is very difficult to get them to assume the little crosses that are unnoticed by the crowd. Yet, frequently it is the little cross that does the most good!

I do not know what kind of cross the Lord may present to you, but whatever it is, carry it!  Perhaps even as you read this, the Lord will honor you and ask you to shoulder a burden.  Maybe right now He's saying, "I want you to reach out to your next door neighbor.”  Or, “I need you to take a meal to a hurting family.”  He may be calling you to sponsor a child, or volunteer in a particular ministry, or make a generous donation.   Whatever cross He may have presented to you - Carry it for the sake of His love!  

Jeff Frazier

Friday, March 23

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Matthew 27:3-10
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

In the film, “The Mission” (which, by the way, is one of the best movies almost no one has seen!), the character played by Robert DeNiro is an 18th century Spanish slave trader in South America who has killed his own brother in a jealous rage over a woman. As he languishes in a prison cell, overcome with his own guilt, he is visited by a Jesuit priest played by Jeremy Irons. At some point in the conversation DeNiro’s character, Rodrigo, says, “There is no forgiveness for me.” He felt himself to be beyond the reach of God’s grace.

That is Judas.

To me, these are among the saddest verses in the whole Bible. They are sad, of course, because they tell us that Jesus was condemned even though he was an innocent man.

They are sad, also, because they tell us that while Judas was “seized with remorse,” he found not forgiveness but despair. Judas assumed that his sin left him beyond the reach of God’s grace.

Had Judas had the courage to follow Jesus to the cross, he would have heard him say these words, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

Had Judas peered into the empty tomb, along with Peter and John, on that first Resurrection morning, he would have realized that Jesus overcame even death itself.

Had Judas been sitting with the others when Jesus cooked them fish for breakfast (John 21), he would have witnessed the forgiveness Peter received for his three denials of Christ. He would have also realized that he was not the only disciple to fail the Lord Jesus.

Had Judas had the courage to confess his sin, his confusion, his betrayal to Jesus, he would have experienced grace and forgiveness himself. Instead, Judas decided that there was no forgiveness for him. He was wrong. And that is very, very sad.

Have you ever felt beyond the reach of God’s grace and forgiveness? Have you ever been made to feel that somehow your sins are so ugly and terrible that not even the cross of Christ can cover them?

Well, if you have ever thought these things – you are wrong. And if someone has ever made you feel that way – then that person is wrong.

Yes, Judas betrayed the Lord Jesus. Yes, his betrayal contributed to the death of an innocent man. But that innocent man died so that Judas could know that his sin, his betrayal, his selfishness could be – and in fact already was - forgiven.

The real tragedy of the story of Judas is that, in the end, Judas lacked the courage to be forgiven.

Never forget that the grace of Jesus is always, always greater than your sin!

Pastor Brian Coffey

Thursday, March 22

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Luke 22:1-6; 47-48
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.

(v. 47- 48)
While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of man with a kiss?”

The poignancy of this moment rings down through the centuries. At the moment that will define both of their earthly lives, after spending three years together as the closest of friends, Jesus says to Judas,

“…are you betraying the Son of man with a kiss?”

To be betrayed with a kiss means to be betrayed by one you have trusted; by one you thought loved you; by someone you have loved.

To betray with a kiss means to be willing to discard a friendship; to discard a person; by using that friendship and that person for some personal and selfish gain.

To betray in anger or to betray with a punch to the gut would be far more honest and far more honorable.

While this “kiss” was likely just the typical way male friends would greet each other in that culture, it is also highly symbolic. Judas’ outward greeting took the form of love and loyalty, while his heart harbored betrayal and deceit. In other words, he pretended to love Jesus outwardly while inwardly he was far from Jesus.

I think most of us have been at least a little like Judas.

We know what it is to sing worship songs in church while harboring secret sins in our hearts.

We know what it is to smile at someone while inwardly we think evil about them.

We know what it is to appear devout on Sundays but the rest of the week hide the fact that we know Jesus at all.

I think we know what it is to betray with a kiss. It is to be phony; to be hypocritical; to be two-faced. It is to pretend to love Jesus all the while knowing that, when push comes to shove, we will protect ourselves.

How much better for Judas if he had gone to Jesus in honesty and confession. How much better if he had said to Jesus, “Lord, I’m so confused! Some say you are the Messiah; some say your are a false prophet; some say you are the next King of Israel. Sometimes I think terrible things about you and I am tempted to give up, even to sell out. Help me Lord!”

How much better to admit his weakness, his fear, his sin? But instead, Judas smiled and offered Jesus a kiss, all the while planning to betray him.

May we learn to be honest with Jesus. May we learn to trust him with our doubts; with our fears; with even the worst parts of ourselves.

For any real relationship must begin with honesty. Jesus understands. Jesus already knows.

Trust him.

Pastor Brian Coffey

Wednesday, March 21

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Matthew 26:14-16
Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Historians tell us that thirty silver coins would have had a value of about a month’s wages in Judas’ day. Now that’s a decent chunk of change, but it’s not like winning the lottery.

One has to ask the question, “Why would Judas betray Jesus for such a mediocre sum?” It certainly wasn’t enough to make him rich.

I think an argument can be made that, while money was certainly part of Judas’ motivation to hand Jesus over, he was also motivated by something else. But what?

We know that the disciples were confused by Jesus’ talk of death. We know that Peter himself tried to get Jesus to stop talking about death (Matthew 16:22-23). We know that the crowds had clamored for Jesus to be made king of Israel (John 6:15). We know that when Jesus chose to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, he was fulfilling the words of the prophet Zechariah (9:9), “Behold, your king comes to you, humble and riding on a donkey.” We also know that when Jesus spoke about betrayal at the Last Supper, each of the twelve wondered if he could be talking about them (Matthew 26:22).

So I think it is possible that Judas, like many others, thought Jesus was destined to become the earthly King of Israel. I think Judas may have been convinced that Jesus was the one the people had been waiting for; the one who would finally deliver Israel from the hand of their Roman oppressors; the one who would restore Israel to her former glory. I think Judas could envision himself helping King Jesus run the show once Jesus took his rightful throne. Since Judas was “good with money” and handled the group’s finances, maybe he even thought of himself as the future, “Minister of the Treasury”, or some such important role.

So, while it might be a bit of a stretch, I think Judas may have thought he could play a key role in getting all this to happen – and make a little cash along the way. Perhaps Judas thought that he could facilitate the whole process by forcing Jesus to declare himself king by arranging for a “private interview” with the Sanhedrin. Perhaps Judas thought that by helping the religious leaders capture Jesus he would be putting Jesus in position to do something miraculous to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was the next King of Israel.

I wonder how often I am guilty of trying to make Jesus what I want him to be, instead of allowing him to be who he is? How often do we spend our prayer trying to get Jesus to do things that we think he should do for us, instead of asking him what he wants to do in us and through us?

Now we can’t know what motivated Judas at the deepest level. Perhaps it was a grandiose scheme to be a player in making sure Jesus became king. Perhaps it really was just thirty pieces of silver.

But we can look deeply into our own hearts to see and confess the sometimes selfish and superficial motivations we carry within us.

Lord, forgive us for times when we think we know better than you. Forgive us for trying to make you into our own image. Forgive us for trying to force you to do our will, instead of surrendering to your will.

Forgive me, Lord.

Pastor Brian Coffey

Tuesday, March 20

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John 12:1-6
Six days before Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume, and poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

A few years ago I heard a preacher say that “money is the temple of the 21st century.” What he meant, of course, was that money plays an enormous role in shaping almost every area of our lives.

Money tells us where to live and how to live. Money tells us where to work and how much to work. Money tells us where we can send our children to school and what kinds of cars they can drive. Money sometimes even determines who our friends are and who we eventually marry.

There is no denying the power of money to bend and influence everything it touches – our desires, our priorities, our motivation, our relationships, even our faith.

In his famous words in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said it this way:

“You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)

John tells us that Judas, evidently, had a weakness for money. I have an idea that Judas was probably a man who was considered “good with money.” That is, I think he knew how money worked, that he valued the necessity of money and what it could do for you. Perhaps that’s why he was put in charge of the group’s finances. But money was also a weakness for Judas. I think the evidence shows that, whatever else may have motivated Judas, he was definitely motivated by money. Another way to say that is, of course, that Judas loved money.

In this way I think most of us can identify just a bit with Judas. We live in a culture where money is openly worshiped as the “god” that Jesus warned us about. We are almost always aware of the “gravitational attraction” that money exerts around us. We notice the new car that a friend is driving and we wonder, “How much did that cost?” We notice the houses that are bigger than ours and wonder, “How can they afford that?” We hear constantly of athletes and entertainers who earn tens of millions of dollars per year and we think, “Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of money!” And most of us have a secret number in our heads that we use to answer this question: “If I just had ___________ more, then I would have it made, then I would be happy!”

We know that Judas followed Jesus and that at some point he loved Jesus. But we know from the passage we read today that Judas also loved money and that at some point his love for money competed with his love for Jesus.

This competition was so intense that Judas completely missed the meaning of Mary pouring out the expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. He didn’t see an act of devotion and worship; he saw money being wasted. Mary was indicating by her behavior that Jesus was the most valuable and precious thing in the room. Judas’ reaction indicated that he thought the most valuable thing in the room had just been poured all over the floor.

So, let me ask, what competes with your love for Jesus? What thing, concern, relationship or habit rivals Jesus for the affection, adoration, and obedience of your heart?

When you are able to answer that question, ask yourself this: Would you be willing to pour it out at the feet of Jesus?

Pastor Brian Coffey

Monday, March 19

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Luke 6:12-16
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alpheus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.


It’s a dirty word for most of us. It’s what we would least want to be called; and describes a person that we would least like to know.

A traitor is one who sells out his friends; who spies for the enemy. A traitor is one who betrays.

Luke tells us that before Jesus chose twelve men to be his closest followers, he spent a whole night in prayer. One can assume he spent a good bit of that time praying to God about the decision; about which men to call as his disciples. I think it’s also possible that Jesus spent most of that night agonizing over the choice of Judas Iscariot. Of course he also prayed about choosing Peter, who would deny him three times; he prayed about James and John, who would try to secure for themselves places of honor; he prayed about Thomas, who would doubt him; he prayed about Matthew, the tax-collector. But I think he may have prayed the most about Judas, the traitor.

While we cannot know with certainty the content of Jesus’ prayer that night, I think we can reasonably assume that Jesus asked his Father for the wisdom to choose the right men. And I think we can also assume that Jesus prayed for each of these men specifically, because he knew that what was going to be required of them would be more difficult than any of them could imagine.

This passage also tells me that Judas was not always a traitor. Rather, scripture says that he became a traitor. I imagine that when Judas heard Jesus say, “Follow me,” he was both surprised and thrilled. Like the others, he would have been surprised because he probably didn’t think of himself as “disciple material.” To be chosen by a Rabbi was a prestigious honor, and it is unlikely that Judas had ever been chosen in this way before. So I think we can safely assume that Judas was excited and honored to be chosen by Jesus himself to join his inner circle of followers. And the furthest thing from his mind would have been that he would ever betray the one who had chosen him!

So how did it happen then? How did Judas go from excited follower of Jesus to one who was willing to betray for a handful of silver coins?

To answer this terribly difficult question, I have to make it a little more personal. How and why do I choose to betray Jesus? How and why do I choose to do or say things that dishonor him or hurt others? Simply put, how and why do I choose to sin?

As hard as it is to admit, I make that choice the same way Judas made it. I sin when I become selfish. I sin when I become proud. I sin when I let my pain and anger control my words and behavior. I sin when I put my goals and my agenda ahead of his.

I think the story of Judas is in the Bible not just so we will know the actual historical events that led to Jesus’ crucifixion (although I do believe the Biblical record is historically accurate); but I believe the story is told so that we may see a little of ourselves in Judas, and a little of him in us.

It’s easy to kind of shake our heads and think, “How could he do it?” “What was he thinking?” But I think if we are honest with ourselves, we know all too well how he did it.

Lord Jesus, forgive us for the myriad ways, large and small, by which we have betrayed you with our words, our attitudes, our actions – or in our hearts. Amen.

Pastor Brian Coffey

Friday, March 16

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I said to the LORD,  “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”     – Psalm 16:2

What does it mean to say that apart from God you have no good thing?  It means that to come to the point in your life where you understand that everything without God is pathetically inferior to God without everything.  As C. S. Lewis puts it, “he who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only”  Can you truly affirm that in your heart: “Lord, I have no other good besides You”?

I am more and more convinced that God really gets a bad.  The name “devil” means “slanderer” and from day one Satan has engaged in an aggressive campaign to slander God.  His original temptation to Eve suggested that God was withholding something good by forbidding Adam and Eve from eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The temptation also suggested that the first couple would find true satisfaction by sinning.

The devil has used that same strategy again and again: “God is opposed to your enjoyment of life.  Following God is no fun.  You are going to have to give up pleasure and happiness if you want to get serious about your faith.  Sin will bring you true pleasure.”  But the truth of the Bible is that sin may bring short-term pleasure, but it always brings long-term misery and pain. Submitting to God may bring short-term difficulty and pain, but it always results in lasting joy and pleasure.  And so the core of the Christian life is to seek lasting joy and pleasure in God.

I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.  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 16:8-11

Psalm 16 is about experiencing joy and pleasure in God.  The scholarly German commentator, Franz Delitzsch, wrote of Psalm 16, “There reigns in the whole Psalm, a settled calm, an inward joy, and a joyous confidence, which is certain that everything that it can desire for the present and for the future it possesses in its God.”

The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with this question, “What is the chief end of man?” Answer: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  Pastor John Piper has thoughtfully improved on that by altering it to, “The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever”.  As Piper often explains, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Psalm 34:8 invites us, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” It’s an invitation to enjoy God!

One of the most profound things that I have read about this (outside of the Bible) comes from C.S. Lewis’ essay “The Weight of Glory”. 

“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a half-hearted creature.  I want to have a heart full of love and joy and the pleasures of God!  Don’t you? 

Jeff Frazier   

Thursday, March 15

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Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.      – Psalm 37:4

I have read this verse many times, and I have heard it quoted many more.  But what does this verse really mean?  King David wrote this Psalm and David was called “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22, 1 Samuel 13:14).  David certainly wasn’t called a man after God’s own heart because he was sinless, just read 2 Samuel 11 and you will see just how sinful David could be.  David was guilty of adultery, murder and deception!  David wasn’t called a man after God’s own heart because he always trusted God in every situation either.  1 Samuel 21:10-13 tells the story of how faithless and fearful David could be in the face of earthly threats. 

So, if David was not called a man after God’s own heart because was sinless and completely trusting in God, then what made him “a man after God’s own heart”?  I think this is where David’s words in Psalm 37:4 can help understand what it means to be a man (or a woman) after God’s own heart.

Let me give you the three ways that I have thought about how to interpret this verse.  These three interpretations parallel my own spiritual growth and understanding of God over the years.  The first two represent a shallow, or incomplete understanding of the text, and the third way gets to the heart of how we (like David) can be called men & women after God’s own heart.

Œ When I was younger in my faith, I thought that “delighting my self in the LORD” was a method to obtain the desires of my heart.  In other words, I had desires in my heart; dreams, aspirations, for my life, and if I wanted to achieve those desires, then I would need to give God His due…i.e. “delight myself in the LORD” (whatever that meant).  The typical form this took for me, and I suspect for many others, was going to church, serving, giving, saying my prayers, etc. trying to be a good Christian, and then God would bless me by giving me the desires of my heart.  I hope you can see how fundamentally flawed this interpretation is.  God is not a divine genie who can be summoned to grant our wishes if follow the rules of religion!

  As I grew and matured in my faith, I began to see how shallow my earlier understanding really was.  I started to think that the better understanding of the verse was something more like this – I have desires in my heart, some of them good and God-honoring, and some of them not so good.  When I delight myself in the LORD (praying, reading the Bible, etc.), God will help me sort out my desires; taking away the bad desires and replacing them with His good desires for my life, etc.

Ž  Now I am beginning to see that neither of these two interpretations are really what David is telling us in this Psalm at all.  Consider this example - If you had a friend who only called or contacted you when he/she needed something from you, wouldn’t you eventually begin to feel that your “friendship” was really quite superficial and one-sided?  Of course you would.  A true friend is someone that you genuinely want to spend time with, not just for what they can give you, but simply because you enjoy them, you delight in their company, you love them.  What David is expressing is the spiritual reality that the more we delight in the LORD, the more that becomes the desire of our hearts!  Delighting in the LORD is not something we do in order to get something else.  Delighting in the LORD is the deep desire of our hearts.  

Wednesday, March 14

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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

Have you ever stopped to think about what this Psalm means?  What does it really mean that there are eternal pleasures waiting for us at the right hand of God?  Is this just a poetic way of talking about heaven?  Or is this Psalm talking about pleasures and joy that we can experience right now with God?  One of the people who has and preached and written most about this concept is Pastor and theologian John Piper (I highly recommend his book Desiring God).

John Piper on “Christian Hedonism”…
“Does seeking your own happiness sound self-centered? Aren't Christians supposed to seek God, not their own pleasure? To answer this question we need to understand a crucial truth about pleasure-seeking (hedonism): we value most what we delight in most. Pleasure is not God's competitor, idols are. Pleasure is simply a gauge that measures how valuable someone or something is to us. Pleasure is the measure of our treasure…If God is the source of our greatest delight then God is our most precious treasure; which makes us radically God-centered and not self-centered. And if we treasure God most, we glorify Him most.”

The term “Hedonism” refers to the philosophy that the meaning of life is to be found in seeking pleasure.  Piper uses the phrase “Christian Hedonism” to describe the way he believes Christians should pursue God.  This sounds like a contradiction in terms doesn’t it?  How can seeking pleasure and seeking God possibly go together?  Should a Christian be a hedonist? 

Is it okay for a Christian to think this way?  Does the Bible teach this?  Yes!  Nowhere in the Bible does God ever condemn people for longing to be happy.  People are condemned for forsaking God and seeking their happiness elsewhere.

Jeremiah 2:13 - My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

What two things are the people accused of doing?
1.    Forsaking God.
2.    Creating broken cisterns.

Why does God refer to Himself as a spring of living water?
Because He alone is the source of life and true satisfaction.
Why does God refer to the things the people have pursued as broken cisterns? (A cistern is an underground water tank or reservoir).
Because anything we turn to other than God will ultimately fail us.
Forsaking God and pursuing happiness elsewhere is the essence of sin.

Matthew 6:19-21 - 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.
Why does Jesus teach us to love God more than money?
Because our heart is where our treasure is.

Philippians 3:8 - What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
What does Paul wants us to believe that is worth the loss of everything else?
Becasue Christ is worth the loss of everything else.

Hebrews 12:1-2 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Why does the author of Hebrews exhort us to endure suffering like Jesus did?
Because there is a great Joy set before us.

So, it turns out that Christian Hedonism is not a contradiction after all!  God does not condemn us for seeking joy, happiness, and pleasure at all…in fact He tells us exactly where we will find it – In Him!

Jeff Frazier

Tuesday, March 13


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One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.  - Psalm 27:4

David wrote this psalm, expressing his true hearts desire.  He says that he really only desires “One Thing” in life.  This is an amazing statement when you stop to think about it.  Think about all of the desires we have; the desire for love, the desire for significance, the desire for security, wealth, acceptance, achievement, etc.  Out of all of these competing desires in our hearts, David says that there is really only one that truly matters to him.  It sounds too idealistic, almost impossible, how can a person desire only one thing in life?  The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once wrote that, “purity of heart is to will one thing.”

When I hear that phrase about “one thing”.  I cannot help but think of the movie City Slickers.  There is a great scene in the movie where Billy Crystal's character (Mitch) is alone with an old western trail boss named Curly (played by Jack Palance).  In the scene Curly is giving Mitch some advice about life.

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
Mith: (shrugs and shakes his head)
Curly: ([holds up one finger)  This!
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean nuthin.
Mitch: But, what is the "one thing?" 
Curly: That's what you have to find out.

I doubt that Curly (or the screenwriters for the movie) knew that they were in agreement with the heart of king David in Psalm 27!  David has conditioned his heart to seek one thing above all else.  What is this “one thing”?  In David’s words, “to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD.”  What does it mean to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD?

Jonathan Edwards is widely considered one of the greatest minds in American religious history, and he talks about this concept in many of his books and sermons.  Essentially, he says that a religious person finds God useful, but a genuine Christian finds God beautiful.

For example, a religious person will evaluate their prayer life by how many answers they have received in prayer.  They will say things like, “God isn’t answering me”, or “prayer just isn’t working for me”, because their prayers are mostly about them.  On the other hand, a genuine Christian does not evaluate their prayer life based on answers to their requests, because they find worship, praise and adoration the most satisfying part of prayer.

Timothy Keller uses the example of listening to Mozart to illustrate this idea.  He says that when he was in college, he was required to listen to Mozart for a music class he was taking.  He didn’t particularly care for classical music, but he listened to it because he wanted to get a good grade in the class.  He wanted to get a good grade in the class so that he could graduate with honors.  He wanted to graduate with honors so that he could get a good job. (etc., etc.)  In other words, Mozart was just a means to an end for him.  Keller says now that he is older he listens to Mozart for a different reason.  In fact he spends his own money to buy Mozart’s music.  Why?  He is no longer in a music class where it is required.  Keller says that now he listens to Mozart simply because he finds it beautiful.  Mozart is no longer a means to an end for Keller, it has become a end in itself.

This is what David is getting at when he says that his heart desires “one thing”.  For David, God is not a means to an end, He is the end!  Do you see God as means to your end? 

Do you worship God because He can give you comfort, joy, peace, direction, etc.?  Or do you worship God simply because you love Him and you want to be with Him?
Do you see God as useful or beautiful?

What's your one thing?

Jeff Frazier

Monday, March 12


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The French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Paschal once said, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.”

Paschal is not the only one who held this view, Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas (just to name a few of the A’s) all held similar views.  It doesn’t require too much philosophical insight to recognize the fact we all instinctively pursue that which we believe will make us happy.

If you need a little more evidence that this is the case, just look at the first few lines of our country’s Declaration of Independence.  “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  Did you hear that?  It is our right to pursue our own happiness! 

The question is, how does the pursuit of our own happiness fit with the Christian life?  Does becoming a Christian mean that you will have to choose between God’s will for your life, and your own happiness?

I think there is a very real tendency among many people to believe that either God is somehow going to restrict or get in the way of my happiness (or) that God’s primary agenda is to make me happy.  Both of these views are wrong.

Some may object to this by saying “Doesn’t God’s Word say that He wants to bless His children?  I have often heard people use verses like Jeremiah 29:11 to defend this idea, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Prosperity, security, and hope for the future, that certainly sounds like God wants me to be happy.

Yes & No…Yes, God’s Word does say that He desires to bless His children.  He wants good things for our lives.  However, God’s desire to bless us is not necessarily the same as what we think will make us happy.

The critical distinction is in what I place first in my life; my happiness, or the will of God (they are not always in alignment in our hearts).  Many people approach the Christian faith by asking, “Is this working for me?”  “Is Christianity helping me?  Is it making me happy?”  In this approach, faith gets reduced to how happy we feel.  We actually end up placing ourselves in a position of evaluating God based on how well He (God) is doing at meeting our needs.
Here is the plain truth – God’s agenda is neither to destroy your happiness, nor to ensure it…God’s agenda is about something much, much bigger. 

God’s agenda is about His Glory!

This is the primary agenda in everything God does.  The Bible continually speaks about this truth.
Psalm 19:1 - The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Psalm 29:2 - Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
Psalm 108:5 - Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth.
Isaiah 40:5 - And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
Isaiah 60:19 - The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

God does not exist to make you happy, you exist for His glory!

Jeff Frazier