Monday, April 30

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If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.  - Matthew 18:15

Love is the supreme value in the kingdom of God.  In Matthew 22 Jesus said that love for God and love for others are at the heart of all of the commandments in Scripture (Matt. 22:36-39).  Anger and unresolved conflict block out love.  There is probably no greater challenge to spiritual growth than how you handle anger and conflict.

When someone says or does something that upsets you, what’s the first thing you do? Now, just to be clear, I’m not asking you Mother Teresa and St. Francis of Assisi types who write “Thank You” notes with a gift certificate enclosed to the people that irritate you. I am asking normal people—what’s the first thing you do? Yeah, you walk down the hall or shoot off an e-mail or make a call and tell a friend, “I am so mad at so & so!  You will not believe what he/she just did!” (Now, if you’ve really got problems, you tweet about it, or you post it on facebook for the whole world to see…but that’s another issue.)  Just to be clear, being normal is, well…normal…but it’s not an excuse to sin. Jesus said before you text or e-mail or call or walk down the hall, go to the person who has hurt you and tell them!

Let’s try to be as clear as we can about how to apply this teaching of Jesus by asking three questions about confronting someone who sins against you.

First - Who should be confronted?  Notice that Jesus says, “If a brother (or sister) sins against you”.  Jesus is telling us how to handle confrontation between fellow believers in Christ.  This is not a license to go start pointing out all of the sin in the lives of those outside of the family of God.  Jesus also says that we are to confront a brother or sister who sins against US.  In other words, we confront those whose sin directly effects us, not necessarily those we whose sin we hear about from the gossip of others.

Second - Why confront at all?  It is natural for us to think that we really have no right to confront someone else when we have so many problems of our own.  We may be tempted to think that it is really not our place, and easier thing would be to just leave it alone and go on about our business.  Jesus tells us that the reason we confront is for the good of the other person, “if he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”  We must never confront another person out of anger or desire for retribution, but always in love and with a desire for their restoration.  In fact, it would not be a stretch to say that if we are unwilling to confront a fellow Christian about the sin in their life, then we really do not love them. 

Third – How should we confront? Jesus instructs us to do two very simple, but very important things: “GO and SHOW (the person who sinned against you) his fault, just between the two of you.”  This is so simple, and yet it is so seldom followed.  If you are holding a hurt or a grudge or some anger toward a brother or sister in Christ because of something they said or did – GO TO THEM!  Go to them, go directly to them, do not call your small group, do not ask 10 friends to “pray about it”, do not pass go, do not collect $200, just go straight to that person!

Can you imagine how life would change if we actually did this?  How many rumors would stop flying?  How many bitter misunderstandings would be avoided?  How much bitterness would melt away?  How many grudges would be gone?  How much resentment would recede?  How much anger would be dissipated?  How much jealousy would disappear?  Just obeying this one verse would change our lives!  So, here’s my challenge to all you regular people (relatively speaking, of course): DO Matthew 18:15!  Actually follow the teaching of Jesus in this area of your life.  Trust Him, trust that He knows what is best for your heart and for the heart of the person who wronged you, and do what He says.

Jeff Frazier

Friday, April 27

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Isaiah 32:18
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.

We have a small couch in our family room that we call the “tranquilizer couch.” We call it that because if I lay down in that particular couch for more than 15 minutes I invariably fall asleep. I don’t nap for long, usually only about 15 minutes, but it doesn’t matter if it’s in the morning, afternoon or evening, that couch always puts me to sleep! It’s the “tranquilizer couch!”

I used to make fun of people who took naps. For most of my life I couldn’t take a nap if I tried. I saw nap-taking as a waste of time; as time frittered away that could be used to do something useful.

Not anymore.

Now my boys make fun of me. I’m the guy snoozing with mouth hanging open during the 3rd quarter of the Bulls game. I have two excuses for my new-found napping behavior. First, I am older and my energy level just isn’t what it once was. But second, I point to the prophet Isaiah:

My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.

Do you know that God is pro-rest? The book of Genesis tells us that on the seventh day God rested from his work of creation. Think about that. Did God rest because he was tired? Of course not! God rested because he wanted to give us a model for the rest he knew we would need as beings created in his image. So he gave us what the Old Testament calls “Sabbath” – that is, permission to cease our work and our striving for a whole day just to rest in his presence, goodness and grace.

This isn’t the place to debate the various ways we might interpret and experience “Sabbath rest” in our lives today, but the words of Isaiah do hint that at least part of that rest should take place in our homes.

And rest is more than just a nap on the tranquilizer couch. Rest, in the Biblical sense, refers to much more than physical rest – although it certainly is that. Rest includes the spiritual, emotional and relational parts of our lives as well.

So, how do we do it? How do we manage to get off the ever accelerating treadmill of our North American, suburban world, and find the rest that Isaiah is talking about?

The first thing we can learn to do is to say no. John Ortberg suggests the most important spiritual challenge of our lives is to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives.” Part of this is learning to say no to activities, opportunities and responsibilities that may be good, but may also be that which clutter rather than clarify our lives. Sometimes we can feel guilty about having “free time” or “down time” – when that kind of time is actually what we need to protect most! Learn to say no!

Next, you might also consider “unplugging” every now and then. By “unplugging” I mean turning off the TV; closing the laptops and putting away the smart phones. I saw a statistic the other day that said the average adolescent spends 9 hours a day with media. You’ll be surprised how much time there is when media are turned off! See what happens when your family just sits and talks. Try playing a game. Get out old photo albums or scrapbooks. Play charades. Play music and have a dance contest. Remember how to have fun together! I believe fun is a form of rest that rejuvenates the soul.

Finally, do whatever you have to do to have meals together at the family table. Turn the TV off; put the cell phones in another room; and eat a meal together. If you’re not sure what to talk about – just have each person share the high point and low point of their day. You’ll be surprised what you learn about each other just by that simple exercise. You might even be surprised by a spontaneous conversation!

We all live life on the treadmill that our culture creates for us. But we can learn, with God’s help, to slow the treadmill down to a reasonable pace, even to get off altogether every now and then.

Ask God to help you make your home an “undisturbed place of rest” for all who dwell therein.

Pastor Brian Coffey

Thursday, April 26

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build up,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate
a time for war and a time for peace.

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Have you ever read the back of a box of Pop-Tarts? In case you prefer your Pop-Tarts warm, here are the instructions for heating:

1. Remove pastry from pouch. Place pastry on microwave-safe plate.

2. Microwave on high for 3 seconds.

Something about that makes me laugh! What has happened to the world when we need a breakfast we can make in 3 seconds? Is it possible we are all moving just a little too fast?

Years ago I heard Pastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church tell a story that went something like this. He came home after a full day at the office for a quick supper after which he had to run right back out to a meeting at church. Just as dinner was wrapping up and he was preparing to get up from the table his adolescent daughter began telling him about something that had happened in her day at school. A few sentences into her story he interrupted her and said, “Honey, can you speed it up a little, I can listen fast.” His daughter paused, thought for a moment, then said, “That’s alright Dad, I’ll wait until you can listen slow.”

That’s what one writer meant when he wrote, “Our relationships are being starved by velocity.”

The truth is it’s impossible to “listen fast.” It’s impossible to “care fast.” Those are oxymorons. By definition, to listen and to care take focused attention and an investment of time.

Likewise, it’s impossible to build a relationship while simultaneously moving at high velocity. Remember my story of the runaway treadmill? Imagine that my wife was on the treadmill right next to me and it had a similar acceleration problem. What kind of conversation would we be able to have while both struggling to keep up with the speed of our respective treadmills? At best, our relationship would be focused on just trying to survive the next few minutes – let alone the next few hours, days or years together!

Yet that’s how we try to live. That’s how we try to build relationships with our spouses, with our children, with our friends, and even with God.

The ancient writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die…

a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance…

a time to embrace and a time to refrain…

a time to be silent and a time to speak…

So how do we know what time it is?

We have to pay attention. We have to listen. We have to slow down. Think about it; just as you can’t “listen fast,” neither can you “laugh fast” or “mourn fast” or “dance fast.” The most deeply important things in our lives don’t happen at velocity but rather when we stay in one place long enough to engage with what is happening now – and not with the next thing on our to-do list.

Take a little extra time today to ask God to help you pay attention to what he is doing all around you – and within you.

Pastor Brian Coffey

Wednesday, April 25

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Ecclesiastes 2:22-23
What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.

Have you ever heard of “Hurry sickness?” The first person I heard use that phrase was a pastor named John Ortberg, who has since written about it in his book, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted.” He writes, “One of the greatest illusions of our day is that hurrying will buy us more time.”

The first time I heard “Hurry sickness” explained I realized I was already infected with the disease. Ortberg said he sometimes counts the items in the cart of the person who is ahead of him in the express check out line of his local grocery store, just to see if they qualify. I have done that. Ortberg said that when he approaches a traffic light he gets behind the car that he thinks will start the fastest when the light turns green. I have also done that!

The truth is I like to hurry. I hurry even when I don’t have to. In a way, you could say, I am addicted to hurry. And I think most of us are in some way. We live in a culture that celebrates busyness. We live in a culture that prides itself on multi-tasking. We live in a culture where we eat lunch, talk on the phone, listen to the radio, and drive a car – at the same time!

We live in a culture where relaxing is seen as some kind of character flaw. Think about the last 10 times you asked someone how their week has been. How often do they respond with something like this: “It’s been a busy week!” or “Wow, it’s just been kind of crazy – non stop!” How often does someone say, “Well, it’s been kind of slow and relaxing to tell the truth…”? Almost never.

Here’s a question for us all: Why do we hurry? Why do we cram so much into our days that we scarcely can catch our breath before starting up all over again tomorrow? While I can’t say with certainty, I do think the answer has something to do with the truth that being busy makes us feel valuable and important. We like to hurry because it makes us feel like we are in control. We like to hurry because when we aren’t in a hurry we aren’t really sure what to do with ourselves. We simply don’t know how not to hurry!

The ancient writer of Ecclesiastes saw the same problem in his world:

What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.

So how do we break our “hurry habit?” How do we cease from our “anxious striving?” What would happen if we voluntarily slowed down? What would happen if we intentionally put ourselves in positions where we had to wait, to be patient, to stand still? What would happen if we deliberately got into the longest line at the check out counter? Or got behind the longest line of cars at the traffic light?

At first, we would probably grow more anxious; more frustrated. But gradually, we might learn that all our hurrying and striving actually produces relatively little benefit. We might learn that God has something to teach us in our moments of waiting. We might discover that life is a little more enjoyable and peaceful when lived at a different speed.

Are you willing to try?

Pastor Brian Coffey

Tuesday, April 24

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Ephesians 5:15-17
Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

“Excuse me, do you have the time?”

It’s a question we ask in one way or another, or have asked of us, multiple times each week: “What time is it?”

And when we ask this question we are almost always referring to the time of day: say, 9:15 am or 2:30 pm. This is simple, straightforward chronological time.

But there is another way of talking about time. A woman who is nine months pregnant says to her husband, “It’s time.” This is a whole different kind of time. This is the kind of time that changes your life forever and has very little to do with chronological time. At times like the birth of a child, chronological time seems to cease to exist – or at least cease to be important.

Interestingly, the New Testament writers used two main words for time. One was the Greek word, chronos, from which we get our English word, chronological. This word, as you might expect, referred to the kind of time that is measurable and quantifiable. Chronos is clock time, or calendar time. Chronos is the kind of time referred to in the title, "10 Minutes with God"

The second word was kairos. This Greek word referred more to the meaning and significance of an event happening in chronos time. Kairos communicates a sense of a special moment of opportunity. Kairos refers to what happens when you read or listen to "10 Minutes with God" and actually meet God!

Paul writes:

Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

The word “opportunity” that Paul uses in the middle of this passage, as in, “…making the most of every opportunity…” is actually the Greek word kairos. Paul is saying that wise people will understand that life is not lived primarily in chronological time (chronos) but in the opportunities, the moments, the eternally significant relational or spiritual events that happen within chronological time. Life happens in kairos, for kairos is where we see and live out the will of God for our lives!

For example: a family sitting down to dinner might do so at 6:45 pm – chronos time. Their focus on any given night might be finishing dinner before “Dancing with the Stars” or the Bulls game comes on at 7:00 pm – also chronos time. Or their focus might be the conversation that could take place around the table that just might provide an opportunity for some significant connection or encouragement to take place, which is what the Apostle Paul means by “making the most of every opportunity” – which is kairos.

It strikes me that it is very easy to live almost completely in chronos time, while it is much more difficult to be aware of kairos opportunities or moments. It’s easy to glance at a watch or a cell phone and know what time it is. It’s easy to look at a clock and know that I have to leave in five minutes to make it to a meeting that is on my calendar. It is much more difficult to look at my son’s face or body language and discern what time it is in terms of kairos! What is he feeling? What is he thinking? Should I ask? How should I ask? Does he need encouraging words from me? Does he need an affirming touch from me? And how much time will that take? Will it make me late for my meeting?

How many of these kairos moments do we rush by each day of our lives? How often does the urgency of our chronos-time obsessed culture prevent us from seeing, feeling, and responding to the kairos of God’s activity in the world?

Ask God to make you more and more aware of his kairos moments in your life, and to help you make the most of those opportunities!

Pastor Brian Coffey

Monday, April 23

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Psalm 90:12
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

A number of years ago, when I was still running as part of my regular exercise routine, I hopped on a treadmill at a local fitness center. As I recall, my plan was to run for about 20 minutes at about an 8 – 9 minute per mile pace.

I was cruising right along, about 10 minutes into my run, when I sensed something was a little off. It took a few seconds to realize what was happening – but the treadmill had sped up just a bit and I was running slightly faster than my normal pace. I glanced down at the control panel to see if I had accidently touched the speed button – and I noticed that I was now running not an 8 minute pace – but a 7 ½ minute pace. And I realized that the treadmill was speeding up all by itself.

Now, the reasonable, intelligent thing to do would have been to hop off the treadmill – which would not have been hard to do at a 7 ½ mile pace – and inform someone that the machine had malfunctioned and to simply get on a different treadmill to finish my workout. But that’s not what I did. I took it as a kind of personal challenge. I thought to myself, “OK, Mr. Treadmill, you want it, you got it – let’s see what you got!?” And I picked up the pace.

Soon the machine was whirring at a 7 minute per mile clip. Then 6 1/2 ; then 6. Within a couple of minutes the whir turned into a roar and people around me were interrupting their workouts to watch me assault the 4 minute mile barrier and I was in trouble.

What could I do? I couldn’t continue that pace for much longer; and if I tried to jump off the treadmill at that speed I risked running through the plate glass window in front of me! But I had no choice, I had to get off that crazy thing – so I grabbed hold of the hand-rail on the treadmill and leapt off hoping not to seriously injure myself in the process. I landed rather awkwardly, staggering toward the window – but, thankfully, I didn’t run through it. But I did learn a lesson!

I had an acceleration problem!

There is a limit to how fast I can run and at some point – no matter how embarrassing or how awkward – I just had to get off the treadmill!

The same is true in my life outside the fitness center!

I think, if we are honest, many of us could say that we have an “acceleration problem.” That is, between work, commuting to work, working at home, raising children, carting kids around to all manner of activities, keeping up with commitments at church and in the community, trying to manage extended family relationships – not to mention day to day responsibilities like cleaning the house, shopping, or mowing the grass – we just keep squeezing more and more into our days and the end result is the same thing I felt on the accelerating treadmill!

Simply put, something has to go! But what? We have to get off the treadmill – or at least slow it down – but how?

The writer of the Psalms says it this way:

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

These ancient words speak to us about our lives in terms of priorities and wisdom. To “number our days aright” means to be aware of the preciousness of our lives. We are allotted a finite number of days on this earth and every single day contains 24 hours, and every hour just 60 minutes. To “number our days aright” means to be intentional about investing those days, hours and minutes in a manner that honors and serves the God who gave us life.

Notice that the Psalm says that when we number our days aright, we “gain a heart of wisdom.” That’s a more poetic way of saying that when I jumped off that treadmill I learned something that served to make me just that much wiser than I was when I got on the treadmill!

As we begin this week of “10 Minutes with God” ask him to help you to “number your days aright.” If you’re on a treadmill that is speeding up – and most of us are – ask him to help you slow it down or even to jump off for a bit. Ask him to help you take a good hard look at the priorities of your life. Are you growing wiser – or just running faster?

Ask God to grow in you a heart of wisdom.

Pastor Brian Coffey

Friday, April 20

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Ephesians 1:7
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of his grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

I once had to call my parents from a sheriff’s office in Georgia at 2:00 in the morning. Trust me, that’s not a call you want to make!

It was right after my first year in college and I wanted to make a trip from Orlando, Florida, where my parents and brothers had moved after I left for school, to my home town in Westchester County, New York. For some crazy reason my parents not only let me make the trip, but also allowed my two younger brothers to go with me.

So I was driving through the night (another absolutely insane idea) in my Dad’s car when I was pulled over by the local sheriff for speeding. I’m pretty sure that the sheriff could have just taken my license and given me a ticket in the usual way, but I think he saw my age and the fact that my brothers were in the car and decided to teach me a lesson I would never forget. He just told me to follow him because he was “taking me in.”

The small town sheriff’s office reminded me exactly of the jail house in “The Andy Griffith Show.” There was a small cell with bars and everything. I half expected to see Barney Fife there with his one bullet. The sheriff said the only way I could leave that night was if I called my father and let him talk to him. So, at 2:00 am I called home and told my Dad I was in trouble.

Even though he was awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call no parent wants to get, my Dad didn’t scream or yell. After I told him that I was pulled over for speeding and the sheriff wanted to talk to him, he just asked me if we were all OK. Then he told me to give the phone to the sheriff. After a short conversation, the sheriff told me we were free to go, but to be careful. And we continued the rest of the trip safely and without incident.

I don’t remember clearly whether or not I had to pay my Dad back for the fine that he took care of by credit card over the phone, but I do remember what it felt like to receive his grace at the moment of my need!

I had disobeyed the law; and I had, I’m sure, disappointed my father with an immature mistake. But what he offered in return was not judgment and anger, however justified, but rather compassion and grace. A time for teaching, instruction and growth would surely follow, but what he offered at the moment was what I most needed. Grace.

In the great letter to the Romans, Paul writes:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of his grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

I love the words Paul uses to describe the grace of Christ. He says that we receive forgiveness for our sins “in accordance with the riches of his grace that he lavished on us…”

The riches of grace.

Lavished on us.

The word “lavish” implies a kind of extraordinary generosity bordering on extravagant or even ridiculous. I picture a child hoping for an ice cream cone and getting a giant hot fudge Sundae. I picture a tired and thirsty athlete in need of a water fountain and getting Niagara Falls!

We fail. We sin. We hope that God won’t be too upset with us and that he will maybe, hopefully, be able someday and somehow to forgive us. We think that way because that’s how we often forgive. We struggle to forgive others and we especially struggle to forgive ourselves. But God is not like us! He opens the floodgates of his heart and pours out his grace like a great avalanche, waterfall, tsunami – an overwhelming, extravagant and ridiculous amount of forgiveness. He lavishes his grace on us!

All spiritual life begins when God breaks our hearts with his lavish and outrageous love. Do you know that love? Have you received his grace? 

If so, thank him for the wonder and power of his grace. If not, all you need to do is ask him! But, let me warn you, his grace is both overwhelming and devastating and will turn your life inside out and upside down. But it is good!

Pastor Brian Coffey

Thursday, April 19

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2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

When I was about 10 years old and playing little league baseball, I once struck out with the bases loaded to end a game. Even at 10 I was already competitive and performance driven, so my failure left me crestfallen. I felt like I had let my team down. And since my Dad was one of the coaches of the team, I felt like I had let him down too. When we got home after the game I barricaded myself in my room and I lay down in my bed and wept tears of bitter defeat.

At some point my father came into my room and sat down at the end of the bed. While I no longer remember exactly how the conversation went, I do remember that it went something like this.

My Dad said, “Tough game, huh?”

I just nodded through my tears.

Then he said, “Do you know how many home runs Babe Ruth hit in his career?”

I remember thinking that was an odd question to ask a kid who just lost the game for his team by striking out with the bases loaded! But my Dad asked me the question because he knew I would know the answer.

“714,” I said without hesitation.

Then he said, “Do you know how many times the Babe struck out in his career?”

That was one statistic I didn’t know so I shook my head.

He said, “Over 1300 times; Babe Ruth struck out almost twice as many times as he hit home runs.”

He let that sink in for a bit and then just said something like, “Every ball player strikes out, even the best! So you struck out, big deal! The important thing is to give it your best and to be willing to go up there again and try again.”

What my Dad gave me that day was the freedom to fail. What he gave me was grace. And grace gave me the permission and strength to try again – and even fail again!

The Apostle Paul says it this way:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

We can’t be sure what specific “weakness” Paul was referring to in his own life. From what we know of his temperament and personality it could have been pride, or perhaps anger. He may have been referring to some kind of physical ailment that sapped his strength and energy. He may have been referring to spiritual discouragement as he struggled to preach the gospel in a hostile culture. But what he wants us to know is that the grace of Christ is greater than our weakness and failure.

Do you know that? I mean, do you really know that? Everybody strikes out with the bases loaded sooner or later! You may feel like you have failed as a husband and father; you may feel like you have failed in some significant relationship or even as a Christian. And most of us have a tendency to beat ourselves up over our failures. Interestingly, one of the names of Satan in the Bible is the “Accuser.” I believe that means that our enemy seeks to use our failures against us! At our moments of weakness and vulnerability he whispers, “Look at yourself! You failed again! And you call yourself a Christian! You’re no good to God or anybody – you might as well give up!” And sometimes we listen to that voice.

But that is not the voice of Christ. Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Jesus does not use our sin or failure against us; rather, he uses our sin and failure as an opportunity to demonstrate to us the depth of his love and the power of his grace to forgive and restore!

Thank God for the gift of his grace and ask him to help you share that gift with those you love!

Pastor Brian Coffey

Wednesday, April 18

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Romans 5:1-2
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

A number of years ago I came across a book entitled, “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys” that was on the New York Times best seller list. Being the father of boys, I thought it sounded like a book I should read, so I did. The author basically explained that our culture tends to deny boys what he called “emotional literacy”, which has been limiting their ability to understand and express a full range of their own emotions.

At some point soon after reading the book I was driving one of my sons – who was about 10 years old at the time – to a baseball game. Instead of coaching him about how he should play in the game by saying something extremely helpful like, “Try to throw strikes when you are pitching,” which I usually did, I decided to ask him about his emotional life. I said, “Hey, what do you feel when we are on the way to a game like this?”

He thought for a moment and then surprised me with the range of his self-awareness. He said, “I’m excited to play under the lights for the first time; I’m nervous about pitching; and I’m afraid that I might strike out.”

Excited. Nervous. Afraid.

And for that one day, at least, I tried to make it OK for him to feel all those things at once.

But later I wondered how often I had actually discouraged or prevented him from sharing those feelings with me, or from even being aware that he carried those emotions in his heart?

Notice what Paul writes in Romans 5:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

What does Paul mean by the phrase, “this grace in which we now stand”? What does it mean to stand in grace?

It occurs to me that to “stand” somewhere is to remain in one place. There is no running, no hurrying, no striving, no earning. There is just standing. To stand somewhere without movement or anxiety or effort seems to indicate that one is standing in an extraordinarily safe place. A good place. A place where one is accepted and loved without needing to hide or run or prove anything.

We can stand in grace before God because we are now safe with him. Because he has offered his grace to us in Jesus Christ, we have peace with him – and are therefore safe in his presence. And because we are safe we can bring all of ourselves, good and bad, joy and sorrow, anger and pain, to him without fear of judgment. And, in fact, coming to God with all our emotions is a form of prayer. The Psalms are full of this kind of honest and emotion-filled prayer.

But how about our homes? How about our central relationships? Are they places of peace and safety? Are they places of grace? Can our children come to us with real emotion, real pain, real questions, real doubts and trust that they will be heard, accepted and loved?

Ask God to help make your home a place of safety and grace for all.

Pastor Brian Coffey

Tuesday, April 17

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Proverbs 22:6
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

Ephesians 6:1-4
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” – which is the first commandment with a promise – “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Have you ever heard the story of a man named Marv Marinovich and his son Todd? Surely some of you who are sports nuts will remember, but even for those who couldn’t care less about sports the story is instructive.

It’s a very long and sad story, but here it is in a nutshell. Marv was a fine college athlete, playing football at the University of Southern California in the early 1960’s. He was so passionate about the game that he was voted “Most Inspirational Player” by his teammates at USC. After college he eventually was hired by the Oakland Raiders of the NFL as one of the first “strength and conditioning” coaches in pro football.

When his son Todd was born, Marv decided that his son would grow up to be the greatest quarterback the world had ever seen. He began his son’s physical conditioning at the age of one month – by stretching his hamstrings and later taught him to do push ups before he could walk.

As Todd grew up he was never allowed to eat a Big Mac or an Oreo cookie. When he went to birthday parties he took his own cake and ice cream to avoid sugar and refined white flour. Eventually Marv gathered experts to work with his son on every aspect of his physical development – speed, agility, quickness, body control, nutrition – even his eyesight. Nothing was left to chance.

And it worked – sort of. Todd became the number one high school quarterback prospect in the country. He became a star at his father’s alma mater, USC. He was drafted into the NFL as a “can’t miss” prospect.

But behind the perfect body and amazing athletic skills was a young man who needed emotional and spiritual coaching as well as football coaching. Eventually Todd succumbed to  a weakness for alcohol and drugs that had begun in high school. By the time he left college Todd was a full blown addict and alcoholic and those issues eventually cost him his professional football career after less than three seasons. Since then Todd has been arrested multiple times, done time in prison, and been through multiple rehabilitation programs in an effort to find sobriety.

Now, as a guy who enjoys sports and as the father of athletic sons, I cringe when I read the Marinovich story. I cringe because I know I have a little Marv Marinovich in me, and I think that maybe we all do in some way. After all, it’s a “dog-eat-dog” competitive world out there and if our kids are going to be successful they have to be prepared! We want them to have every chance to develop their God-given talent to the fullest degree possible. So we sign them up for T-ball when they are 5; and for dance classes at 6; and for piano lessons and on and on.

The truth is we live in a performance-based culture and we all know it. We know that the best athletes make the team and the brightest kids get the college scholarships so we want to do everything we can to help our children achieve. The problem with our culture, of course, is that it is grace-less. Our culture is competitive and highly judgmental. Those that don’t keep up are left behind. Those that don’t excel are disregarded. Those that don’t win are losers. So the pressure to conform to what our culture deems acceptable and successful is immense.

The ancient writer of the Proverbs says:

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

This verse is often somewhat misunderstood. It is easy to assume the writer is telling us that there is a “good way” and a “bad way” and so long as we parents teach our children the “good way” everything will turn out well in the end. While there is certainly some truth to that assumption, the meaning of the Proverb isn’t quite so simple. The language used implies that parents are to help a child discover his or her road – that path he or she was created to follow. This would include a knowledge of God’s truth, the way of righteousness, but also a growing awareness of their own unique “bent” as human beings. As one writer puts it, “We are to honor God’s creation of this one-of-a-kind individual by adapting our training to his or her characteristic manner.”

In other words, one size does not fit all. Some children are artistic, some are more academic, while still others are athletically inclined. Some are strong-willed while others are compliant. One child responds to being challenged, another needs to be nurtured.

So, as parents, how do we do it? The answer, in short, is grace. Grace is that which allows a child the freedom to be unique, to be different. Grace is what allows a child to know  she is loved unconditionally whether or not she gets straight A’s in school. Grace is what allows a child to know he is of immeasurable value to God whether or not he can throw a baseball or punt a football.

I think this is what Paul is trying to teach us when he writes:

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Are we to teach our children right from wrong? Yes! Are we to teach our children the truths of God’s word in hopes they will come to understand and accept those truths as their own? Yes! But we are to do so without “exasperating” our children. In other words, we are to do so with grace! We are to teach and instruct them while simultaneously understanding who they are and how they are uniquely designed by God.

For those of us who are parents, we need to understand that grace is the soil in which children can grow into all that God has created them to be. For those of us who do not have children, we need to understand that God’s grace is the soil in which we can grow into all that God created us to be!

Pastor Brian Coffey 

Monday, April 16

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Luke 2:39-52
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

 I love this little story! I love it for two reasons; first, because it’s the only story we have in scripture about Jesus’ early life; and second, because it’s such a normal family story!

An early adolescent decides to spontaneously make his own plans to pursue something he wants to do – and doesn’t think to notify his parents that he’s staying behind as the whole family leaves Jerusalem.

Imagine the following scenario:

“Where have you been? School got out at 3:00 o’clock and it’s 6:30! Your father and I have been worried sick!”

“Oh, sorry Mom, I stayed after to talk to my teachers about the stuff I’m learning in class – it’s pretty cool!”

What family hasn’t experienced something like that (maybe except for the voluntarily staying after school part)? Somewhere the wires get crossed or communication just isn’t clear – or a child just makes a half-baked decision – and, just like that, a potential conflict erupts.

But I also love this story because it teaches us something extremely important about grace. Notice how the story begins:

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

Luke wants to be sure that we know that although Jesus was raised in the normal way by normal human parents, the “grace of God was upon him.”

Notice how the story ends:

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Isn’t that what we all want most for our children? Don’t we want more than anything – more than good grades; more than success on the athletic field; more than being popular with their friends - that they grow in “wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men”? Of course it is! Deep down that’s what we so desire for our children and for ourselves, to grow in favor with God and men. But how?

We have a hint in the two little words that bookend this story: the words are grace and favor. Both English words come from the same Greek root word, charis, which is usually translated as grace.

So this little snippet from the otherwise hidden early life of Jesus both begins and ends with grace – the favor of God. Grace is what allowed the young Jesus to grow in all areas of his life. Grace is what allowed Mary and Joseph to understand the uniqueness of their son. And grace was what allowed this family to move through a potentially divisive event without trauma or unnecessary pain.

Grace. We all know what grace is from a theological point of view. We know that it is only by God’s grace that we can each be forgiven for our sins and made acceptable to our holy God. But do we know how to live in this grace? Do we know how to build the central relationships of our lives, our homes – on and in this same grace?

Ask God to help you not only experience his grace in your heart, but to learn to live out that grace in your home and in all your relationships.

Pastor Brian Coffey 

Friday, April 13

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This week we have been reflecting on the life of Thomas (the Doubter).  I want to close out our week of reflection on the nature of doubt, and it’s relation to faith by examining the case of another doubter in the Bible.  Abraham is certainly a famous Biblical figure, but he is not usually associated with doubt.  In fact, he is often referred to as “The Father of Faith”.  It might surprise you to discover that Father Abraham had his own struggle with doubting the promises of God.

Abraham had reasons to doubt God time and time again: when the land he was promised fell victim to famine; when he fled to Egypt only to be separated from his wife; when he was promised a massive offspring only to remain childless into his elderly years. His life reminds me of a little quote by Frederick Buechner: "Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving."  This continual struggle with doubt is quite understandable in Abraham's case. After all, God made "impossible" promises to him, and then chose the most bizarre ways of making good on them.  I have sometimes wondered how Abraham kept his sanity, much less his faith.
Let’s take a closer look at how this struggle between faith and doubt worked itself out in Abraham’s life.

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:  “Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.”  But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?”  And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”  Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.”  He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”  Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.  He also said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.  But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”  - Genesis 15:1-8

God says to Abraham - “Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.”  There was a good reason why God said this. Because Abram had just defeated a much larger army, from a confederation of five kings, he had reason to be afraid for his security. An attack of retribution was to be expected. Abram needed a shield because he was expecting to be attacked. He needed reward because he had just forfeited great reward offered from the king of Sodom.

Abraham says to God - “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless”  While I am sure that Abram appreciated this promise from God, at the same time, there was a sense in which it seemed to ring hollow in his ears.  It was as if Abram said, “What good is it that You are my shield and reward?  The only thing I’ve ever wanted with any passion in my life is a son!  Where are the descendants You promised me God?”

God says to Abraham –This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.”  He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”  God reminds Abram of the promise originally recorded in Genesis 12:2 and 13:15-16. God does this because He knows how much we need to be reminded of His promises.  Not only does God remind Abraham of his original promise, but He also takes him out for a walk under the stars!  (how awesome must that have been?)

Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousnessThis is one of the clearest expressions in the Bible of the truth of salvation by grace, through faith. This is the first time believe is used in the Bible; this is the first time righteousness is used in the Bible. It is the gospel in the Old Testament, and it is quoted four times in the New Testament. The faith that made Abraham righteous wasn’t so much believing in God (as we usually speak of believing in God), as it was believing God. Those only believing in God (in the sense of believing He exists) may not necessarily believe what He says to them in His Word.

You would think that this is the end of the story.  Abraham has conquered his doubts and God has called him righteous for his faith.  But this is not the end of Abraham’s questioning! 

After God makes such a dramatic and solemn statement like I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it, how could Abram answer God by essentially saying, “prove it”?  How could Abram ask “How shall I know that I will inherit it,” when God had just accounted him righteous for his belief?  Abram is experiencing what many of us who are accounted righteous in Christ experience. It is as if he says, “I believe itwhen I hear God say it, but five minutes later, I’m not sure!”

One of the things that the life of Abraham teaches us is that faith is linked first and foremost to obedience, not knowledge.  Abraham did not need to be able to wrap his mind around all that God was promising him; he simply needed to act on the faith he had to trust the character of God.  Too often, we think we must know how it is all going to work out before we are willing to obey God.  But He never promises us that we will know everything ahead of time, He just calls us to trust Him in the moment, doubts and all.

Jeff Frazier

Thursday, April 12

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Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”     -       John 20:24-25

The case of Doubting Thomas raises a very interesting question – Is it wrong or sinful to doubt?  On the surface, this is relatively simple question.  However, I think we will find that the answer is not quite a so simple.  As with many things, the Bible gives us a very nuanced view of this issue of doubt.

First, we must admit that doubt is a common issue with all Christians great and small.  What believer can truly boast that they have never had any doubts?  Second, we should acknowledge that God often uses doubt to help us grow and mature as Christians by eventually strengthening us in our weakness and afflictions.  But does this make doubt a good thing?  Just because God can use something for our good, does not necessarily make that thing good.  God used wicked pagan nations in the Old Testament to chastise Israel and bring them to repentance, but that doesn’t make them good.

Unbelief is clearly a sin.  Hebrews 3:18-19, And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?  So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.  Unbelief plunged the first man and woman (Adam & Eve), and subsequently the entire human race into ruin and misery.  But is unbelief the same things as doubt?  Is doubt truly a sin?

James chapter 1 has some pretty harsh things to say about doubting and doubters. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.   – James 1:5-8

It sounds like James is telling us that doubt is indeed sinful.  However, it is important to note that what James is warning against is coming to God with a heart full of doubt.  In other words, we should not expect God to give us what we desire if we do not really even believe in His ability to do so!

Psalm 73 is actually a poem about one man’s journey from doubt to firm belief in God.  The Psalmist, a man named Asaph, tells about how he began to doubt God’s goodness when he saw how all too often the evil people seem to prosper while the righteous suffer.  Asaph describes his battle with doubt as losing his footing or slipping from a path.  Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.  But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  – Psalm 73:1-3

The turning point in the Psalm, and in the life of Asaph, comes in verses 16-17, when Asaph enters God’s temple to worship. When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.  Psalm 73:16-17

Finally, we see Asaph having his doubts resolved and actually coming to a deeper and stronger faith in God as a result of his doubts.  My favorite part of this Psalm is verse 26, where Asaph says, My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

So, to return to the original question, is doubt sinful?  The answer appears to be “not necessarily”.  I think we must make a distinction between unbelief and doubt, unbelief is the end result of doubting gone unchecked.  Doubt is a slippery slope and unbelief is the dark valley we tumble into unless our momentum is stopped.  The Christian life is akin to walking down the narrow road to eternal life.  Along that path our foot may catch loose ground from time to time and we may slide.  These are moments of doubt.  Faith is a catching hold of the hand of God to help keep us from falling into the valley of unbelief.

Jeff Frazier

Wednesday, April 11


This week we are reflecting the life of the disciple Thomas. Thomas was one of the 12 disciples in the Bible.  Another name for Thomas was Didymus, which comes from the Hebrew and Greek words both meaning 'the twin.'  The Bible gives no clear indication of who the twin brother of Thomas was.  One historical tradition claims that because their names are listed side by side in Luke 6, the twin brother of Thomas was Matthew. 

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 Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.   – Luke 6:13-16
Thomas wasn't one of the more well known disciples, but he was popular enough to earn the nickname "Doubting Thomas."  Even though Thomas earned a negative label, he was not lacking in some very good qualities.  He displayed great courage and loyalty. When the other disciples tried to keep Jesus from going to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead because of the danger from those in the area who had just earlier tried to stone Him (John 11:8), Thomas said to them, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him" (John 11:16).  Thomas also asked Him one of the most famous questions, which paved the way for one the most famous answers in the Bible.

“Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?' Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  - John 14:5-6

We have already noted that Thomas had his struggles and that he was not always a perfect and shining example of faith, but the truth is that the disciples were all just common men, ordinary men. Seven of them are fisherman, hard working, and rough in character.  Most of them had brash and hard personalities, like Peter.  Many of them appeared to lack deep spiritual insight, Like Philip and Nathanael, men who sought the Word of God with all their hearts but at times failed the test they were presented with due to a lack of faith or understanding. These are just common men. I want to make sure we completely understand that Jesus didn’t choose men who were of the elite, but of the common. This should encourage us and give us hope.  If God can use these men, God can use us too, despite all our weaknesses.

That’s a remarkable thought. God can use anyone for His purposes. And this statement is not be taken lightly or taken in a patronizing way. Think about that for minute.  Jesus didn’t choose the elite of the current society and the religious system. He didn’t choose the Harvard grad with highest honors. He didn’t choose men who were geniuses, the brainiacs of the day, but men who were uneducated and untrained.  They were unrefined, like blocks of stone waiting for the “Da’ Vinci”, so to speak, to chisel them out and refine their rough edges into something that reflect His glory.

These are the men that Jesus chose.  It’s no wonder that the Scriptures plainly teach that God “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  These are not men of elite status. I marvel at the words of Paul when he writes in 1 Corinthians 1:27 that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.”  Those are wonderfully encouraging words to hear. 

If it is really true that God has made it a point to use the weak things, the things that are considered foolish, the small things in size and prestige, the things that the world would consider of little value…do you think it just might be possible for God to use you as well?

Jeff Frazier