Friday, June 1

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Proverbs 6:6-11
Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores is provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.
How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come upon
you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

For the first five years or so of our marriage I managed our checkbook. I deposited our paychecks, paid the bills every month, and kept track of the balance in our account. I kept track of that balance the same way I did when I was a single guy – I just estimated. That is, when I recorded the checks I wrote I just rounded off every entry to the nearest dollar. I figured that made it easier to do the math and that, in the long run, it would all come out even. 

Well, one day my wife had some reason to check our monthly bank statement. When she asked me if I kept the statements somewhere – I showed her a box of five years of bank statements – all unopened. She proceeded to go through all five years of statements to check them against my rounded-off checkbook registry. She discovered that we had $700 more in our account than we knew about because of interest accrued over the years!

I told her, “See! My system works!”

I no longer keep our checkbook.

The truth is that even in my ineptitude we discovered something about how wealth grows over time through wise investment!

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores is provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.
How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come upon
you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

So how do we do it? What’s the blue print for financial success and peace? 

Many financial planners point to something like the 10-10-80 rule of thumb. That is, establishing the spiritual and financial disciplines of giving 10%, saving 10%, and living on 80% of your annual income. You can raise the percentage of your wealth that you give and still experience peace and joy in your life; you can raise the percentage of your income that you save or invest and still experience peace and joy; but you cannot raise the percentage of your income that you spend and continue to experience that same peace and joy.

A few years ago I saw a study that claimed that the average American family lived on 105% of their income. At first this statistic made no sense to me – how can anyone live on more than they earn? But the explanation, of course, is “credit.” Our affluent and consumer driven culture pushes us to leverage our lifestyles with debt. The mantra we hear over and over again is “buy now, pay later!” And unfortunately this mantra is more true than most of us realize! When we live on 105% of our income; or 100% of our income; or even 90% of our income, we simply cannot experience the blessing God wants to give us through our wealth. 

But when we understand and apply the principles of God’s word; when we honor God with our wealth; when we give first; when we save and invest wisely; when we discipline ourselves to live well within our means – then we begin to experience both the blessing of financial peace and the blessing that comes with generosity.

And generosity lies at the heart of everything good God wants to do in us and in his kingdom!

Pastor Brian Coffey

Thursday, May 31

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Proverbs 22:7
The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

It happens a couple of times every year. We’ll be on our way out to make it to a local high school football or basketball game and my wife will ask me, “Do you have any money?” because she knows we will have to buy tickets to get into the game. I’ll check my pockets quickly and respond with something like, “I only have $2.38, let’s just borrow some from the boys.” Then we’ll rummage through the desk where our boys keep their allowance, take a $20 bill, and leave an “I.O.U. note” in its place. And the “I.O.U. note” stays there until we pay that money back!

You may or may not borrow money from your adolescent children, but most of us borrow money in one way or another. Almost all of us take out mortgages on our homes; many of us borrow money to purchase cars; some of us take out student loans to educate our children; and many of us have had the experience of having more on our credit card bills than we can pay off each month!

You might say that debt has become a way of life in American culture. I’ve seen studies that show that the average American family carries something like $7,000 in credit card debt. Other studies show that many families spend over 100% of their income each year – meaning, of course, that they slip further and further into debt with each passing year.

While the Bible does not expressly forbid all debt – it does warn us of the dangers of debt.

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

Even though we might not say it in those words, we all know the power of debt to hold us in servitude. Once incurred, no matter how small, debt grows over time because it almost always involves interest. If we aren’t careful with our cultural habit of “buying on credit” we can end up barely paying the monthly interest on our debt without ever touching the principal. Interestingly, even people who don’t know this verse from Proverbs call this process “debt service.”

Dave Ramsey, founder of a ministry called “Financial Peace University”, identifies debt as the single greatest obstacle to financial peace in most of our lives. He teaches that the first step toward financial peace is to begin to ruthlessly eliminate debt – starting with the smallest and moving steadfastly to the largest – an approach he calls the “debt snowball.” That is, by eliminating small debts first we can gain confidence and momentum – the “snowball effect” - as well as begin to sense the freedom that comes when debt is reduced.

At first glance your pile of debt might seem overwhelming! You might feel a sense of hopelessness – not knowing where to start. You might even feel ashamed to have gotten into such a predicament to begin with. But don’t be dismayed! I can point to a number of people from FBCG who have gone through the “Financial Peace University” program (over 100 to date) and have begun whittling away at their debt – and several who have eliminated tens of thousands of dollars in debt on their way to financial freedom and peace.

The key is to trust that what God is telling you in his word is true – and to start somewhere! So take a good look at your financial life; how many IOUs are you trying to manage? Are you ready to make a commitment to doing whatever is necessary to begin to eliminate your debt?

Consider these words from the Apostle Paul:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.  1 Timothy 6:17-19

Pastor Brian Coffey

Wednesday, May 30

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Proverbs 18:10-11
The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall.

Many years ago I came across the story of a very wealthy Texas oil man who had died. Before his passing he had left instructions for his family that he was to be buried in a gold Cadillac. When the day of the funeral arrived, a large crowd of family and friends gathered around the gravesite and watched as a crane lowered the golden Cadillac containing the now embalmed oil man into the ground. Just as the gleaming car was dropped into the huge vault, an onlooker solemnly whistled to himself and said in hushed tones, “Wooo boy, now that’s livin’!”

Now that story is funny and sad at the same time! I think we all have been tempted at times to think to ourselves, “If I just had a little more money, then I would have it made! We all have a secret number in our heads that we use to fill in the following sentence: “If I just had $______________ more (fill in the blank yourself) - I’d be happy!” 

Pastor Jeff told me the other day that in doing a little research he found an astonishing statistic: nearly ¼ of the entire population of the United States plays some form of lottery weekly. Think about that! Even though the odds of winning such a lottery are the statistical equivalent of zero, still millions buy lottery tickets in hopes of getting rich. 

This kind of thinking is what the ancient writer is talking about when he says:

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall.

Some time ago I had a conversation with a man who had achieved a certain level of success in his career as an attorney. But during the same years that he was climbing the success ladder his marriage and family life were crumbling. He eventually went through a very painful divorce and his children suffered many of the predictable consequences of such family turmoil. As he shared his story with me he used a phrase I have never forgotten. He said, “I was just living at higher and higher levels of poverty.”

It’s so tempting to see our wealth as a “fortified city” or an “unscalable wall.” We so easily buy into the lie that money can provide security as well as happiness. But the Bible is teaching us that the only source of true security is God himself, who never changes – and his salvation, which promises an eternal reward. Wealth, on the other hand, is fickle as well as fleeting. Wealth can create as many problems as it solves; and wealth can disappear quickly due to economic events beyond our control.

The truth is simply this: if we build our security, our hope, our identity, on our wealth we run the risk of discovering, as my friend did long ago, that we simply live at higher and higher levels of poverty. But if we build our security on the love of God; the word of God; and the promises of God; we have a strong and safe tower of protection.

Pastor Brian Coffey

Tuesday, May 29

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Proverbs 3:9-10
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

Proverbs 28:19
He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.
A number of years ago I had just dragged our lawnmower out of the garage and was preparing to mow the grass when one of my sons, who was only about 8 years old at the time, asked me if I would let him mow the lawn.
I said, “Well, sure, but first I have to teach you how to use the lawnmower, bud.”
He said, “After you teach me to use the lawnmower, can I mow the lawn?”
I said, “When I’m sure you can do it safely, sure, you can mow the lawn.”
Then he said, “When I mow the lawn will you pay me five bucks?”
Somewhat surprised I said, “Maybe, but what do you need the money for?”
He said, “’Cause I’m broke!”
Two thoughts occurred to me simultaneously. First: How does an 8 year old know he’s broke? Second: Good for him for connecting wealth to work!
If the first and greatest way we honor God with our wealth is to return a portion of it as an act of worship; the second way is to provide for our families and to do so by earning our wealth through work.
Proverbs 28:19
He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.
Our work matters to God. In fact, it would not be going too far to say that we were created in the image of a working God in order to work. Our work matters to God because the manner in which we do our work both reflects his image and allows us to generate wealth which, in turn, provides for our families.
In the New Testament, Paul writes,
If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  1Timothy 5:8
A number of years ago a man who held a management level position in a large company lost his job in a corporate take-over. The economy was in a downturn at the time and even though he had a strong resume and tremendous experience he struggled to find another management job. But he believed that he was created by God to work and that he had a responsibility to provide for his family so he took a job as a “bagger” at a local grocery-chain store so he could at least have the insurance benefit. Even though he was grossly “under-employed” in terms of his new pay scale, he was honoring God by being willing to work in order to provide security for his wife and children. 
I believe that man’s story is a beautiful illustration of the truth that all honest work – no matter how “menial” in the eyes of our culture – is honoring to God. And God, in return, promises to honor our work.
Pastor Brian Coffey

Monday, May 28

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Proverbs 3:9-10
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
Have you seen the cute but effective T.V. commercial that begins with a little boy and a giant popsicle? The commercial opens with the boy, who appears to be around 7 o r8 years old, standing in front of his front porch holding a huge multi-colored popsicle and his face smudged with the sticky evidence that he has been working on the frozen treat for some time. 
His father steps out on the porch and says, “Hey bud, where’s your bike?” 
The boys feigns ignorance and says, “Huh?”
“Where’s your bike?” his Dad repeats.
“I traded it,” the boy says rather softly.
“Traded it? For what?” Dad says.
Then the boy sheepishly holds up the giant, half-eaten popsicle.
At that moment, the father looks down at the newspaper that is lying on the porch and notices a headline that reads, “Need to teach your kids the value of money?”
I love that little commercial – but I always think to myself that the better question might be, “Need to teach your kids the value of a popsicle?”
While the Bible doesn’t provide direct answers to either of those questions, it does help us answer an even more significant question: “What is the purpose of wealth?”
The writer of Proverbs says:
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops…

The Bible is very clear; the first and greatest purpose of wealth is to honor God. And the first and greatest way to honor God with our wealth is to return a portion of that wealth to him as an offering of thanksgiving and worship.
The word “firstfruits” here refers to the Old Testament practice of the “tithe” – the giving of the first tenth of all crops and income to God as an act of obedience and worship. Notice that the instruction about the tithe is followed by a promise. The writer points to the blessings that God will pour out on those who honor him:
…then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
I believe there are two ways to understand this promise. The first is simply that God chooses to bless those who are faithful to offer him a tithe of their wealth. Now this sounds a little like “magic” to many; or like a version of the so-called “prosperity gospel” that promises material wealth to those who give money to God through particular ministries. I do not believe God is necessarily promising a “quid pro quo” return on our giving as if we were investing in some kind of pyramid scheme. I believe the Bible is simply teaching that the place of God’s blessing is the place of obedience. The “barns” and “new wine” referred to in the Proverbs could be metaphorical references to the spiritual blessings that are ours when we live in obedience to God and his will – not just to the promise of material wealth.
The second way this promise could be understood is a very practical one – having to do with what I would call the “disciplines of wealth.” I have found, as have many others I have talked to over the years, that when I give first – that is when I make giving to God a priority in my financial planning (we do that by giving through FBCG’s on-line giving program) – I also tend to be more disciplined in other areas of my financial life. I think the ancient writer may be referring to the result of this kind of discipline when he writes, “…then your barns will be filled to overflowing and your vats will brim over with new wine.” 
The questions we ask most often about our wealth have to do with whether or not we have enough; or how we might gain more. But the best question we can ask is, “Have we honored God with our wealth?”
To put it simply, when we honor God with our wealth he promises blessing in return. 
Pastor Brian Coffey

Friday, May 25

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So WHAT now WHAT?  I often ask myself that question when I read a great book, experience a workshop, or finish a session with my therapist (really!).  So when I was studying for this week’s message I stumbled into various blogs, articles, and even sermon manuscripts.  I furiously copied many of them into a notepad.  The questions below I pulled from those notes and honestly don’t know where to give the credit.  I can’t claim them as my original ideas.  I merely personalized for FBCG.

Fleshing SERVICE Out in Our Families
1.  Memorize Philippians 2:4  Short…but will literally change your family life if we each live its reality
 “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
2.  The McEvoy’s are addicts to good questions.  Today ask the question—I wonder what life is like for ____?  Ask this for each person at the table.  This will give you some ideas for serving one another and help you live out Galatians 6:2: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
3. Change roles and responsibilities for a day. It might be good to switch chores with another family member. Or instead of switching, why not do yours and your sibling’s? Practice random acts of kindness. Do it anonymously. Feed the dog when it’s not your turn. Make your sister’s bed. Pick up your brother’s shoes and put them in the closet. Take out the garbage.
4. Celebrate selfless acts of service. Catch your kids doing good things and celebrate servanthood. Encourage them to serve your neighbors. Challenge them to reach out to a classmate who is being left out. Cheer them on as they look for ways to serve at FBCG.  Join them in their serving at FBCG.  Honestly, one of the great strengths of Children’s Ministry is our student helpers…but rarely are students serving WITH a parent.  Why not?  Call Children’s Ministry today and start serving WITH your student who is serving!
5. Model a lifestyle of servanthood. Remember it is not what you say, but what you LIVE that is caught by others!  FBCG is filled with selfless servants. One man who really strikes me as a servant is my friend Art.  For years Art, who has children who have all been out of the house for years, has been serving in Middle School and High School Sunday Schools (back to back each week), Sunday Night Middle School small groups, and Wednesday night High School D group, not to mention serving on countless short term mission trips. Recently he made the decision to join our college cadre who is returning to Czech Republic to teach English and share God’s Love.
We don’t have to make serving complicated or cumbersome. We just need to help one another. It’s no surprise that Art’s daughter has frequently traveled to various continents for medium term mission trips to serve the least of these and why his son Joel is spending a summer serving a Christian camp in Colorado before joining the staff of a missions training center in central Florida.  When we teach a child to serve, we’re also teaching that child to become a servant for life because children who serve become adults who serve. And families that serve together are strong together.
Bruce McEvoy
Pastor of Family and Serving

Thursday, May 24

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My daughter Sarah with Mildred in the Dominican Republic

1 Peter 4:10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

Romans 12:4-6a Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.

I stopped this video at the 3:30 mark…where the testimony starts. Stories mess with me and I couldn’t get this one off my heart.

Probably because stories like this are aligned with what has been happening in both MY LIFE and the life of FBCG.

First…my daughter is “ALL IN” regarding special needs. Granted she is only nine, but she unconditionally loves students that are unique. She has so much more of God’s eyes than I do when it comes to seeing people! It inspires. It was a no brainer for Sarah to sign up to serve with Special needs kids in the Dominican Republic last March. She is already discovering her God given gifts, talents, and passions. What are we doing to discover and discern what God has given in our lives or the lives of our children? Today consider doing a “spiritual inventory” of what makes you strong and where you feel God’s passion flowing from your life. Where might that be leading you regarding Kingdom Impact?

Then consider reflecting on that same question with one or two close friends to you and share a word of encouragement to them. Fan their passion into flame and be a catalyst in their life. Who knows how God will use YOU to build up ANOTHER and subsequently have that person’s ripple effect reach more for Christ and His Kingdom.

You may want to consider
this link to assist you in discovering your spiritual gift. 

Bruce McEvoy
Pastor of Family and Serving

Wednesday, May 23

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his week we have flirted with the OPA Method.  Today read the below passage and work on the method yourself.  Often times 10 Minutes with God makes the study of the Word of God a bit to elementary.  Lets just call it – EASY.  Read and then work through:  Observation, Principles, Application.

Matthew 20:16-28
16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."
17 Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, 18 "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!"
20 Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
21 "What is it you want?" he asked.
She said, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom."
22 "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said to them. "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?"
"We can," they answered.
23 Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father."
24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Compile all the facts found in the passage.  Make observations about all the things done.  You should be able to make about 7-15 individual observations

Draw a few principles from the observations that you have made.  What is God trying to teach you in this passage?

How will you change your life in order to reflect living in obedience to these principles?  Be specific ... a good application will have a who, what and when to it.

Bruce McEvoy
Pastor of Family and Serving

Tuesday, May 22

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“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” 
Nehemiah 4:14b

I couldn’t help myself … I had to stay with the Nehemiah story for another day. 

Nehemiah 4
13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

15 When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.

16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor.
The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.

19 Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”

21 So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. 22 At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.” 23 Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.

Re-read verse 20. Because the work was extensive and spread out, and families could feel isolated, we read that Nehemiah came up with a plan: “Whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!” When the wall is breeched, we must all come running and fight together. And that’s when God shows up and fights for us as well. Did you catch that part? It’s only after families come together, that it says God “will fight for us.”

God fights for us and yet we must fight for our families. Listen to the last part of verse 14: “…and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” This is the right fight! Don’t be surprised if your family feels like a war zone, but instead of fighting each other, begin fighting for each other. Don’t give up on your wayward child—pray unceasingly. Don’t bail on your parents—they didn’t get an undergraduate degree in parenting. Each “season” they are improving their skills. Serve your siblings. Love your spouse recklessly regardless of how that love is reciprocated. Fight for your family! Do not loose heart. If you don’t know where to start, begin by letting go of your selfishness and relentlessly serve your family MORE! Getting outside of yourself will be a beacon in your family and in time will affect the core of your home.

Bruce McEvoy
Pastor of Family and Serving

Monday, May 21

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Phillipians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
For many years while leading Student Ministry Mission trips we used the book of Nehemiah as our focus for the week. It is a fabulous book to dig through while serving on a short term trip. (*Parents consider picking this book TODAY to study as a family for the rest of the month.) One of the practices we had during these trips was to experience different types of scripture study in order to create a favorite approach to gleaning all one could from the Word of God. Many finished the week liking the OPA method (Observations, Principles, Application). Now these were middle school students most of the time so perhaps it was the shortest or easiest to remember J. Regardless when we came to chapter three the observations were numerous and yet the principles were profound. Notice Nehemiah’s approach to the fatigue, frustration and fear that can lead to fractures in our families. What does Nehemiah do?

Nehemiah 4:13: “Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest point of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.”
Nehemiah positioned whole families so they would know what they were fighting for.

This is the defining moment for those who have returned from Exile to rebuild Jerusalem. When they saw each other as family units serving together in a larger family of faith, great power was unleashed. Some would argue they became an UNSTOPPABLE FORCE! Nehemiah rallied the families to serve where they were most needed because family bonds of love and protection are very strong. Your Bible might not say it like this, but I imagine that parents could be heard saying, “You mess with our kids and you’ll have to mess with us!” The very future of their families and their faith community was at stake. Families are designed to serve each other and to serve together in a cause bigger then themselves. Again using the OPA method consider the OBSERVATIONS of Nehemiah 3:

3:10 – “Jediah…made repairs opposite his house.”

3:23 – “…made repairs in front of their house…made repairs beside his house.”

3:24 – “…repaired another section, from Azariah’s house to the angle…”

3:28 – “…the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house.”

3:29 – “…made repairs opposite his house.”

3:30 – “…made repairs opposite his living quarters.”

Bruce McEvoy
Pastor of Family and Serving

Friday, May 18

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Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.  – Deuteronomy 6:4-9

The Puritans had a wonderful little saying, “every home a little church.” They believed the father should be the pastor in his home the same way an ordained minister pastors the church.  The Puritans went so far as to publish elaborate directories of family worship.  They were so serious about this that if a father neglected the spiritual training of his family, he could be brought before the elders for church discipline and if he refused to take his proper leadership role, he could be disbarred from the Lord’s Table.  Such a thought seems extreme to us, which perhaps says more about our casual attitude than it does about the strictness of the Puritans.

In 2 Timothy 3:14 Paul tells his young protege to remember not only what he had learned but who he learned it from. In this case that means his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice. Those two godly women had taught him the Word of God from infancy (3:15). That same Word would make him wise for salvation and would completely equip him for anything he might face in life (3:15-17).

In an article for the Christian Research Institute, Chris Sherrod writes,
Current research reveals that we are realistically in danger of not passing on biblical Christianity to the next generation. Both an overexposure to worldly philosophy and an overdependence on church programs have caused us to fail in our task to hand off a vibrant, kingdom-focused faith. To counteract this dangerous direction, five pivotal factors are needed.

First, we need a clear definition of what we’re looking for—do we want nice kids who don’t get in trouble, or passionate followers of Christ?

Second, we must adopt a multigenerational perspective, providing opportunities for those older and wiser in the faith to impart a spiritual legacy to the next generation.

Third, following the Deuteronomy 6 model, parents must both possess and pass their faith on to their children, making the most of teachable moments in everyday life.

Fourth, Dads must take the lead! Fathers must recognize that they are the spiritual thermostat of the home and are commanded to raise their children in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Fifth, both the home and the church must partner together to educate kids in sound doctrine, equip in apologetics, and explain moral principles.

Raising confident kids with a desire to make an impact for God’s glory doesn’t happen by itself, it will not happen by accident!  This requires eyes to see teachable moments and the determination to intentionally pass on our faith in to the next generation.

Jeff Frazier

Thursday, May 17

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Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  – Deuteronomy 6:4-6

Years ago when I was working as a youth pastor, I recall noticing that a young man (a freshman in high school) who had previously been very involved, had not been coming to any of our ministry programs for a few weeks.  I called his home to check on him, and to let him know that we missed seeing him at church.  He wasn’t home at the time, but his parents told me that he no longer wanted to go to church and that they were not going to force him to go if he didn’t want to.  It turned out that this young man had become sexually involved with a girl who claimed to be an atheist.  He did not want to break off the relationship with her, so he chose to stop coming to church with his family.

Now I would agree with any parent who says that there comes a time when a young man or woman must make his/her faith their own and choose for themselves whether or not they will follow Christ.  The only question is when?  What is the age when our kids are ready?  How do you know if they are mature enough in their faith to make the decision for themselves?  More importantly, how do we help them to grow in spiritual maturity so that they will be able to continue in their faith as young adults?

 How do you answer your 5 year old when he comes home covered with mud and says, “I’m not going to take a bath.”   What would you say to your 10 year old son, when he comes to breakfast on Monday morning and announces he isn’t going to school anymore?  You know what you would say!  You’d say, get dressed, you’re going to school!”  Why all this timidity, then, in the realm of spiritual guidance and growth?  You wouldn’t let him wait and decide what church he wants to go to when he is old enough, would you?  You wouldn’t wait until he’s grown up to choose whether he wishes to be clean or dirty, would you?  Do you let him decide for himself whether to take medicine when he’s sick?  How should we respond, then, when Junior says he doesn’t want to go to Sunday school and church?  It’s really not a hard question,  just be consistent.  Tell him/her, ‘In our house we ALL go to Sunday school and church, and that includes me and you!’

The text above from Deut. 6 commands parents to impress these things on our children, some translations may say to teach them diligently.  The Hebrew word is shanan – it means “to sharpen”, (as in sharpen a knife); when in the “intensive” form (as it is here), it means “to teach incisively”.  It’s not just running the knife blade a few times over the sharpening stone, it’s going over and over and over it until it’s razor sharp. The idea is that we are to keep going over and over and over the Scriptures with our children until they’re “razor sharp” in their knowledge of His Word.

In Paul’s teaching, he wrote,  “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you…”  What have you received from the Lord?  Do you have anything to share with the kids?  This is not about becoming a Bible scholar or a great Sunday school teacher at home.  It’s learning to talk about God’s Word at home. It’s making God’s Word a part of your vocabulary. God’s Word isn’t going to be a part of your vocabulary with your kids unless it’s a part of your life. You need to spend time in God’s Word. You be sure to be hearing what God is saying to you.  You become sharp, so that you can sharpen your children.

Jeff Frazier

Wednesday, May 16

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Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.  – Deuteronomy 6:4-9

The ancient Israelites were constantly surrounded by hostile pagan nations, they knew instinctively that if they did not teach their children about God then nobody would?  I think we have lost this sense of urgency about teaching our children in many Christian families today.  We live in a culture where parent’s pay for someone else to teach, train, and even raise their own children.  We send our kids to school to learn reading and writing.  We send them to coaches and instructors to learn to play sports or musical instruments, etc.  It is only natural to assume that we can send them off to church and/or youth group to learn about God. 

The imperative to the parents to teach their children in this passage is clear.  Notice that the passage doesn’t say be sure to get them to Sunday School or be sure that they go to confirmation class, so that the pastor or priest can teach them about God.  The Bible is quite clear that the parents are the primary teachers and the home is the primary place of spiritual instruction. 

I think many parents don’t step up to this challenge to teach their children about God because they feel inadequate and they are really not sure how to go about it.  There are several very important principles in this passage for every parent.  First of all, we are told that the commands of God must be upon our hearts.  This means that we cannot give to our children what we do not possess ourselves.  The very best gift you can give your kids is your own love for God!  You don’t have to be a Bible scholar or a gifted teacher to show your kids that you genuinely love God.  Secondly, we are not told that we must sit our children down and have forced time of Bible instruction.  In fact, the passage simply tells us to be sure talk about the Word of God.  When?  All of the time!  When you lie down (before bedtime), when you get up in the morning (at breakfast), when you walk, when you sit, on the way to school, on the way home from practice, at the dinner table, on the couch, anytime!  Some of the best spiritual conversations with kids take place in the unplanned times, the in-between moments of life.

The whole point is that His words are to be on our hearts (“heart,” was not automatically associated with feelings or emotions in OT understanding.  It was more the seat of the will and convictions).  The people of God were to make the word of God their absolute central preoccupation.  They were to talk about them sitting at home, walking along the road … it was the last thing they were to think about at night, and the first thing they thought about when they got up. They were to tie them on their hands and bind them on their foreheads.  They were to write them on the doorframes of their homes and on their gates. 

The Jews took these instructions very seriously and quite literally.  In order to be sure they obeyed God’s commands, they developed the practice of wearing something called phylacteries.  These were small leather pouches or boxes bound with leather straps on the forehead and on the hand or arm.  Each phylactery had tiny bits of rolled up paper inside, on which was written a portion of the OT law of God.  These phylacteries might look odd to other people, but they were intended to serve as a constant reminder that everything you say, think and do is to be guided by the Word of God.

What does this mean for us today?  It means that, just like the Israelites, we are forgetful people and we need regular reminders of who God is and what God says.  It means that we must find tangible ways to remind ourselves.  My wife has a little plaque above the mirror in our kids’ bathroom with this verse printed on it, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things (Phil. 4:8). 

This might mean we place portions of God’s Word on our desks at work, or in our cubicles, in our lockers, on the bathroom mirror, or on the dashboards of our cars. I know one family that posts a scripture of the day on each of their kids’ facebook page.  Simply put, you must do whatever is required, arrange your life such that, create habits and rituals so that … you can get the word in your head and in your heart!

Jeff Frazier

Tuesday, May 15

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Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
- Deuteronomy 6:4-5

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him,  “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”  “The most important one,” answered Jesus,  “is this:  ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’   - Mark 12:28-30

God wants us to have a passion for Him. He has a passion for us!  For some people, they just don’t seem to get passionate about much of anything.  What are you passionate about?  Is it your iphone, or your ipad?  Your children? Your favorite sports team?  Running marathons?  You can tell what a person is truly passionate about simply by the amount of time and energy they spend just thinking and talking about it.  If you are passionate about something, you don’t have to stop and remember to think about it, because you are nearly always thinking about it.

A.W. Tozer said, “We are called to an everlasting preoccupation with God.”

In the passage from Mark, Jesus quotes the Shema (Deut. 6:4-5) in order to answer the question, which commandment is the greatest?  It is the commandment to love God.  Does it strike you as a little strange that we are commanded to love God?  How can you command someone to love you?  I don’t think it would work too well in a marriage relationship if one spouse said to the other, “I command you to love me”.  Isn’t love more of a feeling?  How can you command someone to feel a certain way?  Actually, in the Bible, love is much more closely connected to our will and our actions than it is to our feelings or emotions. 

The love of God is not some mystical thing.   Nor is it just having warm feelings about God.  Jesus and John make this quite clear over and over again…

“If you love me, you will obey what I command. – John 14:15

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.
 – John 14:21

This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome  - 1 John 5:3

This concept of love being connected to obedience and actions more than just feelings helps us understand how God can command us to love Him.  Notice that we are told to love God with all of our heart, soul and strength  (Jesus adds that we are to love God with our minds in Mark 12).

The words used for heart and soul in Hebrew are a little difficult to distinguish at times, and they often seem to have overlapping meanings, but when we examine each word and then put them together, we get a picture of a person who is completely consumed with love for God.

Heart –  (Heb) lebab – inner person, will, motivational center of your life

Soul –  (Heb) nephesh – spirit, desire, passion, that which gives you life

Strength (Heb)  ma’od – force, might, displayed in external actions

Mind – (Gk) dianoia - faculty of understanding, thoughtful discernment

Can you see how these things all fit together?  If you are loving God with your mind, you will be focusing your thoughts on who He is; His faithfulness, His compassion, His forgiveness, His justice, His power and authority.  If you are growing in your understanding of who God is, you will inevitably desire to live your life in obedience to Him.  If you desire to live in obedience to God, your external actions will begin to change.  When your external actions change, you will experience the joy and freedom of obedience.  When you experience the joy of obedience, you will desire to know Him more (and on it goes). 

You don’t grow in love for God by waiting around until you “feel” loving towards Him.  You grow in love for God by taking action!  Get out your Bible and start reading!  Get to know Him through His Word.  Obey His Word!  Start taking steps to align your attitudes and choices according to the principles and commands God has given you.  Get on your knees!  Start praying and asking God to help you love Him with your heart, soul, mind and strength.

Jeff Frazier

Monday, May 14

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Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
- Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Sh’mah yisrael adonai elohenu adonai echad  (Duet. 6:4 in Hebrew)
This passage from Deuteronomy contains is what is known as the Shema, it is the central confessional prayer of Judaism.  The term Shema comes from the first word, and it means “hear”.  This prayer or creed is to be recited aloud by every faithful Jew each morning and evening and it has a great deal to teach us as Christians.

There are two primary emphases in verse 4…

First - Yahweh is unique, and the only God of the Jews.
The word “LORD” in your English Bibles (with all capital letters) is the translators’ way of translating the name Yahweh.  The translators do this to follow the Jewish custom of saying the word “Lord” whenever they come to God’s Holy Name.  The Jews will insert “Adonai” instead of “Yahweh” out of respect to God and for fear of mispronouncing His sacred name.  But the underlying Hebrew text contains God’s name, Yahweh.  This is the sacred and personal name of God given to Moses at Mt Horeb (Ex. 3:14).

Second – God, Yahweh, is one God.  He is one in nature and essence.  This doesn’t contradict the doctrine of the Trinity, which describes God as “three persons in one”.  The word for “God” (Elohim) is a plural word, and the word for “one” (echad) can be used to describe a “compound unity”, as it is also used of the union of Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:24) to describe two persons becoming one flesh.  This also carries the idea that there is no other god besides Him. 
Deut. 4:35 – “You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.”

The second portion of this passage from Deuteronomy commands us to love this God with all of our heart, soul, and strength (Deut. 6:5).  In fact, when Jesus was asked what the is the greatest commandment in all of the Scriptures, He responded by quoting this portion of the Shema (Mark 12:28-30).  So, in these two verses, we are commanded both to know God and to love God.  Of course these two commands must go together, you cannot really love God unless you know Him.

The ancient Israelites lived in a world where they were surrounded by pagan, polytheistic nations on all sides.  Nearly every nation, tribe, and region had its own set of gods.  It is all too easy for us to assume that we do not have these same kinds of issues today.  We aren’t surrounded by idolatrous ideas and pagan religions on all sides in our culture, or are we?  The truth is that we are living in an era of history that is just as hostile to the God of the Bible as the world of the ancient Israelites.  There seem to be as many ideas about who God is and what God is like today as there are people who have them.  Genesis 2 tells us that God has made man in His image.  However, it seems as though most people would much prefer it if they could make God in their image.

The God of the Bible is personal God and He has made Himself known to us through His revealed word!  This was not a god that the Jews invented.  This is not a god of their ideas or imaginations.  This is not a god borrowed from the pagan religions of other nations.  This is God, the one, true, infinite, creator and sustainer of all that exists.  This God is morally perfect, perfectly just, the source of all wisdom and truth, completely faithful, loving, gracious, generous, unchanging in His character for all eternity, without beginning or ending, this is GOD!

You cannot love this God unless you know Him, and you must know Him as He has made Himself known, as He has revealed Himself to you in His Word!

Jeff Frazier