Friday, May 31

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1 Timothy 6:17-19
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.  

In the aftermath of the massive and deadly tornado in Oklahoma, millions of Americans reached out in compassion by donating millions of dollars to the relief effort. I even saw where one professional athlete pledged $1,000,000 of his own money to aid the devastated community.

When tragedy strikes in the form of a tornado, a flood or some other calamity, most people seem to be willing to respond with compassion and generosity. And that’s a very good thing.

But where does that response come from? 

Why do so many respond with generosity in times of crisis when our culture is so consumed with gathering wealth and possessions?

I think it’s because whether we acknowledge it or not we are created in the image of God, and part of that image is the capacity to both care about others as well as to express that care through generosity. And this desire to respond to bad news with goodness is an expression of the gospel.

One of Jesus’ most well-known parables is the “Parable of the Good Samaritan” in Luke 10 in which Jesus tells the story of a despised Samaritan who stops to help a stranger who had been beaten and robbed. The point of the story is that this is what it means when God tells us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and (to) love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

It occurs to me that such love is both an expression of the gospel and a result of the gospel.

Paul writes in 1 Timothy:

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.  

Notice the “upside-down” nature of the gospel!

Our culture tells us to put our hope in wealth; calling it “financial security.”

The gospel tells us to put our hope in God; who gives us all things and who provides us with eternal security.

Our culture tells us that the goal is to be rich in money and possessions.

The gospel tells us to be rich in good deeds.

Our culture tells us the key to life is to store up treasure for ourselves.

The gospel says the key to life is store up treasure for the “coming age” (which refers to heaven) by being generous and willing to share.

So, when it comes to money, financial planning and material possessions, the question is not so much how much we have, but rather who or what establishes our values and guides our decisions?

If more possessions and more wealth is the goal of life then it makes no sense to be generous at all.

But if the gospel of Jesus Christ not only tells us of God’s great love for us, saves us from our sin and grants us the great hope of eternal life, but also shapes the way we live in every area of our lives, then generosity not only makes sense but is the pathway to joy, genuine worship and what Paul calls “the life that is truly life.”

Pastor Brian Coffey

Thursday, May 30

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

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.

If we understand worship as “offering extravagant devotion to someone or something” we can readily see that every human being worships something! The Bible teaches that we were created to worship. There is always something, however clearly or unclearly we recognize that something, that orients our values, our decision making and our hearts. 

Some ancient cultures worshiped the sun; some worshiped idols made of stone; and some worshiped the invisible God who created all things.

On a more contemporary and personal level, some people today offer extravagant devotion to professional  achievement; some to their favorite sports team; some to entertainment; and some worship wealth, or money.

Years ago I read the story of a woman named Henrietta Green. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s Mrs. Green built a financial empire through real estate, railroads and the stock market. But even though she was the wealthiest woman in America she became legendary for her miserliness. She borrowed office space from her bank because she refused to rent her own space. She wore the same clothes every day because she didn’t want to spend money on new clothes. 

Her frugality extended even to her family. When her young son broke his leg she tried to have him admitted to a free clinic for the poor, and when she was recognized and turned away she tried to treat his injury herself because she loathed spending money on doctors. Eventually, it is believed, her delay in getting proper care for her son resulted in him losing the use of his leg.

When money becomes god it becomes that which is most important to us and that which we worship. And when we worship money we are worshiping a very cruel god indeed.

This is why Jesus said:

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

So what are we to do? Money is part of all of our lives. We need to earn a certain amount of money just to be able to survive in our culture. How do we keep money from becoming our master? How do we keep money from becoming that which we serve?

The writer of the ancient book of Proverbs says:

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.

How do we keep money from being that which we worship and serve? We put our money and wealth into the service of God.  

To “Honor the Lord with your wealth…” means to worship God with our resources. Throughout the Old Testament the offering of sacrifices was always part of worship. People were commanded to bring animals and grain and offer them to God as an expression of worship. Part of this was so people would understand the nature of sin and the cost of forgiveness; but part of it was also to allow people to acknowledge and celebrate the surpassing value and worth of their God.

In the New Testament, the church no longer offers sacrificial animals for the atonement of sins because Christ became the final and ultimate sacrifice for our sins, but the people of God are still called to express their worship through the offering of material and financial wealth.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians:

You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:11

Simply put, we honor God with our wealth when we offer it to him in thanksgiving, praise and obedience. And when we honor God with our wealth we are no longer servants of money, but servants of God, and our wealth becomes that which blesses us and others with joy.

Pastor Brian Coffey

Wednesday, May 29

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Luke 12:15
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Years ago, when my brother and I were in high school and middle school respectively, our family was invited to spend a day on a small yacht that belonged to some family friends. For some reason I did not go along but my brother did.

My brother had never been on a yacht before so the whole thing was pretty exciting. Then when lunch time came the lady whose husband owned the yacht brought out big plates of fancy lunch meats and cheeses. My brother remembers seeing the neat rows of rolled-up turkey and roast beef slices with the little toothpicks stuck in them and thinking to himself that he had finally arrived at the pinnacle of opulent living, albeit through the largess of the family that owned the yacht.

Just about that time another yacht floated by and this yacht absolutely dwarfed the yacht owned by our friends. As the huge vessel cruised by, the woman whose husband owned the smaller yacht kind of nodded her head toward to big yacht and said, “That’s how the other half lives!”

My brother says at that moment it dawned on him that he didn’t live in either half!

I think this is what Jesus is talking about in Luke 12.

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Again, let’s look at this teaching from the perspective of the gospel. I have sometimes heard this passage used to make people feel guilty for having possessions or for being wealthy. While there are times that might be appropriate, I don’t think it’s the main point of Jesus’ teaching! I think Jesus is trying to deepen our understanding of the gospel.

So why is it “good news” that our lives are not defined by our possessions?

First, when we define our value by our possessions and wealth we always feel poor. We can always look around and find someone who has a little more than we do, and, by comparison, makes us feel poor. This is what my brother felt that day on our friend’s yacht. In fact, it’s also what the lady who owned the yacht felt when she saw the bigger yacht sail by!

Second, when we define our value by our possessions we become slaves to more. We covered this yesterday when we talked about greed, but if we define our worth by how much we possess, we have no choice but to want more…and more…and more!

Finally, and this is why the gospel is good news, when we define our value by the gospel, instead of by our possessions, we are set free. 

The gospel tells us we are valuable because God created us; knows us; and loves us enough to die for us. The gospel tells us we are not defined by our physical appearance; our personal accomplishments; our family or culture; or our wealth. 

We are defined by the truth of God’s word that tells us we were created for an eternal relationship with him and that, by faith, Christ has set us free from sin and death.

And that truth makes us rich indeed.

Pastor Brian Coffey

Tuesday, May 28

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Matthew 6:19-14
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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

Several years ago I was on an airplane and started flipping through one of those product catalogues you find in the back of the seat in front of you. My eyes stopped on a page that advertised a “$1,000,000 bill.” 

It was an ad placed by an organization called the “International Association of Millionaires” and the product was a “Limited Edition Collectible Certificate of Wealth” that looked like actual currency but was not legal tender.

In other words, for $18.50 you could purchase a piece of paper that looked like money but was actually worth nothing.

I was curious so I looked a little more deeply into the organization. The “I.A.M.” (as the founder refers to the organization) statement of purpose reads: 

“To help people all around the world change their state of mind so they can start having lots more money, enjoy more financial freedom and live a happier life”

According to the I.A.M. website well over a million of these “Certificates of Wealth” have been sold, which, of course, has made the creator of the I.A.M. a millionaire many times over.

Only after tearing the page out of the catalogue and taking it home did I notice the chilling double-meaning of the abbreviation, “I.A.M.” According to the Bible, the ancient and holy name of God (transliterated from ancient Hebrew) is YHWH; most often pronounced “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”, and can be translated as “I am who I am.” When Moses asks God what he should tell the Israelites when they ask who has sent him, God replies:

“I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM’ has sent me to you.” Exodus 3:14

So, quite unintentionally I would presume, the founder of the “International Association of Millionaires” actually framed the same issue Jesus addressed some 2,000 years ago.

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

Now most of us have read these verses or heard sermons about them dozens of times. And we understand that money is not God and that it is dangerous to allow ourselves to love or worship money. But I want to focus on why it is “good news” that money is not God.

First of all, when money is god it tends to produce greed. Greed might be defined as the “excessive desire to acquire or possess more than one needs.”

The ancient writer of Ecclesiastes says it this way:

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income…I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner… Ecclesiastes 5:10,13

There’s an old story, perhaps apocryphal, of a billionaire who was once asked, “Sir, how much money is enough?” He answered, “Just a little more.”

I believe that almost all of us have a secret number in our heads that represents how much more money we need to be really content; really happy; really secure. That number might be $100 for a ninth grader; it might be $10,000 for a young father; it might be $1,000,000,000 for a millionaire; but we all have a number. The Bible is warning us that whatever number we have in our head is meaningless because when we get to that number there will always be another number!

Second, when money is god it tends to produce debt. When our wealth becomes our greatest value it is just a small step to valuing our possessions. And when we value possessions we tend to want more and more possessions. And in order to possess we need to purchase, and in order to purchase we often borrow. And when we borrow we find ourselves in debt.

We all are at least somewhat aware of and concerned about our nation’s debt situation. We know that being indebted to other nations is not a good place to be.

And yet statistics show that the average American family lives on something like 105% of its income. That means that many of us, like our nation, are slipping further and further into debt.

While the Bible does not strictly prohibit taking on debt, we do read in the book of Proverbs:

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

In other words, when we get into debt we become servants to money; and money becomes our master. And, as those of us who have ever been in debt have learned, money is a stern and heartless master.

Money, while necessary, useful and valuable, does not love you; does not care about you; and certainly cannot save your soul.

The gospel tells us only Jesus does that.

Pastor Brian Coffey

Monday, May 27

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Matthew 6:19-24
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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

I’m guessing that you may have seen this in the news last week: someone in Zephyrhills, Florida, purchased a $2 Powerball lottery ticket that ended up being worth an estimated $590.5 million. That’s over half a billion dollars and is the second largest lottery prize in history. As of today, no one has yet stepped forward to claim the prize, but when they do it will certainly change his or her life forever. Or will it?

Let me ask what at first will seem like a dumb question: why do people buy lottery tickets? The first answer that comes to mind is simple: to win a lot of money. But maybe we should think a little deeper! 

A better question to ask might be: why do so many people buy lottery tickets when the chances of winning are pretty close to a statistical zero? 

The odds of having the winning numbers in this particular lottery game were 175.2 million to 1. By comparison, the odds of getting struck by lightning are about 3 million to 1. You actually have a better chance of walking onto a golf course and hitting two consecutive holes-in-one than winning that jackpot. My Dad has played golf for 60 years and has exactly one hole-in-one.

And still we buy lottery tickets. According to research statistics the people of Georgia buy the most lottery tickets of any state in the U.S., spending a whopping $3.4 billion in the past year. That’s an average of over $470 per adult in the entire state.

In most states people spend an average of about 1% of their annual income on lottery tickets. Interestingly, people who live below the poverty line spend the most; investing about 5% of their income in different kinds of lotteries.

Back to our question: why do we buy lottery tickets? The simplest explanation is that people perceive it to be a very low risk investment with the potential of a huge return. 

A more complex explanation is that people believe that more money will make them happier; that more money will bring them a different and better life.

While Jesus did not comment on lotteries directly, he did have quite a bit to say about how we are to understand and relate to money. 

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

The first thing we notice is that Jesus’ greatest concern is not our wealth but the condition of our hearts. He says that our hearts tend to become attached to that which we treasure. This is another way of saying that, as human beings, we tend to worship that which we value.

The question is, therefore, what is our treasure? What do we value the most? What do we love?

Jesus is saying that if what we treasure most is our wealth and possessions then we are investing our hearts in that which is fleeting and temporary; in that which will ultimately produce disappointment, anxiety and fear.

And then he talks about a different kind of treasure; a kind of treasure that is stored up in heaven; a kind of treasure that cannot be stolen and will never rust or lose value.

What kind of treasure is this? 

He’s talking about spiritual treasure; he’s talking about the gospel.

Think about it. 

As a believer in Christ what do you possess that can never be stolen? Through faith you have the grace and forgiveness of God in Christ. 

As a Christian what wealth do you have that can never be taxed? Through faith you have the joy and peace that indwells your heart through the Holy Spirit.

As a follower of Jesus what do you have that can never be lost or devalued in a recession? Through faith you have the hope of your salvation.

Peter writes:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you. 1 Peter 1:3-4

When Jesus warns us about “storing up treasure on earth” he’s not trying to make us poor, and he’s not telling us that money and possessions are evil. But he is teaching us where our true wealth lies!

Our true wealth lies in heaven and our hearts are to be rich in the hope and joy of the gospel.

Pastor Brian Coffey

Friday, May 24

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For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  - Ephesians 5:31

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  - Genesis 2:24

These two passages (the one from Ephesians in the New Testament is quoting the text from Genesis), point us to the essence of marriage from the Biblical perspective.  Embedded in these texts is an assumption that is being seriously challenged in our culture today - that marriage is intended to be between one man and one woman for life.  

The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), was passed by large majorities in the House and Senate in 1996. It was signed into law by President Clinton and through it, the federal government defines marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman. It also explicitly reads that a state must not recognize same-sex unions conducted in another state.  However, politicians in our own state, along with many others, are currently debating the constitutionality of DOMA, and there is a growing movement to redefine marriage in order to include same-sex unions.

More and more commentators are saying that we have passed the tipping point on same-sex marriage in the United States.  Almost daily another politician or public figure stands before a microphone to declare his or her support. It is easy to feel like the horse is already out of the barn and the cultural paradigm has already shifted.  Whether or not same sex marriage is a politically lost cause, I don't know.  But this is really not the point.   

The fact that as a Christian I may want the government to apply the teachings of Scripture to our civil laws certainly does not mean that it will do so.  In fact, there are a whole host of issues in which this is already the case; abortion, adultery, drunkenness, usury, profanity, pornography, etc. All are legal in our society (some with restrictions), but this does not mean that a Christian is free to engage in them, nor does it mean that I have to agree with them as acceptable behaviors. 

As Christians, we are called to avoid the temptation to think like the crowd and we are not merely to base our beliefs on what’s happening or trending in the culture. 

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!    - Ephesians 4:17-20
God’s Word is to be our guide for what is the best way to live and what justice truly looks like. So, as we think through the issue of redefining marriage, the most important question we can ask is, “What does the Bible say?”

This question is important for several reasons.  It is important because of the fact that there are so many other voices in our culture, all shouting that they have the correct perspective on this issue.  We need the anchor of God’s Word to hold us firm amidst all of waves of cultural opinion.  It is also important because as Christians, we believe that marriage has already been defined by God, and His Word does not need redefinition!  It is not for us, nor for any social group or government to change, alter or redefine what God has already made clear in His Word.

The Christian perspective on marriage is not rooted in culture or in church tradition, but in the very creation account itself.  God made man and woman in His image.  “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  (Genesis 1:27)  The point here is that both maleness and femaleness reflect the image of God.  This does NOT mean that God is a female any more than it means that God is a human male.  God is beyond such gender categories.  When a man and a woman come together in a covenant relationship for life, they reflect the divine nature of God in a very unique way.  This is what the Bible defines as “marriage”.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”...So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.   - Genesis 2:18, 21-24

From a biblical standpoint, at the heart of our understanding of marriage is that it was designed to be a picture of Christ’s relationship with His bride, the church. Ultimately, it’s not about loving who we want to love, or living how we want to live, or demanding our civil rights as much as it’s about putting the great mystery of Christ’s passionate love for His bride on display.

because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  - Ephesians 5:30-32

In the final analysis, we must remember that the church’s ultimate mission in the world is not to defeat same-sex marriage.  I think that there are far too many Christians who feel that everything hangs in the balance on this one issue. Let’s keep preaching, persevering, pursuing joy, and praying for people.  The Gospel is the only hope we have for hearts to be made new.  Those who embrace a different agenda or lifestyle may not be persuaded by our point of view, but they may be influenced by our compassion, our love, and the grace of Christ displayed in our actions.  After all, there is still a God in heaven who can transform lives with His irresistible grace!

Jeff Frazier

Thursday, May 23

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but be filled with the Spirit,  addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,  giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,  submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.   - Ephesians 5:18b-27

Several years ago I had young couple in my office for premarital counseling and I asked them to read this passage from Ephesians 5 together.  I noticed that when it came to the part about women “submitting”, the young woman refused to read any further.  When I asked her why, she looked straight at me and said through clenched teeth, “I hate that verse, and you will not read that at my wedding!”  

As I got to know this couple over the course of our meetings together, I discovered that this young woman grew up in a family in which her father used Eph. 5:22 as a kind of spiritual club that he used to beat her mother into submission with.  It was a very sad tale of anger, dysfunction, and spiritual abuse.  I assured her that what she grew up with was NOT what the Apostle Paul intended nor what the Bible actually teaches about submission and authority.  It took a lot of time, discussion, and prayer for her to come to see the beauty of God’s plan for a man and a woman in marriage.

In the passage above, the Apostle Paul places the issue of husbands and wives in the context of his teaching on what it means to live according to the Spirit.  Many people read Ephesians 5 and think that Paul changes the subject when he begins to talk about marriage, but it is actually part of the larger discourse on the spiritual life.  In other words, Paul is telling us that if we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and if we live according to the Spirit, then this is what a marriage should look like!

If we want to truly understand what the Bible is teaching here, the place to begin is with the command to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18b) and the command to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21).  These two commands provide the all important context for what the Bible has to say about male and female roles in marriage.  If we get the context wrong, we can be sure that we will get the application of the rest of the passage wrong.  

We have to start with the premise that only when two people are filled with the Holy Spirit and mutually submitted in reverence to Christ Jesus, are they ready to grasp and apply the Biblical model of marriage.

There is no denying that the Bible teaches a clear difference in gender roles.  The man and the woman are not described as having exactly the same role in a marriage.  This is not sexist, this is just true.  When it comes to the “S” word (submission), the Bible does indeed teach that men are given authority over their wives by God.  

Most people make the common mistake of thinking that this passage is talking about who has all of the power in the relationship.  However, when the Bible talks about “male authority and headship”, it is not referring to our cultural understanding of authority where the one in authority uses his/her power to elevate themselves and to assert their own rights.  But in the Bible, authority is only ever given for one purpose - to be used in self-sacrifice and service for the good of the other person!  

The ultimate example of this is of course Jesus Christ (who is called the bridegroom and we are His bride).  Jesus has ultimate authority and power in all of creation. yet He does not use it to force us into submission.  No, He gives up His own divine rights and sacrifices Himself so that we might be blessed!  

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus; Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!   - Philippians 2:5-8

Wives - you have been called by God to respect and submit to the man God has joined you to.  He needs your loving respect more than you know, every man desperately wants to know that his wife believes in him.  You must ask yourselves; how can I respect my husband?  How can I let him know that he is “my man”?  

Husbands - you have been given authority by God, but it is given for the purpose of serving and blessing your wife and your family.  You are never to use your God-given authority to get your own way or demand your rights.  You are to lay your very life down for the good of those God has called you to love and serve as a spiritual leader.  You must ask yourselves; how can I give myself up for my wife?  How can I put her needs ahead of my own?

Jeff Frazier

Wednesday, May 22

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Have you noticed that most people in our culture today tend to have a very unrealistic view of marriage?  Some have an unrealistically good view of marriage - like the young couple who, in the very beginning of their very first premarital counseling session said to me, “we really don’t need any of this because we just love each other so much.”   I immediately thought to myself, “that is exactly why you need this!”

Other people in our culture have an unrealistically negative view of marriage in our culture.  They look around at number of their divorced friends and they see so many unhappy and dysfunctional marriages among the people they know, and they wonder, “What is the point?  Why get married at all?”

The Bible is neither naively positive, nor cynically negative about marriage.  In fact, Scripture holds a very high view of marriage, but at the same time, it is honest about the conflicts and tensions that so easily occur between married people.

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure. - Hebrews 13:4

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.  - Colossians 3:18-19

One of the central differences between a Biblical view of marriage, and the prevailing cultural view of marriage has to do with how you define the purpose of marriage.  For many people in our culture (though they may not admit it) the purpose of marriage is to make you happy, to enhance your life through companionship, romance, etc.  This is why so many people view divorce as a perfectly acceptable solution to the problem of their feelings of unhappiness in marriage - if marriage is supposed to make me happy, and I am not happy, then why not simply end the marriage?

Christian author Gary Thomas captures the Biblical understanding of the purpose of marriage in the subtitle of his book Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?

I am increasingly convinced that the surest way to be unhappy in life is to be obsessively focused on your own happiness.  One of the amazing and beautiful ironies of the Christian life (especially in a marriage) is that when you place someone else ahead of you and when you place God above all, you discover that your life is full of a joy that you never had when you were focused on yourself!  The fundamental difference is in the way we view our relationships.  Take a few moments to meditate on this simple chart below that distinguishes the cultural view of “consumer based” relationships, with the Biblical view of covenant relationships.

Consumer Relationships
Covenant Relationships
you are the priority
the other person is the priority
focused on your needs and desires
focused on the other person’s needs
focused on what you are getting
focused on what you are giving
often flare up and flame out quickly
steadily grow deeper over time 
insecure and unstable because it could end at any time
secure and stable because of the deep commitment
based on feelings & passions that change and fade with time
based on a covenant promise regardless of how you feel
actually less free & less intimate despite all of the rhetoric
experience more freedom & intimacy because of the covenant security

God forgive us for all of the times we have put ourselves first, protect us from the selfish prison of consumer relationships and grant us your grace to live in covenant relationships with each other and with you - Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Tuesday, May 21

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For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  - Ephesians 5:31

This verse is not simply an example of beautiful, poetic language. There is a fundamental reality behind this: Husband and Wife are not just two people rooming together. Their lives actually do blend into one another. They actually become one. It is, therefore, true that what hurts the wife damages the husband, and what wounds the husband, hurts to wife too.  It cannot help but do so. If he is bitter toward her, it will eat like a cancer in his own life and heart. That is why, if you have had an argument or squabble with your spouse, you may find yourself unable to focus on your work that day.

In this verse from Ephesians 5, the Apostle Paul is actually quoting straight out of the book of Genesis, from the story of the very first husband and wife (Adam & Eve)... 

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’, for she was taken out of man.”  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.  Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.  - Genesis 2:23-25

This is a remarkable passage because it gathers up the great concepts of marriage that run throughout the Bible. After God finished making woman and Adam slept off the deep unconsciousness into which he had fallen, God brought the woman to Adam. What a scene that must have been!  Here is the first of a very long line of “boy-meets-girl” stories.  Out of this account emerge several factors that are essential to a Christian marriage.

The first is that marriage is to involve a complete identity. The two are to be one. Adam's first reaction when he saw his wife was, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” or, “She is one being with me.” This is strengthened in the latter part of verse 24, which adds, “and they will become one flesh.” It is not without reason that this has become part of the marriage service, this recognition of unity. As someone has well said, the one word above all that makes marriage successful is “ours.” 

The next factor that characterizes true marriage is permanence. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” In the Hebrew text is the word devakut, which means “to cling, stick, or to adhere firmly, as if with glue.”  Some older Bible translations use the word “cleave” to translate this concept.  A husband is to leave his family and cleave to his wife. He forsakes all others and attaches himself to her.  Whatever she may be like, he is to hold fast to her. He is to stay with her, and she with him, because marriage is a permanent thing.

Finally, in verse 25, we see read that “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” This speaks clearly of openness between man and wife. They have no secrets, nothing that they do not share with each other.  This is a high calling, but it is the failure to work toward this kind of openness that lies behind so much breakdown in marriage today, the utter breakdown of communication, where two people can sit and look at one another and say nothing or talk about merely surface trivialities.  Often this is why they are so judgmental with one another, each one trying to get the other to agree and not being willing to allow differences of viewpoint to exist. There is to be a freedom of communication, one with the other. Marriages shrivel, wither, and die when this is not true.

Thank you Oh Lord for the gift of marriage, and for revealing Your perfect plan for the functioning of husband and wife.  Forgive us for abusing this gift and taking it for granted.  Teach us to honor this precious gift of marriage - Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Monday, May 20

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Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  - Ephesians 5:21
In this single verse, the apostle is dealing with the basic remedy for all the conflicts in our day.  Paul will apply this principle as he discusses the relationship of husbands to wives, which brings in the whole realm of marriage and divorce and the problems that arise there. Then he will take up the matter of children and parents, which brings in the whole issue of juvenile delinquency, causes and what can be done about it. Then he will take up the issue of management and labor. In each case, the remedy is always the same: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

If we have any desire at all to be part of a solution to the issues surrounding us today, we must do so out of an understanding of what God has revealed about the heart of the problem. We must go back to the cause of all human strife. There is no one who has not at some time asked the question, “How can I get the greatest satisfaction out of life? How can I get the maximum expression of my potential? How can I fulfill myself?” It is not wrong to ask these questions because God has put these urges within us, but it is gravely wrong to ask them in this way.

When we ask the questions this way, we are asking as though we were the only person in the world, as though we were responsible for our own self-development. Sooner or later, in my attempts to develop myself and to gain satisfaction, I find myself on a collision course with someone else who is attempting the same thing. I find that my efforts to satisfy myself are continually sabotaged by others who are trying to achieve satisfaction in the same way. I insist on my rights, and others insist on their rights, and so we become obstacles to each other.

But Paul changes the whole pattern for Christians by introducing two radical factors that alter the whole situation. First, the Christian must never forget that in every relationship of life, another person is present: It is not merely a problem of what I want versus what you want. In every relationship, the apostle reminds us, a third Person is present—the Lord Jesus Christ.

That brings us to the second matter. When I am at odds with another person, to see that Christ is there too is to make me aware immediately of what He has taught me. It is only when I forget myself and devote myself to another's fulfillment that I will find my own heart running over with grace and satisfaction. This is one of the fundamental mysteries of life, and it is confirmed to us every day. Those who try desperately to satisfy themselves are the ones who end up hollow inside. Our Lord put it this way: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

It becomes, then, a question of priority. You cannot have your rights by insisting upon them. You can have them only when you seek to give others their rights. Do you dare to try this radical principle right where you live?

Heavenly Father, thank You for a word that searches me and cuts deep and lays bare and hides nothing. I know that in this sweet surgery of the Holy Spirit there is healing, forgiveness, cleansing, and restoration - Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Friday, May 17

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Luke 2:41-52
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.

Like most families we have a doorframe in our home where we track the growth of our four sons in terms of their height. Periodically we will stand them up against the doorframe, put a book on their heads, and make a little mark on the wood. Then we will take a tape measure and carefully record the height of that particular boy right down to the quarter inch.

When we look back at the marks on the doorframe we can see clearly the times when physical growth was dramatic; sometimes up to 3 full inches in a year. But then we can also see, just as clearly, the slowing of the growth process as the boys get older. Eventually, the growth, at least in physical height, stops. 

Then, due to gravity and time, we actually begin to shrink! I remind my boys often that I used to be 6’5”! (Actually, I used to be 6’1 ½” and now I’m just a smidge under 6’1”)

But we all know that when physical growth slows down other kinds of growth become far more important. That’s why I have always loved what Luke says about the growth of the young boy Jesus.

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Luke touches on four dimensions of growth in this one sentence. 

As the boy grew toward adulthood Luke says Jesus grew in wisdom. Now wisdom assumes intellectual growth, but also includes a deeper kind of intelligence. Wisdom isn’t just knowing information, it’s knowing how to use that information appropriately for one’s own good and the good of those around you. It strikes me that wisdom also is something we tend to learn from others; typically from those who are older and wiser than ourselves. From the little we know of Mary and Joseph, I think we can assume that Jesus absorbed many lessons in wisdom from his own parents. This part of the story teaches us that Gospel-centered parenting focuses more on wisdom than on information and performance.

Luke says Jesus also grew in stature; his body grew and developed in the way an adolescent’s body does. I have always been somewhat curious as to how tall Jesus might have been. The Bible offers very little in regard to his physical appearance, other than it was unremarkable. So we can simply assume that Jesus was neither extraordinarily tall nor unusually small in stature. Researchers have projected that the average height of a Jewish man at the time of Jesus would have been between 5’1” and 5’3” so while it might be difficult for us to envision it would be totally reasonable to assume that Jesus’ physical stature fell somewhere in this range.

Our culture, as we all know, places a terribly high priority on physical appearance; including stature. But the gospel does not! The Bible is silent on Jesus’ height because it simply isn’t significant!

Then Luke adds that Jesus also grew “in favor with God and men.”

Luke is talking about relationships; the kind of relationships the young Jesus forged with others and with God. And he says those relationships were defined by “favor.” The word used here is the root word for “grace”; so Luke’s language could be translated as, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in grace with God and men.”

Jesus grew in grace. He grew in understanding and experiencing the grace of God and he grew in extending grace toward others. 

Now we get to the kind of growth that we all want desperately for our own children. We would love for our children to grow in physical stature and health. We would love for our children to grow in wisdom and understanding. Btu what we want most for them is to grow in favor with God and men. We want them to grow in grace.

And what is grace? Grace, simply put, is the unmerited favor and blessing of God; grace is the gospel.

May our deepest desire as parents be to know and experience the gospel, the grace of Christ, in our lives; and may we then teach and model that grace, that gospel, to our children.

Pastor Brian Coffey