Thursday, June 30, 2016

Thank you for reading 10 Minutes With God - we wanted to let you know we will be taking a break over the summer. We have enjoyed sharing devotional thoughts with you and thank you for reading! 
Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babies and infants,

you have established strength because of your foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.
 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
 what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?
 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings[b]
    and crowned him with glory and honor.

You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;

    you have put all things under his feet,

all sheep and oxen,

    and also the beasts of the field,
 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! - Psalm 8:1-9

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. – Matthew 5:21-22

This passage is the first of six contrasts that Jesus gives between the traditional teaching or interpretation of the Torah (Old Testament law) and his new teaching of what we might call “kingdom righteousness”. Six times Jesus quotes a traditional teaching (most often from the Torah itself) and six times he demonstrates how there is more that God wants for us. Each time Jesus does this, he uses the same pattern. It goes something like this, “You have heard it said….But I tell you…” 

One of the amazing things about this is that Jesus does not give any other authority to back up his teaching. Other Rabbis and teachers of Jesus’ day would always base their interpretation or teaching of the law on what some other Rabbi had previously said or taught. Jesus never does this; apparently he thinks it is authoritative simply because he is saying it! 

This is one of the reasons why, at the very end of the Sermon on the Mount, the people are so amazed at Jesus’ teaching. 

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. - Matthew 7:28-29

Here in the first of the six contrasts, Jesus is comparing the consequences of breaking the sixth commandment; Thou shall not kill, with the consequences of having anger and resentment in our hearts. Of course it is no surprise to hear that murder is wrong. However, Jesus implies that to harbor anger and hatred toward another person is essentially to murder them in our hearts. Whoa! Think about that for just a minute…

Jesus is telling us that murder begins with the seeds of anger, resentment and hatred in the human heart. If these seeds are allowed to take root and grow, over time they can lead to terrible consequences. 

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
 - Hebrews 12:15

In light of all this, consider this question – Who are you in danger of murdering in your heart?

It is very tempting to rationalize all this and say to ourselves something like, “Come on, let’s not be too extreme here. Oh, sure, I may have a few people that irritate me, a few that I could do without, and some that I just can’t stand, but I am not murdering anybody.” But look at what Jesus says next. He says that we put our souls at risk even when we call somebody a fool! The word ‘Racca’ which Jesus uses, literally means “empty headed”. In other words, whenever we think of another person as a nobody, an idiot, a moron, or a good for nothing, we violate the law of God and we damage our hearts (not to mention theirs).

Take a few moments to consider the following questions…

Have you ever wished any harm on another person?

Have you ever rolled your eyes (even internally) at someone who you thought was just stupid?

Have you ever ignored someone who you just didn’t feel was worth your time?

Have you ever found yourself talking with another person about how annoying or foolish “so and so” is?

Is there someone right now that you despise in your heart?

Confess these things to your Father and ask him for the grace and strength to release you from your anger, scorn and/or bitterness…

Lord Jesus we recognize that you alone have all authority in heaven and on earth, and we know that you alone have the words of life that we desperately need. Forgive our unforgiving hearts and free us from all anger and resentment. Teach us to love others as you love us – Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:19-20

Once again we see Jesus making a radical and somewhat confusing statement. What does he mean when he says that we must be “more” righteous than the Pharisees and the teachers of the law? They were the religious elite of their day - righteousness was their profession for crying out loud. How can we compete with the pros?

The Pharisees were absolutely fanatical about keeping the law. They talked about building a “fence around the law/torah.” For example, the law said that they were not to do any work on the Sabbath. In order to avoid breaking this law, the Pharisees developed an extremely detailed and complex list of what did and did not count as “working,” even to the point of limiting the steps you allowed to take to and from your house on the Sabbath day! These detailed and complex moral codes were the “fence” which they believed would keep them far away from ever breaking a law of God. 

For the average person in Jesus day, the Pharisee’s idea of obeying the law (being righteous) was simply an impossible standard. Then, along comes Jesus, who says that you have to be even more righteous than they guys who set the seemingly impossible standard!

What does Jesus mean??

There are really two things that Jesus is saying about what it means to be righteous in God’s eyes. 

First – Righteousness is not merely a matter of conforming to the external rules or laws. Righteousness is a matter of the heart. The greatest commandment is love. However, it is possible for a person to act in kind and loving ways on the outside while harboring bitterness and anger on the inside. The Pharisees were good at keeping the external rules, but many of them had judgmental and hard hearts. Jesus put it this way in Matthew 23:25-26: 

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

Jesus is teaching us that surpassing the righteousness of the Pharisees means to go beyond mere external obedience and conformity to a transformation of the heart.

Second – The Bible makes it abundantly clear that nobody is righteous on his or her own. 

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one. Romans 3:10 

None of us can keep perfectly keep the law of God internally or externally. We all fall far short. Ah, but the Bible also tells us that there is One who has kept the law and it is through him that we can become truly righteous! Romans 10:4 puts it this way:

Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. 

You see, when Jesus said that nothing will disappear from the law until everything is accomplished (Matt. 5:18), he was talking about himself! He totally and completely fulfilled the requirements of the law – for us! 

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
 - 2 Corinthians 5:21

Do you realize what this means?? Because of Jesus Christ, your righteousness does surpass that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law! This is the beauty and mystery of the Gospel!

Take a few moments to praise and thank God for his gift of righteousness to you in Jesus Christ…

Ask Jesus to help you see where your external actions and your internal attitudes need to brought into conformity with his gospel…

Lord Jesus we acknowledge that without you we have no righteousness and no hope at all. We trust you completely as our righteousness before God and we humbly ask you to transform our hearts conform our lives into your image – Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Monday, June 27, 2016

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 
– Matthew 5:17-18

Doesn’t this strike you as a rather odd thing for Jesus to say? Why would he be concerned about people thinking he was going to abolish or do away with the law & the prophets?

The Jewish people believed deeply in the law (Torah). An important aspect of this OT was law was the concept of retributive theology. In other words, God punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous. According to retributive theology, it was unjust that God’s chosen people (the Jews), were governed and oppressed by foreign pagan rulers (Rome). Jesus comes along and tells them that what they viewed as the problem was in actuality the natural outpouring of a holy life and was a blessing to them. Throughout the beatitudes Jesus telling them that persecution results in blessing and if you are persecuted, it is not really a problem, but rather a sign that they were on the right track. Jesus even compares those who are persecuted for righteousness sake to the Holy Prophets! 

Jesus is really deconstructing their understanding of the law, which was really the entire worldview for a faithful Jew. Jesus wants to make the point clear that He is not interested in destroying the OT law and starting over, but He is actually fulfilling the law the way that God always intended!

This was not immediately apparent to Jesus’ first century audience. In fact his own disciples would not fully grasp his message until after his death & resurrection. I think perhaps we are at times a little too quick to “understand” what we think Jesus is saying. Many, if not most, of those original first century listeners considered the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount harsh and even strange. 

When was the last time the words of Jesus caused you to ponder and reflect deeply on what he really means for you?

When was the last time you were surprised or shocked by anything Jesus said or did?

When was the last time you were confused or troubled by anything Jesus said or did?

In other words, the moment you think you have Jesus “all figured out” you should think again!

(If you would like to read a wonderful little book on this idea, read Philip Yancey’s book, The Jesus I Never Knew)

Lord Jesus, help us to hear your words afresh. Keep us from becoming comfortable and complacent in our minds and teach us how to live in and for your kingdom – Amen. 

Jeff Frazier

Friday, June 24, 2016

Your statutes are wonderful, therefore I obey them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name. Psalm 119:129-132

Thank God today for his word and ask him to bring light and understanding to your heart and mind today.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. 
Matthew 5:13-16

When I was a freshman in college I was rather quiet about my faith. I was a Christian, and I wanted to follow Christ, but I wasn’t anxious to be identified as such by my new classmates. I suppose, looking back, that I didn’t want to start off my new college life being identified as “weird” or “different.” But about two weeks into my first semester, a bunch of us were up just hanging out at about 1 a.m. when a fellow freshman – known to be quite the party animal – looked at me and said, “Hey Coffey, what makes you tick?” I said, “Uh, what do you mean?” He said, “Well, you don’t drink, you don’t cuss – you’re just different – are you religious or something? What makes you tick?” I remember mumbling something about being a Christian – I’m sure not the most dynamic testimony by any means – and my classmate just said, “That’s cool, I was just wondering.”

I’ve often thought back to that late night conversation. Even when I was trying to hide the light of Christ “under a bowl” – it still leaked out! Yet, even so, I wasn’t ready to put my light on a stand and share it with my dorm mates. The truth is that I had unintentional impact, accidental influence on the guys in my dorm. I think Jesus is calling us to more than accidental impact - he’s calling us to intentional influence. That doesn’t mean we have to be the kind of “in your face” kind of witness that frightens people or turns them off. It does mean that we should not hide our light – but rather we should always be ready and willing to share the light of truth, the light of Christ, with those who are trying to find their way. 

Can you think of a person in your life who might be searching for God – or who should be searching for God? Ask God to provide an opportunity for you to be the spiritual influence he can use to draw that person to himself. Ask him to prepare you with the right words to either explain why you are a follower of Christ – or to invite them to join you for a worship service or ministry event at FBCG!

Thank the Lord for being faithful to spend time with you this week – and for his presence in your life!

Brian Coffey

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:4-5

As you begin your time today, offer your thanksgiving to God for his love and faithfulness expressed to you in so many ways.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Every now and then, we will be watching the news on TV, driving in our van, or sitting at yet another ball game of some kind, and one of our boys will witness some simple act of kindness or generosity by a total stranger. It might be a guy letting someone merge into traffic ahead of him or someone volunteering to serve and care for others in need. And upon witnessing the act, without knowing the person involved, one of our boys will say something like, “I bet he’s (or she’s) a Christian.”

Sometimes I wonder if other people do the same thing. I wonder if people watch how I drive, or how I treat the cashier at the grocery store, or if I take time to bow my head in prayer before a meal at a local restaurant. I wonder if people watch me living my everyday life and say to themselves, “I bet that guy’s a follower of Jesus!” 

Jesus is saying that the way that we live, the way that we act, the way that we speak, the way that we treat other people; our patience, our kindness, our generosity, our joy – all of it reflects on him. All of us are either pushing people away from Jesus or drawing them toward Jesus – all of us, all the time.

Now, I want to be careful here because I don’t think Jesus wants us to live our lives as some kind of performance! I think he wants us to live in a genuine and personal relationship with him – to know his love and grace in our hearts – and to simply reflect that love and grace naturally to others. It shouldn’t be an act, it should be genuine. And while it may require some practice and some discipline to learn to see others the way Jesus sees them – it shouldn’t be a burden, but rather a joy!

Ask God to make you more and more aware of the opportunities – both small and large – that you have every day to shine the light of Christ’s love through both words and actions. Ask him to use your life in such a way that others can see him through you!

Pastor Brian Coffey

Wednesday June 22, 2016

Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seem him with all their heart. Psalm 119:1-2

Thanks God today for the truth of his word and ask him to use his word to shape your values, your behavior, and your life.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. Matthew 5:13

One summer day my wife and I went to watch our two younger sons play in a travel baseball game. After we got ourselves settled into our “portable” chairs, Lorene produced a bag of peanuts for our mutual enjoyment during the game. I happily cracked the first shell and popped the peanut into my mouth – only to discover that these particular peanuts were unsalted. I don’t know about you, but nothing is quite as disappointing as munching on unsalted peanuts at a ball game! I put the unopened peanuts I had in my hand back in the bag, crumpled it up and left it under my seat until the end of the game. If they weren’t salted I wasn’t going to waste my calories on them!

In a way, Jesus is saying the same thing. Only he isn’t talking about peanuts – he’s talking about us; he’s talking about his church. 

In our world we see salt mostly as a “flavor enhancer.” We like our peanuts, chips and pretzels to be coated in salt! In Jesus’ day, before the advent of refrigeration, salt was seen more as a preservative – used to keep meat from spoiling. Because of this preservative power, salt was an extraordinarily valuable commodity in the ancient world. Historians tells us that, at times, Roman soldiers would actually be paid in salt for their services.

Jesus, therefore, is saying something very significant with this simple analogy. As his followers, we are to exert a kind of preservative influence in the world around us. Because, as followers of Jesus, we ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness,’ and because Christ lives in and through us, he wants to use us to preserve our world and our culture from corruption. Furthermore, he says that if his people do not have this kind of influence – we are like salt that has lost its saltiness and is good for nothing.

Now, we must be careful here. Jesus is not saying that if we aren’t having a positive spiritual influence on those around us we are not saved, or that he doesn’t love us! Our salvation is secured by the Holy Spirit when we confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 1:13-14). But he is saying that when he saves us by his grace – he doesn’t intend that we keep that gift to ourselves – but rather that we share it in all kinds of ways with the world around us. In short, he wants us to be salty!

Close your time with God today by asking him to help you see and understand how he can use you to exert a preserving influence in the small circle of your life. Ask him to make you salty enough that those around you might become thirsty for him!

Brian Coffey

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:1-2

Begin by focusing on the “dwelling place” – the sanctuary God has established in your heart. Thank him for being faithful to meet you there by his Spirit – and ask him to cause you to long more and more for this daily time with him.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
 Matthew 5:13-16

A number of years ago I had the privilege of traveling to Turkey on FBCG’s first short term team to the land where the Apostle Paul established some of the earliest Christian churches. Toward the end of our trip we journeyed into the mountainous eastern part of the country to visit the ruins of two ancient churches. After a long and somewhat treacherous drive up steep mountain roads we were amazed at the magnificent architecture of these cathedrals built in the 9th and 10th centuries. One could still see the huge marble pillars, vaulted ceilings of the sanctuaries, and the domes that rose over 50 feet from the floor. To construct such places of worship in such remote locations would be an astonishing feat of engineering today – let alone over one thousand years ago! It was moving to think of the people so long ago that dedicated these places of worship to the glory and God and the supremacy of Christ!

But, the truth is, these once magnificent cathedrals are now in ruins. Worship has not taken place nor has the gospel been preached in these villages in 500 years. The ruins are a relic of a vibrant past – but today they are empty shells, piles of dead stones.

Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount by describing the attitudes and values that mark the lives of his disciples: poor in spirit, meek, merciful, peacemakers, pure in heart, hungry and thirsty for righteousness…etc. Now he begins to envision the impact that his followers – his church - will have upon the world.

He uses two common but very valuable elements from the ancient world – salt and light - as metaphors that we will flesh out as the week goes on. But the sense of these verses is that, from the very beginning, Jesus wanted his followers to make a difference in the world. When Jesus envisioned the worshiping community that would be his church – he did not imagine a gutted and empty ancient building that serves more as a museum than anything else. He did not imagine a building where people go once a week to sing a few songs and listen to an uplifting sermon. He did not imagine a building at all. Jesus imagined a movement of people who, because of his influence in their lives, would, in turn, influence the world.

Take a few moments to reflect on your own life and your view of the church. Have you thought of yourself as called by Jesus to make a difference in your world? Have you thought of the church as a place to go on Sunday – or as a movement that you are part of? Ask the Lord to challenge your understanding of both yourself and your church through his word.

Brian Coffey

Monday, June 20, 2016

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:1-2

As you begin your time today, thank God for listening to your heart, for giving you his strength, and for providing a firm place for you to stand today.

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me, Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:4, 10-12

No one likes to mourn. No one wants to mourn. Yet Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn…” Likewise, few volunteer to be the target of insults, persecution and slander! Yet Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you and say all kinds of evil against you…!” Is Jesus saying we are to seek out tragedy, sorrow and persecution? 

No! Jesus is simply acknowledging that those who follow him will experience sorrow and suffering – but that even these difficult and painful trials will result in the blessing of God.

Many scholars believe that Jesus had at least three kinds of mourning in mind when he said, “Blessed are those that mourn…” He was referring to the mourning that comes with having loved others and then losing them to the inevitability of death. While death itself is not a blessing (although heaven certainly is) the capacity to mourn is a blessing because it is preceded by the experience of love. We only grieve that which we love. We see this in the story of Jesus and Lazarus, when onlookers observed Jesus’ tears and commented, “See how he loved him!” Those who mourn greatly have loved greatly – and this is a blessing from God.

Secondly, Jesus had in mind those who look at the pain and brokenness of the world and mourn because this is not what God intended. Such mourning is blessing because it urges us to step into the pain of the world with the hope of the gospel.

Thirdly, Jesus was speaking of those who mourn their own sinfulness. As we grow closer to Christ, the Holy Spirit makes us more intensely aware of the sin that clings to our own hearts. This sorrow drives us to our knees in genuine repentance and produces the joy of forgiveness and purity of heart.

Our culture routinely encourages us to avoid pain and to pursue personal comfort at all cost. Jesus teaches us that pain, while not pleasant in and of itself, can be that which reveals to us the very blessing of God. 

In what ways do you mourn today?

Have you lost someone that you loved? Ask God to fill your heart with the blessing of having loved deeply. 

Do you mourn the brokenness of the world around you? Ask him to allow you to minister in some way to that brokenness. 

Do you mourn your own sinfulness? Ask God to make you more and more aware of thoughts, attitudes and actions that do not reflect his purity and grace in your life – and allow him to remove them from your heart through confession and repentance.

Thank God for being faithful to you this week – and ask him to cause his word to continue to work in your heart and life.

Friday, June 17, 2016

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?Psalm 42:1

As you work through today’s devotion, ask God to make you more deeply aware of your thirst for him – for his presence, for his love, for his voice and for his truth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
 Matthew 5:6, 8

When was the last time you were really hungry, or really thirsty? If I’m honest, I am rarely, if ever, truly hungry or thirsty. I live most of my life, as I suspect you do as well, just a few feet or minutes from all I could want to eat or drink. Before we can understand what Jesus is saying here we have to understand that those of us who live in North America in the 21st century simply do not live like most of the rest of the world lives – or has ever lived. 

The average person in Jesus’ day might only eat meat once a week, and had to draw water almost daily from a local well in order to have drinking water. In much of the world today, it is the responsibility of women and children to walk sometimes a mile or more each way – to carry jugs of water back to their homes for their daily needs. In such an environment, hunger and thirst take on a much more urgent meaning than they often do for us! To be hungry means to ache for food and nourishment with all that you are. To be thirsty means to long for water as for life itself – because, indeed, without it you would perish.

Hunger and thirst, then, are among the most powerful motivating forces in all of human experience. This is why modern coaches tell athletes to be “hungry” for victory; and why advertising campaigns urge people to “obey your thirst.” 

Jesus is saying that we will be filled with what we are hungry and thirsty for. If we are hungry and thirsty for what the world defines as success – money, status, popularity – then that’s what will fill our hearts and minds. If, on the other hand, we are hungry and thirsty for God – then he will fill us with himself and his righteousness.

Years ago rock star Bruce Springsteen wrote a song entitled, “Everybody’s got a Hungry Heart.” I think Jesus would agree! The question is what are we hungry for? Ask God to cause your heart to hunger and thirst for him over everything else!

Brian Coffey

Thursday, June 16, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bible clearly teaches us not to seek personal vengeance. 

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

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

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

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

Have you been wronged by someone?

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

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

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

Pastor Jeff Frazier

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways, according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord. 
Psalm 25:4-7

Thank the Lord today for his mercy and forgiving love, and ask him to teach and guide you in his truth today.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Matthew 5:7, 9

In his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey tells a story about theologian and author, Henri Nouwen. Nouwen had given a portion of his life to serve in a ministry to the severely handicapped. Yancey went to visit Nouwen and watched as he spent hours simply bathing and dressing a resident of the ministry named Adam. When Yancey asked respectfully whether Nouwen ever felt like such service might be taking away from his more productive calling of teaching and writing, Nouwen said, “I am not giving up anything; it is I, not Adam, who gets the main benefit from our relationship.”

This is the mystery and power of Jesus’ teaching; we experience God’s blessing not by pursuing it for ourselves – but by offering it to others.

Our culture bombards us with messages like, “Have it your way,” “You deserve a break today,” and “Reward yourself, you’re worth it!” The result of living for ourselves and our own needs is the acquisition of lots of stuff – but little blessing. Jesus is teaching us to live “upside down,” that is, to understand that our blessing is found in service to others.

As a church, FBCG sends a number of short term missions teams to serve somewhere in the world every year. When our teams return, it is quite common for team members to say things like, “While we went to (Turkey, Ecuador, Appalachia, Mexico, Austria) to serve and bless others – we were the ones who were most blessed!” This is because God promises his favor to those who share his mercy with others.

Take a few moments to think about your life – and the people you either pass by or come into contact with every day. Who in your life might need the gift of mercy? Who might need a simple expression of care? Who might need a word of peace or encouragement? Ask God to allow you to see the needs of others – to respond to those needs in some way – and therefore to experience his blessing!

Brian Coffey

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hear my prayer, O Lord, let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. Psalm 102:1
As you begin your time today, thank God for always being willing to meet with you and to hear you when you call upon him for help.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. - Matthew 5:3, 5

Imagine walking into a large store – say Macy’s in Chicago – and finding diamond earrings for sale for $1.99 and dishtowels for $2,999.00!

Imagine going to an auto-dealer and finding a 2011 Lexus listed for $999 while a 1995 Volkswagen Rabbit is marked at $59,900!

You would either think the world had gone mad – or that this was your lucky day!

Jesus is teaching us here that the blessing of God is profoundly counter-intuitive, even counter-cultural! He is saying that God has turned our most common notions of blessing upside-down and inside out.

In our culture, we tend to think of “blessings” as the material blessings associated with our standard of living: our homes, our access to abundant food, and our financial resources. We tend to think of the “blessing” of personal good fortune: being born into a good family or living in a free society. But when Jesus speaks of the blessing of God he doesn’t mention any of these things. He speaks instead of the poor in spirit and the meek. Why?

Jesus is redefining blessing in terms of the Kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of men. The blessings of our affluence, our lifestyle, and our culture, while certainly good and worthy of appreciation, are superficial and temporary. They are ours at the whim of history and governments. At times they can even be that which distracts our soul from our God. The Kingdom of God, on the other hand, is that which is eternal and unchanging. The poor in spirit are always blessed because they are desperate for God. The meek (those who understand their strength and confidence are in God and therefore do not have to use anger or power to control or intimidate others) are always blessed because their character is built on God’s promises and not the promises of man.

In what ways have you bought into our cultural definition of blessing? How might Jesus want to turn your understanding of blessing upside-down? Is your happiness more attached to the things you have than to God himself?

Ask God to help you anchor your security and joy more in who you are through your relationship with Him rather than in the material blessings that you possess.

Brian Coffey