It has been a prayer of mine that God would help me to love better and deeper than I’ve loved before. And He has answered that prayer, but not in the way I had expected. I had anticipated being shown new ways to love, learning more about the people around me so I could serve them better, and for God to give me wisdom in knowing how to become closer with the people that God has placed in my life. However, instead of God predominately showing me “new heights” of how to love people, He has shown me how insufficient and conditional my love for others truly is. I can be so blind to my own selfishness, so much so that even the kind and thoughtful acts I do can have tainted motives. I have so many idols that I constantly worship without even realizing it. When I look at my life and mirror it with the love of Jesus, I don’t even come close. Jesus loves unconditionally, eternally, and perfectly. The more I look at the character of Jesus, the more my sin is fully displayed.
While that can be discouraging and disheartening, there is also great encouragement and joy in knowing that truth. Despite my sinfulness and inadequacy to love people as I should, God is committed to chipping slowly away at me until I look like His Son. If there is one thing that team has taught me, it’s this: God is so much greater than I am in every conceivable way, and yet He is faithful to use a broken vessel like me for the good of other people and His glory. So, I let Him chip away at me through heartaches, trials, and mistakes, knowing that the image God is turning me into is far greater than anything I could possibly dream or think of. Praise God for the work He does in the life of His people!
When we arrived at the church, we discovered our cargo trailer was stolen. At first, I thought it was a cruel joke someone was trying to play on the team. We soon discovered this was our new reality. Initially, my reaction was, “God, why would you allow this to happen? You know our ministry and how vital that trailer is to us.”
But throughout that week, despite the frustrations of our new reality, God was working in each of our hearts to show us how He can provide beyond our abilities to do so. I remember praying with Liam Coffey that week and he said “God, we know you’re good to us, even though it doesn’t always feel that way.” I think that prayer summed up how most of us were feeling that week.
Jesus is Worth It
He said, “You’re serving your Savior. What greater joy is there than that?”. I have replayed those words over and over in my head. I had never thought of traveling as a privilege, but rather just my life. God really used my friend to help me see traveling differently. Serving my Savior isn’t something I have to do (even though my parents ask me to do it), but rather it’s something I get to do.
Jesus is worth it.
He’s worth obeying, even when it’s hard.
He’s worth trusting even when I don’t understand.
He’s worth serving even when it’s uncomfortable.
Jesus is worth it.
COVID and the Providence of God
The influence of team members as well as the literal closeness to them is both a blessing and a conflict generator. Though we are obliged to resolve the issues, it really is a grace of the Lord to reveal the true desires of the heart; and very often the Lord uses the team in speaking truth to correct my own sinful desires and actions. In my first year I never really could understand nor fully appreciate what God was (and still is) teaching me, through these times but these few examples give testament that God's providence is for our good and for His glory.
There are only a few short weeks left in my time with Coffey Ministries and current plans have brought me to Detroit, MI for the coming years. In whatever God provides in the future, it will be good and with that I will be content.
Come near restless heart; find peace without fear
Your God has not failed and He's brought you hear
Each undone endeavor and turn on the way
Is perfectly place in the pathway he lays
- Britany Kauflin
Death. Taxes. Sanctification.
Wait what? Why is sanctification on that list? What could these three have in common? Thanks for asking :) I think we'd agree that the first two are inevitable. For most every human, those two words impact our daily lives. Take my taxes for example (please, someone, anyone take em!) Like it or not, we all gotta pay taxes (let's be honest, the person who likes taxes doesn't exist). However, Jesus instructed his followers to pay their taxes, even to the oppressive Roman government.
On a more serious note, let's examine death. Whether it's someone in the news or someone you love, hollowed hopes or dashed dreams, the ever-present, all-encompassing presence of death infiltrates every moment of this temporal life. Sin contaminates, destroys and reminds us all that death respects no one.
So far, I think we (you the reader, I the writer) agree on death and taxes. But that doesn't answer your first question, how does sanctification fit in with the undesirable yet inescapable duo?
Answer: For believers, sanctification is inescapable. What is sanctification? Simply put, it is the transforming work of the Holy Spirit within believers to shape them into the image of Jesus Christ. God is continually growing me and continually growing you, if you are a believer. So, maybe I should rephrase the title? For Believers, Death. Taxes. Sanctification. Regardless of the title wording, this truth should greatly encourage you in at least two ways.
First, God is deeply interested in transforming you and completing that transformation. He refuses to leave you and me as we are but changes us into something far more glorious. What a comforting truth, that He constantly controls circumstances to change my character to be more Christlike. I can always have hope and confidence through every situation in my life because God the Creator, Sustainer, Shepherd, Rock, Fortress, King (the list goes on) orchestrates every "obstacle" in my life as an opportunity for this sanctification. Because my God loves me, I have hope he won't abandon me but will continue the good work he began in me until I see Him!
Second, God is deeply interested in every believer! Is this repetitively redundant? Maybe. But, I believe it's worth the risk of redundancy to extrapolate this important principle. You can, or might I boldly say, you must hope and believe that God will not leave other believers where they are but, will steadily sculpt and shape our spiritual siblings through this sanctification. Therefore, I shouldn't pigeonhole my brothers and sisters, refusing to believe that they can change. Because of the gospel, I CAN'T hold this mindset. To do so grossly distorts the reality of God's persistent, transforming grace. Because my God loves all his children, I can, I must believe he won't abandon any of my brothers and sisters in his quest for their Christlikeness.
Traveling with the Coffeys shaped my view of the Christian life in intangible yet unforgettable ways. My hope in the gospel, as well as my knowledge of the transforming power of the gospel - this sanctification, impacts every day of my walk with God. I hope and pray that these thoughts help to realign your hope with the good news that God the Father is changing lives into His Son's image through His Holy Spirit one day, one obstacle, one interruption, one truth at a time. May God bless you and keep you as you love Him and love others.
Even though I probably have had the least amount of time on team, I feel like I’ve grown so much just by being under the influence of Aaron and Steph and the other team members. They all have encouraged and pushed me to grow spiritually. The influence of Aaron and Steph started way before team though. In 2018, the combination of Aaron’s preaching at my local church and Steph’s truth squares and her conversations with me helped set my heart up for growth through the life change that was going to occur that year. The influence of the team members started before team as well. I had connections with all the team members the fall of their 2018-2019 year. So because of that, I started keeping up to date with them and praying consistently for them. Little did I know that my constant prayers for the team and the Coffey family, would lead me to the team a year later.
My spiritual growth continued through the process of God leading me to the team. I remember so many specific ways in my life personally that Proverbs 3:5-6 was fulfilled, and at the same time, hearing how God was working on the other end with the Aaron and Stephanie extending the invitation for me to join. Before joining team in August 2019, Aaron had us read The Gospel Primer and I know that it opened up my spiritual eyes more than ever before. I saw the Gospel in a whole different way, one that either I hadn’t ever paid attention to before or was something new that I learned! My mind was blown and I was so excited to grow even more with this new spiritual concept that was revealed to me, and I hadn’t even gotten to team yet! I remember how humbled I was when I initially joined the team. I didn’t come right out of college like the others, but I knew I had grown a lot from a hard situation in my life and knew God wanted to use me in a special way.
Coming from a life of teaching full time, everything was always so structured, organized, and ran smoothly because that’s a particular way that God has gifted me. So after joining team as the only new person, I had to swallow my pride of not knowing everything and ask questions. My pride was exposed right away when my structure, organization, or my “ducks in a row” were all stripped away from me! It was sooo good for me though as I got quickly adjusted to team life. I continued to grow when we read Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges together for our team devotions in the fall. I thought I was a pretty good Christian, a rule-follower, and a “good kid.” I got to a point where I was so self-sufficient that I didn’t see my daily sin. That book was such a huge spiritual spanking for me, and there were so many sin areas of my life that were revealed.
Our team devotion times were such a special time for me to hear how God was working in other people’s lives, be encouraged, and grow closer to the team spiritually. This past semester we were working through a book called How People Change and my eyes were opened again in such a huge way. For almost a year and half, I couldn’t call my biggest life’s trial good. I questioned so many things and yes, I accepted it as from the Lord and knew He wanted me to grow, but I didn’t call it good. I didn’t see the entire situation through the lens of the Gospel before. The book really helped me see it through that lense. I remember I was specifically struggling when we were in Matthews, NC. I was struggling with being in the same city as the day I was hurt the most in my life. The pain was unbearable that week as memories came flooding back and my heart was so restless. But the night that Aaron was preaching through Romans 8:28-39 as part of our “Romans 8 Singspiration,” tears flowed down my face as I finally realized that even my hurt, my pain, even the memories, were all considered good and part of God’s story for me. I can trust God in every chapter that He's already written for His redemptive story.
This year has been such a growing year for me, and there is so much more I could say. I’m so thankful for Aaron and Stephanie’s commitment to seeing me grow spiritually. They are not only committed to ministry, but they’re committed to our team as a whole, and to mentor me specifically. I’m incredibly thankful for how tangibly Aaron and Stephanie have shown me Jesus! I’m thankful for the ways that the team members push me to grow as well. Each of the team members have a unique way that God is working in their lives, and watching them grow themselves has challenged me. I am so thankful for five people who were committed to listening, counseling, & praying for me.
I’m so excited for how God will continue to make me more like Jesus as I continue with the Coffey Team in 2020-2021!
Mitchell on Marriage and Moving
These last few weeks have been absolutely crazy for Carol Anne, Asa and me. For those of you who don't know, Carol Anne and I got engaged in November and are planning on getting married on May 8th, right after our time with the Coffey team was supposed to end. However, with the Corona virus flaring up, our plans have had to become very flexible! Since our meetings with the Coffeys are cancelled, we're just biding our time until the wedding (and keeping ourselves busy with a bunch of projects).
A couple things God has taught us during this time- first, He has used it to remind us of what's really important in our marriage. We've had to drastically change what our wedding and honeymoon will look like, and we really struggled with it at first! We were watching everything we've planned and looked forward to for months (seemingly) being taken away. But that forced us to go back to what we should really be thankful for- the way we've watched God lead us together and provide for us along the way! We remembered that we've seen God take care of us in amazing ways before, so we can trust Him even when His plan for our wedding looks different than what we think it should be.
Another, more practical way God has worked through the outbreak is by giving us the extra time to prepare for our move up to South Bend, Indiana. As it was, we were planning on getting married five days after our semester ended, packing all our stuff, and moving to our new house without ever being inside it before. Now that we're not traveling, we actually had a chance to go to both of our houses, pack up all our stuff, and move it all up to South Bend, so that after our marriage we can move up to a ready house! Not only that, but we've had time for projects like painting furniture and fixing up things- projects that would be out of the question if we were still traveling!
In summary, God has used these uncertain conditions to strip away all the distractions that were taking our focus away from God's view of marriage and to graciously give us a chance to make our move up to South Bend a lot smoother, and we're so thankful!
Covid-19, Quarantine and Catan
What kinds of questions have you been googling over the last few weeks? "How many people are infected in my area?" "How will this affect the economy?" "How will this affect our government and elections?" "How will this affect my family?" In all of these questions, there is one that affects us more directly, one we have to answer every day. "What am I actually going to do today?"
For me (Riley), the answer to that question has involved a few things. 1) I'm adding a room to my in-laws basement while we quarantine with them. 2) I'm doing a deep-dive study into the book of Romans. 3) I'm playing a ton of Settlers of Catan. God has used each of those things to expose my sin and push me toward His Son. Let me tell you how He did it.
I was in the basement by myself framing a wall with my thoughts wandering from topic to topic when I began to think about one of our games of Catan from the night before. Specifically, I was thinking about one game in particular when I became frustrated with my opponents and my frustration over someone blocking my "Longest Road" exposed just how very much unlike Jesus I am in my heart. As my thoughts continued to wander, I began to think that I should probably apologize to the people I had sinned against. After all, my relationship with them was worth far more than the two points my road would have given me.
But my sinful heart does not naturally humble itself and admit to being wrong. So as my thoughts continued to wander, I began to convince myself that what I did really did not merit an apology. After all, doesn't everyone get frustrated in Catan? It was just a heated competition, that was all. Then a verse came to my mind from my time in Romans over the last couple of weeks.
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
There are a ton of blessings that we have because we are in Christ. Here are some that we commonly think of from a few chapters earlier. We're justified. We have peace with God. We have access to God's grace. We have a joyful hope for the future. Those are probably the first blessings that come to my mind when I think about all that I have in Christ. But that afternoon in the basement, I was thinking about this one: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
As I debated in my mind about whether or not I should apologize, I came to the sudden realization that this was not simply, "should I apologize for an everyday offense." This was actually a battle between my flesh and the Spirit. God has given me the precious gift of His Spirit, and one of the reasons He gave me His Spirit is so that He could lead me toward greater Christlikeness . Without His Spirit, I would be a total slave to my flesh. Simply the fact that there was a battle in my heart was evidence of God's grace in my life. How could I choose to walk in the flesh and choose my sin with God's gracious gift of the Spirit working in real time in my heart?
At the core, I knew my offense wasn't just ordinary, everyday competitiveness. I knew I had chosen to put another believer down because they had the audacity to make a good move against me. In the middle of this, God was working through His Spirit to convict me of sin and to conform me into the image of His Son.
So believers, be encouraged! God is at work in your hearts - even in quarantine. He used a simple game, some down time with a hammer and nails, and His Word to teach me how wonderful His gracious gifts to me are and just how much I need them.
How is God's grace at work in your heart during your time on quarantine?
Trust Beyond Understanding
“Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Faith is hard. It requires believing completely in something (and Someone) you cannot see. It seems easier to believe in people or yourself because you can see them or you at least know what’s going through your mind. But what about the times that you don’t even understand your own thoughts? What about the times people fail you? When doctors can’t fix you or can’t find the problem? When you feel numb and just want to give up? What about faith then?