Passion Required

Recently I talked about the importance of teachability/teachability 2.0. I said teachability is an essential quality of being a disciple. Disciples, by definition, are teachable!

Disciples must be passionate!
Another requirement, I believe, is passion. Think about it: the word apathy means “without passion.” What do you think about the term, “apathetic Christian”? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

One day, Jesus was tested by a group of Pharisees. They asked Jesus about the greatest commandment in the Scriptures. Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22.34-40).

Loving God with your whole being – that’s what passion is! Loving others as you love yourself. Only passionate people can do that. Passion is required for fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ, the Passionate One!

Models of Passion
Let’s look at a few people from Scripture who modeled a passionate life.

David
David was a passionate person. He was described as “a man after God’s own heart.” During one celebration (bringing the ark of the covenant home to Jerusalem), the Scripture says, “David danced before the LORD with all his might” (2 Samuel 6.14). David was a passionate person!

And the Psalms DAvid wrote are filled with passion, too, things like …

  • “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 25.1)
  • “I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.” (Psalm 34.1)
  • “O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better to me than life itself; how I praise you!” (Psalm 63.1-3)
  • “With all my heart I praise the LORD, and with all that I am I praise his holy name! With all my heart I praise the LORD! I will never forget how kind he has been.” (Psalm 103.1-2)

Jeremiah
Jeremiah was another passionate lover of God. Jeremiah’s ministry was to preach judgment in order to turn God’s people from imminent disaster. That’s a tough call! It takes a passionate person to fulfill that call.

At one of Jeremiah’s low points, he prays a passionate prayer …

O LORD, you persuaded me, and I allowed myself to be persuaded. You are stronger than I am, and you overpowered me. Now I am mocked by everyone in the city. Whenever I speak, the words come out in a violent outburst. “Violence and destruction!” I shout. So these messages from the LORD have made me a household joke. And I can’t stop! If I say I’ll never mention the LORD or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am weary of holding it in! (Jeremiah 20.7-9)

Passionate people have fire in their bones. It’s God’s fire. “Our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12.29)

Jesus
And who was more passionate than Jesus?

Read John 2.13-17. Jesus clears the Temple and the disciples later remembered Psalm 69.9, “Passion for God’s house burns within me.” Jesus was a man of great passion!

Jesus was the most passionate person who ever lived. Is it any wonder we call Jesus’ suffering and death the “passion of Christ”? Jesus’ death is the ultimate picture of love and total sacrifice for others. That’s passion!

Rekindling Passion
But all passionate people struggle, at times, to keep the passion alive. If your passion gage is running low today, let me suggest the following …

:: Repent of apathy!
We all, no doubt, have been apathetic toward someone or something at some point in our life. And, if we’re honest, we’re probably pretty apathetic toward something right now, something that we should be giving our whole heart to. Maybe you’re not loving your spouse or your family as you need to. Or, perhaps you’re not giving God all of your heart! Maybe you’re holding something back. If so, I invite you to join me in repenting of apathy!

:: Experience God’s love!
Since we can only give what we have received, to give love, we have to have received love. Think of yourself as an empty cup. To be able to pour anything out, your cup must first be filled. And the more we pour out, the more we must receive. And the more receive, the more we have to give!

:: Love God and others with passion!
Love is a decision, a choice we make. We have to guard against waiting to feel passionate about God to love God. The emotions of love usually follow the act of loving God and others. So, start today to love God and others with more and more of your heart.

:: Discover and live out your unique passion!
Of course, we’re all wired differently, and we all have different passions in life. I am passionate about some things that you may not be, and you are passionate about some things that I’m not. But you need to discover what you are passionate about. What fuels your engine? What excites you? What brings you energy?

How full is your passion tank?
I can’t think of anything much worse than being apathetic, complacent, lukewarm. In fact, Jesus had a harsh word for a church that was lukewarm. Jesus, through the Apostle John, says, “you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth!”

But these people in this church did not know they were lukewarm. They thought they had everything they needed. Jesus challenged them, “Be diligent and turn from your indifference.”

O God, we are empty clay jars and we need you to fill us once again. Forgive us for our apathy, our lack of passion. Fill us with your love. And help us to love you in return. Help us to love you with our whole being – heart, mind, soul, and strength – everything that’s in us! Help us to love each other as brothers and sisters. And help us to love spiritually empty people, especially those we know and interact with locally. Empower us to be your passionate followers! Amen.

Resurrection Power

Ephesians 1.17-23

Persistent Intercessory Prayer
vv17-18a

Paul is praying a prayer of intercession, a prayer for others, specifically for the Ephesians. But it is my prayer for us and I want you to make it your prayer for yourself, for other believers and for this body. It is a persistent prayer, "I keep praying." He continues to make this his prayer. It is a prayer for illumination, for God to reveal or make known three things to the Ephesians.

Prayer for hope, rich inheritance, and power.
vv18b-20

Hope: a joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation
Inheritance: looks forward to the consummated kingdom of God, that which is expected after the Second Coming of Christ
Power: four words are used of power and also a demonstration of that power is pointed out.
Dunamis: the inherent power of God, that which belongs to him because he is God. It is the power to accomplish, to perform miracles.
Working: superhuman power
Strength: force or power to overcome what stands in the way, dominion.
Might: exercise of power

Similarity, not difference, is of importance. Four words are used to demonstrate this ultimate power. This power that is above all. This power that is different than any other power that you have encountered. Paul doesn’t stop at these four words to describe this power byt says that this power was demonstrated as God … raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the heavenlies.

What power do we know that can overcome death? We know that medicine has limited power, but it is just that, limited. There is only so much that doctors can do. But this power overcomes death. Jesus is the first fruit. That power of God is demonstrated in him. Many saw him die. Many witnessed to his resurrection. There is no doubt of his resurrection.

50 days between Easter and Pentecost celebrate the time Jesus spent with the disciples after the resurrection. Many saw Jesus:

1 Corinthians 15.3-7

Power over …
vv21-22a

Power over all things. Names four things again and goes on to say every title, and also at any time.
All subjected to Christ. All is under Christ. All must obey Christ. All is under Christ’s control.
Universal dominion.

Power for …
v 22b

This power demonstrated in Christ, this exaltation of Christ over all things is for the Church. It is God’s gift to the Church. It is for the benefit of the Church.

Church is filled …
v 23

The Church is filled with Christ. Filled to fullness. Are we full of Christ?
Full of Christ’s presence, Christ’s power. Full of Christ’s life, his gifts, his blessings.

The Church manifests Christ to the world, only as the church is filled with Christ.
Through the power of God in our lives we can live victoriously in our living in our personal lives.
Through the power of God given to the Church, we can impact our world for Christ.

Living in the Resurrection Power
We don’t have to settle for the status quo. We don’t have to settle for mediocrity.  Sanctification is going on to perfection. Sin remains in our life, but no longer does it reign (D&DR). Just as Jesus reigns over all things, he reigns in our lives. He reigns over temptation, over sin, over anything that would hinder our relationship with God and with others.

Dunam and Dunam Reisman point out that it’s about asking the right question: “Our usual response to the question as to whether a Christian sins is, “Of course!” But the more important question is whether a Christian has to sin. The answer to that is a resounding no!”

Through Jesus Christ sin is conquered. He has taken our sin to the cross and raised us to new life, victorious life.

We glorify God by living sanctified lives; lives that overcome. Christ died so that we can be victorious. Living victorious lives is our way of saying thank you for what he did for us on Calvary.

Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Drove him to rely upon God. It was a source of humility: he gloried God and not self.

God is calling us to greater things … in his power, in our personal lives and in the life of his body, the Church. He is calling us to impact the world around us. If we want God to reveal his power to us, we need to step out where he can display that power. We need to step out where we rely on him and not ourselves. We need to serve in ways where we need to rely on his strength rather than our own abilities. His supernatural power is that which empowers us to do more than what we can accomplish on our own. God wants to defy circumstances, common sense, and logic. That is the power that Paul experienced and is praying that the Ephesians experience. That is the power I want to experience in our midst!

“Do you like Easter?”

John 20.1-18

Do you like Easter? We all look forward to Easter don’t we? Easter is a sign that spring is here or on the way. We look forward to everything turning green and the first flowers are coming up. The first of my tulips bloomed just this week! We look forward to this very special day of worship. Little girls look forward to getting all dressed up in their Easter dresses. The kids get to have Easter egg hunts and they look forward to hunting for Easter baskets on Sunday morming. We look forward to family visiting and gathering together for an Easter feast – always the traditional ham dinner at our home. And we get to talk and sing about the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It’s a glorious time all around.

Do you like Easter? Yes, we probably all like Easter. But, do you know there would not be an Easter without the previous events of Holy Week. We probably like to hear the story of Easter more than the story of Holy Thursday or Good Friday, but without them there would be no Easter. Holy Week is the story ~of betrayal … by a friend, a follower. A story of the arrest of Jesus, of false accusations, of injustice, of beatings, abuse, and mockery. Holy Week is the story of a death sentence, undeserved. Death on a cross – a death which is despised, cursed, one that brought shame. It was an embarrassment for the family, for anyone that knew or associated with that individual. And this crucifixion was a scary time, for at midday darkness fell over the earth, creation was ripped apart by a devastating earthquake.

Do you like Easter? Oh, yes, Easter makes those events of Holy Week bearable because we know Easter is coming. Easter a day of celebration, a day of new birth (symbolized in the egg, the lambs, the chicks, the bunnies.) Easter is a day filled with hope. It is a day we anticipate.

But we can’t have Easter without Holy Week. We can’t have the resurrection story without Good Friday. We can’t have an empty tomb with out the cross. There is no new life without death.

We come to Easter to celebrate the promise of new life, a new life that was bought with a price.

My life and your life was the price; we were the ones who deserved to die. But Jesus stood up and said, “I’ll die instead.”
“Put their sin on me.”
“Put Joleen’s sin on me.”
“I’ll die for her.”
“Put … you supply your name … I’ll die for him and for her.”

All we have is sin to give. During Lent we looked at the 7 Deadly Sins: pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, lust, gluttony. Jesus came to die for those sins.

But we learned in Lent, we can’t just give our sin to Jesus; we give ourselves to Jesus and Jesus takes our sin. We have to yield our lives, surrender our lives and he takes our sin and then we experience Easter!

Easter comes alive in us … Jesus raises us to new life. Jesus plants within us a seed, which if we continue to nurture, we grow more and more like him – we come more and more to life.

Trees need rain and nourishment; they don’t gain leaves overnight – so we slowly, steadily grow as we nourish our new life with God’s Word and prayer and worship and community, and service.

Do you like Easter? Do you like the thought of coming to life – being transformed into the person God originally intended you to be. Sin distorted that person and now as Jesus takes the sin away, our lives are like a piece of silver that is black with tarnish, and Jesus removes the tarnish (with his blood) so that once again his reflection is seen in our lives.

Do you like Easter? If you like Easter, I have a surprise for you. There’s going to be a day kind of like Easter, except different. It’s a resurrection day, too.

1 Thessalonians 4.13-18

There is another resurrection day! There is another Easter, per say. Jesus was the first to rise from the dead to live forever, to live for all eternity. There is a day coming when all who have experienced death will rise again to a life that will last forever. And those of us who are still living will be caught away never to know a physical death. Isn’t that exiting?

Do you like Easter? Easter is a promise that Jesus will come again. Jesus conquered death and as he conquered death in the physical realm, he will conquer that death for us, but that promise is yet to be fulfilled. The spiritual life that he brings us is a foretaste of that which is to come.

In the new life that you have now in Christ Jesus, you still experience hardships, you may experience illness, living in this world where there are those who have not yet accepted Christ, sin will brush against you. You will experience temptations yet.

But the promise of the second coming is a promise that you will not experience those things ever again.

Revelation 21.4-5a
Easter is a promise that as Jesus brings us new life in the present; he will bring a completeness to that new life at his second coming.

Do you like Easter? You are really going to like this day! Not only will our salvation be complete, our life completely restored, but Jesus exaltation will be complete. We, as believers, exalt Jesus now; but not everyone believes, not everyone worships Jesus, and we as believers all fall short of the complete and total worship that is due Him.

Philippians 2.10-11

We like Easter today, and we are here to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are here to give him the worship that is due him. But you and I know that there are those today who are not worshiping; there are those who a grateful for a long weekend, for another day off from work. But there is a greater day of worship coming, when "every knee will bow and every tongue will confess!" Won’t that be a glorious day? Jesus will get the full worship he deserves. The actions of his death and resurrection will be fully recognized as being done willingly out of his love for us. Those who do not believe, will believe. Those who have placed their trust in other things, will see Who deserves their trust, their faith, their commitment.

Yes, if you like Easter, you’re really going to like this day!

Knowing this day is coming, keeps Easter alive all the year through. It keeps the celebration alive in our hearts. It keeps our hearts focused on things eternal. It helps us order our lives according to what is eternally significant. It reminds us of the new life that is birthed in us and continues to grow in us preparing us for that day, when like that first Easter, when Mary saw Jesus, we, too, shall see Jesus face to face.

Easter 2006

In "The Great Thanksgiving" that we sometimes use for our communion liturgy, there’s this phrase where everyone is invited to "proclaim the mystery of faith" … "Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again."

Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. All three parts are essential!

The Apostle Paul talks about these three realities is 1 Corinthians 15.1-20.

Christ has died!
Jesus began preparing his disciples for the impending events that awaited him once they arrived in Jerusalem. Mark 8. 31 says, "Then Jesus began to tell them that he, the Son of Man, would suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the leaders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, and three days later he would rise again."

A little further along the journey, Jesus adds, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead." But they didn’t understand what he was saying, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant" (Mark 9.31b-32).

And finally, Jesus lays it all out one last time: "When we get to Jerusalem," he told them, "the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. They will mock him, spit on him, beat him with their whips, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again" (Mark 10.33-34).

And it happened just as Jesus predicted!

Christ has risen!
"If Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless." (1 Corinthians 15.14)

The resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith! If there was no resurrection, then we have no hope, no salvation, no eternal life, and no faith! Everything rises and falls on the resurrection!

Christ has died; Christ has risen.

Christ will come again!
Read 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18

Our hope is that Jesus died for us, that he rose from the dead, and that he will come back again!

How will you respond?
Jesus once had a revealing conversation with one of his closest friends, Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus.  Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask." Jesus told her, "Your brother will rise again." "Yes," Martha said, "when everyone else rises, on resurrection day." Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish" (John 11.21-26).

That’s a wonderful conversation. But Jesus final question drives home the need for a response: "Do you believe this, Martha?" What about you? Do you believe this? What will you do about it? How will it change the way you live your life?

O God, "In remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again." Thank you for loving the world so much that you sent your only Son to be our Savior. Help us to live our lives as your disciples in light of this story. May it truly change our lives so that we will, in turn, change this community for your honor! Amen.

For Reflection …
Notice the disciples’ response, according to Scripture, upon hearing the news of Christ’s resurrection from the women who went to the tomb. Scripture says "the story sounded like nonsense, so they didn’t believe it" (Luke 24.10-11). What about you? How does this story sound to you? Have you rejected this story as a fairy tale? Or have you embraced the story as Truth? And how will it affect the way you live your life from this point forward?

7 Deadly Sins: Lust & Gluttony

1 Corinthians 6.12-20

Illustration
There is a story of a woman who had tried everything to lose weight—diet, exercise, appetite-suppressing pills Finally she found something that worked. She attaches a 12” x 16” picture of a beautiful, this, shapely woman, dressed in a bikini, on her refrigerator door. Every time she was tempted to snack, the picture of what she might become was a powerful deterrent. During the first month she lost ten pounds—but her husband gained twenty!

Advertising We all know the slogan, “sex sells”. But did you know that along with sex, the most prominent imagery is eating and drinking?

Lust is “the craving for salt of a person who is dying of thirst.” Intensive sexual desire or appetite, a passionate desire or craving (doesn’t have to apply just to sex. It’s the uncontrolled, excessive desire.)

Gluttony, a twin to lust, is the mad pursuit of the bodily pleasures that is never completely satisfied. (We usually connect this with food, but it also can be with drinking and smoking, even work, soap operas, exercise, video games, gambling, and computers, and even sex.)

Boredom
People turn to both lust and gluttony out of boredom. I probably don’t need to ask how many people have wandered to the refrigerator at some time or another out of boredom. For the same reason people may turn to an affair: life isn’t exciting anymore. With lust there is this lure, this thrill of the challenge. There is immediate satisfaction with no thought of consequence.

“Boredom is epidemic but we will not live with our boredom long enough to experience our emptiness and begin to discover meaning.” -Sam Keen “Inward Bound” We fill our lives with food, entertainment, sex, or whatever gives immediate gratification, instead of feeding the deeper spiritual longings. Our scripture says “the body … is made for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” We were made for God and made to be one with God and as long as we fill that longing with anything else we will not find satisfaction. We will not enjoy abundant life. (See The Beatitudes of Promise: The Promise of Righteousness for more on hungering for spiritual things and finding satisfaction.)

Self-indulgence
The source of both lust and gluttony can be self-indulgence. The gratifying of self. It is proven that with the self-indulgence of food, alcohol, and tobacco, a chemical imbalance is created that turns us in addicts.

When I was a teenager we used to talk about going off our sugar addiction after Christmas. Cookies and candies became a staple, and there was craving that far outlasted that final cookie.

13.8 million Americans have a problem with alcohol. Far more with food.
On the other hand, pornography is $12 billion business in the US ($57 billion worldwide).

Stand against Temptation
It is said of sexual pornography, that the senses become numbed and more and more bizarre experiences are sought for satisfaction.

James 1.13-15
James warns us of giving into temptation, for temptation leads to sin and sin to death – a spiritual death. It will kill your relationship with God. The dangerous progression will lead to the loss of one’s salvation. Temptation in itself is not a sin. But do not give in to the temptation.

Matthew 5.27-28
This is similar to Jesus statement, that one who even looks at a another with lust has commited adultery in their heart. Jesus is saying don’t even look. Don’t give in to the temptation.

We deceive ourselves thinking that some basic stuff is harmless; that we can handle it. God knows otherwise and so he gives us boundaries for our own protection.

Distortion of the Good
1 Corinthians 8.8 "But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do."

Food is not bad. Sex is not bad. But the unhealthy, sinful cravings are the distortion. Specifically of sexual lust, lust is born out of our deepest need and desire, love. It is a distortion of love. Our text says, “All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” Sexual sin goes to the core.

16Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." 17But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

Paul is making a comparison between the connection between the union of a person and God and the sexual union. You cannot separate the mechanics of sex from the deeper union that occurs. There is a oneness that happens. A giving of self that you can’t just take back.

The Hebrew word Yada means “to know deeply,” to love, to commit – a commitment that calls for marriage, to care for. To know someone intimately is to know them on every level.

Lust: treats people as things.
Love: treats people as persons.

Balance
Our text says, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit … honor God with your body.”

Balance steers us from preoccupation.

Victorian age: bodies were evil.
Today: body image is exalted.
Today: health isn’t the chief motivator of our eating habits, body image is. I remember the first time I discovered a person could be both thin and unhealthy. Being thin is not a sign that one takes care of the body. We especially know that with the illnesses of Bulimia and Anorexia. Furthermore, being fat or thin is not a sign of whether one struggles with gluttony. One can be obsessed with exercise, overly excessive into health foods – this can be gluttony. Also, bodily inbalances and medicines can cause fluctuations in weight.

Jesus fasted and feasted. It is not a sin to feast – it is a joining of food and fellowship that uplifts community. Where gluttony deadens our spiritual hunger, fasting awakens our spiritual hunger. Fasting leads us to the food that satisfies; it is feasting on “The Bread of Life.” (John 6)

With lust, again in the Victorian age, you didn’t talk about sex. Sex was a necessary evil. Then, we come to our modern era and we have gone the complete opposite of anything goes. This does not uphold the sacredness of the gift. UMC believes in “fidelity in marriage, celibacy in singleness.” Save the gift for the one you will share your life with. Save the gift for the one who will know you deeply; with whom you will share every intimate part of your life, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Guard yourself and your children:
Accountability software
www.pureonline.com (has links to the others)
X3watch.com
www.covenanteyes.com
www.protectkids.com (has Rules ‘n Tools)
Filtering service: integrity.com
Google.com (search engine in preferences allows you to set up filtering)

Action steps
1. Solid determination to be free
2. Healthy holy perspective about our bodies
3. Sex is sacred; God’s gift to us.
(Food is a gift! It is not our enemy.)

Find an accountability partner.
Counseling.

Conclusion
John 8.1-11 – the woman caught in the act of adultery
“Neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
“Grace excepts us where we are; but it does not leave us we are.” (Dunam and Dunam-Reisman)

Jesus came not to condemn, but to offer forgiveness. And he does not
expect us to stay the same. With his forgiveness, comes tranformation.
We become new people. We are not controlled by sin, but our lives
belong to Him.

This week
The Lord Jesus Christ “will change our weak mortal bodies and make them like his own glorious body, using that power by which he is able to bring all things under his rule.”
Philippians 3.21 TEV

7 Deadly Sins 6 :: Lust & Gluttony

In wrapping up this series on the “7 deadly sins,” we’re going to talk about the last two sins on our list: lust and gluttony. Lust and gluttony are twin brothers. Lust is misplaced love and gluttony is misplaced hunger.

A woman struggled to lose weight. She had tried everything — all kinds of diets, exercise, diet pills — but nothing seemed to work. One day she posted a 12″ x 16″ picture of a thin woman in a bikini on her refrigerator door so that whenever she went to the fridge for a snack, she’d be reminded of what she was trying to accomplish. And it worked. In one month, she had lost 10 pounds. Problem is, her husband gained 20 pounds!

Lust: 2 Samuel 11.2-5

Jesus, in his “sermon on the mount” quoted one of the Ten Commandments, “Do not commit adultery.” Jesus took it up a level, and said, “But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5.27-28).

Tough words. I believe Jesus is telling us that adultery begins long before the physical act, it begins in the mind.

Lust is …

  • “Intense sexual desire”
  • “Uncontrolled or illicit sexual desire”
  • “To have a strong/excessive craving”

In the Workbook, Dunnam & Reisman say …

  • “Lust is the distortion of the highest good and purpose of life: love.”
  • “Lust is sexual desire apart of commitment and responsibility.”
  • “Lust is a deadly preoccupation. Sometimes that preoccupation results in action, sometimes it does not, but always it distorts healthy relationships and endangers promises of faithfulness.”

Pornography …

  • “Sexual desire that seeks only self-gratification rather than deep personal communion.” (Dunnam & Reisman)
  • $12B dollar industry in US (more than the NFL, NBA and MLB combined); $57B worldwide.
  • According to one report, 35 percent of all Internet usage is pornographic
  • A Focus on the Family poll in 2003 reported that 47% of the respondents said pornography is a problem in their home.

Getting Help/Protecting Your Home …
www.protectkids.com
www.x3watch.com (free accountability software)
www.xxxchurch.com (resources)
www.covenanteyes.com (accountability software)
www.pureonline.com (resources)
www.integrity.com (filtered ISP)

Gluttony: 1 Corinthians 6.12-20

Now, we’re not talking about feasting. Feasting is an integral part of Judaism and Christianity. Even in the Gospels, we see that Jesus spent a lot of time eating and hanging out with friends. But it was all centered on fellowship and community, not just the act of eating.

Gluttony is misplaced hunger. Dunnam and Resiman write, “Gluttony is a solitary act that defeats rather than enhances community.”

A good spiritual response to gluttony is fasting. Read Matthew 6.16-18 and Isaiah 58.6-11. “Fasting is an expression of ‘hunger and thirst’ for spiritual food” (Dunnam & Resiman).

There are different ways to fast from food. I am partial to the Wesley Fast, named for John Wesley’s practice of fasting following the Thursday evening meal till tea time on Friday afternoon (3:00 pm).

Fasting is about remembering (Dunnam & Resiman) …

  • what food is all about
  • the source of food
  • how blessed we are to have it
  • those who do not have it
  • ‘we do not live by bread alone’

The Good News is that God sent his Son into the world to save men and women from their sins. We do not have to be captive to sin any longer! (Read Romans 6.1-7)

God is interested in the development of our character. And our character development is determined in large part by our willingness to surrender our hearts fully to God!

Following David’s sin with Bathsheba (and subsequent sins), David prayed a courageous prayer of repentance. It’s a great prayer. I especially love verse 10. Let’s make it our prayer today …

“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51.10).

For Reflection …

What is your attitude toward food? Is it something you like to enjoy with family and friends? Or do you have an unhealthy craving for food?

In Scripture, Paul wrote, “don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6.19-20) In what ways will you allow these words to change the way you treat your body (especially as it relates to lust and gluttony)?

Lust is arguably the most damaging of the deadly sins. It’s the one that is hardest to discuss. Are you winning your battle with lust? Do you allow your mind to be preoccupied with sinful thoughts? Do you visit inappropriate websites for self-gratification? Do you need help? If so, please talk to someone and visit the sites linked to above for helpful resources.

For Holy Week (this week), I encourage you to prayerful read Psalm 51.

[Read Joleen’s message here.]

Teachability 2.0

[Note: As part of our devotion/Bible discussion time at beginning of our council meeting tonight, I shared a brief review of Tuesday’s message as well as some additional thoughts on teachability.]

Psalm 51 reveals the teachable heart of David. It’s the psalm he writes about his repentance following his sins involving Bathsheba and Uriah. In it, David prays, "But you desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being" (51.6). God wants us to have teachable hearts!

Here are some assumptions I make for myself. What about you? Are they true for you as well?

  • I don’t know it all.
  • The more I learn, the more I discover how much I don’t know.
  • We all makes mistakes. Mistakes are a vital part of the learning process.
  • Discipleship requires teachability; teachability requires hunger, passion, patience, perseverance!

Are there assumptions or truths that you would add to this list?

In his book, Visioneering, Andy Stanley says there are two questions he wants everyone to be able to answer.

  • What are we doing?
  • How do I fit in?

Those are great questions. My goal is for everyone in our congregation to be able to answer those two questions. But only teachable people will be able to. Only teachable people will be able to hear, discern, and embrace God’s vision and then to discover their own unique God-given role in the big picture vision God has given us.

Jesus says, "Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise …" Are you teachable? If so, you are "like a person who builds a house on solid rock." But those who hear and ignore Jesus’ teaching are not teachable. Bad news: they are like people who build houses on sand. (See Matthew 7.24-27)

Having a teachable heart begins with a heart that is in right relationship with God. I love what David prays in Psalm 51. I think it should be our prayer, too. It’s a prayer that only teachable hearts can pray …

"Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me." (51.10)

Teachability

[Note: This sermon was presented at one of the Community Lenten Services coordinated by the Juniata Valley Ministerium. This sermon was delivered at the Zion Lutheran Church.]

In this series of messages during Lent, we’ve been focusing on the promises of God’s blessings given in the beatitudes, a section of Scripture that Jesus presents at the beginning of his "sermon on the mount" (Matthew 5-7). Though much of the teaching has become pretty familiar to us, when we hear it with fresh ears, it’s really pretty revolutionary stuff about things like anger, adultery, loving one’s enemies, prayer, and money/possessions.

Tonight, we’re focusing on Matthew 5.5 which says, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." It’s a quotation of Psalm 37.11a: "Those who are meek will inherit the land."

I also like a couple modern translations of the verse …

  • "God blesses those who are gentle and lowly, for the whole earth will belong to them." (NLT)
  • "God blesses those people who are humble. The earth will belong to them!" (CEV)

Weakness?
Problem is, much of our society equates humility/meekness with weakness.

Leonard Bernstein, a famous conductor, was once asked to name the most difficult instrument to play. He said, “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm—that’s a problem. And if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”

However, humility is not about being weak, mild, unassertive, or cowardly. I believe humility is about knowing that you need God, and that without God, you can do nothing of any real, eternal value! Humility is about NOT being self-focused and self-absorbed.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” (Rick Warren)

“Humility is not trying to be humble … humility is just seeing God as he is." (Louie Giglio)

Let’s take a quick look at some humble people in Scripture.

Paul
In the NT, there’s Paul. Now Paul had every right to be proud (if anyone did); he had experienced a number of huge accomplishments in his life. But God humbled him on the road to Damascus. And throughout his life for Christ, he continued to experience hardships for God’s kingdom. Read 2 Corinthians 4.7-11.

Joseph
In the OT, there’s Joseph. Now Joseph certainly didn’t start out humble, did he? He had huge visions of greatness. But after a lifetime of humbling experiences, he was able to say to his brothers, who had caused much of his hardship, "As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil" (Genesis 50.20).

Moses
But perhaps one of the greatest examples of meekness and humility was Moses. In fact, the Scriptures say, "Moses was more humble than any other person on earth" (Numbers 12.3). I don’t know about you, but I would never consider Moses, the most humble person at the time, a weak leader!

Teachability!
Though humble people each have different personalities and giftedness, I believe there’s at least one common denominator: teachability. Paul, Joseph, and Moses (not to mention all the other humble people in Scripture) were teachable.

"The most important thing about education is appetite." (Churchill)

I believe the call to discipleship requires teachability!
"If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me." (Luke 9.23)

Jesus calls us to be followers/disciples! Disciples are students and learners. They have a passion to learn. But this learning isn’t simply classroom, head knowledge kind of learning; it’s more like being an apprentice. We are lifetime apprentices, working alongside, and sitting at the feet of, our Master Teacher, Jesus!

Our Master Teacher says, "Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11.29).

Ironically, at the end of the the sermon on the mount, Jesus challenges his followers by showing them the importance of teachability. He says, "Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse, because it is built on rock. But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will fall with a mighty crash." (Matthew 7.24-27)

Those who listen and obey and teachable; those who do not listen and obey are not teachable. It matters greatly which we are! How teachable are you?

O God, thank you for your patience with us when we are not teachable. Thank you for not quickly tossing us (clumps of clay) off your potter’s wheel. But help us to always be moldable and shapable. Help us to be teachable, as the call to follow you and be your disciples, requires! Equip us to be humble, knowing that we desperately need you … always!  Amen.

For Reflection …
"The call to discipleship requires teachability!" Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not?

I love these quotes on teachability …
"If I am through learning, I am through." (John Wooden)
"It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts." (John Wooden)
"As long as you’re green, you’re growing. As soon as you’re ripe, you start to rot." (Ray Kroc)

How teachable are you?

Reflect on these questions and thoughts on your own or post a comment by clicking on "comments" below this post.

7 Deadly Sins 5 :: Avarice

“He who dies with the most toys wins.” You may have read that on a bumper sticker at some point. That could be the slogan for avarice. Avarice (a word we don’t really use much anymore) means “excessive, unbridled desire.”

There are three closely related words we want to talk about …

  • Greed – an inordinate desire for more and more
  • Covetousness – desire for things you do not have
  • Avarice – a hoarding of things we have but do not need

Notice that there’s a common denominator among these three words: selfishness.

Perhaps you’ve seen the prime time game show on NBC, Deal or No Deal. I have only watched portions of it a couple times. Interestingly, it seems to me, that greed is what keeps contestants from leaving with a lot of money. Contestants appear to enter the game with the goal of winning a million dollars (or as close to that as possible). The goal should be to take and run with the best deal you can get. But it’s greed that keeps contestants playing, wanting to win more and more money. Fact is, an offer of $130,000 doesn’t sound like enough when there are so many huge numbers still on the board. But that amount does seem big when the contestant who once rejected that amount leaves with $5 because she was greedy!

Questions …

  • How much is enough?
  • Have you recently wanted more than you needed?
  • Was there something you wanted mainly because someone else had it?
  • Are you hoarding (not sharing) things that you don’t need?

Read Luke 12.13-21. Jesus says, “Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much we own,” and “a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God” (Luke 12.15, 21).

“The truth is this: What we can grasp (possessions) will never make us rich toward God, and what can make us rich toward God cannot be grasped.” (Dunnam & Reisman)

3 kinds of the goods of the world …

  1. Those that are necessary (food, clothing, shelter)
  2. Those that are useful (tools, books, things that make us comfortable, etc)
  3. Those that are extra (luxuries)

There is nothing wrong with things/possessions in and of themselves. Money itself is not evil, but our love of money is (see 1 Timothy 6.10). It’s about our relationship with those possessions. It’s a question of ownership: Do we possess what we own or does what we own possess us?

“Having too much can lead us to pride and more covetousness. More dangerous than anything, it can divert us from reliance on God.” (Dunnam & Reisman)

Jesus once remarked, “it is very hard for a rich person to get into the Kingdom of Heaven … it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Matthew 19.23-24).

That sounds pretty tough, doesn’t it? Jesus made that statement after an encounter with a young guy who apparently had a lot of possessions. The guy approached Jesus, asking him, “what good things must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus assured him that he can receive eternal life by keeping the commandments. However, the young man wasn’t satisfied so he pressed the issue a bit further, asking, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments. What else must I do?”

Jesus’ response may surprise us: “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Wow. That’s tough stuff! The young man, perhaps understandably, wasn’t happy. The Scriptures say, “he went sadly away because he had many possessions.”

Now, I don’t think Jesus is necessarily giving a universal teaching here: Sell everything you own! No, but I do think Jesus told him to sell his possessions because his possessions owned him!

And it sounds like something Jesus would say to you and me, if our possessions possess us: Get rid of it. Use it for good. Don’t hoard it all on yourself! Share it with others!

That seems to be how the earliest community of Christ-followers lived: “And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need.” (Acts 2.44-45)

“There is only one way to overcome our coldheartedness: to give ourselves to Jesus so completely that we will begin to give our resources to others.” (Dunnam & Reisman)

Dear Jesus, you spent so much time talking about money and possessions. There must have been a good reason! Help us to maintain a right attitude toward our stuff (which is really stuff that comes from you). Help us to see our money and possessions as resources to make a difference in our world rather than as things to possess, own, keep, and hoard. Give us hearts of gratitude, hearts that love to share with others, and protect our hearts from becoming cold! Amen.

For Reflection …

Read Matthew 19.16-24. What is Jesus saying to you about your money and possessions? Is there anything that possesses you? Is there anything you can give away that would benefit your community?

Read 1 John 3.11-17. Dunnam and Reisman write, “Refusing to use our world’s goods to meet the needs of another is the same as Cain murdering his brother, and allowing hatred to grow for any sister or brother.” Do you agree with this connection? Why or why not?

Read James 4.1-2. What kinds of things are fighting/quarrelling for? What’s driving you to fight for them?

Feel free to respond to any of these questions by clicking on “comments” just below this post.

And here’s the link to Joleen’s sermon on Avarice.

The 7 Deadly Sins: Avarice

Notice the use of "abundant" or "abundance" in the following passages.
John 10.10
Luke 12.15-21

Abundance of possessions or abundant life? Which will we choose?

Greed: desires more and more
Covetousness: greed with jealousy (desiring what another has)
Avarice: an excessive desire to obtain and keep money or possessions. Hoarding.

Hoarding: News story of woman whose house is filled with stuff. Her bed is stacked with stuff. In the summertime she sleeps outside on a glider, because there is no room in her house. Her teenage son moved out to live with an older sister because he couldn’t stand it. She knows she has a problem. Her family knows she knows she has a problem.

When Randy worked with his dad building storage barns, they were hired to build a rather large barn for someone. Soon they were called back to build second and then a third. This man was literally building barns for his stuff!

Rich toward God
“He who dies with the most toys wins.” (Bumper Sticker)

How much is enough? “a little more than what you have.”

“The things we can grasp will not fully satisfy us when they are reached. …that which does satisfy us can be reached for, but never fully grasped.” –Mel Wheatley

Matthew 6.19-21 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth … But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven …

Reliance on God
Avarice is a sign that we don’t trust God to meet our needs. We store up because we don’t trust that there will be for tomorrow.

The Beatitudes – Blessed are the poor, the hungry, the thirsty … Someone rephrased them saying,
“You will never know that Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you’ve got.”

Matthew 6.25-26 Don’t worry about what you will eat or what you will wear. Look at the birds, "they do not … store away in barns." God takes care of them, how much more we will take care of us!

3 Types of Goods
Necessary – (bare necessities) food, clothing, shelter. [And these can go beyond the necessities: have you noticed how houses are getting bigger and bigger?]
Useful – things that make us more comfortable, tools that make our work easier and more efficient, books and art that enhance our growth and appreciation for life, enough entertainment and pleasure that provide healthy diversion from labor and routine.
Extra” (Luxuries) – What luxuries have become necessities?

Randy and I discuss whether we need bibliography software when we write our dissertations. For him it is useful. For me it seemed a luxury. Spouses may not always agree with the category.

Do we have money or does money have us? “Do we possess what we own or does what we own possess us?” -These are good heart check questions.

1 Timothy 6.10 Money is not evil. It is the "love of money" that is the "root of all kinds of evil."

“Earn all you can; Save all you can; Give all you can. -Wesley

As a Church, do we rely on God? Or do we hoard?

Learning to Love: Giving ourselves away
What is love? Jesus demonstrates love to us.

1 John 3.11,16-17

We learn to love by knowing the author of love, the one who not only demonstrates love, but is love. He doesn’t just have love, but love is his very essence. There is nothing in him that is not love.

As Jesus sacrificially gave his life for us, we are called to give our lives: to God and to others.

As we prepare for Communion, we come to this altar remembering that Jesus Christ was sacrificed for us. And we also come offering ourselves as a living sacrifice (Romans 12.1-2). The only way to overcome avarice in our lives is to give ourselves completely to God, so that we can begin to give ourselves and our resources to others.