7 Deadly Sins 4 :: Sloth

Proverbs 6.6-11

There’s an animal called the sloth. It’s a mammal that lives mostly in trees and feeds mainly on leaves. It sleeps, eats, travels, and even gives birth, while hanging upside down. Sloths move only when they have to, and when they do, it’s normally very slowly. Amazingly, infant sloths hang onto their mother’s fur, but sometimes they fall off. Because of the way sloths are built, they rarely die from the fall. However, sometimes the mothers refuse to leave the trees to retrieve their offspring! Sloths are a great example of slothfulness.

Sloth, a sin?!
We’ve been talking about deadly sins. Of all the sins listed among the seven deadly sins, perhaps the sin that would get the most argument is sloth. Is sloth sin? And is it really a deadly sin?

Sloth/Laziness
M. Scott Peck believes that laziness is a major cause of evil and primary source of psychological illness. And Dunnam & Reisman say, “Laziness is a sin because it poisons the will.”

Now we’re not talking about restfulness or even idleness. We all need rest. In fact, “sabbath” means “to cease.” We all need to build rest in to the rhythm of our lives. Sloth, or laziness, isn’t about getting necessary rest; it’s about not caring; it’s about apathy.

George Bernard Shaw once stated that the epitaph of many people could read: “Died at 30; buried at 60.” It’s obvious some people have checked out while they’re still alive. Ouch!

3 Forms of Sloth …

  • Mental Sloth (too lazy to think, read, or to enter dialogue)
  • Moral Sloth (complain about the state of things but don’t do anything about it)
  • Spiritual Sloth (neglecting spiritual disciplines)

Well, let’s talk about ways to stay on task and avoid laziness from creeping into our lives.

7 Keywords for overcoming sloth …

Complacency
Guard against complacency. I’ve long believed that complacency is the biggest enemy of the Christian journey and the Church. It’s when we’re complacent (i.e. satisfied, lukewarm) that we’re in the most trouble. We’re in trouble and don’t know it, or we don’t care!

Responsibility
Take responsibility for your life. Don’t blame others. There may be situations we cannot control, but we can do something!

“Under God’s guidance and with God’s support, we are to choose direction, take control, and, by the decisions and disciplines of our will, determine where we go.” (Dunnam & Reisman)

Honor
Honor God. Live for God’s glory in everything you do!

Calling
Live in response to God’s call. A moment ago, I mentioned the epitaph, “Dead at 30; buried at 60.” That’s a bad epitaph. The one I’d like is what was said about David: David “served his generation according to the will of God, he died and was buried” (Acts 13.36). That’s how I want to live — serving according to God’s will, God’s purpose, in my generation!

Focus
Put first things first!

“(God) will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” (Matthew 6.33)

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” (Philippians 3.13-14)

Rule
Everyone needs to have a “rule of life.” A rule of life is a compass which orients your life. For John Wesley, his rule of life was the means of grace. He distinguished two type of acts:

  • Instituted means of grace (prayer, scripture, communion, fasting, Christian conferencing)
  • Prudential means of grace (doing no harm; doing good)

Love
Love others as commanded by Christ. Jesus challenged us, “I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it—the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends” (John 15.12-13).

“Unfortunately, most of us think love is something we feel rather than something we do. … Love requires decision; it’s a matter of the will.” (Dunnam & Reisman)

“Love is the essence of the Gospel and is the crown jewel of Christian character. In common thought, hate is the opposite of love. But … the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy.” (Dunnam & Reisman)

Love is the essence of the Gospel. It’s critical to our mission in the world. Just read Matthew 25.31-45.

Slothful, lazy people, do not care enough about others to act. Lazy people are apathtic, meaning they have no passion for life, or ultimately for God!

“We want Christ, but only moderately: we love Jesus, but only moderately; we will follow Jesus, but only so far. To claim to be a Christian without wanting Christ more than anything else, is a contradiction.” (Donald Shelby)

O God, we want to serve this generation according to your will. We want to fulfill your purpose for us, and we want to help others experience and follow you, too. Help us to not just be busybodies, though, doing all kinds of different things. Help us to be focused people, doing what you call and gift us to do. And for those who may be complacent, shake them out of their complacency. Do whatever you must do to get their attention so that no one will be lulled to sleep. Amen.

Joleen’s sermon on sloth.

The 7 Deadly Sins: Sloth

Greeting
My name is Joleen and I am a sinner. (response: “My name is ______ and I am a sinner.)

Is that statement more of a reality than when we first started this series? We are looking at the 7 Deadly Sins, not so we can identify them in the lives of others, but so we can examine our lives and see where we, who have been justified (saved, forgiven of our sins), are still in need and will always be in need of God’s grace. It is my hope that this series will produce in us a greater humility and dependence upon God and the grace that is offered to us through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. And that we will know the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, given so that we can overcome the grip of sin in our lives.

Proverbs 6.6-11

We will look at the basic definition and then expand our understanding of sloth today. We will look at the question, "Are we doing the right things?"

Laziness
Webster: disinclination to action or labor
In other words, inactivity. Doesn’t get a job. Make no contribution to society. Take but never give back. Couch potato.

The animal: slow, hangs upside down all it’s life, eats upside down, gives birth upside down. It hangs upside down from the tree and it’s babies hang upside down from the mamma. Sometimes a baby will fall and may not die from the fall, but it dies because the sloth is too slothful to go down and get it and lets it lay there and die.

Sloth is not: knowing how to take care of ourselves; we are not a machine (workaholic), enjoy and develop relationships with family and friends. It is not knowing how to observe the Sabbath. There needs to balance.

Now let’s expand our defintion.

Lack of care for others
Lack of love – we are too lazy to work at relationships. A relationship is dying, a marriage is on the edge – our society thinks it’s easier to can the relationship and find a new one; get a divorce and get married again.

Doesn’t take responsibility. Dead-beat dads.
Children grow up undisciplined because parents are too lazy to do the hard work.
Family members caring for one another.

A sign that we are slothful is being "overly protective of resources of time and energy."

Moral sloth we complain about social and moral evil—racism, welfare, abortion, prison reform, violence, drug abuse—but we don’t do anything.

We get bombarded by so much. And we know we can’t do everything, but that is not excuse to do nothing. Again, "Are we doing the right things?" And there is a danger when we hear so much to become apathetic – we just stop feeling anything.

Complacency
Complacency can touch many areas of our lives: woes of society, family situations, relationships, work, education, bettering of ourselves.

Questions to consider: Where do I see complacency in my life? Where have I stopped growing? Where have I stopped caring?

Spiritual sloth
Complacency can also set into our spiritual life.

Webster 1.b. spiritual apathy and inactivity <the deadly sin of sloth>

“We want Christ, but only moderately; we love Jesus, but only moderately; we will follow Jesus, but only so far. To claim to be a Christian without wanting Christ more than anything else, is a contradiction.” –Donald J. Shelby, from his sermon, “Wanting It Enough”

John 15.1-5 "Abide in me"
Jesus is the "true vine" and we are the branches. We must stay connected to our life source.

But, spiritual sloth says that we are too lazy to spend time with God. Too lazy to pursue God. To press in. We are cut off the very source of life and the refreshment and renewal our parched souls desire.

Have you ever been really thirsty? You haven’t had anything to drink for a few hours and when you have the opportunity and the choice of water or coffee, you go for the coffee? You know it’s not going to satisfy your thirst, but it smells so good. I’ve done that. And I imagine we all have done that with our spiritual lives. We turn on the tv instead of popping in a good Christian music CD. We jump into housework or some other busy activity instead of opening our Bible. We have this desire to phone a particular person and see how they’re doing, but we get sidetracked on the way to the phone.

Sloth is the “hatred of all spiritual things which entail effort.” -Henry Fairlie

Psalm 107.4-5, 10-12, 26-27 (Our thirst)
Psalm 104.10-13 (Quenching our thirst)

Lack of spiritual direction
Finally an answer to the question, "Are we doing the right things?" We can be busy doing the wrong things. As individuals and as the Church.

“We know we can’t do everything, so God what do you want us to do? God I give you this day.”

A wise person once said, A wise person once said, you have enough time to do what God has for you to do. (Yes there seasons when we go through overly busy times, but we should not live our whole lives in this manner.)

Put first things first; put God first and he will direct. Spending time with God in prayer and scripture, so that we can find direction. So that he can guide us. So that we can listen to his voice.

This week
A plan to grow in grace through Wesley’s Means of Grace: the Works of Piety (Spiritual Disciplines) and the Works of Mercy (ministry or service).
With each listed, determine how often (daily, weekly, monthly) you will practice / How you will practice (when, where, with who, etc.)

Works of Piety
Prayer
Searching the Scriptures
Holy Communion
Fasting
Christian Community
Healthy Living

Works of Mercy
Doing Good (Visiting the Sick and Prisoners, Feeding and Clothing People, Earning, Saving, Giving All One Can, Opposition to Slavery)

The Beatitudes of Promise: The Promise of Righteousness

This sermon is part of the tuesday evening Community Lenten Series.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled/satisfied.

Matthew 5.6

Hungry?
Do you know what it means to be hungry? To be truly hungry? I don’t mean that little grumble in your stomach between mealtimes. I mean gnawing at you, hunger.

Not many of us truly know hunger. For me (and maybe as well for you) hungry is “I’m hungry for…” It’s more like “I have a craving for …” and most the time you can just fill in the blank with chocolate, for me.

Do any of you women ever ask your husbands what their hungry for? “What do you want for dinner tonight?” I might as well be talking to the wall. Randy’s never hungry for anything. I really think women are given the gift of “I’m hungry for …” so that we have something for dinner each night. We don’t know true hunger.

Except maybe some of you who are old enough to remember the Great Depression or have heard your parents talk about it. I find that most people who remember the Great Depression don’t want to remember the Great Depression. It was that bad. One time a number of years ago I was asked to sing some songs for at a nursing home facility and I picked some songs from throughout the 1900’s and when I announced a song from the depression era there was groan through the whole room. They remembered. I thought, “Oh boy what did I do. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.” But it was a nice upbeat tune that was written to encourage people through that time and so it was enjoyed.

I know I really don’t know a lot about the Great Depression. Randy and I watched a movie not so long ago, “Cinderella Man” which is set during the Great Depression. And it really gave a glimpse into how hard those times were – how hungry and desperate people were. It is the story of the heavyweight boxer, Jim Braddock. His career was thought to be over, but he was given a second chance and made an amazing recovery and went on to win the championship. Commentaries say that during his comeback, Jim Braddock lied about his weight, he had lost so much weight from hunger that he really didn’t even qualify to be a heavyweight anymore. During an interview after an amazing win Braddock revealed that the driving force behind this champion, was not a love for the game, it was feeding his family, it was keeping his family together, it was getting the heat turned back on in their little apartment in the middle of winter.

That’s what it means to be hungry.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Hungry for what?
It’s time for a commercial break! What product advertises using the simple question, “Hungry?” The first was “Hungry? Why wait?” Now it’s become “Hungry? Grab a _______”.
(Snickers) I knew I’d be able work chocolate back into this somehow.

I recently caught a news segment on seniors and obesity. One of the key points to avoid obesity was: get enough sleep. Basically we mistake exhaustion for hunger. Too many afternoons we are grabbing that Snickers candy bar instead of the cat nap that our bodies are really craving. We rely on (our drugs of choice) sugar or caffeine to get us through the day. The other Snickers slogan is “Snickers Satisfies”. If what you are really needing is sleep, it might satisfy for a little while, but it’s going to be short-lived. You’ll be left wanting more. You’ll be left not with a statement but with a question, “Satisfied?”

If we do this to our bodies physically, do we do the same thing spiritually? Are we in tune with what we really need? Or do we substitute the wrong things in our lives for our spiritual hunger?

  • Do we watch too much Oprah and Dr. Phil instead of reading our Bibles? Do we watch those self-help shows because we don’t like who we are, because we’re not happy, because we want things to be different? When God is the only one who can bring true change, transformation, to our lives?

Are you satisfied?

  • Do we look for success – a job promotion, a good income (a better income), a nice home, a nice car when what we really want is a deeper relationship with God. We want to know God more and we are substituting the things of the world for things of God. We are filling our lives with meaningless things instead of God. We are working harder and harder and are busier and busier when what we really want deep down is to make a difference in the world and the only way we are going to do that is by giving ourselves to God and opening ourselves up to be used the way God desires.

Are you satisfied?

  • Let me press the envelope a little more … We get unhappy in our churches (oh, I’m sure that isn’t the case in this church) but some churches have people that are unhappy, for various reasons: they want more people in worship when what they really want and don’t know it is God’s heart of compassion for people. It’s not about counting people, it’s about loving people, caring for people, reaching out to people.

Are you satisfied?

  • Or some churches have folks that think they should be able to come to church and have a relaxing, comfortable hour of worship, when what they really want and need is to be challenged in their spiritual life and spurred on to growth and to be actively involved in true worship which involves service. (Do you know that worship and service are the same word in the New Testament Greek? Interesting.)

Are you satisfied?

So if we are that clueless as to what we really want or need; what will bring satisfaction, how do we discover what we really want? How do we discover what will bring true satisfaction into our lives?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

In the examples above I have given you some answers: a deeper relationship with God, a life yielded to God, a life transformed by God, being used by God, a loving and caring heart that looks not at self but others.

The words in our text name it as righteousness. The first definition of righteousness from the New Testament Greek is the “state of him who is as he ought to be.”

Righteousness lost
You’ll remember the Genesis account of creation, where God says, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness …” (Gen 1.26). We were created in the image of God, but after the fall, after sin entered the world, that image became tarnished and distorted. But God wants to restore that image. God wants to make us “as (we) ought to be.” He wants to restore us to righteousness. He wants to clean away the tarnish and perfect the image once again. He wants to again see his reflection in our lives.

Fasting
Again, how do we know what we really want? Let me suggest that there is a connection between physical hunger and spiritual hunger. Perhaps there is a call to fasting in this verse: a call to give up (abstain from) physical food for a given period of time in order to be satisfied with the spiritual. Fasting in order to hear God more clearly, to gain spiritual direction.

Matthew 4 Jesus fasted 40 days in preparation for entering his public ministry. His motives were clear and pure. He gained focus. He grasped God’s plan for his life. He knew his purpose. ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’
John 4 When the disciples return from town with food, Jesus says, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about." The disciples were then puzzled, but came to understand this statement.
Matthew 9
The Pharisees questioned Jesus as why the disciples did not fast.
15Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
In Acts Jesus disciples are once again fasting.
John 6
Jesus says, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in
me will never be thirsty.”

Righteousness restored
God’s promises are sure. God longs to fill us with righteousness. He longs to restore us, heal us, complete us, make us whole. God will satisfy your longing for righteousness, but we must first ask.

There are always paradoxes in scripture and I believe this is one of them. We will always hunger and yet we will always be satisfied. I believe the more we “taste and see that the Lord is good” the more we will hunger for God and his righteousness. That is until that final day, when this life is over, when we meet Jesus in the skies, then we shall truly be satisfied and hunger no more. Then we shall be “as (we) ought to be” – once again made in the perfect image of God.

Prayer
“Hungry” by Kathryn Scott
Hungry, I come to you for I know you satisfy;
I am empty, but I know Your love does not run dry;
And so I wait for you so I wait for you.

Broken, I run to You for Your arms are open wide;
I am weary, but I know Your touch restores my life;
And so I wait for You so I wait for You.

Chorus
I’m falling on my knees
Offering all of me
Jesus, You’re all this heart is living for.

7 Deadly Sins: Anger

Name that Coach!
In college basketball, the name of this Coach is synonymous with greatness and winning. This Coach is one who represents high principles, expectations and demands for his players, his coaching staff and, most of all, himself. But he is foremost an educator. His ability to teach young men the game of basketball and the game of life is one of his most noted characteristics.

No other coach can cite NCAA and NIT championships and Olympic and Pan American gold medals among his achievements. There are only two coaches in the history of collegiate basketball who have won more than the three national championships this Coach has won during his career.

In 1989, this Coach became the winningest coach in Big Ten history.

This Coach is … Coach Bobby Knight!

Could this Coach be the same as … (and note some of this content is disputed.)
In 1979, this Coach was arrested for assaulting a police officer during the Pan American Games in Puerto Rico. He was angry that a practice gymnasium was not opened to his team.

This coach pulled a player off the court by his jersey in 1976, threw a chair across the court in protest of a referee’s call during a 1985 game and was known to put a straight-arm Darth Vader chokehold on one of his own players. He allegedly kicked his own sonduring a 1993 game (Knight claims he actually kicked a chair).

He  berated a NCAA university volunteer at a 1998 news conference, for which the school was later fined $30,000. The school was once again fined in 1999, this time for $10,000 for the Coach’s derogatory remarks about a referee. A school secretary also accused Knight of throwing a potted plant at her, and the assistant coach claimed that he threw him off a chair, and punched him in the chest after  overhearing him criticizing his program and methods. The assistant coach sued for assault and received an out-of-court settlement of $35,000 from school.

Again, Coach Bobby Knight! Coach Bobby Knight even has his own reality tv show, "Knight School", where Texas Tech students compete to join the team as a non-scholarship player.

Another article continues …
Knight dramatizes an ethical dilemma in the longer term. We are approaching the day when we will be able to engineer personality traits into, or out of, the human makeup. When we come to bioengineering the next generation of coaches, do we intend to leave out the anger? Would the human race be better off without rage? Would competitive sports survive without it? Forget coaching basketball. How about professional football?

Is anger desirable or undesirable? Is anger a hateful and disfiguring manifestation? Or is it an effective, animating instrument?

The world is divided between those who consider anger to be a form of temporary insanity and those who believe it to be a sign of strength of character, a weapon in the hands of the righteous, an instrument of justice. The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics says primly that "anger… is found in the divine character, as it is always found in any strong human character."

The encyclopaedia goes on to describe divine wrath: "He is the covenant God of his people. He seeks their salvation. If he is angry, it is when the conditions under which alone he can work out that salvation are infringed, and his purpose of mercy is imperiled."

Coach Knight thinks of himself and his team along the same lines. Everybody (basketball coach, biogeneticist) wants to be God.

Could it be that our anger is us wanting to be God? We talked about the sin of pride being rooted in wanting to be God? Let’s look at anger a little closer.

The above information on Bobby Knight is from
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,45285,00.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Knight
http://texastech.collegesports.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/knight_bob00.html

Anger is a God-given emotion
Ephesian 4.17-29  “In your anger do not sin.” (Verse 26)
Proverbs 29.6-11 “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” (verse 11)
John 2.13-22 Jesus experienced anger in the temple. This anger was because the temple, the place of worship, was turned into a marketplace.

Righteous Anger or Righteous Indignation
is anger against what violates God’s way, and/or hurts others.

Few can claim: Few do not have personal self-interest mixed up in it. Jesus was angry because the place that was to give honor to his Father was not being used for that purpose.

“Only the anger of a humble person has the moral force that can be rightly labeled “righteous indignation. Only the truly humble can be angry without sinning.” (D&DR)

Do we get angry at the important things or the trifles in life? So many time we get angry at the dumbest things. Righteous indignation challenges to get angry at the important things: the poor, the needy, the AIDs crisis in Africa. And I even challenge whether we have to move beyond anger to truly minister to these needs, to truly be effective.

Romans 12.19-21 “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.”

2 Kinds of Anger
Powder Keg
Shout for attention; a warning that something is wrong. Must examine and discover the source or our misery: repair of relationship?

Crock Pot
Simmers and brews for a long period of time until, finally, there is an eruption.

How would you label Bobby Knight?

Either can lead to sin. Explosive anger can cause physical abuse of spouse of child. In 1990, 1/7 American couples experienced some form of physical abuse in the last year.

3 Essentials
We must:

  • Accept and own our anger.
  • Learn to understand it.
  • Express our anger in appropriate, nondestructive, nonsinful ways.

James 1.19-21 “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

Exercise
List five times I’ve been angry the past month. Identify two occasions of greatest anger. Were they powder keg or crock-pot anger? Do they indicate a strained or broken relationship? Do they indicate stress in your work? Is it unfairness of life? (Life isn’t fair; life isn’t God. See Psalm145 on the goodness of God). What does anger tell me about myself and what is going on in my life?

Do not make room for the devil
Ephesians 4.27: “Do not give the devil a foothold.”
Unresolved anger (especially crock-pot anger) invites:
Resentment that lead us to self-hate and hatred of other;
Bitterness that mushrooms as it feeds on the real and/or imagined wrongs done to us;
Malignant grudges that destroy us, not the one against whom we have the grudges;
Hostility that make us suspicious of the motives of others, turns others into enemies, and makes us defensive in our reactions and responses.

Suffocated anger: the mark of the moralist—the man trying to be good all by himself … Localize the blame in ourselves and have it burned away into the hot fire of grace.” –Olsson
We must depend upon God and his grace to take away the sin of anger.

4 Areas of Discipline
Hanging on
Can’t get over anger if we hang on to it.
List keeping
Keeps us fixated on past events and emotions. We are forever victimized; and forever on the lookout for more of the same.
Revealing our anger others
Keeping thoughts and feelings to ourselves hold us captive. Break out of the negative cycle by naming and verbalizing reduces our anger and the cause. Receive feedback from others enables us to think clearly.
Forgiveness
Forgiveness and anger cannot live together. “Jesus didn’t make us pay. Dare we think we should make others pay?” The only way we can forgive is to accept completely what Christ has done for us. John 19.30, when Jesus died on the cross, paying the price for our sins, he said, “It is finished.”

Let us pray together the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi that asks God to make us an instrument of peace. As we go through this week, let us look for ways to to instruments of peace. Let us ask ourselves, "How can I bring peace to this situation? to this relationship?"

The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
O Lord, make me an instrument of Your Peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

7 Deadly Sins 3 :: Anger

Think about your recent experiences of anger: were they justified? Are there certain common things that tend to make you angry? On a scale of 1-10, how much do you struggle with anger?

“Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.” (Benjamin Franklin)

Anger is not always wrong …
“Anger is a divinely implanted emotion. Closely allied to our instinct for right, it is designed to be used for constructive spiritual purposes. The person who cannot feel anger at evil is a person who lacks enthusiasm for good. If you cannot hate wrong, it’s very questionable whether you really love righteousness.” (David Seamands)

Jesus, on occasion, expressed anger. For example, he once cleared the temple of those who were selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices (John 2.13-22). So anger is a God-given emotion, but we must learn to express it in healthy ways. Ephesians 4.26-27 says, “And ‘don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil.”

“Only the anger of a humble person has the moral force that can rightly be labeled ‘righteous indignation. … There is a call to be angry, but the call is kept in balance: Be angry and sin not.” (Dunnam & Resiman)

Someone once asked Mother Teresa, “Don’t you ever become angry at the causes of social injustice that you see in India or in any of the places in which you work?” Her response was, “Why should I expend energy in anger that I can expend in love?”

Learning to overcome our battle with anger …

>> Examine your anger.

Blazing (Powder Keg) vs. Brooding (Crock Pot): Some people’s anger explodes at every little thing, while others keep everything inside until it explodes, usually to the surprise of all those around them.

“People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.” (Will Rogers)

A lady once came to Billy Sunday and tried to rationalize her angry outbursts. “There’s nothing wrong with losing my temper. I blow up, and then it’s all over.” Sunday said, “So does a shotgun! And look at the damage it leaves behind!”

>> Control your anger; don’t let your anger control you.

James offers some great advice: “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God’s sight” (1.19-21). Mastering the art of listening, of taking a moment, stepping back, before reacting, makes a huge difference in how we handle our anger.

There are also some great words on controlling anger in Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.

>> Avoid angry people.
“Keep away from angry, short-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.” (Proverbs 22.24-25)

>> Don’t seek revenge; instead forgive!
“Wanting revenge is an expression of anger.” (Dunnam & Resiman)

This is tough advice. But it’s the way Scripture instructs us to handle anger and those who consider us their enemies. Romans 12.19-21 puts it this way: “Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, “I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it,” says the Lord. Instead, do what the Scriptures say: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you.” Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.”

Anger, while a God-given emotion, must be expressed in healthy ways, or else it can be very destructive!

“Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.” (Frederick Buechner)

Lord, thank you for turning your anger away from us, even when we deserved it most, and for showing us your incredible love and grace! Help us to follow your example, and even more importantly, to let Jesus live through us so that others may sense your love, rather than our anger. Help us not to keep lists and to hang on to grudges, but to forgive, as Jesus modeled for us. Amen.

Read Joleen’s sermon on anger here.

7 Deadly Sins 2 :: Envy

During Lent we are tracking through the “7 Deadly Sins”: pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, lust, and gluttony. We are spending this time dealing with the sin our lives because “Sin is real, and it’s a part of each of us” (Dunnam & Reisman).

Last week, we looked at pride, the itch for recognition, and today we’ll take a look at envy, which says, “What’s yours should be mine!” The Latin word for envy is invidia, which means “to look maliciously upon.” And the New Testament Greek word means to have an “evil eye.”

Think for a moment: what kinds of things do people envy? And more specifically, what kinds of things do you envy? Some answers include things like wealth, looks, talents, possessions, etc.

In my world, I think there’s a real tendency for preachers to envy other preachers. I love to listen to preachers like Ed Young, Rob Bell, and TD Jakes. But the reality is, I’m not anything like these guys. While I want to learn all I can from them, and many other communicators, I do not want to envy them, emulate or copy them. I want to be the communicator God has called me to be.

Here are a few quotes from Dunnam and Reisman’s workbook on the seven deadly sins …

  • “At the root of envy and covetousness is a terrible sense of inadequacy and inferiority.”
  • “Envy is the consuming desire to have everybody else as unsuccessful as you are.”
  • “Since envy always desires what it doesn’t have, it will always go unsatisfied.”

Saul’s envy of David
Today, we’re going to look at a story that shows the deadliness of envy in a person’s life. Read 1 Samuel 17.55–18.9, and notice especially the last line there: “So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.” The CEV says, “Saul never again trusted David.”

“Envy is a major cause of unhappiness” (Dunnam & Reisman), and that was certainly the case in Saul’s life. This was the turning point for Saul. Think about Saul’s legacy. Saul is not one of the biblical characters that many of us want to be like. And Saul’s legacy was, in large part, a result of his relationship with David. They got off on the wrong foot from the very beginning.

Envy, if unchecked and not dealt with in our lives, will lead us down a path of destruction, too. Dunnam and Resiman list several results of envy: anger, malice (gossip/backbiting), jealousy, dejection, hypocrisy (desiring that others to envy us), and self-contempt.

So, how can we overcome envy?

>> Accept God’s love
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners …” (Read a little more of Romans 5.6-10)

If we’re going to do a better job of not envying others, I think it has to begin with us accepting the fact that God loves us. God created us with the gifts and abilities and temperaments that we have. We can be content in that!

>> Focus on loving God
“The antidote to envy begins with kindling our love of God and affirming God’s mercy and goodness.” (Dunnam & Reisman)

When we focus on loving God, we will waste less time and energy envying others.

>> Own your uniqueness
God created you to be, well, YOU! God doesn’t call you to be someone else. When you stand before God after your life on earth, God will not ask you, “Why weren’t you more like _________?” God will be more interested in what you did with the gifts he gave you!

There are some great statements in Romans 12, a chapter where Paul speaks about giftedness. Here are some fitting statements …

“God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. … Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. … Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. … Be glad for all God is planning for you. … When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. … When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” (Romans 12.6-16)

Read Psalm 37.1-8, especially the part that says, “Don’t envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like springtime flowers, they soon wither” and “Do not envy others—it only leads to harm.”

The good news, as Psalm 37 goes on to say, is that “the steps of the godly are directed by the LORD. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand” (37.23-24).

Friends, God loves you so much! Don’t spend your time trying to be someone else or wishing that you had what someone else has. Be grateful to God for all that he has blessed you with!

O God, thank you so much for creating us. I’m so glad that you did not have some kind of cookie cutter that you used to create human beings, but that in your amazing creativity, you created each of us with our own individual uniqueness. Help us, Lord, to accept the fact that you love us with an impossible-to-comprehend kind of love. Help us to focus on loving you with everything that’s in us. And help us to own our own uniqueness. For it’s as we do these things that we will overcome the deadly sin of envy in our lives. Amen.

For another perspective on envy, be sure to check out Joleen’s sermon.

7 Deadly Sins: Envy

Proverbs 14.30
Galatians 5.15-21

The sin of the evil eye
Envy defined: from the Latin, “to look maliciously upon.” The New Testament Greek literally means “to have an evil eye.” Saul and David 1 Samuel 18.5-9, “Saul killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” This made Saul angry “So Saul eyed David from that day on.”

What is yours should be mine
Envy wants what is sees
Envy is never satisfied

Everything should revolve around God, but envy says everything revolves around me (even God). Envy says, “what is your should be mine.” There is never any gratification. Envy sees and wants what it doesn’t have and since there will always be more to see than what one can possess, one is never satisfied. [Also, there is a neglect to acknowledge that everything belongs to God, we are only stewards.]

The story of Haman from the Book of Esther
The story of Haman demonstrates both pride and envy. You will remember that these 7 deadly sins rarely will stand alone, but will interweave. This is a good example of that.

Esther, a Jew, is taken by King Xerxes as his wife. No one knows that Esther is a Jew.

Mordecai, Esther’s (adoptive) father, overhears a scheme to murder the King and warns the King and his life is saved.

Haman is given a special elevated position by the king. All the royal officials at the king’s gate, except Mordecai, kneel in Haman’s honor. Haman’s anger burns at Mordecai. Haman finds our Mordecai is a Jew. Haman’s anger is projected unto all Jews. He devises a way to kill them all. The King gives Haman permission to do as he pleases.

Haman calls his friends and his wife together and he boasts to them about his wealth, his many sons, and all the ways that the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. "And that’s not all," Haman added. "I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow." But Haman goes on to say that this gives him no satisfaction as long as he sees that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate. So his wife and friends suggest he build a gallows 75 feet high and to ask the king in the morning for Mordecai to be hung on it. Haman likes this idea.

The next morning before Haman could ask the king, the king called him in and asked him, "What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?" Now Haman thought to himself, "Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?" So he said to dress him in the king’s own royal robe, and let him be led through the streets on the king’s own horse by one of the king’s servants who will shout, "This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!"

Well, the night before the king could not sleep and he sent for someone to read the history books to him. The king discovered what Mordecai had done in saving his life and that nothing was done to honor him and so the king instructed Haman to at once do what he suggested for Mordecai.

Of course, Haman in humiliated. And now he must go immediately to the banquet with the king and Queen Esther. The king asks the queen, "What is your petition?" Queen Esther answered, "If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request.  For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation."  King Xerxes responds, "Who is he? Where is the man who has dared to do such a thing?" And Esther said, "The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman." The king is so upset he leaves, but upon his return, one of his servant says, "A gallows seventy-five feet high stands by Haman’s house. He had it made for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king." The king takes this as the fitting punishment.

This is an extreme example of how envy can consume one. And how malicious one can become. In our own lives probably the best way to identify envy is in making comparisons.

The sin of making comparisons
This is something most of us are guilty of. We compare ourselves with others. We compare our gifts with others. We even want to be that other person. (King Saul and David)

We may say things like:
~If I could only play ball like…
~If I could only play the piano like…
~If I could only teach/pray like…
~If was handyman like…
~They have a higher salary because of seniority by I do more around here than… or I know more about this job than… (Mt 20.1-16)
~I wish our church had that…
~Why isn’t our church growing like that church…

And we really get in danger when we start thinking:
~I wish my marriage was like…
or when we say to our children
~Why can’t you be like…

“When have I been envious?”

It’s a question of worth
[I would venture to say that Haman was gaining his sense of worth from position, from family, from wealth, from the honor of others.]

Do I have any worth? Am I adequate? Do I believe that God uniquely created me? Do I believe that God made me just the way he wants me? Do I believe that God gave me the gifts he wants me to have and he gave me the right portion of talent that he wanted me to have?

Remember envy always sees more. There will always be someone more intelligent, more athletic, more gifted … Envy is never satisfied.

“Envy hinders us from finding meaning in who we are and making the best and rewarding use of our gifts.” (D&DR)

A person of worth is satisfied. They have found their worth in who God created them.
Affirmation: “I am a unique, unrepeatable miracle of God.” (D&DR)

A person of worth knows that they are loved and accepted by God, even with all our weaknesses and inadequacies.

Symptoms of Envy
Malice: “ill will with the desire to harm” (Gossip & backbiting seeks to destroy the reputation of another)
Jealousy: sin amongst equals
Dejection: sorrow for another’s good
Hypocrisy: pretend to be joyful/sorrowful for someone’s joys/sorrows.
Lovelessness: can’t love self; can’t love others (self-contempt) Unhappiness.

Antidote to Envy
1.    Kindle our love of God and affirm God’s mercy and goodness.
2.    Accept ourselves and God’s gifts.
3.    Utilize God’s given wisdom and ability to reason. “Things are not always what the seem.” The grass is not really greener on the other side.

A story from the Taoist literature of ancient China (D&DR)
There once was a wise man who owned several beautiful horses. One horse, in particular, was so fast and strong and magnificent that it evoked the envy of the man’s neighbor. Unfortunately, one day the horse broke free and ran into the hills. At once the neighbor’s attitude changed from envy to pity at the man’s loss, but the wise man said, “Who knows if I should be pitied or if I should be envied because of this?”

The next day, the horse returned to the wise man leading a herd of fifty equally magnificent wild horses with him. The neighbor was again filled with envy, but again the wise man said, “Who knows if I should be envied or if I should be pitied because of this?” Not long after he had said this, his only son tried to ride one of the wild horses but was thrown off and broke his leg. Again, the neighbor’s envy changed to pity, but the wise man answered once more, “Who knows if I should be pitied or if I should be envied because of this?”

The following day, an officer in the emperor’s army came to draft the man’s son for an extremely hazardous mission. Because his leg was broken, he was relieved of the responsibility for the assignment that would almost certainly have meant death. The neighbor’s son was taken in his place and as a result, once again envied the wise man. As he had before, the wise man responded, “Who knows if I should be envied or if I should be pitied because of this?”

The story continues in this same way with the neighbor’s emotions shifting from envy to pity and back again as the events unfold. It doesn’t take long to see the point of the story: Things are not always what they seem. Sometimes hardships come into our lives and God works this miraculous wonder in our midst and sometimes something that appears good can bring sorrow. Take winning the lottery for example. We may say look in envy at someone who wins a big cash pot, thinking they are going to walk done easy street from now on, but in reality, many who come across winnings like that end up filing bankruptcy-they have lost everything! The are worst off than before.

Prayer Steps
Dunnam and Dunnam Reisman offer these steps in prayer and I encourage us to use them today and throughout this series of self-examination.
~Examine for the sin of envy.
~Claim our justification, the gracious forgiveness and pardon of God.
~Yield our lives to Christ, with special attention to the area of our lives where sin is expressing itself.
~Invite Christ to take that sin from us.
~Claim the power of the Holy Spirit to give us the desire and the strength of will to overcome sin’s grip.
~Practice the disciplines that free us and even protect us from willful sin.

Psalm 139.23-24 (David’s prayer of self-examination)
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting

This week
Throughout each day this week, “pay attention to how you look at things, what you desire, and why you desire it.” (D&DR)

Affirmation “I am a unique, unrepeatable miracle of God.” (D&DR)

The 7 Deadly Sins: Pride

The seriousness of sin
It is the tradition at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for anyone who speaks to begin by saying, “I am name and I am an alcoholic.” Maybe we in the Christian community should begin in a similar way: “Hi. I’m Joleen and I’m a sinner.” (from “Rebuilding Your Broken World” by Gordon MacDonald.)

Sin is real. Each of us is engaged with an ongoing battle with sin and none of us is exempt from it. We can ignore it and pretend it isn’t there. But the truth remains: sin is real. The good news is that sin is a summons to life; a call to new life. And if we deny sin, we miss the opportunity to embrace this new and better life, the life God intended for us.

We are looking at more than a “moral” issue. More than something that can be fixed by education or behavior modification. We are looking at sin, the root cause of moral decay. By our nature, we are sinners. We are born sinners. And sin requires God’s intervention. God is the only cure. Sin requires the miraculous act of Jesus Christ, taking our sins upon him, carrying them to the cross, bringing salvation to us, and transforming us by his grace.

Prayer of self-examination and confession
This series will focus on a type of prayer we don’t often emphasize. At Lent, we say we enter a season of self-examination – a time of looking at our lives and asking God to reveal those things in our life that are not pleasing to him. Self-examination is not just for Lent. William Law in “A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life” lays out a day of prayer that concludes each evening with self-examination and confession.

Psalm 139.23-24 (David’s prayer)
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Since our tendency is to deny sin, the first step is recognition of our sin—facing up to the way sin is expressed in our lives. Then, confessing and repenting of those sins, receiving power for overcoming, and finding resources to engage the ongoing battle which, to some degree, we will always be engaged.

The 7 Deadly Sins
Our self-examination will involve looking at the 7 Deadly Sins. In the 4th Century, the desert fathers (Monastics) in Egypt compiled a list of 8 sins which over time has become a list of 7. These sins were identified as the major sins because they so greatly endangered the spiritual life. These sins were recognized as being deeply rooted in our nature. And they are: pride, envy, anger, sloth (laziness), avarice (greed), lust, and gluttony. These 7 actually will overlap and interweave. They affect us individually and they affect us as a faith community and they affect our culture. Most of this series will based on the book, “The Workbook on the 7 Deadly Sins”, by Maxie Dunnam & Kimberly Dunnam Reisman. This book was a requirement for my January class and it was a life transforming experience, and my hope is that this series will be that for you and for our church.

The first sin we will look at today is pride … and pride is always the first listed; it is the root of all other sins. And it is the first sin recorded in the Bible.

The fall of Adam and Eve
Genesis 3.1-5

The statement of pride in this account, the thing that tempted Adam and Eve … it wasn’t the fruit, it was “you will be like God.”

The fall of Satan compared
Interesting enough there is a parallel in the fall of humankind and the fall of Satan.

Isaiah 14.13-14

Satan wanted to make himself “like the Most High” and now he tempts all humankind with the same temptation, “you will be like God.” Now most of us would not say those words, yet Satan, deceitful as he his, will disguise this temptation. Let’s look at how the sin of pride may be manifested in our own lives.

Pride defined
Pride is a preoccupation with self, the inordinate (beyond normal limits) assertion of self.
In the biblical accounts it is self-worship. Taking the worship that is due God for one’s self. Taking the credit for what God does in our lives.

Webster: an inordinate self-esteem
Oxford English: an unreasonable conceit of superiority … an overweening opinion of one’s own qualities
Synonyms: vanity, conceit, arrogance, egotism, self-glorification, boastfulness.
Slang: bighead, cockiness, stuck-up, snobbishness, self-centered, full of yourself, know-it-all, puffed up.

Proverbs 16.8
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Vince Lombardi was a famous coach for the Green Bay Packers and he had a monstrous ego and a pride that was not always healthy. There are many stories that exist about him. One such story tells of an occasion when he was in a championship game. He wife couldn’t go, which disappointed Vince. And the Packers were not expected to win the game, but against all odds they won. So the story goes …

When Vince Lombardi came home his wife was already asleep. He tried to slip into bed without awakening her. But when his cold feet touched her legs, she said “God, your feet are cold.” Quick as a flash, the coach replied, “When we are in bed, just call me Vince.”

Pride is not: aiming to do well; healthy sense of self worth or self-respect.
Pride is not: false humility: diminishing one’s self worth, depreciating one’s self

Pride is lifting oneself up too much. It is always having to be at the center, having to be recognized, having attention, having everything center on self.

And one of the negative results of self-centeredness is that it makes us insensitive to the needs of others. When we are centered on our own needs, we can’t see the needs of others.

Katerina’s nightly prayer: "Help Hunter get over the chicken pox so he can bring me my Valentine gift."

Was she as concerned with Hunter’s illness as she was getting her gift?

And yet how many times do we go to God and pray that kind of prayer – a prayer that’s only concerned with what I want, what I need; that never asks for what God wants.

Do we at times view the church as a place to fulfill my needs, rather than reaching out to the needs in our community?

Is a good sermon, one that makes me feel good, or is it one that makes me squirm a little, one that challenges me to grow?

Pride is defeated in our yieldedness to Christ
I often talk of the paradoxes, seeming contradictions, of scripture.
We cannot free ourselves from self-centeredness. The more we look in on ourselves, the more self-centered we become. Christ alone can deliver us from self-centeredness: worship of Christ, recognizing his presence in our lives, his gifts in our lives, his provision in our lives.

And recognizing our need for his salvation in our lives. Lastly, pride can be a barrier of salvation. Pride says I can do it on my own. But the only way that we can find salvation is by relying on God’s grace, by submitting our whole selves to Christ Jesus.

Justification and Sanctification
“Salvation is both a done deal and a daily development.” –Max Lucado
Dunnam and Dunnam Reisman explain justification and sanctification in way I’ve never heard it and in a way that truly brings clarity.
Justification is what God does for us;
Sanctification is what God does in us.
As pardon (justification) grace forgives our sins;
As power (sanctification) grace delivers us from our slavery to sin the grip of sin on our lives, and fills us with the power of new life—a life in which Christ indwells us and we live through him.

We can’t give our sins to Jesus (if we cold do that we would all be sin-free saints)—we give ourselves to Jesus and he takes our sins from us and gives us the power to overcome sin’s grip.

Dunnam and Dunnam Reisman (D&DR) offer these steps in prayer and I encourage us to use them today and throughout this series of self-examination and even make them a part of our regular prayer life.

  • Examine for sin (today, specifically the sin of pride).
  • Claim our justification, the gracious forgiveness and pardon of God.
  • Yield our lives to Christ, with special attention to the area of our lives where sin is expressing itself.
  • Invite Christ to take that sin from us.
  • Claim the power of the Holy Spirit to give us the desire and the strength of will to overcome sin’s grip.
  • Practice the disciplines that free us and even protect us from willful sin.

Further reflection
~In the past two months, name three occasions, situations, and/or relationships in which you expressed healthy pride. (D&DR)
~ In the past two months, name three occasions, situations, and/or relationships in which “I” was at the center, when the itch for recognition prevailed over the concern for others, when self-centeredness brought brokenness and pain. (D&DR)

7 Deadly Sins 1 :: Pride

Good morning. I’m Randy and I am a sinner.

Today (the first Sunday of Lent) we begin a new series on the “7 Deadly Sins.” The seven deadly sins, a list that began developing as early as the fourth century, are pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice (greed), lust, and gluttony. As you think about this list, which two or three sins are the most pressing in your life?

For those who’d like to go deeper in dealing with the seven deadly sins, I recommend The Workbook on the Seven Deadly Sins (Maxie Dunnam & Kimberly Dunnam Reisman).

Let’s start with the obvious: We are all sinners in need of God’s grace. Dunnam & Reisman write, “Sin is real, and it’s a part of each of us.” Scripture says, “For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3.23) and “If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth” (1 John 1.8).

“Sin is deadly and destructive—destructive of our relationship with God, relationship with those we love, and certainly destructive of the inner harmony and peace that we all long for” (Dunnam & Reisman)

Pride
“Pride is the itch for recognition. … Pride is deadly and because it is self-worship” (Dunnam & Reisman) Pride says “It’s all about me!” It is preoccupied with self! Some other words for pride include: vanity, conceit, arrogance, egotism, self-glorification, boastfulness.

There’s a great story about a famous conductor, who after finishing a performance, got in a taxi outside the opera house and shouted to the driver, “Hurry, hurry!” The driver said, “Very good, sir. Where to?” The conductor replied, “It doesn’t matter, they need me everywhere!”

We certainly see pride in the very first sin. Read Genesis 3.1-6 and note the serpent’s lure, “You will become like God.” It’s a temptation that has existed ever since (see Isaiah 14.13-14).

Jesus once told a story about two guys, a Pharisee and a tax collector, who went to the Temple one day to pray. Jesus said, “The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ (Luke 18.10-13)

“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” (Proverbs 16.18)

Dealing with pride …

>> Humility: Humble yourself before God!

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

“They that know God will be humble, and they that know themselves cannot be proud.” (John Flavel)

“If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7.14)

>> Confession: Confess your sins to God!
“If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.” (1 John 1.8-10)

>> Abandonment: Give your life to God!
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4.8)

To be “double-minded” is to have a divided heart. Is your heart divided? Or are you serving God with your whole heart?

Read Romans 3.23-26; 6.1-14

(Also check out Joleen’s messages on these topics. We are both covering the “7 Deadly Sins,” but our sermons may be very different. Click here to her sermon on Pride.)

Phoenix Follow-up …

We’re back from Phoenix. Our last day there (Sunday) was incredible — 82 degrees! We landed in Pittsburgh shortly after noon on Mondy as it began to snow. We drove home in light snow and 25-degree weather. Talk about a rude awakening!

One of our assignments upon returning from Phoenix has been to write and post a 300-word evaluation of the seminar (to the online classroom), lifting up ideas that we felt were helpful, things we disagreed with, ideas that inspired us and/or stretched our thinking. That’s tough to do in 300 words. I am posting my evaluation here (at 332 words it is by far the shortest evaluation posted so far). Preachers! 😉

Some of these statements are so brief that they may only make sense to those who were at the seminar. If you have questions about anything, feel free to post a comment below (by clicking on "comments" at the end of this post).

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I enjoyed the Beeson module on “visionary leadership” in Phoenix. One of the most helpful presentations was Ed’s “the sway of the they” — a great reminder about staying the course, listening to the right people, and not getting sidetracked by the wrong ones.

I was also intrigued by the shakeup of Fellowship’s staff. Bold. Risky. Out-of-the-box. That’s the “confusion principle” (the weightlifting principle Ed mentioned in his second presentation) at work in one’s staff! They certainly won’t get in a rut!

I will remember the three common ingredients (in churches making disciples) that Walt discovered during his recovery from a massive heart attack and time of searching (after hearing God’s voice, “I’m calling you to build a community of disciples, not a community of consumers”) …

1) Serious work with the Word of God
2) Work of the Holy Spirit
3) Authenticity

I enjoyed Breen’s talk about the “operating system” of the kingdom. The church seems to be the operating system for many; Breen suggested that discipleship was Jesus’ operating system.

While I am wrestling with CCV’s narrow target of 25-45 year-old men (or the strategies involved), I enjoyed listening to CCV’s visionary leader, Don Wilson. He challenged churches to determine their core values, lamenting the fact that most churches are “personality-driven” while most successful corporations are “core values-driven.”

I was inspired by Wilson’s talk of sacrifice, particularly as he shared about his own sacrifice. And I loved the old proverb he quoted: “An army of sheep led by a lion will always defeat an army of lions led by a sheep!”

Kirbyjon, in a memorable way, emphasized getting the process right: vision, mission, objectives, and systems and structures — then people will follow.

I was inspired by Kirbyjon’s statement, “Just because we haven’t done it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.” And I loved what a staff member said about him in a newspaper interview: “‘Impossible’ to Kirbyjon simply means ‘it’s going to take a little longer.’

Lots to process and implement!

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We very much enjoyed this event. We’ll be doing a lot more processing of the event next week during our next assignment — writing a 100-word response to each of the other 11 student evaluations that are posted in the online classroom.

Finally, we also enjoyed visiting Community Church of Joy on Saturday evening and Christ’s Church of the Valley on Sunday morning. While we enjoy leading worship 48 Sundays per year at home, it is always good to be able to attend worship 4 times per year in other settings. It is both a learning experience for us as well as a worshipful one.

See you all on Sunday as we begin our Lenten journey together. We will be focusing on the "7 Deadly Sins" and how to manage and overcome them!