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Monday, March 18, 2019

The Madness of Wrath


Introduction
Sin is madness.  It’s insanity.  Sin is a poison that we inflict upon ourselves.  It hurts everyone and everything.  Our sin hurts people we love—even if we don’t intend it.  Sin breaks all of creation.  It is the reason nature sometimes runs wild with tornadoes ripping through a community and killing people and destroying property.  Sin is the reason cancer ends people’s lives when they are still young.  (Not necessarily the person's sin, but the fact that sin permeates our world corrupts the nature of everything.)  Worst of all, sin wounds the heart of a loving God who only wants the best for us; it drives a wedge between us, separating us from the source of love, joy, peace, and hope.  Sin is madness.

And it’s not just the big sins like rape and murder.  All sin is despicably evil by the glorious standard of God.  In the past few blogs, I considered the deadly sins of gluttony, pride, greed, and sloth.  Perhaps they seem like minor infractions.  But they are terrible and evil and we should recognize them for the darkness they are, fall on our knees before God and repent lest we be consumed by the wrath of God.  For as we partake in the sins of gluttony, pride, greed, or sloth, we become partners with the armies of the Devil who oppose the Kingdom of God and seek to destroy the world and all that are in it.  It is that serious.

That is why Jesus came and preached, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)  We must recognize our sins—small as much as big—and repent.  Furthermore, we must give up every notion that we are better than anyone else because their sins are supposedly “worse” than ours.  That doesn’t mean we excuse the sins of others any more than we can excuse our own.  No.  Instead we repent of our own sin and we join in the saving work of God’s Kingdom, proclaiming to the world, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”  We must work tirelessly, until all the world comes to Christ willingly, or until Christ comes to judge on the Last Day.

The characters from the classic movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” each represent a different sin.  Little Charlie Bucket and his grandpa take a tour of the chocolate factory and sneak a taste of Wonka’s fizzy lifting drinks even thought it was against the rules.  Furthermore, Charlie stole one of Wonka’s Amazing Gobstoppers thinking one of Willy Wonka’s business competitors would pay him a huge amount of money for it.  Wonka is livid and angrily informs Charlie and his grandpa they have broken the rules and forfeited the lifetime supply of chocolate they were expecting.  

The Madness of Wrath Title
Let us consider wrath or anger.  (Wrath and anger are the same thing.)  Willy Wonka was angry and his wrath poured out against Chalrie and his grandpa.  Wonka has been betrayed before and it always hurts to be betrayed.  Wonka is the leading candy manufacturer in the world and his competitors are always trying to steal his ideas and formulas.  They will do anything to get his secrets—even bribe his employees to betray Wonka.  Betrayal hurts and it sparks Willy Wonka’s wrath. 

Charlie’s grandpa gets mad too.  He’s angry because Wonka won’t give Charlie a lifetime supply of chocolate.  Even though Wonka’s actions were justified because Charlie broke the rules, Charlie’s grandpa can’t stand to see his grandson suffer.  He takes it as a personal offence and vows “I’ll get even with him if it’s the last thing I ever do!”  So we see Charlie’s grandpa is already, in his anger, plotting vengeance (and he’ll do whatever it takes to see it through).

Anger (also called wrath) is a tricky emotion.  It’s not a happy emotion.  We might wish anger didn’t exist.  And perhaps, if there were no sin in the world, everyone could be happy all the time and there would be no need for anger.  I believe when the Kingdom of God finally comes on earth in the Last Day there will be no more anger.  But that’s not the world we live in now; is it?  Anger is sometimes necessary in our broken world.  And there is a kind of anger that is not sinful.  We call this righteous anger. 

We see examples of the righteous anger of God in the Bible.  God is angry at the Israelites for breaking the Ten Commandments.  We even see Jesus get angry.  One time, the disciples wouldn’t let some little children come to Jesus.  They thought Jesus was too important to be bothered by a bunch of kids they thought were unimportant.  Mark 10:14 says, “When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.”  And of course the story most people think of is in Matthew 21 when Jesus flipped over the money changers tables and drove everyone out of the Temple with a whip.  And we know God is Holy and Jesus never sinned.  So these episodes of righteous anger must be justified.

Ephesians 4:26-27 says:
26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

Notice the New Living Translation doesn’t say, “Don’t get angry.”  It says, “don’t sin by letting anger control you.  The New American Standard Bible translates the verse this way:  “Be angry, and yet do not sin.”

So there is in Scripture the idea that you can be angry and not sin or you can be angry and sin.  What’s the difference?  Here's a list of the differences: 

Righteous Anger
Sinful Anger
·       Has holy desires because you are aiming for the glory & justice  & righteousness of God
·       Leaves room for God’s vengeance
·       Never leads you to say or do things you will regret or for which you will have apologize
·       Is long suffering and quick to forgive
·       Gets angry at evil, but cares about the offender
·    Has selfish motivations and points to your own glorification
·    Is vindictive; you want to get even at any cost
·    Makes you say and do things you will regret latter and the need to apologize
·    Is short fused and holds a grudge
·    Gets angry at people and makes you cut people out of your life forever

Anger is an important emotion.  It can motivate you to fight against injustice when you would otherwise say or do nothing.  I saw a surveillance tape once of a McDonald's dining room.  A group of teenagers were picking on and bullying another kid in the restaurant.  Non of the other patrons or employees said or did anything to stop the bullying.  Thankfully, one brave lady was angered by the injustice and should stood up to the defence.  She scolded the bullies and told them to leave.  After they left, she said down with the one kid and told him that she had been bullied when she was in high school too.  Her anger drove her to protect a the innocent.

Anger is part of our DNA because we are made in the image of God.  God gets angry when He sees the rich oppressing the poor, the arrogant mistreating the humble, the strong beating up on the weak.  God gets angry when He sees sin destroying the world and people’s lives.  And we should get angry about these things too.

However, we have to be very careful, because the Devil likes to corrupt righteous anger and use it to worm his way into our life and bring destruction.  When we start to take an offense personally or start to derive pleasure from our angry feeling or let our anger make us vindictive, we will say and do things we regret latter and the Devil will have a field day in your life.

Important Advice about Anger
Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”  That means we need to deal with anger quickly.  Here are some tips about how to deal with anger:
  • Remember, we're fighting a spiritual battle.  Ephesians 6:12 – "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places."  So don't be angry at a person who has offended you or someone you love.  Imagine the the dark powers behind what you can see that are manipulating the people who do wrong.  Reserve the bulk of your anger for the Dark Spiritual Forces that are twisting people's actions.  That is the real Enemy.  Directing your anger at Evil can help be angry in the right way and not sin.
  • Repent of any sinful anger in your life.  Don’t wait.  Deal with it ASAP.  It gives the Devil a foothold in your life.  Have you ever seen a castle wall?  A good castle wall is high and strong.  If the surface is smooth, an enemy cannot get inside the fortress.  The Bible says the Lord is a mighty fortress.  That means He protects us from evil like a castle wall protects those inside.  The Enemy can't get over the Lord's wall to harm you, unless you harbor anger in your life.  Holding on to anger puts cracks in your wall and gives the Enemy a place to put his feet and hands to climb up over the wall and cause all kinds of problems in your spirit.  I don't want the Enemy inside my fortress; do you?  Then, let's repent of the sinful anger in our lives ASAP.
  • Deal also with your righteous anger every day and be done with it.  Don’t hold on to it.
      Righteous anger is like milk
    ; it has an expiration date.  Even holy, righteous, godly anger can turn sour in your soul if you wait too long to deal with it.  Then, just like good wholesome milk will sour if it goes beyond its expiration date, righteous anger can sour into sinful anger if we don't use it up in time.  What action is the Lord's righteous anger in your heart calling you to do?  You better pray about it and talk to a wise friend and then get to work.
Closing
Christians are not meant to be angry people.  God wants us primarily to be filled with love, joy, peace, and hope.  There are times when sin and evil and injustice should make us angry.  However, when it does, we need to deal with it in the right way so that we can resume the love, joy, peace, and hope that are more fitting attitudes for God's children.  How is God calling you to deal with anger today?




Monday, March 11, 2019

The Madness of Sloth


Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Introduction
In this series, we’re using the characters from the classic movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” to basic sins that plague humanity.  We’ve already explored what the Bible says about gluttony, pride, and greed.  Today, we consider sloth.  The image for sloth is that of a couch potato who does nothing but sit on the coach and watch TV all day long.  Willy Wonka has a character that’s perfect for that.  His name, in fact, is Mike Teavee and all he ever wants to do is watch TV.

The Madness of Sloth
Mike Teavee almost seems a bit too energetic to nrepresent sloth to me, though.  Perhaps the animal we actually call a sloth is a better caricature for this sin.

What is sloth?  Well, I could tell you, but I just don’t have the energy this morning…  It’s kid of a challenge to define the sin of sloth.  Most people think of laziness.  Romans 12:11, “Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.  Laziness is part of it, but sloth is more than just being lazy.  I can think of four ways we fall into sin through sloth.

The first kind of sloth is negligence.
We all need to rest.  However, sometimes there’s the temptation to indulge in rest at the expense of other important matters.  We are often tempted to skip worship and spend a little more time sleeping.  However, regular, weekly worship is important. We all need to tend our soul and God deserves our worship and praise.  We have to make the effort.

Pastor Chris’ Paraphrase of Proverbs 24:30-34 says:  “I walked passed a lazy person’s farm, and the vineyard of someone who has no sense.  Briars had taken over everything and the ground was full of weeds. The stone wall was broken down.  So I reflected on this sad sight and learned an important lesson:  A little more sleep, a little extra snoozing, a little more time in the recliner with your hands folded across your chest, and poverty will sneak up on you like a bandit, and hardship will invade your life.

This life and everything in it are gifts from God.  Our times of rest and even our work are gifts and a blessing.  Don’t take God’s gifts for granted.  There is a time and a purpose for everything.  So rest when it is time to rest and work when it is time to work.  Don’t be careless about how you spend your time.  

The second way to fall into sloth is procrastination.
Do you procrastinate?  Do you put things off?  Are you afraid to get started?  This is actually a form of sloth.  It is madness.  Understand, sin is not just something that offends God.  (I think that is so often the way most people view sin…)  Sin is insanity because it hurts you.  It’s a self-inflicted wound.  People who procrastinate hurt themselves.  It can damage your reputation.  It can hurt your career.  It can harm your family.  It keeps you from being effective and all that you can be.

Sometimes, the hardest part of any task is just getting started.  The best advice I can give to the sloth who procrastinates is the slogan for Nike, “Just do it.”  If you’re waiting for all the details to be worked out and everything to be in place before you start, you’ll probably never going to get going.  If you’re waiting to feel like doing it, you’re probably won’t ever feel like it and so you won’t ever get going.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed, like the job is just too big, that’s always the way a big job feels at the beginning.  However, once you get started, you are more likely to preserver through it.  And it may not be perfect to start with, but you can always adjust as you go.  I feel like most of the time it’s better to have an imperfect start and fix things as you go than to never get started in the first place.  So just jump in there and get to it.

A third kind of sloth is when you put forth half-hearted effort.
Some people don’t procrastinate, but the work they do is never their best effort.  They work, but they only do the minimum.  Now, I understand that no one is perfect.  I also understand that you can’t give everything you have to do in life equal effort.  That’s why it’s very important to know what’s most important in your life.  You’ve got to have your priorities in proper order.  What is a priority?  A priority is something to which you devote most of your time, energy, and money.  If you’re not spending most of your time, energy, and money on something, it’s not really a priority.  Bill Caylor’s Sunday school class is the J.O.Y. class.  JOY is an acronym to remind them of their priorities:  Jesus first, Others second, and You third.  For me, serving God is my first priority.  Second is loving my wife. Third is raising my kids.  Therefore, I try to devote my time, energy, and money accordingly. 

Once you know your priorities, you’ve got to devote yourself to them with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  In Revelation 3:16, Jesus lamented that the Church in Laodicea was full of half-hearted sloths.  He said, “Since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”  We should devote ourselves to our top priorities as if we were working directly for Christ.  Don’t be a sloth.  Give it your all to what’s really important in your life.

A fourth way we commit the sin of sloth is when we become easily discouraged by any possible difficulty.
Life is full of difficult challenges. Sometimes the difficulties can cause to freeze up or give up.  However, that’s not what Jesus wants for us.  Some of the greatest blessings come when we have the faith to keep going when it seems we just can’t.  For then we realize the wonder of seeing the Holy Spirit at work through us.  How can you ever experience the supernatural power of God if you never attempt something that is beyond your ability?

Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”  And the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who give me the strength I need from day to day.”  If God has given you a task, He will supply the help, the resources, the ability, whatever is needed to see it through.  Your job is to get up off the couch and get to work.

Life is Sweet When We Give It All to Jesus
Jesus calls us all to go out from the church to fulfill the great mission of His church.  He calls us to go out and serve in His name.  Romans 12:11 says, “Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 

I invite you to come spend a moment in prayer.  Have you been negligent in your work—neglecting to do what’s really important?  Do you procrastinate?  Have you been putting off something important you need to do?  Are you guilty of half-hearted living?  Have you been afraid to do something you know God wants you to do?  Now is the time to repent and live in the power of God’s Holy Spirit.


Monday, March 4, 2019

The Madness of Greed


Introduction
Each of the characters in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory represent a different sin that plagues humanity.  We started by looking at gluttony.  Then we considered sinful pride.  Our topic today is greed.

Ephesians 5:3-5
3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. 4 Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. 5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

The Madness of Greed
Greed is a terrible sin.  We make a big deal out of things like murder and sexual immorality.  But the Word of God says greed is just as bad as being a sexual pervert.  In fact, the Word today says a greedy person is an idolater.  Imagine a person who bows down and worships a statue--thinking it is God.  That person is a fool.  They turn their back on the One True and Living God in favor of an inanimate statue made by human hands.  They reject God for something that cannot help them.  They are evil and the greatest of all fools.

Greed is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs.  Our desire can be for more food, money, status, or power.  It may be like Varuca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who wanted the golden egg and the goose that laid it (and a party and a feast, a bean feast!).  What we want is not the issue; it’s that we greedily want more, more, more!  And no matter how much we get, it is never enough.  The ironic thing about greed is the greedy person is never truly satisfied.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! “The more they have, they emptier they feel.”

Do you think it is only a coincidence that so many in America feel empty and dissatisfied?  We are one of the wealthiest nations on earth.  We have so much!  A study was done that showed Americans spend more money on trash bags than the combined Gross Domestic Product of the poorest 90 countries in the world.  (I.E., if we take 90 of the poorest countries on the planet and combine the amount of money they spend on everything—food, shelter, clothing, medical care, the basic necessities of life to survive and everything else—it is still less than the amount Americans spend on bags to hold all the stuff we throw away into the garbage heap.)  And yet, Americans, so often, are the ones who feel empty and dissatisfied with life.  We feel like we need more.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 has never been truer.  “Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! “The more they have, they emptier they feel.” 

Why is Greed So Bad?
Veruca Salt probably didn’t realize how her temper tantrum was so disgusting.  We rarely realize how awful our greed is when we are in the midst of it.  When we are consumed with getting what we want, we don’t realize (or care) how bad we behave or who we hurt; all we care about is getting what we want.  Greed can lead people to the most heinous crimes, because people will do anything (and feel justified in their actions) to get what they want.  Greed (disguised as the harmless idea that “we need it”) becomes the justification to hurt others, to steel, to murder.  Parents, driven by greed to acquire more stuff, neglect or abuse their children.  Greed leads countries to go to war as they vie for power and millions die in the process.  Greed causes one person to gorge themselves while another starves to death. Worst of all, greed drives a wedge between us and God—the source of life and all that is good.  We try to fill the emptiness in our soul with stuff when it is God alone who can satisfy.  Greed drives us away from the only One who can truly satisfy our deepest longings.

How Can We Break Free from the Madness of Greed?
First of all, we must repent.  To repent means to admit you are wrong and stop doing it.  Of course, most people will nod their head in agreement when I say we need to repent of greed.  I don’t think most people understand the full ramification of what I’m saying. So let me try to make it more clear.  Take a moment to think about what kind of sin is the worst imaginable sin of which you could be guilty?  I mean something that in your mind is so terrible, the shame and sorrow of it would almost kill you if you were found to be guilty of it.  For some, maybe this would be some sexual perversion you can imagine--something that if anyone knew about it, you would absolutely die.  If it’s not some sexual sin, maybe you killed someone or abused someone.  Maybe it would be to abandon your family.  I don’t know.  What would it be for you?  Now, I want you to understand, greed is just as horrible and disgusting and shameful in God’s eyes as whatever that other sin you thought of was.  Now, we need to repent of greed knowing it is an abomination to God.  We need to fall on our knees and admit: “I’m so sorry I’m greedy, Lord!  I was wrong!  Help me stop being greedy!”

Now, if we’re truly going to break free from greed, we’ve got to replace the darkness of greed with the light of Christ.  What I mean is, you’ve got to let Christ fill your soul.  Greed is us trying to satisfy with stuff an emptiness that only Christ is capable of filling.  You’ve got to fall in love with Jesus.  Does that sound cheesy?  I’m sorry, but I don’t know how else to describe it.  When you fall in love with someone, you want to spend all your time with them.  You crave their presence, their affection, their time.  You want to be with them more than anything else.  You spend your money to buy them gifts—sometimes even frivolously.  You don’t care because they are the most important thing in your life—more important than anything you have.  A real relationship with God through Jesus Christ is the only thing that can truly satisfy the human soul.  So instead of indulging your deeping cravings by greedily seeking material things, let Christ fill your emptiness instead.

Practice contentment. The Bible tells us again and again to learn to be content with what we have.  Hebrews 13:5, “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have.  1 Timothy 6:6, “True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.”  The secret to being happy and satisfied is not getting more.  There is nothing out there that you’re missing that you need to be happy.  Christ has already given you everything you need.  What is needed, is a change in your own attitude.  When you learn to be truly thankful for what you have and content with it, you will be truly happy and at peace.  On the other hand, if you cannot be happy, satisfied and content with what God has given you right now, you will never be able to be content with the things He might give you in the future.  So, work hard to simplify your life.  Get rid of stuff you don’t need rather than trying to get more.  Make it your goal to get by on as little as possible.  The simple life is the contented life; it is the happy life.

Be generous.  The opposite of greed is generosity.  Generosity naturally flows from a person who is filled with the love of God.  Greedy hands are closed; generous hands are open.  In Psalm 23, it says, “You anoint my head with oil.  My cup runs over.”  I love that image.  It’s like a cup that’s filled to the brim and the waiter just keeps pouring and the liquid is running all over the table.  That’s how God blesses His people.  He loves us so much and gives us the things that really matter.  He gives us so much, we can’t hold it all.  The greedy person tries to get another cup (and another and another and another…) so they can catch and save it all up.  The generous person is happy to share the abundance of the Lord.  Generous giving is a powerful antidote to greed.  It massages our stiff, greedy fingers open as we let go of things that do not satisfy.  In giving, we find far more satisfaction than we ever found in the things themselves.

Conclusion
The greatest, most generous gift ever given was the body and blood of Christ our Lord.  Jesus gave His precious life so that we can be forgiven of our greed and every other sin.  Let us then repent and turn to Him for forgiveness and grace and healing.  The life He wishes to give us is so much better than the stuff we greedily hoard.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Madness of Pride


Mark 1:14-15
14 Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. 15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”  And I'm so grateful Jesus gave his life to win our pardon and break the power of sin in our lives.

Introduction
From the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus spent his time reaching out to sinners.  He preached to them, taught them, ate with them, forgave them, and healed them.  Most importantly, he urged them to repent of their sins.  Sin is madness.  It is a form of insanity.  It destroys our lives, hurts people we love, and a damages the world around us.  Worst of all, sin separates us from God—the source and purpose of our life.  Despite all this, we continue to struggle with sin.  It’s madness!  I’m so glad Jesus came preached, “Repent of your sins and believe the Good News.

Most people realize we are sinners and we don’t have a problem asking God to forgive our sin.  However, we might use the word sin in a general way without thinking about the specific ways we sin.  Unfortunately, you can’t address a problem unless you know what it is. So let’s consider some of the basic ways people sin so we can repent and ask God’s forgiveness.  Last week we considered gluttony—over-indulgence and over-consumption.  Today, we will study pride.

In the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, the character Violet Beauregarde represents the sin of pride.  Violet is vain, self-centered, snobby, and disrespectful.  Violet chews gum obsessively and boasts that she has been chewing the same piece "for three months solid", a world record which Violet proudly proclaims was previously held by her best friend. Violet is aggressively competitive and proud of her gum chewing trophies.  Unfortunately, Violet’s pride gets her is BIG trouble.  She steals some of Willy Wonka's defective gum and turns into a blueberry. She has to be squeezed to get rid of all her juice before she explodes. 

The Madness of Pride
Pride is a terrible sin.  All sins are bad, but people tend to think of some sins as worse than others.  Who would disagree that murder is a heinous crime?  Treason against one’s country?  Deplorable.  How about a sexual sin like rape or molestation?  But pride?  Is pride really that bad?

Consider this: the Bible teaches that Satan was once an angel in Heaven.  However, he grew proud (Isaiah 14:13, Ezekiel 28:16) and thought he could take God’s place.  Therefore, God cast Satan from heaven and he will ultimately be destroyed in hell.  Pride caused Satan to fall.

The Bible firmly condemns pride.  Examples:
·       Proverbs 8:13 – I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech
·       Proverbs 16:18 - Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.
·       Isaiah 13:11 - I will crush the arrogance of the proud and humble the pride of the mighty.
·       1 Peter 5:5 - “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
·       Philippians 2:3 - Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

It can be somewhat confusing because we also often use pride in a positive way.  When I was little and I played peewee football, the coach often told us he was proud of us when we did our best.  He also told us to “Have some pride in our team—whether we win or lose.”  And of course, come July 4th, we may proudly salute the American flag and sing “And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free!”  Our hearts sometimes swell with pride in a healthy way.

There’s nothing wrong with having confidence, dignity, and self-respect.  Furthermore, it’s OK to be proud of your kids, which is just a feeling of deep pleasure and admiration you have from being associated with their accomplishments.  And when it comes to our country, we can be proud of our shared identity as a nation who has been truly blessed by God—though I would very strongly caution that we must never be so arrogant as to think our blessings were won by our own efforts.  That is the very sin the Bible condemns nations like Israel for in the Old Testament. 
(Amos 6:8 - …the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, says: “I despise the arrogance of Israel, and I hate their fortresses. I will give this city and everything in it to their enemies.”)  Sinful pride leads us to believe we don't need God. We trust instead in our own power and might and means.

The Pride the Bible condemns is arrogance, vanity, and conceit.  It is thinking more of yourself than you should.  And it leads you to think you are better than others.  And as with Satan, it can make you forget your place and act as though you are higher than God.  Pride will puff you up as big as Violet Beauregarde when she turned into a blueberry.  And the only cure will be for God to squeeze you until there’s no more prideful juice left in your body.  But you don’t have to go through that; not if you just humble yourself and stay away from pride.

It’s Hard to be Humble
“Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when your perfect in every way.  I can’t wait to look in the mirror, ‘cause I get better looking each day…”

We need to let go of pride and be humble.  To be humble is to understand who you really are according to God.  Humility is knowing the world doesn’t revolve around me; it is having my place in the universe in proper perspective.  God made humanity from dirt of the ground, but we were made by the very hands of God in His image.  We are the only creatures authorized to represent God.  So humility also recognizes of how unique and special we are without leaving us with a big head to think we don’t need God.

Christians are called to be humble.  But how do we become humble?  Is there anything we can do to become more humble?  Yes there is!  We can pray and cooperate with the Hands of God that want to sculpt humility into our soul.

Here are some exercises that can help God establish more humility in you.

The Little Way
The first exercise is called “The Little Way”.  To follow the little way means that throughout your day you actively seek out the most menial jobs, welcome unjust criticisms, befriend people who annoy you, and help those who are ungrateful.
Example…
Following the little way can help develop more humility within you.

Solitude
Another practice that can help develop humility is solitude.  Solitude means to take some time to be alone.  It is a great practice to get away from people for a little while so you stop worrying so much about what people think and remember to care more about what God thinks.

In the age of social media, we are constantly sharing with others what we are doing, where we are, what we’re eating, etc.  Through Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, we are in constant contact with our “friends” and the whole world has a chance to give us feedback of what they think.  Think how much more spiritually grounded we would be if we were as constantly connected with God and seeking His approval as we are with our social media networks.

Through solitude, we step away from the world—both our face-to-face interactions with people and our virtual interactions through social media—to focus on interacting only with the God who forms us.  Jesus, the Son of God, knew the great benefit of going away to be by himself.  At the onset of his ministry, he spent 40 days alone in the wilderness fasting and communing with God.  It prepared him for his three years of public ministry, culminating in his death and resurrection to save the world from sin.  And throughout his ministry, we read that Jesus rose early in the morning and went away to a lonely place to be by himself and pray.

If a man as busy as Jesus—with twelve disciples to teach and lead and crowds of people constantly following him around begging for food and teaching and healing—could find time to be alone with God, surely we can find more time to be alone with God.  Maybe, it could help us break free from the madness of sinful pride.

Conclusion
The solution to pride is not to run around belittling yourself all the time.  That's just low self esteem or false-humility.  The solution is to glorify God and give Him the credit.  It’s not so much that we are so low; it’s just that God is so high.  Rather than focusing on yourself, keep your eyes lifted up to God.  When we focus our sights on our Heavenly Father, all the rest of life seems to fall in place.

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Madness of Gluttony


Luke 5:29-31
29 Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. 30 But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?”
31 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.

Introduction
The Pharisees scoffed at Jesus because he ate with sinners collectors.  I guess they didn’t realize they were sinners themselves.  I’m glad Jesus ate with sinners, because it means he will eat with me.  We are all sinners.  Sin is madness.  It is a form of insanity.  It destroys our lives, hurts people we love, a damages the world around us and yet we continue to do it because we are all a little insane.  

My wife and I watch a documentary recently about a serial killer.  Everyone (including us) said, “That person is pure evil!”  Perhaps it is because the madness in a killer is so obviously unnatural. we have no trouble calling them monsters or evil or insane.  Meanwhile, the same madness resides in all of us in a thousand smaller ways that are less obvious.  We are all consumed with the madness of sin.

And you know, most people know they are sinners.  Not many claim to be perfect.  And we don’t have a problem saying we need to be forgiven our ‘sins’.  But often, we use the word sin in a generic, blanket form without much real consideration of what specific sins we struggle with.  The trouble is you can’t address a problem unless you really know what the problem is.

So, in this series of blogs, I want to look at some of the basic sins that plague people.  My hope is we will recognize some of the specific ways we struggle with sin, so that we can repent and ask Jesus to forgive us and begin to heal us.

In the movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, several kids take a tour of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.  Each child's character flaws are revealed.  These character flaws  serve as a jumping off point for us as we consider the fundamental sins all people struggle with.

The Madness of Gluttony
Augustus Gloop wasn’t a bad kid; he was just enslaved by his appetite.  Augustus was a glutton.   Gluttony literally means to "to gulp down or swallow.”  (Just like the sound the word makes…)  Gluttony is over-indulgence and over-consumption of food, drink.  It can also apply to other common forms of over-indulgence too—binge watching netflix, buying too much clothes, or hoarding.

Now, food is not bad.  Jesus ate with sinners.  Many places in the Bible command us to feast.  And eternal life is often described as a great feast.  So the problem is not food or eating or even feasting.  Gluttony is a spiritual problem where we try to substitute food for God.

4 Basic Forms of Gluttony
There are four basic kinds of gluttony. The one we may be most familiar with is the gluttony of quantity. This is where eat too much. Have you ever had a craving for something salty? I have. And I went to look in the pantry to see if there was something there to satisfy it. Victory! There was a bag of Doritos! It was exactly what I was craving. And the first three or four or five doritos were the most heavenly treat. But I didn't stop at five. I kept going even after my craving was fulfilled. Even after my body started to say, "Ok. You really don't need any more." I kept chasing the pleasure the first few Doritos gave me even after they stopped giving pleasure. That is the gluttony of quantity and it is an epidemic in America.

Another form of gluttony is less recognizable. It is the gluttony of quality. It is demanding delicacies instead of being satisfied with what you have. This is like the Israelites when they wandered in the wilderness in the book of Exodus. God delivered them from slavery from Egypt and, even though they had no food of their own as they wandered, God provided manna from heaven so they would have something to eat. But instead of being thankful, the Israelites complained, saying,"We are so tired of eating this manna. We always had plenty to eat, back when were slaves in Egypt..." That's insane!  But people still do this today.  Have you ever known someone who just can't be happy with the food they are served?  They always complain: "This food has too much pepper or not enough pepper... or it's too spicy or it has too many onions or not enough onions." Whatever it is, they act like the food just isn't good enough for them.  They don't realize they are a kind of glutton because they think, “I’m not asking for too much.  All I want is a meal that is properly prepared, properly spiced, properly cooked, and properly presented.”  Then when all care has been made to serve the perfect plate, the quality glutton exclaims in exasperation, “Oh my!  That is far too much food!  I could never eat all that!”  The results are this kind of glutton is a nightmare to hosts and waiters, and furthermore they never really satisfied themselves.  How sad.

The third kind of gluttony is the of when to eat.  It is people who eat before the proper time.  Tehy eat because they may feel, “I can’t wait! I must eat it now!”  Do you remember Esau from the Old Testament.  He returned from a day hunting in the fields and he was very hungry.  He finds his brother cooking a pot of stew and Esau has to have food right away.  He can't wait another minute.  He is so hungry, he trades his inheritance for a bowl of stew!  Some people just can't say no to food.  It is their master and that is a kind of gluttony.

There is also the gluttony of why.  Have you ever found you don't even know why you are eating?  You are just mindlessly eating and you have no good reason.  You not eating because you are hungry and need energy.  You aren't sharing a meal with your friends or family.  It's not even a special occasion and you're celebrating.  You're not even eating to enjoy a good gift from God.  you're just mindlessly putting food into the emptiness of your soul.  This is the gluttony of why.

Gluttony is a terrible problem in America.  It leads to all kinds of health problems like obesity, cholesterol and high blood pressure.  These have become epidemics in our country.  But these are the symptoms.  The root problem is gluttony, which tries to fill a void it cannot fill.  It is a cliche to say, but it's true.  Everyone has a God shaped hole in our soul.  Only God can fill that void and make us whole.  But we try to fill that void with so many other things--including food.  And food brings a certain amount of pleasure, satisfaction, and filling.  However, it is never complete and so we just keep filingoursleves with more and more and find ourselves less and less satisfied with all kinds of terrible side effects.  n the end, food controls the glutton and makes him a slave.

The opposite of gluttony is not abstinence.  It is moderation.  Food is a good gift from God.  He wants us to enjoy it.  But God wants us to enjoy it in the right way.  The things we turn into sin don't usually start out bad.  They start with good wholesome things, but we twist them and misuse them in ways contrary to God's design.

The Solution to Gluttony
First of all repent and seek God’s forgiveness.  The very first step in solving any problem is recognize you have a problem.  We want to crinkle our noses at other forms of sin that society holds in contempt--murder, adultery, drug abuse, etc.  But gluttony is just as bad and can have just as many ill effects on society and individuals as any other sin.  And ultimately, gluttony seperates us from God as much as any other sin.  So we must recognize gluttony as the evil it is, repent, and turn to God for forgiveness and healing

Second, to break the power of gluttony, we have to find nourishment in something greater.  It's not enough to just buckling down and use our will power.  That may work for a time, but it doesn’t address the real problem and it will usually fail at some point.  The problem is, we are trying to fill a void in our life with food (or something else) that only Jesus can fill.  There is a real void there.  But food cannot satisfy it.  Understand this is a spiritual battle, not just a physical one.  This is not just about going on a diet or trying to reach a certain weight.  We have a real void in our life and we need Jesus to fill it.

Isaiah 55:1-2
 “Is anyone thirsty?    Come and drink—even if you have no money!
    Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
    Why pay for food that does you no good?  Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
    You will enjoy the finest food.

When your appetite makes you feel empty inside, seek to fill that emptiness with Jesus instead of food.  Maybe that sounds hokey, but I’m serious.  The truth is, you’re not going to die if you don’t eat right now.  So, let your hunger pains be a reminder to spend time with Jesus.  Go to him in prayer.  Say, “Lord, I feel empty inside.  I’m so hungry.  Fill me Lord.” Meditate on the goodness of God.  Imagine yourself sitting around the table with Jesus, being filled not only with food, but more importantly with His love and goodness. Drink it all in.  Be filled.  Be full.  And wait for the right time to eat and then eat only what is right to eat and with the right attitude.

Third, seek accountability.  We are not meant to fight our battles alone.  We need partners in this.  Having a good friend or a spiritual advisor can be very helpful.  In some cases, a Christian counselor is really what’s needed if gluttony has taken the form of a food addiction.  When we struggle with gluttony, we need someone to hold us accountable.

Fourth, live in God’s grace.  Even if you never overcome this habit, God still loves you.  Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  You don’t have to lose weight in order for God to love you.  You don’t have to do anything for God to love you.  He already does.  Always has.  Always will.  He only wants you to work on your gluttony for your own sake.  He want you to be healthy and happy and as fully alive as you can be.  He wants you to actually enjoy food instead of being a slave to it. So, don’t be so hard on yourself.  God isn’t.

Closing
I invite you to consider your own life.  Do you struggle with gluttony?  Ask the Lord to reveal the truth and turn to Him for forgiveness and help and healing.  Focus on some ways you could allow the Lord to fill the void inside that you've been trying to stuff with food or drink or something else.  How could prayer, study, meditation, or worship be used to help you experience the true presence of Christ that satisfies all our deepest longings?