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Archive for July, 2013

Life Notes—July 25, 2013 

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”  Exodus 20:17

In my younger days I had a hero.  Actually, it was more of a man-crush. He was tall and handsome, cool under pressure.  He had an answer for every situation.  He was the smartest and cleverest person in whatever room he was in.  He was strong enough to fight his way out of physical danger, yet sensitive enough to treat women as they (apparently) wanted to be treated.  His cars were fast and beautiful. Attractive women adored him, captivated by his irresistible charisma.  His name was James…James Bond.  Yes, when I was young I was incredibly envious of James Bond.  He was heroic.  He was iconic.  He was a man’s man.  And I wanted what he had.  Most of the people we admire as heroes are only too human, and sooner or later their human weakness shows through and tarnishes their “shine.”  But James Bond was not human, and so he could be perfect—at least by a young boy’s definition of perfect.  In reality, no one person could be that strong and clever and smart and good-looking and resourceful and smooth.  And we would never have access to the amazing gadgets that “Q” made for him, few of which would actually work in the real world, anyway.

The sixth of the Seven Deadly Sins is Envy.  Envy grows out of jealousy, but takes jealousy to the level of covetousness.  Coveting what belongs to our neighbors is addressed in the Ten Commandments, as in the scripture above.  Although envy grows out of jealousy, its impact goes well beyond normal jealousy and desire.  It is not just a desire to have something, it is a desire to have something that belongs to someone else.  We do not envy things that can be bought in a store.  We envy something in someone else’s possession.  And sometimes envy can take the form of coveting something not so much because we want the object of our envy, but in order to hurt the other person by taking something of value to them.

So envy is sinful because it leads us to covet that which belongs to someone else.  But it is also sinful in that it is a manifestation of our dissatisfaction with the blessings we have been given.  It is not just admiring the green grass on the other side of the fence, but envy leads us to consider digging up the neighbor’s sod and transplanting it in our yard.  That’s not only sinful, it’s also back-breaking work!  Similar to lust and greed, envy takes what may be a normal desire and twists it into something abnormal.  It leads to separation from others and damages relationships, including our relationship with God.

Tom will be preaching downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch is preaching at the west campus where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.  It is okay to be envious of another’s relationship with God.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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Life Notes—July 18, 2013 

“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.  Do not fret—it leads only to evil.”  Psalm 37:8

Most of the time I am an even-tempered person.  Of course I get annoyed when my computer takes longer than normal to start up.  I do not appreciate when someone cuts me off in traffic.  And yes, I can get downright mad when relatively petty annoyances begin to pile on top of each other.  Sometimes my anger even overrides my self-control and words spew out of my mouth that would otherwise remain within.  I am seldom proud of my outbursts of anger and am thankful they tend to be rare.  I teach at a leadership institute one week out of the year and I tell the leaders-to-be that expressed anger should be a tool they use sparingly.  While they should not allow themselves to be controlled by their anger, applied strategically and sparingly anger can be an effective teacher and motivator.

But the fifth of the seven deadly sins is not anger.  It is wrath.  Wrath is anger on steroids.  It is also referred to as rage and manifests as uncontrollable, highly-charged emotional feelings of hatred and loathing.  It can lead to violent behaviors directed towards one’s self or others.  It can persist long after the presumed cause of the wrath is dead and gone.  The key is that it is uncontrolled and/or wildly excessive; meaning appropriate control has been lost and any number of unfortunate or unintended consequences may result.  Suicide is sometimes described as wrath turned inward.

In this series of essays on the Seven Deadly Sins I have defined sin as that which separates us from God.  The Seven Deadly Sins are considered the primary, or the originating sins which lead to most other types of sin.  These primary sins are identified as lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.  While anger is a normal emotion everyone experiences to a greater or lesser extent and frequency, wrath takes anger to dangerous heights.  Where anger tends to dissipate relatively quickly, wrath boils ever near the surface, ready to explode in an emotional and destructive eruption with little provocation.  In a word, wrath leads to evil.

Wrath makes us unpleasant, unpredictable and sometimes dangerous to be around.  As such, it separates us from and even destroys our relationships with others.  Since we are called to be in relationship with others, it also separates us from God’s purposes for our lives.  It makes us less useful as tools for God’s work on earth.  And it makes us miserable as individuals.  In the words of William Cullen Bryant, “And wrath has left its scar—that fire of hell has left its frightful scar upon my soul.”

Tom will be preaching downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch is preaching at the west campus where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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Life Notes—July 11, 2013 

“Then the one who had received one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.  Here you have what is yours.’  But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave!’”  Matthew 25:24-25a

I love to nap.  Saturday and Sunday afternoons are simply not complete without at least a short snooze in the sunroom or on the couch.  It’s not that I need the extra sleep; it just feels good to take some me-time to relax. In fact, it feels luxurious.  Is it lazy to nap when there is work to be done?  Perhaps; but even Jesus took time to go off alone to reconnect and recharge. Sometimes, everyone must step back to keep moving forward.

The fourth of the seven deadly sins is sloth.  The passage above is part of the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).  In this parable Jesus tells of a master who gave one of his slaves five talents, one two, and one a single talent, with instructions to take the talents and use them for good.  The first and second slaves used their talents in ways that multiplied them.  But the slave given a single talent buried his, and when the master returned he took his single talent away and gave it to the slave with the most.

Sloth is defined as laziness.  While most commonly referring to physical laziness, its manifestation as one of the seven deadly sins is in spiritual laziness.  When we fail to use or develop the talents, gifts, resources and graces we have been given we become like the lazy slave who simply buried his talent.  According to scripture the lazy slave did so out of fear.  Perhaps it was fear of not being able to do as much as others.  Perhaps it was jealousy that others had been given more.  Sometimes we are reluctant to use our gifts because we feel someone else is a better cook, a better talker, or a better whatever.  And in believing what we have to offer is not good enough we simply bury, or hide, what we have been given. Sometimes we fail to take an action for good we are fully capable of taking.  It is said that evil exists where good people fail to act. The talents we have are given freely, but they must be put to use for good.  Similarly, our gift of salvation is free, in that we cannot earn it, but it is given with the expectation we will act in response to the gift.  In James 2:26 is written, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.”  We are called to use what we have been given in service to others.  The rewards of faith may be free, but the impact of our faith is up to us.

Tom will be preaching downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch is preaching at the west campus where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.  Your talents are welcome there!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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Life Notes—July 4, 2013 

 

“And he said to them, ‘Take care!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’”  Luke 12:15

 

The third of the seven deadly sins is greed.  Like the preceding deadly sins, lust and gluttony, greed is a sin of excess.  Desiring something becomes a sin when that desire overwhelms common sense and decency.  To want to possess that which is necessary and useful in our lives is natural.  But when we begin to hoard possessions in quantities we are unlikely to ever need or use is when it crosses the line to sin.  At that point our possessions possess us, and we become their slaves. And our possessions, which could have value to others in need, become essentially valueless.

 

It may be helpful, at this point in this sin-filled series of essays, to review the nature of sin and why it is to be avoided.  A simple definition of sin is that which separates us from God.  The seven deadly sins are considered deadly because they are believed to be the origin of all other sins.  And it is sin which separates us from the new life promised in Christ. Many of us have an inherent aversion to discussing sin because it makes us feel guilty and dirty.  We feel like a puppy who is told “Bad dog!” when he wets on the carpet.  Obviously, the puppy is not a bad dog for wetting on the carpet.  The puppy is a good dog that did something inconsistent with the best interests of the puppy’s family.  The puppy did not wet the carpet because it was bad.  The puppy wet the carpet (1) because he needed to go to the bathroom, and (2) he had not learned how to meet his needs in a family-friendly way.  In like manner, the fact that we sin does not make us bad people.  We were created in the image of God—we are very good people who sometimes act in ways that are not family-friendly.  Our sin, a natural part of our human condition, separates us from God and our community.  Our desire to eliminate sin from our lives, to the extent possible, should not be driven by our desire to be a good person, but by our desire to become a better member of our family and community.  It is in our own best interest, as well as being consistent with the best interests of those around us.  Life is simply better for everyone when there is less sin.  When we tell a person they are a sinner, even in truth, they are much more likely to hear they are a bad person (Bad dog!), than hear they are a good person who can become better.  When we wet the carpet, we don’t need our noses rubbed in our mistake; we need to be lovingly and patiently shown a better way.  Showing a better way is the responsibility of Christians—not because we’re perfect, but because we have been shown the better way of love through Christ.  And, as with most things in life, the most effective witness is a living example to emulate.

 

So the danger with greed, to us and others, is not in wanting something.  The danger is in wanting something to such an extent and in such a quantity, and to want to possess it so completely that the object of our desire is no longer useful to meet our own needs or the needs of others.  We must learn that the true graces of God cannot be hoarded, but must be shared in order to bless us and others.

 

Come home to church this Sunday.  The value of life is not in the abundance of possessions.

 

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

 

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