Tuesday, September 29, 2015

September 29, 2015 - along the Way ...

This week we look at the deadly sin of "sloth".

Sloth is interesting because it deals with wrongly directed desire that is really a lack of desire.   Sloth is the lack of desire to do something; be productive; use God-given gifts for God-glorifying activity.
Sloth is apathy, and a refusal to be responsive or responsible for one's calling.

The corresponding virtue to sloth is diligence; following through on one's responsibilities and calling.
Diligence should not be confused with overworking, which is often motivated by greed.   Diligence is willingness to serve in any capacity in order to bring the most glory to God.   It is not self-directed work, rather it is God-directed kingdom pursuit.

Consider Ephesians 2:10.   Following the important declaration in verses 8-9 that we are saved by grace through faith, a gift of God, not by works, Paul follows up with these words,

"For we are God's workmanship (poetry),
created in Christ Jesus,
to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do."

God's grace is not merely aimed at the personal salvation of individual believers.   Our salvation is not the end, but rather the means toward God's greater ends; the accomplishment of the good works God has prepared for us.

On the one hand, diligence recognizes this responsibility and seeks to pursue these ends seeking first God's kingdom and His righteousness.   Sloth, on the other hand, ignores God's call and chooses to disregard this kingdom responsibility. 

So I encourage each of us to pursue God's kingdom wholeheartedly, and not allow sloth to prevent us from accomplishing God's good purposes for His glory.  

These have been my thoughts, and I invite you to share some of your own as we journey together along the Way ... 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

September 22, 2015 - along the Way ...

GREED.  It is one of the most dangerous of the Seven Deadly Sins, but most often it is ignored in our lives and our preaching.  

Jesus said, "No one can serve (worship) two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other,
or you will devoted to the one and despise the other.   You cannot serve (worship) both God and money (things)."   - Matthew 6:24

Greed is desire that has gone in the wrong direction.   Instead of focusing on our love for God and others, greed causes us to focus on ourselves, our wants and our desires.

Jesus also said, "pagans run after all these things" (Matthew 6:32a).   Greed defines the pagan by what they do, not who they are.  So greed is most dangerous because it can take us away from God.

In contrast, following up on His statement about pagans, Jesus says, "... and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first His (God's) kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you (all) as well." (Matthew 6:32b, 33)

This leads us to the corresponding virtue that God calls us to cultivate in opposition to greed.   The virtue is generosity.

Generosity destroys greed from the inside out because it forces us to look away from our own wants and desires to see the needs of the people around us.  Generosity seeks first God's kingdom and righteousness to come alive in the lives of others, and trusts God to provide what we (all) need for each day.

So if you feel weighed down by greed, I encourage you to ask God to make you generous.   God has given us all we need for each day, and as we learn to share generously God's kingdom will come alive to more and more people.

These are my thoughts, and I am certain you also have thoughts to share, so I invite you to share some of your own thoughts as we journey together along the Way ....

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

September 15, 2015 - along the Way ...

Envy is also identified as one of the "Seven Deadly Sins".   Envy begins with desire and quickly goes the wrong way.

Envy is not only desire for something someone else has, it also includes contempt for the person who has what you desire.  Envy can be deadly because it can lead to something much worse.

In the book, "Not the Way it's Supposed to Be: a Breviary of Sin" by Neal Plantinga he retells a story of a woman who envied another woman so much that it led to murder.   She murdered the woman and the man she wanted from the woman.   Granted, this is a very extreme example of how envy can go wrong, but a real life example nonetheless.

On the other hand, kindness is a desire we can cultivate in opposition to envy.   Kindness wants the very best for the other.   Kindness is even willing to sacrifice to see another's needs met, and celebrates with the other in their happiness.

So what about you?

Are you envious of anyone?   Are you allowing that envy to poison your soul?    If so, you can do something about it.   You can pray that God will develop in you a kindness that seeks what is best for others and not just yourself.   You can choose to bless rather than curse, and in so doing you can be a light in a world that often seems very dark.

These are my thoughts, so what about yours?   I invite you to share your thoughts as we journey together along the Way ...

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

September 8, 2015 - along the Way ...

Gluttony is another of the "Seven Deadly Sins" and temperance is its accompanying virtue.

Gluttony could be defined as "too much of a good thing".   Examples of gluttony are overeating, overexercising, over-TV watching, etc.   Anything activity that is described with the word "over" is most likely a form of gluttony.

At first glance, one might think that gluttony should not be one of the seven deadly sins because although it is misdirected desire it seems to affect only the glutton and not others around them.
However, gluttony actually affects more than just the glutton.   Gluttony prohibits the glutton from properly loving their neighbor because the whole focus is on himself.

So how does temperance counteract gluttony?

Temperance means "enjoyment of good things without overindulging".   One is temperate when she maintains the ability to say "No".   She might also say, "Yes" to enjoy the experience, but once she  experienced it, she will also say "No" to overdoing it.

Temperance allows us to enjoy the good things God has given us without them becoming "all-consuming" or unhealthy.

So what about you?

Can you think of other examples of gluttony?   Also, how might temperance be exercised in that situation?

I invite you to share your thoughts as we journey together along the Way ...

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

September 1, 2015 - along the Way ...

I have now completed the third room with laminate flooring in our home, for which I am very thankful.   As we enter into a new month, I will continue to consider the "Seven Deadly Sins" and their accompanying virtues.   For this week we will consider "envy".

Envy is not simply desiring what another has, but envy actually resents the other person for having it.
It is sort of the idea that if I cannot have it, then you should not have it either.   Envy is common in our world today.

How many times do we find ourselves desiring something someone else has, and then becoming resentful?   In our resentment, we want the other to be deprived as we are.

Envy is very dangerous.  It begins with misdirected desire, and can lead to some awful things, even murder.

So if envy is misdirected desire and resentment, then what is the accompanying virtue?

Kindness is the opposite of envy.   Kindness wants what is best for everyone.   Kindness appreciates the belongings of another, and is happy to see it bring them happiness.   Kindness looks for ways to bless rather than curse.   In this way it is the opposite of envy and resentment.

Now, as you think about your week, are there opportunities where you can let kindness lead?   Also, if you feel envy and resentment cropping up from within, will you stop them in their tracks and choose to think kind thoughts instead?  

Developing virtue requires effort.   It requires reliance on God in prayer, and it requires us to be attuned to our own souls so that we can weed out envy and cultivate kindness.

So what about you?  How do you cultivate kindness?  I invite you to share your thoughts and ideas as we journey together along the Way ...