October 26th, 2022
Today let's talk about the third area over which to guard our hearts: Greed. Let's dive in a little deeper.
Greed happens when we feel that we deserve more and more. Greed says, "I owe me."
Jesus said, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed." (Luke 12:15). Why? Because of all these areas we've mentioned so far, greed seems to be the most subtle. Oftentimes greed can go undetected and we rarely look in the mirror and notice its presence. An unguarded heart is prone to open the door to greed.
Later Jesus revealed the lie that fuels greed: "Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." He knows there there are times when we can easily be swept up into believe that somehow our lives equal the acquisition of more and better things. After telling a parable, Jesus defines a greedy person: it's someone who stores up things for himself or herself but isn't "rich toward God." (Luke 12:21). In other words, a greedy person is the man or woman who saves carefully but gives sparingly.
For Jesus, generosity is what breaks the power of greed. That's why he challenges his followers to give it all away. You see, if you can give it all away, you no longer give sparingly. Jesus' challenge cuts to the heart—whether or not you think you have extra, give generously. We're challenged to give to the point that it forces us to adjust our lifestyles. In fact, Jesus says that if our giving doesn't adjust our lifestyle, it's a kind of greed. Here's what Jesus is getting at—if you're consuming to the point of having little or nothing left to give, you're greedy. If you're saving to the point that there's little or nothing left to give, you're greed.
I know that's harsh. But it's true.
The habit of generosity breaks the power that greed has on our hearts. It's the habit that changes everything.
Here are a few questions for reflection:
October 19th, 2022
Let's look at another area to keep watch over our hearts.
Jealousy is rather interesting. Most of us would like to believe that we are "above" jealousy. It was something we may have struggled with in middle school or our elementary years, but not anymore. However, if you've ever found yourself looking around at what others have and feeling a sense of lack—whether that be possessions, looks, skills, opportunities, health, height, inheritance, or any other factor—chances are you've experienced a little bit of envy.
Interestingly, we assume our problem is with the person who possesses what we lack. So we avoid them or mistreat them. We make comments that are riddled with criticism. Our problem, however, isn't really with the other person. Our problem is actually with God. God could have fixed all of that for us. Whatever He gave your neighbor, God could have given to you too. He could have made your life just like theirs—or better. But He didn't. Jealousy ultimately says, "God owes me."
The sad news is that jealousy can terrorize your life and cause chaos in your relationships. The remedy to this monster is to turn to God and to celebrate the goodness and wisdom of God in others.
Check out what James has to say about this matter:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3 NIV)
James says that many of our problems with others are the result of desires that have worked their way to the surface. We want something, but we don't have it, so we fight and quarrel with others. The desires James is referring to in this passage represent unquenchable thirsts—our thirsts for more stuff, money, recognition, success, progress, intimacy, sex, fun, and relationships.
So what do we do with these desires for more? James says to take the desires to the one who created them in the first place. In other words, James is giving us permission to pour out our hearts in an unfiltered conversation with our Creator.
Every concern you have—great or small—matters to our Father because you matter to the Father. Whether it pertains to your love life, your career, your marriage, your parents, your children, your education, your finances, your appearance—James says take it to God.
As you take it to God, there's one next step to consider: publicly celebrate God's goodness. Particularly, you celebrate God's goodness in other people's lives. When you celebrate God's goodness, you will not only be reminded of how good and great God is, but you will also begin to shine a light on the very things for which your heart is aching. As you do this, jealousy begins to lose its power.
Here are a few questions for reflection:
October 12th, 2022
This week in our Sunday morning series, Above All Else, we took a look at one area where we need to guard our hearts.
When we hurt someone—intentionally or even unintentionally—we will often feel guilty. Guilt comes because there is an imbalance in the relationship. We owe someone something. That's why we use the phrase, "I owe you an apology." Or, "I need to make it up to you."
For example, consider child who lies to a parent. The child has robbed the relationship of trust. Or a coworker who sends an email belittling someone. They have taken a reputation from another person. Or what about a parent who walks away from the family because of an affair? They have robbed the family of traditions and meals together, as well as financial and emotional stability. Whenever we hurt someone, we cause a debt in the relationship. The thing that keeps that outstanding balance looming over us is guilt.
The Holy Spirit will often convict us when we've sinned or wronged someone. But that conviction serves as means for change. Confession, then, is a first step in a series of steps that brings light to the darkness we often attempt to hide or ignore.
Throughout Scripture, we see how confession was a public step towards abandoning sin. James even says, "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." (5:16) Confession was more about the heart than a ritual that somehow made us feel better about or sins.
One factor to consider. John reminds us that God will forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness when we confess our sins to Him. (1 John 1:9) God offers us freedom from our sin because He cancels the debt we owe Him. That's what's amazing about grace. God no longer looks at the debt we have with Him because He paid it in full. However, the forgiveness and grace that He showers on us is not an escape from our responsibility to make things right with those we've wronged. In fact, that very grace compels us to make things right with those we've wronged.
This is exactly why Jesus said, "If you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go. First make things right with your brother or sister and then come back and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24)
It's also important to remember that confession is not what hurts people. Our sin and concealment of that sin is what hurts people.
Confession—the first step in making things right—can break the power of guilt in our lives. Here are a few questions for reflection:
Notes from the Staff @The Woods