Sunday, January 30, 2011

Eye Exam

"There's no better way to start our week than to spend time with God who loves us." So began another service here at New Life Covenant Church in Saginaw, MN.

Announcements today included:

1) The Valentine's Banquet is coming soon, Feb. 12 here at the church. This celebration of romantic love includes a free dinner ($10 donation per person welcome) and an evening of entertainment. The social hour begins at 5:30 upstairs. The very special meal will be followed by a talent show, as well as a coffee and dessert bar.
2) Paula Sexton invited everyone to go see a theater production of Agatha Christy's "And Then There Were None" at St. Scholastica on evening of February 19th or afternoon of the 20th. Let Paula know your preferred time and a group will be assembled.

The Quartet led our worship today after which Paula Gayle shared with us about a program she is part of called Mentor Duluth. Paula shared stories of friendships and the influence adult mentors are having on young lives, many of which develop into long term relationships. It is a form of building community. Paula noted the need for more mentors for boys. Anyone interested in more information can speak with Susie Newman who has been active as a mentor for several years.

The offering was taken, then Angela read the first twelve verses of the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5:1-12. This was followed by a time of prayer as we lifted up the many needs in our midst. Pastor Brad then proceeded with his sermon.

Eye Exam

Pastor Brad began with some hilarious examples of similes used by college students. Here are a couple that had us in stitches.

John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

I missed the point of all this, but we all had a good laugh.

The Sermon on the Mount could have been given a different title, Brad noted. He would possibly have called it "What Lies Beneath" because it touches on many themes but always goes deeper, goes underneath to the heart of the matter. Matthew 6:19-21

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

In another place Jesus said to guard our hearts above all else, and that the eye was the lamp unto the body. When our eyes are good, we're focused on God, and sunshine fills our souls. But when we have an eye toward the world, our hearts deceive us and lead us astray.

The media is a very powerful influence and sometimes uses that power to get us to focus our attention on what we don't have, or what they tell us we "deserve" to have. We've all heard of urban myths. Here are some Suburban Myths we can fall prey to.

Myth 1: "When I have more stuff, like them, I'll be happy."
Myth 2: "When I have more stuff, like them, I'll be more important."
Myth 3: "When I have more stuff, like them, I'll be more secure."

Brad briefly discussed the havoc envy can cause. It will darken our souls and is the antithesis of kindness. He said it is like an "evil eye" and he defined it like this... "Envy is resenting God's goodness in other peoples' lives while ignoring God's blessing in yours."

In Psalm 73 David owned up to his struggle with envy.

2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
their evil imaginations have no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.[c]
11 They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.

21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

EdNote: For a refreshing read, check out Psalm 73 in The Message, Eugene Peterson's modern interpretation of the Scriptures.

"Unchecked envy will destroy you." Brad cited several passages to support this statement including Proverbs 14:30 "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones." And James wrote, "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice."

Brad also reminded us that it was because of envy that the religious leaders of Jesus' day handed Him over to the authorities to be crucified. Let's not fool ourselves. Envy can cause great damage.

And so, we return to the Eye Exam. Here are four tips for maintaining healthy eyes.

1) Put stuff in its proper place.
It's not wrong to possess things, but it is wrong for things to possess us. Most of it is just junk anyways and you can't take it with you. Billionaire Ross Perot acknowledged that "things don't buy happiness."

2) Refuse to play the comparison game.
Comparing is always going to cause problems. If you compare to someone above you, you feel inferior. If you compare with someone below, it only feeds your pride, which is also unhealthy. Our identity is found in being children of God, not in how many possessions we accumulate or what neighborhood we can afford to live in.

3) Become the most generous person you know.

4) You cannot serve two masters. It's either God or money.

Jesus alone is worthy of worship. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth with grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

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