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Feb 26, 2017

True North | Single-mindedness

True North | Single-mindedness

Passage: Matthew 6:19-34

Speaker: Scott Shelton

Series: True North

Category: Weekend Message

Jerry is in Florida – he’ll be back later today – he was at a Fellowship Community, a Presbyterian Conference and then visiting with some ZPCers in Florida this weekend with his wife Megan. So don’t feel sorry for Jerry, he’s been enjoying the sun.

As God is our True North – the goal of where we want to go, this week we want to go with single-mindedness.

We have 2 passages today – from the Old Testament and the NewTestament.

First is Jeremiah 29:10-14. Let’s read.

Before we read the second passage, let’s look at this picture.  

(Picture from Mt. of Beatitudes.)

I think it’s good to see the scripture from both the context of when and where it took place as well as today’s context. This picture is taken from the Mt. of Beatitudes, the traditional site where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. Notice the Sea of Galilee in back and the flowers in the front – possibly the lilies in the field. So as we read from Matthew 6, keep that in mind.

Here now is Matthew 6:19-34.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, This is the word of the Lord, thanks be to God. Let’s pray.

The famous verse Jeremiah is 29:11, but I like getting down to…13-14.

Jeremiah says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

That’s great news – but to have a promise of good plans to prosper us. But what goes along with that plan – that promise? The context was the people were in exile, in another country, hurting. They needed hope.

In the next 2 verses God tells us through Jeremiah:

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Seek God with all your heart – and you will find God. So single-mindedness is about seeking God first, seeking God with all your heart.

The heart matters. One of the six marks of a disciple is having a heart for Christ alone.

Now we used to be a family who loved the Colts, almost worshiped them. We still like the Colts, but don’t worship them. In the Peyton era, maybe we did. We have a fathead picture of Peyton, larger than life – about 7 feet tall in our basement. A fathead is a life-size stick-on poster that you put on your wall. We have a Tony Dungy signed football – a few other Colts things – really, our own little Colts shrine.

We were a family who had a heart for the Colts alone. We needed a heart for Christ alone.

Jesus knew – even 2,000 years ago – that people struggled with priorities. They struggled with worshiping money, not God. They struggled with worry over things like clothes and food.

Now in this passage, Jesus is not forbidding owning of private property, savings for a rainy day, or having good clothes and food. He is not saying you can’t have those things.

He is saying – don’t love money more than God; don’t selfishly accumulate wealth – instead share it. He’s saying don’t worry about things that will eventually fade away. Spend your time, energy, gifts on good things, on God things.

I think this passage is refreshing to know that people back then, even in the New Testament context, worried about storing up treasures on earth. If they could afford it they would build bigger barns to hold all their grain. They worried about what they would wear or eat. Not so much has changed today.

Jerry mentioned we had an elders’ retreat a few weeks ago and we got to know each other. As we talked there was some agreement that we worried about paying our bills, saving money for kids’ college, and putting money away for retirement. I can actually say I was glad to hear that other elders sometimes worry about money and security - as I know I worry about those things as well.

Now think about it – paying bills, saving money for college and retirement are good things – and they are not bad at all – they can be good. But what if I obsess over them, focus on them, worry about them, stress about them? Do I raise them above other priorities – like my dependence on God?

Jesus says seek God’s kingdom first – and his righteousness – and all these other things will be added to you. Think about what God’s kingdom is: loving God, putting others first, caring for people and creation – kindness, hospitality, generosity, helping those who are poor and hurting. Can we use our gifts and abilities to bring honor to God?

One Christian writer says we need to divest in order to invest. We need to divest or take off the desires for the world, to invest our desires with God. We need to invest ourselves, our gifts, our abilities into seeking God first.

And…seeking God is freeing too. When we think about it, I should love God because God first loved me. Because God loved me, I love God, and I love my neighbor as myself. Because God loved me first, I seek God first – at least I try to do so.

By putting my life in God’s hands, it is freeing me from trying to compete with the world for nicer things, for my kids to always win, for wanting more stuff, from winning some sort of lottery so I never have to worry about money.

It is being who I am, but wholly belonging to God. Choosing God first is being single-minded for him – it can simplify our choices and actions in a healthy way.

My kids communicate by texting, Snapchat or Instagram. But I still mostly use email.

I don’t know about you, but I have a section in my email called clutter. I really like it. I looked this week, and I had 4,640 items in my clutter section of my email inbox. I glanced at the first page and I wasn’t missing anything. They were truly clutter. So if I don’t respond to your email – it went to clutter!

When we are single-minded for God, when we seek God first – when we give life to him, it can be simpler, he can help us de-clutter, simplify. 

Because God loved me – I want to love God in response. This is a heart change.

If you’re not there yet – God has to change you – so start by asking him…

“God help me to love you more than the world.” Or fill in where you said the world, with whatever you need to love God more. God help me to love you more than…

More than my kids’ success; more than my college fund and retirement account, more than worry over clothes, food and my house.

A friend of mine gave me this quote:

“I want Jesus to be my greatest dream, not just to bless my greatest dream.”

I want to be single-minded for Jesus – not just for God to bless what I want to do.

As I pray for God’s help, my heart changes. David says in Psalm 37,

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

So God wants to seek him, to take delight in God and give you the desires of your heart – and match them to his desires.

Dale Bruner wrote a commentary on Matthew 6 and says this:

“Jesus does not quash ambition, he elevates it. The Christian is to be ambitious, passionate, acquisitive, enterprising – for the Father’s approval, for the “well done” of God’s Final Judgment. Thus Jesus’ ethic is not so much ascetic as it is athletic.”                             Dale Bruner

Bruner says we are to use our gifts, our passions, our desires to honor him, to make change in the world, so that God’s kingdom will come here on earth as it is in heaven.

God likes our passion and ambition – he wants not to remove them but redirect to good things, to God things.

A noted young concert violinist was asked the secret of her success. “Planned neglect,” she replied. Then she explained, “Years ago I discovered that there were many things demanding my time. After washing the breakfast dishes, I made my bed, straightened my room, dusted the furniture, and did a host of other chores. I then turned my attention to violin practice.

That system, however, failed to accomplish the desired results. So I realized I had to reverse things. I deliberately set aside everything else until my violin practice period ended. That program of planned neglect accounts for my success!”

So for the violinist, it was seeking what was most important first and then letting everything else be neglected until there was time for it.

I’ve been working the last 2 weeks on this and thinking about ways to explain what a person who is single-minded looks like. I was having a hard time finding the right story so I’ll ask you this question:

Do you know someone who is single-minded for God?

What is that person like? What do they do and not do? What is their attitude about the world? 

As I asked myself that, I had some answers right here from ZPC members. There was the couple who cared for a lady who had a debilitating disease. They not only gave her rides to doctor visits, but checked on her in her rehab facility. They helped her get her finances in order, help her find legal help when she needed it, even helped her sell her house. They were there they day she died. And helped to plan her funeral. They weren’t family but she thought of them like a second mother and father.

I thought of the lady who felt God told her to care for widows and widowers and single parents and their children after reading that she should do that in James 1. Over the years, she along with her family helped 2 single fathers and their children. She became friends with a widowed mom raising several teenagers. So much of a friend that the mom would say, “I don’t have a husband to think about parenting issues, but I can talk to you.” That came out of being single-minded – seeking God first.

Members of our church who tirelessly work advocating for children who don’t have families or advocate for families who don’t have homes –so they find families for those kids and build houses for those families.

Are all these people perfect and do they always seek God first? No of course not. But they have a sense about them to think of what God would have them do – and put their relational gifts, their abilities to work with their hands – to hammer a nail – their ability to handle finances and administration and use those gifts, those passions for God.

You might say, “Well, I can’t be single-minded or do great things for God.” But you can take one step.

My guess is that most of the people that you and I think of who are more single-minded for God didn’t think about all the steps it would take, they were just obedient and took the first step – on one single day. Then the next day, they took another step. And over time God made something beautiful out of it.

So how do we be single-minded?              

  1. Seek God first – start each day with God.
  2. Seek God with all your heart – be riveted on Jesus.

Start a day – with God. A pastor friend of mine says, “Don’t say, ‘Good Gracious it’s morning, but Good morning God.’”

When I wake up, I’m sleepy like you, but I try and say a brief silent prayer, like – “God this is your day – I give it to you.”

Or… “I praise for who you are – and help me today.” Somedays, if I’m really awake – I’ll start praying through what’s happening that day and asking for God’s help.

Honestly, some days I choose to do breakfast with Claire and the kids quickly before school, before I turn to God. Some days, I check out sports scores, or Mike and Mike. So I get to my desk and then I give my day to God.

I try and pray – short prayers throughout your day – look for ways to de-clutter my mind and be single-minded to God.

And as Jerry said last week, I’ve been trying to set aside time – up to 10 minutes – to be quiet with God. It’s been hard, but I’m trying and listening to God.

So…we start each day with God, and we are riveted on Jesus.

I went to a one day seminar on Friday with our youth staff, Jon, Calvin, and our intern to youth, Paige. We went to hear about “Growing Young” – being a church that is growing young instead of growing old by prioritizing our youth and young adults.

One of the ways they said healthy churches grow young is to be focused on Jesus – take Jesus seriously.

They had some quotes from people around the country about this – they said:

“It’s not Christianity that brings good news, it’s Jesus.”

“Jesus is compelling.”

“Be riveted on Jesus.”  

We too are a church that thinks Jesus is compelling. We want you to continue to learn more about him and so we are asking you to read the gospels over Lent with this Lenten Reading Plan.

Here is a brochure of how to read over Lent. It’s the gospels.

Why the gospels? We are followers of Jesus and this is Jesus’s story. It’s 2 chapters a day – at first 3 chapters a day – and you can read all 4 gospels between March 1-April 16. It’s very doable.

And you can read alone or interact. We’ll have a weekly blog on the website about the reading, postings on Facebook that you can respond to, and times on Thursdays at noon and Sundays at 8 am where you can meet me face to face in the Chapel for “book club” to discuss what you’ve been reading this week. So join us in this reading plan!

GK Chesterton once said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” Being single-minded for God is hard – seeking God first, with all your heart is hard.

So this week, try one day to be single-minded. One day. Then one more, then one more. When you fail, try again the next.

“Good morning God – I give this day to you.”

“God I praise you – you’ve given me this day – today I give it back to you.”

Use your mind, your single mind – to worship God, to pray to God, to listen to God, and to learn about God through his word.

Let’s pray.

Benediction:                                                                                               

Plan neglect, Neglect other stuff until you seek God first. Start each day with God. Be riveted on Jesus.

And now may we go from this place with the love of God the Father, the grace of Jesus the Son, and the courage of the Holy Spirit, Amen.