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Congregational Development and Revitalization | Lent Week One: The Heart of the Matter

TITLE: Breaking Bad Habits: The Heart of the Matter

Opening Illustration:  The show “Breaking Bad” 

In short: what we see on Breaking Bad is the way Gilligan thinks life works, or at least how it should work. And because of that, Breaking Bad is perhaps the most important thing on television right now.

For the uninitiated, here's the show's setup: Walter White is a poor and ridiculously overqualified high-school chemistry teacher with a palsied son and a surprise baby on the way. Then, he is diagnosed with lung cancer. Teaming up with his old student Jesse Pinkman, Walt cooks methamphetamine in an RV meth lab, in the hopes of saving up enough money to provide for his family before he dies.

But Walt doesn't die of cancer. His treatments seem to cure it, or at least put it in a remission deep enough to make us viewers forget about it. Walt comes to the point where he could stop making meth—and continues, ostensibly in service of his family. Then he comes to the juncture again, and chooses to cook meth still, with all the violence and secrecy and heartbreak that it entails. Again and again, Walt is offered opportunities to go back to a normal life, to stop being an outlaw, and at every possible point, he declines. His story is the ur-example of someone whose life continues to go downhill.”  Except from Christianity Today

We may be able to look at our actions and realize that things in our lives are not going the way we need or want them too, but we seem to lack the power to change them.  This Lent we want to examine our lives and begin to break the bad habits that have formed so that we can change the direction of our lives  

Matthew 15:10-21

Background: Jesus has been asked by some of the Pharisees and Sadducees why his disciples do not follow the hand cleaning rituals.  



  1. To break bad habits we have to begin with our “heart.”  Our heats carry the core of who we are and they determine our actions.  



  1. Definitions of sin verses vice from Glittering Vices 


Sin = Human Condition, patterns of sinful behavior or one single act of disobedience


Vice= Deeply rooted patterns in our character (or heart).  These patterns are broader than a single act but narrower than our human condition.  



  1. Habits of the Heart form from repeating behaviors over and over until they become so ingrained in who we are that we naturally follow this pattern of behavior.



  1. Every Bad Habit or Vice is really pursuing something good the wrong way.  And the heart of the matter is that we try to find happiness outside of God.


Possible Illustration  Noel Jesse Heikinnen, Unchained (David C. Cook, 2017)

Down through history, the predominant viewpoint has been that what we do determines who we are. We've all heard the old adage, "You are what you eat." This isn't a new school of thought. Aristotle wrote, "We are what we repeatedly do." A recent TED talk declared, "You are what you tweet." Each one of these proclamations, while carrying a significant nugget of truth, gets the core message of the gospel backward. Frank Zappa, of all people, got it right: "You are what you is." In other words, it's not what we do that determines who we are; rather, who we are determines what we do. This is the biblical paradigm.

Possible Illustration: (Sledding in the Snow… if you go down a hill a couple times it packs the snow down and forms a track)

Possible Quote: “My sin was this, that I looked for pleasure, beauty, and truth not in God, but in myself and in his other creatures, and the search led me instead to pain, confusion, and error.”  Augustine 

Possible Illustration: Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger, Simple Church (B & H Publishing Group, 2006), p. 229;

A [2006] medical study reveals just how difficult change is for people. Roughly 600,000 people have heart bypasses a year in America. These people are told after their bypasses that they must change their lifestyle. The heart bypass is a temporary fix. They must change their diet. They must quit smoking and drinking. They must exercise and reduce stress.

In essence, the doctors say, "Change or die."

You would think that a near-death experience would forever grab the attention of the patients. You would think they would vote for change. You would think the argument for change is so compelling that the patients would make the appropriate lifestyle alterations. Sadly that is not the case.

Ninety percent of the heart patients do not change. They remain the same, living the status quo. Study after study indicates that two years after heart surgery, the patients have not altered their behavior. Instead of making changes for life, they choose death.

Possible Illustration: Wandering from God's House

On February 24, 2001, a one-year old Canadian girl named Erika somehow wandered out of her mother's bed and house and spent the entire night in the Edmonton winter.

When her mother, Leyla Nordby, found her, Erika appeared to be totally frozen. Her legs were stiff, her body frozen, and all signs of life appeared to be gone.

Erika was treated at Edmonton's Stollery Children's Health Center, and God helped doctors and rescue workers bring her back to life. To the amazement of all, there appeared to be no sign of brain damage, and doctors gave Erika a clear prognosis—she would soon be able to hop and skip and play like other girls her age.

Some of us have wandered away from our Father's house, and it has brought us near the point of death. Our hearts have hardened, and our spiritual bodies look as lifeless as the little girl in the snow.

But our Father noticed we were missing and is searching for us. He can take our lifeless spirits and restore us to health. Let the Father pick you up and take you back to his house.




Read about Lent Week One: The Heart of the Matter in this story from The Call

Annual Conference wrap-up: Shared love for Africa triumphs over divisions

ALCOA, Tenn. (June 18, 2018) The Holston Annual Conference gathered June 10-13 with Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor presiding at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. Under the theme, “Jesus is Good,” 1,948 members represented Holston’s 877 congregations ...

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