Monday, October 26, 2009

Jealousy, The Application

Some practical applications of my ongoing struggle with jealousy in regards to:

1. Confess a competitive spirit. While it is difficult to always know what our motives are, I need to be quick to repent when this motive rears its ugly head. When I get that little bitterness feeling when someone gets the laughs and I don't, when other people have what I don't, when other people are happy and I'm not, when other people can do things and I can't, I need to confess that. Repentance of this must be quick and regular.

2. Develop an appreciation for the gifts that God has given to you. If you are a Christian, God has gifted you. True, in your area of gifting, you will find others more gifted than you. For instance, if I think my gifting is music, I will find others more gifted than me in the area of music (see: Bob Kauflin, Andrew Papillon, Animal from the Muppets, and William Hung). But, that's not the point. The point isn't that God make us the greatest at music, sports, preaching, or whatever. The point isn't to be the greatest, but to serve the One who is the greatest. Our gifts are not to bring honor to ourselves, but to the One to whom honor is due. Jealousy takes root when we think that we should be God (see: the greatest worship leader who ever lived--Lucifer).

3. Pay attention to your own house. If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, then water your lawn. Meaning: Be content. If you are jealous of what you perceive are better parents in another family, stop. Cultivate godly relationships with your own folks. If you are jealous of Tim's abilities on piano, stop. Start practicing the piano. Don't mope. Don't sit on your duff. Don't whine. Work.

4. Glory in the success of others. Of course, live for the glory of God. But its OK to appreciate, build up, praise, encourage, help, show honor to, and glory in the success of others. When someone does a good job, give thanks to God and tell them they did a good job. When someone has fun, is brimming over with happiness, and wants that joy to spill over to you, you don't have to:
A: Be lame
B: Be critical
C: Be a killjoy
D: All of the above (Read: Be jealous)
Rejoice with those who rejoice.
The hardest time for me to praise someone else is when they are good at something that I'm good at.
Superficial example: If we are playing a game of football, at least in most crowds, I think I would make a pretty good quarterback. If someone else plays quarterback (and does well), it is hard for me to praise that person. I get jealous and I don't want to give him or (heaven forbid) her that praise, because I think it should go to me.
Slightly more serious example: When I hear other people teach, I (sometimes) get jealous. I want others to praise my teaching instead of someone else's. This is sin.

5. Ask God to help you see yourself realistically. This is a great gift. To know how God has made you and to live within this. Let's keep with the football illustration (it is Pack vs Vikings week after all). If I am playing 5-on-5 football and I see that 8 of the other guys are better than me, I know some things: 1) I am going to request that I guard that 10th guy, 2) I am going to be the worst player on my team, 3) I shouldn't whine that I am not getting the ball every play--there are other players who are better and who should get it more.
This can go all kinds of directions, but the point is that we see ourselves realistically. I am not the body of Christ. I am part of the body of Christ. There are (a lot of) others who can do (a lot of) things better than me. A little humility will save us from (a lot of) sin.

God has endowed me with certain gifts--I don't need to be proud.

God has endowed others with certain gifts--I don't need to be jealous.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Rock That Is Higher Than I

O sometimes the shadows are deep
And rough seems the path to the goal
And sorrows, sometimes how they sweep
Like tempests down over the soul

O then to the Rock let me fly,
To the Rock that is higher than I
O then to the Rock let my fly,
To the Rock that is higher than I!

O sometimes how long seems the day
And sometimes how weary my feet;
But toiling in life's dusty way,
The Rock's blessed shadow, how sweet!

O then to the Rock let me fly,
To the Rock that is higher than I
O then to the Rock let my fly,
To the Rock that is higher than I!

O near to the Rock let me keep,
If blessings or sorrows prevail;
Or climbing the mountain way steep,
Or walking the shadowy vale.

O then to the Rock let me fly,
To the Rock that is higher than I
O then to the Rock let my fly,
To the Rock that is higher than I!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Without the Goodness of God

Without the goodness of God….

The best this life could offer would be hollow

Life would be total despair

Fear would never be banished

The presence of God would be great dread

I would never know the riches of Christ

Sin would wreck its treacherous havoc in my life

Grief would know no end

I would never know the fullness of joy

I would have no support in the day of trouble

God is good.

Psalm 73:25-26—Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 107:1—Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.

Psalm 119:68—You are good, and what You do is good; teach my Your decrees

Romans 11:33-36--Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay Him? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Signs I'm Blessed

I lived a blessed life.

Over the last week, I've had so many fantastic opportunities to pray with people:

- I prayed with the pastoral staff at church Tuesday morning
- I prayed with a small group of guys during a study at my house Tuesday night
- I prayed with a group of leaders before youth group on Wednesday night
- I prayed with a group of friends before I went to bed (and before they played more ping-pong) on Thursday night
- I prayed with the elders of RBC on Friday night
- I prayed with the students who serve in Character Kids Sunday night
- I prayed with the church board Monday night

I know that prayer is important. I know that God answers prayer. I know that I am supposed to pray. Yet, I don't pray like its important, I don't pray like God hears, I don't pray like I am supposed to.

And, let's be honest. Sometimes prayer can be boring. Sometimes, in group prayer, your mind gets distracted (and by sometimes, I mean, a lot). Sometimes, you would rather just have fun with your friends then pray with them.

But, especially this last week, God has taught me some great things through group prayer.

Here's four:
1. God's Presence. I really sense God's presence. I know God hears. I know God is with us.

2. Answers. I get to see God answer prayer. This is really cool, because it confirms that God hears and that God cares.

3. Spiritual Growth. I love God more. I trust God more. I hate sin more. I love others more. I am lifted from the temporary to the eternal. My view of God is expanded.

4. Joy. I'm serious. I really have been blessed with incredible joy this last week as I've prayed with people. This joy has been very noticeable and very real.

I am blessed to be surrounded with so many great Christians who love Jesus more than me and are encourage me to pray more. I am blessed to have friends in my life who want to pray. I am blessed to have a job where prayer is central on the daily "to-do" list.

Most of all, I am blessed to be able to pray. To have access to God's throne. To petition my heavenly Father and be with Him. I am blessed because my works are not enough to earn me this privilege. My best deeds done with my best motives in my best moments are still filthy rags. I am blessed because my sinless Savior took the punishment for my sin upon Himself. I am blessed because my sin has now been atoned for. I am blessed because now I am clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. And because of this, I can pray with my brothers and sisters.

And because of that, I am blessed.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Booze, Worry, and Eternity

I'm a drunk. At least, comparatively I am. In Luke 21:34, Jesus equates drunkenness and worry. They are the same. How? They pull our focus from what is real.

When someone is drunk, they are intoxicated with alcohol. Alcohol has control over them and they do not act according to reality. People do all kinds of stupid (and harmful) things when drunk, because they are not thinking clearly about reality.

When someone worries, they are intoxicated with the cares of this life. The cares of this life have control over them and they do not live according to eternity. People do all kinds of stupid (and sinful) things when they worry, because they are not thinking clearly about eternity.

By the grace of God, I have never been drunk. Fortunately, my perspective of reality has never been blurred by drunkenness.

By the grace of God, I am putting to death the sin of worry. Unfortunately, my perspective of eternity has been blurred by worry.

I worry about what people think of me. I worry about not finding a wife. I worry about not being good enough at my job. I worry about finishing school. I worry about the students in the youth group, if they will grow or if Satan will snatch away the seed.

The problem? Worry takes my perspective off of eternity and places it on me in the temporary.

I live to please God, not people. God will supply all my needs. It is God who works in me to will and to act according to His good purpose. It is God who knows the beginning and the end. It is God who is faithful to complete the work He started.

The verse implies that worry starts in our heart. Our hearts get weighed down and we worry. Our hearts care about this life. Our hearts seek the hand of God rather than the face of God. Our hearts are wicked and can't see eternity.

To Do List:
1 Guard my heart
2 Watch what I care about
3 Foster an affection for Jesus
4 Repent of an affection for yourself

What am I going to do with all the time I used to spend worrying?

Jesus tells us what to do instead of worrying: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Youth Leader: Ace

Name: Ace

Nickname: David Westcomb

Years in RBC Youth Ministry: 13 years

Role: High School Guys Leader

Gifts: Encouraging, Listening, Leading, Cooking, Dancing, has a really good impression of a southern accent

Evidences of Grace: There's a lot. Trust me. Here are a few...

Experience: Even in his 60s, he is serving the Lord, with a joyful heart. While many folks in their 60s are looking to retire and move to Florida to collect sea shells, Ace isn’t. His focus is on eternity. He is being used by God to make a difference in student’s lives. He isn’t living for himself, but for his Creator.

Love: He loves the students. He gets involved with their life. He genuinely loves people, maybe more than anyone I know. He deeply cares about each student and where they are at with the Lord.

Respect: The students love Ace. Many of them see him as a second father. Some see him as the father they never had. Ace always has a listening ear, ready to hear and care. They wrestle with him, compare biceps with him, and enjoy being around him.

Teachability: He aspires to keep growing. He always wants to be a better teacher, a better leader, a better friend. He excels in many ways already, but wants to do better. He wants to keep growing. He won’t hide his struggles, but uses them to encourage and minister to others.

Service: He serves. He does audio ministry. He has been an elder. He goes to Tuesday Night Bible Study. He makes food in the Ripley Kitchen. He makes the small group hot dogs on his grill.

Humility: He is humble. Here's an example: Let's say its a random Saturday afternoon. You just got done with a long day of lawn work and just sat down inside to relax. Then, you get called out of your house and then hosed down by some punks. What would you do? Sinfully, I would either A) pull an angel of the Lord vs. the Assyrians (see Isaiah 37.36) or B) Go outside and weep bitterly (a la Peter in Matthew 26.75). Ace? He gets hosed down, then invites the guys in for food and a movie. (I won’t say who the punks are, but their names rhyme with Mandy, Mete, and Mars).

Wisdom: He is wise. I trust Ace. I trust his wisdom and his guidance. He assisted me big time with this summer’s mission trip to make the trip possible. He has helped me and steadied me as I’ve learned how to do youth ministry. He sees youth ministry from both sides—he has been through high school and has had kids go through high school—and is wiser for it.

I am grateful to have Ace as a youth leader. He is an asset. Even better (and maybe a little mushier), I am glad to have Ace as a friend. I love him (ok, it was a lot mushier, but its true).

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Book Log: September 2009

1. Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. Why We Love the Church. 224 pages. Moody Press. I really enjoy these authors, especially DeYoung, and this book continued to impress. While it is kind of written against the emergent church, it has a lot of reasons to be grateful for your local church. Many people (including many young people) don't value church like they should. It isn't an add-on to your spiritual life and it isn't optional--Jesus died for the church. This book helped me to love the bride of Jesus more.

2 R. Kent Hughes. Disciplines of a Godly Man. 304 pages. Crossway Books. Drew and I went through this book together every Friday morning. I learned from the book, but learned more in talking with Drew about the book. The book goes through several areas men specifically need to grow in: relationships, soul, character, and ministry. Within these areas are several individual disciplines to study and develop. End result: I want to work on the disciplines of prayer, the mind, and the tongue.

3. Craig Blomberg. Jesus and the Gospels. 440 pages. B and H Academic. The next four books on the list I read for school. This was a fairly heady book, covering a broad scope of issues related to the gospel. Blomberg discusses five main areas: (1)a history of the inter-testamental period (between the OT and NT) (2) ways scholars study the gospels (3) an overview of each gospel (4) a summary of the life of Jesus and (5) a synthesis of the major issues surrounding Jesus. Well-written, but mainly a seminary-type book.

4. R. Kent Hughes. Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome. 208 pages. Crossway Books. A helpful book about why its important to "do" ministry for God and not for people. It can be easy, when serving in the church, to become discouraged--especially if the number of people attending the church/youth group/Sunday School class is shrinking. Success in ministry, Hughes argues, can't be measured by numerical growth or increasing offering totals. Instead, it is found in faithfulness to God.

5. Jeanine Bozeman. Interpersonal Relationship Skills for Ministers. 253 pages. Pelican Publishing. This book covered multiple areas to help pastors better relate to the people in their congregations. There was a psychology/self-love/you-are-ok slant to the book that I disagreed with, but there were some redeeming moments. Much was covered--from how to be a better listener to proper table manners when eating at someone's house to how to handle difficult people. Some chapters I liked, some I didn't.

6. Richard Swenson. Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives. 240 pages. NavPress. The title is so long I think it says it all. Basically, we are too busy and we need to have space (or margin) in our busyness. The book was ok, but missed the key to the Christian life: the gospel. Instead of talking about how the gospel allows us to live whole and complete lives, Swenson gave us tips on how to live life with less stress. Though more narrow in scope, Mahaney's Biblical Productivity series is much better.

So, if I were recommending a book, I'd recommend one of the first two. DeYoung is always good and Hughes is very practical.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Signs I'm Depraved

Last week, I went to Portillo's restaurant with David Papillon to get a Chicago specialty: chocolate cake shakes. They are shakes with bits of chocolate cake in them. It may not sound good, but they are actually mentioned in Revelation as food that we'll have in the new earth (not really). If they had these shakes in Racine, I would be 500 pounds right now (really).

I went to pay for the shakes and noticed that a $20 dollar bill had fallen out of my wallet onto the ground. I began to think how glad I was that I saw the $20, otherwise I would have lost it. I slowly realized that I did not have a $20 dollar bill in my wallet to begin with. Meaning...I JUST FOUND $20 BUCKS!!!

I celebrated with David for a few seconds before my sin nature reared its ugly head. I had the following two sinful thoughts:

Area of Repentance #1: I began to think about 'what could have been'. What if it wasn't a twenty that I had found? What if it was a fifty? Or a hundred? Or a roll of hundreds? Or a huge backpack filled with millions of dollars?

How sinful! How greedy do I need to be? Rather than be content and thankful to God, I quickly rushed to my natural state of greed.

Area of Repentance #2: The sin of the love of money. How come I was seemingly more excited about finding $20 bucks (to see how excited I was, note how the finding of the money was all in caps) then I was about spending time with God that day? Or hearing about how God was working in David's life? Or about how salvation makes it possible for me to live with freedom and peace in this life, such that I can enjoy cake shakes at all without fear of condemnation?

How sinful! Psalm 19:10 says that God's Word is more precious than gold, then much pure gold. I want that to be true in my life.

So, what can I do? I repented and now I rejoice in this: "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!"