Monday, December 28, 2009

The Essence of All Sin

I'm taking a little time over the next few days to meditate on the issue of pride versus humility. Self love / pride has long been a struggle in my life but has recently become more evident to me. I'm not sure if I've been more arrogant or if God is graciously making me more aware of my pride. It doesn't really matter.

The catalyst for my thinking is a book by C. J. Mahaney called "Humility, True Greatness". Here are some thoughts from the second chapter - "The Peril Of Pride".

Pride and inadequacy can coexist...

I've often wondered how I can find myself so proud when I feel so inadequate. I don't mean simply not as gifted or talented but also in the middle of sin. I used to think that my life was characterized by lust OR pride. I've come to learn that even in my darkest hours of sin pride can still be right there with me. It seems crazy doesn't it? It's a reminder that self love doesn't really make sense at all. It is beyond logic. I had a pastor that used to say that sin short circuits the brain. That's absolutely true with pride.

Do I hate pride the way God hates pride?

God actively opposes the proud. He detests the one with haughty eyes. He says he hates pride and arrogance. I'm not sure I hate my pride the way God does. I must. Here's what Jonathan Edwards says...

"What a foolish, silly, miserable, blind, deceived, poor worm am I when pride works."

Why does God take pride so seriously? Mahaney says that pride is contending against God for supremacy. That puts pride in a whole different light doesn't it? Do I really want to compete with God to receive the glory that is reserved for God and God alone?

Isa 42:8

8 "I am the Lord; that is my name!
I will not give my glory to another
or my praise to idols.

Today I'm asking God to give me incredible sensitivity to pride in my life. As soon as it raises it's ugly head I want see it and deal with it.

Today, may we be people who wage war against prideful thoughts and words...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Self Love - The greatest love of all?

I've always struggled with self love. In his song "obsession" Martin Smith admits, "I carry pride like a disease". That's me.

My pride comes out in so many ways. It comes out when I talk about myself and try to "one up" others. It comes out in my allowing others to serve me without lifting a finger to serve. It comes out when I compare myself with others. It comes out in meetings where I want my voice to be heard and people to be impressed with me. It comes out when I neglect prayer and act as if I can do life without God. I, I, I, me, me, me,.

In 2005 my friend Connie gave me a book. I know it was 2005 because in the front of the book it says, "Christmas 2005". The name of the book is "humility, true greatness". Yes, it's taken 4 years for me to pick it up. So why now?

The last couple of months I have felt this war with pride raging inside me. I don't want God to resist me, I want him to look on me and give me grace. This morning I read the 1st chapter. Here's my response.

I must repent. Repentance is God's way of bringing us back into intimacy and blessing with him. After every chapter I read I'm going to write a little about my pride and my journey to more fully embrace humility.

The next couple of weeks could be painful, but I long for God's gracious love and power in every facet of my life. With unrestrained pride experiencing God's grace is impossible.

So, here's a question, when people (my wife, kids, coworkers, friends) look at my life would they describe it as a life of humility?

May we be a people who clearly see God's holiness and our sinfulness. That's the beginning of true humility.

Friday, December 25, 2009

More than 7pd 8 oz baby Jesus

So I woke up this fine white Christmas morning thinking about how the celebration of the God child is connected with so much history from the Bible. I did a little looking around and compiled some of my favorite passages about God's loving covenant to his people. These promises were fulfilled in Jesus.

Promise made to Adam. (that was a long time ago)

Gen 2:15-17
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

Promise to Abraham

Gen 22:15-18
15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, "I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."

Promises made to the Children of Israel during the time of Moses.

Ex 24:7
8 Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words."

To King David

2 Sam 7:16
16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.'"

Prophesies through Isaiah, Jeremiah and Micah...

Isa 7:14-15
14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right.

Isa 9:2-5
2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian's defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior's boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.

Isa 55:3
3 Give ear and come to me;
hear me, that your soul may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.

Jer 23:5-6
5 "The days are coming," declares the Lord,
"when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.
6 In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
The Lord Our Righteousness.

Mic 5:2-5
2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times."
3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor gives birth
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.
4 He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
5 And he will be their peace.

What it means to us today...

Gal 4:3-7
3 So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

So, this Christmas, may we remember that the celebration of the 7pd 8 oz baby Jesus is a part of the grand story of God and yes, as followers of Jesus we are a part of that story. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Key Questions About Adult Leaders

When thinking about student ministry (or ministry in general) I'm always wondering about where to put time, money and energy. There are so many important things to do. In fact If I'm honest there's never an end of ways to spend time. There's always another student to hang out with, another parent to call or another talk to prepare.

I've been convinced for a long time but some times I need to remind myself. More and more I'm remembering the importance of adult volunteers. They are the key to students not just learning about Jesus but experiencing Jesus. Ideally our leaders don't simply teach students information, they live out the life of Jesus in such a way that students see it and experience it first hand.

I long for our students to look at our leaders and sense their leader has been with Jesus.

So what does that have to do with how I spend time, money and energy? Some questions...

* How much time do I spend focusing on my adult leaders?

Sure, we all got into ministry to hang out and impact kids but if we're going to see life change on a broad scale it takes a lot of people. In a ministry of 30 or more students it seems the youth pastor should spend 50% of their relational time with adults. How much do I pray for my leaders? Do I know them well enough to get specific when I pray?

* Does my budget reflect caring for and developing adults?

I have to put my money where my mouth is. Is there money in my budget that is set aside to prepare and appreciate my adult leaders?

* Do my leaders feel loved or do they feel used?

It's so important to consistently and creatively communicate appreciation to our adults. Sometimes I should just call or text to let them know I appreciate them.

So, all you youth pastor type people out there. Take some time to pull back from your busy schedule and take a 30,000 foot gander. The most important things are not how many lights you have in your youth room or how amazing the video clip was in your talk last night. Take the time to simply prepare and love your leaders well. In the long run that will make the deepest and widest impact.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Strongest Man Competition

There is so much about me that wants to be strong but there's a problem.

I have no chance of being in the "world's strongest man" competition or playing any position in college football (or middle school football honestly). I don't spend much time in the weight room. OK, I don't spend any time in the weight room. Big muscles would be nice but they're probably not in my future.

Our world celebrates strength and many times that bleeds over into our spiritual leadership. Most of us feel we are expected to be strong and together. If there were a "strongest person competition" for spiritual people I often feel I should be in it and actually win!

Here's the problem. Most don't see themselves as weak and weakness is a non negotiable for spiritual leadership. We will not be effective in our leadership without weakness. Instead of showing ourselves as having it together we should live our lives and engage in conversation about our vulnerability, weakness and failure. That can be difficult when we feel people expect us to be superman. (or wonderwoman)

Someone may say, "if people see your weakness they may not respect you as a spiritual leader". Isn't the opposite true? Don't we live in a world and a culture that is crying out for leaders who are honest about their struggle? Not just their struggle of 10 years ago but maybe their struggle of 10 minutes ago? And isn't God's grace and power sufficient for our daily weakness and struggle? And isn't it more powerful to model for people the grace and compassion of Christ in the midst of our weakness instead our "having it all together" strength?

Embrace your weakness.

"For when I am weak, then I am strong" Paul

Paul actually says he delights in weakness. You see, when we accept and embrace our weakness that is when we run to Jesus who's strength is limitless.

A.W. Tozer puts it this way.

"If we are going to stand for Jesus, it is good for us to remember how strong he is and how weak we are. I tell you, I have talked to God more than I have talked to anyone else and my conferences with him have been longer than with anyone else."

How do we view ourselves? Are we weak enough to run to Jesus?

May we be people who display the grace and mercy of Jesus by being vulnerable and transparent. In your conversations look for opportunity to share struggle and failure and weakness.

1 Cor 2:3-5
3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.