Archives for posts with tag: priority

outoforderYou see this sign and what do you immediately know: something isn’t working correctly or is broken and needs to be repaired.

I was reading an article by Mike Adams on Townhall.com when I began to think of other ways we are hurt by getting things out of order. You’ve heard the old expression, ‘getting the cart before the horse’, but putting things in that order really is a funky way of moving a cart around, especially if it’s loaded.

Putting feelings before our will/our faith.  Feelings or emotions are the last things that should guide any decisions we make or conclusions we draw.  When we forsake our will and its adherence to the Truth of God’s Word to how we feel about people and things, we will always fall short of the truth. How? By focusing our aim on something that falls short to begin with. Not one of us is perfect or completely right so why would I allow my will to settle for falling short because I might feel better about it.  In the end, feelings don’t account for much. If I feel great about myself but I don’t trust Jesus, I’m still lost even though I feel good about where I am. If I feel terrible about myself but I don’t trust Jesus, I’m still lost even though I’ll be depressed when I die. Have faith in God and let your feelings follow.

Putting the praise of people ahead of the praise of God. This is a close cousin of  putting feelings ahead of our faith. Who is going to validate your life? Who tells you you’re good? If it’s people, know that you will be aiming at a moving target for what is an approved response.  If it’s God, know that the standard you seek to attain will be the same: yesterday, today, and forever, though not popular at given times, seasons, or places.

Putting convenience before our commitments. How many good things could we have accomplished if we didn’t give in to procrastination or momentary laziness?  How many times have we excused ourselves from following commitments by saying we will catch up to them later?

Making decisions and commenting on subjects before seeking the Lord in prayer.  How many complaints and conflicts can be diffused before they begin by simply asking the complainer or the conspirator, “How have you been praying about this?”  “What part of the Scripture led you to this conclusion or course of action?”

If you would like to add to this list, please do. How do things get out of order in your life or in the lives of ones you love?  Help me know where the turn-around battle needs to be fought.

Remember, being out of order is meant to be a temporary situation. There is nothing, by grace through faith, that can’t be restored or turned around.

dangerWhen I was a teenager, my brother and I used to race in the pasture on the motorcycle. With but one bike between us, we raced each other and the clock. We had a fine route laid out, almost a mile long, that gave us ample opportunity to test our skill.

We had one rule to start. Since I was older and had been riding longer, and was more prone to take risks, it was determined that I had to go twice as fast in order to win. That actually worked out fine in the beginning. But, the more we raced the more Dennis’ riding improved.

I remember the last race before the rule had to change. I was flying along on the dirt bike with a few seconds to spare and still gain victory. But, I was nearing the halfway point on our course: a V-turnaround spot after which I would head for home. I realized if I slowed down much I would lose the race so I thought I would try to slide the bike into the curve and then propel my way to victory.

I knew as soon as I decided on the slide, the bike would lock up and I would go flying over the handlebars.

I lost the race.

Even though I knew it was coming, I had to try for victory anyway. Worse case scenario? I wreck and my brother wins the race.

I had this memory reading about God’s judgment in the last of days. God says through Ezekiel, “And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 38: 23) The prophet was speaking against those who were doing things God was against. We certainly know that activity is still going on and God is still against it.

Our way of driving along may be wrecked here soon as God shows his greatness and his holiness.  Let’s just make sure Jesus will be leading us to victory despite what happens in the world.  Even if we see it coming, let’s be ready to confess and know these three things.

Our triumph abides because of 1) the blood of the Lamb, 2) the word of our testimony, and 3) we don’t love our lives so much as to shrink from death. (Revelation 12: 11)

(Please forgive me for writing this then becoming proof of it instead of the other way around.)

pushWhat wisdom do we need to apply so we reach our goals. Most of us have heard of the acrostic, SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.  Many times we’ve had goals that met that criteria yet went unfulfilled.

What are the means of grace that bring a greater likelihood of breakthrough and success? May I suggest we get a PUSH from the Scripture to help us with our goal setting and our goal reaching. This second acrostic I hope will help us as much as the first.

The “P” stands for priority or prioritized. Our goal, to be reached, can’t be a part of a large list of things we would like to be doing.  Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these other things shall be added to you.”  (Matthew 6: 33)  Note, it doesn’t equate seeking all the associative attributes of the kingdom with the one right thing we are called to seek. Prioritize your one right thing to do, your one right habit to form, your one right goal to pursue and add anything else later.

The “U” stands for unction. The Holy Spirit is making contact with our spirit in a way that gives us the power to pay attention again and again to our goal. Receiving the unction of God’s Spirit for our goals is a necessary act of consecration, where we are consecrated for the faithful fulfillment of our goals and “furnished with the necessary powers for its administration“.

The “S” stands for steps. How we pursue our goals matter. The methods we choose to use should suit how we are already bent. We customize our pursuit because this is the way God works with us. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delights in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholds him with his hand.” (Psalm 37: 23 – 24 KJV)

If the methods we choose to pursue our goals are out of the ordinary for us, then reaching our goals will likely be out of the ordinary for us, too.

One method I used when I reached my goal to lose weight was walking during commercials.  The average one hour program has over twenty minutes of commercial time so if I jumped up and walked during each block of commercials I could add 2,000 steps to my routine without really ‘changing’ what I was doing or missing any of the program I wanted to watch.

The “H” stands for hope. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, “we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”  (Romans 5: 2) We have faith that we will have the grace to reach our goals and our movements will match the Lord’s.  We rejoice in this hope. This hope kick starts our efforts and later it will confidently seize the prize.

Have you got the PUSH to reach your goals? Are your goals prioritized?  Do you have confirmation from the Holy Spirit that the goal you are pursuing is the right goal for right now?  Have you adapted your methods for reaching the goal to reflect who you are? Is hope stirred up in you to move you forward?

Tomorrow, we will walk through the cycle hope follows in reaching for our goals. Follow our blog and make sure you learn that important lesson. I’m praying for you to move forward in power and joy today!

Norman

most importantIn our recent post 6 Things Worth Fighting For I pointed out the six things for which the New Testament tells us to agonize, beginning with entering into the narrow door. What makes it narrow are all the other things stood up in front of it that seek to claim our attention, our affection, and our adherence.

Jesus knows this is the lay of the land when he comes to call us to himself. Jesus knows we are distracted, like the crow, to the shiny and easy way. We are drawn to what seems convenient or is commended by the world.  Our heads turn at headlines and our minds do not naturally tilt towards the truth.  This is why Jesus goes forth as a sower sowing the good seed of the Word.

But, even as the Sower, Jesus knows the majority of us, if not all of us, are resistant to the word. For some, the word is easily stolen from them. For others, the word doesn’t take root. It’s not the priority of their life. For some, the word gets choked out by “the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things”. (Mark 4: 19) Nothing comes from it.

We need to remember, there are always things trying to enter into us to keep us from entering into life.

Despite this, Jesus says some of his seed falls on good soil. People “hear the word, accept it, and bring forth fruit”. (Mark 4: 20) The word, translated accepted makes all the difference. The word, παραδεχομαι, means to ‘accept and pull in’. This is not:

  • accepted from a distance, either mental or emotional.
  • accepted as an option or temporary preference.
  • accepted as a practical advantage or a means to an end.

This is an acceptance that serves as a catalyst for changing my being. This is an acceptance that changes how I self-identify. If I accept this word I am no longer governed by my own or anyone else’s word. I echo the Apostle Paul, “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.” (Philippians 3: 8 – 9 NLT)

This acceptance makes me like John Wesley, “a man of one book“.  This acceptance makes me like the Thessalonian saint who, “when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2: 13)

Jesus equates this acceptance as feeding on him, ingesting and assimilating his words, which are “spirit and life”. (John 6: 63)

Have you been enabled by God to accept the word Jesus is sowing?

Have you made accepting the Word your most important priority?

Follow Gary Keller’s admonition: “Until my ONE thing is done, everything else is a distraction.” In the same way, until we accept the Word of God, everything else is a distraction.

simplicityThe function of the pathway of grace is to fit you for living life to the full. Everything is to be done in alignment with the divine will, trusting our lives to the One who raises the dead. We are disciples: saturating ourselves in the Word of God and prayer and coming constantly before the Lord so we can be constantly fit for the people before whom we stand. We have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless we live.

At every turn, the Apostle Paul says, this pathway of grace causes us to live in simplicity and in the sunlight of God. This is the witness of our conscience and the rejoicing of our soul.  We are those who trust the Lord.

But, there are enemies to this simplicity, ways of thinking that complicate our faith or try to shipwreck it all together. The first is the flesh, or “worldly wisdom”. (2 Corinthians 1: 12) This kind of wisdom is governed by feelings and appetites, desires and preferences. It’s this kind of wisdom that leads guys to lead with the wrong part of themselves.

The second enemy of simplicity is following a mindset of procrastination and laziness, of wandering and waste. The Holy Scripture says of God, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26: 3) You cannot find simplicity if you cannot with singleness of heart and mind surrender yourself to the Lord.

The third enemy of simplicity is what I will call a spirit of adultery or a mindset of deception. Ordinarily, you cannot have simplicity if you have multiple causes or loyalties that have to constantly be weighed one against the other.  Yet, the great danger with this enemy is you can simply be deceived.  And, consorting with another Jesus, creating another gospel, or carrying on in an interfaith spirit, the Apostle Paul warns us with great fear, “you (can) put up with it easily enough.” (2 Corinthians 11: 4)

Yes, this last enemy encompasses all three. We can be deceived and think the pursuit of our will is entirely appropriate. Our life is selfishly simple. Or, our life can be simple because we do as little as possible or simply what comes next. Se la vie! Or, we can follow diligently a false trail.

Do not be entangled with anything that robs you of the simplicity of the gospel. Let your life be a single strand that is pulled along by Jesus.

 

gospelofgraceAll of us need a way of confirming and adding strength to the call of God upon our lives. The Apostle Paul in Acts 20 helps us do that. Paul calls for the elders of the church to come and meet him in Miletus as he travels towards Jerusalem hoping he can arrive before the festival of Pentecost. He begins his message to them with a summary of his ministry among them and that’s where I want us to begin today.

I want to use his message as a template for establishing and verifying our ministry. I will list seven questions and give Paul’s answer for each question. I believe if the answers we give to these questions are not similar to the apostle’s we should rethink the kind of ministry we are pursuing.

  1. What’s the one task to which I am called? The Apostle says, ” I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20: 24) Whether it is highlighting a personal work of God’s deliverance or a particular focus of teaching, our one task should reflect the ‘good news of God’s grace’ in some way.

2. What is the one attitude that I keep in the forefront of all I do to fulfill that task? Our understanding of our calling is blanketed with all humility, Paul says. We are not about self-promotion or profit. We may become well known and blessed but these are never ends in themselves. As Proverbs 3 points out, in all our ways we acknowledge the grace and goodness of the Lord.

3. What is it that one thing that brings me to tears and so grips my soul that I must follow through? What is it that induces such a reaction? The Apostle says it is “being entrusted with the gospel” (1 Thessalonians 1: 9, 2: 4, 19-20) and the results the gospel produces in people.

4. What is the one thing I must do for which I will withstand any and all opposition? What is the one thing I will do regardless of reward or recognition?  The Apostle says, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom, the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.” (Galatians 6: 14 – 15)

5. What is the one thing that I repeatedly do that proves the most helpful to others, whether it is shared personally and individually or with a crowd in public? God doesn’t call us to anything that is perpetually fruitless or barren. Who benefits from what we do or teach? There’s got to be somebody for whom God has called us. “You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.” (Acts 20: 20)

6. Does this one thing I do solemnly affirm and witness to repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? All ministry calls us to an activity, whether direct or indirect. But, all activity is not necessarily ministry. Make sure the activity you undertake allows people the opportunity and grace to live their lives under God. “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20: 21)

7. When all is said and done, do I feel compelled by the Spirit to keep on doing this one thing? If I stop doing the ministry, is there any withdrawal? Do I have “fire in my bones” that smolders and looks for air when I’m not actively pursuing what God has asked me to do? The Apostle says “I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20: 23-24)

Examine your ministry. Use this template and we will pray for each other to have a fruitful and more effective ministry.

social-mediaIt seems if you are plugged into any social media today you will read, hear, see, or be inundated with the choices people make and the associations they are making. As I become one of the inundated, I’m sure I am not hearing as much good news as I should. Jesus teaches us to be careful of the measure we give to things because that’s the measure we will receive.

My wife, Karen suggested I fast from all media for thirty days because so much of it tends to dishearten rather than hearten. I am not yet convinced I need to do that but one thing I do know: I have to choose to focus on the things of God and on the choice God has made for humanity more than focusing on the choices humanity makes for itself.

The one thing I know God has chosen is revealed to us when the early church gathered in counsel one with another to pursue the priority of God for their life together. After much dispute and discussion, a declaration was made that focused their time and energy from that point forward.

“After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: ‘Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are’.”

So, what are we talking about? What is the topic of our discussions and disputing? Does the way we talk about things reveal God’s choice for people to hear the message of the gospel and believe? Does the way we talk show that there is no distinction between one person or another except whether they have received the Holy Spirit and their hearts have been purified by faith? Why are we endlessly talking as if the yoke we have been unable to bear must be put on by someone else for them to be acceptable? Does the way we talk and act remind people it is through the grace of the Lord Jesus that we, our family, our community, and our nation will be saved?

Lord, forgive me for stringing out “small” discussions of what I think or what someone else thinks. Let the one thing I share be the choice that you have made for humanity in Jesus Christ. Let that be my great cause and let me resist everything else.