Priorities

DO YOU HAVE CLEAR PRIORITIES?

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What should be your greatest priority each day?

Do you have a ready answer?

Have you ever thought about it?

Do you think it even matters whether you have an answer?

For those who claim to be Christ followers and submit to God’s word, there is a clear answer to this question about our priorities.

(drum roll)

Love for God is to be our highest priority.

This has been a consistent theme in the Bible.

When God first presented his covenant with the people of Israel, these words accompanied it:

 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6)

After the people had sinned with the golden calf, the Lord reaffirmed his covenant with them by saying:

 “Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 10:12)

When the Lord spoke about future rebellion by his people, he also spoke of how he would restore them and how he would restore them:

 “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6)

After Israel conquered the land God promised to them and were ready to settle in it, the Lord gave this warning:

Be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5)

When Jesus was asked, “Which commandment is most important of all?” He answered:

 “The most important is ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:28-31)

The context in each of these passages is what it means to be the people of God.

The Old Testament passages come at times of confirmation to Israel that they are in a covenant relationship with God. In the New Testament passage, Jesus is answering the question of God’s priority for us.

As believers, we should recognize that it’s God’s job to establish our priorities and it’s our responsibility to act upon them. And God has consistently declared that profound love for him should be the identity of his people. Indeed, failure to deeply love God should be almost be unintelligible to us – something makes no sense at all!

Each morning, regardless of circumstances, our highest priority is to love God today.

This not only gives direction to life, it is an enormous help when we are in those moments when we have no idea what to do. Take a breath and remember, whatever we are to do in this moment, it should involve showing God that we love him!

 

HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?

Have you seen those amazing pictures of Ice Hotels?

These are real buildings made from ice and snow. They are beautiful, unusual . . and temporary. They are built knowing they will only last for a few months.

This understanding determines how they are built and furnished. The owners only invest in them according to the amount of time they will get out of them.

Wouldn’t it make sense if we had that perspective about life in this world?

We think of the Ice Hotels as being temporary and other buildings as being permanent. Yet everything in this world is temporary with the exception of our souls.

Everything you possess – including your body – are short lived.

The Great Pyramids are among the oldest structures on earth, yet compared with eternity to come, they are more like the sand castles that kids make on a summer day.

Our decisions and our values will be healthier, wiser and much more God-centered when we recognize what will last and what will not.

Do we live as if physical realities are as long lasting as spiritual realities?

What receives your greatest attention?

Where do you invest your resources?

What do you value most in this world – and how long will it last?

THE MAYONNAISE JAR

I posted this article a few years ago ago after someone in our church gave me a clipping of the following story. It is a simple reminder worth reading again.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and filled it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full.  They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar.  He shook the jar lightly.  The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full.  They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.  Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full.  The students responded with a unanimous “YES”.

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand.  The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.  The golf balls are the important things – God, family, children, health, friends and favorite passions.  Things, that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.  The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car.  The sand is everything else – the small stuff,” he said.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “There is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.  The same goes for life.  If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. . .” he told them.

“So . . . pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.  Worship with your family. Play with your children.  Spend time with good friends.  There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap. Take care of the golf balls first – the things that really matter.  Set your priorities.  The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked.  It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

TOO BUSY FOR WHAT…?

I am busy, it is not just something that is happening this week, my to do list is so long I have several different to do lists. And you are busy too, so I am not breaking new ground with my announcement.

As Americans we like to complain about our level of busyness, but we also view it as evidence that our life is important.

But only part of our jam packed schedules is self-imposed. The world has become more complicated with innumerable moving parts. We live in a bureaucratic world that threatens to eat us alive if we dare to slow down.

Many areas of life suffer because of this. Family life is a common victim, so are simple pleasures and taking the opportunity to slow down enough to observe life that surrounds us.

However, the area that suffers most of all is our time with God.

Personal worship and reading God’s word are items we find easy to push off until we have “more time”.

But when does “more time” ever fall into your lap?

The answer to this problem is not discovering more time, it is becoming more convinced of our desperate need for time with God (along with the conviction that no one will make time spent more fruitful than Him).

In Stephen Altrogge’s blog,  The Blazing Center, he recently post this article entitled “So busy I MUST pray” Stop and read his article now, it presents too important a truth, to be too busy to read.

WHY GO TO CHURCH?

Why go to church?

Is it necessary, or just a good thing to do when it fits into the larger picture of life?

What is lost if we neglect regular church involvement?

Should involvement in a church be a top priority in our life?

Even among Christians the answers to these questions are not uniformly clear. At least that is what the increasing sporadic church attendance by professed Christians seems to indicate.

It really does matter how YOU would answer these questions.

What does church mean to you?

Why should you be committed to having a church home?

Why should you not just attend a church, but dive in whole heartedly?

Matt Manry shares some thoughts about this subject in his article “Prioritizing Church Attendance”.

In the end, what Matt thinks and what you think are not the ultimate answer. That is found in what God thinks – and says to us.

IN GOD’S HANDS

If life is in God’s hands, what should be our focus?

Make sure He always has our heart

Our priority should be a growing love for God. If our heart is in God’s hands, it is impossible for our life not be used well. But if we persist in sinfulness, we are pushing God and his wondrous plans away from us. And if we are half-hearted, we will not even notice what God wants to do in and through us

Get engaged in people’s lives

We don’t have to be gifted or talented people.  God has all the abilities we need. When we see that our potential is measured by his will and power rather than our own, it should encourage us to take bigger steps in seeking to be used by God. Don’t detach yourself from the people God will enable you to touch.  And don’t avoid the situations where God wants to use you.

Trust when circumstances are difficult

No matter what happens to us or against us, it takes place within the safe and good hands of God. This reality does not keep situations from being difficult, but it does encourage us to trust his promise to have “all things work together for good” for those who love God. Knowing we are in God’s hands turns reactions of despair into words of praise

Make prayer the life blood of all you do

God is the only hope we have for what we need most of all. He is our everything – how foolish not to spend time with him every day.  How could we possibly have a better start or finish to our day than to spend time with God?  If we don’t spend much time with God, how can we say we are depending upon him?

Does our attitude and lifestyle show that we truly believe that we are in God’s hands?

 

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KEEP IT SIMPLE

How is this for simple: Only Jesus Can Be Jesus!

My friend Ian McConnell at Grace Church in Philadelphia, reminds us of this simple, yet HUGE principle. Why look for life to be full through pursuing anyone or anything other than Jesus? As Ian points out, in his article “No substitute for Jesus”, there is no substitute for the real thing.

As we enter a new year, why not make a fresh commitment to keeping it simple, keeping it pure and keeping it smart – by keeping it about Jesus.

 

NOT YET

I am really glad you are interested the Well Rooted Blog. It encourages me to know you would give the time to show up and read it. However, there is something you should make sure is taken care of first.

Have you spent time talking with God today? Has He heard words of worship and thanksgiving which are precious to Him? Have you committed yourself afresh today to obey and serve Him?

Until the most important part of your day is finished, hold off on watching the morning shows, catching up on Facebook, or reading my blog. If you have spent time in God’s word and in conversation with Him, welcome back!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 9.23.13

 “What Matters Most”               

1 Timothy 6:17-21

Some things are so big, they change how we look at life

Think how 9/11 immediately changed how we viewed friends and enemies. Consider how over time it has changed as a nation, our practices and perspectives

As Paul closes this letter, he presents Jesus as THE big thing  

He wants to awe and overwhelm us with amazement over Jesus Christ

His purpose is to help us see that Jesus should change how we view the rest of life

Paul does this by inserting a “song of adoration” into his closing words (vs 15-16)  

“He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”

There are three qualities given about Jesus Christ

1.  He is Sovereign or ruler unlike anyone else

He is called the only sovereign, because all other authority is borrowed from him

The plans of every authority will give way to that of Christ

2.  He is immortal 

He alone has life in himself; he has no creator or beginning

The existence of every other being continually depends on him

3.  He dwells in unapproachable light

We cannot know him by our reflection, or fit him into our minds

His radiance is without flaw; he is beyond limitation or failure

This song closes with the responses Christ deserves

We are to “honor” him with the highest place in our hearts plans

We are to submit willingly to his “dominion” over our lives

This song strengthens the surrounding exhortations of chapter 6

1.  Who Christ is, encourages us to fight the good fight of faith (vs 11-12)

It encourages us to flee what keep us from God and pursue what draws near

It encourages us to trust Christ and use biblical truth as our response to every struggle

2.  Who Christ is encourages us to keep his commandments (vs 13-14)

Our obedience is always what God wants from us

Obedience reveals the extent of our love for God

Without obedience, we cannot share life with God

God is not content with compartmentalized obedience, he wants us to love him with “all our heart”

Christ who wants our obedience will “appear” (v14)

Our Lord will hold us accountable (this is a theme in many of Jesus parables)

This glorious Lord has blessings to make us glad we obeyed

3.  Who Christ is, helps the wealthy to keep perspective (vs 17-19)

We never have good reason for pride or arrogance

We don’t have life in ourselves; all blessings are forms of God’s grace

If our increase doesn’t humble us, pride is exerting itself in our hearts

Any wealth can be lost, or its gleam spoiled – so don’t rest in it

We always have good reason to keep our hope in Christ

Instead keep looking to the indestructible treasure and joy that lies ahead

The best perspective for wealth is how it enables us to serve Christ

Wealth as with any blessing of God is not meant for selfishness

This life is our season for sacrificial labor, for this is the only time Christ’s kingdom can grow

What do we see as the primary purpose for having increased blessing?

Is it to increase our pleasure, or to better serve Christ’s kingdom?

Our instincts tend to be for trinkets rather than for true treasure

We cannot take wealth with us, but we can send it ahead

4.  Who Christ is, leads us to treasure what he has given us (vs 20-21)

Our great treasure is the gospel is us

It is the truth that saves, transforms and sustains

It is the work of God that never stops preparing us for eternity with Him

It calls us to labor with God for the salvation of those who are lost as we were

What does it mean to guard this treasure?

We guard it against the distractions that waste our days

We guard it against any twisting of truth that dilute our days

Is Jesus great enough to change how you look at life?

What still needs to be affected by your knowing him?