New Year New Priorities

Thanks for joining me! Do you need to read another blog? Probably not! Does the internet need another millennial blogging? That’s also doubtful. So why am I beginning a blog? Besides the inevitable belief I have something to share with the world (which we all believe deep down) I truly want to challenge myself and any readers I will have to think about our world daily so that Christ can shape our worldviews on a daily basis.

Below this post you will find a quote written in pretty awful cursive. There are two reasons why you might find the quote hard to read: 1. Because you didn’t pay attention in 2nd grade when your teacher taught you how to write in cursive or 2. My handwriting truly is awful… Let me go ahead and type it out for you– the following quote is from theologian Oswald Sanders.

“A leader will seldom say ‘I don’t have the time…’ Such an excuse is usually the refuge of a small-minded and inefficient person. Each of us has the time to do the whole will of God for our lives.”

This quote has been on my white board in my office for the past 6 months or so as a daily reminder to me. If you pay attention to the quote in its appropriate context it is not telling me to be a busier person. It isn’t telling me to run on fumes to be “all things to all people,” while simultaneously taking years off my life from all the Monster energy drinks I drink during my all nighters to make sure I have the time to do every single task assigned to me. No! The quote is actually a call for me to check my priorities.

What it means that we all have the time to do the whole will of God for our lives is that we must actually check our priorities and make sure what we are doing on a daily basis is worthy of us doing. We all claim we are so busy! We say things like “Oh I just wish I had the time to workout, or eat healthy, or get all my work accomplished…” “Man I wish I had the time for a vacation!” When we say things like this what we are really saying is these things are tucked away somewhere in our priorities and through the course of our choosing these specific tasks have been superseded by other tasks, and so therefore, we don’t do the things we claim we would like to do. I begin my blog and the new year– 2019– by saying we should not live our lives this way, because it is straightforwardly stupid.

We all have the time necessary to do God’s will for our lives which means we all must evaluate what we are doing on a daily basis to ensure it is worthy of our time and we must all do some deep life evaluation and soul searching to cut the fat out of our lives. This is why this is a New Year Post! Because I am going on a diet. I’m not going on a food diet (although maybe I should do that too come to think of it), but I am going on a time diet. So many tasks are taken into our lives because I want to please people or because I want to meet expectations and this is like taking in empty carbs when you’ve had one too many Pepsi’s on a Friday night so you decided to order Pizza Hut. Just as the carbs from the pizza are unnecessary so are many of the things filling up my time and your time. I invite you to look to 2019 not as a time to make a New Year’s Resolution (studies have actually proven most of us give up on these by about the second week of January anyways). But, instead look at 2019 as an opportunity for you to examine your daily schedule and to make sure every single thing you are doing is intentionally serving to help you do the whole will of God for your life.

So where do we all start ? We may say we want to have a new year with new and better priorities, but we just have no idea how to even begin spending our time wisely. I’m not here to make a Scriptural basis for this as there have been plenty before me who have been very helpful in this regard (I suggest Kevin Deyoung’s “Just Do something” & “Crazy Busy”; Alistair Begg’s “Crazy Lazy”; and Tony Merida’s “Ordinary”). Instead I’d like to paint you a helpful visual picture so you can move forward into 2019 with a renewed and better understanding of how to spend your time…

Anybody who knows me knows outside of my relationships and my work as a pastor my next greatest passion is fitness so a lot of my visuals come from the fitness world. I want you to imagine with me somebody (perhaps this is you) who is completely out of shape. Their body fat percentage is high, they have relatively no strength, their hearts and lungs are out of whack. This person recognizes they need a change so they come to somebody like me for help in how to get into shape… In this analogy this person is representative of anybody who realizes their priorities are out of whack and their schedule is miserable and they need help!

Ok you with me so far? So, when this person comes to me imagine I give them all of the things they should be doing– they should be doing exercise A, eating meal B, and following the blogs of fitness model C… Then, I just turn them lose. I bet this will accomplish very little. The reason this will accomplish little is because this person doesn’t just need some advice they need a whole new way of life. They need new norms; they need new commitments; they need new habits. The only way you get these new things is through sacrifice and consistency. In regards to how we spend our time those of us whose schedules are miserable and we realize we need help we don’t actually need to be told to do X, Y, and Z, but we need to learn to sacrifice by cutting out the fat that is unnecessary in our schedules, and we need to learn to consistently be doing the things that are most worthwhile.

Back to our friend who wants to get in shape… The way I would teach this person new norms is the same way your basketball coach taught you new norms when you were in the 3rd grade. When I was in the third grade the best basketball player in the world was Kobe Bryant, so I thought the right way to shoot a layup was the way Kobe did. I would go through layup lines doing 180 spins and jacking the ball up trying to make a finger roll even though I was only 4’6. My coach had to patiently shake his head and smile and then realizing I was shooting layups wayyyy out of whack he had to take the time to teach me to put my elbow in, jump off my inside foot, and bounce the ball overhand gently off of the top corner of the box on the backboard. Then, the coach needed to watch me do it over and over and over and over again and also correct me whenever I did it wrong. He needed to punish me by forcing me to run suicides whenever I reverted back to my Kobe ways. Had he not done this then I would have never learned to sacrifice my desire to do a Kobe layup and I would have never learned to fundamentally make a layup consistently. The same thing is true in how you spend your time…

If you are ever going to have new and good priorities that allow you to do the whole will of God for your life then you are going to have to cut out some of the “sexy” stuff in your life like Kobe layups and you are going to have to replace the sexy stuff with consistent fundamental living and choice making. Back to my friend… As they seek to get into better shape they are going to want to look just like Brian Casselberry or Amanda Cerny right away so they’re going to jump to the “1-2-3’s of getting 6 pack abs,” or “How to be a beast in 90 days.” This is the garbage sort of shortcutting that small-minded and inefficient people go to every time. This is the stuff of Beta’s who end up quitting with their tails tucked between their legs like a beagle backing down to a pit-bull, but we are trying to learn the habits of an alpha wolf who confidently makes the right choices and fundamentally carries them out. This means there are no short-cuts so you must devote yourself to the long road and you must stay committed to the core.

Unlike the small-minded and inefficient those who have new and quality priorities will be like a weightlifter who consistently commits to “the Big 3” over time. The “Big 3” are squat, bench, and deadlift. Do you notice what I didn’t include in the “Big 3…” no bicep curls, no abs crunches, no pull-ups, none of that. Not that those things have NO value, but that those things don’t have the MOST value! I had a weightlifting coach when I was in High School who used to say to me “How do you get abs? It’s by doing squats, because big muscles burn big fat.” His point was that the core lifts are going to help you with your end goals more than any short-cut type exercises so commit yourself to the core lifts and down the road you will have the body you desire. The same is true for our schedules and priorities. If we commit ourselves to what is core, we say “NO,” to what isn’t, then down the road through hard-work-dedication-sacrifice-commitment we will each be living lives in the reality that “we have the time to do the whole will of God for our lives.”

So, what are some of the core things that will have us living in a quality way moving forward? The beauty in the answer is that this is different for everyone. God has created each of us in a unique way and has placed us in unique environments for the sake of each of us uniquely going out and showing the love of God and telling of the good news of Jesus. The way in which we spend our time is going to depend on how God has gifted us and how God has uniquely placed us among our co-workers, our friends, family, and those we interact with on a daily basis. Maybe I’ll do a blog post in the future more on this topic, but for now let me end this post by suggesting 5 big things to consider as you seek new priorities to “do the whole will of God for your life.”

  1. Your relationship with God. I work in ministry so sometimes people get this twisted and they believe that the pastor should always drop everything for every need of the congregation. If the pastor is spending his time only caring about the needs of other people without focusing first on his own relationship with God then there is something going awry. This is true for all of us. We all must take the time to examine our hearts and openly confess sin to God. We must take the time to listen to God speak to us in His word, the Bible. We must take the time to worship and contemplate on God and His attributes. You can do all the things on your checklist in a day, but if you have not taken the time to focus on your relationship with God then you are not doing the whole will of God for your life.
  2. Your relationship with your family. Other people outside of your family have needs that you should address, but they should never come at the expense of your family. Right now my immediate family is my wife. I love my wife and I care about her, but sometimes when I’m bogged down in life I choose to do things without considering her and this is wrong and when I do this I need to repent of how I’m spending my time, and instead direct some quality time intentionally to re-connect with my wife. If everyone thinks I’m a great friend and great pastor but my wife is at home feeling left-behind then there is something very wrong I am not doing the whole will of God for my life.
  3. Your relationship with other people. At this point you may expect me to say something about work since that is what the American lifestyle has taught you. We’ve learned God first, family second, work third. This is not biblical. Look at how Jesus spent time on earth. He focused first on His relationship with His Father in heaven, He focused second on those who were becoming a part of God’s family through the proclamation of the gospel, and thirdly on other people he encountered who were not in his immediate inner circle, but nonetheless they needed his time and attention. This is called compassion and compassion should supersede work in our lives. I’m not telling you not to care about your job, but I am telling you that when somebody in your circle (or even outside of your circle) needs immediate attention then you should move your schedule around and sacrifice by saying “No” to some things so that you can say “yes” to this person. An example of this might be a friend who is going through some sort of crisis that requires immediate care, but you have to be somewhere tonight at 7:00 PM. When you’ve learned to sacrifice and consistently prioritize in a way that elevates quality time then you will learn that in this situation the way for you to “do the whole will of God for your life,” is by leveraging your reputation that you’ve built by consistently making quality choices so that you are able to care for your friend while simultaneously sidestepping your 7:00 PM commitment. Reasonable people will understand a choice like this, and yes you might tick off some “small-minded,” and inefficient people, but who are you trying to please, people or God?
  4. Your work relationship. God has called you to a vocation and He has done so with a purpose, and so you need to take your work seriously and you need to prioritize it appropriately. Unfortunately the “Protestant work ethic,” has severely damaged our ability to prioritize work. We often elevate work to a status where it doesn’t belong, so we are killing ourselves to try and finish the next degree, and get the next promotion, and do this and that while compartmentalizing the little bit of remaining time for our family, for God, and usually we don’t even have time to get to other people. If you are doing this then you are breaking the Greatest Commandment “To love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” If you are doing this then yea you might be well thought of on Wall Street, but you aren’t very well thought of in heaven. Who you gonna serve God or manna? Work is good, but only when you’re doing your work in a way which glorifies your God in heaven. You are a light which shines in the workplace to point to Christ, and your co-workers will notice how you prioritize your time, so ask yourself “Am I appropriately spending time on my work? Or am I lazy? Or am I a workaholic?
  5. Your hobby. Everyone has a gift or everyone can cultivate a gift outside of your vocation. Your vocation is your platform God has given you to glorify and honor him. For some your vocation is teaching for others it is cooking and for others still it is managing a budget. None of these things are the gift you can cultivate outside of your vocation. So, although I am a pastor, my hobby is weightlifting. I spend time weightlifting everyday. Now, there are two ways to do weightlifting. One way is to put your headphones in and put your hood up and scowl at everyone so they know you’re a bad dude, do your workout, and then go home and drink a protein shake. This way of weightlifting is called “being selfish.” You might think you look cool but you really look like a jerk. Another way of weightlifting is by making yourself available. I’m not telling you to walk around and be social with everyone all the time what I’m telling you is that you can use your skills to form relationships with other people. Smile at people. Introduce yourself to people. When you see somebody consistently working hard encourage them. Ask people questions when you see them doing a new workout. Make yourself available to provide feedback. You will be amazed at the conversations and the friendships that can develop when you do your hobby in a way that is open to sharing your gift with others rather than just doing your hobby as your own selfish “me-time.” One way is biblical and the other way is not.

So there you have it my first blog post! I’ll be back because I’ve got a new year and new priorities and I want to make this blog a priority for the sake of “Thinking daily about our world so that Christ can shape my world daily.” I’m not sure of the frequency I will post so just stay tuned and you’ll find out.


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