Tag Archives: priorities

May 15; A Bucket List

2 Samuel 20; I Chronicles 22; Psalms 30 & 140

It’s a popular concept these days to have a “Bucket List.” It sounds fun, fulfilling, to check off all the things you’ve always wanted to do before you die. Skydiving? Check. River Cruise in Europe? Check. Broadway play? Check. Meeting a famous person? Check. Whatever you’ve dreamed about doing, do it before it’s too late.

Having a Bucket List is especially appealing to people who believe this life is all there is. Enjoy it before you turn into nothingness. It also seems to appeal to people who are their own priority. Me first, you know.

David had a different kind of Bucket List. We read that David wanted to build a temple for God. It was a longing, a passion of his to create a place worthy of God’s Presence. But God told him, “No.” Solomon would be the one to built the temple.

So David got busy. He drew up plans, hired workers, purchased materials, mentored Solomon. David’s Bucket List was full of ways to assure that temple would be built, even if his name wasn’t going to be on it. David’s Bucket List was about furthering God’s work.

I don’t read where he took even one trip to Disney. David’s Bucket List was all about God.

So I’m asking myself what it is I want to do before I die? Do I want my final push to be about me? Or do I want a Bucket List that looks like David’s, one that is full of things I can do for God before I meet Him?

I’d like my Bucket List to include the names of people I’ve influenced toward having a relationship with God through Jesus, rather than a lot of things I did for myself. I want my Bucket List to include things that glorify God – not me.

If I have the means to travel Europe on a luxury cruise ship, I have the means to take the Gospel to children in Haiti, or to build a well in Africa in Jesus’ name, or buy Bibles for Chinese Christians, or support a missionary in Romania, or give school supplies to kids in poverty in my home town. If I can put effort into meeting my sports hero or music icon, I can put effort into sharing Jesus with a homeless person, or my neighbor.

Now, please. I am not condemning anyone who goes on a European river cruise. I’d love to do that myself. And I’m not telling anyone how they should be spending their money. I’m just suggesting we take a look at our priorities and find out how God can be honored in our lives while we still are able.

Having a Bucket List might be a good thing. I think what is in our Bucket Lists are between us and God. Whatever we do, let’s do it to the glory of God while we still have time.

 

March 12; A Small Share

Numbers 34-36

The Israelites were on the verge of receiving what God had promised Abraham centuries before. The Promised Land! Here in Numbers we are given the actual square footage this massive congregation would occupy. I was a bit surprised.

Matthew Henry, on page 175 of “Commentary in One Volume,” tells us it was 160 miles long, and about 50 miles wide, or 8,000 square miles. (The US state of New Hampshire is a little over 9,000 square miles). But that tiny piece of real estate in the Middle East was the part of the world where God “was known, and His name was great.” (Psalm 76:1)

God, who created everything there is, who has dominion over billions and trillions of square miles of real estate, could have given His people so much more land. Instead, He gave them 8,000 square miles. Does that say anything to me today in 2019?

I had to stop and think about something else Matthew Henry said:  “How small a share of the world God often gives to his own people.” (Commentary in One Volume; Zondervan; 1961; page 175) But so many of us put so much emphasis on that tiny bit of the world God gives us.

So many of us spend an inordinate amount of time pruning, expanding, enjoying our own material possessions, while that which lasts for eternity suffers from neglect. We have heard, and most of us agree, that this world is not our home. But do we live like it is?

Today God is asking me to check my priorities. I believe He wants me to be a good steward of the material blessings which are mine. But I need to put it in perspective. God could give me the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine. But He hasn’t. What He has given me is the Truth, the Gospel, Himself, riches beyond the material. How much time to I spend pruning, expanding, and enjoying those?

The small share of this world which has been given me, is enough. I thank God for it. But if I lost it all today, I’d still have the most precious thing of all. I pray you can say the same.

 

Luke 11-13; All These Things

We are a very materialistic society, aren’t we? We take inventory of what we have, and want more. Or we take inventory and realize there just isn’t enough to make ends meet. So we may worry, stress, or look at our neighbor and get jealous and angry because he seems to have more inventory. It’s a problem.

But it must have been a problem in Jesus day, too, because He addresses it here in Luke. From chastising the Pharisees for worrying about appearances, to the parable of the rich fool, and the examples of sparrows, ravens, and lilies, Jesus wants to assure us He’s got this. There is no need to worry.

The key verse is 12:31, “…all these things will be given you.” Well, at least that’s what some people think. They combine that with 11:9-10 and claim them as promises for material (and physical) abundance.

But I wonder if we’re missing something wonderful if that’s all we’re seeing. In fact, the first part of 12:31 tells us to “Seek first the kingdom of God” before our needs are met. In other words, let your time and energy be focused on God, ask and keep asking for more of HIM in your life. Spend every day getting ready for His return, and trust God to handle the rest.

Now, I don’t mean quit your job and spend eight hours a day reading the Bible, then expect God to pay your electric bill. There are plenty of verses that speak of responsible living, and working to eat. I just think God would have us put our jobs into perspective. And our notion of how much is enough. I believe Jesus wants us to understand that as we go about our day, working and living for Him, we will find Him more than enough.

Here’s where God wants us: “…how often I have longed to gather you children together, like a hen gathers her chicks under her wing…” (13:34) And in 11:13 after Jesus tells us to ask, seek, knock, and receive he talks about fathers giving good gifts to their children. Then He says: “how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (emphasis mine)

God wants to wrap His arms around us and give us Himself. Sure, we all have responsibilities and struggles in this lifetime. But if we make those things the focus of our lives we miss something truly amazing.

God takes care of birds and flowers. Why would we doubt He can take care of us who are enveloped in His arms? He promises to give us “all these things,” exactly what we need when we need it.

Do you trust Him or not? I’m praying for you.

Malachi; Driven

Have you known  anyone you would describe as “driven?” People who work ten hours a day, then bring work home with them? People who haven’t taken a vacation in years, never turned down an assignment, or overtime because they are focused on advancing in their careers or padding their bank accounts?

Some people are driven by their hobbies. They spend thousands of dollars and hours on finding the next piece in their collection, or on improving their golf swing. They surf the net, pour over magazines, and know exactly who to talk to for the latest information on their favorite activity. And these same people have a knack of turning every conversation you have with them around to what drives them.

Malachi has me looking at my own drive today. He’s talking to people who seem to have thought they were doing a pretty good job as far as their religion went. But God is calling them – and me – out for hypocrisy.

He first got my attention in 1:8. The priests had evidently been faithfully offering sacrifices like Moses had told them to centuries before. But the animals these priests were offering were the left-overs. The crippled and diseased animals of the flock were being used in their sacrifices to the Lord. God, in no uncertain terms, says, “This is just wrong!”

Then He goes on to challenge the priests with this: “Try giving those animals to the governor. Would that make him happy? Would he reward you for bringing him a diseased animal?”

Have you ever worked so hard throughout the week that you just couldn’t make yourself get out of bed on a Sunday morning to go to church? Do you fill your evenings up until late, so you let yourself sleep until the very last minute, then you just don’t have time in the morning to be alone with God, praying, and reading His Word? Have you ever agreed to teach a Sunday School class but, because your schedule was so full during the week, you didn’t even look at the lesson until Saturday night?

Now, what if you applied those same principals to your job? Malachi, in a sense says, “Try offering that to your boss. Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?”

What do you think?

I think it’s significant that God inspired this particular book to be placed at the end of the Old Testament, the last thing we read before Jesus’ birth: Service. Honest worship. Making God our priority. Sacrifice. I think it’s significant because when we turn the page we are going to see those things lived out in the lives of Jesus, Peter, Paul, and others who make God, and serving Him, their number one priority.

So the question I believe God wants us to consider today is, where does He fit on our own lists of priorities? How much time during our day do we devote to God as compared to our attention to other things and people? Are we guilty of offering Him the left-overs?

I hope you’ll read the book of Malachi today and let God speak to you from His heart. He demands – and deserves – our best. Is that what we are giving Him?

Job 25-28; Bildad’s Parting Shot, Job ends His Defense

Job’s final thoughts are lengthy but so rich in content. I didn’t get through all the chapters of his response because chapter 28 stopped me in my tracks. I wish I could say I saw this truth in my first read-through. Actually, it was Warren Wiersbe who pointed something out that opened my eyes and convicted me. (Be Patient, page 106)

Here’s the gist:

People (and I am talking about me) put so much time and effort into getting ahead, on careers, or family, or popularity, or sports, or having a manicured lawn, etc. I myself went to college after high school, got a teaching job, then went back to school at night to get a Masters Degree.

Many people put in overtime at work, take work home, hoping to be considered for that next promotion. We take out loans to buy the big houses and fancy cars, then take on a second job to pay for them.

So why aren’t we putting that much effort into knowing the Lord? Why don’t we put in half that effort to know Him?

I have to confess that during the years I was working and going to school, the journals I keep with my time in the Word reveal days and weeks when my Bible wasn’t even opened. Time with God was the first thing I sacrificed to accommodate my busy schedule.

Job talks about mining gold and precious stones, and I can only imagine the effort that required in his day. Wisdom, he says, cannot be bought with gold. No matter how hard you work for the gold, or how valuable you think that gold is. Some things can’t be bought.

How much effort are you putting in to your relationship with Jesus? How much time do you give Him every day, how often do you talk to Him? Being a follower of Jesus requires more than a prayer of repentance. To follow someone, you’ve got to move.

Let’s move toward God by shutting ourselves away every day to be alone with Him, to let Him speak to us through His precious Word. Let’s tell Him what’s on our hearts, and watch what He can do when we include him in our day. You might think you don’t have time. I would argue that you do.

 

Ezra 1-3; Getting Our Priorities Straight

This was a great time in Jewish history. After 70 years of captivity, they were going home. King Cyrus gave them the go-ahead to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. He even provided much of what they needed to get the job done. Over 40,000 people packed up their things for the long, happy journey.

I love that the first thing they did upon arriving in Jerusalem, was to repair the altar. And as soon as they could, they began using it for the sacrifices they had so long been unable to make.

They repaired that altar, even though they had a bit of fear concerning the people around them. But they did not let their fear paralyze them. They celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles, offered the regular burnt sacrifices, the New Moon sacrifice, and all the sacrifices for all the sacred feasts. Plus freewill offerings! That altar got a workout. And all of this happened before the temple foundations was even laid.

I like this example. It demonstrates the priorities that we should have when doing God’s work. How many good projects fail when God’s people get ahead of Him? We are excited to get started on that building project, or that outreach program, or hiring a pastor. But we don’t spend a lot of time dealing with the sin in our own lives, worshiping God and praising Him for who He is, and seeking God’s direction first.

The Jews in Ezra took two years at that altar before going ahead with the building project. Two years before the temple foundation was even laid.

We are a people who demand instant gratification. It’s hard to wait, even for the light to change. But so often in Scripture God tells us to wait, to be still, to seek His kingdom, to hear from Him.

Let’s face it. We like to win. We like to be the first church in town with a state of the art sound system, or the catchy named coffee shop in our foyer, or the satellite site, the largest sanctuary, anything that will make us stand out as THE church.

None of those things are necessarily bad. But I wonder if sometimes we get focused on the project, and forget to wait for God’s direction before jumping in. I wonder if our projects are counter-productive when we allow sin to go unchecked in our hearts, if we don’t wait on God’s timing and direction.

Do we want God’s blessings on our efforts? Whether it’s the events of our day, or a major decision we must make, or a big project in our churches, I would suggest we follow the example here in Ezra.

Spend time… a lot of time… at the altar; wait on God… no matter how long it takes; then follow his lead and get busing doing what He asks. That seems to me what getting our priorities straight looks like.

 

 

Judges 9; What Will People Say?

Abimelech was not a nice guy. Not only did he weasel his way into become king, he hired some low-lifes to be his muscle. I guess he gave them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Then to top it off, he killed his seventy brothers, one at a time, gruesomely, and very publicly. You didn’t mess with Abimelech. Violence accompanied his “reign.” They were into idol worship, leaving God entirely out of their lives.

Now here’s what spoke to me today: When Abimelech was dying, his only thought was, “What will people say about me?” The most important thing to him as he entered eternity was that no one could say he’d been killed by a girl. No regret for an evil life. No repentance. Just what will people say?

Sometimes I think we give too much thought about what people think about us. We have to be politically correct, we want to blend in, we don’t point out sin for fear someone won’t like us. And there are some who live like Abimelech, as though they have no eternal souls, as though there is no God to whom they will be accountable.

Abimelech’s story is tragic. And right this minute, he is living a horrible consequence for his choices made thousands of years ago. He now knows that living a sinful, ego driven life isn’t worth it. Oh, he believes in a Holy God right now. But it’s too late.

Friend, where are your priorities? Are they made with an eye on people, or position, or lifestyle? Or are they made with an eye on eternity?

Because in eternity it won’t matter what people are saying about you. It will only matter what God says about your relationship with Him.