As we observed in part one of this post, God Himself ranks our priorities. We see the framework of ordering our lives in Matthew 22:37 through Matthew 22:40 where Jesus said,
"...Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Given that Jesus said with all our heart, mind and soul, it stands to reason that God's framework doesn't apply to only life's overall priorities but to each area, action, project, subproject, task etc.
The order Jesus gives shows that our first priority is our relationship and fellowship with God. Our relationship with neighbor comes second.
Note that Jesus uses the word love. "Thou shalt LOVE the Lord THY God..." You can't love God for someone else nor can someone else love God for you; nor is it a group effort as far as this commandment is concerned. Your love is your love. So it seems that this would speak of your own relationship and fellowship with God, it's not a reference to a dedication to your ministry. Ministry, being directed toward others in service to God would seem to fall into the neighbor category. Clearly, one's love for God is demonstrated by obedience, but we are talking about how we order those acts of obedience: first you and God and second your relationship and works for others.
The blurring of these distinctions seems to be a very common area where ministers subject their families to great neglect and unnecessary suffering in the ministry. The minister often equates his vocation and calling with his relationship with God and his duty to put God first. The ones closest to him are often sacrificed in the name of being dedicated to his calling. I believe this neglect is often due in part to a mis-ordering of God's priorities. It's your relationship with God first, then neighbor. We find in Acts 1:8 that ministry starts close by and then move outward. Certainly, our closest neighbor is our spouse and children. So, love your neighbor must begin at home.
From the structure revealed in the command of Jesus to love God completely and love your neighbor as yourself, I believe we get the following order of priorities:
1. God - Your God-relationship, worship and devotion
2. Neighbors (from closest to farthest: Acts 1:8, 1 Tim 5:8)
Here are some suggestions and scripture to consider in the above categories of prioritization:
1. God First - Enter into deeper relationship, worship and awareness of God. Make Him first priority or all else will not work.
Mat 22:37 — Mat 22:40 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.
Exodus 20:3 Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.
2. NEIGHBORS SECOND in order from closest to farthest
A. Family - rediscover my spouse, love my spouse more than self, show - not just say, be a father/wife to my children to show the love of Christ and show how to be a Godly man/woman in Christ.
My closest neighbors consist of my spouse and my children. I cannot rightly be said to be loving my neighbor if I jump over my closest neighbor and focus on serving those most distant before fulfilling the responsibilities specifically articulated by God in His word.
Genesis 2:18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
Ephesians 5:25 — 5:30 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
Deuteronomy 6:7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
Psalms 127:3 Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
B. Friends Identify true friends, cultivate relationship, maintain fellowship. Eliminate poisonous attachments.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Proverbs 18:24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly:and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
2 Samuel 13:3 But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David's brother: and Jonadab was a very subtle man.
John 15:15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
Romans 16:7 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
C. Ministry - clarify the current purpose and aims of God's ministry calling and do not accumulate unrelated distractions. Work in unity as a Family in all to which God has called us, serving those around us both near and far.
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (from closest to farthest)
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Matthew 22:37 — 22:40 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
1Peter 4:10 — 4:11 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
It is not easy to balance all that life throws our way, but we must seek to use God's priorities to keep us on track. His ways are the best ways and are the best paths to a spiritually healthy and productive life with Him and for Him.
On April 28th the federal government will run out of money with 5 months still left in the fiscal year. The interesting thing is that the entire scenario will never be characterized as evidence of the government living beyond its means. The entire argument will be framed just as everything is framed these days in the U.S. - according to the principles of campism, my camp versus your camp.
Jeanne Sahadi of CNN money titled her March 29th article on this topic "Will Congress celebrate Trump's 100th day in office with a government shutdown?" There is absolutely zero focus on the government running out of money or why. The media just can't miss an opportunity to appeal to campist America by making it all about Trump and the battle between the parties.
She says, "It certainly won't look good if the government shuts down on Republicans' watch, since they control both Congress and the White House, especially given questions about their ability to govern..." Let's not forget that when the threat of government shutdown reared its ugly head because of our government's irresponsible spending under Obama, CNN did not question the Democrats' "ability to govern." That shutdown was the Republicans' fault too. Each side dutifully pointed fingers, while the bastion of truth, the defenders of transparency - the media, never discussed the root of the problem. Campism won the day and the citizens lost.
Of course the Republicans are indeed scared. They are not concerned about the reason why the government goes broke in a few days. They are scared to death to let the government run out of funding because of how it will make them look. So it could be that they'll get China to float another loan, and April 28th will go off without a hitch.
Truth be told the Republicans concerns about optics are solidly founded on an understanding that Americans get most of their views supplied to them by the corporate media. Those views are crafted to stay firmly rooted in campist thinking. "My team is right, your team is wrong. We get a point. Yaaaay!" Those voters will never pause to think about the fact that the government just ran out of money. They also will not pause to think about where that money might have come from in the first place. Surely the Obama stash has run out by now or maybe it's now the Trump stash.
Rest assured, the media will continue to talk about who might get laid off, what services might be lost in a shutdown, how the Democrats might retaliate. Don't hold your breath to hear about solving the spending problem. There may be a threat of a shutdown, but there most assuredly will be no threat of truth breaking out in the corporate media. Want the media to actually speak truth? Stop playing along with their campism and division. Start standing on principle.
Maybe it's not all that surprising since most Americans love campism. They live paycheck to paycheck and are addicted to debt. Perhaps the politicians and the media are not talking about the fiscal mismanagement because the government living beyond its means is just a reflection of the voters' own lifestyle. Here's a simple recipe. You want to avoid shutdowns? You want to lower government spending? Then stop living on credit cards that you can't pay for. If you can't pay cash, then you can't afford it. Want your government to live within its means? Stop living beyond yours, America.
I think the transition from the old year to the new is a good time to evaluate the good and the bad and make adjustments. At the end of this year, I was in prayer about purpose and priorities for the new year. Here's what God began to speak in my Spirit as I prayed and studied in His Word.
First, the way in which I prioritize things in my life is not left to chance. It doesn't come from someone's system that they've devised over the years. It comes from God and His Word. Most of the productivity books I've read lay out the tools you need to keep your job and your daily tasks running smoothly. Some tell you to do the big things first. Some tell you to do the small things first. I see in the Word that we are to put FIRST THINGS FIRST.
In Matthew 22:37 — 40, Jesus answered the question, Which is the GREATEST commandment in the law? Greatest is a superlative, it implies a ranking of things.
Notice His answer:
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
So God Himself ranks our priorities. First is our relationship with God, second is our relationship with neighbor. Jesus says, the rest of scriptural instruction fall under these directives. All of this works together for the overriding purpose of all of His Creation - to glorify God.
to be continued...
Once again this year we will celebrate the commemoration of the birth of our Savior as we have done for the last couple of years. We will be sitting down around a table with friends in Haiti. All of the sailors in the harbor here in Ile A Vache will come with a dish. We will all sit around a table I built for my friend Felix, the Haitian proprietor of World Treasure Hotel. Our Sou Let pastor will join us. We will fellowship, get to know new friends, laugh with old ones. This time there will be French, Canadian, German, Hatian, American, Dutch all sharing and enjoying a meal together. We will NOT be shooting and punching people in a mall parking lot over a flat screen TV. Our Savior came into humble surroundings to a place where hardly anyone else would want to go. That describes much of Haiti. So we are just gonna keep it simple with a potluck meal and some good fellowship.
If you are going to mark this season with the remeberance of the incarnation of the Messiah, why not keep it simple? Why not connect with those around you in meaningful ways that would deepen relationships and open of avenues of Gospel dialogue? Why not forgoe the commercial idolatry and greed that only masks what we are attempting to remember? Or you could spend your time arguing about what's Pagan and what's not and connect with absolutely nobody and miss another opportunity to be impactful instead of just trying to be "right."
Just a thought...
I saw an ad for a faith-based movie recently. In the ad was this encouraging phrase "Fight every battle on your knees and you'll win every time." I certainly believe this to be true. However, I think one difficulty we have is how we define win. I believe we sometimes miss the win in our losses or how these perceived setbacks position us for victory.
Let me be clear, I don' t think God wants even one of His children to be a loser. In fact if God be for us who can be against us? For we know we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. Yet those very words which we find in Romans chapter 8 follow these verses:"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Then Paul says, "Nay, IN all these things we are more than conquerors..." Notice he says IN these things. The Holy Spirit through the Apostle does not declare that we will avoid these things, but that we are conquerors IN these things. Sometimes God will allow loss and in His plan for us and even for those looking on, it is a WIN! Consider Jonah who went to the deepest depths before he finally walked in his calling.
Consider Joseph, who went through a long path of adversity to put him into position beside the throne. Had he not been rejected, cast into a pit, sold into slavery, betrayed, lied on, and imprisoned then he would never have made it to the throne room and two nations may have perished from famine. Even JESUS - The Gospel itself is a story of gain through loss!
Our habit however is to grumble and complain at a perceived loss, rather than to praise God anyway and trust that there is a WIN here somewhere. I realize that looking for the WIN by faith is easier said than done, but let's ask God for help to trust Him in those trying situations where all we can see is loss. Perhaps, sometimes that is the very reason for a loss - to drive us to trust Him in those situations where we can't even see His face. That exercise in seeking Him which brings greater faith is always a WIN!
As the old song says, whether I go or whether I stay, I'M A WINNER either way...there is victory on the horizon, just praise Him through the loss and press on!