Archives For priorities

Eugene Peterson once said, “Busyness is an illness of spirit.” I think not only is busyness an illness of the spirit, but busyness will also cause your spirit to be ill. Given this, I would implore you to stop being busy! I’m not certain when being busy became a badge of honor, but it seems like it has been in my lifetime. I hear my father tell stories of people sitting on porches and just talking with their neighbors, passing the days as if they had all the time in the world.

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Previous generations seemed to put a lot more stock in building relationships than we do today. And no, Facebook and WhatsApp do not count in this context. I’m talking about deep, personal, and lifelong relationships. I believe our obsession with busyness is killing our ability to forge true relationships with others.

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The curse of mediocrity has infested the Western Church. Instead of blazing a trail of fire for the sake of the Kingdom, or even disappearing from the scene with cold hearts, we do just enough to let people know we’re still around, but never enough to make a difference. It’s disgusting to me in my own life and it’s intolerable for Jesus (Revelation 3:15-16). I learned the word mediocre has its origin in two Latin words which, translated literally, mean “halfway to the peak.” Half-way. Unfinished. Lazy. Uncommitted. This is the curse of mediocrity.

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A.W. Tozer noted of the origin of the word mediocre: “This makes it an apt description of the progress of many Christians. They are halfway up to the peak…. They are morally above the hardened sinner but they are spiritually beneath the shining saint…. Do we really think that this halfway Christian life is the best that Christ offers—the best that we can know? In the face of what Christ offers us, how can we settle for so little?”

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If you’re like me, you probably struggle to not take for granted the significance of having the Spirit of God dwelling within You. This is an awesome and all but unfathomable truth. It’s too big to grasp all at once, so it’s been helpful for me to look at a single piece of this truth at a time. One of those pieces is to realize our hearts burn with the same passion in which Jesus’s heart burns. As much as He loves us, such is the capacity we have to love others.

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It becomes sobering when we contemplate how little of this great love we are sharing with and showing to others. As followers and disciples of Jesus, I believe it is our duty to maximize the gifts He has given us for the purpose of building His Kingdom here on earth. As we begin to understand the immense power available to us, we, in turn, begin to realize how little of it we are employing.

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Today is a gift, but one most of us never discover. We use it, but rarely take notice of it. It comes and it goes, and our life passes by along the way. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “The day was God’s first creation, something miraculous and mighty in the hand of God. For us the day has completely lost its creaturely and wondrous nature.

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We use it—and abuse it—but we don’t accept it as a gift. We don’t live it.” None of us knows how many days will be gifted to us. Some will have more than others, but we never know until they’ve all been counted. At that point, it’s too late to matter.

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While some would accuse me of having a fascination with death, I would argue the typical Christian does not long for it enough. There is no morbidity with my fascination. I would just rather be with Jesus than here in this world. It should be the ultimate goal of every one of Christ’s disciples. If we wouldn’t rather be with Him, what’s the point of following and giving up everything for His sake? Until that day arrives, we have work to do here.

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Each of us was created with the talents, skills, and passions required to further the mission of Christ. The issue as I see it is we don’t have the will to do the work He gave us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Each of us should desire to leave nothing undone, but we love this world too much to have the appropriate amount of urgency to accomplish our work.

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St. Ignatius of Loyola said, “Teach us, Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to seek for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will.” Commenting on this statement, author Richard Foster summarized, “The Christian life is one of strength and endurance in the face of suffering.”

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How different this is from the experience of most who call themselves Christians in the Western world! Regardless of our modern culture and misunderstanding of what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus, it cannot be denied our lives bear little resemblance to that of our Savior. If it is our true desire to love and honor Christ, we must examine our motives and activities.

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I am hesitant to write this because I am paranoid and convinced (is that possible?) people will take this in a manner I do not intend. Still, the message is heavy on my heart, so I’ll ask you to please read this in the spirit it is intended, which is to further the Kingdom of Christ. It is not my intention to demean the laudable actions of others or to criticize any particular ministry. With the disclaimers out of the way, let’s begin.

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This past weekend I had the thrill and sorrow of attending a concert with about 10,000 other Christians. The love and ministry of the band were evident throughout the couple hours they played. It was an uplifting experience that encouraged and challenged me, and from which I took several action items. One of them was to write this article.

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If you’ve been around church for awhile, you are probably familiar with the terms “sins of commission” and “sins of omission”. In case you aren’t, sins of commission are those we knowingly commit, things we do on purpose. Sins of omission, on the other hand, are those things we know we should do but don’t. I recently was introduced to a third type, “sins of addition”. The term was coined by Alicia Britt Chole, a new author to me, but one who I am immensely enjoying. Alicia wrote, “We all guard against sins of commission and we are vigilant toward sins of omission.

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But achievements—even in small doses—can make us vulnerable to sins of addition: adding niceties and luxuries to our list of basic needs, adding imaginations onto the strong back of vision, adding self-satisfaction to the purity of peace.”

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In her wonderful Lenten devotional, “40 Days of Decrease”, author Alicia Britt Chole writes, “We are duly thankful, challenged, and inspired by Jesus’ forty-day fast from food in the Judean wilderness. Perhaps we should likewise be grateful, awed, and humbled by His thirty-year fast from praise, power, and potential in Nazareth.” We don’t often consider everything Jesus gave up during the thirty years before we read much of Him in the Bible. We know a little about His first two years of life, and then get another brief glimpse when he was around twelve years of age.

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After that, it’s pretty much silent until He steps onto the scene eighteen years later. Through it all, this man was at the same time the almighty Creator of the Universe. He chose to set aside all His power, all His potential, all His right to be praised and lived in the poor and dusty town of Nazareth. This was the ultimate fast. He gave up everything, and He did it for you and me.

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David Platt said, “You and I both have a choice. We can stand with the starving or with the overfed. We can embrace Jesus while we give away our wealth, or we can walk away from Jesus while we hoard our wealth.” No one wants to admit they are a hoarder. I suspect most followers of Jesus want to consider themselves generous. But we can’t deny the fact those of us in the West live in incredible comfort while nearly half the world is starving and lacks access to clean drinking water.

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Half of the people groups in the world have never heard the name of Jesus. Half the world has never been given a cup of cool water or a piece of bread in the name of Jesus. This is devastating.

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