Posts Tagged ‘Priorities’

I have a problem that I must confess. I have wanderlust. Wikipedia defines wanderlust as the strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world. It has become a passion of ours to see new places, meet new people, experience new cultures, and learn new things. This week my wife and I are on a getaway celebrating our 33rd anniversary. We are in Oahu, Hawaii at a hotel on Waikiki Beach. While most of our trips are planned out a year or more in advance, this one dropped into our schedule 2 months ago when a “deal” fell in our lap. Now wanderlust itself is neutral, not necessarily good or bad. Like any strong impulse though it has the potential of becoming an idol. And this morning a disquiet has settled upon me as I realize I must deal with this reality in my life.

The standard definition of idol is an image representing a deity or god. A little broader definition of idol that better captures the message conveyed in scripture is anything that takes the ultimate place of priority in our life other than the Lord God. When I look around I see many people giving the place of priority in their life to people, things, and experiences other than God. It is incredibly sad to see a child so doted upon by their parents that they begin to actually believe the world revolves around them. In this case the parents often make the child an idol reinforcing the natural self-centered tendency that most of us struggle with. Or the person who is obviously wealthy to the point they lack no material comfort, yet they continue the quest to acquire, have, and hold onto because stuff, or position, or power has become their god. Not only can I see this in others, but when I turn and look inside, I realize this tendency to elevate people, things, or experiences to an unhealthy level still resides in me.

I recognized the uneasiness stirring in me later in the day yesterday as we filled a second day with adventure. Meeting our photography tour guide at 5:20 am to begin a Sunrise Photography tour, we had the briefest of times for our devotional. From then on the day was busy. I laid my head down at 10:00 pm Hawaii time with thoughts of things done, things still to do, plans still to be made. Body exhausted, my mind was still busy, but sadly, God was not in my first thoughts. Honestly, I didn’t pause to really spend time talking and listening to Him much at all.

For me, clarity often comes in the morning and so it was today. It is a real issue and I am ready to deal with it. I slipped out on the balcony about 4:30 am, confessing my waywardness and ready to make changes. The Lord put in mind capturing my thoughts (hence you are reading them now) and to open the Word. As He often does a snippet of scripture was persistent in my mind… “Why are you so downcast, oh my soul?”

I looked it up and had to laugh. Psalm 42 is what I was looking for. I made bold the verses that made me laugh because we are in Hawaii, visiting waterfalls and swimming in the pounding surf. God can be very specific (or in this case Pacific) when He needs to be. At the end I will close with the Psalm since God fully deserves the final word.

You see, God wants us to enjoy good things. He loves people and wants us to love them fully… with His love. He has no problem with our use and enjoyment of things. He lovingly provides them for our benefit and use. And life is made rich by new and varied experiences. God works in these experiences to stretch and grow us. The issue is simply do we have God in the proper place in our lives or is He an after-thought?.. Or is He even considered at all? Are we living a life that makes knowing God and growing in that relationship with Him the pivot point of our life? Are we living in such a manner that others recognize that He is real by the way we live?

I see my disquiet for what it is, a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit to check my priorities and be sure God was not lost in our enjoyment of this beautiful place. And so, Lord I do. You are my priority. I put my hope in You.

‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”

My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.’ Psalm 42:1-11

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Rather than taking a long time to get to the point let me state it up front.  Trusting God is not a good Plan B because if Trusting God is in position B then something else must be your Plan A.  There is nothing that rightfully supplants putting your hope first in God and His provision.  Now there are numerous situations where the Lord will work through others to accomplish His will in our life, but allowing God to be our source and then trusting Him to chose whatever means He determines to meet our need is always the right response.

God is fully equipped to be our confidant, our counselor, our healer, our deliverer, and our comforter.  In fact those are all specifically spelled out as roles God will fulfill in the believer’s life.  We also are given insight into what qualifies Him to fill those roles.  He is omniscient.  He is sovereign.  He is omnipresent.  He is all together good.  He is love.

So what does Trusting God as Plan A mean?  While I understand that many of you know God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I am prompted to cover the basics before we touch on deeper elements of Trusting God.

God is the Creator and Father of mankind.  Intimate fellowship with God was broken in the Garden when sin entered the world.  There is a price to be paid for sin.  God’s answer for sin which broke our intimacy with Him was to send His Son, Jesus into the world.  Jesus paid the debt for our sin so we could be reconciled to God.  So Trusting God begins with trusting Jesus as your Savior and Lord.  This is the way God has established for mankind to be put in right relationship with Him.  But making this decision is only the beginning of what it means to Trust God.

God has spent over a millennia creating a love story between mankind and himself.  This love story is captured in the bible or Word of God.  In this inspired book, God provides everything necessary for life.  Wisdom, guidance, encouragement, inspiration, comfort, challenge – all the essentials for living life in intimacy with God is in this book.  The bible makes the claim, backed up by the testimony of millions of us, that the truth contained in the bible is God-breathed and life changing.

Then there is the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus gives to His followers.  Every born again believer is sealed with the Holy Spirit who indwells us.  Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit being our comforter and counselor in His final extended discourse with the disciples.  (See John 14 and 15)  The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity.  He knows the plans of God and the heart of Jesus.  He will lead us in the right path, always, every time, without fail.  Our role is to train our hearts to listen, understand, and follow His leading.

I am pretty confident I know why we sometimes make Trusting God Plan B.  It gets back to the point of a few days ago.  We would rather be doing something than doing nothing.  And we often make the mistake of thinking that waiting upon the Lord is the same as doing nothing.  In the most minor of ways it may appear as if we are not actively doing, but to lay our cares upon the Lord and leave them there takes an exercise of faith that is one of the most important and challenging of spiritual exercises.  And like any exercise it takes practice over time to become proficient.

Let me wrap up for tonight.  Trusting in God as Plan A is altogether good.  Plan A is not sticking our head in the sand or ignoring the sound counsel of others, but it is trusting God to lead us in our decision-making.  In many cases we will use the natural gifts and talents of others around us.  When I broke my shoulder last year I was in a foreign country.  I had a few options.  But rather than simply lean on my own wisdom, I consulted others and I prayed.  God led me to fly back to the US to have the surgery to set my shoulder.  But within my Plan A was the possibility God could have said to have the procedure done there or something else.  I was totally seeking His guidance.  Flying home seemed like the right thing to do.  When I didn’t feel any check about it after praying, we flew home.  The miraculously minimal amount of pain I suffered over the  day of transatlantic travel and then waiting 5 days for my surgery was confirmation I was Trusting Him correctly.

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.‘ Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

Make knowing and growing in intimacy with God your priority.  Make Trusting the Lord your Plan A.  Allow the fruit of the Holy Spirit to bloom and grow in your life.  Seek the gifts of the Holy Spirit to operate in your life.  And God’s peace will overflow in a life well-lived and the richest of praise.

Be blessed my friend and be a blessing!

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I desire to live a “Life well-lived”.

I suspect that phrase will conjure different images to different people so let me give a quick picture of what I mean.  A life well-lived is one that fully hits the mark of why we were created and live on this earth.  It includes making the lives of those God places in our lives richer for knowing us.  It has as its heart beat a living, vibrant relationship with our Creator God, our Savior Jesus, and our Inspiration the Holy Spirit.  It will include minimal negative impact on others because of the things we say and do.  That is not because we live a perfect life (can’t be done unless you happen to be the Son of God and your name happens to be Jesus) but because we live a life of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  A life well-lived will be characterized by a high degree of peace even though it will likely have as many (or more) challenges and difficulties as anyone.  A life well-lived will be exemplified by intimacy with the Lord.

I guess it is important to note some of the things a life well-lived isn’t.  It is independent of worldly accolades and accomplishments.  It may include some, but it isn’t necessary.  It is not tied to worldly fame or the number of people who know your name.  A life well-lived is not one filled with tons of stuff, but rather one filled with quality relationships with the people who pass through our life.  It is possible to own a lot of stuff and still achieve the LIFE, but stuff is never the focus or priority of a life well-lived.

So periodically it is important to see how I am doing.  Admittedly it varies and I often have to make a course correction.  The past month has been one of those reflection times and a course correction is underway.  Basically it gets down to being intentional about setting and adhering to the priorities in my life.  Unfortunately I can get distracted and off-track too easily.  I relate very much to the dog in the movie UP that has a problem with squirrels.  (If you haven’t seen the movie I highly recommend it.  It speaks eloquently to this very topic.)

So I share with you now my Priorities as I step out of this period of reflection and into a renewed life.  Other than the first one they are not necessarily prioritized.

Become more intimate with my Lord and Savior – Jesus.  Beginning every day with quality time reading and studying the Word of God and talking to the Lord.  Jesus is real, present, and He wants to be involved in our lives in tangible ways.  Beginning the day when everything else is quiet and I can focus upon Him is the best for me.

Journal or blog.  I am not exactly sure why this is so important, but I have come to find that I am buoyed when I put a portion of my thoughts and discussions with the Lord down in print.  I hope and pray that the persons who read these are edified and drawn closer to the One Who loves them more than they can imagine.

Double down on love and understanding toward the persons God has put in my life.  This begins with our spouse if we are married.  Our children follow.  Extended family and friends.  I love my wife and I know she is the greatest gift the Lord has given to me besides himself, yet I often fail to show her the love and appreciation that she deserves.  As husbands we are called to love our wives as Christ loved the church, laying our lives down for them.  Check out Ephesians chapter 5:25-33.

Be more intentional about loving everyone who crosses my path.  It is easy to take for granted the person who serves your food at the restaurant, takes your money at the check-out counter at Walmart, or cuts in front of you on the highway.  Okay the person who cuts in front of you may not be taken for granted, but they definitely aren’t the object of kind and warm thoughts.  Turn those around to be opportunities to share from the well of love and blessings God has given to us.  A nice tip, a kind word of encouragement, a prayer uttered in faith are gifts of love that we can give.

Be more intentional about sharing the Good News of Jesus with people.  Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit is critical.  We’ve all met (or perhaps been) the person who wields the gospel more like a club than the precious gift it is.  “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:17.

Be actively engaged in the Body of Christ – the Church.  I see this manifested in two distinct ways.  Engaged in a local body of believers and within a small group.  I will probably expand upon this in the future.

Simplify and prioritize all the other things that demand and drain our time and energy.  Many of the chief priorities mentioned above can and should be practiced through our work and social interactions.  However I have had work and other activities move into the place of priority a number of times and the result has always been regretful.

Today is a new day.  I am making the decision to get back on track toward a life well-lived.  I realize mistakes I have made over the past few months and the lost focus.  I am ready to be the man God created me to be, to do the things He has called me to do, and live the life He has set before me to live.  Halleluiah! Halleluiah!  I am so thankful for forgiveness, fresh starts, and the opportunity to give my life to the Lord for Him to use a He sees fit.

Be blessed and be a blessing.


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