Purifying our Priorities (Part 1)

Well, folks…it’s that time of year again.

  • HR Block is heating up its campaign…
  • Companies are sending out their W-2/1099’s…
  • TV’s are going on sale’
  • …and New Year resolutions are officially underway2.

After all, ’tis the season to be better, right? To start afresh and anew…and to grab change by the horns…

But perhaps you’re like me in the sense you wonder how many really know how to do this…or maybe you’re hesitant…afraid of prematurely falling off the resolution bandwagon.

Whatever the case, it’s important we get real about the type of world we live in. ‘Cause when we take a good, hard look into the deep, dark crevices of our culture, we find we’ve grown too content taking matters into our own hands…yet too passive in carrying them out…

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…a paradoxical attribute of a society that constantly suggests having a heartfelt desire is “good enough”.

Not that “heartfelt desires” are bad; by all means, we were created to have them.

I’m just saying if we truly want to reach the next level (in any phase of life), it doesn’t make sense to be self-reliant, given the human tendency to fall short and mishandle change. Conversely, if we want to see growth become a permanent reality in our life, we not only have to accept the existence of a higher alternative, but we must be willing to depend on it as a supreme solution that exists (and only exists) in God Himself.

All that said… How do we turn our heartfelt desires, the seeds God’s plants within us, into lasting realities? How do we change from the inside out in a way that takes deep root within?

Before we can answer these questions with a customized five-point self-improvement series3, I submit we must first be willing to purify our priorities…

…which can only happen when we become intentional in spending time with God.

But first..what exactly is a “priority”?

According to the Random House Websters Dictionary...

  • priority is “something that’s regarded as more important…a right to precede above in rank, privilege, etc. …
  • …and “to prioritize” is a process by which we arrange, particularly in order of importance, relevance, value, etc.

Thus, when we consider what a priority is…and apply it to morality…our faith, we ultimately discover the importance of recognizing God’s priorities for our life.

Take Philippians 1, for instance, where in verses 9-10, Paul prays for the Philippians’ love to abound all the more so they could better discern and approve the things that are excellent4.

Essentially, Paul is saying: if you’re feeling overcommitted, overloaded, overwhelmed…if you’re mired in apathy, confusion, striving…or simply trying to decide what is best, what’s best for your spiritual well-being…and those around you…the answer is simple: love at all costs!

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‘Cause at the end of the day, we all need Jesus in the middle of our everything…not only so we can conquer the burdens of life…but so we can love better in every circumstance (hence Paul’s use of the word “abound”).

My thought is: let’s be unified in seeking first the Kingdom (Matthew 6:33) together…in being fervent in loving one another (1 Peter 4:8; Colossians 3:14)…so we may…

  • Better identify what’s most important in our own life…
  • Better concentrate on the relationships God has called us to…
  • Be quicker in our humble obedience…
  • Be more available to God, our family, those God has called us to be around…
  • Use time more effectively, including family and ministry time (and not sacrificing one for the other)…

…all the while being Spirit-led everywhere in between.

Stay tuned next time for “part 2” of this series, where I’ll discuss a couple practical pointers on how we can better engage God in our midst and live transformationally in 2016.

Footnotes

1) In prep for the Super Bowl

2) Take a good, hard look at gym attendance…and you’ll see what I mean

3) Granted, this is a popular trend this time of year

4) I don’t know about you, but I love this association, specifically how Paul links “the greatest gift of all” (i.e. “love”) to our call to judge righteously.

Photo creds: lightwork.typepad.com, quotesgram.com, indy.shine.fm

4 Ways to Maximize Time Efficiency: Part 2

Last week, we discussed the first two points in our 4 Ways to Maximize Time Efficiency series. Today, we’ll wrap things up with two more…

3. Shut up and drive. For the bivocational pastor, there’s something majestic about the open road…something soothing as to what it represents.

For example, I find the open road not only the epitome of dedication, but also an outlet where quiet time and dreaming come together. Unfortunately, many treat “drive-time” as nothing more than a trivial agenda item, unaware of how it can be used fruitfully.

But think about it: the world we live in requires motion to function, so why not use it constructively? ‘Cause truth is: Sometimes, we gotta shut up and drive if we’re ever going to embrace the joy in stillness and find breakthrough in our Kingdom pursuits.

Granted, a drive from ‘point A’ to ‘point B’ may not sound too exciting. But perhaps there are other options you enjoy that also can’t be helped, like exercise or household chores.

At any rate, it’s important to identify with whatever helps us align to the heart of God. For when we start capitalizing on these experiences, we’ll find we’re not only advancing the most important relationship in our lives, but also integrating efficient time management into things we can’t control.

Bottom line: Consider your “open road” and make sure to block time for it.

istock_000007370546medium-250x3004. Stay communally connected. Let’s be real: It can be hard finding time for relationships outside of work and family. Stress, life changes, technology, unforeseen conflicts…it’s like life is a merciless jungle and we’re all trying to survive it one day at a time.

But let’s get real: It can be super easy making excuses when it comes to faithfully stewarding community. Stress, life changes, technology, unforeseen con…oh wait, I’ve already said that.

Truth is: If you want to have time for people, you gotta make time for people. After all, that’s what community is all about – being intentional about pursuing meaningful relationships in an authentic way.

Of course, not every relational road is a straight-a-way, given life has a way of creating dead-ends from time to time.

However, if you’re reaching out to people at work, school or church, but still find it hard to connect, fear not! Instead of withdrawing, try engaging people with similar interests through meet-up websites, local Facebook groups, recreational leagues, etc.

Either way, by choosing to stay communally connected (or at least making the sincere effort), you’ll discover a more complete joy that organically comes when God’s love is made apparent.

4 Ways to Maximize Time Efficiency: Part 1

paperwork-time-efficiency-02-22884394Have you ever wished there were more hours in a day? I know I have…many times, in fact. No doubt, in this day and age, we’re all circus performers, doing our very best to juggle all of life’s responsibilities. Yet, if we’re completely honest with ourselves, we’ll eventually realize how easy it is to hide a lack of discipline behind a love of distraction. True, we may be genuinely busy, but we’d be kidding ourselves if we believed we’re busy all the time. The fact of the matter is: if we look hard enough, we can find golden opportunities in our day to be good stewards of the time given to us. And as we’ll discuss later on, in the case of the bivocational minister, such truth can go a long way in expanding the tent pegs of ministerial effectiveness.

So with that said, here are four ways one can maximize time efficiency…

  1. Create daily/weekly time blocks for quiet time, planning, study…and rest!

Call me “old-school”, but I’m a firm believer in purposeful planning…in carving out set periods of time to plan, prep and soak in the Word. I know, I know. I’m no fun. Psh, whatev. But seriously, we live in a time that tolerates a “go with the flow, pedal to the medal” philosophy. We think if we push hard and fast enough, we’ll get everything done the way we want it. However, the problem with this approach is it’s not a reliable solution. In the long run, such thinking will only lead to skewed priorities, relational frustrations and burnout.

Truth is: If you want to righteously juggle a full load, it’s imperative to employ healthy time-management skills. As Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, there’s a time for everything … but at the end of the day, it’s up to us to use it wisely. By designating daily and/or weekly opportunities for quiet time, planning, studying and rest, you’re ultimately embracing a balanced diet of #smartlifechoices.

  1. Maximize free time.

When it comes to effectively managing multiple agendas, a good place to start is by maximizing free time. As an example, let’s assume a bivocational pastor has a standard day job adhering to labor law guidelines, and thus, grants 60-90 minutes of free time between snack and lunch breaks. Do you think the pastor, in his right mind, would waste such valuable time on social media and Candy Crush Saga? Of course not!

In order to maximize free time, it’s imperative to breathe purpose into inevitable stopping points…from the mandated lunch break to the compulsory bathroom break. For me, often times, the best way to get ahead is to give myself the opportunity to get ahead. And when I slow down enough to thoroughly analyze a typical day’s routine, I find more time gaps exist then I previously thought!

And true, time may seem to fly faster off the clock or on the go; however, don’t let this stop you from effectively maximizing it, whether it’s balancing your checkbook, drafting an important text, making a phone call or outlining a sermon. Truth is: You’ll feel freer when you create more free time with the free time you’ve been given.

So press on, challenge yourself…and don’t allow yourself to be intimated by time restraint. Either way, the goal here is to find appropriate outlets linking the “light-bulb” ideas that surface at work to time blocks (see point #1) set aside to complete them.

Stay tuned next time for “Part 2” where I’ll expound upon my final two points