“Wise priorities, when they lift useful things over useless things, change your life. But when they lift better things over useful things, you change the world.” – Yours Truly
“Seek first the Kingdom and everything else that matters will be given to you as well.” – Jesus Christ
I want to cry tonight. I'm not sure why.
Usually, when I want to cry, it is because I'm wondering if I'm doing what I should be doing.
Am I? Am I doing what I should be doing?
These days, when I ask that question, it is at least four questions:
1. What is it that I am doing that is wrong?
2. What is it that I am doing that needs to stop because I could be doing something better?
3. What is it that I am not doing that I should be because it is right?
4. What is it that I am not doing that I should be doing because it is better?
As for the first question, my current thoughts go to my eating habits. I don't eat a lot, but I don't eat well. Burgers and fries are an almost daily occurance for me. And while I have cut way back from the case-a-day intake of Dr. Pepper from my twenties (not joking), I still have days when I drink more of it than I do water. This is wrong. Not black-and-white wrong, unfortunately. But I think I'm going to need to make it so for me to do anything about it. Additionally, I've lately been wondering about how much TV I watch. I use it to chill out, unwind, usually late at night to end my day. Again, nothing "wrong" with it, unless it's eating at you and possibly taking the place of things much more productive for the Kingdom I serve, and maybe more effective in chilling out and unwinding (vs. numbing out by losing myself in a fictional drama).
To answer the second question, I have to tell you my thoughts concerning the fourth question. Lately I've been prompted to think about my "ministry focus" in the world.
Some background: I have long been convinced to use Jesus Christ as my personal role model for how to do ministry on his behalf...and his ministry is explainable through the various relationships he maintained with actual people.
- He preached to 1000s
- He trained 72
- He mentored 12
- He poured himself into 3.
You might even say he had one "favorite" in Peter (unless you are John, then you'd say it was John - see Jn 13:23; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20).
So Jesus had various levels of intimacy and relationships, and they each served different, and strategic, purposes:
- Jesus spent time winning loads of people to be interested in the "life" he was offering.
- From among them, he invested in building some of them up in the living and maintaining of that "life."
- And fewer still, but from among those, he equipped some to deliver that "life" to others.
This resulted in the multiplication of leaders who were called and enabled by Christ (through his Spirit) to change the world by going around and creating relational environments (churches) that would result in the winning, building, and equipping of others in various places and contexts.
Okay, so all that to say this: I think I have let my equipping focus slip and go stagnant.
- I have learned that if I invest in relationships with people who are "lost" and need the message of Christ, then I will have relationships with those who are lost and interested in the message of Christ, more than I could ever possibly handle, and they will bring their friends to me.
- And if I invest in relationships with people who are "saved" and need to mature or maintain their faith in living the life of Christ in the storms of life, then I will have relationships with those who need to mature or maintain their faith in living the life of Christ...again, too many for any man to maintain.
- Likewise, I have learned that if I invest in equipping workers for Christ, those ready to give their lives to the work of the Kingdom, ready and eager for training, coaching, and mentoring, then I will have relationships with workers, and I will train, coach, and mentor those who will win and build up others...and they will bring their friends to me.
With this observable life experience of mine, it sort of just becomes a matter of math (not really, of course, but he who has an ear, let him hear).
This gets hard, because then I have to face the second question. 'Cuz see, the good things that I am doing right now, that may be hindering my doing these better things, are just that...good things. In my ministry focus, do I have to give up my relationships with the Basement Boys (my men's small group...with is primarily "winning")? Or preaching and teaching to my church family (which is primarily "building")? Maybe (and hopefully) not. Perhaps I just need to take action on my answer to question #1, and then get busy on my answer to question #4. Perhaps. But honestly, I've done this kind of work many times, probably not.
As for the third question, I am always thinking first in terms of my family. I have nice, leather bound journals that I have begun for each of my 3 kids...intended to be periodic letters from their dad...that sit mostly neglected. I feel like the demands of parenthood drive my decisions more than my values. I love giving my wife my full presence to her heart, her needs, her desires, her dreams...but we feel blessed when we successfully protect our weekly date night each Thursday to eat together and watch a movie. My mom and dad each live far away, aging, and I and my kids are missing it and all the value that entails. Secondly, I think about my opportunities to encourage and just "be there" more for my church family. I'm not the stereotypical preacher in many ways, not the least of which being that all my focus on natural relationships steals from my church family some of the good things that they may have the right to expect from thier "preacher". As it currently is, I only have 2 formal teaching outputs a week (Sun AM preaching, Wed PM teaching), I don't attend all the events held by our church, and I can't be counted on to make it by the hospitals for everyone on the prayer list. I don't spend as much creative energy on the preaching/teaching times as I could if I moved those tasks up on the priority list like most preachers I know do. I want to do my best work influencing the staff and elders in their conforming into the image of Christ, helping them express the values of Christ (above) in their personal and ministry lives, but even that gets swallowed up in the "it's always easier to do nothin' than somethin" category. I have the greatest family, and the greatest church family, that anyone on this earth has the right to ask for from God Almighty, and I just want to be dog-gone sure I'm fulfilling my duty to them all, you know?
And underneath all of these worthy questions is my one desire that permeates, defines, directs, and usurps them all. My desire to be one with God.
To have actual God-contact.
To engage with Him.
To hear from Him.
To be with Him.
To love Him.
To visit with Him.
To speak to Him.
To be heard by Him.
To live with Him.
To become like Him.
To be healed...
To be instructed...
To be disciplined...
To be filled...by Him.
Oneness with God. That's why I ask this question that becomes four that becomes one.
I want it. Above all else.
I would give up all things...the things I value most...just to have Him.
I need not even speak of my material possessions, my status socially or professionally, my accomplishments in this world, my gifts and talents and personality that I have come to depend on to make it in this life. These I value...but they don't hold a candle to what I value most.
I would give up all the worthy, God-honoring, Christ-exalting, Kingdom-advancing work in the world...that I have done, or will ever do...to just have Him.
I would walk away from my wife, and each one of my kids...to just have Him.
Maybe there are nights when I wouldn't say this. For sure there are days when I don't live this.
But tonight, I feel like crying. And I don't know why. But I think it is my longing for Him. Just Him. Above all else.
I love you all.