Get Your Priorities Straight

“Who’s the f’n new guy?”

Ah, that would be me.

Do you remember Sesame Street?  They had a feature on the show where they would show 3 items/objects.  Two of the objects would be similar or related somehow and one of them would be totally out of place.  For example: a bed, a chaise lounge and a carrot.

The song that went along with it was, “One of these things is not like the others.  Two of these things are kinda the same.  One of these things is not like the others.  Now it’s time to play our game.”

Well at this particular moment I was definitely the one thing that was not like the others…

It was the summer of 1980 and I was working on a special student landscape crew for the North Vancouver School Board.  We were all grade 12 students from schools in North Van.  We were all kinda the same.

However, the regular school board crew, comprised of full time maintenance guys, needed some help on a big job at Argyle School.  So, my boss sent me to work with “the adults”.  Being a fairly sheltered upper middle class kid I had never really met these kind of guys before.

To put it kindly, they were “rough”.  Their favourite word was “f’n” – in all its glory.  Quite frankly, I had never really heard that word much before.  In fact, it was never uttered in our home.  What struck me though, was the ability of these guys to weave a tapestry of profanity on whatever subject they decided to expound upon.

The topics they most enjoyed yattering about were, of course, women and motorcycles.  Again, I’d never really heard women talked about like that before.  This was a vacabulational education I really did not want to receive.  Sadly though, I was sentenced to work with these guys for a week.  I would indeed receive a cross-cultural experience I had never imagined I ever would, nor one I desired.

My memory of the week was spent minding my own business working alongside this group of 3 biker buddies laying sod on a new soccer field.  Pick up a roll of sod, lay it down, roll it out, and kick it into place, over and over and over again.  I tried to be pleasant and engage with them as best I could, but I was pretty shell-shocked by the F Bombs they kept dropping – amongst many other unmentionables.

I’ll never forget one particular relational scenario described in great detail by one of the guys.  He was talking about an argument he had with his “f’n old lady”.  She wasn’t happy with some of his behaviour so he had to set her straight…

“So I says to her, ‘Hey, you f’n don’t get it – first comes my f’n friends, then comes my f’n bike, then comes f’n you.  And if you f’n don’t like it you can f’n leave.’  So she f’n left.”

I almost burst out in guffaws of laughter.  Valuing my life though, I did not.  My respect for his “old lady” definitely went up that day.

He had a clear understanding of his priorities, but he did not have his priorities straight.

How about you, do you have your priorities straight?

Our priorities need to be the following:

  1. God
  2. Wife (if you are married)
  3. Children (if you have kids)

Our first priority needs to be our relationship with God no matter what our station is in life.  He’s the source of everything in our lives.  He’s life.  He’s our wellspring of living water.

If you’re married, the best gift you can give your wife is a great relationship with the Lord.

Our relationship with our wife needs to our second priority, right behind Jesus.  The best gift we can give to our children is a good marriage – and that’s only possible when we’re making God #1.

What are you putting in front of your relationship with the Lord?

Anything we put in front of the Lord is idolatry, and that does not lead to life.  What do you need to surrender to God?

Let’s get our priorities straight.

Exodus 20:3

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

Luke 14:26

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

Luke 16:13

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Jeremiah 2:13

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

Colossians 3:5

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”

Stop Going To Church

Yup, you heard me correctly.  Stop going to church!

It’s actually impossible to go to church.  Church is not something we attend, it is something we are.

Jesus came to birth the church.  He came to call forth a people who would be the body of Christ, the people of God, a Kingdom of priests to God, ambassadors of the Kingdom, the family of God, the army of God – the Church.

The church is not a building.  Where the church gathers can be called a church building, but it’s completely unbiblical language to refer to the building as the church.  Equally as unbiblical is referring to the gathering of God’s people as church.

“Go to church.”, is a phrase you will never see in scripture because it is unbiblical.

We gather together as the church, we don’t go to church.  Our language betrays our belief and also informs our belief.  If we’re going to truly get hold of God’s heart for us and for the world though us we need to choose biblical language.

The church is an organism.  It is not an organization.  The church is the body of believers who have chosen to surrender to the Lordship of Christ and carry His call as ambassadors of His government to this world.

The church is the hope of the world.  The church carries the word of God to this world.  We’re sons and daughters of our God, His family, partnering with Him in the work of His kingdom coming and His will being done on earth as it is in Heaven.

The church has been given the glory of God on earth.  We are commissioned to bring the constitution of the Kingdom in the authority of Christ to a fallen, broken and imprisoned world to see them set free and born again as beloved children of our Heavenly Father – living in His righteous, peace and joy.

As Peter told us in 1 Peter 2:9,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

We need to stop attending church and start being the church.  We need to recognize who we are and who we’re called to be.  We have to understand our spiritual DNA and the purpose for which Jesus died and rose from the dead.

Our North American mindset is so individualistic.  We read scripture through the lens of “me” instead of “us”, “I” instead of “we”.  God’s heart is for a body of believers who will be the body of Christ on earth – it’s about us, not me.

It’s about us being the church.  We’re born again to be the family of God.  You can’t attend ‘family’.  You have a family, you’re part of a family.  Your family gets together, and sometimes your family has meetings.  Your family does life together.

The church is no different: we do life together.  We’re all part of the church.  The church gets together.  The church cares for each other.  The church cares for others.  The church has meetings.

Following Jesus is a team game, not an individual sport.  Jesus came to launch a team called the church.  To follow Him is to be part of the team, and we all have a unique position of the team.

Jesus didn’t come to call spectators – He called players.  We’re not called to sit in the stands and watch someone else play the game.  We’re born again to be on the field playing the game as part of God’s team.

It’s time for us to understand we can’t attend church, we must be the church.  Let’s get out of the stands and get on the field.  Let’s gather together as the church in the church building to encourage and equip one another to magnificently “…declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. “  Let’s come together to give, not just receive.  Let’s be the church for each other.

Stop going to church, but rather let’s gather together as the church so we can be equipped to be the church.

Matthew 16:18b

“…I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

Revelation 5:10

“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

2 Corinthians 6:16

“For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’”

Ephesians 4:11, 12

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”

Hebrews 10: 24, 25

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Be Kind, Rewind.

Ah, yes.  Do you remember?

There are a number of you who read the title to this article and knew exactly what I was referring to.  And, there are a number of you, who are of a younger demographic cohort, who have no idea what the title is all about.

Way back in late 1970’s the first VCR was introduced to the consumer market.  VCR stands for Video Cassette Recorder.  A VCR played videos – which were taped copies of movies or shows you could watch on your TV.  Initially there were two formats:  VHS and Beta.  VHS won the battle of the video formats and took over the market.

When VCRs first came out you would go down to your friendly neighbourhood video store to rent videos.  Very few people actually owned a VCR so you would rent the VCR as well.

I remember coming home from the video store near our house lugging a big black suitcase with the VCR inside.  I would open it up on the red shag rug in our family room and then hook up the wires to our 27” Electrohome console TV.  Which, of course, had no remote control.  To flip through the channels you had to sit on the floor within arm’s length of the TV turning the knob through both channels if you had an antenna, and a handful of channels if you had cable.

However, this magical device known as a VCR opened up a whole new world of entertainment.  Sure, we were used to music coming on tapes – 8-tracks and then cassettes – but now we could get movies.  Yes!  My love of movies began to grow and flourish.

Then one day my dad came home with what would revolutionize my leisure life – our very own VCR!  No more renting, no more $200 deposit, no more lugging home a massive suitcase of electronics.  Now I could watch videos whenever I wanted.

Before we amassed our own video collection we’d still make regular trips down to the video store to rent video cassettes.  Every video cassette had a start and a finish – a beginning and an end.  When you watched the video you’d finish up at the end of the tape.  Then, of course you would need to rewind the video back to the beginning.

Many consumers would neglect to rewind the video cassette, so rental stores would place a sticker on the video,

“Be kind, rewind.”

I was reminded recently of this message, and how relevant it is for our lives.

What relationships do you need to rewind?  What issues do you need to rewind?

Is there someone in your life you’ve been holding something against?  It may be something small.  It may be something significant.  It may involve forgiveness.  Or, it may simply be shifting your perception of someone.

To rewind a relationship is to take it back to the pre-offense, or the pre-ticked-off stage.

There are 2 ways we can rewind a relationship: 1. Forgive someone, or 2. Extend grace to someone.

We need to forgive someone when they’ve done something to hurt us.  Perhaps they said or did something they shouldn’t have, or they didn’t say or didn’t do something they should have.  To forgive is to let them out of your prison of resentment and bitterness.  And, it sets you free from the prison as well.

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself because the resentment will kill you, not them.

However, oftentimes what a strained relationship needs is to extend grace to a person who said or did something that negatively impacted your relationship.  No forgiveness is actually needed, it’s a simple reset.  Just believe the best about someone, let it go and move on.

Have grace for them.

Knowing we’re all broken and unintentionally hurt others, means that we all need to be adept at “rewinding” relationships.  We must choose to be kind and rewind.  It may involve a “courageous carefrontation”, or it may involve saying nothing.

Who do you need to forgive?  What do you need to let go?  Where do you need to believe the best about someone and move on?

Be kind, rewind.

Colossians 3:12-14

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

2 Thessalonians 3:18

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

Hebrews 12:15

“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

1 Peter 4:8

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Whisper Man or 2×4 Guy?

Do you know any 2×4 guys?  Are you a 2×4 guy?

Do you know what a 2×4 guy is?  I have no doubt that you do, even if you may not be familiar with the term.

A 2×4 guy is that guy who is… well, fairly self-consumed.  He has little awareness of other people’s needs.  He is probably loud, brash and bombastic.  He can be in your face.  He is independent and self-reliant.   He’s demanding and commanding.  He’s imperative.  He’s large and in charge.

Or, maybe not.

He could be withdrawn and disengaged.  He may not be loud and bombastic.  He may not be demanding and commanding.  He is independent though, and he doesn’t have much awareness of other people’s needs.

So what do I mean by 2×4?  Quite simple really, a 2×4 guy is a guy who you have to hit with a 2×4 to get his attention.

Figuratively of course.

A 2×4 guy is so wrapped up in himself that if anyone wants to get his attention they need to be very direct, assertive and bold.  You need to haul out the figurative 2×4 and wack him in the head.  At that point you may get a response like,

“What are you trying to say?”

It takes a significant amount of effort to get the 2×4 guy to notice the needs of the people around him, or to really listen to other people.  Bottom line: 2×4 guys don’t listen well.

We can be 2×4 guys with the Lord.  We don’t really listen well to him.  We’re so consumed and concerned with our own stuff that we pay little attention to how the Lord wants to interact with us.  We don’t practice listening to the Lord.

In order for the Lord to get the attention of a 2×4 guy He needs to hit him across the head with something significant, perhaps something painful, or something costly.  Then the 2×4 guys cries out to God for help, wondering why things have gone so bad.

Finally God has his attention.

In reality, the Lord has been speaking to the 2×4 guy for a long time, 2×4 has simply not been listening.  In His love, the Lord has had to orchestrate something significant to get the attention of 2×4 guy.

The Lord has created, crafted and called us to be in relationship with Him.  That means we do life together, every minute of every day, walking together with God as Father and beloved son.  Our primary objective every day is to commune with God, know His heart, and partner with Him in what He wants to do on earth, as it is in heaven.

We need to shift from being a 2×4 guy, to being a whisper man.

A whisper man is a man who is tuned into the Lord, who communes with Him throughout the day, who shares with Jesus the journey of life and the epic adventure of the Kingdom of God on earth, who intently listens to His heavenly Father and who makes time to simply be with God in prayer, contemplation and meditation on His word.

A whisper man hears the whisper of God.  And, consequently, can hear the hearts of other people and is aware of their needs.

A whisper man has cultivated that secret place, that alone time with the Lord to listen – to hear God.  He is not threatened by quiet or silence because he is training himself to hear the subtlety of God, to find Him in the simple, the subtle and the silence.

Elijah experienced this.  He was hiding in a cave discouraged and despairing.  He needed to hear from God.  He needed to connect.  And God showed up in a whisper.

Elijah, one of the most powerful and significant men in all of scripture, met with God in the whisper.

May we be men who cultivate alone time with the Lord to listen to Him.  May we know His voice such that in the din of life’s daily demands we can hear and respond to the whisper of God.  And, therefore, connect with and respond to other people as well.

Whisper man or 2×4 guy – the choice is yours.

1 Kings 19:11-13

“The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.  Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”

Psalm 46:10

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’”