"Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls."
1 Peter 1:8-9 (KJV)
1 Peter 1:8-9 (KJV)
I have something I need to admit. Something that bothered me not only for you to know, but myself even. My family has always been one that prided itself on cleanliness, and a welcoming atmosphere to visitors. I must say that I have begun to let them down in this aspect tremendously. This admission is that my floor is possibly the dirtiest it’s ever been. My kitchen table is most likely begging for relief from the cabinets as most of their contents sit on it in wait of someone to heroically place them away. Our cars look as if we live in them. Our Bibles are full of old study guides that should have been long organized and our clothes often stacked instead of folded. Accomplishing all this wasn’t easy. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the hardest things I have ever done. How did I manage to get so sloppy compared to the old me you ask? Simple, did what I was commanded. Now, instead of shrugging in shame or hopelessness I nearly wear these small inconveniences as a badge of honor. It’s not that we never clean, make time for these tasks, or don’t want to do them. It’s rather a matter of priorities in life. Do you model your life priorities according to what society says they should be, or do you allow God’s Word to be a model of order for your best interest? Does HGTV dominate your mind and time so that now you focus on making your living room appear as one you have seen? Do you spend time digging into your Word making it a priority to teach to your family over a spotless home? So what would be commanded from the God I serve to put me in this situation of needing a good spring cleaning, detoxing, or visit to the car wash? Taking time out of our busy lives to show God that He is still number one in our lives by worshiping Him would be my first reason. Secondly, I would tell you that ensuring the future of my children and wife are my second concern. And thirdly, just as I want to be a light to my family I should also be to my neighbors here on this earth with us. Understand that I do not tell you these things to in any way lift me up, but to show how when we allow God to shape our lives He uses it for His glory.
Taking time out of our hectic schedule has never been an easy task. When my first son was born we honestly put things that we could on the back burner. We were able to get them accomplished in our free time while he was gone. He slept long enough most days that it was almost as if we already had a teenager in our house. Getting to work was fairly easy. Going out was also slightly challenging as we had to consider what family and friends would say about our son’s attire and appearance (many times we are expected to perform at a level of perfection as if we have Jesus’ name on our forehead). Although it added another person to our duties as a family, we managed pretty well. Then came round 2! This new guy made a fuss even in the womb. He made my previously perfectly healthy wife pre-diabetic or whatever the term is these days for pregnant women who get their glucose checked every day. She had cravings that were a little outlandish at times and mood swings that I now know were actually his. Life outside of being a parent almost hit a stand still. So where would God fit in all this? I realized from reading scripture at some point or another in my life that I absolutely could not under any circumstances put honoring Him on the backburner or leave Him out of our lives completely. God was the whole reason we had this second promise child as he was prophesied to arrive before He ever become in his mother’s womb. We had to make our family life fit around God’s timing. What we discovered was that even though we had to put some things off that may seem more important at the moment to us, God honored that decision. Even though there were still dirty Sippy cups in the sink, floors to be mopped, and carpet to be vacuumed, God made a way. It’s not at all uncommon to find my dishes washed by my sister-in-law, who’s only responsibility is to watch the kids for 45 minutes until I arrive home from my second shift job. It’s also really awesome to have been gifted with a rather large family when it all hits the fan and we need help with the kids and so on. With that being said, we continue to ensure that the God we served and who has blessed us with such an awesome family is highly praised at the end of the day (Exodus 20:3). What good parent wouldn’t want to show their family what the importance of worshiping the one true God really is? “In this house we will serve the Lord”! (Joshua 24:15)
The spiritual welfare, education, health, and blessing of my family come second in life after God himself (1 Timothy 5:8).. When making tough choices we often have to base decisions on where the situation at hand is located on the pyramid of priorities. Is this something that can wait? What are the long-term effects of either putting this situation off or handling it right now? How will this reflect back on me or my family? Is this the will of God or something that mine? When we consider all the questions that have to be asked, we can then rank each situation by the level it falls on our priority scale. So what should those levels consist of? First off, God’s Word provides us with at least the top 3-5 priorities that should be followed in our day to day living. First is our faith and worship in Him. Within each one of us, God built from within the desire to worship and serve Him. Knowing how Christ died on the cross for me makes knowing Him my top concern. Without Christ it wouldn’t be possible to have grace and mercy. Thank God for that. The second priority is the care of our immediate family. This includes everything from Bible study, work to make money in order to live, and even daily hygiene tasks such as giving the kids baths at night. No task done for the blessing of our family is a small matter to take for granted. Each moment you spend with children are critical in that we are forming the foundation of their life experiences not only spiritually speaking, but how they view themselves in society the rest of their life. If the only ministry you have time for is night time Bible stories and prayer at the end of the day, by all means serve those kids with God’s blessing and all you got. A good friend and mentor told me a statement once I will never forget. He said, “A child doesn’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”. This truth is the same at home as it is in the youth ministry facility at your local church. Adults work according to the same order. Most of us found God through the service of another who cared about us when we were in a time of need (Matthew 28:19-20 & Galatians 6:10). I know this is true in my life when reflecting on my decision to truly follow Christ. In the beginning I was the center of service, only to do the same for many others later in my spiritual walk. I hold my third priority to be reflection and education (2 Timothy 3:16-17). I make it a priority to read/study daily, and share what I have learned to others. Sometimes the only studying I get is through my preparation for lessons through the online ministry, which is why having this ministry is not only vital for those it serves, but also to me who gives most of the content as a willing vessel from God. There are seasons as I wrote about a while back in our life that come and go. These seasons may require adjustments in our schedules changing the amount of time we spend on a priority for just that season, but we must never fail to evaluate the priorities in our lives from time to time.
Our fourth order of priority which also contains the last section of my writing today, is evangelism, service, outreach, and any other element dealing with service to God (1 Corinthians 3:9 & James 2:14-17). In case you were wondering; yes I said that service comes after family, our relationship with God, and our spiritual development. The youth, singing, or outreach ministry comes after God and family because without those two we wouldn’t have a physical ministry to serve. What good is your ability to hold the attention of a group of teenagers if your relationship with God is lacking and no good is coming from the service? This would be a total waste of time. The same holds true for sacrificing our children’s spiritual development, while building another man’s child. God will hold us accountable if we forsake our own families if we neglect them. Besides, most of what I have learned to be effective in youth ministry has been lessons I have learned from my own kids. If I wasn’t a parent, I would be about as effective as a telephone booth in 2016 with our youth group at church. Without Bible study and reflection my teaching would fall on deaf ears and be “counted all as lost”. The only person I want directing my study and service is God and without hearing him through study/reflection I am lost. The family is a higher priority than service because your family stands as a model to the type of service you can provide for God’s people. Show me a man who neglects his family and never takes time to sow into their futures and I will show you a man who is headed for a brick wall spiritually and physically. In a small section of time a man can find himself alone, feeling helpless, and spiritually dead all because he neglected his family. What good would service to God be if a man has lost everything that is really important in the process? I had a pastor once ask me to promise him, to never place the church’s priorities or matters of service over my family’s. With that being said, there is always a season in which we find ourselves buried in the requirements of physical labor and work, but we should never neglect the long-term needs of our spouses, children, or other immediate family that requires us to fill that gap. While in seminary, it was not uncommon to hear our instructors tell us that as long as we made an “A” at home we were allowed to make a “C” in the classroom. I hold this advice to still be truth in everyday life. Don’t be the best minister/employee in the world at the expense of your family. At some point, there will be a change that will tip the scales to bring you off the pedestal that you stand. Unfortunately, in ministries and homes all around the globe it is an all too familiar sight. However you decide to prioritize the rest of the elements in your life is up to you. Just remember that you can be whatever you want to be in life, you just can’t be everything all at one time. I chose to give up owning a home and traded for a small apartment because of the many distractions that come with being a homeowner at the moment compared to my priorities. Obviously we counseled with God first, but in the end it opened up a ton of long-term time and made our lives flexible for the service of God. Your priorities in life always tell God and others what is most important to you. We say we love God, but I watch daily as others pour their hearts and finances out into their hobbies, jobs, and anything besides God. He waits to see where we place our trust and when we fall in the hole that we dug for ourselves, He is often gracious enough to give us a hand to pull us out. Be a good Christian first, a good spouse/parent next, and a good servant of God after. You will never regret placing your priorities where God commands. I would like to add that we should not worry about those priorities and physical needs which fall lower on the scale. If the sparrow knows that God will meet its needs, sure we should know these things (Matthew 6:26-34).
By the way! I just thought I would let you know that my wife just did a good cleaning yesterday. Matter of fact, it helped inspire the message that you saw today. So don’t come over tomorrow trying to catch a glimpse of my dirty carpet because there will still be vacuum lines on the floor. I just might have to call you out on your dirt for checking out mine! ;)
Thanks for reading, God Bless and Shalom!
Exodus 20:3 (KJV)
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Joshua 24:15 (KJV)
15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord
1 Timothy 5:8 (KJV)
8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
Matthew 28:19-20 (KJV)
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Galatians 6:10 (KJV)
10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV)
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
1 Corinthians 3:9 (KJV)
9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
James 2:14-17 (NKJV)
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Matthew 6:26-34 (KJV)
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-10 (KJV)
3 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.