If and But

Priorities

I was talking with a friend the other day, lamenting about my life situation, and her response was “If  ifs and buts were candy and nuts then we all would have a good Christmas.”  I laughed at the line, but I understood the point she was making.

I am notorious for saying “IF I can just get past  this (event/meeting/project), then I can do all these other things I want to do.” My other favorite line is “I would have done (fill in blank) BUT this other thing needs to be done.”  I’ve lost the balance of work and play, but it’s hard to make it all work, right?  So, I tucked this little saying into my back pocket and went on with life as usual.

Then a group of friends went out to lunch and we are all talking about schedules, priorities, and how hard it is to get things done.  I could hear the candy and nuts being tossed out by each of us.  Perhaps there is more to this than I had thought.

Priorities.  How do we make them and how do we keep them? 

There is no set answer for which specific thing is a priority since they will change as our life situation changes, but the principles remain constant.  Jesus made it very clear throughout His ministry what His priorities were and how each of us should follow His example. He taught, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40). The first commandment addressed the vertical relationship between man and God. The second commandment addressed the horizontal relationship with other people. All of your priorities will fall into these two basic categories.

I did a quick search for Christian priorities and this is a summary of what I found:

1. Love the Lord through disciplined obedience in all matters of prayer, worship, and daily walk.
2. Respect your spouse, loving them above all others.
3. Cherish your children and spend time with them. Teach them to follow the Lord.
4. Service through the local church to include community outreach.
5. Employment so you are not a burden to others.
6. Friends to share life with and to help encourage each other in difficult times.

Let’s walk through them and see how I do:

1. Love the Lord.  OK, I’ve got that one down pretty well.  Oh, the rest of the line too?  Hum, “through disciplined obedience in all matters.”  OK, maybe I could use a little work on some things.

2. Respect and love your spouse. Ha!  I don’t have one so I don’t have to do that!  Wait, this means potential spouse too?  I need to think about my actions today because they will affect relationships that come in my future.

3. Cherish my children.  Since I do not have children I need to make sure the environment around me is inviting and supporting of other children in my family.  In some cases, I may be the only light of Christ they experience.

4. Service through my church.  I do support the local church through the Dallas Baptist Association and I also serve my church. Sometimes, volunteering or serving the church can be consuming of all my time.  Serving the church should not be a priority over your relationships with God or your family.  If we have a disciplined life we will also have a balanced life.

5. Employment.  I have a job, in fact, I work for myself!  This has allowed great flexibility in my schedule, but I sometimes abuse that freedom.  How we handle our business affairs reflects on our walk with the Lord.

6. To get a friend you must be a friend. Do I really love others as I love myself?  Am I willing to make others a priority?

Do you see a trend?  I see discipline and balance are the arching theme for all the priorities.  If I keep the first priority in it’s right place then the others seem to fall into their correct place.  A balanced life will result in the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  If I see the fruit multiply then I know I am on the right track!

If and but will probably always be a challenge for me.  Hopefully, by recognizing the things I need to balance I can do better at setting the right priorities!

Inner Circle

friendships

A friend loves at all times… (Proverbs 17:17)

Having healthy, solid relationships is one of the most important aspects of health. It affects every aspect of a person’s well-being: spiritual, emotional, and even physical. The people you choose to spend the most time with are the people you are going to become most like. We pick up the character qualities of our closest friends and if their habits, character traits, and thought processes are destructive, then ours will be as well. This has been proven time and time again.

To illustrate this, try pulling one of your friends up a flight of stairs. It is quite a difficult task! Now, try to pull them down the stairs. It does not matter their weight or how much they resist – it is much simpler to pull someone down than to pull them up. This is not only true according to the law of gravity; it is true in friendships as well.

If your friends are always bringing you down emotionally, or if they practice unhealthy or destructive habits, or even if they are just not striving to do the things God has called them to do, and you are trying to live a spiritually healthy life, then you are going to have a hard time doing so.

If you consistently spend your time with people who are pulling you down then you are going to be emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and probably even physically exhausted. Eventually you will end up being pulled down the stairs-and the fall might be a very painful experience.How do we keep from experiencing such falls? How do we make sure to make friends that join us in climbing and reaching for bigger, better, and higher goals.

Carefully choose your closest friends.  Your inner circle of friends should be very small-Jesus had three in His inner circle. These are the people who are going to pour into your life the most. The inner circle is the most important to fill with the right people, and it is also the most difficult. Be very cautious with who you let into your inner circle. They will influence you and determine the direction of your life.

How to choose your inner circle of friends? Choose people that will help you grow in your relationship with Christ and to fulfill the calling God has placed on your life. We need our inner circle friends to encourage and build us up. Whether they are criticizing us or praising us, it has to be for the purpose of edifying and helping us grow.

Think about your circle of friends.  Are they building you up or pulling you down?