Understanding the Urgent and the Important

The White House
By Юкатан (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When America’s thirty-fourth president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, began his administration, he instructed his aides and his executive assistant that there should be only two stacks of papers placed on his desk in the Oval Office.

The first would be a stack of those things that were urgent, and only the extremely urgent. The other was to be a stack of the important, and only the extremely important.

He said years later that it was interesting to him how rarely the two were one in the same. He was right.

The conflict between the urgent and the important is inescapable. How easy to get the two confused! Staying busy and working hard can make us feel as if we’re managing the important. But that’s not necessarily the case.

A Chance to Start Over This Year

New Year
(Photo courtesy of Pexels)

One of the most encouraging things about a new year is the word new. It means “unfamiliar . . . made or become fresh . . . different from one of the same category that has existed previously,” says Webster.

Simply put, it’s a place to begin anew.

Starting over requires knowing where you are. Honestly admitting your present condition. Facing the music.

Remember Jonah? Somewhere down the line, he got his inner directions cross-wired. He wound up, of all places, on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea bound for a place named Tarshish. That was due west.

But God had told him to preach to Nineveh. That was due east.

Jonah never got to Tarshish, as you remember. Through a traumatic chain of events, Jonah was forced to get his head together in the digestive tract of a gigantic fish.

My Advice to You This Christmas

Christmas

If I may borrow from Charles Dickens’s famous opening line, Christmas can be “the best of times, and the worst of times.” As pastors, we have them both, don’t we?

Who hasn’t cringed in September as stores drag out and display the artificial Christmas trees? Who hasn’t felt uneasy about the obligatory exchange of gifts with individuals you hardly know?

Something about those annual experiences can make them seem like “the worst of times.”

But they don’t need to be.

Learn to be a Servant, Not a Celebrity

Cleaning
(Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

Exactly what does our heavenly Father want to develop within us as pastors? Well, rather than getting over my head in tricky theological waters, I believe the simple answer is found in Christ’s own words.

Read His declaration of His primary reason for coming:

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

No mumbo jumbo. Just a straight-from-the-shoulder admission. He came to serve and to give. It makes sense, then, to say that God desires the same for us.

Wiggling Free from the Clammy, Cold Fingers of the Blahs

Good Communication—Be Interesting
(Photo by Photodune)

In the ministry, monotony and mediocrity often mesh like teeth in gears. One spawns the other, leaving us yawning, bored, and adrift. In referring to monotony, I do not have in mind a lack of activity as much as a lack of purpose.

Even as pastors, we can be busy yet bored, involved yet indifferent. Ministry can become . . .

  • Tediously repetitious
  • Dull
  • Humdrum
  • Pedestrian

In a word, blah.

It’s Time for Some Pastoral Laughter for a Change

old_man_laughing
By BerLin (Nikon) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I know, I know—“ministry is serious business.” If I hear that one more time, I think I’ll gag. I fully realize that too much humor can be irritating, even offensive.

I recognize that it can be taken to such an extreme that it is inappropriate. But doesn’t it seem we have a long way to go before we are guilty of that problem?

I think so.

Whatever is in First Place

First Place
(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

If some ministry position is the god of your life, then something terrible occurs within when it is no longer a future possibility. If your ministry, however, is simply a part of God’s plan and you keep it in proper perspective, you can handle an unwanted dismissal just as well as you can handle a promotion.

It all depends on who’s first and what’s first.

Breaking the magnet that draws things ahead of God is a lengthy and sometimes painful process. But God loves us enough to wrench from our hands everything we love more than Him.

2 Tips for Living Victoriously (After You’ve Blown It)

Victory
(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Picture for a moment the barrenness and bleakness that happens in a life when compromise occurs. It doesn’t come immediately. At first, there’s some zip, a little excitement; there’s a measure of thrill and pizzazz.

But inevitably the fleshly investment starts to yield its carnal dividends. And when that happens, you suffer as you’ve seldom suffered before.

Perhaps the words very low paint a picture of bleakness that describes you at this moment. Even in ministry, the burden of struggle takes it toll. You have ignored God’s warnings and pushed your strong convictions aside as you trafficked in unlived truth.

But now you are at the end of your rope. You’re discouraged. You have failed miserably. You’re thinking, What a terrible way to live!

What to Do When Discouragement is Just Plain Awful

Hope
(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Can you remember a recent “gray slush” day? Of course you can. So can I. (For us pastors, it’s often a Monday.) On such days, the laws of fairness and justice are displaced by a couple of Murphy’s Laws.

Your dream dissolved into a nightmare. High hopes took a hike. Good intentions got lost in a comedy of errors; only this time, nobody was laughing.

You didn’t soar; you slumped. Instead of “pressing on the upward way,” you felt like telling John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, to move over as you slid down into his Slough of Despond near Doubting Castle, whose owner was Giant Despair.

Discouragement is just plain awful.

Hanging Tough When You’d Like to Hang it Up

Determination
(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

When Jesus tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God,” the very word seek implies a strong-minded pursuit (see Matthew 6:33). J. B. Phillips paraphrases the idea with “set your heart on.”

The Amplified Bible says, “Aim at and strive after.”

The Greek text of Matthew’s gospel states a continual command: “Keep on continually seeking.” The dominating thought is determination, which I define as “deciding to hang tough, regardless.”

All of this urges us to keep in mind the difference between natural sight and supernatural vision.