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April 30, 2017

Ordering Priorities

If you have ever thought: I have so many priorities, I don't know where to start, then listen to this message.

Mike Gerhardt, Study in Haggai Outline one, April 30, 2017, Ordering Priorities, Haggai 1:1-15. Unfinished projects, missing appointments, returning the DVD three days overdue, delivering the check to the cable company to avoid a late fee, calling your mother a day after her birthday: things can pile up quickly and we can easily get behind in our priorities. But what is a priority? My brother bought a 24 foot Grady White fishing boat stored off the New Jersey shore to use every weekend May through October. That first summer he was one the boat at least 8 times, the next summer maybe 3. He told me the engine had problems because it was so unused. I am told that the two best days of a boat’s ownership is the when you buy it and when you sell it. I tell you about the boat because my brother would admit he didn’t plan the buying and the using the boat very well, other things got in the way. Now I am sure this can happen even when it is made a priority. Sometimes I think that everything in my life is a priority, but I am not using the word correctly. A priority is the fact or condition of being regarded or treated as more important than anything else, to be dealt with first. What is most important? A person many have multiple goals or tasks to do, but what is first on their list? Some might say God is first, the family is second and the church is third and work is somewhere after that or/and extended family is also on the list as well as neighbors and friends, and of course in-laws are last on the list. I had this problem when I became a pastor, everything was a priority. Something St Augustine wrote helped me out: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and then do as you please. Simply put: it is God FIRST and everything else is second. That may be too simple. So let us say that priorities should be based on values and concerns. Concern for heavenly things should precede concern for earthly things Colossians 3:1-2 set your mind on things above.

Haggai, a prophet t. He gives four messages between August and December 520 BC. Haggai was a contemporary of Zechariah and Confucius. Ezra the priest had called the people to rebuild the temple. Haggai called them to finish it. He began his reprimand in verses 3-6 by saying Give careful thought to your ways. So often I do not do this. Recently I paid for a nonrefundable ticket for Janet and I to fly to Houston. When I finally read the confirmation email, I had booked the wrong date. I could make excuses that I was looking for the best deal leaving on different days but when I clicked purchase, it was the wrong WEEK. You don’t want to know how much that mistake cost. Give careful thought to your ways. Bertrand Russell an atheist of the 20th century once said: it is a preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else that prevents men from living freely and nobly. When possessions possess us, we have lost our priorities and our focus. Stored treasures on earth bind us, but stored treasures in heaven free us. Matthew 6:19-21 Store up treasures in heaven… Focus on treasures that will last 10,000 years from now. Give careful thought to the effort and sacrifice to what you’re building. Howard Hendricks said: The service that counts is the service that will cost.

Haggai gave the remedy in verses 7-8. Again: Give careful thought to your ways. Janet has told me time and again: you always have time for the things you want to do. I’d like to argue to the contrary but as most of you married guys know, I will not win.

Activities reveal our priorities. What we are can often be measured by what we do with our time. In a book called Strategy for Living by Ted Engstrom and Ed Dayton: we are told to make good goals, with godly priorities, that will be accomplished with effective planning and strategic living. Just hearing that makes me want to waste time. That’s too much. I’m already tired after a day’s work. I don’t want to think about effective living or whatever. YES, reading the book made sense but it was overwhelming especially when it came to evaluating the goals and priorities regularly. And thinking about my goals and priorities every other decade doesn’t count! Most of us think we don’t have time for that! We often reason that as long as our intentions are good, God is pleased.

Haggai wrote the rebuke to this in verses 9-11. We talk about time all the time. We waste time, save time, bide our time and invest time. We kill time, spend time and do time (some have). We call a timeout, we want time off, and some down time. We talk about a moment of time, a chunk of time and light years of time. Ever notice that time flies fast on a vacation and time moves very slowly on a diet. The young want time to speed up and the old wish it would slow down. But when was the last time we ask: what does God want me to do with this great gift of time? Gordon McDonald in his book Ordering Your Private World wrote: we must see time as God’s gift and worthy of careful investment. Ron Blue a Christian financial advisor has repeated: God own’s it all, we are just stewards. I believe that also means our time.

Now the current philosophy of our capitalistic system seems to encourage that the one who dies with the most toys wins, let me remind you that he still dies and then comes the judgment according to scripture.

Haggai then records for us the reaction verses 12-15. We can learn just a few key ideas that might help each of us order our priorities better. First, assess your abilities - your God-given gifts. Know and be real about your limitations. Albert Einstein said: Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value. If being a success is more important than being of value, you may want to rethink your priorities. Second, set your goals, short term, and long term. Make them measurable and doable. Begin where you are, then dream a little. Third, establish priorities and make them work. Think about what is on God’s heart. If we plan to accomplish His priorities, then put those things into practice. Sit down with a pencil and write them down. Make it simple. Give careful thought. Avoid just putting out fires and plan to not have fires. We do not have to live like those around us who have no eternity, for they must live it all now, in this life. We who have Jesus as our savior, have an eternity. We have as much time to accomplish his will now and then live with him in heaven forever. Think about living for eternity, one day at a time.