February 23, 2003
When I say the word “organization,” what jumps into your mind? Some of you are saying, “Yes, organization! That’s the way life should be lived. It should be systemized, prioritized, and compartmentalized. I love organization. I am all about order. I am all over that.” Some of you are not saying “Yes.” Some of you are saying, “What a whip! Organization?! I don’t like anything that’s orderly. I’m a random-type person. I fly by the seat of my pants. Off the hook—that’s just me. That’s just the way I am wired.”
I am in a series called “Character Tour.” We have been touring great characters who exemplify great character. We have been studying a lot about character qualities. Today, we study a guy who is no stranger to any of us here. His name is Moses. Moses had a bout with organization. He had a tough time with it.
Maybe you, too, are facing organization frustration. Maybe you are facing some tough times with order. Maybe you feel like you are unorganized. Maybe you feel like your life is in disarray when your house is wreck, when your car is messy and when you are hydroplaning over certain relationships and stuff like that. We all kind of feel that way now and then.
If you think about it, though, our loving and transcendent God is a God of order. God is not capricious or chaotic. He is together. He is right there. The creation screams of his organization. God gave us a workweek. He worked for six days. On the seventh day, he rested. Consider the trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—three in one and one in three. They work in perfect organization with one another.
When God talked to our man, Moses, on Mount Sinai, he didn’t just give him some random suggestions. He didn’t say, “Moses, forget the whole ‘Ten Commandments’ thing. Just jot down these few notes.” No, God said, “Here are the Ten Commandments.” There is order in the commandments.
In Matthew 6 the disciples asked, “Jesus, how do we pray? How do we talk to the Father?” What did Jesus say? “Well, just whatever comes to your mind?” He didn’t say that. He said, “Pray like this.” And then he gave us The Lord’s Prayer.
The Bible says that we are made in the image of God. Isn’t that cool? We are made in the image of God. Thus, we scream, we yearn, for order and organization. Everything we see, do, or come into contact with reflects the nature and character of God. Thus, everything reflects order. Even our bodies are organized—our skeletal systems, our muscular systems, and our respiratory systems—all these are organized.
Whenever you talk about organization and order, you have people in different camps. I want you to think for a second of this stage as a giant continuum. We have some people on this side of the continuum. [Ed runs to one side of the stage] On this extreme, even though you won’t admit it, you are overdosing on organization. Everything has got to be chop-chop. Everything has to be compartmentalized. Everything has got to be organized. You are so organized that it can often incarcerate you. It can imprison you. You don’t realize it, but maybe you are OD’ing on organization and it is messing up your relationships—with your friends, spouse, or children. Maybe it’s even hurting your connection with the Lord. We have some who are in this camp. You are on one end, one side, one extreme of the continuum.
Now, on the other end, we have some here who don’t OD on organization. Some of you have gone organizationally overboard. It’s just, “Who cares? Organization? That’s a joke! I’m just random. I’m just off the hook. That’s just me. That’s just the way I am wired.” Maybe you are so into this that you tend to worship your randomness. You don’t realize it, but your “fly by the seat of your pants” mentality is wearing people out. It’s wearing out your spouse, your friends, and people at the office.
Maybe you are missing what God has for you because of this overboard mentality. Think about a baseball bat, a golf club, or a tennis racket. For those instruments to work correctly, you have got to hit the ball, or strike the object, in the sweet spot. Today, we are after the organizational sweet spot—right in the middle. We want the kind of balance that God desires for us, the kind of balance that our boy, Moses, was trying to discover. That’s why I love the Bible so much. The Bible not only talks about a character’s strengths, it also talks about a character’s weaknesses as well. I can identify with that, can’t you? I can identify with their weaknesses. That’s why I love the word of God.
Have you ever gone through organization frustration before? I have. The first time I ever remember going through organization frustration in my marriage occurred 20 years ago while Lisa and I were planning our first vacation as a married couple. Now, my family did not plan for vacations. We would decide to go on a trip maybe the day before we left. Mom and Dad would say, “Yes, let’s leave around 9:00.” But we knew we wouldn’t leave at nine. We would end up leaving around 5:00. We would still be packing at nine. We had no idea where we were going, where we would stop, or what restaurants we would eat at. We just drove around. That’s the way we did it.
Lisa’s family, on the other hand, you talk about organized? Her dad would get the AAA road maps out and highlight the route months in advance. He would know where they would stop and what they would eat. He even knew how long they would stay at a particular tourist attraction. As you can imagine, when we planned our first vacation, we had organization frustration.
Moses dealt with organization frustration. If you have ever dealt with it, you are in great company. Big Mo dealt with it. Whenever I talk to you about organization, I want you to remember what organization is. This is very important. It’s key if we are going to hit the sweet spot. Organization is a decision based on a process. Let’s say that together… organization is a decision based on a process. Let’s look at a four-word process of order and organization through Moses’ life.
If you are taking notes, the first word I want you to write down is the word “realize.” Moses realized that he needed some serious help. We all have to realize that. I need some help in my own life organizationally. If we are going to be honest here, so do you. We need help. Realize that. That’s what Moses did.
Let’s turn our Bibles to Exodus 18:13-16. Moses was experiencing organization frustration. He was trying to lead two million Jews to the Promise Land. He was God’s man of the hour, but he was messed up organizationally. Look at Verse 13, “The next day, Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people. They stood around him from morning until evening. When his father-in-law (His father-in-law was Jethro) saw all that Moses was doing for the people (see he wasn’t doing it for God, he was doing it for the people), he said, ‘Moses, what is this you are doing for all these people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?’” What and why? “Moses, what are you doing and why are you doing it?”
Jethro was the first management consultant, wasn’t he? “What are you doing and why are you doing it?” That’s a good question to ask ourselves. What are you doing in life and why are you doing it? What are you doing in your relationships and why are you doing it? What are you doing in your marriage and why are you doing it? What are you doing in your life as you follow Christ and why are you doing it? What are you doing in your career and why are you doing it?
Jethro spoke truth. Jethro got close to Moses. He got right up in his kitchen. He could smell his cologne and he began to confront him and talk to God’s man. The plot clots. He said, “Why do you alone sit as judge while all these people stand around you from morning ‘til evening?” Moses, you are wasting time, man. What are you thinking about? Moses answered him in Verse 15. Does this sound great? “Because the people come to me.” They come to me. “Whenever they have a dispute, it’s brought to me and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and laws.”
Moses basically said, “I’m the only one who can do it. I am Moses and no one else can do it but me. You see, I am a perfectionist, and I have got to do it. I’m Moses. I’m God’s man and I am it. I was brought up in Egyptian royalty and God chose me to go into Pharaoh’s office and say, ‘Let my people go.’ I was part of the Red Sea parting and all these other miracles. I’ve got to do it.” Isn’t it easy for all of us to fall into that trap? “I’m the only one who can do it.”
What happens is that we begin to get out of our areas of giftedness and effectiveness, and we begin to hydroplane. Then we have a Moses-type mess on our hands.
What was going on here? Moses was dealing with two groups or organizational intruders that we all deal with. The first intruders that he was dealing with were the minute muggers. There are 1,440 minutes in every day. The minute muggers just mug our minutes. Time is a gift. You cannot put a price tag on time. God has bestowed us a certain amount of time. He wants us to be good stewards, good managers, of our time. Have you ever looked back on your day and said, “Man, where did the time go? Where did my morning go? Where did my afternoon go? I needed to do this or that, but I didn’t do this or that because those minute muggers whacked me over the head. I was messing around here and there and didn’t really do anything that I should do.” Minute muggers are real. They are organizational intruders.
There’s another group of organizational intruders that Moses dealt with—priority prowlers. We deal with them as well. Priority prowlers sneak around. It’s all about priorities. We don’t have to pray about our priorities. Don’t waste your time or God’s. Don’t say, “Lord, show me your priorities.” The priorities are here. They are in the Bible.
God is to be the number one priority in life. If we are married, then our spouse is to be number two. Our children are to be number three. Our spouses should come before our children. I know that might shock a lot of you. It doesn’t say children, then spouse; it’s spouse and then children. Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.” That’s a great thing you do for your spouse, but it’s also a great thing you do for your children. Our priorities are set in stone. What was Moses supposed to do? What did it mean for him to put the ball through the net? Very simply, he was to lead two million Jews. He was the man. He was the vision-caster. He was the point person. That was it. He was so messed up by all these minute muggers and priority prowlers that he missed God’s best for his life.
I’m talking to the wife here who spends hours on the phone talking to her friends, trying to help and counsel them. I’m talking to the wife who spends all her time emailing her friends back and forth. Then when she sees her husband, she gives him leftovers. And I’m not just talking about food. I’m talking about trading in greatness for goodness. That’s how the evil one works. He wants you and me to trade in greatness for goodness. He wants us to trade in the sweet spot for a cheap racket, a cracked baseball bat, or a golf club that’s bent and warped. That’s what he wants.
I’m talking to the husband here who pours all of his energy and all of his innovation into the marketplace. Then when he sees his spouse and kids, he communicates in one-word sound bites, “Yeah…No…ESPN…CNN…
The first word is realize. Realize you need help. Realize you have a problem. Moses began to realize it. He began to wake up and smell the espresso. Speaking of espresso. We are beginning a brand new series in March called “Espresso Yourself.” I cannot wait to go through that. We are going to talk about how to express ourselves. Most of us don’t know how to express ourselves. I meet people all the time who don’t know what the Bible says about expressing yourself to others. I get excited about it, so I will just dial down and go back to this message. That was a quick sidebar.
Realize your problem. That’s the first part of the process. The second part of the process is “criticize.” Criticize yourself. Sometimes I just criticize Ed. I just rip Ed apart. Not in a mean way, but I just criticize myself. It’s good to do that. Also, open yourselves up to constructive criticism. When I say constructive criticism, I’m not saying that gives all of us carte blanche opportunities just to criticize anyone we see. I’ve got to earn the right to constructively criticize you. I’ve got to know you, and you’ve got to know that I have your best interest in mind. The same is true as you look at my life. We have to open ourselves up to this constructive criticism if we are going to achieve that sweet spot; that greatness that God wants. Can you believe that Moses’ father-in-law was constructively criticizing him?
Check out what Exodus 18:17-19 says: Moses father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you are just wearing yourself out. The work is too heavy for you. You can’t handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice and may God be with you.”
Last time I checked the stats on death are pretty overwhelming; 1 out of 1 dies. It’s going to happen. We all have an appointment with death that we can’t put off. We are one blood clot, one germ, or one drunk driver away from meeting our Maker. The Bible says that we will spend eternity in one of two places. When we meet God after death, though, God is going to do a time audit of your life and mine. He will. We will have to give an account of how we stewarded this time stuff. Will we say, “God, I did a good job. I traded in goodness for greatness.” Or will we say, “God, those minute muggers and those priority prowlers were all over me. I knew my priorities, but I got so involved in the superfluous stuff, that I didn’t really do what you wanted me to do.” That’s something to think about. It’s kind of scary, isn’t it? We’ve got to criticize ourselves and open ourselves up to constructive criticism.
But here’s what happens when someone who loves us begins to criticize us or point out areas in our lives. Usually we go, “I’m out of here!” [Ed makes a running sound] We run and we only hang around people who agree with everything we say. That’s a whole other deal. Obviously, Moses didn’t.
Let’s talk about the third part of this process. The third word that we have got to download is “minimize.” I’m talking about organization now. See the progression? First, we realize there is a problem. Then, we criticize ourselves and open ourselves up to criticism. Then we minimize our responsibilities. We minimize our tasks. What are you not doing today that you were doing a year ago? I want you to tell me what you are not doing, because what you are not doing is as important as what you are doing. Great difference makers are great eliminators. So, I have got to constantly eliminate from my life. Tell me what you are not doing in your marriage today that you were doing a year ago Tell me what you are not doing at work today that you were doing a year ago. Then I’ll tell you that what you are not doing now is making you more effective than you were a year ago.
We have got to learn how to say, “No.” Great people, sweet-spots people, say about fifteen “no’s” to every “yes.” We should say, “No,” because of a giant “Yes” behind it. That’s exactly what Jethro was talking to Moses about. Moses was trying to do it all. He was trying to handle every case, every situation, and he was wearing himself out. Look at Exodus 18:19-23, Jethro said, “You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him.” He was saying, “Come on, Moses, teach them the decrees and laws. Share it. Share the love. Show them the way to live and the duties to perform.”
Check out Verse 21, “But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God.” Moses is probably saying, “Well, I’m the only one who can do it. I’m the best.” But Jethro said, “Select capable men—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.”
That verse reminds me of when we started Fellowship Church thirteen years ago. I was the first paid staff member. We had 150 people in the church. I remember when the first phone was hooked up. I remember when we bought our first used typewriter. Yes, we had a typewriter. That shows you how long ago that was. We sat in a room one day with ten people at Fellowship Church—kind of a little team setting. Owen Goff looked at me and said, as only Owen can, “Pastor, listen. How are we going to reach this community when you are the only paid staff member? You are the only pastor we have.” I thought about that for a second and said, “Owen that is a great question, man. That’s very insightful. God is going to have to do this deal. It’s going to be a God thing. But Owen, here is what I am going to do as a leader. You men and women in this room are going to be the staff. We can’t pay you, but you are going to be the staff.” Take a wild guess at where those people are today. Most of those people who were in that room are the paid staff members of Fellowship Church today. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth delegating.
I discovered a long time ago, there are only a couple of things that Ed Young can do well—only a couple of things. That’s about it for me. I’m limited, and so are you. I can communicate and I can lead. Those are my best two gifts. Take Owen Goff, for example. Owen Goff is gifted at counseling. It just puts wind in his sail. He loves to talk, and he is gifted at dealing with people and their problems. I am a horrible counselor. You don’t want to talk to me about a problem or counseling. It’s just not my deal.
Owen loves to go to the hospital and visit sick people. He loves it. It fires him up. He’s great at it. If you are sick, you want Owen to come see you in hospital. You don’t want me. I don’t know where to sit or what to say. It’s just not me. On the other hand, Owen can’t preach a lick. He’ll tell you that. I can’t counsel a lick. He’ll tell you that. Owen is not wired to lead this church. I’m not wired to visit in the hospital. That’s a good thing. What do you do? What are those things that only you can do that will put the ball through the net for you in your corporation, in your marriage, or with your children? I don’t know. Those are deep questions. Let’s keep reading.
Jethro is speaking some truth here, isn’t he? “Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you. The simple cases they can decide themselves.” Jethro is saying, “That will make your load lighter”—isn’t that cool?—“Because they will share it with you.” Verse 23 says, “If you do this, as God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain and all these people will go home satisfied.”
Here is the principle: the less you do, the more you will accomplish. Less is more. The less you do, the more you will accomplish. Moses was trying to do it all. Jethro said, “Don’t try to do it all. Delegate. Do only what you can do. The less you do, the more you will accomplish, and the more you will operate in the sweet spot. You won’t be on this extreme or that extreme. You will be effective. You will turn into greatness because of God’s grace. Don’t exchange greatness for goodness.”
Think about the temptations of Christ. They were all about his life’s purpose. What was going on when Jesus went one on one with the evil one? The evil one was simply trying to get Jesus to exchange greatness for goodness. What was greatness for Jesus? It was living a perfect life and dying a sacrificial death on the cross. That was it. Jesus knew the score. He knew the word. Every time the evil one tempted him, Jesus came back with God’s word.
Look at Luke 18. Jesus was on his final walk through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. He knew that he was going to die on the cross. He knew all that. He told his disciples that but they just couldn’t get it. They couldn’t download it. It was beyond their comprehension. As you read about him in Luke 18:38, walking along the outskirts of Jericho, a blind beggar began to scream, “Jesus have mercy on me. Jesus save me. Jesus heal me.” Do you know what some of Jesus’ handlers did? They stopped and said, “Shhh. Be quiet. Quiet that guy. He doesn’t have time for that. We’ve got to get him to Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus doesn’t have enough time for that.” But what did Jesus do? He stopped and he healed the man. Jesus was always measuring everything against his mission.
If you keep reading through Luke 18, he walked into Jericho and he saw that little dude hanging from the limb in the tree. You know, Zacchaeus, the guy with the poor vertical jump. Everybody was crowded around and he couldn’t jump high enough to see Jesus, so he climbed a tree. Jesus stopped and looked at Zacchaeus. I’m sure the crowd thought, “Oh, no, what is he doing? Zacchaeus? What a crook! He’s a Jew working for the Roman government and is making money off of us. He is horrible. He is a criminal.” Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, I’m coming to your house.” They had the first power lunch, and when Zacchaeus left, he was a changed man.
Jesus came to save us. But he also came to heal and to save the lost, the downtrodden, those who were broke, busted, and disgusted. We’ve got to realize. We’ve got to criticize. We’ve got to minimize.
There is another word that we need to know. We have got to “actualize.” We’ve got to actualize our priorities: the most important stuff. Look at Exodus 18:24, “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.” Moses began to operate in that sweet spot.
How do we take organization and bring it down to where we live? Number one, you must know your non-negotiables. Your non-negotiables are your priorities. Your priorities are mentioned in the Bible. Jesus said in Matthew 6, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” Every time you make a choice relationally, vocationally, spiritually, or otherwise, you should always run it by God first. Run it through that God grid. I’m seeking God first. I’m doing what God says first. I know that is the purpose-driven way to live. It’s seeking God, going after God, first. That’s the thing I’ve got to do.
How many of you have gone on a diet in this brand new year of 2003? If you have gone on a diet already, lift you hands. Don’t be shy. When you are on a diet, what do you do? You say “yes” to the good stuff. You say “yes” to chicken and fish; you say “yes” to vegetables and fruits. You say “no” to Krispy Kreme. What a temptation! You say no to those Dairy Queen chocolate malts. You say no to Whataburger. You say no to stuff that will cause flab and that will clog your arteries.
We have got to say “yes” to the best. We have got to say “yes” to the same things that Christ would. We don’t want to say “yes” to the things that we should say “no” to, and vice versa. If we do that, then we end up with a bunch of flab, and our spiritual arteries become blocked. And that is not a good thing. I’m going to challenge you to go on a time diet. I’m going to challenge you to say “yes” to the best and say “no” to the stuff that messes you up. I’m challenging you to say “no” to the stuff that does not cause you to put the ball through the net. So, know your non-negotiables.
There is something else you need to know. Know your rhythms. I made a mistake a couple of years ago. I bought my kids a set of drums for Christmas—just some cheap drums. Yes, the kids like to play them. But the wild thing is that when my friends come over, none of them can walk past the drum set without seeing if they have the rhythm. We all have rhythm, and it’s unique. What’s your rhythm? Maybe your rhythm is best in the morning. Maybe it’s best in the evening. You have got to do the hard stuff, the most important stuff, when you are at your best. You are to put your most offensive energy in those areas, in those time zones. Put your energy where you feel it; where the wind is at your back. Then do the easier stuff when your energy level wanes. Know your rhythms. That’s why 1 Corinthians 14:40 says, “But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”
Why do we have so much disorder? Why do we have so much chaos? Why is our world spinning out of control? It’s very simple. It’s a sin problem because we have bought into the lie of the world and the world is all about disorder. But the world says, “No, this will really put order in your life. Follow this and change this. This is really going to give you order.” Once we jump into it, we think, “Oh, yes, my life is orderly.” But then, all of a sudden, we look back and we go, “Whoa! I’m in disorder.”
That’s why there is one more thing we need to know. Spontaneity and creativity emerge from organization. They emerge from organization. God is a God of order. Think about the creation. It’s orderly, and creativity emerges from that.
People ask me often, “Ed, do you memorize your messages?” I say, “Yes, I sort of do. I know what I am going to say. I spend a lot of hours on it. I spend about ten to twelve hours by myself on it, and about ten to twelve hours with the group. I pretty much have it down.” I’ve discovered that true creativity emerges from order. When I feel the Holy Spirit prompting me to chase a rabbit or go off the cuff during a message, I can do that with freedom because I can always go back to the order of the talk. The same is true in every slice of your life.
We can clap our hands and go, “This is pretty interesting. I like the way it rhymes: realize, criticize, minimize, and actualize. I guess that’s it, Ed. That’s the process. That’s cute. Nice. Four words about organization. That’s cool.”
I have left a major point out of the message. I had you repeat something earlier: organization is a decision followed by a process. I talked to you about the process, but that process is a pipe dream if you have not made the decision. There is no way you can have true order in your life until you have made the decision. What does the Bible say? The Bible says that we are in a state of disorder, spiritual disorder, caused by our sin. The Bible says our sin separates us from God. It causes a giant cosmic chasm between our holy God and us. God can’t even look at disorder. He can’t look at sin in your life or mine. He’s holy. He’s perfect. His standards are pristine. If you are trying to get to heaven by being a nice guy, by keeping your nose clean, and paying your taxes, then you are not going to make it.
Here’s what God did. God could have bolted, but here is what God did. God, being a God of order, set forth a brilliant plan. He sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus was a man of perfect order. He died for our disorder. We don’t deserve it. Jesus did it, though, and Jesus rose again. God says, “If you (you and me as human beings) bow the knee and turn to Christ and ask Jesus to reorder our world, to make a home in our heart, then our lives are reordered and we have order—this character quality from the inside out.”
Character is an outward reflection of an inward connection. So, everything I said is fine and dandy, but until you have made the decision, there is no way you will ever have order. A baseball bat, a tennis racket, and a golf club—for those things to work effectively, you have got to hit the object, the ball, in the sweet spot. God wants you and me to live in the sweet spot. It’s all about organization. Organization is decision followed by a process. Have you made the decision? Where are you in the process?