RETRO – BACK TO THE BASICS
January 22-23, 2005
I’m going to draw a picture and I want to see if you can guess what I’m drawing. [Ed begins drawing on a Plexiglas board] You can go ahead and blurt it out. [The audience tries to guess what Ed is drawing] That’s close. Ah, I might have heard it. Yes, sir, it’s a truck! It looks like a truck. It is a truck. That’s a cool looking truck. Hmm. It’s all right. We’ll get back to that in a second, the significance of the truck.
Ten years ago someone would say, “Hi, how are you doing?” Our typical response would be, “I’m fine, how are you?” I’m fine, I’m fine. Ten years ago, we were fine. Now someone says, “How are you doing?” What do we say? “I’m busy. I’m busy.”
I love to mess with people’s minds. Sometimes they’ll say, “Ed, I bet you’re really busy.” I go, “No I’m not. I haven’t done one thing for the last two days and I’m loving it!”
Why are we so busy? Why do we say we’re so busy, busy, busy, busy? We bow to busyness. We can OD on opportunities because so many things are at our fingertips these days. We can surf millions of websites and channels and choose from a plethora of restaurants and activities. And we talk about busyness and people being over-stimulated and over-challenged and over-done and over the top. And is it a new thing? Or has it been around for a long, long time? Is it kind of a thing we’re just experiencing in 2005? Or is it something that has been going on for a long, long time?
This series is called “Retro – Back to the Basics.” We’ve stopped and taken a look into the past. And hopefully, because of that, we can make decisions in the present that will give us a phenomenal trajectory into the future. It’s great to go retro. But the question that hangs in the balance today is this, “Is busyness something new?”
In Luke, Chapter 10, Jesus Christ had a courtside seat to a cat fight. Two sisters were going at it, Mary and Martha. And let’s talk about it for a second. The place, Bethany, two miles from J-town (Jerusalem). The time, six months before the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here’s what happened: it begins Luke, Chapter 10:38, “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.” That’s a pretty plain, pretty benign verse. Martha opened her home to Jesus and the disciples.
I want to chase a quick tangent for a second. Hospitality is what Martha did. We talk about the characteristics of being a Christ follower a lot here at Fellowship Church. Because, after all, this is a Christian church and one of the character qualities we [sometimes] forget to talk about is this quality called hospitality. The Bible commands hospitality. We are hospitable in our hearts as we invite Christ to come into our lives. Then, Jesus tells us that we’re to be hospitable. We’re to open our homes, our condos, our dorm rooms, our house boats, whatever, and invite others in. That’s how the whole early church emerged.
Read about the early church in Acts, Chapter 2. They met in temple courts, in big areas. Some had 40,000 people come into one area. And during the week they met from house to house. The whole thing, the infrastructure, was all about hospitality. So as a Christ follower we’re to be hospitable. Are you being hospitable? That’s not what I’m talking about today, but I just thought I’d chase that rabbit for a second.
Let’s go back to this courtside seat that Jesus had to a cat fight. Look at Luke 10:39. The plot clots. Okay. “She (Martha) had a sister called Mary…” This it not the mother of Jesus, Mary; this is the sister of Martha, Mary. “She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.” This word “listening” in the Greek is the word “acouo.” Say it with me, “acouo.” We get the word acoustics from it. Acouo. It means, literally, comprehending through listening.
She sat at the Lord’s feet (don’t miss that) listening, comprehending, what she was hearing, to what he said. Look at Verse 40, “But Martha was distracted…” Read here, “drawn away.” It’s in the imperfect tense which means she kept on being distracted. [The verse continues] “By all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord…’” She is starting to whine here. You can feel it. Check out her tenor. “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Whaa, whaa, whaa, whaa, whaa.”
In other words she was saying, “Jesus, you don’t care.” Frustration leads to victimization, and it always ushers in exaggeration—every single time. “Lord, you don’t care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me.” As I read that, I wanted Jesus to say, “You tell her.” But he didn’t. Verse 41, “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried (you’re all messed up) and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is (say it with me) better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”
What was going on? Martha was in a mess. Martha was into this mentality called “Martha Mania.” Talking about retro, Martha was [Ed sings] a maniac, maniac! She was a maniac. She was worried about the process, not the person of Jesus. She was worried about the superfluous not the significant relationship she could have established and deepened right there. So Martha is in to all the process, all the stuff, all the superfluous; yet, Mary her sister is where? At the feet of Jesus.
Sounds to me like they were battling busyness back then. Sounds to me like you could OD on opportunities back then. Sounds to me like we’ve always had that struggle. So what are we going to do? Are we going to be involved in Martha Mania? She’s a maniac! Or are we to become very Mary. That’s cool. Very Mary. How do we become very Mary? We sit at the feet of Jesus. Why do we sit at the feet of Jesus? Why do we do that? Why do we listen to him? Why do we get involved in “acouo”? Why do we comprehend through listening? Why, why, why? Because of time.
Jesus is the author of time. He’s given us time. He’s the only one who knows how much time we have left. He’s the only one who knows when we’ll clock out. So, if that is true, which it is, we’ve got to spend time with the author of time who can show us how to use time. Because we have just enough time to do the will of God. Just enough time to carry out his principles and his priorities through our commitments.
Priorities. Rank and order. First things first. Priorities are simply God’s principles. God’s principles are my priorities and they’re carried out through my commitments. Say it with me. “God’s principles are my priorities and they’re carried out through my commitments.”
How does that take place? We can’t do it in a vacuum. We can’t do it alone. It has to be the God thing. We have to have inertia. We have to have a force that causes the inertia to bridge the gap between our priorities and our commitments. Because if we get very, very serious about looking at our priorities, most everyone will sign off, we will check off on our priorities. “Oh, God’s important. He’s number one, Ed. Relationships? My friendships, my marriage, children, yeah! I’m with you. I’m all up in that, man. I’m feeling you. Church, oh, yes, yes! I’m here at church. Work….”
Priorities have already been set. All we have to do is go retro and read about them. Principles are priorities. We either agree with them or not. If we began to list our commitments, if we began to journal how we spend our time, if we began to go online to Fellowshipchurch.com and began to really record how we spend our moments, we’re going to be shocked and rocked. Because in most people’s lives there is a giant ravine, a gap, a delta between priorities and commitments. There’s a ravine that most of us think is small because we say, “Oh, man, my decisions reflect my priorities. I mean we’re in sync, we’re connected, we’re together, it’s tethered, man. Yeah, we’re tight!” But as we begin to journal, as we began to hammer some stuff out on the keyboards of our computers and laptops we go, “Wow, there is something different.”
Last time I told you about a camping trip my son and I took. I took my Ford F250 4×4 pickup, strategically packed it. We put first things first. We threw out the stuff that we didn’t need on the overnight camping trip, like a basketball, like several computer games, like 14 pairs of tennis shoes, stuff like that. I said, “EJ, those things…we don’t need those things. We’re just staying one night.” We were out in the middle of nowhere, 25 miles outside of Fairfield, Texas. We were driving along and saw what we thought was a small ravine. I said, “Son, you’re going to see what four-wheel driving is all about!”
And as I crossed the ravine, the small ravine became a monster chasm. The truck got stuck. I misjudged the distance. I misjudged the gap, the variance. We crawled out of the truck and we hiked in triple-degree Texas heat to a dirt road. God had an elderly woman driving a car down the dirt road, I flagged her down, told her I was a pastor (that probably did not help) and she invited me into the car with my son. We drove to town, went to multiple wrecker services and one guy—one guy, he was like an angel—said, “Yeah, I’ll pull you out.” So we drove back in his nuclear power wrecker, and his wrecker had that force that caused the inertia to pull the truck out of the mud and the mire. We misjudged the distance.
Last time I told you priority determines capacity. We’ve got to put first things first. But also, capacity determines priorities as well. Here’s what we do. We say, “Okay, my priorities, I’ll check off on them. Intellectually I’ll agree with them—God, relationships, church, work.” Then we come up here in this column [commitments] and we do life. And we add and add and add. We think it’s insignificant. We think these little decisions don’t matter. But remember, in the world of priorities the insignificant is significant. The mundane matters. And let’s say this is like a three quarter ton truck, but we put four times worth of stuff in the bed of this truck. What happens? It begins to sink. It’s too much weight on our vehicle. We’re exceeding the capacity. We’re broken down. There’s a giant chasm, a ravine between our commitments and priorities. And we miss the best in this life. We miss the best.
[Ed brings out some large workout rubber bands to illustrate his next point that the bigger the gap, the greater the tension] This is a big rubber band. We’re going retro. I could, you know, do the headband thing. [Ed places the rubber band around his head like a headband] Now headbands are back in style aren’t they? Have you seen that? Now the basketball players kind of wear them like this, you know? “What’s up?”
Let’s say this hand represents commitments—my decisions, my choices. This hand represents priorities—God, relationships, my family, the church, and work. “Ed, I’m telling you, man, they’re together!” Oh, really? “They sync up.” Oh, really?
If you’re not spending time at the feet of Jesus, if you’re not being very Mary, if you’re into Martha mania, this rubber band will get stretched. You can stretch it and stretch it and stretch it, and the gap will widen. You talk about stress! You’re talking about anxiety!
One of the top causes of stress and anxiety happens to be a result of indecisiveness. We don’t know which way to turn. We don’t know which choice to make. And we get tighter and tighter and tighter with more anxiety and more stress because of indecision. And if I keep pulling it, especially as strong as I am, I can pop this rubber band, pop my hand. Maybe knock an eye out. I don’t want to do that.
What happens as I begin to sit at the feet of Jesus, as I began to spend time with the author of time? What happens? The rubber band begins to relax. It begins to get soft and things happen. I have margin. I have breathing room. And I can sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to him.
Question: Who is the only one who knows how to much time I’ve got left? Jesus. Who is the only one who knows what’s best for me? Jesus. How in the world can I understand what this life is all about? How in the world can I balance life’s demands? How in the world can I bridge the gap? How in the world can I create the inertia to bridge the gap if I’m not spending time with the author of time, if I’m not sitting at the feet of Jesus? Are you a Martha maniac? Or are you very Mary?
TASTE THE GRACE OF SILENCE
Let me give you a couple of suggestions. And I need these suggestions now. I need them right now. We need to come to a point where we taste the grace of silence. [Ed stops talking…] That was like 10 seconds. Wow! Whoa. “I thought something had happened, Ed. I thought you were choked up or something.” I was just being silent. Silence. We’ve forgotten how to be quiet. We have to have the radio going, I-Pod, surfing millions of web sites, channel surfing, talking, fidgeting around. We’ve forgotten how to taste the grace of silence. We’ve forgotten how to sit at the feet of Jesus. We’ve forgotten how to “acouo” and listen with great comprehension.
I’m going to challenge you to spend time listening to God. God wants to meet with you, he wants to meet with me, every single day. He wants to say, “How are you doing?” He doesn’t want us to say, “Oh, I’m busy. I’m busy. I’m busy. Later, God. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, and maybe at church in a couple of days.” He wants us to have enough time. He wants us to have enough margin to say, “Lord, I’m fine.” He wants us to talk to him, to walk with him, to listen to him.
“Well, Ed, what are you talking about? I mean, how can I get my brain around what you are talking about?” Several suggestions about tasting the grace of silence. First, establish a time where you taste the grace of silence. And the best time, I believe, is in the morning. It’s like tithing. Whenever I talk about tithing—the word “tithe” means “tenth”—I’m never talking about giving. Tithing is not giving. We bring the tithe. Everything we have is God’s. All our money is God’s. We just bring it. We either bring it or we don’t. We either agree with God or not.
The same is true with time. Time is a gift from God. When we spend time with the author of time he will show us how to multiply our time and utilize our time and leverage our time for greatness. When we spend time with him in the morning—10 minutes, 15 minutes, maybe 30 minutes—listening to him, journaling, talking to him in prayer, being still, phenomenal things will happen.
My wife gets up early every morning before the circus starts in the Young household. She’ll get up between 5:00 and 5:30. And it’s so often when I get up around that time, too, “Lisa, where are you?” She’ll be in her office or at the kitchen table at the feet of Jesus, reading his word, journaling. People ask her all the time, “Lisa, how are you so balanced? How do you have the ability to say no? How do you get so much accomplished, Lisa? How do you do it? Is she superwoman?” She’s at the feet of Jesus regularly. At the feet of Jesus at a consistent time.
Also, a consistent place. Where is your place? Where is that holy ground? Where’s that special area in your life that you sit at the feet of Jesus? Where is it? In your study? At the office? In your bedroom? We have to establish a place. Establish a place.
And turn off all technology. Turn off all interruptions. Draw away. Read about the life of Jesus. You can read these chapters this afternoon. Luke Chapter 4, Luke Chapter 5, Luke Chapter 9, Luke Chapter 11. You know what Jesus did? Jesus, the son of God, the second person of the Trinity, you know what Jesus did? He would have these IMAs—intense ministry activities. He’s healing people. He’s preaching. He’s answering questions. He’s debating all of the legalistic, religious people. And suddenly the Bible says that Jesus would just walk away. He’d take a boat ride, build a fire, eat some food, and spend time in solitude and in silence.
[He did that] as he talked to the Father and as he listened to him. And I’ve discovered that is true in my own life, as well. As my responsibility increases—as a man of God, as a husband, as a father, as a leader here at Fellowship Church—the more time I’ve got to spend away in solitude and silence at the feet of Jesus.
Here’s the struggle, the pastoral struggle, that I have as far as spending time with Jesus. As I’m journaling, I’ll sometimes write, “Lord, am I talking to you today, am I listening to you today just because I want to crank out another talk, another sermon? Or am I talking to you because I really hunger and thirst for you?” That’s why it’s so important to draw away, to have times of silence and solitude, to get away from the racket and the ruckus of life and to sit at the feet of Jesus.
We need a strategy also. We need a time, we need a place, we need a strategy as well. If you are a brand new believer, take your Bible and turn to Psalm 139. It’s right in the middle of the Bible, pretty much. And Psalm 139 talks about who we are before God. It says we’re a poem. It says we’re a piece of art. It says we’re made in God’s image. Read that chapter for 14 days. And ask, “God, who is saying it? What’s the deal? And how can I apply these words to my life?”
Maybe you’ve been a believer for a long time. Go to the book of Romans as you read and listen to God. Maybe you’re saying, “Well, man, I don’t really know how to read the Bible and I would like to know more.” We have a class called “Cracking the Code.” Go on FellowshipChurch.com or look in the worship guide and you can show up for this class. It teaches you how to read, how to study, how to sit at the feet of Jesus.
Taste the grace of silence. In those moments, in those meaningful moments, God will leverage our time and sync up our priorities.
SET THE PACE OF SIMPLICITY
Here’s another suggestion. We need to set the pace of simplicity. Set the pace of simplicity. Simplicity. Simplicity. Simplicity. Our lives can get so cluttered and we can have so many opportunities and so many commitments. When we spend time with the author of time, when we taste the grace of silence, Jesus will give us the force, the positive inertia, to do what? To de-clutter, to simplify our lives. To throw out the computer games and basketballs and 14 pairs of tennis shoes. We can do that.
Ephesians 5, one of our foundational texts for this series, Verses 15-16, “Be very careful….” This word “careful” is an accounting term. “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as”—what?—“wise.” If we aren’t wise, the urgent can steal our time. Look at Verse 16, “…making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
The most. The most. God is a God of the most. He wants us to make the most of every opportunity. Some of the Type A, hyperactive people are going, “Oh, okay. Make the most. Oh, I’ve got it. I’ll just add more and more stuff. That’s what it means. I have more and more stuff and yeah! Give me some more coffee.”
That’s not it. Making the most of every opportunity is doing what? It’s agreeing with God’s priorities. But also, it’s disagreeing, it’s saying no to a lot of commitments, to a lot of choices, to a lot of stuff we have out there. It’s going retro in looking at the past and going, “Man, God, I blew it there. I messed up there. I fumbled the ball there. I got stuck there. I added too much stuff in my truck there. So based on that, I’m going to be wise. I’m going to make a decision today to de-clutter, to simplify, so I can have a better and more focused future.”
We’ve got to make the most of every opportunity. As I get older, Lisa and I have to say no more than we say yes. And that’s the problem with a lot of you. You’re saying, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, no, yes, yes, yes, yes, no, yes, yes, yes, no, yes, yes, yes, no.” It should be, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, yes, no, no, no, no, no, no, yes, no, no, no, no, no, yes, no, no, no, no, no, yes.”
If I’m the enemy, if I’m the evil one—which I’m not—I’m not going to come to you with a pitch fork and horns yelling, “I’m going to mess your time up!” I’m not going to do that. I’m going to get you to say yes to the good, because the good will eclipse the best. I’m going to turn you into a “yes, yes, yes, yes, no” person instead of a “no, no, no, no, no, yes” person.
“Well, okay, I de-clutter. I set the pace of simplicity. What do you mean, Ed?” Well, two things. Number one: get some life-o-suction. Don’t misread me—life-o-suction. Jesus is called the great physician, right? We have a lot of calendar fat going on. We need to put—this is funny, you can go ahead and laugh—we need to put our stuff, our junk on his operating table. We need to say, “Jesus, how does my calendar square with my priorities? Because your principles are my priorities. I agree with them. How do they square?”
Number two: we put the calendar on the table and we say, “Jesus, you’re the only one who can give me the force, the power, the octane, whatever, to have that kind of inertia to suck the calendar fat from my life. What is lean? What do I have to have? And what is fat?” If we’re open and honest, the great physician will show us.
I’m just going to pray for you in a couple of moments to have the guts to get some life-o-suction. Now why are we doing that? We’re doing that for the best. We’re doing that to sync up our priorities and commitments. And here’s a cool way to remember what I’m saying. It’s kind of a funny way, kind of a preacher way to remember this. If we look up, that’s spending time with God and listening to God, we will line up our priorities and then we’ll lighten up our load. That’ll preach! We look up, then we line up, then we lighten up. Am I preachin’? That’s a good way to remember it. Thank you very much. So we get some life-o-suction.
WATCH FOR AN ECLIPSE
Also, we do something else. We watch for an eclipse. A couple of weeks ago I came home from work and Lisa and the kids were lying in the driveway looking straight up. “Honey,” she said, “look! There’s an eclipse.” “I can’t quite see it.” Then I was beside her, “Yeah, yeah, I see, I see, I see it.”
We’ve got to watch for an eclipse. And get this one down, because our opportunity can eclipse availability. God wants our availability. And we’re giving him our availability when we spend with him. Opportunity can eclipse that.
Once again, I’ll ask you, what are you saying no to? What are you cutting out? What are you allowing the Lord to suck from your calendar? That fat, that junk that’s clogging your arteries will give you a priority attack. What? Jesus said it in Matthew 6:33. This is the ultimate verse on priorities, he said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Most of us read that and we play a game called “Reverse the Verse.” We say, “Oh, okay. Seek first all these things, these things, all these things, and then I’ll add you, Jesus, and your kingdom later. I want to see the things first.”
No, no, no. “Seek first his kingdom”—look up, line up, lighten up—“and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” We’ve got to take that time with the author of time. Because the author of time, the God of the universe, is saying to all of us, “How are you? How are you?” And too many times we say, “No, I’m busy, I’m busy, I’m busy, I’m busy, I’m busy,” when God wants us to spend time with him and say, “Lord, I’m fine because my priorities and my commitments are synced up.”