Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wholeness if First Priority: How to Set Priorities


I have taught classes in time management and I recently had to prepare to teach it again. In the process, I refined my time management process. I ended up with a better understanding of what time management is as a whole and what is its benefit. I also ended up understanding the parts of the process of time management.

First, time management is an attempt to control our use of time, rather than allow other things to control time's use. Second, the reason we manage our time is that we want to live well or fully.

For years I recognized the process of time management as: 1)Leverage, 2)Aim and 3)Drive. I got this idea from a time management workshop I went to many years ago. I now have added the idea of 4) Define. I can also define these four, using another set of words: 1)Focus,
2)Direction, 3)Motion and 4)Classification.

Leverage for me means knowing what the one big thing is that must get done and what follows it in size. Then aim is direction that means the big things come first and then the smaller things follow. Drive means motion that takes the leverage and direction and puts that into action, rather than procrastination or some other action that leads to hyperactivity. Finally, define means classifying what reality we are trying to tackle or what need we are aiming to address. We want to avoid irrelevancy in the end.

Holiness or wholeness in general is a basic attempt to say who we are as a person. It is important, because like in speaking of kittens, you cannot replace a kitten with just its tail. The whole is greater than any one part.

I think wholeness is that one big thing we need. Too often, the church makes a part take the place of its whole. It is too often that righteousness or other virtues replace holiness and wholeness. This is replacing the largest with something less than that. Next our direction says to put something first and too often wholeness does not end up being that thing that is first. Next, our motion leads us astray too frequently from sanctifying activity, because our action is not the process of making things whole. Finally, our definition too frequently misses the mark, because we are not taking aim at healing what is less than whole. We are irrelevant, if we cannot define what is our need.

This is why, based on sound time management principles and Scripture, I believe we must address wholeness. Otherwise, we end up with a life that is less than fulfilling.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Wholeness is First Priority: According to Holy, Holy, Holy


When Charles Spurgeon was just 28 years old he preached on what he called "Threefold Sanctification" pointing toward 3 distinct meanings for holy. But in that sermon, he put people on notice how important holiness is in Scripture.

He first said: "Holiness is the architectural plan upon which God builds up His living temple. We read in Scripture of the `beauties of holiness.' Nothing is beautiful before God but that which is holy."

He next says with regard to its importance: "`Holy, Holy, Holy' - the continual cry of the cherubim - is the loftiest song that a creature can offer, and the noblest that the Divine Being can accept. See then, he counts holiness to be His choice treasure."

Notice holy has nothing as its equal in Spurgeon's mind. It is God's highest attribute. Since I see its meaning as essentially that of wholeness, I regard wholeness as my first priority. I hope we all will consider the same.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Wholeness is First Priority: I am More Convinced

Recently, I preached on the heart, soul, strength and mind that make up who we are as a whole. I am convinced after preaching this sermon more than ever that wholeness is our first priority.

My arguments for this come from more than one angle, but the heart, soul, strength and mind are the most easily communicated example of why wholeness is so important. We tend to focus on one at the expense of the other, while all of them as a whole is the most important thing.

I like the way one man put it: he pulls together what people tend to pull apart. I believe that God's Word does this through numerous examples. It is not just the arrangement of holy as the umbrella over justice, truth, love and good. It is also the arrangement of sin as an umbrella over iniquity, trespass, transgression and offense. It is also the arrangement of kindness (usually translated as lovingkindness) as an umbrella over mercy, grace, compassion and longsuffering (sometimes translated as slow to anger). It is also the arrangement of responsibility (usually translated as charges) as an umbrella over judgments, laws, commandments and statutes.

It is overwhelming how the wholes pull together the parts and how central this is to Scripture, when you do the frequency counts on these words. The whole wins out over any one part in that regard, when it comes to holy. Holy is far more frequent than love, because it is more important, while still supporting love as a major part of what makes it whole.

I want you to pull out your concordance and consider. Being whole just might be the most frequent and most important character trait as to who God is. May God bless your day.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Monday, September 24, 2007

Wholeness is First Priority: Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

Recently my wife said to me that she heard that Steven Covey said: "The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing." I think that the Christian Church is in trouble in this area unknowingly (maybe sometimes knowingly). Historical influences can exercise an influence on us without us knowing it. I am convinced this has led to a general drift in priorities from the first priority of wholeness to some part of that wholeness.

Take the example of the city that I live in today when it comes to influences that are unknown. It is located between Green Bay and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You would think that the football tradition here would be strong, as it is in most of the state of Wisconsin. But there is a historical influence that has ties to the Los Angeles Lakers. This city, I was told, is the original beginning for the Lakers who traveled from here in Sheboygan, then to Minneapolis and finally to there in Los Angeles. So it is stronger in its basketball tradition than it is in its football tradition. This influence is subtle, because it is buried in this city's past, yet it is very real in its influence on what people see as a priority and as its first love. The Laker influence apparently is still sending out ripples of influence into life here in Sheboygan. I'm learning this the hard way trying to coach football in a basketball city.

The same may go for churches. We may not know it, but we are heavily influenced in subtle ways by our historical roots. Lutherans may not be aware, but their priority is righteousness and justice. The Reformed may not be aware, but their priority is humility and truth. Episcopalians may not be aware, but their priority is comprehensiveness and holiness (or wholeness). Methodists (and many Evangelicals) may not be aware, but their priority is love and practicality. Finally, Baptists may not be aware, but their priority is goodness and mental maturity to discern it. All of these groups, at their historical root, had holiness, sanctification and wholeness at the top of their priority lists with these other priorities, but gradually with the confusion over what holiness meant, wholeness lost its priority alongside these clearer priorities. A lack of clarity rolled out into a lack of priority as history rolled out into the future.

The problem is that these other priorities pull us in directions we often are not aware of consciously and so the main thing is pushed aside by something that is not the main thing. The first thing is that we need to understand what the main thing was for the previous generations, so that we can understand where they and we habitually use our time. Then once that recognition is there we can decide if something else should replace it. In the past, wholeness supplemented many of these good priorities and even was a first priority among Anglicans and Episcopalians, except that comprehensiveness was gradually pulled away from its biblical roots in holiness, due to lack of clarity on the ground surface of meaning.

Jesus once said to the Pharisees that they needed to "Do the greater and not neglect the lesser things. " I think this is the problem with so many things churches do. We are not doing the greater or the main thing, moral wholeness. Instead we are working on the lesser things that should not be neglected, yet should not come first. The main thing needs to be the main thing, as Covey says. I learned the truth of this lesson from Jesus through the Word and by the Holy Spirit. I don't want to be grouped in history with the Pharisees who worked so hard on the lesser things. And holpefully, you don't want to be grouped with them either.

Let me simplify too the whole lesson of priorities or main things. It comes down to big versus little. We must count our priorities up front. The big must win over the little. Otherwise the big things never get done and their big impact is never felt. That is why we do not feel big impacts in our Christian lives. Wholeness is that big impact, yet it must first be a priority for us to feel it. Feelings have their core ties to relationships. Big things last means small feelings. Main things make big splashes. Small things barely make ripples.

Until wholeness becomes the main thing for many of us, I think our situation as Christians will continue to look bleak. We desparately need to be renewed, even as happened in past times of renewal (Romans 12:1-3). I know wholeness as a priority has had a bigger impact for me than any other lesson I have learned. It has renewed not only my mind, but my joy. I hope you will join me in the name of our God to change our main thing to be the main thing.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon Westlund

Friday, September 7, 2007

Wholeness is First Priority: According to Donald Nicholl

Donald Nicholl had this to say (in Gathered Gold by John Blanchard): "Holiness is not an optional extra to the process of creation, but rather the whole point of it." It is either intentional or a great irony that "holiness" is connected with "the whole." Either way, he does see holiness as a first priority.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Wholeness is First Priority: According to William Law

William Law (as quoted in Gathered Gold by John Blanchard) had this to say: "Christianity is a universal holiness in every part of life." Notice the primary definition he has for Christianity is holiness and that he also indicates that holiness is both universal and extends to every part. So he also indicates the ideal fo wholeness indirectly. This could be coming out of his Anglican roots where holiness was certainly wholeness or comprehensiveness.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon

Wholeness is First Priority: According to Matthew Henry

Matthew Henry (in Gathered Gold by John Blanchard) has this to say about holiness:

"`Be ye holy' is the great and fundamental law of our religion." I believe Philip Henry was his father, and had this to say: "Holiness is the symmetry of the soul." So we see here both the high priority of holiness and holiness as a kind of symmetry potentially expressing wholeness.

In Christ,

Pastor Jon