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As this year is coming to a close, I look back over the year and see some distinct lessons which God has taught me this year. I would like to share them with you.

1. The necessity of planning priorities.

Before the start of 2010, God used several different sources to encourage me to plan based on my priorities. 1) Podcasts by Pastor Paul Chappell 2) Blog posts by Pastor Cary Schmidt and 3) Gordon MacDonald’s book Ordering Your Private World. As one who has historically been a last-minute “by-the-seat-of-the-pants” planner, I can say that I’ve learned a lot about the value of planning ahead (even though I have a long way to go yet). It has greatly reduced family stress, increased productivity and brought about growth in several areas of ministry. I can say that God has changed me drastically here. I pray that I will continue to improve in 2011.

2. The priority of my walk with God.

Through these sources and my own experience, I have learned that the most important things are the easiest to neglect and the least noticeable when they’re neglected. I have noticed that living in a fallen world means that the more important the priority, the less time it tends to get.

The more important it is, the more I have to work to fit it into my schedule. This applies to my walk with God. Think about your time with God. Is it or is it not the easiest thing to neglect? Is it not often the hardest thing to fit into your schedule?

The converse is true: The more menial a task, the more it screams for your attention when it doesn’t get done (eg. checking your e-mail/fb…fill in the blank for what distracts you). I have learned that at times I have to consciously ignore good things that aren’t the best (eg. momentarily ignoring the mess because I only have so much time to spend with God).

Along with learning this truth has been the realization that decisions to take on good, noble goals or activities need to be weighed in light of whether it will overcrowd my schedule.

3. The priority of family responsibilities.

Just as time with God is the most important, my responsibility to my family comes next. This is another one of those areas that is easy to ignore. I think Gordon MacDonald nails it when he points out in his book that the more public an activity is, the more we tend to give it attention. This fault especially gets those of us who are in ministry. We have many good pursuits that are God-ordained for our lives, but, if we are not careful, we ignore the pursuits that are more private in order to excel at what is more visible. We neglect time with our spouse and justify it by the need for “perfection” in our public ministry. If we continue down this path of family neglect, the more public ministry will end in ruin. The private life is definitely of more foundational value to our effectiveness as ministers.

4. The value of the church

God has blessed me in incredible ways this year through His church. I am thankful to be a part of a good church as well as to know many believers in other churches who love God and His message. Thank God for the blessing of fellow believers!

God has given Candy and me blessed ministry working with the musicians of Eastside as well as the young single adult ministry. God tremendously blessed the music ministry this year, with the climax being His great work through the Christmas program Silent Wonder. How amazing to see so many people come together in order to “Make Much of Jesus.”

We have grown in our love for Eastside’s singles group and have also been blessed to meet with the singles groups of several other churches through Cross Connect. They are truly a blessing to spend time with and have taught us much. We look forward to what God will do in 2011!

5. The truth that everything in my life flows out of the Gospel of Christ.

As the year has progressed, I have been more and more convinced that everything in my Christian life should be motivated by a dependence on Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and intercession at the Father’s right hand. Anything less leads to pharisaical, self-righteous religious living. A gospel-dependent life is a thankful, humble, loving, fulfilled life. A self-dependent religious life is a proud, ungrateful, self-centered, empty life which is unattractive to God, believers and the unsaved world. The gospel needs to be embraced and accepted afresh and anew by Christians as the very source of life for every moment of the Christian life.

6. The need for compassion towards others’ physical needs.

As with each of the preceding lessons, I am seeking to grow in grace in this area, yet in this one my selfishness is very persistent. Suffice it to say that I see in my own life a selfishness which tends to take care of my own, my family’s needs, and the needs of the ministries I oversee, but doesn’t like looking much further. I trust God’s grace will continue to teach me in this area.

I praise God for teaching me. His work in my heart this year has been satisfying and refreshing. Truly “In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Ps. 16:11b

I could go on, and I may in another post. What about you? What has God taught you this year? I would love to hear!