Priority Reset: for the Church and for You
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:15-16)
Priority management teaches us to distinguish between the urgent and the important. Some things are neither urgent nor vital, so we can dismiss them. Some things are urgent but not vital (such as searching the best fare for our next holiday before tickets are sold out), yet we often spend most of our time attending to them instead of the things that are both urgent and vital. But strangely enough, the things which we do not categorize as urgent but are vital should often be of the highest priority, such as pleasing God or having the presence of God in our midst; because only then can lives be transformed, can souls be saved, and can we truly live a life as God’s creation and people. This year we are going to learn to reset and focus our priorities on the vital – our relationship with God living as his people in his kingdom.
The 2023 theme – Priority Reset: for the Church and for You – will be framed by five books selected carefully from the Old and the New Testament, viz. Genesis (focusing on the life of Abraham)1, the book of Psalms (selection), the book of Malachi, the gospel of Matthew (selection), and Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. These texts cover the sweep of biblical covenant and salvation sto-ries beginning with Abraham when God unilaterally covenanted with him in order to bless “all the families of the earth” (Gen. 12:1-3). The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, then underscores Yahweh as the covenant-keeping God who expects the same of his people. Sadly, the Jews at the time were characterized by apathy and moral decline, having an outward religious appearance but not a living relationship with God. Against such background, the gospel of Matthew brings good news and depicts Jesus as the Son of God the messianic King of the Jews, who ushers in the kingdom of heaven to the here and now (Matt. 6:10). His people can now live in an unprecedented intimacy with God (hence Jesus’ name as “Immanuel," Matt. 1:23) until Jesus returns. Before then, the apostle Paul was anxious to ground the young church in Thessalonica in the truths of the Christian faith, especially in relation to Christ’s return such that their priorities would be set right amidst severe persecution and the uncertainties of the end times – a time of temptation to give in to discouragement and to compromise. Our approach this year, therefore, is to let the biblical books speak for themselves and challenge our priorities as a church and as individuals. Additionally, a selection of Psalms is inserted mid-way in the year to affirm that humanity’s ultimate priority is to worship our God our Creator:
“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Ps. 95:6-8)