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Sermon of the Week 
Wednesday, February 22 2023

First Things First

The idea of prioritizing the things of our lives is simple…. Whatever is first, automatically pushes everything else further down on our “What’s Important to Me” list. There is no room for anything else if something is already FIRST!! That place is already taken…

An add appeared in the phone book restaurant section, for “God’s Grill”. A believer who was visiting the area, thought he would check it out. He found the place and was told, that the church started selling chicken dinners to help their finances. They called it God’s grill. They did so good, and they were so busy, that they decided to closed the church in order to keep up with the grill... (true story) 

Luke 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mammon, is referring to riches, wealth and acquiring earthly things and putting that before our service and commitment to the Lord)                                            

On the morning of 20th June 1914, nineteen-year old hired assassin Gavrilo,planned to kill Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria/Hungary. However, after the young assassin’s initial plan failed, he went to the local café to have a sandwich.

Then, in an unexpected turn of events, Leopold, the driver of the Archduke’s car, made a wrong turn and drove right in front of an astonished Gavrilo, who immediately seized the opportunity and shot dead the Archduke, his wife, and Leopold the driver.

This event triggered the first World War, where 16 million people lost their lives, and the world was plunged into the great Economic Depression. The economical crises coupled with the humiliating treaty of Versailles which Germany had to sign to end the war went on to give rise to the nationalist dictator Adolf Hitler, who again started a chain of events that led to the Second World War, where another 60 million people died, an immense amount of money was lost, and the age of nuclear weapons began. One driver making a wrong turn, cost 76 million lives, and changed the world as we know it. The constructive power of proper choices can take any ordinary life and turn it into an extraordinary adventure. The destructive power of misplaced choicescan set in motion generational disaster.       

 As powerful as a horse is, he accomplishes very little until he is harnessed. Steam or gas never drives or pushes anything until it is compressed and properly channeled. Niagara with all of it’s force, is never going to turn it’s power into useful electricity that we all depend on, until it is hooked up to turbines. A computer may have a wealth of knowledge but until it’s plugged in, it’s just a box….Nolife ever reaches it’s full potential until it is properly focused, committed, and disciplined.

If we live by what we feel, we will also fail by what we feel…What we feel must be attached to what we know is best “As many as are led by the Spirit, they are the sons of God”. Feelings can never outweigh truth....

Paul admonished the church of Rome… Romans 6:19."I speak after the manner of men because of the weakness of your flesh, for as you have yielded your body as servants to uncleanness and to iniquity, even so now yield your body as servants of righteousness unto holiness." 

We become what we yield ourselves to…. We may feel strongly about something, but is it wise….

A guy was surprised to see a coveted empty seat in the VIP box, which were going for as high as $6,000.00, at the super bowl game. A diehard Eagle’s fan remarked about it to a man sitting nearby. Oh, yeah, it was my wife’sseat, the man explained, but she passed away “Oh! I’m very sorry to hear that,” said the Eagle’s fan, I’m really surprised that another relative, or friend, didn’t jump at the chance to take the seat reserved for her.” “Beats me,” The man said. “They all insisted on being at her funeral.” (You can’t have your cake and eat it too)

This great adventure called ''life'' places before every one of us hundreds, (and if you live long enough), thousands of possibilities. Some are bad, many are good, and there are a few that are the very best. Each one of us, as we make those choices and exercise those decisions, has to ask ultimately this question, ''What priorities take first place in my life?'' The sum total of our life will be determined by the priorities that we decide on, when we put “First Things First”… If something is important enough,you will find a way, if it’s not, you will find an excuse or an alibi....

Appreciate what you have now, don’t wait till you lose it to appreciate it. Perhaps this is the reason we fail to put many things first that should be first in our “Important to me” list.There’s a big difference in saying “I can’t” or saying “it’s not my priority”...

We fail to put first things first as we begin to live our lives in the realms of “If only” and we start wielding the wand of “I wish” as we pitch our tents in the city of “Regret”…. No one just falls into a broken marriage drug addiction, alcohol dependency, financial disaster, or many other things we could list…. 

But what brought them to the place of camping out in the graveyard of regret, was one wrong priority, one bad decision, one missed opportunity at a time, that led to another and another.                                                                            I have experienced that the critical intersection of where I was and where I needed to be, begins at an altar of “Here I am Lord, take me, break me, bless me and give me away.” Not my will but thy will be done…. I can’t do this, but if You’ll show me the way, I’ll take it…God must always be a priority not an option.

A teacher wanted to make an important point, so he took a wide mouth jar and filled it with rocks. “Is the jar full?” he asked. “Yes,” came a reply.                                 

“Oh, really?” he said. Then he poured sand into the jar to fill the spaces between the rocks. “Is it full now?” “Yes,” said someone else. “OK, let’ssee?”                                 He then filled the remaining spaces between the rocks and stones with water. “Is it full now?” he asked. “Probably not,” said another student, who wasn’t sure at this point. Then he asked,  “What’s the lessen we learn from this?”. A student replied, “No matter how full the jar is, there is always room for more.” That’s good, but not quite,” said the teacher. “The lesson is: to get everything in the jar, you must always put the big things in first, then everything else falls in place.” First things first!

I challenge you to make a list of the big dreams in your life and see them clearly once again. Put the big things first. God, family, career, retirement, etc. but keep them in order. Till you write it down, it’s just a dream, but when you get it on paper, it becomes your goal. Don’t wait for a more convenient season, or when things look a little better…. Start a scrap book, a diary, or just begin to break it down in it’s various components in your mind…. But don’t put it off… start now… the journey of weight loss, the plans for that dream trip, meeting new friends, getting more involved in some area of the church life… Whatever it is, take the baby steps that will become giant steps later on…Sometimes the enemy is what we don’t do! So many times we defeat our own selves by the sin of omission….                                                                                                     The old folks used to say, “A watched pot never boils”…

One old fella, who was recovering from a heart attack, said that he had to deal with a lot of trouble in his life, and most of it never happened.

A doctor, who was paralyzed and bedridden, remained unusually cheerful and positive through it all. His smile was so brave and radiant that everyone forgot to feel sorry for him. His children were inspired by him, and when one of his boys was leaving home for college, the doctor gave him this advice: ’Johnny,’ he said, ‘…please remember the biggest troubles that you will have to face are the ones that never show up.’ 

Worry, about your kids, worry about your sagging skin, worry about your job…. I used to worry about losing my hair….I don’t worry anymore….

What a great tool Satan has loosed upon us, to let us just defeat ourselves with fear and worry….. about things that never happen!

But Jesus made it simple…. “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these THINGS, will be added unto you”. Maybe not everything I ever wished, but everything He knows I truly need and is best for me. God doesn’t always work in straight lines….

I know you’ve heard it, read it before, but look at it with me once more…

Matthew 6:25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. (and they’re always eating) Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will He clothe you- you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the ungodly run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom (the will of God) and his righteousness (what God approves), and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.

That’s always such good advice for all of us….This scripture tells us, If I put His will and what He approves first… My needs will be supplied… What a promise!!!

When I think about what the Lord has done in the past, how can I worry about the future…. We were bent but not broken…. we had pain, but we also had healing…. We were disappointed but not overwhelmed…. We saw lean times, but oh, hallelujah, we saw abundance… We got lost at times, but He brought us through safely…. When I think of what the Lord has done, Howcan I do anything but praise and worship Him!!

Did you notice that Jesus talked about the birds and the flowers OF THE FIELD, not greenhouse flowers and well kept birds in an Avery….They were things that literally LIVE BY THE LORD’S PROVISION, outside the realms of man’s help or assistance!

If we feed our spirit and mind on what God has done in the past,in our lives and the lives of others, then our heart and soul will not fall into fear and worry as we move ahead into the future!What He has done is now transformed into faith for what He will do in the journey ahead… Now I’m not advocating an experiential faith alone…. He said it, I believe it and that settles it…. Actually, He said it, that settles it whether I believe it or not…. But faith allows me to participate in the process! 

The principle of first things, is not a spare tire that I take on the journey… it is the gas in the motor that drives the engine of God’s word and moves me forward….

Jesus taught that putting first things first is the solution to handling conflicts with one another. Matthew 5:23-24 ''Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and while still there, you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. FIRST be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.'' 

Jesus taught that putting first things first is the way to avoid hypocrisy in your life…. Matthew 7:5 “How can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck out of your eye and not see that a plank is in your own eye... 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while there is still a 2x4 in your own eye”?…                                                        

That sure cuts down on finger pointing!!                                                                                               Putting First things first, is the cure for fear and worry….                               2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”. 

This scripture tells us that if we live in fear and worry, then we don’t have a right mind…..Webster calls it “An unhealthy mental state”….Our country is in trouble because we are not putting first things first… our homes are in trouble because we’re not putting first things first… Democracy has been perverted because we are not putting first things first…. Dear Lord, where does itstop! When it all gets crazy, maybe it’s because people that are not in their right mind are making the decisions.

If I were to come by your house holding a foil covered dish. “Hey, how are you doing, A few days back Winnie made a strawberry cake. It was so good. It came out of the oven hot, moist, and sweet. I wish you could have tasted it. Today, as I was eating the last piece, I thought of you in the middle of the last bite. So, I put my fork down and thought, I’m taking the rest of this slice to my friend.”

Now, change the scene, and now I’m knocking at your door holding a hot pie plate with oven mitts. “Hey, how are you doing. Winnie pulled this out of the oven a few minutes ago. (believe me you don’t want what I baked) It’s still piping hot. No one has touched it. I got here as fast as I could. I want you to have the first piece. So, here’s the whole pie (although I did bring my fork in case you want to share some with me).”

What a difference, not only in where I placed you in my priorities, but how it made you feel…. Now you’re not looking at me like someone that is not in their right mind, giving you the last bite of the last slice.

Perhaps that’s how God feels when we offer Him crumbs that are left over.

God is big on firsts…. If you check the Strong’s concordance you will find 7 columns of references about firsts in the bible….

Try this one…. I John. 4:19 “We love Him because he first loved us”

And I really like… Romans 8:31-34 "What can we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since God did not spare even His best, His first, His only Son, but gave Him up for us all, will He not also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for His own? Will God? No! He is the one who has given us right standing with Himself. Who then will condemn us? Will Christ Jesus? No, for He is the one who died for us and was raised to life for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor, interceding in our behalf."

When God’s people put Him first, His blessings began to floweverywhere.

Pete Richards was one of the loneliest men in town. He owned and operated a gift shop that had come down to him from his grandfather. Today, a little girl entered the store, She said, “Mister, could I look at that string of blue beads in the window?” Pete took the beads out of the window and spread them on the counter. "EWWWW, They’re just perfect," said the girl. "Could you wrap them up pretty for me, please?" Pete asked, "So, who are you buying these for, they must really be special!" "They’re for my big sister. She takes care of me now. This will be her first birthday since Momma died. Jean Grace wanted to buy the very best gift for her big sister. "How much money do you have?" asked Pete. She took a small paper sack out of her coat pocket and poured out the coins on the counter. "I emptied my piggy bank, It’s everything I have saved up" 

Pete carefully pulled back the necklace. The price tag was visible to him… but not to her. "Just a minute," he said and went to the back of the store.From the back room he asked…. "What’s your name?" "Jean Grace", she replied. He placed the neckless, wrapped in red paper and tied with a pretty ribbon on the counter. She smiled big over her shoulder as she ran out the door.

Through the window Pete watched her go, Something about Jean Grace and her string of beads had stirred him to the depths of his being. Once upon a time, Pete had been in love with a girl with the same yellow hair, and large blue eyes. That necklace was supposed to be HER birthday present…. But on a rainy night—a truck had skidded on a slippery road—And her life was crushed out of his dream. Pete Richard’s world had become very empty and meaningless, until Jean Grace came through his door. When the last customer had come and gone, as Pete was closing shop, a young woman tapped on the glass door, Her hair was golden yellow and her eyes were blue. Without speaking, she took from her purse a package loosely unwrapped in its red paper and a bow of green ribbon with it. She opened the box and place the string of blue beads on the counter. "Did this come from your shop?" she asked. Pete answered softly: "Yes, it did." "Are the stones real?"…"Yes, they are"

"Can you remember who it was you sold them to?" Her name was Jean Grace and she bought them for her older sister’s Birthday present."

"But how did she pay for them?" "She paid the biggest price anyone can ever pay, She gave all she had." "But why did you do it?" He placed the gift back -in her hand. "It’s because she couldn’t give anything more valuable than all she had for you." 

When God gives, He gives His all, and He gives to all –but not all receive the gift and not everyone appreciates the price that was paid so we could have it. Oh, what a precious gift!

He gave His best, let’s not give him the last piece of strawberry cake that is half eaten!!!

Of all the 7 churches of Revelation, it was Smyrna that received the blessing and commendation from the Lord…. 

Revelation 2:8 “These are the words of Him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! …Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

They were the gold nuggets in an evil time – no matter how much manure gets thrown on top of them, they remain pure gold. They didn’t let the garbage become their identity….They never lost sight of their first love. 

Without that, we are just a social club, that spouts religious rhetoric… Having a form of Godliness but denying the power that is a part of it….

God can’t bless some folks as He would like to, because they have done nothing with what they already have. If He blessed them with more, there would just be greater neglect and a greater mess….

When folks lose sight of what is first, and most important, things just begin to pile up, until nothing makes any sense any longer…

When the order gets reversed, everything goes down hill!

But the solution is simple…. Put God first and everything else begins to line up….Matthew 22:37 “Jesus declared, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”…

I’m out of time…. 

So let’s pray…

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your deep and constant love for me. Thank You for suffering on the cross for my sake, so that I could have forgiveness and eternal life. I desire to seek you first, and love you above all things and all people in my life. It is in loving you, that I am able to love myself and others more. 

Let me not look and rely upon anyone and anything else for what you alone can give. Help me to love as You love, asking nothing in return. 

I will no longer allow past hurts, failures, or injustices to rule my present reality. I cease from my struggles and I rest in your strength and the victory which you have already given me. 

Lord, through the work of Your Spirit in me, I am clean, my mind is clear, and my heart is at peace. I give the enemy no place to effect me any longer, for I receive the truth that sets me free. Thank you for protection over my mind, body and Spirit, through the blood You shed for me.

I commit my life to you, as I seek first Your will, and the things which You approve. You know the answers before I ask the questions, so give me an open and receptive Spirit, that I may surrender and allow you to lead my heart, submit my will always to You, and walk in Your ways, In Jesus Name….

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