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Message Scripture:

“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” – 1 Corinthians 9:25 (KJV)

Introduction:

Greetings Christlike Ministries NWA Family!

I am sorry for the delay in getting our first series of 2016 started, but I had a lot of extra family stuff to deal with this week due to the passing of one of my extended family’s matriarchs.  So, now that all that is over, and since my wife is home to keep an eye on Lizzie I’m going to attempt to shut myself in this office of mine, and get this message penned…and maybe a few other things by the end of the day.

Anyhow, here is the long-awaited first message of our “Give God First Place” series, and I guess in a way the reason for such a long delay is I was having to take some time to make sure I was giving God first place in my life before I began talking about it.  Thing is, I’ve come to realize that there’s always cares of the world whether it’s intentional or not that some times take the place of God in our lives.  I can some times get so distracted by things that are actually not bad to be distracted by like watching my daughter play, or having to take care of some household chore or just simply working through my procrastination habits.  However, I believe I’m finally ready to go and get into this series, and I hope that y’all are ready to discover with me more about giving God first place in our lives, Amen!?!

So, before I get started, as always, I’d like to ask y’all to believe with me that the Holy Spirit would make my fingers as that as a pen of a ready writer writing only of the oracles of God, and that He would allow me to write with boldness, clarity, and power that only comes from the supernatural ability of the Holy Ghost.  Let’s also believe and ask God to give us all ears to hear and hearts that will be receptive and respond to what He is about to speak to us through this message this day, Amen!?!

God’s Place, My Prize!

Greetings once again, CLMNWA Family!  It’s exciting to be able to get back to the work that the Lord has called, chosen, and ordained me to do.  It’s been a few more than a month of Sunday’s since the last message of 2015.  I have enjoyed some of the break between these messages, but there was also some pruning going on in the midst of the break that had me taking a little more time to deal with the things in my heart that God was wanting to deal with me on before I could get back to doing what He’s called me to do.  I had to come to understand that God wasn’t pruning me because I wasn’t bearing fruit, but because He was getting me ready to bear better quality fruit.

How many of you know that bearing a large quantity of fruit is good, but when we go to the produce section we’re always looking for the prettiest, best quality fruit we can find, Amen!?!  So, that’s kind of what God has been doing in my heart and life over the month of January…pruning away the branches in my life that weren’t bearing the quality of fruit that the Lord is desiring of me…both in my personal life and through this ministry.

So, here we are after the month of January.  Many of us give what’s known as “first fruit offerings”, we take the first month or 21 days or so to fast or do some sort of juicing purge from all the food we ate over the Holidays, and that’s all wonderful to do.  For most of us, however, fasting really hasn’t become something to do in order to draw nearer to God, but a way to diet…and that’s really not the purpose of fasting.  That’s why I’ve learned to ask God what He wants me to fast from, and I’ve also learned to ask Him what kind of fast He wants me to do.  Much of the fasting in my life has to do with the things that I’ve slowly allowed to become more important to me than God…and taking time to make sure to put those things back in their proper place…and restore God to His proper place in my life…FIRST.

Don’t shout me down, now.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t fast from food.  If that’s something the Lord wanted you to fast from that’s fine.  I’m just saying that many of us really aren’t fasting to get more intimate with God…we fast because we want to lose the 10 pounds we gained over the Holidays, and maybe read our Bible a little more and pray a little bit more…but once those 21 days are over we go right back to living like we always have.  Friends, that’s how come fasting doesn’t really work…it’s not being done for the reasons it’s intended to be done.  I don’t know why I got on this while trying to get into this message, but apparently the Lord wants us not to fast in order to diet, but fast in order to do…well…what we’re getting ready to talk about…give Him first place and first priority in our lives, Amen!?!

So, I was all set to do this series as I always do, but I feel like maybe the Lord is leading me to do something a little different…and if He wants different then that’s what He’s going to get, Amen!

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment. – Mark 12:30 (NKJV)

How many of you know that the first commandment that God gave Moses is still the first commandment, and not the first suggestion or good idea?

We are literally not to place anyone or anything above the Lord our God.  First place in our lives belongs to solely and only to God, period.  That’s why Jesus didn’t scold Mary for sitting at His feet while Martha ran around doing all she was trying to do to prepare a proper meal and clean house for Jesus.  I mean, I know that Jesus understood what Martha was trying to do, but by His response to Martha about the one needful thing that Mary found to be much more important than everything Martha was doing is precisely the reason and point behind this series.  It also further helps to explain God giving me “Intimacy With The Father” as a theme for 2016…because had Martha started at Jesus’ feet I’m convinced that both Mary and Martha would’ve been serving Jesus out of the proper heart and motive.  Both Martha and Mary would’ve been working together to cook and clean, but the one needful thing is often the main thing that is ignored by many of us (myself included).

You see, in order for me to talk about putting reading the Bible above reading our timelines on Facebook…I had to put reading the Bible above reading Facebook.  In order for me to talk about listening to more worship music than watching television or listening to sports talk on the radio…I had to actually turn on more worship music and actually not make the worship music background music…but actually worship God.  In order to talk about fasting for the right reasons with the right motives…I had to fast for the right reasons and the right motives…because in the end if what we are doing isn’t bring us into a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Father then we are wasting our time.

Listen.  I’m not saying that we can’t ever read a newspaper or watch your favorite prime time shows on television or rock out occasionally to the Eagles or that we need to stay off social media for a month or put our smartphones down or whatever…but what I am saying is that we have to be careful not to allow those things to become more important to us then sitting at the feet of our Master.  It’s good to work, it’s wonderful to have a job, and make money…what isn’t good is putting those things above time with the Lord OR time with our families.  No one that I know has ever been on their death bed wishing they had worked a little harder and spent a little more time away from the people they love and that love them.  No…they all say that they wish they would’ve worked a little less, and spent a little more time with the people they love and that love them.

When we have statistics about how nearly 80% of the Body of Christ (that have and own Bibles) either don’t read their Bibles at all or don’t read them enough…how many of you know that’s not good.  I mean, with all of the websites these days designed to give pastors “entertaining messages” to preach to their congregations it’s not hard to see how some of the 80% of the Christians that don’t read their Bibles at all or enough are the people God has called to teach and preach from the Bibles they don’t read.  I don’t know what happened to using the Bible and the Holy Ghost to prepare sermons, but I do know that the quality of the messages being preached from the pulpits in American churches today isn’t what it once was…and that’s because so many pastors have become Martha’s…and they haven’t lost their first love, but they’ve become so busy serving God (just like Martha) that they have forgotten that the greatest thing we can all do is just simply SIT at the Master’s feet.

That’s what the past month or so has been about me.  It’s been about setting aside all of the stuff that really doesn’t matter for the things that actually do matter.  Yes, some of that time wasn’t always used properly.  I’m still human, but I can also tell you that I spent more of my time sitting at the feet of the Lord than I have in a long while.  I’ve come to realize that I’ve spent too much time on social media, that I’m not spending enough time at the Lord’s feet, and if I want to become a better pastor, father, husband, son, or person in general…all of the desires to become all that God wants me to become doesn’t come from surfing the Internet…but it comes from sitting at His feet, reading His Word, talking to Him, worshiping Him, and setting aside all the foolish things of the world that choke out my time at His feet.

Now, I realize that everyone doesn’t have the opportunity that I have to do that.  Part of the blessing of being a stay at home daddy is the fact that I can take the time to sit at the Lord’s feet.  I realize that there are people who have jobs, families, and other things that they do…but the point I’m coming to is if those things are getting in the way of your time at the Lord’s feet then maybe you are too busy.

Pastor Cass Hill of Equip The Nations will often say:  “If the devil can’t get you mad, he’ll get you busy.”, and when you take that statement and put it in the context of what was happening with Martha…you begin to understand that being too busy often results in us getting angry, resentful, and we find ourselves in a place where we are too stressed to be blessed. The devil’s plot to get us busy actually works in his favor because we eventually get so busy that we look at someone like Mary, and think they’re being lazy because all she’s doing is sitting at Jesus’ feet while busting our butts to make the house clean, cook a good meal.  We become angry and judgmental at that lazy so and so that’s done nothing, but in reality the reason they are sitting at Jesus’ feet is they know the only way to keep a right heart and motive for what they’re doing is by starting with the most important thing…Jesus.

Look how many times the Bible says that Jesus was off some where away from the disciples to seek God.  If Jesus needed to get away from the crowds so that He was in the right place to serve the multitudes of people He was serving…what makes us think that we’re going to get all the time with God we need one hour a week…if we even make it to church for an hour a week?  People thought it was funny that someone would post something about how excited people were about Super Bowl 50, but how many people were excited to get up earlier that morning and get in the presence of God?

Giving God first place in our lives takes discipline, friends.  It takes diligence.  It takes the understanding that I can’t be the person God wants me to be if I’m not learning how to become who and what God wants me to be in the first place.  It takes putting the smartphones down, and picking up that old dusty Bible of yours.  I’m grateful that there are Bible apps that have the Bible, but there is still NO substitute for the hard-copy Bible I’ve had for nearly 17 years now.  I can tell you that my Bible is actually one of my prized possessions, and if there was a fire in this house one of the things I’d be making sure to grab is my Bible.  What kind of relationship do you have with your Bible?  How long has it been since you picked your Bible up off the nightstand and started reading it?

Giving God first place in our lives isn’t a suggestion or a good idea…it’s the first commandment that God gave, and it’s also the first commandment that Jesus gave.  So whether you are an Old or New Testament person the one thing that hasn’t changed is that God’s desire and requirement is to be first place in our lives.  He demands that He is placed above everyone and every thing in our lives, and there’s absolutely zero wiggle room or gray areas in this commandment.  God’s rightful place in our lives is…well…first place.

So, over the course of the next couple messages that’s what we’re going to be talking about, and I hope that you’ll join me for the rest of the series as we talk about making sure that we restore God’s rightful place in our lives.  I still remember God speaking to me when Elisabeth was born that He wanted me to slow down, enjoy life, and adjust my priorities.  The thing is when I actually was able to slow life down, and making sitting at Jesus’ feet the main priority of my life I found that life really can become a little less stressful and you can actually begin to enjoy it.

Giving God first place in my life has actually become the reason that I’m able to enjoy life today.  I have such a peace in my life today, and I know that it’s because I’ve placed the rest of my life in it’s proper place…and I believe that is one of the first steps to enjoying deeper and greater intimacy with the Father.  There isn’t anything today that is more important to me then time at the feet of Jesus because that’s where the intimacy is…and out of that intimacy is birthed the ability in me to share the love of God that is in my heart with the help of the Holy Ghost.  That’s where these messages are born from…a place of intimacy with Him.  Believe me, friends, I can’t write like this apart from the Lord’s help. I’ve tried, and there are dozens of messages that have never been published because I tried writing them of my own abilities…and the reason they were never published is because they weren’t any good…and they also didn’t have the unction of the Holy Ghost behind them.

You see…let me be completely transparent and honest with you for a moment.  When I give anything in my life priority over sitting at the Lord’s feet I don’t even want to write these messages.  I knew that my priorities were in the right order again when I began to get the itch to write about two weeks ago, but I also know two weeks ago that I wasn’t quite ready to get back to writing because I hadn’t sat at the feet of the Master long enough.  If you remember I originally said that we’d get into the first series of 2016 on Monday January 25, and I wound up pushing it all the way to February 1st because I knew the time wasn’t right for me to get back to writing.

Today, I’m writing this message, and every word of this message has come from inspiration of the Holy Ghost.  This message and series actually comes from YouVersion’s Website, and I think if I wanted to I could finally bring in what the writers of this devotional wrote…but I believe instead what I’m going to do is close this message, and allow God to use what He’s spoken through me to minister to you and your hearts.

What is the needful thing in your life?  How long has it been since you’ve given God first place in your life?  Where does God rank in your life?  Is He first or does God come somewhere after all the things you have to do in a day?  Please understand I’m not asking these questions to condemn you, but to give you something to think about.  If we want to have the personal, intimate relationship with God that Mary enjoyed…then we have to do the things she did in order to have it.  We have to understand that there’s nothing of greater importance than our relationship with Jesus, and when we understand that it won’t become a chore to sit at His feet…we will want to do it willingly because there’s nothing we desire more than intimacy with the Father.

I just wrote a moment ago these words on Facebook, and I’m going to add them to this message and close because in these words you’ll see the results of giving God first place in our lives.

I love the Lord my God with all of my heart, with all of my soul, with all of my mind, and with all of my strength. I have been faithfully serving the Lord as the Pastor of Christlike Ministries NWA for nearly 4 years now. So much of the world has lost its appeal to me, and that’s because the more I get to know Jesus the less of the world I want in the way of my relationship with Jesus.

Let’s Pray:

Father God, thank You for Your Word, and thank You for giving me the ability to write the words You wanted to speak to us today through this message.  I ask, Father God, that You would speak to us about our priorities, and reveal to us the things that we have given more of a priority in our lives then our time with You. Forgive us, Lord God, for the times when we exalt things above You in our lives, and that You would really search our hearts, and show us the places that we have yet to give You access to.  Most of all, Lord, I ask that You would help us all to adjust our lives and priorities so that giving You first place isn’t something that we just talk and read about…but it’s something that we’ve learned to incorporate into our lives and our walk with You. Help us, Lord God, to set aside more of the foolish and childish things of the world so that we can draw closer and nearer to You, and experience You in deeper and more intimate ways. I give You all the glory and honor for all that You are doing in, with, and through my life.  In Jesus name. Amen and Amen.

Final Word From Pastor B:

Well glory to God!  I really am glad and excited to be back to writing messages like this, and I appreciate all of you that have patiently stuck with me.  It’s wonderful to see that the viewership of the ministry has not only not fallen off, but it’s actually increased since I’ve last written.  I don’t know if I should be encouraged by that, but what it tells me is that there’s lots of good, solid material for y’all to read.  I feel like there are a few things I need to say about the actual devotional that accompanies this message, and so before I wrap up this message I guess this is the time to make sure there isn’t anything the Lord has to say that’s left out, Amen!?!

Before our salvation, we usually hold first place in our own lives – living for ourselves, fulfilling our own selfish ambitions, promoting our own agenda. But when we become a Christian, first place is no longer our position to hold; it belongs to God.

I promise you that I haven’t read any of this before hand, but I can certainly testify to the fact that if I don’t spend enough time at the Lord’s feet that’s when I get into ruts where I don’t feel like doing anything.  Would it shock you to know that there are times I don’t feel like reading my Bible or listening to worship music or writing these messages or quite honestly doing anything at all!?!  Do you also know that I can trace those moments back to the times when I’ve become a little too distracted by everything else around me, and I don’t take enough time to sit at the Lord’s feet?  There’s a direct relation to my not feeling like doing what God wants me to do or doing what God wants me to do for the wrong reasons…and not spending enough time at His feet.  Not everything I do is a bad thing to place above time at the Lord’s feet, but when anything else takes priority above being at His feet that’s when my priorities get out of whack…and you know what happens after that…my life and time and my day wind up being out of balance.  I’ve found out that the key to having a balanced life begins with making sure God has first place in my life, in my day, and with my time. Out of that simple thing flows the balance for everything else I need to do.

Is this okay!?!  I know this is going long, but I feel like there’s more that’s needed to be said.  This was actually supposed to be the first message of this series, but the Lord had some other things He wanted to say…but wait…there’s more…

“And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.” – 1 Corinthians 9:25 (NKJV)

Balance is actually one of the imperishable prizes that comes from giving God first place in our lives.  That was always the thing I was seeking, but couldn’t ever really find.  I remember when I started this ministry I felt like I had to write and post something every day, but I was also still working a secular job.  I also started this ministry before God gave me the added responsibility of helping to raise Elisabeth.  I used to feel like I had to stay on time with what I was working on, and I would get so stressed out when I wound up a few days behind on stuff.  Now, after doing this for so long, and listening to the Master while sitting at His feet He’s helped me to see that I don’t have to write every day.  I don’t even really have to write every week.  But, what He has done is helped me to come up with a posting and writing schedule that works with everything else I do.

That’s why God spoke to me that I needed to slow down, enjoy life, and adjust my priorities.  I didn’t realize how quickly life was getting away from me and how little of life I was enjoying until God shut the door to the secular world, and sat me down as a stay at home daddy.  I was about two months in before I realized that my life and priorities were completely messed up, and over the last two years God has helped me to put things in it’s proper order.  He’s helped me to balance my life, and now that I’ve found that balance I’ve noticed there is more peace and less stress.

I can’t think of anyone I know that couldn’t use a little less stress in their lives, and what God is saying to us today is exactly what Jesus said to us about seeking and placing Him first…and as we close by being reminded of the verse that we started this message with…let’s remember that the world is full of temperate things that are designed to do nothing more than keep us from having the intimacy with the Father that we desire to have.

Giving God first place in our lives began on the day of our salvation, but allowing God to remain first in all areas of our life is an ongoing process. When we do so, we live a fulfilled and blessed life in Christ here on earth, and inherit an eternal life of unspeakable blessings with God in Heaven forever.

This concludes the first message of the first teaching series of 2016.  I hope you enjoyed this message.  I hope you’ll join me again next week as we get into the second of five messages and talk about how: “God Has Given Us First Place In His Heart”.

Thank you and have a blessed day in the Lord!

Pastor B

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