FIRST THINGS FIRST

Jul
2017
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“The first of your firstfruits of your land you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God.” (Exodus 23:19)

There’s an old story about a lighthouse keeper who was beloved by the people of a small shore town. Frequently they would stop by to visit him, because it seemed that he was always on duty. His responsibilities were many and had to be carried out in all kinds of weather. Some of the most basic included filling the lights with fuel each day, maintaining the wicks, and lighting the lamp at sunset and putting it out each morning. One day a lady stopped by and said, “My family is cold and we need some oil to keep our house warm. Would you give us some?” Out of compassion for the family, he did so. Over time others also came making the same request. He thought, “Well I can’t do for one family and not help the others,” so he gave fuel to all. A day came when he depleted his supply. That evening several ships crashed on the shores, and a number of people died. Thinking he had been doing a good thing, he lost his sense of priority and purpose. As such, the lighthouse keeper is in good company with many others.

In June, 2017 – The Oakland Raiders made quarterback Derek Carr the highest-paid player in NFL history. Carr, 26, agreed to a five-year contract worth $125 million. In an interview about his soon-to-be financial success, he made the following statement: “The first thing I’ll do is pay my tithe like I have since I was in college while getting $700 on a scholarship check. That won’t change.”  Having already been involved in mission efforts, he went on to say – “The exciting thing for me, money-wise, honestly, is this money is going to help a lot of people – not only in this country, but in a lot of countries around the world. That’s what’s exciting to me.” He gives modern day voice to the words of the Apostle Paul who says Everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory” (Romans 11:36).

The situation with many of us is that we rationalize to give God what remains. Yet how many of us would invite a special guest for dinner and serve leftovers? While there is nothing wrong with leftovers per se, they are not exactly what we would provide for a King, let alone the King of Kings. As living sacrifices  (Romans 12:1-2), are we free to give God any old thing with the expectation that He must accept it or else? Does He not deserve the best we have? Jesus is very clear about priorities when He said that we must “Seek first the kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). On another occasion, He connects the dots between loving and doing when He states, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we are serious about keeping first things first, we must pray that the Lord will show us when our priorities are skewed and where we need to make changes.

Ultimately, our purpose for living should be to bring honor and glory to God rather than seeking pleasure for ourselves. Paul speaks of this when he says: “You should live in a way that proves you belong to the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). With that purpose in mind we can set our priorities by discovering what will bring the greatest recognition to God. When we do that, we’ll be rich in God’s eyes.  If we revisit the philosophy of the Raiders quarterback, Carr, we will find this to be the foundation of his belief:  “I have a very strong faith in God. He is the reason I play football. He has given me this special talent and I want to use it to glorify Him. I am grateful for the opportunity to further His kingdom by sharing my faith on and off the football field. At any moment, any second, my football career could be taken away, but my faith and relationship with God will never be taken from me.” The search for God requires a singleness of purpose. When God’s people put Him first, God’s blessings begin to flow.  First things first . . . it’s what He deserves from us.

REFLECTION: How have you experienced the blessing and happiness of God as a direct result of setting God-honoring priorities and seeking Him first in your life?  How does your leisure time reflect and affect your devotion to Jesus Christ? If you were to map out the remaining years of your life, what would they look like? What priorities would you need to change in your finances, interests, relationships, and daily routine to evidence that God is indeed first in your finances, interests, relationships, and daily routine?

A NEW LOOKUP  DEVOTION IS UPLOADED EACH WEEK. THE NEXT WEEKLY POSTING WILL BE ON SAT., AUGUST 5, 2017.  COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.

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