Making God Our Top Priority By Derek Long

      God expected the Israelites to be completely loyal to Him and Him alone. He told them, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, our of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord you God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:2-5). In the New Testament, God continues to expect us to put Him first. Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). God must take priority over family responsibilities and even ourselves. Luke 14:26 says, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”          How can we make sure we are making God our top priority? Let’s examine a few areas where we need to examine our actions and determine if God is being placed above all else. We will not willfully forsake the assembling of the saints and times of worship if we are putting God first. The Hebrew writer instructs us, saying, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). When we put other
things before assembling with other Christians to build them up and strengthen them, it is an indication God is not being put first in our life. If we allow family activities, work
responsibilities, recreational pursuits, etc. to stand in our way of assembling with the saints, we are not putting God first. God instructs us to partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), give of our means (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), sing to one another (Colossians 3:16), pray collectively (1 Corinthians 14:15-16), and hear His word be taught (Acts 2:42). If we decide something is more important than obeying these commands of God, then we have decided not to put God first.
      We will not neglect to pray if we are putting God first. The Bible teaches us to “pray without ceasing” and to be “continuing steadfastly in prayer” (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Romans 12:12). How often do we pray? Do we simply pray when we go to bed and before meals? Is prayer a common part of our life? A failure to pray may indicate a lack of trust in God and an arrogance which thinks we can handle things on our own. Prayer is a means by which we can cast our cares upon God (1 Peter 5:7) and deal with anxiety (Philippians 4:6-7). How often do we feel overwhelmed in life and think we have to handle the situation all by ourselves? If we are not an individual who is given to prayer, it is a good indication God is not coming first in our lives.
      We will be diligent in studying the word of God if we are putting God first. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Do we go days, weeks, or months at a time without picking up our Bibles to study them except when going to services? If God is our top priority in life, learning about Him and discovering His will for us will equally be important to us. Let us, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2)! We will spend our time in carrying out God’s will if we are putting God first. If God is first in my life, I will make time to speak to the lost about the gospel (Mark 16:15). If God is first in my life, I will find time to help restore the lost (James 5:19-20). If God is first in my life, I will find time to visit widows and orphans in their trouble (James 1:27). If God is first in my life, I will help bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). When God is not first in our lives, our time will be spent entirely on ourselves. We will do the things we want to do. We will spend our time living for pleasure and entertainment. A great way to tell where our priorities are is to look at what we spend our time doing! Hopefully we will all examine our lives (2 Corinthians 13:5) and if God is not first we will put Him first in the time we have left upon this earth!

Post By Gary Henry

We Must Do More Than "Motivate the Tribe"

Last year, I came home from a preaching trip and ran into my apartment manager on the sidewalk as I was unloading my car. “Good to have you back,” she said. “I guess you’ve been out motivating the tribe?” She winked as she said that. Secular-minded and dubious about the whole idea of religion, she was saying something like this: “Gary, you’re not likely to convince anybody in the public that your message is true, so you’ve found a way to make a living just ‘motivating the tribe’ — preaching to those who already agree with you.”

This person was a friend, and her good-natured tease was not meant to offend. But it hit home. Sadly, many of us who “preach” spend little time doing anything that resembles evangelism. In a culture where it is increasingly hard to find unbelievers who will listen, it is tempting to throw up our hands and quit. What worries me, however, is that our conscience is not even bothering us much anymore. We’re comfortable being the congregation’s “minister.” The gig we aspire to would be a nice mix of pulpiteer/pastor/program director.

Unfortunately, our problem is exacerbated by the narrow partisanship in the world today, a world where people no longer talk to anybody except their tribe. In the “news” and “social media”, we no longer feel any need to interact with people who don’t agree with us. We may say nasty things about them behind their back, but we see no need to communicate with — much less persuade — them. They simply don’t count. If they don’t agree with us, they can be ignored.

In this kind of environment, our own tribe seems a very safe circle to stay inside of. It’s easy to settle for nothing more than intramural (“inside the walls”) activities. But I believe we must resist this temptation. (1) We need to keep trying to find people to study the gospel with. (2) We need to learn some “languages” different than our own (and not just linguistically but culturally). (3) We need to improve our listening skills, being genuinely willing to learn as well as to teach. (4) We need to persevere and be patient. (5) We need to preach the word of God “even if it isn’t the popular thing to do” (2 Timothy 4:2 CEV).

Evangelism must remain a high priority with us. No matter how difficult it is, we must keep trying to communicate with those around us. We must get out of our comfort zones. The Lord is not going to be pleased if we simply give up, retreat to the safety of our church buildings, and settle into a routine of doing nothing more than “motivating the tribe.” The tribe certainly needs to be motivated, and that is a part of our work, but the Lord expects us to do more than encourage one another. The world around us is like a building that is burning to the ground. Do we not care enough to try to rescue some of those who are dying? If the roles were reversed, what would we want them to do?

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

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Words From Keith and Debbie Crews

So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean (2 Kings 5:14).

 

Naaman was a mighty man of valor in the Syrian army but he had leprosy.  Elisha sent a servant to tell him to dip seven times in the Jordan River.  He got angry like some do when told to be baptized for the remission of their sins.  They think all they have to do is take Jesus into their heart and they will be saved.  It is easy to take Jesus into your heart.  It is more challenging for some to be baptized.  They have to humble themselves and submit.  They look for excuses to not be baptized.  Naaman had to do all the prophet Elisha told him to do.  He had to dip seven times in the Jordan.  We have to do all God tells us to do.  Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16).  Jesus said, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

Blog Post by Gary Henry

All of us have some painful memories. The person who says he has no regrets is either lying or has not lived long enough in this world to make any mistakes. So the question is: what are we to do with the memories that bring us pain when we they resurface in our minds?

Perhaps a clarification is in order. In this post I am not thinking about the memories of things other people have done to us. Those memories can be excruciating, but whatever we may have suffered at the hands of others, of much more concern should be the sins that we ourselves have committed. How should we think about these things?

I expect very few of us can ponder this subject without thinking of our brother Paul in the New Testament. Forgiven by God’s grace and given a clean slate, Paul still had to live the rest of his life with the memory of having persecuted the Lord’s church while he was still an unbeliever. His attitude, however, is admirable and worthy of our imitation. “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:9,10).

No self-pity or worldly sorrow. Paul’s memories were painful, but his sorrow shows no sign of self-centeredness or despair.

Gratitude for grace. Forgiven, Paul was determined that God’s grace would not be wasted on him. He would respond rightly to grace.

Humility. If Paul was ever tempted to be cocky, he would only need to remember the seriousness of what he had been forgiven of.

Diligence in the Lord’s work. Paul’s memories of his forgiven sins were helping him in the Lord’s work rather than hindering him. Forgiveness should have the same result in our own work in the Lord.

We live in a feel-good society that prioritizes emotional happiness. In our culture, painful feelings are avoided at all costs. But such an approach to life is inconsistent with the Scriptures. Jesus was a Man of Sorrows. He did not teach that we should avoid painful thoughts but that we should think rightly about them. When we choose to think rightly, even our most painful memories can strengthen us spiritually.

So, my dear friend, my advice to you is this: embrace your painful memories — but take them before God’s throne and seek His help in thinking about these things as you should. Avoid worldly sorrow, thank God for His grace, let yourself be humbled by the memory of your sins, and let your gratitude for grace send you back into the Lord’s work with a greater wisdom and strength than you had before. The devil says, “All is lost,” but God says, “Much can yet be done, my child.” To whom will we listen? That is the choice we must make.

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

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Words from Keith and Debbie

Adulterers and adulteresses!  Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:4).
Unfaithful to God is one who is a friend of the world.  “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Prov 12:26 NKJ).  The world is full of wicked people who have no regard for God.  “The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts” (Ps 10:4).  We should not be friends with such people.  They will lead us away from God just like the idols of heathen nations led Israel away from God and just like the idols of Solomon’s wives led him away from God.  “Remove your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Prov 5:8).  The world is like kudzu.  It will wrap itself around you unless you beat it back.  “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning” (2 Pet 2:20).  Deny ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:12).
Keith

blog post from Gary Henry

“. . . looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

There are so many good results that come from pondering the Lord’s death each first day of the week. I have often marveled at how all of our individual needs are met at the foot of the cross, whatever they may be on a given Sunday. Only God’s wisdom could have contrived a practice that helps us in so many ways all at once.

But think with me about what Hebrews 12:2 says about our Lord’s suffering. How was it that Jesus mustered the strength to get through His trial and crucifixion in such a steadfast way? It was, this text says, “for the joy that was set before him.” In other words, it was not by pretending the ordeal was pleasant, but by looking beyond the pain, that He was able to keep going when it might have been tempting to give up. Of the many character traits Jesus demonstrated in His last hours, this is one of the most encouraging for us in our own lives: Jesus made the decision to keep going. Called upon to endure, He endured.

And lest we forget, it was a decision on Jesus’ part that led Him to do what He did. His perseverance was not easy or automatic due to His divine powers — it was a choice that He made. It was, to put it simply, an act of obedience on His part. “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).

And making the choice to endure is the point of our text back in Hebrews 12. In v.1, the writer had said, “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” And then in v.2, it is Jesus who is the example of endurance. More than anyone else’s example, it is “looking to Jesus” that gives us the courage to keep going. Jesus is the One whose character we need to emulate. Tempted to quit, it is Jesus we need to think of.

Lately, it has been a joy for me to meditate on this particular aspect of Jesus’ example when I partake of the Lord’s Supper. This response to the Supper is an “invigorating” response. Yes, the Supper warms us with gratitude for Jesus’ love, touches us with sympathy for His suffering, reassures us of our peace in His mercy, and calms our nerves in the midst of all our uncertainties. But no less important, the Lord’s Supper energizes us, stiffens our courage, and sends us back into the world with a greater determination to endure. The joy is coming. The day of rest awaits us. The victory celebration is being prepared. But in the meantime, Jesus’ endurance of suffering shows us how to . . . continue.

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com