The First Thing

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

For far too long the first thing I did when I got up in the morning was to check my cell phone.

For far too long the first thing I did when I got paid was to pay the bills that fueled my love affair with materialism.

For far too long the first thing I did was to put everything else first instead of God.

Honor the Lord by giving him the first part of all your income, and he will fill your barns with wheat and barley and overflow your wine vats with the finest wines.  Proverbs 3:9-10

For far too long ignorance, pride and fear kept me in the darkness.  Making God a mere footnote in the mess that was my life.

But now my life is illuminated by God’s light which guides my footsteps for His good.

In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.  Proverbs 3:6

 

God – The first thing when I awake

God – The first thing when I get paid

God- The first thing

 

I am Stuck

I am stuck:

Stuck can be defined as a lack of movement.  How often have you found yourself stuck?

  • Stuck in a relationship that is going nowhere
  • Stuck in a job that unsatisfying
  • Stuck in a life without hope, excitement and a prospect of a brighter tomorrow

In contrast, the opposite of being stuck is movement.

  • Movement in a relationship of mutual love and respect
  • Movement in doing work of consequence
  • Movement in a life of significance

As Christians we worship a God of purpose-driven movement.

Look at all of the purpose-driven movement that God does in Genesis 1: 1-31 the first chapter of the first book of the Bible.  In Genesis:

  • God: Creates the heavens and the earth
  • God: Separates the light from the dark
  • God: Establishes plants, animals, fish and fowl
  • God: Makes man and woman

As Christians, we find ourselves sometimes stuck without movement.  And we justify our stuck condition with God’s Word.  Saying our lack of movement is “because we are waiting for the Lord.”

We will use verses like Isaiah 40:31 in this justification:

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. 

And while the Bible is clear about the importance of waiting on the Lord’s timing, it is equally as clear that, as we wait on the Lord, we should not be idle; we should not be doing nothing;

We should: mount up with wings like eagles

We should: run and not be weary

We should: walk and not faint 

We should be moving and not stuck.

In Jeremiah Chapter 29, God commands the Israelites exiled in Babylon not to be stuck.

He tells them that despite the fact they would have to wait for 70 years to be delivered they should be in movement:

God commandants the Israelites to:

“Build houses, plant gardens, marry, have children, seek peace and prosperity.”

In other words while we are waiting on God – We should not be stuck —- we must move.

Therefore, God’s message to us, when we are stuck, is clear. Be obedient to wait on His timing; but get busy using the talents He has given us to do His will.

So let’s get moving:

  • By doing that thing that has forever kept you stuck

So let’s get moving:

  • By understanding that God has things for you to do while you wait on Him

So let’s get moving:

  • By proclaiming His name in every movement we make

For alone I am stuck – But with the Lord I am moving!

 

 

 

A Day of Service

Make your MLK Day more that just a day off – Make it a day of Service

Hundreds of volunteers made their way to the Burnt Bridge Creek Greenway Trail to plant trees as part of the annual MLK Day of Service, Monday, January 19, 2015.(Steven Lane/The Columbian)
Hundreds of volunteers made their way to the Burnt Bridge Creek Greenway Trail to plant trees as part of the annual MLK Day of Service, Monday, January 19, 2015.(Steven Lane/The Columbian)

MLK-Day-of-Service-Blumberg-04-970x400

San Antonio senior Nick Sisk works to clean out a sheep pen during the MLK Day of Service on Monday, January 20, 2014.  "As Baylor students and especially this organization in particular, we pride ourselves in being able to give back to the community in variety of different ways," said Sisk, who is a member of the Medical Student Association.   Travis Taylor | Lariat Photo Editor
San Antonio senior Nick Sisk works to clean out a sheep pen during the MLK Day of Service on Monday, January 20, 2014. “As Baylor students and especially this organization in particular, we pride ourselves in being able to give back to the community in variety of different ways,” said Sisk, who is a member of the Medical Student Association.
Travis Taylor | Lariat Photo Editor

Let’s Start Some Stuff With Jesus

Nothing in our lives, nothing in our world can happen unless we start it.  Think of the things that we start:

  • We start a relationship
  • We start school
  • We start the game

However, with all of these “starts” in our lives, how often do we start stuff with God; the starter of all things leading and guiding us?

At the start of the Bible, the very first thing that we read is “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”   Genesis 1:1

Then later in the Bible in John 1-5 we see again how God is involved in the start of things.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

God has given us free will to start nearly anything that we want. But why would we want to start anything without the one

  • So powerful that He created the Heavens and the Earth?
  • So merciful that He will forgive any sin?
  • So loving that He gave us His only son that we can have everlasting life?

So, let’s start some stuff with Jesus for He is our “Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”  Revelation 22:13

And anything that we “start” with His guidance will turn out in our favor.

 

Living A Life Of Abundance

Now that we have completed the first full week of 2016, how are those New Year’s resolutions going?

If you are like me, the resolutions of losing weight, getting daily exercise, and getting more sleep have long been broken.

So why do we make resolutions in the first place?  I would suspect that many of us do it so we can live a more abundant life.

If a more abundant life is what we are seeking, the resolutions that we make every year really do not matter.  Why?  Because Jesus has told us in John 10:10   that he want us to have life and to live it abundantly

How to live a life of abundance?

Abundance tag

So what does it means to live an abundant life?  In Hebrews 11:1 Paul tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Then in Hebrews 11:2-40 the writer shows us through the lives of people like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Joseph, Moses, and Rahab that a life of abundance is about living a life of faith.

Abundance is NOT What Some Think

Abundance -Rabbit

The powerful message of Hebrews 11 shows us that abundance is not about prosperity and plenty, but it is about faith.

  • By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did.
  • By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death.
  • By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, built an ark to save his family.
  • By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

And it is by faith that we will also live a life of abundance.

Hebrews 11 highlights people of great faith and blessing, but also tells us that many believers were tortured, mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, sawed in two,  mistreated and homeless.

And so it will be in our lives.  We will have days, weeks and perhaps even years experiencing anything but abundance.  However, just like the heroes of the Bible in Hebrews 11, it is our steadfast faith that will bring us abundance.

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Romans 5:3-5

Therefore, when we live a life of faith, regardless of whatever life brings us, we will indeed live a life of abundance.

Restarting Your Job Search After The Holidays

Welcome to Monday, January 4, 2016, the first “true” working day of the year.  This is also the day that you have designated to restart your job search after “taking” the holidays off.

Now that the days of holiday cheer have ended here are some tips to get you back into the job search mode.

1.Review your job search strategy

Finding a job is not a happenstance it takes focus work and a dedicated strategy to find the right opportunity.  Some things to consider are you strategize:

  • What kind of job are you looking for?
  • Have you made a list of target companies?
  • Have you compiled a list of the people you know within those target companies

2. Refresh your resume

Think of your resume as the single most important marketing document for your job search campaign.  Now that you have been off the job search trail for a while take a moment to consider these refreshments to your resume:

  • Consider adding a skills summary – outlining what abilities you bring to the table
  • Does your keywords match the current requirements for the jobs you are looking for?
  • Have you listed with measurable metrics the key achievements of your previous jobs?

3. Revise your social media strategy

Social media is now a major driver in any job search effort.  As you restart your job search consider the following:

  • Refresh your LinkedIn profile
  • Retake your LinkedIn profile picture
  • Reuse content and produce new original blog content for LinkedIn Publisher

4. Reengage your contacts

Research from Monster.com indicates that 80% of all jobs are acquired via networking.  Having a vibrant network is key to finding the right opportunity.   Consider these tips:

  • Tell your contacts that you are looking (If you have done it before – do it again)
  • Attend the January meetings of your professional association
  • Set up informational interviews with perspective employers

You Will Find Work In 2016

The American economy and the job market has picked up.  I am confident that if you prepare and are aggressive you will find work.

However, finding work takes work.  So welcome to January 4, 2016 the first true day of work.

10 Ways To Put God First in 2016

I am a big fan of using the time between Christmas and New Years to evaluate what happened in the previous 365 days. I use this time to consider:

  • Was I able to achieve my goals?
  • Where do I need to improve?
  • What were my failures?

While this period of self-evaluation is critical to growth and development in 2016, no evaluation of 2015 is complete without first evaluating whether I did what the Lord wanted me in the twelve previous months that He gave me.

The prophet Haggai was called by God to encourage the people of Jerusalem, along with you and me to put God first even before our own considerations.

Look how God evaluated the efforts of the people of Jerusalem.

“Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”  Haggai 1:5-6

“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little.  Haggai 1:9

I invite you to take these verses and apply them to your efforts in 2015.

If in 2015 you expected much but achieved little, I suggest you give careful thought to your ways and consider putting God first in your life.

Whitney Hopler, writing in a Crosswalk.com, blog How to Make Your Relationship with God First in Your Life, provides these practical tips for putting God at the forefront of our lives:

1.Take an honest look at your current priorities.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matthew 6:33

Where do you currently place God on your list of priorities? If your relationship with God isn’t your top priority right now, please review the other items on this list for specific changes you can make.

2.Recognize stress of chaos versus the blessings of order.

“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30

As Haggai warned the people of Jerusalem, the more we try to make our lives better by pursuing your own desires; the more our desires will spin out of control, creating stressful and frustrating chaos in our lives.

3.Trust God’s promises

“Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.”  Kings 8:56

Because God will always keep his promises, we can have confidence in making Him first in our lives.

4.Make a sacred commitment to placing God first in your life.

“Put God in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place.”  Proverbs 16:3 (The Message)

Choose to make an irrevocable decision to make your relationship with God your highest priority; over everyone and everything else in your life. No matter what happens from this point on, remind yourself of your decision and then you’ll avoid wasting time and energy on what doesn’t really matter, while experiencing the fullness of God’s blessings for you.

5.Participate in a local church

“This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”  Matthew16:18 (The Message)

Ask God to lead you to a healthy church in your area, where you can mature in the context of relationships with caring and trustworthy people who are also seeking closer relationships with God. Look for a place where truth and love meet to create a safe place for you to change and reach your fullest potential.

6.Grow to become more like Jesus through fellowship.

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1

As you connect with other believers in your church community, God will teach you how to love in deeper ways.  By doing that, you will be transformed into a holier person with a character that keeps growing more like that modeled by Jesus. Invest in your relationships with others in your church beyond just the weekend worship services. Get together regularly to build close friendships through small group meetings, service projects, fun outings, or simply to chat. Listen to each other’s stories, encourage each other to grow spiritually, pray for each other, hold each other accountable, and give each other practical support when needed.

7.Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your soul; to empower you to live God’s way.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.John 14:26

Make a daily practice of asking the Holy Spirit to align your priorities with God’s priorities, so you will value what God values and want what God wants for you. Invite the Spirit to renew your mind and give you fresh doses of the faith and power you need to live a holy life. Every time you face a significant decision, ask the Spirit to help you see it from God’s perspective, and then decide according to how God leads you.

8.Celebrate God by worshiping him often.

“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23–24

While it’s important to worship God in church, it’s also vital to worship God throughout your everyday life. Engage God by choosing to focus on His presence with you in the midst of your circumstances. Encounter God by communicating with Him, thanking him for who he is and what he does for you. Experience God in your soul by abandoning yourself fully to him and enjoying the transcendent joy and peace that come to you as a result.

9.Get to know God better through his Word and prayer.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”  2 Timothy 3:16-17

Cultivate your relationship with God through personal devotions. Every day, schedule some time to focus on reading and meditating on God’s Word, the Bible. Then pray about how God wants you to apply the passages you’ve read to your life, listen for the Spirit’s responses in your mind, and pray about anything else you’d like, too. Keep a journal in which you can record the biblical insights God gives you, as well as how he answers your prayers.

10.Serve and give as God leads you.

“You should each give, then, as you have decided, not with regret or out of a sense of duty; for God loves the one who gives gladly.”   2 Corinthians 9:7 (Good News Translation)

Use your time, talents, and treasure to the fullest to join God’s redemptive work in the world thereby maximizing your impact in God’s kingdom. Be prepared to say “yes” to God whenever he calls you into action by: meeting people’s physical needs, sharing the Gospel message, or building up your local church. Don’t withhold your time, energy, money, skills, or any other resource that God asks you to give in specific ways – be generous, as God is generous with you.

Enjoy the freedom that comes from trusting God. As the Holy Spirit progressively transforms you, you’ll experience deeper layers of freedom from sinful attitudes and behaviors that had previously controlled you. Keep choosing to trust God and surrender your fears to Him – the more you do, the more you’ll notice His work in your life.  It will strengthen your faith and inspire you to keep making your relationship with God first in your life.

Final Thoughts

At midnight on New Year’s Eve we started working on the 525,600 minutes allotted to us for the year.  My prayer and hope for you is from the very first minute of this new year you will be guided by Haggai’s call to put God first in our lives.

For as we are told in Proverbs 3:6 “In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.”

God Bless and Happy New Year!