a new year of new living: yes, no and maybe so - foundational priorities

On the first day of 2012, I spent some time with some of the greatest people I know and we kicked off 2012 together with a focus on one of the tougher questions - what do we say "Yes or No" to in our lives? The answer from the Bible is simple - don't put God first.

Yes, you read that right. To clarify - don't JUST put Him "first."

Often we put the Lord in the "top spot" of our lives, but we don't let Him into the "other spots" of our lives. Jesus said the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.

That means God isn't supposed to just sit at the top of our lives like a cherry, but is the spoon by which we eat the whole sundae of life.

If you aren't sure of the difference, here are a few thoughts:
  • Making money: "Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops." (Proverbs 3:9)
    • God is your cherry: "Look at this money I made! What do I feel comfortable doing with it?"
    • God is your spoon: "Look at the money God blessed me with! Lord, how do you want me to use it, even if it's uncomfortable?"

  • Chores: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:3)
    • God is your cherry: "I’m SO sick of doing all this work for everyone else. When will someone serve me? My life is so exhausting. God, give me a break!"
    • God is your spoon:  "God, these chores are difficult. I don't want it to get to me, so thanks for giving me these responsibilities and the people who are blessed by what I do. Help me have a better perspective. Use my work to help You let others know they're loved."
  • Study/school: "The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge;the ears of the wise seek it out." (Proverbs 18:15)
    • God is your cherry: "I’ll never use this information in life. It’s worthless to spend any real time on it, so I'll do the bare minimum and that's all. God, get me through this."
    • God is your spoon: "I have no clue why any of this matters, but... I'll give it my best. Who knows - maybe what seems purposeless to me can be used down the road for something purposeful. Lord, I’ll honor You in this."
  • Family time: "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
    • God is your cherry:  "My family time is our time. We’ll watch what we want to watch, go where we want to go, and do what we want to do. Besides, it's a losing battle to try anything different. Everyone needs time to do whatever they want to do without feeling judged or guilty."
    • God is your spoon: "I'm going to make sure our family doesn’t turn inward, even if I'm the only one in the home who feels this way. I will lead my household to enjoy and seek God in our time leisure time."

  • Health/Beauty: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
    • God is your cherry: "My body is my body. It doesn't matter what I put in it or on it. I'm going to show it off - whether it's by how much I can put into it or by how fit I can get."
    • God is your spoon: "Modesty matters. I don't need to boast or get showy about my health, nor do I need to neglect it. This is the only body I have on this side of heaven. God, how can I honor You with it?"

  • Friendships: "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Proverbs 27:17, Matthew 59)
    • God is your cherry: "My friends are who they are. I'm not going to make things awkward by challenging them because they'll just get angry and bite my head off... especially if it involves two of my friends who aren't at peace with each other.”
    • God is your spoon: "What's happening in and to my friends is my concern. I'll be a peacemaker who makes sure people I care about grow and work out anything awkward between them and others."

  • Fun/hobbies: "Then Jesus said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.'" (Mark 2:27)
    • God is your cherry: "I'll work hard, and then maybe I’ll rest. Or maybe I'll make life all about rest and not about work. Either way, it's my decision - and nobody better criticize for me for how I spend time and money on my favorite hobbies, sport/team or how I decorate."
    • God is your spoon:  "God, thanks for loving me and commanding me to take a day every week for Sabbath. I don't want to just rest - I want to be restored to You. So I'm kneeling my life to you on that day and every day, including how I use the hobbies that bring me life. Help me to find fun things that don't distract me from You or others, but build those relationships."

  • Faith: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)
    • God is your cherry: "God, bless me."
    • God is your spoon: "God, how can I bless You?"
Of course, we're not perfect in how these tensions play out. The question is if we’ll use that as an excuse or as grace to make things right.

Keeping God more than “first” but “first in everything” opens up a new kind of freedom, for we better know what to say yes and no to beyond our moods. You will begin to do more than what you feel like doing, including the things that need to happen.

Take a look again at the list above - which ones are you most able to take a step of growth in today by surrendering to him in the areas you've been holding back?
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength... Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

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