03 Priorities – Seek First His Righteousness (Matthew 6:33)

In Matthew 6:33, we are told to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things (basic necessities – food, clothing, and shelter) will be added to you. It is not just His kingdom that we must seek; we must seek first His righteousness. John tells us that everyone who has his hope fixed on Jesus purifies himself because Jesus is pure. He said that no one who abides in Christ practices sin. Instead, those who follow and abide in Christ are going to practice righteousness. (1 John 3:3-7)

Many think that if you had prayed the sinner’s prayer and have asked God to be your Savior, then everything is going to be okay. You are doing great if you go to church once or twice a month, leave a few dollars in the offering, and hug a few folks along the way. In Matthew 7:21-23, some people got turned down at the entrance of heaven. They claimed that they had prophesied, performed miracles, and cast out demons, but Jesus’ answer was very clear. “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” We must come into a relationship with Christ, and getting to know Him is a priority. But, learning to practice righteousness is also a priority. We cannot continue practicing lawlessness and claim that we are abiding in or following Christ.

James talks about looking intently at the word of God, as if looking into a mirror (James 1:21-25). As we read the Scriptures every day, we should be looking at our own lives at the same time to see if our lives line up with what we are reading. We should ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and show us any areas that do not line up with His righteousness. When the Holy Spirit shows us things in our lives that do not reflect His image, we should confess these sins to God, ask His forgiveness, and thank Him for forgiving and cleansing us of these things (1 John 1:9). Then, we should use the Scriptures as a prayer guide, and pray these Scriptures over our lives. Finally, we should make applications of these Scriptures. When we begin to apply the Scriptures to our lives, we will be seeking His kingdom and His righteousness.

02 Priorities – Seek First His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33)

At the beginning of a New Year many people look at their lives and set some New Year’s Resolutions. The gyms see a significant increase in activity in January, reflecting a desire by many to lose some weight and get in better shape. Our resolutions reflect the priorities that we have in life. In Matthew 6, Jesus addresses some anxieties and concerns that people had about food, clothing, and shelter. We have a tendency of prioritizing these necessary things in life. Jesus then tells us not to be anxious or worry about these things, and to trust our Heavenly Father to provide these. Instead, He tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

The kingdom of God represents the rule and reign of Christ. When we pray for His kingdom to come here on earth as it is in heaven, we are praying for His rule and reign here on earth. So, when Jesus tells us to seek first His kingdom, we should be seeking His rule and Lordship in our lives. We are seeking to submit our will and our lives to Him, and to allow Him to have first place in every area of our lives. We are seeking Him to rule in our work place, in our home, in our neighborhoods, in our churches, and most importantly, in our personal lives.

How do we seek first His kingdom? Here are some practical things to help us seek His kingdom first this year. First, begin each day in prayer. Spend time honoring and worshipping the King. Set a New Year’s resolution to spend a certain amount of time in prayer. For some, spending fifteen minutes would be a good start. Another person may want to schedule an hour each morning in prayer. Second, spend time filling your heart and mind with God’s word. Make a goal of spending a certain amount of time reading the Bible. Again, some people may set aside fifteen minutes, while others may spend more time. Find a good daily Bible reading program and use it so that you have a good reading plan. Third, take just a few minutes to journal or write down the things that stand out to you in prayer and in God’s word each day. You will find if you do these three things that you will see more of God’s rule and reign in your life in 2018.

Celebrating the Birth of Christ

We celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas. Why did God’s plan require Jesus to come as a baby. The main reason for it can be found in 1 Timothy 2:5. “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” The fullness of God dwelt in Jesus in bodily form. (Colossians 2:9) Jesus came as the mediator between God and men. A mediator represents both parties. Jesus was both God and man and He is the only One who could fully represent God and fully represent men.

We find in Luke 1:35 that an angel named Gabriel came to Mary and said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. Jesus was the Son of God, but He was also the Son of Man. In Luke 19:10, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Jesus was both the Son of God and since he was born of a woman, He was also the Son of Man. It was necessary for Jesus to be born as a child to a virgin who conceived Him by the Holy Spirit so that He could be both the Son of God and the Son of Man. It was necessary for Jesus to be both so that He could be the mediator between God and men. We needed a mediator and a Savior because our sins had separated us from a holy God. Jesus came to seek and to save us, who were lost, and He reconciled us to God. This Christmas we celebrate the coming of our Mediator and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Travel Safely

Yesterday, there was an Amtrak train in Washington that derailed over a highway overpass, and so far six people have been listed as dead. Seventy-two others were taken to the hospital. The focus of the investigation has been on the speed of the train. It was traveling at a speed of eighty miles per hour in a section of the track that had a speed limit of thirty mile per hour. The speed limit was low because of the turns in that area. There were signs posted two miles prior to entering that slower zone but the train did not heed the speed limits. There is a required Positive Train Control (PTC) safety system that is required on trains. It automatically warns the driver of the train to slow down, and in the event the driver does not slow down, it automatically slows the train down. The President of Amtrak told reporters that the PTC was not operational on that particular train.

All of us that travel want to know that the vehicles that we are traveling on are in good working condition. All of us want to know that all of the equipment is working. We want to know that the drivers of the vehicles are concerned about our safety, and will follow regulatory signs and procedures.

I believe that our concern for safety is not limited to trains. We want our families to be safe. We want to make sure that our homes are secure. We also want to make sure that our churches are safe. We want to know that the drivers (pastors) of our churches are doing their proper maintenance, spending time in the Word and in prayer. We want to know that the drivers are going to follow Biblical principles and warnings. We want to know that the drivers care more about our safety than how fast they get somewhere. We want to know that the drivers will take us safely to our destinations. I believe all of these are legitimate desires when looking for a church home. At the Connection Church, we care about safety. We care about our passengers. Our pastoral team is diligent in spending time with the Father, and in leading the flock according to Biblical principles. Our crew is friendly, caring, and safe. If you are looking for a safe church, consider traveling with us.

Fly Safely With A Good Maintenance Program

Last week our training center in Trinidad needed an instructor for a class this week in Suriname, South America. One of our instructors out of the Rocky Mountain region offered to go teach the class. In looking at flight arrangements, he looked at flying on a particular South American airline. Our manager in Trinidad responded quickly and strongly recommended not to fly on that airline. Our manager was a commercial airline pilot and still maintains his commercial license. His reason for not booking our instructor on that particular airline was based on safety and maintenance. He said that particular airline’s maintenance program was poor, and he does not consider their planes safe to fly.

How is the maintenance plan in your life, the plane you are flying? Do you have a regularly scheduled maintenance program? Do you have a time each day that you have set aside to renew your mind by spending time in God’s word, reading and meditating and allowing it to transform your life? Do you schedule time for prayer, where you listen to God and also share your heart with Him? What about the key relationships in your life? Do you schedule time to maintain and cultivate those relationships? If you are married, do you schedule time for dates? Do you set aside time to regularly share your hearts and to listen to one another? Karen and I had a wonderful time together yesterday on our date. We shared a meal together at Sadie’s Mexican restaurant, and more importantly, we shared our lives. We shared our joys, our struggles, our desires, and our hearts. These maintenance times are enriching, and I am more in love now than I was forty years ago when I married the bride of my youth.

As we approach a new year, think about your maintenance program for 2018. If you need help finding a good daily Bible reading program, we will be glad to assist you. If you need practical help on what to do in your daily scheduled maintenance program (Quiet Time or Devotional Time), we would be happy to help you. If you need help with a maintenance plan in your key relationships, we would be happy to help you. At the Connection Church of Albuquerque, we connect people to God and to one another. I am looking forward to a new year of flying safely.

Pouring Into Others

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul shared that his life was being poured out as a drink offering. Paul was preaching the gospel, and pouring his life into the lives of men and women. One of the men that Paul poured himself into was Timothy. He became a spiritual father to young Timothy, and mentored him. Paul raised him up to be a great leader in the church at Ephesus, and then as an apostle to the church at large. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy he writes, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul was asking Timothy to do the exact same thing that he had done, find faithful people and pour your life into them. (See Phil 2:17, 2 Tim 2:2.)

Karen and I are planting our fourth church, Connection Church of Albuquerque. One of my prayers is for God to show me the faithful people that He wants me to pour my life into for the next few years. I am also asking the Lord to bring faithful men and women for us to pour our lives into. We believe there are many faithful people that are looking for someone to help them fulfill the calling on their life. They are looking for someone to pour into them, and raise them up. Do you have someone whose life is being poured out for your benefit? Do you have someone pouring into your life? Are you pouring your life into faithful men and women that God has brought into your life? Ask God to show you who you are to pour your life into.

Two Decisions That I Am Thankful For

Today is a VERY special day for two reasons. First, it is Thanksgiving, a day to stop, reflect, and give thanks to our Father in heaven. Second, today is Karen’s birthday. Earlier this morning I was giving thanks to God for my salvation, and for reaching out in love to me, and drawing me to Himself. I was also giving thanks for Karen, my beautiful bride for the past forty years. She is an anointed woman of God, full of life, and an incredible partner in life and ministry.

As I was giving thanks to God, I remembered an incident on a Saturday morning at the Greater Hartford Open in 1993. I was getting ready to tee off on the seventh hole, and I noticed a young man in the gallery wearing a sweatshirt with the following message: “College is where you learn to make good decisions.” In that instant the Holy Spirit gave me a message for him. After I nailed my tee shot down the middle of the fairway, I went over to my golf bag and pulled out a Titleist golf ball for a souvenir, and one of my testimony tracts that had a picture of our family on the cover. I handed these two items to the young man and said, “College is where I made the best two decisions of my life. I invited Jesus Christ into my life to be my Lord, and I decided to marry this incredible young lady that God brought into my life.” Today, I am still giving thanks to God for these two decisions that were made in college. I am a blessed man and have much to be thankful for.

Created To Be Connected

Recently, Karen was meeting with another woman, and she told Karen why she and her husband had recently left their church. She said that she had tried to connect with a number of different ladies, but had never been able to connect. People always had excuses for why they couldn’t meet.

In Genesis, God said that it was not good for man to be alone. God intended us to have relationships with one another. He intends for us to be connected to one another. This week, at the Connection Church, we are continuing our study of Genesis, and will be looking at being connected relationally. 

Evangelism – Lessons At The Car Dealer: # 4

I have been sharing about evangelistic opportunities that I had at the car dealer last week. God gives me lots of opportunities to share with people. I remember my daughter, Kathleen, telling me once that she did not think that I had ever met a stranger. I was always starting conversations with people. The truth is that I was always looking for opportunities to share the gospel, or share an encouragement with someone. I also looked for opportunities to pray for people.  Larry Tomczak wrote a book many years ago called, Divine Appointments. I am always looking for these divine appointments. I believe that God wants to give all of us divine appointments. He has given all of us the mandate to preach the gospel. Why do some people have more of these appointments than others? I believe that one of the primary reasons is prayer.

Paul wrote to the Colossians and asked them to specifically pray that God would open up a door for the word so that he could share the mystery of Christ. (Colossians 4:3) Paul prayed for these open doors or divine appointments, and he asked other people to join him in asking God for more of these divine appointments. Karen and I take time each morning to present our lives to God as living and holy sacrifices. We offer our lives and our service to Him every morning. We ask God to give us divine appointments and opportunities to minister to people. Often, I will take time to pray that God will give divine appointments to the people in our church. I believe that prayer is one of the most important keys. Then, look expectantly for these opportunities. The opportunities at the car dealer are just examples of how God answers those prayers. When you are carrying out God’s work, He will give you opportunities. I ask you to join me in asking God for open doors so that we can speak forth the mystery of Christ.

Evangelism – Lessons At The Car Dealer: # 3

After I had handed the golf tract to the new car sales manager, one of the salesmen came up to me and asked for a copy of the golf tips. His name was Mohammed, so I asked him if he was a Muslim. He replied that he was a Muslim, and he made sure that I knew that he was a practicing Muslim. He was part of the Sunni sect of Islam. I told him that I grew up in Iran, where they are Shiites. I asked him if he played golf, and he said no, but that he wanted to learn to play golf, which is why he had asked for the golf booklet. I told him that I would be happy to send him one, but that the one I gave to his manager was my last copy.

When I returned home, I took a copy of the Good News About Fundamentals and I wrote a note and a prayer in it. I said that I hope he enjoys the golf tips. But, I also wrote that I prayed that the Lord Jesus Christ would reveal Himself to him. I said that millions of Muslims around the world are turning to Christ. I told him that he was one that was seeking after God, and that God promises that those who seek Him will find Him. I not only wrote these things, but I took time to pray for Mohammed. I am continuing to pray that God will remove the veil from his eyes, and he will have an encounter with Jesus.

Paul wrote that he was not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16) Paul was not just unashamed, he was bold in his witness. Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him to have boldness in sharing the mystery of Christ. Let’s pray for boldness. Let’s look for opportunities, and then step out boldly in sharing our faith with others.