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But First, God

“But First, God”, Episode 2: May 10, 2022

How do we carve out time with God?

And what does that look like even in the busiest seasons of our lives?

There are days it seems impossible to accomplish everything on our to-do list. And days when it is even harder to get minimal things accomplished when we are in the midst of a health crisis, grieving the death of a loved one, or our vehicle is broken down.

While we may wish we had more hours in the day to get things done,

“God has given us only 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. If we were meant to do it all, He would have given us more time.”

Establishing proper priorities is imperative. It will keep us from neglecting the most crucial parts of our lives. Setting priorities sets a strong foundation for when the storms of life come.

So, what do we prioritize first? God is not only our first priority, but God is first in all things.

We put God first in our marriage. God first as we parent and put Him first in our career. We put Him first when we're making decisions about where we are going to send our kids to school, or where we might go on vacation.

When God becomes first in all things, we have a shift in priorities, and everything that once seemed so chaotic, and so out of order, all of a sudden begins to make sense. God is a God of order and He brings order to our chaos.

If you're experiencing major burnout right now, which, let me tell you…I wrote the book on burnout. That's part of the reason that I started Bountiful Living. I have so much to share about how I crashed and burned so many times doing things in my flesh and in my own strength, instead of learning to lean on and rely on the Lord.

So, what does it look like to put God first? How do we include Him in our day?

Well, it's really a lot less complicated than it seems. We spend time with God, just like we would with a dear friend. The first way we can spend time with Him is to talk with Him through prayer.

We also connect with God through worship. This is how we express our gratitude and adoration. In our human relationships, you can visibly see how people respond to a compliment or to a smile. God responds to our worship. He has given us this entire beautiful world and everything in it. Therefore, He is worthy of our praise, worthy of our gratitude.

The third way that we connect with God is through reading His word. This is where I want to spend the bulk of our time today, in telling you how to read the Bible.

I grew up in a very interesting, somewhat different way than many of my other Christian peers gaining an expansive knowledge and love of the Old Testament. My parents would wake us up at 6 a.m. and we would attempt to read through the Bible in one year.

But actually, we would start and either life would get busy and hectic, or maybe my brother and I were kind of goofing around and not really paying attention. So, my parents read the Old Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs, over and over and over again.

I know there were times we got to the New Testament, but it was rare. To this day, the Old Testament is one of my absolute favorites! It's actually so essential to understand the New Testament because all of it works together, all of it builds on each other. They work together hand in hand. And of course, you see so many amazing stories of faith. It also gives you so much more of an appreciation for what Jesus did when you understand how hard it was, under the law, to be cleansed from sin.

Before you read God’s Word, take time to pray. Whether it's the first time or the millionth time that you've read God's Word, we should always start with prayer. Because the Holy Spirit is going to open our eyes to see, our ears to hear, and to know the truth of what God's Word is trying to say.

God's word will never return void, it will always go out and do what it is intended to do. (Isaiah 55:11) God's Word is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12) So take a moment before you sit down in God's word to pray. Ask for your eyes to be opened and for wisdom and understanding.

Where do I start reading? No matter where you feel like starting, Old or New Testament or a read through the Bible program. The most important thing is to start reading.

If you’re wanting to start reading the whole Bible, I recommend the Chronological Bible. It helps you understand everything in the context of when it happened. I completed it in 2020, during the pandemic. I listened to it on audio Bible and I want to give you permission to do that. Listening to an audio Bible is a great way to get started in God’s Word and it is wonderful to listen anywhere anytime. Although getting through Leviticus, while you're at the grocery store shopping for beef is a little weird. Ask me how I know! LOL

Wherever you are, wherever you want to listen, it's totally fine. Because you're getting God's Word into your heart and into your mind.

When you are reading, please do not “cherry-pick” scripture. As you're reading God's Word. There are a lot of things that you have to look out for and pay attention to. I cannot stand when people cherry-pick scriptures. What this means is they grab one out, and they apply truth to it without looking at any context of why the scripture is there.

I once heard it said that “Scripture is written for us, not to us.” There are times when we will not understand what we are reading. If you started your reading time in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to give you understanding He will, but it might not be right away. So, to keep us from error in our understanding there are a series of steps to make sure we are not “cherry-picking” scripture and applying false truth. 1. Consider historical context. It’s important for us to understand the historical context. I would not suggest “googling” to obtain accurate historical information. There are so many blogs and websites that are in outright error. I often wonder how in the world, it's even out there, but I guess anybody can self-publish.

The majority of the time that I'm doing research I need to reference a physical book. Of course, that can get expensive, and trips to the library can be time-consuming, so I've discovered this program called Logos, which you can actually download as a free app. You get a free book every month. This piece of advice is for someone ready to go really very, very deep in their understanding. If you're ready for that depth, in your study of the Word that you can look at what hundreds of years of theologians have to say. I did not mention this in the podcast, but Study Bibles often have historical notes or introductions to Books of the Bible that can be very helpful in giving you a basic Historical understanding.

2. What do theologians, those who have studied God’s Word throughout the ages have to say about this? Does the church agree with this “truth”?

For example, I spent a lot of time this past year studying rest and the Sabbath. I wanted to understand what it really means and how we are to live in Sabbath in our modern age now that we are no longer under The Law. I took a long-time studying the book of Hebrews and looking back at the original law that God gave to Moses, to understand why rest was important, I will definitely share all of that with you in a later podcast episode because,

“Rest is one of those Godly self-care things. Sometimes we feel like we're being lazy if we rest, but rest is actually Biblical.”

Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest for your souls.” That's the book of Matthew. I love that verse because there are so many times that I have been so worn out, again, doing things in my flesh. But regardless, God is always there, to take us in, to comfort us, and give us rest for our weary soul.

Yes, rest is so important!

If we're coming up with new ideas as we study God’s Word, it's probably inaccurate.

Because you will see as you look over from the time that New Testament was written to when all of the saints began studying God's word and preaching God's word and commentating on God's Word that it was the same, there's a common thread, God is revealing these same truths to man throughout all generations. So not only do we have to look at what has been said throughout history, but in historical context, a lot of times we can “cherry-pick” scriptures and say, “Oh, this is what women are supposed to do, or this is what men are supposed to do.

When Paul is talking to the church in Corinthians about how they are to behave, you have to get in and understand that they were previously a pagan society and engaging in pagan practices. So of course, they needed some correction. And yes, a lot of the things that he is saying in there does apply to our modern church. But you have to decipher between what is he saying to the Church at Corinth, Greece, versus what he is saying to us today as believers and the body of Christ. It is necessary to separate the two.

3. Consider the whole counsel of God’s Word. And the third and final way to read scripture is in context. You can't just read one, you really have to take the whole Bible into consideration. And if you haven't read it all, that's actually okay. I did not read the whole Bible until I was 43!

So, what I would recommend you do, for example, if you're reading, “I am the Way the Truth and the Life” in the Bible. And you're wondering, well, who is “I”? Who is that?

You may have to back up a few verses to find out who is saying that, and we'll learn that it's Jesus. If you back up even further, maybe you read a whole chapter, you might find out who Jesus is talking to, who is with Jesus…are the disciples there? Is Jesus preaching The Sermon on the Mount?

The more you read the more context you will gain.

If you're brand new to reading God’s Word, I would suggest starting at the beginning of a book and reading all the way through as we're going to do in the book of John.

Let’s Review: Before you sit down to read God’s Word or listen on audio Bible start with prayer asking the Holy Spirit to give you eyes to see, ears to hear and to give you wisdom and understanding. As you read the word and you begin to understand it historically, and make sure that other people agree with what you believe, other trusted people of the Christian faith. Then make sure you are reading for proper context and considering the whole counsel of the Word.

Reading God’s Word is one of the best things I've ever done. If you are not ready to read the entire thing, it is a goal you can set for yourself.

How to Apply God’s Word: The final step is applying God's Word. How do we use it? Well, there are scriptures that tell us how to know God, tell us God's character and who He is. That's easy to apply.

And just learning about Him as our Creator, as our Healer, as our Comforter, as the Prince of Peace, He is the Author and the Finisher of our faith, that joy in Him gives us strength.

We can take that word, we could even put it up on our mirror and memorize it or read it every day to encourage us, we can use that word to encourage others. And use it in areas where we're outright struggling,

I'll never forget this time I was on a mission trip in El Salvador lounging in a hammock. You would think anxiety would be far, far away since I was surrounded by beautiful blue skies, sea breezes, and good friends. However, anxiety was overwhelming me. I'm not exactly sure what I was dealing with at that time. But, I remember making it a point to memorize Philippians 4:6-7, which says,” Do not be anxious about anything, but in prayer and petition, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus”. And now when my littles are dealing with anxiety…Usually, it's about math, maybe it's about a friend, and they're feeling worried, I can share that verse that I've hidden away in my heart with them and encourage them.

That's how I am applying God's word to my life: we are not to worry about anything, instead, we're to go to Him in prayer, and ask for the peace that passes all understanding, and our hearts and our mind will be guarded in Christ Jesus.

So, some of this might be outright intimidating to you. It isn’t my goal to intimidate, rather I am casting a wide net for believers who are ready to go deeper in the Word as well as those who are tackling it for the first time.

There are very simple ways that we can prioritize the Lord. If you're already a member of a local church, you could join a Bible study, maybe look at the small groups, if your church offers something like that. And join a study that seems interesting to you to learn more.

Challenge: So, I'm gonna end this podcast with a bit of a challenge. I started off by telling you that God is first and that He should be our top priority. But here's the reality, life happens. Things get in the way.

I don't know how it is for you at home, maybe it's a husband, a kid, even a dog licking you in the face in the morning, when you're not quite alert or awake. Maybe you struggle to wake up. But I want to encourage you to push past everything demanding your attention. Whether it's a deadline, whether it's getting your kids to school tomorrow in the morning, or even if you're outright late, and have no time you're just rushing, rushing, rushing, which I know is how we spend a lot of our lives, I want to challenge you, to make God like that sweet cup of coffee or whatever it is for you that you need to start your day.

Let God be the thing you go to first. Let Him be the thing you must have every day to enrich and fuel your life. Because when you partake in Him, He will delight your senses and warm your soul.

God is our oxygen.

Just as we have no life without our breath, we have no life without Him.

And that's how I want you to picture God today. We have no life, without Him. He is the air we breathe.

Let this challenge you to seek Him.

I know that Jesus went away every morning to spend time with the Father. And that may not be realistic for you. I have tried to wake up at 5 am and there were years that I could do it, but at my age, it is not happening. And you know what, that's okay. I actually have my alarm go off now and just kind of sit there with my eyes closed and begin to pray to start my day in prayer.

And I tell the Lord, I present myself as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to you, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1). I put on my full armor of God, the helmet of salvation to guard and protect my mind, the breastplate of righteousness that guards and protects my heart, my shield of faith that deflects the fiery darts of the enemy, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God to defend myself against the enemy. The belt of truth holds everything up, and my feet prepared with the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6)

And it is not until a little later in the morning when we're actually in the car, taking the kids to school. Then I pray with my kids and then I put on some worship music. Maybe it's one song, maybe we have time for three. And if I'm really doing well, I will have a chapter of the Bible loaded up to listen to you, but I'll be honest, it doesn't happen every day.

Whatever reality you're in whatever time frame you have, start your day with God, whatever that looks like. It could be as simple as putting a verse down next to you because in truth, I have spent a lot of years memorizing God's word and I do have it hidden in my heart so I won't sin against Him. And if you're new, give yourself some grace. Write it down on a piece of paper. Maybe if you're super crafty, you can make like a pretty scrapbook piece of paper and make it really nice, where you wake up and you just look over and there it is

before you turn on your phone before you do anything else. Just that moment, just one minute with God. Two minutes with God.

Start your day with him. And that foundation will build and will strengthen. No matter what is going on, or how overwhelmed you are, I encourage you to start every day with God. When you start your day with Him you will build a strong foundation in your life. And He will become like the air you breathe, something you cannot live your life without.

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