Monday, September 5, 2016

God First

Friends of Faith:

God First! This may seem like a no-brainer, but if we really think about it – do we really, truly and always put GOD First?

That’s what Jesus meant when he said: ‘Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Lk 14:25-26

Wow – he really does mean we are to put HIM first. Of course, he doesn’t really mean that we are to hate our family, he just means we are to put HIM BEFORE even those we love. And if we are to put Him even before our family and friends then what does that say about all of the “things” we appear to love so much, things like money, cars, furniture, boats, sports, vacations and even abundant food and drink.

How often do we let something besides God make us happy in the moment? How often do we set aside prayer and never get back to it? How often do “things” take away our time with God? How often do we listen to a lie of the culture instead of making a decision based on God’s answer?

Earth is the devils playground. And the devil has been given all the time in the world to tempt us with money and materialism; a “me first,” feel good, culture; and technology which fills our time-- ultimately all of which can lead us to sin. The devil keeps us entertained so that we don’t have time to educate ourselves about God thru the Church or share God’s message of love with others.

The devil uses our selfish human nature and fights us with fire, storms of nature, illness, injury and even death by leading us down a path of despair instead of sacrifice. He uses whatever tactics he can to lead us in a godless culture down an easy street of degradation to our bodies and souls.

It is a constant challenge to remain with God: to take a tough line with our children by standing up to the sports and entertainment gods who insist on using Sunday morning as their playing field and where resources are spent by the millions. It is a fight to spend our time and resources helping the poor, caring for our elderly and encouraging our neighbors when our cell phones and computers keep us from getting to know our spouses, family and friends. It is a fight to choose deep, meaningful, conversations which can lead others closer to God when we are constantly interrupted by our cell phone. And it is easy to lose ourselves in a culture defined by sexual immorality, a lack of discipline and a desire to be materialistically happy.

 If everyone truly put God first (the no brainer) then we would all be on or searching for the same path in seeking truth and compassion. And with the help of God’s grace we would show each other mercy and forgiveness, healing and understanding while growing closer Him, to holiness and to each other. This is how God wants us to win the war against the devil; against powers, principalities and politics.

Putting God first is not just for Sunday morning. It means continuous prayers of thanksgiving and blessing before we eat and before we sleep, before we do anything of any consequence. It means a constant realization that we are here to make each other holy, that God has given us much and that whatever it is we are doing, we should be doing it without regard for our own happiness and comfort and for His greater glory.

If God was first then we could never forget that our time, our talents, and our treasures, our very lives are all a rich blessing, a blessing which no one can truly live without?

Several years ago I heard this wisdom: Happiness is fleeting, Joy is forever. God brings joy!

“Blessed are they who dwell in your house, O Lord. They are happy, who dwell in your house, for ever singing your praise. They are happy, whose strength is in you, in whose hearts are the road to Zion.” Psalm 84

I know I am happiest when I am putting God first. I feel the most joy when I give up my time to help a friend in need; when I take the time to pray the rosary while I am traveling; and when ministry work comes before my job.

Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ …. And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Mt 25: 34-40

Without putting God first I cannot be instructed in his ways and without putting God first it is difficult to walk in his path. “That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” Is 2: 3

“Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Tell his glory among the nations; among all peoples, his marvelous deeds. For great is the LORD and highly to be praised, to be feared above all gods. For the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and power go before him; power and grandeur are in his holy place. Give to the LORD, you families of nations, give to the LORD glory and might; give to the LORD the glory due his name! Bring gifts and enter his courts; bow down to the LORD, splendid in holiness. Tremble before him, all the earth; declare among the nations: The LORD is king. The world will surely stand fast, never to be shaken. He rules the peoples with fairness. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them. Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice before the LORD who comes, who comes to govern the earth, To govern the world with justice and the peoples with faithfulness.”  Amen. Psalm 96

Am I really putting God first? Be joyful, not happy. Be for God, not for yourself. For if God is for us, who can be against us?

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