5 Firsts That Matter in 2015

New Year, 2015, leadership, vision, Jesus, priorities, life

I want to get this post into your mind right now, with some time to spare.  So go ahead, read it now, and when you’re done reading set a calendar appointment next week to spend some time with yourself. Then go enjoy Christmas, and after the eggnog is gone reflect on what 2015 might become!

For some, a New Year symbolizes a pat on the back or a token for a job well done in the previous 12 months. For most, it’s kind of like a smack in the face that says a great big, “What are you waiting for?” I’ve had those moments where I needed to get started on the future, and like they say, there’s no time like the present.

In my own life, I use the time after Christmas to reflect and redirect. It’s a time to ease back on the throttle just a bit and ask some important and legitimate questions.

What’s the Highest Priority?

For me, my highest priority is my relationship with Jesus Christ. My faith ranks higher than my relationships people; it’s way above my career and hobby. You see, Jesus changed the trajectory of my life.

When my mother and father were saved in 1978, I was 7 years old. Up until that point, my upbringing consisted of wild parties, crazy drug and alcohol abuse, the fast life of racing motorcycles, and my parents living paycheck to paycheck and often fighting about money.

I was destined to be an addict, a womanizer, or a crook, but Jesus Christ changed my course. When Jesus met my mom and dad, it was like we took a U-turn. So, every year of my adult life since college, I’ve asked, “What kind of year has this been for me spiritually?”

An honest answer to that will tell you a lot about where you’re headed in 2015. Because it’s out of a relationship with Christ that everything else takes shape.

Seek God the First of Everyday (See Psalms 63:1; Mark 1:35)

I’ve got a friend who is crazy passionate about seeking God every morning. For most of his adult life, he has gotten up before the sun, opened his Bible, spent time in prayer, given the first part of everyday to the Lord. That’s crazy cool. It’s someone I aspire to be like.

I think if I can seek God the first part of everyday then the rest of the day will matter more. Less anxiety because I know Him better. Less stress because I will take my cares to the Lord. When I pray, I use this template. It works great for me; it might for you, too: Daily Prayer Card by Pastor Wendell Smith.

Worship God the First Day of Every Week (See Acts 20:7, Hebrews 10:25)

My dad told me since I was a boy, “While living under this roof you will attend church on Sunday.” I didn’t always like going to church. Sometimes it was boring. Sometimes it was irrelevant to me (at least, I thought). However, this encouragement from my dad forged within me the passion I have today to always turn to Jesus in the midst of and circumstance. It’s pretty obvious that when a Christ-follower doesn’t plug into their church weekly, spiritual apathy can linger right around the corner.

Being an asset to a local body is a huge part of making the rest of my year better. People think that because I am a pastor I have to say things like that. Truth be told, I would say these things even if I wasn’t a pastor, because I’ve not always been a pastor. Long before I became a pastor I loved my church.

Tithe the First of Every Month. (See Lev 27:30; Matt 23:23)

Every year during my time of reflection I really evaluate my giving to God from the previous 12 months. You know what, never one-time have I been satisfied!

The point of giving is not to be satisfied, it’s to be generous. If we make it a priority to give, our lives will change. Being a disciple of Christ means giving financially to His first love, the Church. It’s not about the money; it’s about the first of everything I have belonging to the Lord.

Fast the First of Every Year. (See Joel 1:14; Matt 6:17-18)

I often do a 21-day fast to start every year. One-time I fasted everything but vegetables. That was gross. Other times, I’ve fasted technology, like no internet, tv, etc.; anything that wasn’t required to do my job. Other times I’ve fasted caffeine. I usually choose the fast based upon what’s doable at that season of my life. Fasting has been paramount for some strategic breakthroughs in my personal life.

YET, None of This Improves Your Performance or Position

We don’t do these first things first to improve our position as a Christ-follower at all. All the work of the cross and all the work Jesus did through the cross is all we need to gain access to the God of the universe. Facts are, a lot of people believe that when you do things like this, you are earning your keep, so to speak. They think you are deserving of God in a better way. But if that were true then God would be like a taskmaster instead of a Father. He would constantly be evaluating you on your performance. When you know Jesus, the Father will only evaluate you on the good works you do that he planned for you to do since he saved you by grace and faith! The performance thing might be some red-faced preacher version of God, but it’s not the God of the Bible. And it’s not our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Most Important Reason to Do Any of This

Let me tell you the most important reason I do these first things as often as I can.  Here it is. Are you ready?

I do it because it’s fun! And I like it. And I want to.

Seriously. Giving God the first of everyday has always been a challenge for me, and it’s fun when I get it right! It doesn’t make God love me anymore or even earn me a gold star. It just brings me great joy! When I go to church on a Sunday, it’s fun to worship! I don’t do it because I feel like some duty has been bestowed upon me. I do it because it’s super fun to gather with other like-minded people. I love what we do together and it adds value to my life, but it doesn’t make God think I’m better than the guy that stays home. It’s just the guy staying home risks apathy because fun is the antidote of apathy.

And when I give money to my church and to God, it’s a mission. It’s my personal mission to be generous colliding with the corporate mission of my local church! I feel a sense of urgency compelling me to make sure every person serving God is funded! It’s not like the people are my motivation or I am trying to impress God with my giving. I choose to give because it’s my mission in life!

And when I fast, I don’t take credit. In fact, I don’t even really ask God for anything when I fast. Because everything God has given me is already accessible through the fullness of the gospel and the cross of Christ. So when I fast I am simply doing it out of connection. It’s fun to turn off my stomach, or my iPhone and get to know God! It adds value to my entire year. In fact, having fun with fasting is the secret to overcoming a miserable fast.

I really believe it’s most important to reflect and recall why we do these things. I hope you think about every aspect of your spiritual growth and development in 2015, and do all of it because it’s fun! Do these first things because they challenge you to be who you’ve been created to be! Because, in the end, God is pretty excited about you already. And you’ll be excited about him more and more.

What about you, what would you add to the list of 5 Firsts That Matter in your life for 2015? I welcome your comment below …