Day 1
First in Line

Key verses:  Acts 5:1-11

Kids love to be first in line, but why?  What is it about being first in line that appeals to kids?  Granted it has the best view but it’s also the first into the unknown which many kids are hesitant about.  Yet when you tell then to line up they will jockey for the first position.  It is our nature, whether we acknowledge it or not, to desire control.  Kids don’t think about this but by being first in line the implication is that everyone else is going to follow you.  They have no choice and in contrast if you are NOT the line leader you are now following someone else and have no control.  I remember being in elementary school and how we would often get in trouble for pushing our way toward the front of the line.  If we weren’t the leader we were going to get as many people behind us as possible.  
Isn’t it wonderful when we grow up and outgrow those traits…  Um, well at least we realize that there are those in authority who we must submit to and…  Let’s try again, thankfully we know that God is the ultimate authority and we are less than dust in comparison to him and there’s absolutely no way we would try to put ourselves before God.  The problem we run into is this is the very essence of our fallen nature.  All our sin goes back to the very problem of us trying to take the first spot in line ahead of God.  
It may manifest itself in different ways for each of us, mankind still hasn’t discovered all of the ways in which we can displace God in our lives, but the end result is we are all guilty.  I often point out to my kids that even when doing something good we can do good for the wrong reasons and it is still sin.  In Acts 5 we see a glaring example in Ananias and Sapphira.  They saw others selling their property and giving it for the care of the church and decided to participate.  However, rather than give all of the money they held some back.  This in itself wasn’t the sin, the sin came when they led everyone to believe they had given all of the profits.  They put their image and acclaim within the church, their own glory, ahead of God and this was their sin.  
For each of us the struggles and challenges we face, the temptations we deal with, can be different but the core of it is always a decision of who we will put first.  Our self or God?  Which will you choose?

Day 2
Least Go First

Key verses:  Matthew 20:1-15

One day I was listening to a conversation my children were having.  During this conversation one of my older girls was trying to convince her younger sister that it was better for her to go last and let her older sister go first.  The logic went something like this:  She argued that “The Bible says the first shall be last and the last first so by going last you are really first.”  I’m not sure if this was supposed to appeal to the desire of kids to be first but the end result was that her younger sister wasn’t having any of it.  I don’t think she really understood the reverse psychology being used on her but, regardless, the younger was not going to let the older go first no matter how “Biblical” it may have been.
As I think back on this conversation, I can’t help but think how often we make decisions based upon what’s owed to us.  We fight for what we think is our due and we argue and complain if we believe that someone else got what should have been ours.  Can you imagine how the story in Matthew 20 would have played out today?  If an employer tried to pay their part time workers the same amount, we’re not talking hourly rate here, for a half-day work that the full-time employees were receiving for a full day there would be lawsuits and protests.  Not to mention the firestorm on social media.  Do you read this scripture and think about those “poor laborers” who worked a full day but had to watch the “loafers” get the same pay?  Why is it that we don’t think, “Wow, isn’t it amazing how generous that employer was?  He’s so kind!” 
For some reason, our sense of justice gets bent out of shape when someone doesn’t comply with our idea of equity and fairness.  The problem is we are judging by our standards and those are based on a fallen world.  God doesn’t work this way and that’s who Jesus was representing in the parable by the employer.  Imagine if God’s grace was variable based on how much work you’d done or how good you’ve been.  If we start with the “best person ever” and go down from there, if you are like me, we’d be in a whole heap of trouble because I would certainly qualify as those who were still standing around at the 11th hour.  
Thankfully, Jesus came and turned our whole idea of fairness on its head.  Are we approaching our life, and our approach to discipleship of others, the same way?

Day 3

Matthew 6:33 ESV · But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 

Prayer:  As you enter into this devotion, ask God to reveal to you the areas where you may not be seeking His direction and allow God to show you what needs to change.

Isaiah 46:3-4- ”Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by men from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”
In the scripture verse today, we read God’s promise to His people who have been taken captive into Babylon and others scattered into other parts of the known world. For many years, these stubborn people had chosen to not follow God’s law and go their own way. Even Moses faced heartache from them as again and again, they fell into sin and idolatry. God gave them the ten commandments and told them exactly what to do to have health and prosperity, but over and over, they failed to listen. We can trace the sinful heart of mankind all the way back to Adam and Eve as they heeded the voice of the snake instead of obeying God and enjoying the good life that He intended for them. 

God is stating in this scripture what His people should have known all along. He is telling them that He has been with them from the womb and He will take them until they are old. In other words, I have you and will take care of you from the cradle to the grave. But how often did they forget that promise? Let’s bring it down to us. How often do we forget God knows what is best for us and decide to take control of our own lives? I am so guilty of acting like I know more than the creator of the Universe, the One who holds the planets in place and knows every hair on my head! God forgive us when we fail to seek Him first in our lives because He knows what we need and what is best for us. 

The very first act we must make in saying yes to God is understanding who we are saying yes to. If we know we are saying yes to the very one who formed us and has the best for us, giving God the controls should be easy. It is when we put our hands back on the steering wheel that things go awry. 

Jeremiah 29:11- “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Day 4

Matthew 6:33 ESV · But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 

Prayer:  Remember to keep your heart tender and open to God’s will for your life. Saying yes is a process of letting go of your will and allowing God to have His.

Proverbs 16:3- “Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established.”

As we discussed yesterday, saying yes to God starts with an understanding of who we are saying yes to! After saying yes to God, where do you go from there? I have heard the saying, until God opens the door, praise Him in the hallway. What does that look like? We had a friend that was so concerned about doing God’s will that he made the statement, (keep in mind it has been a few years ago), “If God would just send me a fax saying, hey Kev, do this,” he would be happy to do it. But, we know that God doesn’t work from a fax, text or phone call. He has however supplied us with His written Word that we can read and we are privileged to be able to go to Him in prayer for guidance as well. Sometimes God makes everything so clear and other times as in Elijah’s case, it is a still small voice that we hear from God. Usually it isn’t an actual voice but a prodding in the heart. Many times God will send others to help guide us. So if you are ready to say yes but just don’t know what God wants you to do, just remain faithful where He has put you and if He wants you to do something else, He will show you. When our Bulgarian team committed ourselves to go to Bulgaria last Summer, I had never really thought about going there. In fact, it was not on my bucket list at all. However, after being presented with the possibility, suddenly I saw and heard of Bulgaria everywhere. I couldn’t get it off of my heart. One Sunday morning, that still small voice of God spoke to my heart and told me I needed to go and He would go with me making the way. God was so faithful to us providing everything we needed and also blessed the trip allowing us to accomplish the tasks the missionaries had for us. I almost missed that blessing because I was afraid of being the weak link in the team. I was afraid that financially we just couldn’t do it. I had a dozen reasons in my head of why I couldn’t. When I said yes, God took it all from there. Everything may not be clear in your mind how the task He asks of you will work out but be assured, God will provide and make a way!

According to Strong’s Bible Concordance, the Hebrew word for “Seek”, is “zeteo” which means “to crave”. Are you craving God more than anything else in this world? If only I craved my God the way that I crave my food! It would change everything! Crave God above all things. Crave God more than your desire to accumulate wealth, more than pleasure, more than things, more than happiness, more than anything! If you aren’t doing that pray that God will make you willing to be willing. Once you have who God is in place (knowing that He wants what is best for you)  and sincerely crave His will, you will be happy to say yes to whatever He has for you.

Matthew 28:20- “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Day 5

Read Matthew 6:25-34

This week we have tried to focus on a single word in Matthew 6:33, “first.”  The goal was not to give you a new understanding of the word with a brand new definition, but rather to trace its place in the Bible for a context that makes sense.  I am certain that all of us could have described and explained the word “first” with no issue before we began this week.  
However, the greater context has lended to us a new challenge, or a new view of the old challenge.  With that in mind, we return back to the original verses that started the discussion in Matthew 6.  These are the words of Jesus and they are contained in what we refer to as the Sermon On The Mount.  They are placed right in the middle of Jesus explaining how He feels about murder and lust and many other things.  They are right when he starts explaining about the upside-down kingdom in the Beatitudes (Mathew 5:2-12).  
They are in the “practical instructions on how to live” section of Jesus teachings.  So let’s think through it all one more time.  

What does it mean, to you personally, that you are to put God first in all things?

In what ways do you see this not happening in your life?

What actual steps need to happen to make this a reality?
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