First Things First

Normally I do not post two blogs in a week. Nor do I post a transcript of my message (sermon), but this week I feel compelled to do so. This was a “fire in my bones” message that I believe God is speaking to the Church. It is time to put first things first.

Today’s message is one of repentance and a challenge to each of us to set a solid foundation for the work of the Spirit in our lives. I have titled this message First Things First. All too often, we get the cart before the horse. Because we do not keep things in the correct order, we find ourselves missing God; we miss hearing His voice and often miss His will for our lives.

My text today is from the book of Haggai, but I want us to approach this in context. Haggai, Ezra, and Nehemiah were contemporaries. They lived during and after the 70 years of Judah’s captivity. When King Cyrus of Medo-Persia permitted them to rebuild the city, these three men wrote of it. Ezra and Nehemiah wrote the account, and Haggai prophesied a strong message from the Lord.

  • Read Haggai 1:3-11, “Then the Lord sent this message through the prophet Haggai: “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins? This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes! “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! Now go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild my house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord. You hoped for rich harvests, but they were poor. And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because my house lies in ruins, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, while all of you are busy building your own fine houses. It’s because of you that the heavens withhold the dew and the earth produces no crops. I have called for a drought on your fields and hills—a drought to wither the grain and grapes and olive trees and all your other crops, a drought to starve you and your livestock and to ruin everything you have worked so hard to get.” NLT

Whenever God calls you to accomplish His work, the enemy will come against it. In the scenario of the rebuilding of the temple, we see two distinct lines of attack. Ezra deals with external issues, spiritual warfare. Haggai deals with internal issues, selfishness, worldliness, and apathy.

We see in this account that the people of Judah were more concerned with their own comfort than the restoration of God’s house. They did not keep First Things First. I see three things in this story:

  • First, they focused on their past rather than their future.
    • Second, they feared their enemy more than they trusted God.
    • Third, they were more connected to the world than to God.

Each of these is an enemy of what the Spirit wants to accomplish in and through you. Many of you are ahead of me in seeing the connection to us, but I will lay it out as clearly as possible. As people of God, we are spending more time building our kingdom rather than God’s. Our priorities are wrong. We want to live for ourselves and then ask God why things are not going easier for us.

  • Prophetic Word the Lord gave me on 3/16/2021 (We do not hold at the same level as Scripture)

“The Lord says, I will begin to strip away those that have prostituted themselves with the gods of this earth. I will pull back the curtain that hides their sin. They will be revealed for all to see. Many within the Church seek to hide their sin, not from the shame of doing it, but because there is no remorse. They believe there is nothing wrong with their actions. They have traded my truth for filth and lies. In this day, I am sifting out those that defile my body so that my Spirit might move in freedom among those who serve me. The world will always sin, but My Church must strive for holiness. To those that live pure lives, I will give a greater portion of my power and presence.” 

Usually, I would deal with each verse as we come to them; today, I want to approach things differently. Verse 8 is the theme of Haggai’s prophecies, “Now go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild my house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord.”

This is an interesting statement if we compare it to Ezra 3:7 “Then the people hired masons and carpenters and bought cedar logs from the people of Tyre and Sidon, paying them with food, wine, and olive oil. The logs were brought down from the Lebanon mountains and floated along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to Joppa, for King Cyrus had given permission for this.”

What happened to all this wood that was to supply the rebuilding of the temple? Either they used it to build their own homes, or they let it sit and rot. Today, we are busy building our wealth but not giving to God. We seek power, but not the power of the Spirit. We seek position, but not our position in God. We seek reputation, but not as holy people.

Israel and Judah both rejected God by serving the idols of surrounding nations, thus 70 years in captivity. When Judah returned, they did not turn back to those false gods; they served themselves. When everything else is our priority, we suffer spiritually. Dr. Wiersbe states, “It doesn’t take long for zeal to cool and God’s people to grow apathetic, especially when opposition began an ominous growl that soon became a roar.”

Think of Jesus parable of the sower; one type sprang up quick but did not last. Building our lives rather than God’s Kingdom shows that we have much faith in ourselves and little in God. Our spiritual renewal as individuals, as families, and as a church community begins with putting back where He belongs; First Things First.  Jesus wants to be first in your life, not second, and not co-first. He alone is at the center of your life.

We often make excuses; we are too busy to help others, we cannot afford to tithe or give to missions, we are waiting on the right moment, on and on we go. Here me church, in this COVID era, we must know when caution stops and fear begins. We must not let the enemy distract us from rebuilding the temple. Matt 6:33 reminds us, “seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Too many Christians have believed the lie that tithing is an Old Testament principle. As a result, their life is more difficult that it needs to be, at least in the area of finance. When we are obedient to give to God our best, our first-fruits, he promises to destroy the devourer for us. God promises to bless us more than we can ask of imagine. Now, know that this is not a math formula, I give a $1 and God gives me $10. This is a life style of trust and obedience. If you continually have the same financial issues over and over, my guess is, you are not tithing.

Again, Dr. Wiersbe states, “Local churches can’t expand their budgets for world evangelism because money isn’t there, and yet many church members don’t believe Matt 6:33 and put God first in their giving. Measured by Third World standards, Christians in the Western world are living in luxury, yet their giving is low and their debts are high because their wealth is being used for things that really don’t matter.” (Be Heroic by Warren Wiersbe, 1997, David C Cook Publishers, pg 75-76.)

Are we building our kingdom or God’s? In verse 5, Haggai challenges us…

  • NLT “Look at what’s happened to you?”
    • KJV “Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.”
    • NIV “Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.”

They spent 70 years in captivity, and when they came out, they repeated the same pattern. God is honored when we obey, and He is glorified when we sacrifice. Today, the house of God is not so much physical as it is spiritual, yet we try with all our might to build a physical house which in turn hurts us spiritually. Often when God speaks, we ignore Him, but here in Haggai, the people of Judah responded.

Read verses 12-13 with me, “Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of God’s people began to obey the message from the Lord their God. When they heard the words of the prophet Haggai, whom the Lord their God had sent, the people feared the Lord. Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave the people this message from the Lord: “I am with you, says the Lord!”

God is with you, says the Lord! First Things First, build His kingdom. In so doing, you will set a firm foundation for the Spirit to move in your life and your situation.

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