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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Chris Hodges » Chris Hodges - In the Beginning God

Chris Hodges - In the Beginning God

Chris Hodges - In the Beginning God
TOPICS: Pray First, Prayer

All right, who's glad to be at church today? Anybody, anybody? I know. Me, too. Oh, it's so good to see you. Welcome today to week number one of a brand-new series that we're gonna call "Pray First". We'll tell you more about that in just a second. But as always, let me look straight into the camera and say hello to all of our locations. They've had their own services up to this point, and now we are one church in 23 locations all across the great state of Alabama, and in Columbus, Georgia; and in 20 of Alabama's Department of Corrections facilities. People are watching live right now around the world, and we also have several churches that are joining us, because they're doing this series with us together.

Would you please, Grants Mill, put your hands together and show the biggest love you can? Come on, everybody. God bless you. Thank you. It's an exciting day, because it's also the launch of our annual 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. And I'll give you a few thoughts about that. Most of you, if you've been around Highlands, you know that we have been actually having this 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting since before the church began. We actually have our anniversary or birthday, which is it? I don't know. But our anniversary or birthday in February every year, because we actually started our church with a season of prayer and fasting, and we have this again taking place starting today. We'll end on Saturday the 28th. And if you're new to our church, what that means is we're gonna ask all of you to fast, and I'm gonna teach you about that later in the message, but we're also encouraging you to come to our prayer services.

So, these are Monday through Friday at 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. sharp, and we will end on time so that you can get to work or school. And if you've never been to these prayer services, thousands of people, I mean, the auditoriums are packed. We have to have police coming in directing traffic at 5:30 in the morning. Isn't that a wonderful thing, everybody? And we'd love for you to come be a part of it. There's a part of it that's where you pray on your own, and there's a part of it that's led together. We have full band worship. It's a powerful prayer service. We'd love for you to come in person. It's actually more powerful, more dynamic if you come in person, but there are online options, because we know a bunch of you get kids off to school or whatever.

nd so you can actually stream it live at 6 a.m.; and then after it's over, our team immediately archives it for 24 hours. It's on demand throughout the rest of the day, if you have a preferred time that you'd like to pray. And then we have our service the next morning on Tuesday. Okay? So, that's how that works on Saturday. We meet at 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Central Time, and it's just a wonderfully powerful time together. So, I want to encourage you in that. Join us. I promise you, you will love every minute of it, and there's something in the power of 21 Days. We actually take this off of a fast that took place in the book of Daniel, where Daniel fasted 21 days, and he saw God open up the heavens, and he was able to confront the enemy powerfully, and we just think there's something powerful about these 21 days.

So, join us in that. And as I said at the opening, we're also launching a series today that's based off of a brand-new book that I've written, and we have copies for all of you out in the foyer at every location, if you'd like to have one, if you don't already have one. But I grew up in a very strong prayer culture. So, my home church in Louisiana was called Bethany World Prayer Center, and my pastor is the most praying person that I know, and I learned prayer from him at a very early age. I got saved at 15. I was on staff at the church at 20. By the way, I'll be 60 this year, and this year I'm celebrating 60 years old and 40 years of ministry. Come on, somebody. All right?

So, got my 60, 40, and plan on many more years after that. But I grew up in this very strong prayer culture, and my pastor would pray 3 hours on Sunday morning before service. I used to show up at 4 o'clock in the morning. It was a giant 6,000-seat auditorium in Baton Rouge, and I would go in there and watch him pray, like, what do you do for 3 hours, you know. And actually, as a young college student at LSU, I learned prayer from my pastor. And, of course, a very strong prayer culture, started resourcing churches around the world. I kind of grew up in this, and so when I became a youth pastor, every bit of my youth ministry was marked by prayer, every bit of it.

So, I had, at one time, the largest youth group on the west side of the Mississippi. I started in Colorado Springs, and we had, I mean, there's thousands of young people, but we had a prayer service in my house on Tuesday night that we called Prayer Warriors, because ever since I've been doing ministry, I've always had a prayer service the day before I would minister or be on a stage, and the reason is because I know that what we're trying to accomplish and what I'm trying to accomplish I'm just good enough. I don't have what it takes in my own skillsets or gifting to do this. We need life change. We want people to meet with God. And so these prayer service going on, and so when I moved to Birmingham, back in 2000, we wanted to launch the church; but actually, you could see with the room full right now, the best time to launch would've been right at the beginning of January. Everybody's making resolutions. But we actually delayed the launch an entire month so that we could fast and pray; because, again, I knew that we needed God's help with everything.

And, of course, the rest is history. And I want to be very, very clear, I credit what has happened here at Highlands: none to me, all to God. Can I get a good amen, everybody? I mean, I really, I do. I mean, it's not that we're not good at some things, and we are, but I'm telling you God has helped us. God is pushing us forward. He's pushing us to a place that I never dreamed of being. Y'all, I'm not that, really, that talented. I'm not that smart. Y'all, I was a C student in Louisiana. Come on, somebody, right? Not in Connecticut. I said Louisiana, all right. We 50th on every list there is, everybody, maybe 49. Thank God for Arkansas. Come on, somebody, right? But I mean, I mean, I'm just a very average person, very, very average person that God is blessing. You're looking at what it looks like when God favors someone.

And you know the word prosper, and I know everybody hates that word "prosper". You've got people like, "Are you a prosperity church"? Well, not how you're thinking about it. But the word "prosper" in the Bible means God will push you forward. It's tsalach in the Hebrew, and it means, here's how far you can go, and then God just shoves you a little farther. And I want that for your life. I want that, and so we have built our ministry around prayer all these years, and we've actually, if I could just say it plainly, we've been very good at motivating and teaching people how to pray. So, to have thousands and thousands of people at 6 o'clock in the morning doesn't happen in a lot of places, especially in America. And so people have asked, "What did you do"? And all I've done is teach people how to pray, because I have this theory.

My thesis of the book is that people don't need to be inspired about prayer, and 99% of all books on prayer are motivating you to pray. I don't think that's the problem. I think the problem is they're motivated and don't know how to make it actually work, how to enjoy it. What would it look like if you're, like, when you're in your prayer time, and now it's time for you to go do the next thing, and you're thinking, "Ah, man, I wasn't done yet". Like, nobody does that, and we've taught people how to pray that way, and so the book is broken up into the things that if you've been a part of this church, you've seen it. You already know this. The first section of the book has five chapters where I teach the five things that make prayer work, which is making it a priority, having a place, having a plan, understanding how to pray powerfully, like, with a lot of energy. And finally, the persons of prayer.

So, I call the priority, place, plan, power, persons, so how to relate to the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in different ways, because they have different personalities, and I taught that. The middle section of the book, seven chapters, gives the models of prayer, that if you've been a part of our church, you already have them. We put them in booklets. We've been giving them away for years, these seven ways you can pray using outlines or models or patterns in the Bible. And to me, it's the best part of the book. It's the meat of the book. And then I finish it with how to build your life around prayer. How can you have a prayer shield? How do you enlist personal intercessors? How do you get on prayer teams? How do you go prayer walking? How do you understand fasting?

There's a whole chapter on the nine fasts that are listed in the Bible, and why they fast, and how they fast, and then what God did. And so I'm just very, very excited about this book. And if you'd like to have a copy, and you like it, tell your friends about it. But more than anything, more than selling books or anything, my joy is to resource the body of Christ, because I think we need revival in America. I think we do. That's pretty weak. I'll try again. I think we need revival in America. I know. And there has never been a revival in human history that did not begin with unified, powerful prayer. In fact, it's so encouraging to watch the NFL go through a crisis on Monday night, and then last night there were hundreds and hundreds of players in the middle of the field calling on the name of Jesus, because they got in a desperate situation.

Come on, somebody. Give God some mighty praise together? I believe people know. And so the title of the book, "Pray First," actually originated 9 years ago. We're in these 21 Days. We're doing the fasting thing together, and I felt like we needed a rally cry, like, we needed a sticky statement in the branding world. They call it like something people would always say and never forget. And so I came up with the phrase that year in 2014, "Pray first". Pray first. And I did a whole message on "Pray First". And we actually made little rubber bracelets, and we have some for you out in the foyer, out there for you, that just say, "Pray First," and it's there to remind you that prayer is not a moment. It's not a morning. It's not your quiet time. It's not, like, you could pray.

The Bible says, "Pray without ceasing". Well, how in the world do you do that? It's not an event. It's like all throughout the day. You pray first. So, it's like one sentence prayers here, and another sentence prayer there, and now, boy, I'm stepping in this meeting. Lord, I need the favor of God. I need the wisdom of God on this. Like, before you text somebody, pray first. You'll be so glad you did. You think, "Nah, I ain't gonna say that". Like, you're gonna erase it, right? Before you go to work, pray first. Before you go to school, pray first. Before you take that test that you didn't study for, pray first, everybody. Like, pray first, before I wake, when I wake up, I'm gonna pray first. When I go to bed, I'm gonna pray first. Before I eat, I'm gonna pray first. Like, what would it look like if we had a "Pray First" kind of life.

And it's so fun, because we've made these little bracelets, and that's how people now identify themselves to me when I'm out and about. So, I'll be out just shopping or whatever, and at Lowe's or whatever, Home Depot, or, you know, I'll see somebody across the whole store go... and they're letting me know, you know, "I'm one of you"! We're family. Like, "Pray First". You know, they get it. So, it's really, it's kind of caught on. Help yourself, if you'd like one. But the whole point of "Pray First," is that we believe that prayer should be our first response, not our last resort. And here's what most people's prayer life is. I don't pray until I need God. So, we act first and then ask God to bail us out. But what would it look like if we prayed, pray first?

So, that's what I want to encourage you in. And so I'm going to bring you four messages. Most of them are going to be on prayer, but today is not gonna be on prayer. Today is gonna be on the second word in the title, because it's not just pray, but there's something powerful about first things, and I'm going to teach you here at the first of the year, in the first month. And really, I know we had service last Sunday, but people were still traveling, which is why we really start things here on the 8th, on this first, to me, really, our first kickoff Sunday of the year, and I want to teach about first things, because first things have power. In fact, I've entitled this message, "After the First Four Words of Your Bible".

So, if you go to the first page, and look at the first sentence, and look at the first four words, it says, "In the beginning God..." And to me, I think this ought to become your life motto. "In the beginning God..." In the beginning of getting married, in the beginning of going to school, in the beginning of my day, in the beginning, what if God was a little bit more involved in your life? And so typically here, especially in the south, not true of you, but typically in the south, God is a part of your life, but God does not want to be a part of your life. God wants to be the center of your life. He wants to actually be involved in your shopping, in your spending, in your hunting, in your conversations, in your friendships. Like, he wants to be a part of all of it; and he not only wants to be a part of all of it, he wants to be first in it.

Now he doesn't want, he doesn't require you to only have him. He doesn't mind you having other things, but the principle of first, you can't avoid it. I wish you'd have seen the first draft of my notes today. I had hundreds of Scriptures. I spent the whole week eliminating things I was gonna tell you. Just take my word for it. This is a massive principle of scripture, that if you learn, you become the beneficiary of this principle. So, the next place it's mentioned, where there's the word "first," is just two pages later. Now you've got Adam and Eve's kids, Cain and Abel. And Abel was a shepherd, so he had flocks. And Cain worked the soil. He was a farmer. And notice what it says about these two boys and their relationship with God in the course of time.

Now notice that phrase. So, he didn't put it first. He just kind of, when he got around to it, Cain brought an offering to God. He brought, because he's a farmer, he brought fruit to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions, which means he brought an animal. He brought one of his animals, but it was the first of his animals. He brought the firstborn of his flock. He didn't just wait until he had a bunch and thought, "Ah, I'll just grab one. In fact, I'll grab one that's probably crippled, and I really don't want". No, no, the first one he had, he gave to God. And the LORD looked on favor with Abel and his offering and did not look with favor on Cain and his. Why is that? Because God does require to get the best of who he is for you to embrace this principle.

Now, you can go to heaven without believing what I'm getting ready to tell you. You can have a relationship with God. You just won't get the best of God. And everything in the person you're looking at right now, just trust me, I want you to have everything that God has to offer, because I know what he has for you. And then, honestly, one of the tragedies of what I do is to see so many people trying to just kind of get by with enough, knowing what they can have, and I want this so badly for you. So, I'm going to give you three principles and four practices, and then we'll go to the house. All right, everybody? Here's the first one, and that is that God must be first. So, he must be. He will not be in your life. He requires being at the top of your list. The priority relationship, I call it.

So, I even did a message one time with the nativity scene. And if you remember this back in 2015, I had the nativity out, and I moved around the pieces and kept the manger in the nativity, but just didn't put the manger in the center. So, I put the shepherds represents our work. And a lot of people put your work first. And I put the wise men in the center, and you put your money first. And then I put the, you know, the Mary and Joseph. And for some of you, you're putting your family first, and that even sounds right, but family even can't be first. You've gotta have God first, so God can bless your family. And then I put the animals in the center, too. Like, what does that mean? Like, that's your, look, I've seen some of you. Y'all put your animals first. I've seen your Instagram posts. Like, get over it. Like, but that's your hobbies, and your lakehouses, and your golf for me, and it's the things that you love, but that's first, and the manger is still there, just not first.

God will not tolerate that, and I'm going to tell you why: because he put you first. So, the first of the Ten Commandments says it. So, the Lord God speaks, "I am the LORD your God". Notice, he didn't talk about what you need to do. He tells you what he did for you, "who brought you out of Egypt, and who took you out of slavery". Okay, now that I've put you first, and by the way, to take you out of Egypt and out of slavery, it cost him his first and his best, and his name is Jesus. So, he was willing to, like, "Okay, I'm gonna go for it. I'm gonna put you first. Now you shall have no other gods before me". Okay, so notice he doesn't say, "You shall have no other gods". He said, "I don't even mind you having other loves". And that's not talking about religions or faiths or denominations. It's talking about things you love. He said, "I don't mind you loving other things. It's just I can't have them ahead of me".

And the second principle, and so God must be first. The second principle is, and you put God first by giving God the first of everything. And this doesn't get taught enough. And I'm gonna teach it today, and this is the deep end of the pool. So, I'm bringing a place in America where Christianity is kind of traditional. I'm bringing you to the deepest end of the pool right now to tell you that God doesn't want to be your Sunday God. He wants to be your everything God. He wants to show up at your work. He wants to be involved in your family. Like, he wants to be a part of it all, and preachers will only teach this mostly around the idea of money, and it's not talking about money, but the tithing principle is not a money principle. It says the tithe of everything. Like, "I want you to... would you consider giving me the first of everything? Give me the first of your year. Give me the first of your month. Give me the first of your week. Give me the first of your day. Give me the first of your thoughts. Give me the first word that comes out of your mouth every day. I don't need it all day. I just want to be first".

It's holy to the Lord. Proverbs says it this way: "Honor God with," say it out loud, "Honor God with everything," not just some things. "Give him the first, give him your best". So, God must be first. We give God the first. We put God first by giving God the first of everything. And the last one is the one, that where you benefit. And whether you like it or not, this is, God is going to do this, and that is that the first now has the power and will empower the rest. Now, that's a fact. So, when you do it, God says, "Oh, that's how you're gonna flow it"?

All right. And he puts his blessing on the rest. And again, my life in this church is a living testimony of this, that if you honor the Lord with your wealth and with all things first, of all your crops, then... there's always the if-then. "Then your barns will be filled to overflowing. Your vats will brim over with new wine". You guys know the Highlands story. That has been absolutely the case. Jesus said it this way: "If you seek first my kingdom, my agenda, my life, your relationship with me, then," there's the then, "I'll take care of all the things for you". Watch how involved I'll get in your life. And this is just what I want for you so badly. So, I decided to go a little stronger than normal today and ask for a lot, and it's up to you. You do not have to do any of this. All right?

You can still be a Christian, still go to heaven. You just, in my opinion, I'll just say it plainly, you won't get the best of God. But I'm gonna go ahead and give you the... I'm gonna do the full ask today. I'm gonna give you what I would only tell maybe our Highlands College students, or our staff, or my family. And I just decided to give it to all of you today. I'm just gonna, but it's a strong ask. I just want you to get ready. I just, it's a strong one. But if you'll do it, you get the test and see if it works or not, and it won't even take you, it won't take you that long. We always say give us a year, but it won't take a year. You'll probably know in a month or two, maybe three. You'll see it. And that is I want you to give God the first of your year with prayer and fasting.

So, we've done this since the beginning of the church. I've been doing this since I was 19 years old. I did my first fast when I was 19 years old, and I have never missed one. I'm 59, soon to be 60, so I've been doing this for 40 years now. I've just, starting my year pushing the plate away, seeking God, and telling God, "I'm putting you first". And it's so funny, y'all, because I get my best invitations to the best speaking, the best trips, seriously, y'all, you'd laugh if I told you. You would totally buckle over laughing, I mean, like, things I would dream to be at with people, and I've already decided God's getting the first. And I say, "So sorry". And they look at me like I'm stupid. "You're not gonna do this"? Like, nah, so sorry. I've already set aside this time to the Lord. Jesus did this. You know, Jesus is and was God. Now he was fully God, but he was also fully man.

So, he set some human examples for us. Doesn't even start his ministry until he's 30 years old, but it started with baptism. Let me just say that. He started his own ministry with baptism, and then his next thing that he did, before he ever prayed for anybody, healed anybody, before he preached a sermon, and there were people needing healing and sermons right then; and for 40 days, he went out in the wilderness, and he spent time in prayer and fasting. He started his ministry with this. He tithed his time, if you will, like we're tithing our time in our year to the Lord. And the Bible says that God anointed Jesus.

So, I thought Jesus was already anointed as God. Yeah, but he knew that his source of strength didn't come from just who he was, that he needed to connect to the Father, so he could be empowered by the Holy Spirit and then he went about doing good, healing all who were under the power of the devil. Why? 'Cause God was with him. I want this so bad for you, I can't hardly stand it. Listen to me, look at me. I don't say this arrogantly. I know God is with me. I know. I tell our team all the time, "We're not this good. We're just not this good". And I feel the pushing of God behind us in the finances here at Highlands, in our projects that we've done. It's unexplainable. I really don't have an explanation for it.

And I have studied throughout biblical history and human history where people have set aside time for fasting and watched God supernaturally, do you know about the fast that Abraham Lincoln did right in the middle of the Civil War. The Civil War was 1861 to 1865, and in 1863, Abraham Lindon called the fourth of his national fasts. Go look it up yourself. And they sought God, and repented, and prayed, and said, "God, you're our source. We can't even get out of this mess". Not only did the war end, but right after that in 1867, literally right after it, Russia sells Alaska to America for $7.2 million. That's 2 pennies an acre. How many of y'all know that's a good deal, everybody, all right? And for the next 28 years, America operated their federal budget with a surplus. They had money they had nowhere to spend. Like, they had a sur...y'all ain't never even heard that word surplus, surplus.

There's more than we need. Like, they're in Congress, going, "Hey, what do we do with all this money? Like, I don't know". They had, and in 1871, this city springs up in Alabama. It grew so fast, so prosperous, so wealthy, they called it the magic city. That's sweet home Alabama and Birmingham, everybody. And you can think what you want to think. I know for a fact that our city was established by the favor of God. Do you know today that more charitable dollars goes to the world out of our city per capita than any other city in the world? We are the most generous city. Why? Because of God's favor. Come on, everybody. Blessing is on us. And it's been the story of Church of the Highlands. I'm just begging you to consider starting this year, like, I'm gonna push something away. I am gonna, I am gonna, I am gonna cancel that trip. I'm gonna do, no, I'm gonna, for 21 days, I'm gonna seek God. I'm gonna put this thing to the test. I'm gonna put God first.

And if you don't know how to fast, I write about it in the book, but there are four different ways that I know of that you can fast. A complete fast is where it's water or liquids only. A selective fast... by the way, if you do that, make sure you get medical supervision, especially if you're on medicine, but be careful with that. Selective fast is whatever, you just select certain foods you're not gonna have for 21 days, the most popular being the Daniel fast. The Daniel fast, Daniel chapter 10, no meats, sweets, or bread. But there's a lot of different ones you can do there. A partial fast is you're eating everything you want, just not all day. So, you're gonna fast maybe breakfast, or maybe fast dinner, whatever it is, but you can just pick that.

And then my favorite down on this list, I think I coined this phrase. I never heard anybody talk about it until I brought it up, but it's a soul fast. And a soul fast means I'm gonna set aside things that are polluting my soul, like media. Come on, everybody, social media Some of y'all need to get off social media, not for 21 days, but for 210 years. Come on, everybody. It's just polluting your soul. But for 21 days, I also soul fast when I watch any... Tammy and I already talked about it yesterday. We took a long walk and talked about what we're gonna fast, and we talked about what we're not gonna watch. We're not gonna watch this. We're not gonna look at that. I'm not gonna be on the news.

So, if stuff happens, I won't know. And I'm gonna be happy, happy, happy. But just find out what you're gonna do and join me tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. Here's the second one, and that is I want you to consider giving God the first of your month with tithes and offerings. And we don't teach this a lot. I teach this more in our membership class. Tithing is not a New Testament law. You're free not to do this, but it is absolutely a principle that still works, and Jesus validated it in Matthew 23. He said you should tithe, and the Bible teaches it, but it's not something you have to do. I'm just telling you that when you set aside the first of your month, and by the way, not just the tenth part, which is what the word means, or ten percent, but like the first ten. I don't even believe it's tithing if it's later in the month. I just think there's something about the order, and it's not about money.

The Bible says that the purpose of tithing is to teach us how to put God first place in our lives, and it absolutely works. And you won't ever know until you try. It's like if you never tithe, you ought to try it just to see if it actually does work. All I know is my own story and the story of this church. And you know that the very first check ever written from Church of the Highlands, and we made sure of it, the very first check every written was to missions. So, the first thing we ever paid for that had Church of the Highlands on the check, we said, "We're gonna give, move the first, giving away", and we do that to this day. The very first part of everything that's given, even if it overfunds our missions budget, we give the first ten percent away immediately to bless, because we so believe in the principle. I'm just telling you my own story. The Bible says, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse". That's the place you worship, not a charity, not another organization, but to where you worship, "that there may be food in my house". And God says, "Test me and see.

See if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven, pour out so much blessing you can't even contain it, and I'll even prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines of your field will not drop their fruit before it's ripe". And then everybody, all the nations are gonna go, "What in the world? Why are they so blessed? How'd they get so blessed"? And yours will be a delightful land. I want this for you so bad. I want you to say, "Man, my whole life is just delightful, but I think it happens when we honor God, we put God first", you'll never know until you try it, and it's up to you to check it out. It's just try it and see. Here's the third one, and that is to give God the first of your week with consistent church attendance; and not only that, but give him the whole day.

So, the Bible doesn't say, "Give God an hour". God said make the sabbath day holy. So, find a day, and that's usually for most Christians, it's gonna be the day you go to church or a Sunday. For me, it's actually not on Sunday. This is a work day for me. My Sabbath is on Monday, and I sabbath. I worship. I actually go and watch a church service online. I take notes with my Bible, just like I'm sitting in the audience just like you are. I amen the preacher if it's good, and I tell him, "Mm, that ain't so good," sometimes. And I journal, and Tammy and I have our best, you know, meals together, and that's my Sabbath. I rest. I don't get on my digital things at all. We have a moment in that day, every Monday, every Monday, where we reflect on the past week and look forward to the next, and we plan, and we get focused, and we nap.

Come on, everybody. You should do that today. You should actually worship with all your heart. My recommendation is don't miss a Sunday. And when you come, give God everything you have. Like, I mean, when they clap, don't give them the golf tournament version. Like, put them bad boys together and clap your hands, all ye people, and lift up those hands, and bless the Lord. All I'm saying is try it and see, 'cause maybe, just maybe you're not getting all that God has, and maybe it's not his fault. It's yours. Maybe he's looking for you to go a little bit more all-in. Some of y'all need to get your toe saved. Y'all just need to get it ongoing a little bit. Just tap that foot a little bit during worship and engage. Like, get in a group. Like, just do it all. Like, try it and see. Jump all-in. And then when you get home, "Honey, we gonna nap, we gonna eat, we gonna reflect, we gonna plan, we're gonna focus".

You know your life would be better. You know it. And Jesus did this. He had a custom. He went to Nazareth, where he'd been brought up. And on the Sabbath day, he went into the house of God as was his custom. And I want to encourage you to do the same thing. Set the whole day aside. I want you to never miss and just see. Just see what happens. Did you know that Harvard came out with a study. Harvard. Now, this is not a Christian study. Harvard. They're trying to figure out how to make the divorce rate not so high. And so they were looking. Are there factors to get it away from the one out of two end up in divorce? And they found something. This is Harvard. They found you can reduce the divorce rate to one out of every 1,246.

And this goes back to that third principle I taught you. Remember, God should be first. Make God first by giving him the first of everything. And then God will bless the rest. Well, here's the evidence. Here's hard data evidence from people that weren't looking for a Christian answer. And you can get it to 1,246 if you attend church, discuss the Bible, and pray. Well, yeah. Like, the play actually works. And what do you have to lose to go ahead and give it your all and just try and see? Here's the last one. Because when the piano plays, you know, it's like the Academy Awards. Get off the stage. It's time for you to get off, all right. And that is I want you to give God the first of your day.

So, I've told him how to do it your year. Prayer and fasting, month through tithing, week by church and full sabbath day. You know this stuff will work. You know it. And give God the first of your day. I didn't say all day, just the first part. Jesus did this. Very early in the morning, he got up. The psalmist David did this very early in the morning. I'm gonna lay my request before you. Now, God doesn't mind hearing from you all day long. I'm telling you there's something special about it being first. And not all day, 'cause that's an unreasonable ask to ask you. And some preachers will say, "You need to get in there and spend an hour with God". Most of you don't have that. I tell you what you do have. You can give him 15. And I'm asking you to test this and see if it doesn't work, like, the first 15. Read 5 minutes of the Bible.

"I don't know what to read". Go to our app. There's a little white banner at the top right says, "One-Year Bible". Click on it. It's going to give you an Old Testament passage, a New Testament passage, a Psalm and a Proverb. Now that's about 15 minutes of reading and a devotional. But if you only have 5 minutes, just read the Psalm. Just read the Proverb. That'll take you 2 minutes. Like, get in the Word. And never miss. If I have a 5:30 a.m. flight, I'll do it while I'm waiting for the plane to board. I am not gonna not start my day without God's Word. And I don't want you to either. Try it. And then 5 minutes in worship. That means that's one song. Find your favorite song and lift up those bad boys in your house, and tell God how much you love him, and I'm telling you your day's gonna be different. You know it is. And then 5 minutes in prayer. Lay your request before him.

You say, "PC, why are you doing this"? I'm gonna tell you why: because I've been in this 40 years, and there is a frustration to my job, and this is the frustration, and that is I know what God has for you, but I do know what it requires from you to get it, and that's why I try everything in my power that I get all this blessing your way, and I just, I'm just here to say if what you're doing you're happy with, don't change a thing; but if what you're doing you're not happy with, what do you have to lose? Put God first.

And I found this little story, and I'll close with it. It's our life, your life, my life in 5 chapters. Chapter 1, I went out for a walk, I fell into a deep dark hole. It took me a long time to get out. Chapter 2, I went out for a walk, and I fell into the same deep, dark hole, and it took me a long time to get out. I've heard this story over and over. Chapter 3, I went out for a walk, and this time I saw the hole, but I got too close, and I fell into it, and it took me a long time to get out. Chapter 4, I went out for a walk, and this time I saw the hole, and I walked around it. Chapter 5... I went down a different street. I'm just gonna do it different. That's what I need you to do. Let's pray:

Father, I did my best. I did my best, God, to encourage your people to get what you have for them, Lord, and I pray, God, with every ounce of faith in my heart that they would realize that you have blessing. You want to push them forward. You want to be there with them in everything, God. And so I'm asking, Lord God, that you would just put faith and courage in their hearts today and give them the desire, give them the will to say, "This is going to be my year. This is the year I'm going to live a God first life".

With heads bowed and eyes closed, it all begins by surrendering your life to him. And most of you in this room, I would imagine, are Christians already, and you love God, and you just needed to hear this kind of course correction for all of us. But some of you have never made him the Lord of your life, or you did and you know you've walked away. You're backslidden. You're away from God right now, and you want to recommit your life to him. Can't think of a better day to do it. And in a moment, I am going to ask you to raise your hand, if that's you, but I'm not going to have you stand up or come down to the front, but I think it requires boldness to say, "You know what? Today is my day, and I'm going to be unashamed. I'm going to let God know. I'm gonna raise my hand and say today's my day".

And if that's you, today, you say, "I'm ready, I'm ready for a change, and I'm ready to surrender my life completely to God". Would you make up your mind right now, if that's you? And in every one of our locations, and everybody that's watching online, and in the correctional facilities, wherever you are, on the count of three, I want you to lift your hand. One. God brought you here today. You're not here by accident. Two. Every part of your life has led up to this moment. Three, lift your hand right now and say, "Count me in, count me in, count me in," all over this room, yes, yes, just literally hundreds of hands all across this room at every location. God bless you today. Slip those hands down. Pray this prayer with me. Even if you didn't raise your hand, you say, "But I should have". Just pray. God sees your heart. Say these words, say:

Jesus, today, I'm putting you first. Today, I turn my life around, and I'm aiming toward you. I give you everything. So, forgive me, save me. Holy Spirit, come live in me and change me. I believe you are the Lord. You are my Lord, and I believe you died and rose again, and today I'm putting my faith completely in you. In your name I pray, amen.

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