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Levi Lusko - Start with God

Well, we always like to take a second to welcome those who are joining us on the live broadcast, Church Online. Those who jump in on TV, those who watch on the archive, thanks for joining us. And you're coming in as we're celebrating some new locations we've opened up in two places, in Montana Great Falls, and Butte, and also in Portland, Oregon, Fresh Life has now reached out to it. But welcome, welcome, help me greet those on the internet. It's always so good to have people tuned in. We're starting a new series of messages, and what we're going to do is, we're going to come around the topic of relationships. How many of you are in a relationship? Anybody, at all? Raise up your hand. Pretty consistent, all weekend long, it's been the strangest thing. People have been not raising their hand if they're not dating somebody.

And you do know, being a child means you're in a relationship. Being a brother means you're in a relationship, being a mom means you're in a relationship, but it's been funny, and I think we sort of think about being in a relationship only in terms of intimacy, only in terms of romance. And of course if you're romantically linked up with someone, if you're married to someone, then there is a relationship that you're in. But there are more relationships in our life than just the ones that involve our hearts in that unique way. And what we want to really do is open up. When I said relationships series, I meant sister-brother, I meant grandparent-grandson, I meant coworker-annoying coworker. I meant your neighbor, that's a relationship too. Life, think about it, is actually brimming over with relationships. And what we want to do is spend the next five weeks really honing in on the relationships in our lives. We want to make the good ones better. We want to make the bad ones, less bad. We want to make the unbearable ones, a little bit less unbearable, so far as it lies within us.

Doesn't that sound good? Who wants to get better at relationships? I do, and I think it should be a source of relief to you, that the art of relationship, It's not a genetic predisposition. It's a choice that takes grit and determination. It's not like, I'm good at them, I'm not. I know I'm not, I took a personality test, it said I'm not cheerful. So I just know that's not me, that's not my lane. I'm staying in my lane, all right? So, I know me, and that's not me. I get it, some people are more gregarious, some are Tiggers, some are Pooh Bears, some are Eeyores, I'm with you on that. But at the end of the day, I think we can all choose to improve ourselves. We can all choose to get better, and so much of it, our mistakes in relationships come from we just take relationships as they are, without realizing we have a say in the matter. We can improve them. Great relationships are not turn key or maintenance free. They take work. They take effort. Y'all, some assembly is required.

And expecting a relationship to work just by virtue of you being in it, is like making a trip to Ikea to get that new couch, or to get that new media center, or dining room table, or bedroom set. And once you eat your meatball and pronounce the Swedish word that you're looking for, because you saw it on the web site, the Klip-en-schlo-gen that's what I wanted, right? Is that Swedish? How do you like my Swedish? Now, you bring this home, and it's in a flat packed box, how they get all that in there is amazing, whose job is that to figure out how to do that, and disassembly is required. So they get it all tiny in this box, and you bring home, but imagine how frustrated you would be, and how silly it would be, for you to bring that home and set it up in your living room and just sit on that tiny box. Your friend comes over, and you're like, have a seat, this is my couch. They're like, wait, in the box? Yeah, isn't it great? And then you're frustrated, they point out to you how ridiculous you look, and you're like, this is stupid, you're right.

And after a couple of weeks of sitting on the box, you take it back to Ikea and be like, that couch sucks. Give me my money back, that couch is terrible. They'd be like, sir, did you open the couch? But that's, of course, a ridiculous illustration, but how many of us get into a marriage, and then it's not what I thought it was going to be. It's not like I saw on the internet. The picture said it would do this, but my marriage isn't good. Listen, every relationship in your life has the ingredients within it to do something fantastic, you just have to be willing to assemble the pieces. You just got to be willing to take them, and fit them together, it takes effort. It takes hours of your back cramping up, turning a little Ikea, Jesus, help us with the Allen wrench. Right? How many hours did you spend over there with that? And not just the diligent effort for installation initially, but preservation continually.

OK, I applied myself at one season, I went through the premarital, we worked at it, we went through the counseling intensive. There was a season where I really applied myself, and the relationship got good. But if you take your foot off the gas, you'll begin to coast, and inertia will eventually be lost. You'll eventually lose that momentum, and you'll eventually be unhappy with your relationship. It takes not only initial work, it takes ongoing work. It's like the Golden Gate Bridge. They say that that beautiful bridge is painted International Orange. The paint is the primary thing preserving the bridge. The paint is the primary barrier against corrosion. The paint is the primary way they keep it from falling into the Pacific Ocean and make it safe to drive across to San Francisco and be in the opening for Full House and all of that. It's the paint. They've actually removed the paint, entirely, several different times, as technology has allowed them to realize the lead is not the best way to do this.

And so imagine that job, you got take all the paint off the Golden Gate Bridge, and put this new paint on. And so what they do is, they paint the thing continuously. They're always painting some portion of the Golden Gate Bridge, because just as they've gotten through one piece of it, another piece has now begun to slip. And that's how great relationships are. You're working on one area, you've got to work on this here, you've got to keep it going, keep it going, keep it going. That assembly is constantly required. Now by way of a plan of attack, what we're going to do throughout the course of this series, and this one's just the introduction. We're not even really going to get too much into the nuts and bolts of it, because I just want to set things up for you, a little bit here. You've got to come back.

I'm just telling you, if you make the commitment for the five weeks of this series to be here, I think we will all see some improvement. Maybe by way of a challenge, maybe four out of five of them, I'll be here in person at the Fresh Life location I attend, and that fifth one, when Billy's got a soccer game, or whatever, Johnny's got the flu, you kept the podcast that week. But can you say, four out of five, we're going to be here. I owe it to the relationships in my life. I owe it to my company to be that kind of an employee, as a leader. I don't care if you like if Billy is the captain of the soccer team, you owe it to those under your leadership on that soccer team. Is it always Billy? I'm sorry, I apologize. He's just the foil. If your name is Billy, this is going to be a tough church for you to attend, because I'm always throwing Billy under the bus, little Billy. But just make that commitment, make the effort to be here multiple weeks in a row.

And I think we will all see some improvement, and I wonder if even just at the beginning, you might not even just write down a relationship in your journal, in your life that's tough. And you're going to really give some concerted effort, maybe it won't be a massive amount of growth, but maybe it'll be a little bit. Maybe it'll be just enough to give you confidence, that if you apply yourself, you can actually see some progress. Because when you finally start to see some change, OK, this is working, OK, we're on to something here. Come on, somebody, 1% at a time, 1% of the time, 1% at a time. We want that quick fix, we want that magic bullet, we want Amazon Prime to deliver us epic relationship awesome sauce. It is not on there, I have checked. And so what we have to do is just do the hard work of showing up, and keep trying.

So you with me on that, four to five, let's be here. And that fifth one, we'll catch the podcast, catch it on the playback. Plan of attack, we're not going to be identifying, each week of the series, a kind of relationship, and honing in on it. This is the week for second cousins, this is the week for second wives, this is the week for the boss. We've preached that way, I've done it before in different series, and there's nothing wrong with that. I've had to mix it up, I've been doing this for 10 years here. And so we've had a lot of different series, and so many of them. There's a wealth of them archived on the app and on our web site, you can go back and listen to different ones. But what I feel like God would have us to do in this series, would be to give every single week of the series, including this one, a tool that will help you get better at every relationship in your life. So important, too, because new relationships are always popping up.

And so if we just focus in on how to approach specifically one area, that's great for that one. But what about all the other ones? So instead, if we could get better by learning a tool, if assembly is required, we'll need the different tools. And if each week of the series, we can get a different tool that we could apply at home, apply at work, apply at school, apply at sport, apply to strangers, to anybody, to everybody, and everybody in between, I think that would be helpful for all of us. Anybody with me? That's the plan. All right, here's where we're going to begin. Here's our first tool to get better at relationships. Ready? We're going to put it on the screen. Start with God. That's the title of my message, and that's the first tool I wanted to give you. Jot it down. Start with God. And your like, Levi, objection. Objection. You said you're not going to be focusing on relationships specifically, but instead, the tools that apply to all. Stick with me, objector, stick with me.

If you have a Bible, Proverbs chapter one. By the way, we're going to be, the entire series, pulling principles from the Book of Proverbs. I'm excited about it, because I've never preached through it, so we're going to be picking pieces of the Book of Proverbs. But I want you also to get the entire thing. So here's the challenge I'm laying out for you. Throughout the course of the summer assembly required, we are, as a church, going to be going through the Book of Proverbs. 31 chapters in it, one chapter a day, starting tomorrow. So those of you watching on TV, whenever you're watching this, tomorrow is tomorrow for you. So all of us are getting it tomorrow. But what I want you to do, is read one chapter a day, and we've taken our staff all across our entire church, three different states now, and we've assigned all different staff members for every weekday.

So all five days of the weekdays throughout the course of the series, one of the Proverbs for that day, to give a little Deevo on. And how am I going to, I can't make it to the church. No, it's going to be on Facebook Live, and Instagram Live, every weekday, at noon MDT. So now in Daylight Time, at noon, there's going to be just a five minute Deevo from a different staff member from that day's reading. So ideally, you'll have already read it that morning, Proverbs 1 the first day, Proverbs 3 the third day, and then at noon at lunch, you throw your ear buds in. If it's a smoky day throw your gas mask on, whatever you got to do. That's a joke because where we live there's been wildfires that have been causing it to be difficult to breathe, and the air quality has been toxic, and it's been funny to watch people walking down the street, briskly walking their dog with a surgical mask on. But at noon, jump on for that five minute Deevo, be pumped up in your spirit.

Isn't that cool? I'm so excited about it. I hope to join in, because the cool thing is you can be throwing comments down on Facebook Live, and you'll be the person giving a positive thing to say on Facebook, not a lot of that going on these days, but let's be positive commenters. Let's use our words to speak life, let's use our words to build up. Anybody can tear down, that's easy. Creating something, that's hard. Building up something, that's hard. Let's speak life, let's let our words blow up with vitality, let's encourage each other. Mama said it best, if you ain't got nothing nice to say, baby girl, don't say nothing. So that's what we're going to be doing, and I'll be pulling from different parts of the series, principles, you can come in here each week expecting to receive a tool or principle, or pitfall to avoid, that will apply to every relationship you're in. Let's bring our friends, let's invite people, it's going to be a really great life building time in our church.

Proverbs 1, we're going to jump in at verse 3, where we're told what the Book of Proverbs is. It says a manual for living. Pause right there, who would like to say thank you, God, that we get a manual for living. Because we've got a manual for everything else in life. I mean I got a manual here for a 2016 Chevy Tahoe, it tells you everything you need to know about a 2016 Chevy Tahoe. I've got the logo blacked out, so I don't get sued when this goes on TV. I got information here about the infotainment system, I got information about the Sirius, I got the information about the lock and unlock features, I got information about fan max speed, trailer wiring, ice possible, drive with care. I got information about the oil pressure, I got information about the headrest, I got information about everything I could possibly need, air bags, seat restraints. I get information about heated seat warmers, key doors and windows.

There's a chapter about rear power wash fluid, a key for when you're in a valet parking scenario. I mean there is so much Flex Fuel, fuel economy, interior lane, I've got a book I can go to for any dilemma I got from my Chevy Tahoe 2016, QR code on the back. Does anybody still use those? Don't know. I got a camcorder manual here, this has helped me preach this message. If I go over here real fast, I'll jump to a wide shot, if I'm here for a while, they'll come in close for my beautiful close up. And this is happening here. I don't know how it all works. But I could open this book up for any dilemma, for focus issues, if we're going to be real about it, then I'm not that thankful as I get older, that HD technology just gets better and better as I look worse and worse.

I got a manual here for my wireless mic pack that's helped me preach this sermon, it's in my back pocket, and somehow, through a wire that runs up my shirt that Tim ran down my shirt before the service started, that as I'm talking, it catches it here, and goes down here, and then shoot through the air, to a board, and it pulls it into a speaker array that goes out, where it's eventually shot out to our 11 locations. Hello. Then it goes live on our radio stations, and then it gets archived and gets listened to by approximately 80.000 to 100.000 people in a week. And then it goes out to our TV show, which reaches millions of people, including every 50% of the prison systems in America. And a majority of the Army bases, military bases, goes out on Church Online, where people can join in and be chatting, where they're hearing about things that went in through. And if we get any problems, like interference, like we're picking up a ham radio, it's happened. If the Coast Guard got super chatty, we come into a new city, when we do tours, and all of sudden there's new interference that we aren't used to in the native environment.

And so one of the first things they got to do is listen to the spectrum and analyze UHF, VHF, VCR, whatever, ADD, they got going on. And this will tell you how to do all that, just from this tiny little pack. And if you speak German, it's in there for that too. So the point is, we've got manuals for everything. Everything. You're like, how much of things? This is one for a high chair I have for my son, Linux. How many scenarios can there be for a high chair? It makes him not be low, but instead, be high. It's got a seat belt, you pull it up to the table, that really should be it. It should just be one thing, put him in it, eat, you're done, goodbye. But we've got a manual for sitting high. And what is so refreshing to me, is that in the Bible, God gave us, look at it one more time, a manual for living. And that's awesome. And you should thank Jesus, because life has a lot more knobs, and buttons, and levers, than my high chair. It's complicated stuff, living is.

And Solomon, who has been called the wisest person who ever lived. How he got that is a great story, you should read it some time. It's amazing. God says, poof, what do you need, Robin Williams to Aladdin, poof, what you need, literally happened. The Bible says Solomon gave God 1.000 burnt offerings, and that night God said, what do you want? Ask me. I just loved that, because that's what radical generosity on leashes, and we're living proof of that. Here, we sit at 11 campuses but it's come as a result of sacrifice from many, many, many, many people thousands of people have sacrificed and God has said, what do you need? What do you want me to do? And we said we want to go to Great Falls, and we said we want to go to Utah, and we said we want to go to Oregon, and we said we want to fight for Montana, and we said we will go to Wyoming, and we said we will release music, and we said we will call a generation out to strength, and out to honor, and we will die trying to reach people stranded in sin, so they can find life and liberty in Christ. And I will fight for you to receive your God given blessing, and you to fill out to your God given potential, and for you to walk in all that Jesus died for you to have.

You can hate me all you want. I'm going to fight for you, I'm going to preach to my dying breath. I'm thankful, because we gave and God said, what do you want me to do? He said at one time like this, if we just give the blood, God'll give the Thunder, and when it comes, all we got to do is ride the lightning. And that's what we're doing right now, we are living out our dreams. And we're not ashamed of it at all. Manual for living, we've read four words that are speeded up. But Solomon said to God, when God said, poof, what do you need, Solomon said, I want to be smart, I want wisdom, he said I'm young, I'm the King, but I don't know nothing, and I need wisdom to lead well.

And I can relate to that, being thrust into all that God did at a young age, I mean when we started this church, I was 24 years old. Jennie and I are both 24 years old, and we just said, God give us wisdom. And we've always felt like we've been skiing in front of an avalanche a little bit, with the way that God blesses. I mean we had 1.000 people before we thought to buy a copy machine. And it's just been always the growth that God's given has been ahead of the systems in place, and we've been playing catch up organizationally for a decade, and I relate to Solomon who said, God just give me a heart of wisdom. I need wisdom to do this well, and God was blown away. This isn't even my sermon, I'm getting distracted with the set up, y'all, but God said, you could have asked for money, you could have asked for riches, you could've asked for power, you could've asked for a hover board, like Michael J Fox rode in Back to the Future part 2, you could have asked for anything. But you asked for a heart of wisdom, so you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to give you all three, there will be no one richer than you, no one more powerful than you, and no with more wisdom than you.

And I just love that. When we link our heart up with God's heart, and we are willing to say goodbye to our dreams, sometimes, God has a funny way of giving us the dreams back. We lay down at His feet. I'm just saying, I just feel like I'm preaching for somebody right now specifically, when you lay your dream down at His feet, He is safe to trust with it, and He'll give you His dream for your life. And I just dare you to believe, in a more powerful way than you could ever have imagined, He'll also give you the desires of your heart. So that's Solomon's story, and being the wisest person in the world, I'm really glad that he chose to write a book. That's the kind of guy you want writing a book, because he would've died with all that wisdom, would've gone into the grave with him. But no, he gave it to us. A manual for living. For learning what's right, and just, and fair. Who's it for? Well, to continue on to teach the inexperienced the ropes. Dang, that's helpful, because every one of us are inexperienced in some regard.

And as life goes on, though we are experienced, become inexperienced because we enter new seasons. Think about it, I'm in a season right now where our parents are getting older and when my mom texts me, it's always something bad about her body. Not always, most of the time. Other times it's weird pictures of cats. But one day I'll write a book, things my mom texted me. I'm just grateful she doesn't know about Twitter yet, because the world is not ready for that, I'm telling you. But don't tell her about it if you ever see her. She fell out of a hammock, the hammock broke, she's lying in a hammock and it breaks, lands on the metal pole and she already has a broken back, because she had gone on a trampoline, and was jumping up and down, and she had osteoporosis, and so she broke her back, then lying in a hammock to relax, she falls on the bar. And I'm in a different season, because I'm states away, but I want to help her. I'm states away, but I want to be there for her. That's a new season for me I wasn't expecting, it crept up on me.

Your parents just get older one day at a time, just like you do, and so even though I'm experienced now somewhat, I've been a dad for 11 years, so that was new to me, now I feel like I'm getting the ropes a little bit. But now I'm in a new season, because now I'm back into son mode. We go from experience to inexperience every day. And we've got a manual for living, that's awesome. And give our young people a grasp on reality. Young people, you need a grasp on reality. Because when you're young, you feel like your mortality isn't real. That's why we do such stupid stuff when we're young. We think it's funny to not wear seat belts, and to not wear helmets. And we don't realize how much of a vapor life is, and how it can go from one second to air. We're laughing at YouTube and Red Bull to ICU, and tubes down throats, and just how fragile life is. We need a grasp on reality when we're young, amen somebody.

You can do stuff when you're young that lives on with you. Every day we're packing in a time capsule to be opened up in a couple of years and a couple of decades, and so we need a grasp on reality. The old people, whenever I preach like that, are like, yeah, tell those young punks what to do. But there's something here also for seasoned men and women. Don't you love how we cover every base there is? Seasoned men and women, still a thing or two for the experienced to learn. Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate the rhymes, I love this, and reasons of wise men and women. So at the end of the day, this manual is for all of us. OK, you're like, dang, get into it sucker, I need all of this. All right, here we go. This is reason to begin. Verse 7, start with God. The first step in learning is bowing down to God. Only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning. You ever get something that you ordered online and you're putting it together, and you want to rush to what you think is going to be the final step. Maybe it's not as much assembly, it's like installation.

And so you want to rush to do something, and you do it, and it doesn't work, and then you go back, and you see it the first page of the manual that you had declined to open up. Whatever you do, don't do this first. And it's the thing you just did, like oh crap. I'm even worse, I've done it where there's stickers on it that say that nine times all over the product, and I just ripped them off quickly, and did the thing, it didn't work. What I love about this here, that feels like it's not a tool, but makes it a tool, is that we are inclined, when we talk about relationships, to want to immediately move on to my cousin who's annoying me. And my brother who bugs me, and my spouse and I who are having this issue, and we want to rush to talk about how to be a better mom and we want to figure. But if you're not careful, your life can become a game of whack-a-mole. Whack, whack, whack. And it's funny how even success in one area can cause you to feel like you're failing in another.

OK now I focus on work, and I'm crushing it at work a little bit, I'm being successful here. But now I realize I'm failing at home. I've been neglecting my spouse, I haven't been present for my kids. Even when I am present, I'm on my phone. All my kids ever see is just me on my phone, right? That's not what we want. So then we focus on that. But then as we're doing that, the expectations are over here, because didn't your mom say she wanted you back for Thanksgiving, but you were really looking forward to Thanksgiving with just your immediate family? OK, so now you're winning with your parents, but you're losing with your kids. And all of a sudden, we feel like we're on a seesaw. One side goes up, does that force another side down? Do I have to choose to be successful or to be great relationally? Is it going to be in my sports life that I'm great, or in my spiritual life?

We're just all of a sudden now one thing goes up, one thing goes down, and the moment we're killing in one area now, we have to deal with the fact that there are people that we thought were friends who are becoming jealous of us, and envious of us. And that's a reality too, because sometimes people who have given up their dreams resent you for living yours. There's a little bit of truth to they hate you because they ain't you, where now out of a sudden I'm being successful here. But I'm experiencing fires breaking out on fronts, and fights showing up on sides of my life that I thought were fine and short out because they were always with me, until I walked away from them a little bit to walk towards what God had for me, and now all of a sudden I'm saying they weren't ever really with me.

And so what's going on here? Well, here's the problem, we're missing the crucial first step. And we're neglecting a tool, because if we would start with God, it's one relationship in your life, that unlike any other relationship, has the ability to improve the quality of every human relationship you are in all at one time. So instead of playing whack-a-mole, we can get off the seesaw, and instead, first things go first, and if we get better at walking with God, all of a sudden we are a better version of ourselves to approach work, to approach school, to approach home, to approach romance and intimacy. Start with God, Solomon says this is crucial. Jesus said it too. Indeed, Matthew 6:33, seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added on to you.

Our problem is, we go seeking after all of the other things at the expense of the most important thing. But if we put the most important thing in the proper place, then every other thing will eventually fall where it should be as well. It's not only a relationship, it's also a tool, because if we get better at walking with God, we'll get better at everything. Now, you would say to me, how do I start with God? How do I get better at walking with God? The answer is in the question you start with God relationally by starting with God literally. What do you mean? I mean that in the plainest possible sense of the word. Come back, we'll get practical on human relationships, but I mean this just as far as the mechanics of your day. Every day. That's the first point, jot that down. Start with God every day. What do you mean? I mean when a new day begins, begin with Him. Just give Him some time before you give time to anything else. Because you are spending time like money every day that you live. So just make sure you spend it on him first. So a new day begins, start with Jesus. Because guess what, you are shaped by what you start with.

And so if you start with Jesus by reading His word, by talking to him in prayer, you're like, prayer I have every intention of praying, but I try and I don't get it. Maybe you need to get up from your knees and walk around. Maybe you need to just take a walk with God, maybe you need to put ear buds in and just talk to him driving. People think you're on the phone. Maybe you need to put God in as a contact on your phone, you seem to be very vocal through your thumbs, OK, talk to God with your thumbs. I wrote most of my book through the eyes of language, began as sort of a prayer journal on my phone. I couldn't type for some reason, I couldn't write with a pen, but I could write with my thumbs, for some reason it just flowed out. And what eventually became the book, Through the Eyes of a Lion, started out with me crying out to God in the midst of pain and difficulty, in telling him things to help me and telling him things that hurt me.

And so it was just power that came out of prayer. And I'm telling you, when you begin your day, not with CNN, not with Twitter, not with some fashion magazine, not with a novel, not with a movie, not with a quick half bite of a bagel, a quick burn your throat on a coffee, and rush out because you snoozed 17 times before you got up. But when you choose to set aside 15 minutes, and you say hey, I'm just going to take some time to listen, to pause my heart, to throw a worship song on, or grab Fresh Life worship off Spotify, I'll throw some fresh on, my fortress on, when it releases in early 2018, I'm going to listen to this song. You bring out to me the whole time, cry, run out the door. Now all of a sudden, you're a better version of yourself, aren't you? Take a moment, be silent, the Bible talks about meditation, which is listening to God, meditating on something you've read, I heard someone say read the Bible until something jumps out to you, then shut it. Because if you rush on to read something else before applying the first thing, you're in danger of having your heart hardened to what you needed to have changed.

And that's great, but also on the days you don't get everything out of it, don't be fooled by it. Don't be fooled if you don't get anything out of it, because you're only perceiving that you did it. What you got out of it might be something you don't yet know you need, but God wanted to give to you before the difficulty came. So don't be tricked by that. You go a whole week without getting it. That's cool, I'm just going to get into a groove, I'm just going to listen to God, I'm just going to talk to God, I'm just going to worship God. I'm not going to be tricked by my feelings, my worship is not a feeling that produces acts. It's an act that at times, produces feelings. And know this, that if you don't worship God, you're missing on the chance to receive that day's mercies. Because Limitations 3 says, that God is so faithful, His mercies don't last to be consumed, to feel not they are new every morning. They get reset every day. It's like a bakery that throws out its cookies at nighttime. So if you don't get that day's mercies, they're gone.

Now there's new mercies tomorrow, but you miss out on the chance to get that day's mercies, and who knows what you might have been able to do with that day's mercies. So come on, somebody, they don't roll over. Get them while they're hot each day, get that day's mercies and tomorrow's mercies. Because tomorrow, you can't get yesterday's mercies. You can never go back in time and be changed by God, if you don't get it today. You got to keep it in the present tense. All right, so every day, you start with God. Second way, you start with him every dollar. Every time a new dollar comes into your lives, the discipline that you want to develop, is where you start with him. Proverbs 3, 9, and 10 put it this way. Honor God with everything you own, given the first and the best. Then your bond will be bursting, and your wine vats will brim over. That's speaking of God's blessing on your life.

So here's what scripture teaches. Every single time you get paid, you're taking a test. And the test is, who will you honor highest, and that's who you pay first. So if you pay a mortgage first, if you pay Verizon first, you can pay American Express first, you're honoring those things as the highest position. Whoever gets the first is who you're putting in the highest place in your life. So what scripture teaches is that we should put our hearts in God's kingdom, why? How does that work? Jesus said wherever your treasure goes, that's where your heart is. No matter what you buy, you think about it. When we found out we were pregnant with Linux, I had to buy all new baby stuff because we got rid of everything, because we were done having kids. Surprise, right?

And so I can't tell you how much time I spent watching reviews on strollers, and car seats, and reviewed the latest information on safety and side impact, and as I bought these things, two things happened. I not only became knowledgeable, and began talking about it to other people more. If people are being like, let me talk to you about strollers. My staff's laughing because it's true. And I'll stop someone on the airplane, be like that's a baby, it's a year plus, I love this stroller, I think it's great, folds up really small. Hahaha, he was from France. But what I invested in, both in time and money, I cared about it. And get this, I was tracking it pretty compulsively. Because when I get a tracking number from FedEx, I'm dangerous, I'm going to track it, I'm going to track it, I'm going to track it, like every day, I'm going to track it. I have to be careful, I literally will track something before I have my quiet time if I'm not careful. And it's because investment has been made, and your heart's invested in those things.

So it's not only because God's going to bless you, he will bless you if you put Him first financially. It's what we talk about all the time tithing, whatever God gives you, you get the first and the best. You've got to start out when you're young, because it seems crazy if you wait. If you're a kid and you get a $5 gift from your grandma for your birthday, $0.50 to Jesus is no big deal at all. But if you wait, now all of a sudden you're making $24.000 a year, and you can think of a lot of things you could do with that $2.400. That's why these rhythms, they start when they're small. The tithe checks that you'll be able to write as you follow God and walk in His faithfulness will stagger you, but you can never start there. That's like jumping in on 300 pounds on the bench press without first getting on with just the bar.

So you got to start with those baby steps of tithing, and eventually you can get in greater, and greater, and greater gears of generosity, where you're able to give away what you never would think of ever even making at some point in your journey, and the more you give, the more you're invested, because your heart's bought into God's kingdom. It's amazing how that works. Here's the third thing, jot this down. Life's full of difficult decisions and choices. Where do I live, who do I marry, and is it bullet proof or paleo, hot yoga or Pilates, we got choices, we got decisions. People in Portland are with me, people in Montana are like, what are you talking about now, exactly? That's why I never trust people from California. Listen, listen, listen, we've got choices. Do we go bow hunting or rifle hunting, are we awake, class? Are we awake? There we go. All right, so Ford or Chevy?

These are the decisions that we're making in life, and what I'm saying to you, you should see your angry faces. I'm saying that we should think about what God thinks about a decision before anything else. I know we're having fun here, but there are serious decisions you're going to make about job offers you're going to take, and what college you're going to go to, and who you're going to do life with. These are huge things, and I'm saying that we should start with God, not end with God. I have this conversation a lot with people, because when I travel, preach an hour, and speak an hour, or bump into people, and I've on a couple of occasions met people from Fresh Life, who at one point, were plugged into one of our churches here. And they'll say to me, hey, I'm living here in the city now, so glad you and Jennie are here, oh my God, it's so good to see you guys, and to be in your preaches again, and do you know any churches in this area I could go to?

Almost like the desperation in their eyes, we've been here for two months, it's been tough, is there any church you know of in this area? And I always ask myself, is this the first time they asked this question? Now that you've moved here, now you accepted the job, now that you've relocated your whole life here, now you want to get around to talking about what will my church be? What will be good for my spiritual life? What Because I guarantee you, they looked into the cost of living, they looked into the schools, they looked into parks, recreation, rollerblading, and all that stuff they were thinking about. Aw man, the Maggie Daley park in Chicago, that's pretty good, and if I'm here, I can do this, and here I can do this. But why would the last thing we would consider would be the impact of it on our soul?

And we as parents, if our children are thriving and planted in God's house, we better think real carefully before we uproot them. Not that God wouldn't ever call us to, we're not saying that, this isn't manipulative at all. We're just saying we want to start with God in the equation. You're like, you don't get it though, pastor, it's a lot of money. My family will do better with a lot of money, the life I can give them out there, I hope it's a lot of money, because I hear rehab is expensive. And if they're killing it in their walk with God, we just want to be very careful that that's not the last thing we consider, is what the spiritual impact would be. So we start with God when making difficult decisions. One of my favorite verses in the Book of Proverbs is Proverbs 3, 4 through 7. Look at it in the living Bible. It says, if you want favor with both God and man, and a reputation for good judgment and common sense, then trust the Lord completely. Don't ever trust yourself, don't go with your gut. In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.

That's what we're after. Our efforts being crowned with success by God, because we didn't consider what he thinks of any decision we make. Laugh, he's the first one we go to we go to him in prayer, we ask for godly counsel. And we consider that at the highest part of our lives. Does that sound like it could move you towards where you want to be in life? All right, every disagreement we start with God. Every disagreement, that's the next one. We need to start with God when we're in conflict, we need to start with God when we're in a fight. We're going to circle back on this, so I won't spend a lot of time here, because obviously, if we're going to be better at the art of relationships, we need to be better at the art of conflict. And I hope to come back, because we're going to definitely open up the vault and talk a little bit about God's word, and what wisdom would have us to know about when we get into those moments when we start to see red, and we start to get crazy.

And then we do those things that we almost come back to, like we're discovering something that Mr. Hyde did and Dr. Jekyll is like, who did this, and you're like, you did that. Mark Ruffalo waking up in a pile of bricks, like you came flying through the ceiling with no pants on, pal. How many of you have been there relationally, anybody with me? You've done and said things, I'm the only one, I get it, that's fine, no, no, no, please, leave me up here alone. I'll be OK. But we all are capable of doing things in a disagreement, and that could have been fixed if we would have started with God, and take in a second, deep breath, center ourselves a bit, ask God for some counsel, pray about it for just a moment, and then acted before we send the text message, before we unfollowed them on Instagram. That'll show them.

So in every disagreement, look what Proverbs says on the subject of conflict, as well as Proverbs 19. It says the discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression. In the entire kingdom of this world, we are the only creature that's been graced with being made in God's image. We're very like animals in almost every regard. You think about the difference between a human being and a monkey, it's very small, but what the Bible says makes us distinct, is that we were made in God's image. So yes, we're essentially the dust, and carbon, and all the same elements biologically speaking, but we have self awareness. We have a sense of humor. We have the knowledge of good and evil, and it is the glory of a man to overlook a transgression. There is no reason for a tiger to do that. If a tiger's been wronged, the tiger wrongs back. It is our glory, made in God's image, to choose to overlook a transgression. But that can only come as we, in our disagreements, start with God. Doesn't that sound like it could help you? It could help me. Let's do it together.

All right, last one. Every difficulty. When you get into a hard spot, when you get into a difficult place in your life, you need to start with God. Because otherwise, what will happen is, hardship will come, and you'll think, where's the goodness of God? And you think, God's abandoned me. I wonder if there's not people in Florida who are saying, God where are you in this, where are you in this, God, a church being torn down, I'm trying to follow you and this happens. I get laid off, this happens, and I'm trying to seek you, and we'll misunderstand that God always deposits his greatest treasures in the midst of what can be the most horrific circumstances.

And here's what Proverbs says on that subject. That just as a refiner's fire purifies gold and silver, God is seeking to purify hearts. And if we start with God when life gets difficult, we will not raise our hands and condemn him with our fists of fury, we'll raise our hands up in surrender and worship Him. I'm telling you, in times of confusion, don't doubt God, seek God, call out to God in the day of trouble, and He will hear you and He will help you. we is always better than me. We is always stronger than me. So when do we do this? When do we need to get into a group? The answer is, before difficult times come. Book of Proverbs 24 says on the subject, it says if you fall to pieces in the midst of a crisis, there wasn't much to you in the first place. I think, really, what a lot of times people discover when life gets hard, is that they didn't put the right rhythms and support systems in place to make it through.

They weren't building a life that was storm proof. For some of you, quite literally, the first step is to start with Him. Maybe you've grown up in church, and religion is just very comfortable and normal for you. Maybe you're at our church this week, and this is all foreign to you. And you have really no idea what's happening, but you can't deny that you're feeling something, you're sensing something. Let me explain a little bit about what's happening. The Bible says that we're all sinners, that's a problem. Because where sin comes, comes death. Separation, and that's what death means, death is separation. When you die, you're separated from this world. When we die, spiritually, we're separated from God.

And because we are all moving towards the grave physically, separated from Him when we stand before Him. The Bible says we'll stand before God to be judged. Our death separates us from God forever, and that's what the Bible describes as hell. That's not what God wants for you. Jesus was so in love with you, he got so in love with you, he was willing to die for you on the cross. The Bible says he paid for your sins. Listen, Jesus hauling that cross 2000 years ago, and all of your sin and my sin was laid upon him. He paid a debt he didn't know, because we owed a debt we couldn't pay. He died for you, and because he is God and sinless, he rose from the dead on the third day, ascended to heaven, and sent His Holy Spirit into the world. This is the gospel, and the spirit of God knocks at men and women's hearts, and gives us a chance to get right with God. Not on our merit, not because of good behavior, but because of what Jesus did on our behalf.

Now when that happens, when he knocks, sometimes people say, I'll do it later. They shrug it off I'll get out later have fun I'm young now. Not realizing what a vapor life is, and other people say I'll do it next invitation, I'll do it next time, I'll do it Easter. I'll work it out eventually. Here's the danger of that, we never know when life will end, and we never know when our last opportunity to be saved comes. Because scripture says, and I don't love it, but it's what it says. You can't come to God whenever you want, you can only come as the Father draws you. So only as the spirit draws, are you given that chance, and eventually for all of us, comes the final opportunity. It's been heartbreaking watching FEMA describe some of these cities for they've said, hey, come out, leave, evacuate, mandatory evacuation.

And then finally they've been running, I saw the ticker of CNN, just this last little bit, they said if you're in there still, you're on your own. You're on your own. Telling people to write their social security number on their arm, so when they come floating by they're easier to identify later. That's literally the kind of stuff you're hearing on the news from the governor of Florida and the director of FEMA, and it's just like, what? People would say, I've heard it, no it's good, I'm good, I'm good, I'm good. And every time people die because they play with their own life. And to think about it, spiritually, same thing happened. Here's Jesus, for many of you knocking on the door of your heart. And sometimes we think, I'll do it later, not having any idea when that last chance will come.

So what I urge you to do is what the Bible says, if you hear His voice don't harden your heart. Today's the day of salvation. Your God loves you and wants to save you but you have to open the door of your heart to Him. No one can make you follow Jesus. Some of you that's been an attitude, arms crossed, you can't make me believe. I wouldn't even try. All I'm supposed to do is tell you what the good news says, and leave it to the Holy Spirit in your heart. Will you pray with me? All of us bowing in our heads, closing our eyes. Father as we give space for salvation to occur, knowing it takes the collision of divine and human energy, we just ask that there would be a response to your spirit and many hearts. And as our heads are bowed, our eyes are closed, if you would like to trust Christ for salvation, if you'd like to turn from your sins and be forgiven because of what Christ did on the cross.

If you'd like to go to heaven when you die and receive hope while you live, I want you to pray this prayer out loud after me. I'm going to say it piece by piece just say it to God, make it your prayer to Him. I'm not a priest, this is your moment with God. I'm just giving you words to say. I'm going to ask the church family to pray it with you, to show you that we're proud to be your family as you make this decision. Everyone, Church Online, you can join in as well. Say this out loud to God, say this, say dear God, I know I'm a sinner. I need your forgiveness. Please come into my heart and make me new. I believe Jesus died for me and rose from the dead. I need your life. I need your strength. Fill me with your spirit. Help me to be born again. In Jesus' name I pray.
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