First Things First

Three men were on a cargo plane heading to a disaster zone. A pastor, a brilliant scientist invited by the government, and an intern from Australia were asked to come for the relief agency.

As they settled in for the long flight they introduced themselves. The scientist asked why the pastor was invited since he would be basically useless in the disaster zone.

“I perceive that you are not a person of faith?” He replied.

“Of course not. I’m a brilliant and highly respected scientist. Science has all the answers. Humanity is evolving beyond you.”

The pastor gave the intern a wink and started to read the book he brought. 

Thirty minutes later, there was a loud bang and the pilot emerged from the cockpit. He grabbed a parachute and yelled, the plane is going down and only two parachutes are left before he jumped out of the plane. 

The scientist immediately stood up and said, “I’m taking one because I am very important,” and jumped out of the plane.

The pastor looked at the young intern and said, “Son, I have lived and I know where I am going so I think you should take the last parachute.”

“No worries mate!” the intern said, “The brilliant scientist just grabbed my backpack and jumped out of the plane. There are still two parachutes left!”

It is an old joke but it does have a point. It doesn’t matter what you believe, or how smart you think you are, everyone is governed by the laws of physics when they jump out of a plane. If you don’t order your life around those laws, then you lose your life. Putting on a parachute before you jump is ordering your life around those laws.

This is true across the board. If your life is out of order, especially when it comes to spiritual issues, you lose your soul.

Jesus said, “If your remain in Me, and I in you, then you will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15) 

This is the principle of the first. You must first be in Him before your life can produce the fruit from Him being in your life. 

You must practice the principle of the first, by putting Jesus first…first. You can’t ask Jesus to change your life, work in your life, transform your circumstance before Jesus is first in your life. 

So many people misunderstand this principle. They get frustrated with God all the time. They want Jesus to do great things in their life before He is first in their life. This is a life out of order. 

If you are personally hitting tough times, then how you go through them is dependent on how you are practicing the principle of first. This is more than just “knowing your priorities”. It is about setting your life in order…first.

Pastor Doug

A Basic Belief

My son was not happy with me. He learned how to mow the lawn last year so this year it was his weekly chore. At this point in his young life, he is not a big fan of mowing the lawn.  He rushes through the job as quickly as possible. Streaks of uncut grass line the backyard at various intervals. 

So, I waited until he was done, had come in to sit down, and then made him go out and mow the spots he missed. 

He believed I was torturing him. I think he said he was going to report me to the government for cruel and unusual punishment. How he knew this at age 12 impresses me. 

After his anger subsided and he was cooled down, I asked him why he gets so upset when I ask him to finish a job correctly. 

His response went down a few rabbit trails but in essence he said, “I don't want to do it and you just like making me do stuff I don't want to do.”

So being a preacher, I saw this as an excellent opportunity for a sermon. 

“Son,” I said, “a dad’s job is not to make you do stuff. A dad’s job is to give you what you need to be successful as an adult. Whether that be knowledge, a skill, or an ethic.”

“I have no idea what an ethic is, Dad….”

“An ethic is a conviction about your life. Would you ever cheat someone to make a buck?”

“Absolutely not,” he quickly replied.

“That is an ethic, never cheat someone. The more ethics you have, the better your life will be. One ethic I am trying to give you is: “if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right.” I have no desire to make your life hard or miserable. I want your life to be free and successful. I am not trying to take something from you, I am trying to give you something.”

I learned a lot about Jesus when I became a father. This conversation is one I have had with Him numerous times over the years. Struggling with doing something I didn’t want to do. 

When I finally was able to do it, my entire perspective changed. I no longer resented it but realized the gift Jesus intended it to be.

It all comes down to what we actually believe about Jesus. Does He want to take something from me, or does he want to give something to me?

It has taken many years but I am beginning to understand that Jesus is only in the business of giving. It is an act of faith on my part to receive what He wants to give. 

I hope and pray my youngest son will grow to understand that my only goal is to give him something. I guess I am hoping my son grows to trust me as I am growing to trust Jesus. 

Pastor Doug

Moneyball

Billie Beane was a MLB baseball player who never lived up to expectations. He bounced from team to team until he became weary of minor league play and became a scout for the Oakland Athletics. 

Beane eventually worked his way up to GM and employed a new system of evaluating players called Sabermetrics. Evaluate players based on data points instead of feel or look. The basic principle is you are buying wins, not players. His system worked and the Athletics went to the playoffs numerous times. The Athletics is considered the best valued MLB team. It has one of the lowest salaries per team and yet the highest winning average. 

The key is how to win with the players you can afford. The Boston Red Sox used Beane’s system to win the World Series in 2004 after an 88 year drought. 

His story is told in the movie Moneyball. 

Money influences everything in your life at some level. The question is, how do you win with what you have, not what you wish you had? 

This is a big challenge. The latest research states that 78% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Basically, this means that if they miss a paycheck, everything can come crashing down. Living this way creates tremendous stress in a person’s life. Stress creates anxiety, insecurity, and pressure. Constant anxiety is not winning. 

What is interesting is how people move from losing to winning. You have to address the attitudes that drive your decisions about money.

This can be tough, challenging how things have always been done…. just ask Billie Beane. 

But if you want to win, you have to start. You have to dig deep and really think about why you are living the way you are living before you can start winning with money.

One of our challenges is the belief that Jesus isn't really that interested in money. He didn’t have any Himself, He didn’t manage a business, run a government, and when asked about taxes He said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”. 

But if you look at the stories He told, Jesus spoke on how we manage money, and our attitudes towards money, as much as He taught about faith and prayer.

The most important lesson He taught is how we manage the game when it comes to money is spiritually important. His spiritual “sabermetrics” gives us a perspective that allows us to win this game.

So what does winning look like? What does Jesus mean when He talks about abundance? What does He mean when He said, 

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

When it comes to the game of money in your life, the goal is to win. The only question now is: what does winning actually look like?

Pastor Doug

Take A Step

He was telling me about a girl he had fallen madly in love with. He first saw her at orientation in college. He had two classes with her and he would watch her every move. He was completely enamored with her. He loved the way she laughed, how her eyes sparkled, and how she even flipped her hair. Her sense of fashion was impeccable and the fact that she was always on time for class really impressed him.

Unfortunately, his love for her went unrequited because he never had the courage to say hello.
 
Life can be strange. We can fall in love and never have the courage to say hello. We can hope for a new career but never leave where we are at. We dream really big dreams, yet never do anything about it…. no plan, no goals, no steps in any direction.

Many believe they are made for something more but will never risk the first step. We all need a stronger faith but we never do anything about it. 

There are times in your life where you just need to do something. Not something dumb but a step, an action step, in the direction God is asking you to go. Stop thinking about it, stop wondering about it, just take a step forward. You have to stop analyzing, stop doubting, stop questioning, put your boots on and walk out the door.

If you know your are not using the gifts and talents God has given you, then you need to take a step and walk out the door into a new challenge.
If you know that your marriage is not on track, then you need to take a step in getting it back on track.
If you are single and depressed over your love life, then maybe it is time to take a step in becoming the right person instead of dreaming about the right person walking through your front door.

If your life lacks direction, or you wonder about your purpose, or need something to live for, then now is the time to stop wondering about it and start doing something about it.

One step, in one direction, as an act of faith. That is how circumstances change.

The New Testament is filled with all kinds of things that you can do to change circumstances. Everything from prayer to giving. Each step is one step closer, each step makes a difference.

Faith is believing that if you take a step in God’s direction, then God is partnering with you. He can lead you, guide you, reveal new things to you, strengthen you, and encourage you. 

If you do nothing, then nothing is what you will receive. 

A long time ago, I thought I heard this from someone:

A sailboat is always safe at the dock but it will never fulfill the purpose for which it was built. It has to leave the harbor for the open seas. Maybe this is something you should consider.

I think James still says it best: A faith without works is dead. If you want your faith to be alive then do something.

Pastor Doug

Spiritual DNA

In 2003 The Human Genome project had successfully mapped all of the nucleotide pairs that make up human DNA. It was a remarkable scientific break through.

The break though has revealed that DNA is the single most important influence on you biologically. 

The power of DNA is information and data. It tells every cell how to develop and how to work seamlessly with all the other different cells in order to create a living organism called…. you!

In the same way, the information or data you believe spiritually determines the vibrancy of your faith. The most important spiritual exercise is to develop what you believe and why you believe it. This is the foundation of a healthy faith. 

Paul says in Romans 12:2, 

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Our ability to know God’s purpose for our lives begins with renewing our minds….. what we believe and why. This is your spiritual DNA that molds and shapes your faith. Here is the mystery of how your mind is renewed. In Western Cultures, we have been trained to believe that the renewal of our mind is based on knowledge. The more facts we know, then the more clear our thinking and mature our faith becomes. However, Paul says that pursing knowledge puffs us up. So how do we renew our minds?

In community. Paul goes on the say that it is love that build us up. Jesus said, “Everyone will know that you are one of my followers by your love for one another.”

This is our spiritual DNA that drives our faith.

Now the key is to find a community of faith that is following the same instruction of Jesus that you are following. The reason is because what is true of you individually, is true of your church community. The DNA of a community of faith determines what it is and how healthy an organism it will be.

Foothills is a church following the mission Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:18-20, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Our strategy is to connect people to Jesus, connect them to His family, and finally, engage them in their life purpose.

The code is our core values on how we do this. Here are the first 3 values in our code.

  • It’s all about Jesus.
  • His Word above our own. The Bible molds us, we don’t mold it.
  • Redemption: we are people of second chances.

This is our spiritual DNA as a community of faith. It is influence that molds us and shapes us. When you are a part of us, you discover your own spiritual DNA, what Jesus is doing in you as He molds and shapes you.

We all need a personal code, a spiritual DNA, the only way to discover your spiritual DNA is to be a part of His community of faith and see how spiritual DNA molds a community.

What is true of you as an individual is true for your community of faith.

Pastor Doug

The Code

It may sound strange but identity is one of the most important things about you.

Identity is who you believe yourself to be. It’s not what you think you are, or hope you are, but who you believe you are…really.

Identity can be tough to nail down because it is a process of self-discovery. Ancient thinkers used to say the most important journey is a journey within. The problem with self discovery is that it relies on the self. And guess what, how can you rely on yourself when you don’t know yourself? Seems like a logical conundrum to me.

Another reason it is tough is because we are experts at self-deception. This is easy to understand about yourself, just ask a simple question: Have I ever done anything I really regretted? At the time it seemed like a good idea, but in the end it was a bad idea.

One more consideration: Sometimes what I want right now contradicts what I really want in the long run. Wants come from desires, and not all of my desires are good. This is where it gets confusing. Sometimes what I think I want is not what I really want. So when I chase after what I think I want, I get something totally different than what I really want. This is where disappointment, regret, guilt, and shame comes from.

Starting to see why identity, what you really think about yourself, can be a confusing process of discovery?

So are we just adrift on an endless sea without a compass trying to figure out all of this on our own? Or is there a path that you can follow, a path that is proven to be more effective than just a journey inward?

There is and it begins with following principles that don’t belong to you. It’s called the code. A set of principles that guide you in discovering your identity.

The code is built on non-negotiables. These are the hills in life that you’re willing to die on. Someone once said, if you’re not willing to die for anything you have nothing to live for.

Jesus took it one step further, “If you don’t die to yourself, then you will never find yourself.”

We find ourselves when we follow the principles of Jesus. When we live for His values, not our own. This is one of the paradoxes of faith. We find wealth in being generous, we find fame in being the servant of all, we find out who we really are following Jesus and not ourselves.

A code. It will lead you to where you are meant to be.

As a sailors’ proverb says, “A man constrained to his compass has the freedom of the high seas.”

Pastor Doug