Monday, December 1, 2008

We're number 1...wait...You're number 1...wait...

"Why'd you go saying that?"

Normally, I won't blog about the sermons I hear on's too akin to plagiarism for me. Don't get me wrong. I have a Pastor very gifted at always leaving me with something to chew on each Sunday. This past Sunday was Youth Sunday at the church I attend, so the message was delivered by our Youth Pastor, also a gifted man of God. As he began speaking on commitment to God and putting Him first in our lives, it immediately connected with a blog I had drafted a few weeks back but never finished. The Sunday message was so attuned to the blog subject, I was certain my task was to finish and share it today.

I work with a man from China. He has lived here for about 7 years and 2 graduate degrees. His English is broken (at best), and he will often wander into my office to discuss the subtleties of our difficult, indigenous language. Always pleasant and mannerly, we jokingly exchange innocent jabs at each other's culture, which has been a field day for me of late with all the tainted products China has been shipping to the U.S.

One day at lunch, I asked what he observed to be the biggest difference between life in China and life in the U.S. After pausing a moment, he said the priorities of the people in each culture were very different. In China, the State/Party is first, followed by your job, then your family and finally your belief system...if you happen to have one. He elaborated and gave examples in each category, and when it came to belief systems, explained that most Chinese are atheist. He too is an atheist.

I was very interested to hear his comparison. He said that people here put their belief in God first, family second, country next and job last in this particular listing. My initial reaction was a bit surprised. We work with about 22 people from a variety of beliefs (to include none), most not from Godly perspectives. 'God first?' I did consider that his entire 7 years had been spent in the Bible Belt, but his exposure was uncensored from many other sources. 'God first?' Really?

It was both natural and comfortable for me to agree with his assessment about our country and give examples from my own life. But in doing so, I felt... a conviction. That conviction multiplied yesterday during the morning message.

'Tony, Am I truly number 1 in your life?'
Father, I'm not sure that my life exemplifies what my co-worker attributed.
'But, I have commanded you so.'
Yes, I know, I know...but work is so busy, and the new baby and the, and my blog...yes, my blog is important work for You...
'Making fun of Liberals? Hippies in a van? Freedom Rock?'
Yeah, sorry about that one. But liberals...well they hate You! They need to be put in their place!
'Tony, I love liberals too.'
Even San...?
'Yes, especially San Fransisco liberals.'
Aw shoot, I guess that means I need to love them too...I mean...I guess.
'Only if I'm truly first in your life.'

My conviction didn't stop at making fun or talking harsh about liberals though. Is God truly first in my life? Am I committed to Him completely in all that I do? Do I set a daily example that gives God glory in the way that I conduct my life? Am I an effective witness for Christ and the sacrifice He made for all of mankind? Do I take time from each day to spend with God and only with Him?

Even though I try very hard to make God first, I'm afraid I don't like the real answers to those questions. Actually...I'm quite ashamed.

Stupid Youth Sundays...where was our regular Pastor anyway?! And, how can he just leave like that?!

'Does that really matter... Tony?
No. He steps on my toes too.

I'm starting commitment...right after lunch. Hey, how about Chinese take-out? No wait, aw man...I'm on a diet! Stupid diets!


Matt @ The Church of No People said...

That Chinese man's assessment of American culture just blows me away. I'm not really surprised by his description of his own culture - that seems to be my perception of the Chinese people. But Americans putting God first? I'm hesitant to praise our culture just because it looks good next to an atheist culture.

Tony C said...

Good point Matt. As I stated, I was shocked too. I guess if we claim to put God first, we should practice that each day. That would be a great place to start.

Thanks for the comment.

Z said...

I like that the Chinese man thinks that......would that it were truer on a larger level!

Well, I know we need to pray for our enemies, for those we disagree with, etc etc, and I've been getting that message in a lot of ways, too. BUT, we can pray for them and think they're wrong, right?! :-)

This is a tough one. said...

Great post. I guess you are right. If God is 1st in our lives, we should make it a point to practice what we preach!

Tony C said...

Absolutely Z. I don't agree on 100%of the things 100% of the time with people I attend church...but I pray for them...and love them.

If you really want to get under the skin of liberals or even atheist...pray for them! I believe God will smile on us if we do.

Tasha Via said...

What a GREAT post! Very convicting, and a wonderful reminder to put God first. Glad you had a good Thanksgiving=)

~ Lori ~ said...

I think many Christians want to put God first, but our 'human' life gets was too involved. I know for me it is something that I struggle with every day. Yes, I want to get some quiet time to read the Word. But the boys need this or need that. Or I'm just plain exhausted.

Great post!! What a reminder!

Pasadena Closet Conservative said...

Starting Monday. Really. Well, maybe. We'll see. Really committed. But really busy. Hmmm...

Tabitha said...

Effective, timely, gentle reminder. Thanks.