top of page

The Priority

“Firsts” can be good or bad. First place is usually good, as are first class and first rate. First-degree is usually bad, as is the need for first aid, and the first half and first baseman can be either. While thinking about this chapter, I recalled several of my firsts and a one-or two-word thought concerning them. Here are ten:

  • First major-league baseball game attended (awe)

  • First day of school (intimidated)

  • First bike (fast)

  • First car (junk)

  • First time seeing color TV (mesmerized)

  • First date with Ceci (priceless)

  • First time seeing both daughters (love)

  • First dirty diaper change (nausea)

  • First cell phone (heavy)

  • First sermon (nice try)

Compiling a few of my “firsts” was fun. Some were extremely important, others only memorable. The same would be true with yours. There is one first, however, that is essential and that all of us must keep number one. Jesus referred to it as our “first love.” When writing to the Ephesian church, He said, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4).

The Greek word translated “first” in this passage is protos, meaning “foremost in time, place, order, or importance.”(1) Since it would be illogical to assume Christ had been the first person each of them loved, it seems reasonable to conclude He was using the word in the sense of importance. “You have abandoned the love that should be your number one priority,” was His obvious meaning.

The root word for protos is pro, meaning “superior to” or “in front of”; and yes, protos is where we get our word professional, or its shortened form, pro. A professional is one who is superior to others in a particular field. I’m a golfer; Phil Mickelson is, as well. But there’s a big difference between us: He’s a pro, I’m an amateur. Watching each of us swing a golf club once would leave no doubt as to the difference.

Shopping is another activity performed by both pros and amateurs. I shop once in a while - when God is punishing me for speeding or some other serious sin. I’m an amateur shopper, and have no desire to ever be anything but an amateur. Ceci, on the other hand, is a pro. And as is fitting, she enjoys it. We have reached the glorious state in our marriage wherein she no longer prefers me shopping for her birthday or Christmas presents. Oh, I grab a few stocking stuffers and surprise her once in a while with a really cool present like a toaster or lamp, but for the most part, she does all the shopping. The reason? She’d rather have what she likes most and fits her best. So I buy her gift cards - really neat ones with cool pictures - purchased from the appropriate stores. Then we both do what we enjoy: I fish, she shops. Life is good.

Placing the literal definitions of pro and protos into the context of Revelation 2:4 makes clear what Jesus was saying: Relationship with Him should be “in front of” or “superior to” all others. He wants to be our “priority” love. Christ told us elsewhere that loving God is the first of all the other commandments (Matthew 22:37-38).

This begs the question of why - why does God demand to be first? Is He narcissistic or egocentric, demanding that we make Him the center of attention? Or, is God insecure, in need of our affirmation? The obvious answer to both of these questions is a resounding “NO!” The Lord is self-confident and self-assured, and yet this confidence is filtered through the utmost humility. He has neither pride nor insecurity issues. Why then, does He demand to be number one? Because He wants us to be fulfilled. Complete. Satisfied.

This reason God must be first in our lives is profound in both its simplicity and importance: The very purpose for the creation of humans was relationship with God. We were made to be one in spirit with Him, joined together spiritually like a husband and wife. First Corinthians 6:17 says, “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” Our union with Him completes us. There is a place in the heart of every human God made only for Himself. Period. If we don’t get this right, the pieces won’t fit. Nothing else can fill this void, including other people, money, pleasure, or accomplishments. And certainly not religion; we weren’t created to connect with a system but a person. God understands this, of course, and for our benefit, reminds us of His love for us and our need for Him.

Jesus said to the church at Ephesus: “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false: and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:2-3).

What believer wouldn't be excited to hear such praise? Most of us couldn't score high in all of these areas. Yet Christ makes it clear that these accomplishments are not the heart of the matter. A good performance can't take the place of intimacy with Him. If this misconception is allowed to control us, our good works will devolve into meaningless religion - every time - satisfying neither God nor us. Our “performance” must flow out from relationship with Him; never replace or be equated to it.

It is also important to understand that our first (or priority, as the word means) love is not based on emotions or feelings. It would be unrealistic to think we can maintain the same level of emotional excitement that typically occurs when we first meet Christ. Such a sustained emotional high is not a reasonable expectation in any relationship, whether it be with your spouse, a friend, or the Lord.

Marriages built on feelings become divorces; parenting based on emotions results in fatherless and motherless children; and Christians who base their pursuit of God on feelings and emotions become inconsistent, lukewarm, passionless, and indifferent. They may not walk away from their faith, but they will always leave their first love. How sad this is, and so avoidable.

David, the great psalmist and king of Israel, demonstrated the danger of losing first love. Known as being one of the most passionate God-seekers ever, David loved being with Him. There came a time, however, when compromise entered David’s life, and other passions began to outweigh his passion for God. Success can be a thief, robbing us of the zeal that produced it, and this happened with David, The pleasures of the palace replaced the pleasure of God’s company. His life was out of rhythm.

That’s when Bathsheba entered his life. David eventually made it back, but it was a long and painful process involving great heartache and loss.

If Christ is currently number one in your life and you are enjoying the pleasure of His company, treasure it. Let nothing come between the two of you. But if you, like David, or the church of Ephesus, have allowed other things to take priority over your relationship with Him, reprioritize. Make Him protos again - superior to all else. And if you have never yet discovered Christ as your first-love soul mate - well, get ready to find out why you exist.

Amazing joys await you.

Pray with me:

Holy Spirit, search our hearts and show us where we’ve failed to ascribe to our Father, to Jesus, and to You the highest place. Reveal to us the ways in which we have compromised our commitment to You, forsaking our first love. Thank You for tenderly drawing our wayward hearts back to the priority of loving You and receiving Your love. Without Your loving leadership, we are incomplete. May nothing else replace the pleasure of Your company.

Father, our nation once honored You first. But like David, success, wealth, and pleasure crowded You out. For most Americans, You’re not even a distant second We know, however, from Your Word and from history, this can change. Smoldering embers can blaze again, cold hearts can burn with passion, and prodigals can run into the arms of love-sick fathers. With Your power and love, even dry, dead bones can live again. Breathe once again on this apostate nation. Soon. In Christ, the great Lover of Sinners’ name, we pray, Amen.

Our Decree:

We declare that the church is returning to first love, a harvest of lovers is coming, and Jesus will be prioritized above all!

Today’s post was taken from my book The Pleasure of His Company and published by Baker Books.

Click on the link below to watch the full video.


  1. James Strong The New Strong’s exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), ref. no. 4413.

The Search

I have many great memories of times with the three ladies in my life: Ceci, my wife; my oldest daughter, Sarah; and Hannah, my youngest. The pleasure of their company has always been special to me.

Of the thousands of memorable days I’ve spent with Ceci, one exciting excursion on a beautiful Saturday in the spring of ‘77 stands out. We had gone to picturesque White Rock Lake in Dallas, Texas, where we enjoyed a wonderful picnic. Ceci cooked some of her great fried chicken and prepared potato salad for the occasion. After eating, we sat on a blanket not far from the lake - the setting was absolutely perfect - and enjoyed some pleasant conversation. She had brought along her guitar, and we enjoyed singing a few worship songs; the presence of Holy Spirit was sweet. In this beautiful setting, on this beautiful day, totally mesmerized by this beautiful lady, I asked her to marry me. Finding me irresistible, she said yes.

Of the memories made with Sarah, her wedding is certainly one of the preeminent. I recall the pride and satisfaction I felt when she and I danced at her reception. Actually, as you might have guessed from yesterday’s post, shifting my weight from one foot to the other while holding her hand and shoulder was about as creative as the dancing got. But that didn’t matter. The important part was looking into her eyes, telling her how beautiful she was and how proud her mother and I were. I spent a fortune that day. “Thank you, Daddy,” was all the return I needed.

In regards to Hannah, I love to recall the camping trip she and I embarked on in Colorado several years ago. We found a beautiful spot on a stream and spent the weekend enjoying nature and nature’s God. As we drove through Rocky Mountain National Park one morning, a park with views that rival any in the world, we were also listening to anointed worship songs she and I love. I’ll never forget the tears that flowed down Hannah’s cheeks at one point as she marveled at God’s majesty and reveled in His love. Happy tears. Peaceful tears. “I’m in love with God, and He’s in love with me” tears.

What was it that made those days so memorable for me? With Ceci, was it

a lake, a guitar, a blanket, and some good food? Of course not; those were simply adornments that created a helpful ambiance. With Sarah, was it the uniqueness and joy of a celebrative wedding atmosphere? Not really. I’ve been to many weddings that hold no such memories for me. With Hannah, was it the beauty and majesty of the Colorado Rockies? As amazing as they are, and as much as they “garnished” the day, it wasn’t the mountains.

It was the company.

Sparkling eyes, smiles, embraces, laughter, happy tears, and hearts I connected with at a deep level - these made the memories special. It was the lady, not the lake; the girl I was dancing with, not the dance; the passenger, not the drive. Whom you’re with matters most in life.

I’ve made some great memories with God, just as I have with my three ladies. He and I have laughed and cried together; and yes, we’ve danced a time or two. We have sat, walked, ridden, and bicycled in each other’s company. I’ve crawled up in His lap and napped, sang Him songs, and watched a few movies with Him. He is more than a “being” to me. He’s a companion and friend. Not making His acquaintance would have been life’s greatest injustice. Does He feel the same way about us? Of course, He does.

God loves being with us. Consider the following invitation: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:10 KJV). The Almighty, the Creator, the Everlasting God of heaven and earth requests the pleasure of your company tonight for dinner.

What an invitation!

Do you, like me, find it interesting that He knocks on the door? I suppose God could simply knock it down. Or just walk through it! But that would be an intrusion, and God doesn’t intrude into our space; He waits to be invited in. Like anyone, He wants to be celebrated, not tolerated.

The word sup in this verse is not a generic word for eating. This is the word in biblical times for the main evening meal. The Jewish new day began in the evening, at sunset. At this evening meal, the family would discuss the day’s events, and the new day would begin and be planned. Jesus is saying to us in this verse, “Let me into your world. Let’s dine, fellowship, and plan the day.”

We must learn to commune with the Lord as a real person and on a personal level. Hearing and discerning God’s voice is not a gift, but rather a learned art. When you take the time to wait and listen, you learn to allow God into your thinking. His thoughts become yours. In this verse, the Lord said, “If any man hears my voice . . .” The obvious insinuation is that our actions, not His, will determine whether or not we hear Him. Again, sensitivity is learned and developed. Like the frequencies on a radio, our minds and hearts must tune in.

One of my employees a few years back related the following humorous episode about listening.

“While my sister-in-law was busy in the kitchen preparing dinner and planning for various family and church activities, her young daughter continued to talk to her about several different and important things in her life, to which her mother would periodically mumble, ‘Uh-huh.’ Finally, wanting to do something to make this more of a two-sided conversation, the little girl tugged on her mother’s arm to get her full attention. Once she knew her mother was really listening, she said, ‘Mom, why don’t you talk for a while now, and I’ll say Uh-huh.’” (1)

I can’t help but wonder how often God is knocking and calling, only to find us so busy we really aren’t listening. He will never treat us this way. You’ll never find Him so busy with others or so distracted running the universe that He feigns attentiveness to you, mumbling “uh-huh” while actually thinking about something else. He has plenty of undistracted time for you, and He’d like some in return.

The Scriptures tell us God is “searching” for this kind of relationship. From the moment we were separated from Him by Adam’s sin, He began the search. “Where are you?” He called to Adam and Eve as they hid from Him (Genesis 3:9). We’re told that His eyes “move to and fro” throughout the earth looking for those whose hearts are fully His (2 Chronicles 16:9).

One of my favorite Bible stories as a young kid was of a man named Zaccheus. He was a hated tax collector and had become wealthy, most likely by defrauding people, charging them more than they actually owed. Somehow this man had become enamored with Jesus, so much so that he climbed a tree to get a good look at Him as He passed through his village. Jesus wanted Zaccheus to get more than a look, however; He invited Himself over for dinner! “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5).

Jesus knocked and Zaccheus opened. The visit was obviously impactful - it always is when Jesus comes over for dinner. “Lord, half of my possessions I’ll give to the poor,” he promised before the meeting ended, “and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much” (Luke 19:8).

When challenged as to why He would be the guest of this thieving “sinner,” Jesus merely referenced His searching heart. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost,” (v. 10, italics mine). Christ simply has an insatiable desire to eat and fellowship with friends, family, and seekers.

Jesus was on a mission then; He’s on the same mission now. He wants some time and conversation with you. The next time He knocks, open the door. Make your house one of the regular stops for His searching eyes.

Let no distraction, interfere. May your heart always remain an open door to Jesus, as you seek to mature in the art of discerning His knock and voice. As His eyes search this world for a surrendered heart with which to commune, may His gaze stop with you. Welcome Him to sit at the supper table of your soul to dine and dialogue with you.

He would love to receive the pleasure of your company today.

Pray with me:

Father, it’s time we made some memories with You. Your thoughts toward us are many. We want to be able to say the same about You. Forgive us for making You an impersonal God, an unloving Father. Adam hid from You, fearing Your heart toward his weaknesses. Yet, You pursued him. And You pursue us. Thank You!

We cast aside the lies telling us You are distant, cruel, judgmental, impossible to please. We accept You as Abba, Papa, and we want to make some memories, walking, talking, and dreaming with You.

Today we dream with You of the billion future kids of Yours, our soon-to-be brothers and sisters. We partner with You, calling them home. We break off of them the bondages of idolatry, addiction, pride, rebellion, and pain - in the name of Jesus! We release angel armies to gather them in. We declare that the gospel of the kingdom has in it Your power, and that this glorious gospel will go forth in tidal waves around the world. Millions will know Your love! They will kiss the Son and find the missing piece of their heart.

In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.

Our decree:

We decree that this harvest will not be stopped! Abba is coming for His family!

Today’s post was taken from my book The Pleasure of His Company and is published by Baker Books.

Click on the link below to watch the full video.

  1. Dutch Sheets, Watchman Prayer (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2000), 47.

The Dance

I’m not a great dancer. Okay, I’m not even an average dancer. Fine, I can’t dance at all. When I was a teenager, there was a popular dance called the Funky Chicken. I think my version of this “controlled flopping” was probably the closest I’ve ever come to performing a dance properly. I actually thought I was pretty good at it until my friends tagged my version the Flopping Chicken. Mom saw me practicing once and freaked out. “Are you okay?” she screamed, thinking I was having a seizure.

“Yeah, I’m good,” I assured her. “Just doing the Funky Chicken.”

“Get him off sugar,” Dad murmured from across the room, “before he breaks something.”

“Looks like he’s being stung by a swarm of bees,” joked my brother. Tim has always been mercy-motivated.

A few years back, my wife, Ceci, talked me into taking some private ballroom dancing lessons. I resisted at first, knowing this wouldn’t end well, but it became clear it was important to her. So against all wisdom, I succumbed.

You’ve probably heard the expression, but have you ever really seen a drunken sailor? My dogs actually ran outside - wouldn’t come near me for days. “Maybe we should just take walks together,” Ceci suggested.

“Yeah,” I said, “unless they bring back the Funky Chicken.”

Dancing, for those who are fortunate enough to have the right genes, is considered great fun. It is, in fact, associated with joy. Who hasn’t heard the phrase “dancing for joy?” When we are sad, we tend to become more inactive, but when we’re joyful or celebrating, we jump, dance, and twirl around.

So does God.

No, I’m not kidding. He dances. There is a little-known verse in the Old Testament that gives a wonderful description of God’s dancing heart toward His kids: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy” (Zephaniah 3:17). In Hebrew, the word translated “rejoice” is the Hebrew word guwl, which literally means “to spin around under the influence of any violent emotion”. (1)That’s what I said - He dances!

Hebrew is a pictorial language; a word paints a picture or creates an image. Through the word picture guwl presents - spinning around emotionally - it’s easy to see why it is translated into English words like joy, rejoice, glad, and delight. But really, do these translations do justice to this awesome little word? No way.

I experienced “joy” last weekend when through my status as an Executive Platinum flyer with American Airlines, I was upgraded to first class. I actually “rejoiced,” sending a text to Ceci that read, “Awesome! Upgraded!” But I didn’t jump up in the terminal and dance around.

I experience joy when my team wins a football game, but I don’t typically guwl over it. However, when the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl a few years back, I guwl-ed. Losing all dignity, I jumped, screamed, and spun around, shaking my fists in the air. I high-fived everyone around me, whether I knew them or not. Guwl-ing brings people together! The day I’m writing this chapter happens to be New Year’s Eve. People will be guwl-ing all over the world tonight with individuals they don’t even know!

But really, Dutch, are you saying God acts this way over His kids? No, Zephaniah did. In the great story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), the prodigal’s father depicted our heavenly Father. When the wayward son returned home, his father was so excited he threw a party accompanied by music, dancing, and great rejoicing. I can’t prove it, but I know who was leading the dance. Dad! The guy who ran to meet his returning son, butchered the fattened calf and threw the party. One of my favorite lexicons says the word “rejoice” (v. 32) in this passage may be related to a Hebrew word that describes a young sheep or lamb skipping and frisking for joy. The same word is used to describe how angels in heaven act when a person comes to Christ (Luke 15:10). There’s a new description of heaven for most of us - a happy, playful, skipping God with His happy, frolicking angels!

Some will think I’m insulting God’s dignity by ascribing to Him human emotion and celebrative actions. Let me assure you that this is not my intention. I don’t for a moment believe God acts like us - I believe we act like Him! We were created in God’s image and likeness. That means we have emotions because He has emotions: We love because He loves, laugh because He laughs, cry because He cries, and dance because He dances. If your concept of Him is a distant, stoic, and boring entity, think again.

You’ve probably read the popular “Footprints” poem, which depicts the Lord carrying us through difficult situations in life. I like the following version better.

A woman had a dream in which her life with Jesus was pictured

by footprints in the sand.

For much of the way, the Lord’s footprints went along steadily. Her prints, however, began in a disorganized stream of zigzags, starts, stops, turnarounds, circles, departures, and returns. But gradually, her footprints were in line with the Lord’s, eventually paralleling His consistently. She and Jesus were walking as true friends.

Then an interesting thing happened; her footprints began walking precisely in His steps. Inside His large footprints were her smaller prints. She and Jesus were becoming one. Then gradually, the footprints inside the larger footprints seemed to grow bigger, eventually, disappearing altogether. There was only one set of footprints; they had become one.

Then something awful happened. The second set of footprints was back! Zigzags all over the place...stop, start...deep gashes in the sand...a veritable mess of prints. She was saddened and shocked. This was the end of her dream.

The lady went to the Lord in prayer, seeking to understand: “Lord, I understand the first scene with the zigzags and so on. I was a new Christian, just learning. But You helped me learn to walk with You.”

“That is correct,” replied the Lord.

“Then, when the smaller footprints were inside of Yours, I was actually learning to walk in Your steps, following You closely.

“Yes, very good.”

“Then the smaller footprints grew and eventually filled in Yours. I was growing so much that I was becoming more like You in every way.”


“But Lord, they went back again to two sets of footprints, this time more chaotic than at the first. Was there a regression in my life?”

The Lord smiles, then laughs. “You didn’t know?” He says, “That was when we danced.” (2)

I’m fully aware that some in the super-religious crowd won’t approve of my fun-loving God. This depiction of Him will be considered irreverent by them, perhaps even heretical. If you really want to know what they believe about God’s personality, go to one of their worship services. But - and forgive me for being so blunt - you might want to drink an espresso on the way. Frankly, I think even God gets bored with many church services. Trust me, the God of Scripture isn’t starchy and religious.

Our worship gatherings should be celebrations where we join hands with Papa God and have a little fun frisking, leaping, and dancing. Shabath, the Hebrew word for sabbath, means not only “to stop or cease from work” but also “to celebrate.” (3) In much the same way we celebrate certain days - holidays, for example - by resting from work, this is the concept of Shabath. On the seventh day, God stopped working and celebrated! He was so excited about having a family He decided it would be commemorated with a “rest and celebration day.” That puts a new twist on taking a sabbath. Every seventh day we should all rest and celebrate our membership in God’s family with joy and great rejoicing. If we would do so, the gospel we preach would be a lot more appealing.

Abandon your concept of a passionless, boring God. Reject all religious stereotyping of Him. Let your heavenly Father be real, relevant, relational and fun. Only then will you truly experience the pleasure of His company.

Look up . . . I think He’s asking for this dance.

Pray with me:

Father, we are amazed at Your passionate love toward us, leaping and rejoicing over us, just as we do our kids. We have allowed religion to tell us satan is fun, You’re boring; He laughs, You’re always somber. Forgive us! You CREATED fun and laughter! We are thrilled to think our heavenly Father is fun-loving, real, relevant, and relational.

May our heart’s response to Your passionate love be increasingly undignified. Like David, may we dance unashamedly over our relationship with You. Teach us that holy doesn’t mean somber, omnipotence isn’t stoicism, and “above all others” doesn’t equate to unreachable. Bring a presence movement to the church that reveals Your true nature and shows the world how irresistible You truly are.

Our decree:

We believe and declare that the coming great awakening will result in the greatest celebrations of worship in Earth’s history!

Today’s post was taken from my book The Pleasure of His Company and published by Baker Books.

Click on the link below to watch the full video.

  1. James Strong The New Strong’s exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), ref. no. H1523.

  2. Adapted from Mark Littleton, escaping the Time Crunch (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1990), Used by permission.

  3. James Strong The New Strong’s exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), ref. no. H7676.

bottom of page