2 Corinthians 8:1-12

We want to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I am testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints- and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything- in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you- see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have

Philippians 2:3-8

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others, let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death- even death on a cross.

Starting the series about generosity at a good time. Holidays are coming up, it’s almost the end of the semester and year…It is easy to be more concerned about what I WANT….what would make things easier for ME….very selfish thinking, but all too common.

They say when giving stats not use words like “everyone” or “no one”….cause its usually not 100% or 0%…but when it comes to generosity, EVERYONE can give more….and give more willingly, because they want to…not just to please God.

Jesus gave it all for us, and we give so little. Usually the only thing we give is an excuse for not giving…I am guilty of it. It can be hard to give..i used to be really bad with it…I loved to receive, but didn’t get much joy from giving. As I am growing with God and continuing to learn, I am getting better with generosity. I want to give to others and do it out of joy. To appreciate that I have more than I could ever deserve…I want to be more humble, put others first…..Know that as I am being generous, I am sharing Jesus, because He is generous.

How? I am going to start with tithing… giving to the church. A place that I love being, worshiping, learning, reading, and singing….I am going to run a race for Haiti…I don’t want to run especially bad, but knowing that my money goes to schools in Haiti makes me want to….and setting goals to give more….its not about me not having the money, but its about them having it to help a country who NEEDS it….not so I can use it for things I WANT…. Christmas is coming and I cant wait. My church in Napoleon has Christmas trees with names on. Those are names of children or families and their Christmas list’s….I have never picked a name before….But knowing and remembering how I felt as a kid to receive on Christmas is all the motivation I need to want to do the same for kids who do not get that… To know that my generosity can make someone be so happy….For me, these things are a start….I am giving and I WANT to give…..

Our destiny was hell, but God gave us Heaven….Generosity is God’s heart….and I am living for God…So in order to do that, I must be more joyfully generous.

Take a step back and look at all you have these holidays….houses, cars, material possessions…family, loved ones, friends….We have it pretty good…My goals is to give more this season and going forward, maybe you can do the same.

Your trail says a lot about you

Like just about everyone else out there, I have changed quite a bit in the last 2 years. That change was most evident during yesterday’s church service. I remember 2 years ago I “gave Gateway a chance” and attended for about 2 months. I wasn’t a fan. More and more I found myself sitting there and my mind was wondering about other things and paying no attention…I also didn’t enjoy the music much. Then at this time 2 years ago they presented a message about money. (I assume relating to Idols and such like now). That one did it for me and I didn’t come back for 2 years. Safe to say I heard this message about money completely different.

“Some of us attend the church on the corner, professing to worship the living God above all. Others, who rarely darken the church doors, would say worship isn’t part of their lives because they aren’t “religious”, but everybody has an altar. And every altar has a throne. So how do you know where and what you worship? Its easy. You simply follow the trail of your time, your affection, your energy, your money, and you allegiance. At the end of that trail you’ll find a throne; and whatever, or whomever, is on that throne is what’s of highest value to you. On that throne is what you worship. Sure, not too many of us walk around saying, “I worship my stuff, I worship my job, pleasure, her, my body, or me.” But the trail never lies. We may say we value this thing or that thing more than any other, but the volume of our actions speaks louder than our words. In the end, our worship is ore about what we do than what we say”
– Louie Giglio

As I have gotten older, money has not been of the most importance to me, though it is still up there. I don’t look at money as sign of power or greatness, but rather for comfort. I save it. And I don’t know what for. But there is a comfort factor in having the money saved up that I do. Every now and then I think I will spend it on a trip or a car or a house someday. I thought I might have to tap into it pretty deep to pay for upcoming school, but I thank God I wont have to. I still don’t know what that money will go to someday, but I am also thankful I have not spent it. I could have bought a nice big fat idol with it…a car, a game, sporting events, trips, whatever I want. But something always held me back, even before I understood idols. I never once asked myself “could spending this money on ______ take me away from God? But I still saved.
NOW, I asked that question. I want to do something great with the money. I even starting a separate savings box with money made from material and earthly possessions I have or will sell. That all starting from what I have learned from God and hearing His message. So whether it be a mission drip, donations, sponsors……or anything else, I know that money can help someone out someday. It can be used much more usefully than on a silly material possession that can never thank me, or appreciate me, or love me.

A line that sticks out to me in the above quote is “But the trail never lies.” Anyone can SAY they love God above all else, that’s easy. But the trail is there. (I stopped short of saying “actions speak louder than words because sometimes it is not an act, but a faith..and belief, a feel…a trust, and a love). I have said it several times before, my trail is probably scattered with sports, video games, money, sleep, work, significant others, my phone, and many other things, with God scattered in there too. That trail has cleaned up a lot these last 3 weeks. I am now about 3 weeks into this new found love and trust in God and understanding what it means to live for Him. During this whole 3 weeks, the lessons at Church have been about Idols and such. So I have spent a lot of time on that, among many other things. Next week starts a new series on generosity. While I am excited for that, I will not stop learning about and recognizing and dealing with idols. While I wish I would have found God like this earlier, I look at the timing as a deliberate message from God. That I started and picked up idols at this time, like I did. It has taught me to reprioritize everything and see everything differently. To think about everything before I do it. I was really slipping when it came to that. My thoughts were not always very good. My actions weren’t horrible, but sometimes it was what I left undone that was just as bad.

I know when my time is done, God wont look at the amount of money I made or amount of cool things I had and applaud me and say that’s awesome, welcome. So it would be dumb for me to idolize anything else that could lead to the response “who cares!?” when it’s all over. But rather use discipline and be responsible to save my money, and give back. Use it for good and to help others, not for control or power. Money can damage relationships and make people miserable. It cannot love us, and cannot appreciate us. So why should I do those things to money? Even the smallest bit of God’s love and trust is worth more than any amount of money. I’ll put my trust and love in Him, not it.

Proverbs 16:3

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.

+ “God will walk alongside me and bless me as long as I remain in His will”
+Doing the right things and following the pursuit that God put in our hearts
+ “The verse does not indicate timing. We do not know if God’s plans are for tomorrow, or 4 years from now.”
+ “God calls us to be available and faithful to His ways and His word, and let things happen on His timing”
“If we commit to Him, our plans will succeed, as success is defined by Him.”

I read that verse and those quotes in The Uncommon Life….All good stuff and it goes in the category of “it doesn’t matter who says it, as long as you hear it”…so that’s why I put it there. But Dungy asks some questions.

Are you seeking to make a difference and have a positive influence in the world around you?

In the past I would have answered that yes, but in a completely different senses and understanding from how I say yes now… Sometimes I accidently start to convince myself I was a bad person before really getting in touch with God…But I wasn’t a bad person..Just lost, and unaware. And unwilling to let God into my heart. I would have thought that doing things like helping people every now and then and picking up trash….little random acts. But now I want to make a difference and be positive in a sense of doing it all for God. As we talked about at Bible study, I am at an age where I can have an influence on both college aged people and younger people. When I was younger I was very easily influenced by people at high school or college age. If they did sports or hobbies or ate something, I wanted to be like them. I think about that now, and a lot of younger people may not be into God…Thinking its “not cool” but I don’t want that. I really think that if younger children see me and others my age talking about God and living for Him and going to church and bible studies and being engaged, they will take notices and get interested. I hope to get involved with younger children through Sunday school or church…something to use my current age and state as outlets to show God’s power and how “cool” He is. And for the people around me now…at college..i feel like I can make a positive influence on them too. College aged kids have freedoms, and its easy to want to test those freedoms and do your own thing. I was there and I feel most people have been or still are there. But even doing things like not cussing, not drinking, not saying God’s name in vein….Things like that might not be picked up right away, but living like that everyday can eventually lead to others doing the same…and even that is being a positive influence.

Are you committed to a plan or to Him?

Easy answer…to Him…Everyday, more and more, I think about what I do and how it can affect my relationship with Him…and I ask myself if I am doing things or worry about things, if that shows I a 100% trusting in Him, or if it shows hesitation…. Asking myself that has helped in times of sorrow or discouragement. I have been so happy with how I have continued to learn how to live for Him and through Him each day. And I am excited because I KNOW it will continue. I AM COMMITTED TO HIM. And I trust in HIM and will NOT fear the future because it is all in His plan and His hands. Great things are coming! And I will prepare for them with greatness and optimism!

1 Corinthians 10:31

So, whether you or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

I am learning more and more each day that God is always with me. He is in me and all around me. Not just in times good and bad, or when I think I need Him. But always…..And everything I do, I do so having been created in His image. I am starting to ask myself, “Is this what God would do?” “Would He think this way”….I asked myself how difficult it might be if I were to explain what I did or what thinking about doing to God, face-to-face……It would be hard and embarrassing to talk to Him about some of those things. What would He say if I told Him, “I spent 4 hours working out today”…..and a little time reading your word and talking with you….He would not be impressed. And it is easy for me to look at EVERYTHING I am doing and think, “should I be doing this right now?” when I could be with God….But I need to take a step back. I need to be aware that yes, I can still workout today. I can kick back and watch a game with my friends….But only if that doesn’t take away from time with God.

Identity Theft

Ephesians 5:10-17

Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the das are evil. Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4

Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards, for the weapons of our warfare are not merely to destroy strongholds.

Philippians 4:8-9

Finally, beloved, whatever is true whatever is honorable, whatever is just whatever is pure whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Would you do the things you do “in private” if God was physically there?

What would He say about the things we do? Both in public and private.

Today was the last service on the topic of idols. (I think). This discussion topic has really gotten my attention because I had a lot of bad idols. I didn’t recognize it, I didn’t understand it. I was called out on it. I didnt like it….But now it starts to make sense. It makes so much sense to a point where I try to think about all I do. I don’t want video games, I don’t want the influences of tobacco and alcohol, I better manage my time spent lifting or running and exercising. I was finding my identity in them and not God. I could not feel God’s love and power as good as I can because of the idols in my life.
In my time I could have gotten closer with God, I turned to my other “gods”…I did not recognize them as gods before, but now I see how I idolized them, thus making them a god. But I am learning to make the most of my time…There is so much sin and temptation and destruction out there that try and take away from getting to know God, but He keeps me focused and I am determined not to lose site and touch with God.

More and more each day I am trying to remind myself to live for God and live in Joy and appreciation of all the things around me. To not let earthly things keep me from Him. Sometimes I am so overjoyed by His love. I just want to tell everyone how Great He is and to feel His power and that everything is Great and will be great. But then I find myself in situations like last night. I felt alone again. I couldn’t shake the feeling of sorrow and loneliness. I prayed and talked to God. Asked for peace and strength. So I picked up my Bible and my notes and my music. Things felt better, but emotions were high. I had planned to come back to school earlier in the day. For some reason I didn’t….That turned to be blessing. For the first time I was able to talk to my mom about things bothering me and my finding of God and my faith. I needed that comfort and time to talk and be heard, and listen. I needed that shoulder to cry on. But I felt like I took a small step back from the progress I made. I prayed for strength and I was finding it. I stayed home an extra night and just got up earlier to come to church on time…..Starting my hour drive back I still felt confused….but it was just me and Him. We talked. We listened. He hears my call and helps me. And before I knew it, I was back I Findlay, waiting to go to church. And it was just what I needed. I felt something so great. To be standing alongside a church full of brothers and sisters in Christ, singing His praise. My tears of sorrow and confusion last night turned into a couple tears of something great. Joy, feeling His love and power….knowing it is ok…It was a powerful feeling.

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand

Philippians 4:6-7 & To sacrafice the gift

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

How more clearly can He put it…”Don’t worry about anything”. It seams so simple, and seems like it should be even more simple having such a trust and faith in God and trying to prepare for something great.

But we all worry. I am guilty of it right now, and that is what lead me to this verse.
Dungy asks “Worry, or trust God and reside in the peace He provides?”

Dungy, Tony, and Nathan Whitaker. The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2011. Print.

Dungy, Tony, and Nathan Whitaker. The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2011. Print.

It could go without saying that I choose to trust God. I have gone to Him so much this last week and a half asking for help and strength. Not to worry…..And He was answered my prayers in different ways. People, passage, song. Just helping me listen to others whether it be in person, through audio, on youtube…anywhere.

But yes, I still worry. Not like I thought though. He has shown me how to limit my worries, I just need to act..and trust. I used to worry about the future pretty much every day…where will I live? What will I do with school? Who will I be with? Things like that. That constant worry was piling up and bringing me down. As Dungy says “Worry not only saps us of passion and energy, but it also drains us dry of our hope and trust in the God who created us.” I was sapped, drained, lost…..I had lost track of what is important. I was blind to God, to people around me, to this earth….because of worry.

So how can we stop worrying so much?
“God will relieve you of worry if you ask Him. It doesn’t always mean that instead of worry He will give you success or the outcome you think is best. What He does promise to give seems unfathomable to the world: peace”

For a more personal answer about how I stop worrying, is that I reprioritized so much. I have touched on it in previous posts, but my priorities were so out of order…and I thought they were OK. I look at my past priorities….in no particular order, they included sports, physical activity, girlfriend, video games, watching tv (constant reruns), work, napping (ugh), social media, grades, school, time with friends, family time, meals…oh yeah, and church….time with God…1 time a week…sometimes….maybe… I couldn’t tell you the order of these priorities because it varied from time to time, but I just no how poorly ordered they were.

It is incredible how much those priorities have changed from finding God, and just how much different and better each day can be. There was a time not long ago where if someone said “God must be your number 1 priority, and nothing should come close” I would have thought…”ugh, I don’t know about that”. And that would have been a true statement. I DID NOT KNOW ABOUT THAT. But in this journey and learning, I start to get it. Cause without God, I have none of the things I enjoy. None of the people I can talk with. None of my brothers and sisters….nothing. So while maybe I could have told you “ya, God is my number 1priority”, now I can say it, and mean it and understand it.

And its not even a close second! If Steve Prefontaine ran his 3:54 mile against a bunch of preschoolers, that gap between 1st and 2nd can’t even be comparable to how much distance has to be (and is) between God at #1, and whatever may be sitting at #2
Steve Prefontaine USA

That same Steve Prefontaine was known for his quote “To give anything less that your best is to sacrifice the gift”. I heard that for years in my high school cross country days…I thought it just meant to use your athletic ability to the best of your ability. Which was fine, makes sense. But when I read that same quote when looking up info about Steve, I didn’t apply it to just running…but more like everything in this life. I have gifts that go way beyond any sports field. Learning how I can use the gift of my voice and my example to inspire or help others. To use my education to read God’s word and make sense of it and live it. To use my work ethic outside of recreation and sport and lead by example by giving everything my all…Because if I don’t, then those gifts are wasted. They are gifts that are unique to me, no one else has them exactly like I do. I am not the smartest, or the wisest, or the biggest or highest, but if I use my gifts to their full potential, then I can help someone like no one else can. Don’t sacrifice the gifts. Don’t underestimate the power and ability God gave you….Cause He gave it to you for a reason.

I wanted to make a list of my priorities but didn’t get too far…
1. God….My relationship with Him, Living for Him, Loving Him, Trusting Him, Serving Him, Fearing Him,

I couldn’t think what came after 1….wasn’t so important. I know my family has moved up in the ranks. Church, Brothers and Sisters, devotion. They made their way up pretty high….Things like work and school and my education remain on the list, but they are viewed differently. Don’t get me wrong, I still love sports. I love my Indians, Browns, and Cavs. But even how I view them has changed. The part that could drop my jaw is the things that are not really on this list anymore. I look at video games….and don’t see much. To a point where I started selling my games and will probably rid myself of all if it….I used to turn to video games as a way to relax when I had a break from school. But now I am drawn to God’s word. And hearing some awesome speakers on Youtube or I-Tunes. There are so many books I see and think I want to read them after I finish the one I am on now. I want to do well I school more so I can be out of there and live a little more freely and open….

With God as my top priority, my worries have decreased. The future is still there. And I don’t know what it holds….But I find peace in knowing there are options…exciting ones. While I look forward to the unknown of the future, I will take the advice someone gave me and “Just Be”… Be here, be now.

Romans 8:38-39

I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nore life, neither angles nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow- not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love…Indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

+ Times get tough, things look bleak, the clouds roll in, and the sun shine rolls out. And yet there is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ
+ Do you feel separated from God today because of your fears or worries about tomorrow?….Dont be! The God who loves us will take care of those things, whether we are aware of it or not

I have been blessed in my life to have limited days of bleak cloudiness, tragedy, or sorrow. I have dealt with death of loved ones, school struggles, break ups, tough life decisions, and so on….It is in those times that I have turned to God…But never really committed to Him and trusted Him 100%…Not until recently. Like you, I deal with demons everyday. While they may not be the same, God has not let that separate me from Him, but actually pulled me closer.