Leverage

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Leverage

     I keep thinking about the question pastor Chris has been asking the last couple of weeks: "What is in your (my) hand?" It's been somewhat of a haunting time of reflection, if I can be honest.

     I began thinking about all the things that I have - time, talents, resources (money, things, connections, etc...) - and then began thinking about how those things could be leveraged to bring about some real impact, not just for me but for this world. And what I ran into is something that I think a lot of people run into: I have tons of time, talents and resources - in fact I'm oozing with them, as most of you are as well - however I have them tied up in a lot of things that are bringing a poor return on investment.

     I just recently watched the ESPN "30 for 30" film called Broke. This is a mini documentary that looks at the epidemic level of bankruptcy for former and current professional athletes. Something like 78% of professional football players declare bankruptcy within 3 years after their playing days, and around 53% of NBA players - and not just the bench-warmers, big-time money-makers.

     People hear about these stories and wonder how these wealthy individuals could simply blow their money. The question is somewhat valid, but not all of these people are simply "blowing" their money. Many of them are, but many of them are investing their money, it's just that oftentimes they're poor investments.
 
     There is also this term, "cash poor." It means that, while you're not technically poor, most of your money is tied up in non-liquid assets or investments like property, bonds, or other things that could potentially make you money, but you can't exactly get at immediately. This leaves you strapped when it comes to acquiring basic things.

     This happens to non-millionaires just as it happens to millionaires. My wife and I had a conversation about 5-years ago while sitting on the back porch of our then-recently purchased home that circled around the same kind of issues. We had just bought this house, and while it was affordable and well within our budget, we were asking whether or not our hand were now tied when it came to being able to serve well. Could we up and do anything God was putting in our hearts now that we tied ourselves to a mortgage payment? Could we up and move if we felt called to go? In other words, had we taken somethings off the table because of this specific use of our resources?

     Needless to say, the choices we make with our time, talents and resources limit what we can do with our time, talents and resources. If every minute of our day is booked, there is no room to act on "God-stuff." If all of our money is invested in one thing, are we able to effectively participate in something else if/when the time comes?

   This looks different for everyone. But sometimes we can't see what's in our hands because our hands are tied. Sometimes what's in our hands isn't actually in our hands because we've put it somewhere else. Now I'm not telling everyone to cash in your 401k's, sell all of your possessions and give everything away, not by a long stretch. I'm saying that sometimes it's worth reevaluating what's in (and out) of our hands so that we can leverage our lives for more impact.

     I'll leave you with this. I have a friend whose goal in life is: "to make as much money as possible," and I think it's beautiful! I think it's beautiful because the second half of that goal is this: "in order to give away as much money as possible."

     What's in your hand? What do you need to get back in your hand?

Love 

Tim   

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What If?

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What If?

Hey everyone, Tim here.

     I hope you're enjoying our Max Impact series as much as I am (catch up HERE), and taking advantage of some of the great opportunities that are happening week-in and week-out!

     One thing I think we can all take away from this series thus far is that "belief" isn't a noun, it's a verb. Believing isn't just agreeing with an ideology or a series of doctrines, it's allowing a different world view to drive how life is lived! One aspect that is so critical to living out a belief is recognizing what role we're created to play, what impact we can make.

     If you joined us this past Sunday, Pastor Chris talked about being ourselves: not trying to be like every one else and doing it the way they are doing it, but embracing our unique personalities and capabilities. There seems to be a subtle, maybe even implicit, undertone within the modern church that says for you to make any kind of impact you have to be "in the ministry." That's really an unfortunate misunderstanding of how following Christ is supposed to look.

     When I was in school, my Church History Professor would talk about how Christianity spread during it's beginning stages. And while we like to think that Paul and Peter and the pillars of the church were taking the message to the masses, in fact the opposite was true. The message of Jesus was spread by merchants, soldiers, even slaves, as they traveled from area to area interacting with other people throughout the course of their daily lives.

     Just look at how the church in Antioch began (one of the oldest Christian churches). It was started by "regular" Christians who fled persecution in Jerusalem, moved to Antioch, and started telling people there about the life that is only found in Jesus (READ).

     Every person in this world has things that they are poor at and things that they are great at. Every person in this world has a unique social circle that they move in. I'm going to be able to influence people you'll never meet, and you'll have an opportunity to influence people I'll never meet. I can't speak like Pastor Chris, but I'm pretty decent at writing. You may not be able to write, but maybe you can hang drywall, organize an event, sing, counsel, mow a lawn, lend a smile, make a meal or teach a class.

     What if we took the things we were great at, used them in the social circles we find ourselves in, and do them with love and compassion for the people we interact with? What if we realize that every situation is an opportunity to spread God's love. Saint Francis said, "Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary use words." What if we stopped agreeing with the Bible and started living like Jesus?

     What if? 

Love,

Tim   

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The JV Squad

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The JV Squad

     Bob Goff recently joined us and challenged us to think about our faith, our "beliefs" and our love in radically different way. Not radically different as if it were a new thing, but an old thing that we've somehow misplaced along the way - like a pair of socks that fell behind the dryer that we find when we finally clean back there once a decade!

     When I first felt like God was calling me to join the team here at OG, there was one specific factor that helped confirmed that decision. OG may not be off-the-charts when it comes do doing church, but it certainly is off-the-charts at being the church: and it is this difference, more than anything, that drew me in.

     I've been in a lot of churches in my life; sometimes on staff, sometimes simply as a guest. And while so many of the churches I have witnessed or been a part of have had organization, production, programs and events that would rival the level of excellence seen in some fortune 500 companies, I didn't necessarily feel very welcome there, let alone accepted or even like they cared about me.

     I am in no way against excellence in the church, I think we should always strive toward excellence ("be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect" - Matt 5:48). However I think there is a balance between excellence in programming and excellence in serving. They can go hand-in-hand, but often I find that being the church takes a side-seat to doing the stuff of the church.

     Think about it this way: if you pay big money for an interior decorator to come in and design your home with the latest trends and colors but you skimp on the structure and foundation of your house, you're going to be in for some real trouble as times goes on!

     It's like Bob Goff said today, we can wear the Christian varsity jacket like some badge of honor, like we've got everything figured out, like we're big stuff. But Jesus has always been more interested in the JV squad! These are the ones who are trying to grow and change and become more like Christ.

     Doing churchy stuff is fine, it serves a purpose and helps a lot of people connect; but being the church is how we become change-agents in this world partnered with God's Spirit of love for all of this creation.

     I wantto encourage you to join me on the JV squad as we continually grow and change to be more like Christ and become the Church God has created us to be in this world.

Love,

Tim   

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Enduring Love

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Enduring Love

Hey everyone, Tim here. 

     I have a friend I grew up with who is a song writer. He's written many songs: some good, some not so good. But in one particular song, written probably eight years ago, there is a line about Jesus that has constantly stood out in my mind: "We're still living off the love you left behind."

      The line is based on the idea that Jesus fully embodied God; that Jesus was God on this earth in human form and that because Jesus was God, Jesus embodied everything that God is: love. And when Jesus left this earth he left his followers two things: his example, his Spirit.

     This morning I was reading Psalm 118:1-2,

   Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
     His faithful love endures forever. Let all Israel repeat:
    His faithful love endures forever.

      As I read, I was really meditating on the word "endure." There seems to be so much depth to that word especially in the context of the verse: God's faithful love endures forever. I began to think about the different ways to understand "endure": persevering through a trial; patiently waiting; bearing a burden for another; moving toward a desired goal/outcome. There's probably many more ways to understand that word, but those were the ones that really captured me this morning.

      Since we've just celebrated Easter, I'm drawn to the word "endure" in the context of Jesus' life. I said earlier that Jesus left us two things when he ascended - his example and his Spirit - and it is first and foremost his example of endurance that strikes me. Jesus endured limitation when he became human, he endured human brokenness; he endured the (seemingly slow) growth and development of his disciples; he endured physical pain and desperation when he endured the cross. He also endures now as his Spirit continues to work in each of us and in this world.

      When I say that Jesus "endured" our human brokenness and the slow growth and development of his followers, I do not mean that Jesus was "put off" by it all. I don't think Jesus was surprised at what state we were in as humans or that we somehow exasperated his good graces here on this earth. I think Jesus "endured" these things in the same way an artist endures the creative process.

      If you've taken the time to do something creative (write a poem or story, draw or paint, photography, pottery or jewelry, cooking, building or designing something), you know that it doesn't always just happen. There is usually an amount of waiting, trying different techniques and combinations of things. There are those moments when everything is going your way and then in the next breath, everything is falling apart.

      I think this is how God's love "endures." I think God is doing something in this world, through the Spirit and through anyone who partners with the Spirit in whatever form it takes. I think when Jesus came he brought to this world the fullness of God's love. This love is the very love we're still living off, the very love that is creating and shaping all of creation, the very thing that endures forever.

      Everything in this life will fade away, but God's love will endure forever.

Love

Tim 

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The Choice

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The Choice

Hey everyone, Tim here.

     I hope this letter finds you well. Our current series, "Undercover Boss," is entering its final weekend as we approach Good Friday and Easter and if you haven't been able to follow along, you can catch up HERE. This past Sunday was Palm Sunday and Pastor Chris talked about the cure for selfishness.

     Palm Sunday was the day Jesus entered Jerusalem like the king Israel had been awaiting for centuries, only he didn't come like the king they thought they had been waiting for. Jesus entered the city in the most non-threatening way possible, on a donkey. This was a far cry from the conquering Messiah-action-hero Israel was expecting. But Jesus came as a different kind of king, to do a completely different thing.

     Palm Sunday isn't just the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem in a way that completely redefined for those people what it meant to be a king, a conqueror, a savior. Palm Sunday is also the day Jesus made a choice. This choice sent shock waves through history, through eternity. The donkey-riding, peace-loving, non-threatening, backwoods Rabbi from nowheresville, Israel came to be the conquering savior of the world by the only means that would truly bring freedom from captivity.

     I said that it was the day that Jesus made a choice. The choice Jesus made on that day was sacrifice; it was complete selflessness. John 12:27-28 records Jesus' choice on that day:

"Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'?
    No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.

Father, glorify your name!"

     On that day, Jesus made the choice to love others above himself, to lay down his life to give us true life, to make it possible for us to be saved from ourselves. "This is what real love is: It is not our love for God; it is God's love for us. He sent his Son to die in our place to take away our sins" (1 Jn 4:10); "The greatest love a person can show is to die for his friends" (Jn 15:13); "But God shows his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners" (Rom 5:8).

     Love begins where our selfishness ends, where our concern for ourselves above everything else finally stops long enough to see another human as valuable and worthy of the same love we ourselves are looking for. When we make a choice to love others, when we begin to embody the same kind of selflessness that Jesus showed when he made the choice to give us life and lose his own, that is when the world will be saved - from us.  

Love

Tim 

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Like Droplets of Love

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Like Droplets of Love

Hey everyone, Tim here. 

     I hope this letter finds you well. Hope you've had an opportunity to join us for our current series, "Undercover Boss" (catch up HERE). This past Sunday, Pastor Chris talked about our natural human tendencies to follow the path of least resistance. It made me think about water.

     Water always seeks its own level. This simply means that water, no matter what kind of container or area it is in will always seek the lowest spot and fill the area while maintaining a level perfectly perpendicular to the earth's gravity. Water in a cup is level. Tilt the cup to one side and the water changes it's shape, but not it's level. Water is always trying to maintain balance, not make waves (forgive the pun).

     Another amazing aspect of water is that when in motion, it seeks out the path of least resistance. Water will always work its way around obstacles whenever possible, taking the lower ground as opposed to the higher ground, shifting and diverting all over the place. Have you ever seen a winding river? It winds because it took easier courses around objects.

     So water likes to maintain balance, and it likes the easy path: sounds to me like water is a real pushover... but it isn't!

     Water, when in small quantities isn't much a big deal. A droplet of water evaporates quickly, it moves slowly, it gets sidetracked and stagnated at every turn. But here is something interesting about water, it can unite and combine with other droplets to and grow and gain in size, strength and potency. In fact, join enough droplets together and you form some real strength.

     The Amazon River, the mightiest river in the world, is fed by melting snowcaps. That's right, melting snow. Drop. Drop. Drop. Snow melts and slowly joins together to form little pools, which join together to form little streams, which join together to form tributaries, which join together to form the Amazon River dumping 55,000,000 gallons of water into the ocean PER SECOND! Think about that. Or look at the Grand Canyon, that beautiful American landmark. It was formed by the Colorado river winding it's way through the desert rock. That's some pretty impressive stuff for water droplets.

     One thing that can happen in our lives is that, on our own we can become very sidetracked, very reserved and very ineffective in the things we'd like to be effective in. But you get a couple of us droplets together, and we can literally move mountains. That is what the body of Christ is supposed to be; not isolated droplets attempting to single-handedly save the world for Jesus, but a community of people coming together under the banner of Jesus love for all creation.

     Let's come together as the body of Christ, let's unite under that banner of love, let's be a mighty river and change the world!      

Love

Tim

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Giving up on Chocolate...

Hey everyone, Tim here.

     I hope this letter finds you well. If you've been following our current series, "Undercover Boss" (catch up HERE), you may remember one of the Scriptures Pastor Chris talked about this past Sunday. Hosea 6:6 reads:

"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings."

     Pastor Chris talked about this in context of how we often try to follow certain "rules" about relating to God - trying to please God with our "holiness" and rituals - while we seem to forget the "law of love" we are supposed to follow when relating to each other. As he mentioned when talking about offering sacrifices to get the gods on our side, we often think that pleasing God is the highest calling and that it should be done at whatever cost to anyone else (even to the point of "sacrificing humans" - i.e. neglecting others).

     Now it's true that Jesus said loving God with everything we are should be the number one priority of our lives. However, he didn't finish his answer there. He went on to say that loving our neighbors (everybody else in this world) was the second piece of the pie. And it is these two priorities - loving God and loving neighbors - that sum up the law and the prophets (or, sum up everything God has been trying to tell humanity from the beginning). Jesus didn't say that loving God with everything would fulfill all the purpose of creation, he said that loving God with everything we are AND loving our neighbor would institute the creation God intended.

     So here we are with a conundrum: How can we give everything to God, and still have some room left for our neighbors? "Everything" sounds to me like, well like EVERYTHING; how can there be anything left after everything is being used?

     The apostle John said it this way: "If anyone boasts, 'I love God,' and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won't love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can't see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You've got to love both." (1 John 4:20-21).

     So back to Hosea at the beginning of this note, God is pleased and loved most when we are loving and giving ourselves for others. God desires right relationships between ALL aspects and members of creation. It's not about appeasing God at the expense of everyone and everything else. It's about serving and loving ALL creation at the expense of our pride and selfishness. This is how we please God.

     So, as Pastor Chris said, during this Lenten season, don't focus so much on "giving things up for God" - like God would actually be happy if we stopped eating chocolate... Focus instead on giving things up for love. Let's give up our self-centeredness, our bitterness and anger, let's give up our jealousy and pity, our gluttony and gossip. These are things that truly bring glory to God. Let's give up all the things that make this world a worse place and trade them for those things worthy of our calling in Christ:

Philippians 4:8
"Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."   

     Be well. Love all. And have another piece of chocolate!

Love

Tim 

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God Is Love

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God Is Love

Hey everyone, Tim here. 

     I hope this letter finds you well. If you've been following our new series "Undercover Boss" (catch up HERE), or really if you've just been around OG for anytime at all, you've heard the word "Love" a lot. I know I usually use this space to draw out some aspect of the past message and take a little different route, but as I was driving in my car today, I couldn't help thinking about God and Love.

     We hear all the time that "God is love," which is a Christianease no-brainer, right? I mean it's right there in the Bible: God is Love! And we know this. And in case we didn't know this we're told it all the time. And in case that wasn't enough it's plastered on a thousand car rear windshields. God is Love: we get it. But do we really?

     In my experience, we don't get it; I mean, not really. The reason why I think we misunderstand that God is love is because we associate God with love. Did you have to reread that statement? Did it make your head hurt? Yes, I meant exactly what I said: we associate God with love.

     Forgive me if that still isn't clear. One of our major obstacles to truly understanding the nature of God is that we associate God with a bunch of words - love, grace, mercy, forgiveness - and so God ends up being defined by those words. The first problem with that is we have a terrible understanding of those words and what they mean. The second problem with that is those words could never define God because they are themselves limited by the very fact that they have a definition.

     God has no definition. God cannot be defined or contained in any amount of words we can throw out. Words like love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness do not encapsulate God, in fact it's actually the reverse. God provides the definition for what love is, not the other way around. Our imperfect, partial and oscillating idea of what love is does not define how God acts in love. The very nature and essence of God is the definition for what love is.

     To say that God is love is not the same as saying that whatever love is, that is what God is. To say that God is love is to say that whatever God is, that is what love is. The Biblical writers use four different words that we translate into English as love - philia, storge, eros, and agape. Storge means familiarity and comfort: used for something like how you love your grandma's house. Philia means love in the familial sense: like how you love your best friend or your sister. Eros means love in the erotic sense: I think you can figure this one out. Agape, however, means utter selfless giving of oneself: like how Jesus gave himself for us. That wasn't a weak, starry-eyed love. It was love in its' truest sense, selfless, giving, humble, perfect.

     God really is love, but that is only because real love is God-like. Let's not paint God into a corner based on the limitations of words or our expectations of of a word based on our experience with it. God defines love, not the other way around. God is love.

1 John 4:16
"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them."  

Love

Tim 

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Humbled by His Love

Hey everyone, Tim here. 

     I hope this letter finds you well. If you were with us this past Sunday, you heard Pastor Chris open our new series "Undercover Boss" by talking about Jesus coming to be with us on this earth and how that action is the true beginning of the Easter story.

     Now we all know the stories: Easter is when Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead; Christmas is when Jesus was born into this world. Not a whole lot of crossover there. Two different stories. Two different events. Two different holidays with different mascots (Santa and an egg-centric bunny - hope you see what I did there!).

     But Christmas really is the beginning of Easter, and not just because it is the beginning of the Jesus story because that's when he was born and he has to have been born in order to die and raise from the dead. Christmas is the beginning of the Easter story because it is the beginning of the humility of Jesus.  

     Think about that: God coming to earth, accepting all the limitations of humanity, and walking alongside and leading us to a better way of living. It's a beautiful story on our end, but it's absolute humility on God's end.

     Consider in your own life: Have you ever been forced to do a job or task that you felt was "beneath you"? Once, when I was about 16, I had to play Santa at our family Christmas party for all of my nieces and nephews - talk about humiliating. And while it brought them so much joy, it was not on my list of things that I would be doing again... But it served a purpose.

     This was Jesus coming into our story; it was beneath him so-to-speak. But it gets even more humiliating. Jesus willing suffered and died in our place in a very public, very humiliating way.

     Humility is an aspect of love, and it takes a great love to humbled oneself for the sake of others. That is the kind of love Jesus has for us. That is the kind of love John the Baptist talked about when he said, "I must decrease, [Jesus] must increase" (John 3:30).

     Jesus called us to follow his example of sacrifice (humility) for others - in whatever form that takes. When we condescend to humble ourselves and serve others, giving ourselves for them, the power of Jesus' love becomes present and tangible in this world - and that really is "Good News" (The Gospel).  

Love

Tim 

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Final Week of Building a Better You

Hey everyone, Tim here. 

     I hope you were able to join us for another week of our "Build a Better You" series (Catch up on the series HERE). This week, Jeff and Michelle Winters shared with us one of the most fundamental aspects to building better relationships: listening! In the first chapter of James' letter, he says, "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." He goes on to say that anger does not express God's character.

     I'm a big fan of old proverbs, and not just the Biblical kind. When I think about this verse in James, it bring to mind the old saying, "what's good for the goose is good for the gander." In other words, what is beneficial to one can be beneficial to all.

     I think this proves true when it comes to listening. When we take the time to be present with another person and listen to what they are saying (not just forming a response for when it's OUR turn to speak), we can begin to understand them and who they are, what they've been through, how they process life. Only through this listening can we truly begin to develop empathy. Above all others things, I believe it is empathy with others (not sympathy for them) that allows us to love like Christ.

     Empathy says I understand you and I choose to walk alongside of you as an equal. Sympathy says, I don't understand your situation because I have never experienced it and I am unwilling to process your perspective. Sympathy says that I am above this person and instead of choosing to walk alongside them, I pity them as someone less fortunate. Sympathy stands outside and looks in, empathy stands beside and gets its hands dirty.

     Let's begin to listen to each other, and through our empathy begin to love like Christ loves us!

Love

Tim 

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God's Better is, well, Different...

I saw this image on Facebook the other day. It’s just a little meme that demonstrates how God desires for us to have good things, but we often cling so tightly to the things we already have that we miss God’s gifts. It’s like the sad reality of why people in violent relationships keep returning to them instead of making a clean break and moving on: they don’t leave – and we don’t readily accept God’s better gifts – because what they/we have right now is familiar, and while it may not be ideal, at least it is certain.

Now I don’t want to be a super-zealous-religious-nut who, on principle, nitpicks and finds fault in everything our culture produces or creates. However, I kind of want to be a super-zealous-religious-nut who, on principle, nitpicks and finds lacking and misleading most of the stuff that our “Christian culture” produces and creates. So back to the meme.

This meme is a sad representation of the way much of our “Christian culture” understands the Gospel message; that is, as a personal, material blessing – I mean come on, “Gospel” means “good news,” what’s better news than getting a life upgrade?

Now I’m not here to say that God doesn’t offer us “life upgrades” or want us to have good things. However, we cannot think of material things as our “blessings” from God without setting up God as materialistic. What do I mean by this? I mean that when Jesus talked about “blessings” he always talked about intangibles – love, joy, peace, (suffering!?) – and never once did he say that these intangibles would be byproducts of tangibles like material things.

Jesus said that true joy transcends our situations. But if joy is found through physical “stuff,” as in a materialistic view of God, and then we lose that “stuff” (say, we lose our home or our car or our beloved iPhone), then have we lost our joy? Is God an “Indian-giver” (please forgive the use of this term)? When we lose our stuff do we lose God’s blessing/favor? Is God testing us to see if we have enough faith to get better stuff (like in the story of Job)? Or, is God simply less concerned with the day-to-day status of our stuff as much as our journey toward “true Life” – which is found by seeking God alone (Matt 6).

These are questions worth pondering because the answers help shape our view of God. (Now note, the answers we land on do not shape God, they only shape our view of God. God is who God is regardless of our viewpoint of God). They’re also important because our view of God determines how we interact with both God and world – now that’s pretty profound.

I said all that to say this: as in the meme, don’t waste your life thinking that if you sacrifice your little teddy bear (metaphorically) for God, God will in turn give you a bigger, better, newer teddy bear, that’s not the point. The point is that when we give up things for God – or rather, when we let God’s Spirit impact us enough that we begin to recognize the things we have accumulated (both tangible and intangible) in our lives that are not beneficial to us and lend nothing to a life led by God’s Spirit – we finally allow God to show us what we really need and we create the opportunity to be able to receive it. It’s very seldom a tit-for-tat thing (like we give up a little teddy bear and get a big one). Usually it is something even more amazing. Maybe we save some of the money we would have spent on new golf clubs (because the old ones are probably still fine) and instead use that money to help someone in need. God may not reward us with an equivalent or over-and-above monetary reward, but we may experience some empathy, compassion, gratitude, humility or any number of amazing rewards. Or how about even “giving up” our fixations on being wronged and allowing love to overcome those slights and release us into true joy?

Let’s stop holding God’s blessings ransom by our expectations (and selfishness) and let God do what God does – which is far better than we can do on our own, and far better than we can think of God doing for us. Often times it does take our “sacrifice” of something that we like and enjoy. However, I’ll wager to say that every time we make the decision to give that thing up, we’ll recognize just how little we actually needed them and we will grow into better people who experience much richer blessings than those “sacrificed” items every could have brought us.

Love.