The Personal Art of Robbery – Blessed

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Lead Pastor Ben Snyder shared a personal story of the time he was robbed. The act against him felt personal because the deliberate intent to take from him wasn’t done from far away, but right within his presence.

When we tithe, we give back what isn’t ours to begin with. At times, we selfishly think it was all ours or don’t believe that we have enough to give. I’ve been guilty of that before, and I haven’t always thought about the personal implications of my actions—the idea of victimizing God doesn’t seem possible.

The easiest way for me to explain this concept is to relate it to the relationship between a parent and child. Children should be raised to love God and respect life. They should be protected and nurtured so that they may grow strong and go out into the world to pursue and live out their purpose. Kids are a trusted gift, a true blessing from God. But they aren’t ours to keep.

It’s heartbreaking when a parent doesn’t realize the responsibility God has entrusted to them. It’s personal for the child. (I know it was for me.) A deliberate show of not wanting their child to be around turns the child into a victim, but holding on too tight does the same. In both instances, the child is being robbed.

Tithing is personal to God because he loves the local church. It is his BRIDE (Ephesians 1:22-23, Ephesians 5:31-33). The church is his idea and his plan to reach the lost world. What we have and what we’ve earned was given to us from God, and God trusts that we acknowledge that truth. But when we don’t, we limit our own blessings.

I am reminded of some song lyrics:

“Blessings” by Chance the Rapper
I, made it through, made it through, made it through
And, everything I gave to you, I gave to you, I gave to you
You got it, you got it, you got it, it’s comin’.
So are you ready?
Are you ready for your blessing?
Are you ready, are you ready, for your miracle?

We tithe to show that we are ready to trust in God, that we’re ready for our blessing … for our miracle.

Questions:
Have you experienced a personal or emotional robbery? Are there times when you don’t trust God? Do you see tithing differently than before?

Next Steps:
Trust goes both ways, so start giving God your firsts to show that you’re ready to trust. Seek guidance if this is your first time taking that step. Once you experience blessings, offer more of yourself to help others experience God’s truth. Pray when your trust starts to drift.

Prayer:

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 19 Focus – My Freedom  (Galatians 5:1)
Thank you, God, for freeing me! You have freed me from sin and from shame. You have freed me from the law and from striving to earn salvation. You have freed me from death itself! For all those things and more, I praise you. Help me to live as someone who is free. Don’t let me fall back into old ways of thinking or the behaviors of my past. Don’t allow me to fall back into serving the things that used to control me. I want to serve you alone. You bought my freedom and loyalty at a high price on the cross and I am grateful.

Today’s Parent Prayer

Day 20 Focus – My Growth  (Ephesians 4:15)
Heavenly Father, I am not who I was before I met you—and it’s all because of you. Thank you for the growth I have already experienced, but I’m grateful you’re not finished with me yet! Teach me to be more and more like your Son every day. Help me to submit humbly to the situations you use to keep growing my trust in you, even when I wouldn’t choose them for myself. Above all else, may I grow in love for you and for others. In Jesus’ name I pray.

Today’s Parent Prayer

Day 21 Focus – My Life  (Luke 9:23)
God, there is great purpose for me in loving you and others. You have given me specific gifts, passions, and talents so that I can show others who you are and love them like you do. You have also placed me right where I am to love you and love others. Help me to see that no matter what I face, this is how I live a life of purpose. I am dedicated to you and what you say is most important. Give me this vision for all of my days.

Today’s Parent Prayer


This post was written by Jaron Camp, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Is It in the Bible? – Blessed

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If there has been a lack of “hot topics” in your corner of the world (Ha!), here is one for you: Announce to your family and friends, “the tithe is Biblical.” The mere mention of the tithe, especially within the context of a sermon, often results in offending and/or upsetting the saints. (FYI: I am NOT referring to the New Orleans Saints. The reference is to regular/faithful church attendees—those identifying themselves as followers of Christ.) More than a few “faithful Christ followers” contend the tithe is Old Testament, under the law, and therefore, does not apply.

An examination of Scripture reveals the principle of the tithe existed before the legal aspects (law) of the Bible. Genesis 14:20 clearly references this: “‘And blessed be God Most High, who has defeated your enemies for you.’ Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods he had recovered.”

The principle of the tithe continues in the New Testament:

Matthew 23:23
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”

As was his style, Jesus pointed out the self-righteous ways of the Pharisees. Clearly, the rigidity of their tithing while ignoring matters of greater importance was unacceptable. It is important to note, however, Jesus did not diminish the principle of tithing in this passage—“You should tithe.”

What we do with our money reveals where our heart is, as reflected in Matthew 6:21: “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Tithing really is not about the money—it is about the heart.

My experience has been that until I allowed him to hold my heart, my “giving back” was out of proportion—majorly. Thankfully, I have lived long enough to joyfully embrace the principle of tithing. Completely stepping into tithing was a no-brainer once I understood that everything I own/possess truly belongs to him in the first place. His generosity to me placed that “stuff” in my life. Being stingy with the resources he gifted me is not an option!

Questions:
What are your thoughts on tithing? Is it for us today or was it only for those before Jesus? What do you believe we should give to God?

Next Steps:
Dig deeper into the Bible to study the topic of tithing. Thoroughly examine your finances. Identify ways to step into tithing if you aren’t already. Baby steps are steps—each one counts! Consider increasing your level of giving if you tithe. Make a list of no more than three major areas where you need to grow in your faith. Commit to surrendering those areas to God daily. Journal the steps you’ve taken.

Consider joining a Financial Peace University Group. You can find one at your campus by visiting the Group directory.

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 18 Focus – Commitments to Him  (Psalms 37:5)

Heavenly Father, you are trustworthy. I know I can rely on you, so I commit everything I have and am to you. May I carry out your will in my actions. May I bind my thoughts and behavior to your path for my life. Help me to trust you in all that I do. Teach me to listen for your voice and obey your guidance. You are the source of my strength, and my help comes from you. In your Son’s name I pray, amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer


This post was written by Karen Peck. Karen retired in March 2018 from Lucas County Information Services. She has been married over forty years. Karen rejoices over God’s faithfulness and God’s patience in her life and in her marriage. Nothing matters more to Karen than her relationship with God and her entire family. Her immeasurable faith in Christ and His ability to restore the broken runs deep within.


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The Ultimate Test – Blessed

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Did you know God invites us to TEST HIM. Test him? Do we dare attempt to test God? Many would say no—trust, but don’t test. However, God truly does invite us to test him.

With what and how do we test him … and why? God tells us to test and see if he will not bless and provide for us when we trust and give to him from our resources.

Malachi 3:10
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!

At the same time, trusting God with our resources and giving him our firsts can be a test for us as well. The Bottom Line from this weekend’s message is: The Tithe is God’s Test for the Blessed Life.

Years ago, I was in a financial struggle and desperately needed a loan for a rather large sum of money. I tried nearly everywhere to get that loan, but to no avail. As a last-ditch effort, I applied to a financial institution. On top of all the work it took to collect the information needed to apply, I was also praying earnestly for God to help provide a solution to my situation. Several days passed and I hadn’t heard anything from the loan officer, so I called to inquire where things stood. I was informed that they probably wouldn’t be able to help me. I was devastated, again, and truly at the end of my rope.

On my way to work the next morning, I had a very angry conversation with God. I told him how much I was hurting… how I felt abandoned. I had put my trust in him to answer my desperate plea through prayer. Yes, I was angry with God, but I also told him in that same conversation that I trusted his judgment—even if the answer to the loan was “no.” I still had faith that everything would be okay.

About two hours after I got to work, I received a phone call from the financial institution. It was the young lady who took my application. She proceeded to tell me how the loan officer was only looking at the “whats” and not the “whys.” She fought on my behalf, and ultimately, the loan was approved. God was up to the test and showed that I could trust him with my needs.

James 1:2-4
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Questions:
How do you react when you are tested? Are you currently trusting God with your finances? Have you ever experienced an overflow of God’s blessing from your giving? If not, are you ready to test him?

Next Steps:
Talk to God about what your next step is in the area of giving. Decide to take that step today, and watch what God does in your life.

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 17 Focus – My Purpose  (1 Peter 2:9)

God, you have given me, as a follower of Jesus, the right to be your child. You have set me apart and called me one of your chosen people. I can now show others your goodness and be a light to them in this dark world. Help me shine your light so others can see you.

Today’s Parent Prayer


This post was written by Ned Miller, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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A Test of the Heart – Blessed

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I lead a couple of CedarCreek’s ladies’ Groups. The ladies in my groups are amazing women of God. They are my dearest friends, and they are such a blessing in my life. Every year, each of us picks a word to focus on throughout the year. A lot of thought is put into the chosen words. And 2021 was no exception—I was blown away by this year’s words.

My close friend, Amy, picked the word “heart.” She wants to make sure her heart is always pure and loving. She wants all of her thoughts and actions to honor God. She wants to show his love in the way she treats others, and she wants her thoughts to be kind and loving. Amy wants most to have a generous heart. The thing you don’t know is that Amy already has a huge heart. She is always helping others and living out her faith.

The Bottom Line from this weekend’s message is: The Tithe is God’s Test for the Blessed Life. Tithing tests your heart.

I know these are tough times. The COVID pandemic has been a real struggle in many ways. My intention is not to make you feel guilty. But I also believe that when we prioritize tithing, God’s blessings overflow. I believe giving is a heart issue. It is important to give joyfully.

Amy and her husband, Todd, are examples of joyful givers. They have chosen to give their hearts and have been faithful to God by tithing through an extremely difficult time. In return, they have been overwhelmed by God’s goodness.

Amy’s family owns a business that has suffered greatly during the pandemic. Despite the decrease in their earnings, they have continued to give what they always have. Amy and Todd placed their faith in God to provide for them, and he has. They have gone through times when they didn’t know how they would pay their bills, only to have a check miraculously arrive that they weren’t expecting.

Amy rejoices that even though things have been tight, they were able to help buy turkeys and donate shoeboxes to the Tabernacle Church during the holidays. Amy and Todd have been living out their faith and demonstrating that God is their true treasure. It’s no coincidence that they have felt so very blessed by God in the midst of their struggles.

Matthew 6:21
Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Questions:
How do you feel about tithing? Do you give on a regular basis? How does tithing test your heart?

Next Steps:
Read and study Malachi 3:6-10. Look up verses about tithing. Pray about this. If you aren’t doing so already, devise a plan to give. If you already give, consider tithing.

Journal God’s blessings when you obey him.

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 16 Focus – To Listen to Him (John 10:4)

Dear Father, I am so grateful to have you near me, guiding me with your voice so that I may not stray from the path you have planned for me. I trust that your way is best and brings me closer to you. Amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer


This post was written by Marsha Raymond. Marsha has been happily married to her husband, Jeff, for 30 years. They have two grown sassy and fearless daughters. She loves spending time with God, her family and friends, reading, riding bicycles, yoga and walking.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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Hands Up! – Blessed

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This weekend, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder asked us a pretty interesting question: “Did you know that you can rob God?” I am not sure if you’ve ever thought about it, but if you don’t give back to him, that is what you are doing. It is not that you prevent God from doing what he wants to do in the world, but you are preventing him from doing what he wants to do in you and through you. God wants to bless you—don’t make the mistake of limiting his blessings to the earthly things you’re holding on to.

John 10:10
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

When we give to God, we connect with him and trust that he will provide for us. One of the ways we give is by tithing, which means we give back to God out of our resources.  The literal translation of “tithe” is 10 percent—it’s the first 10% of what we produce or earn. Giving from our first is important because when God’s first, everything falls into its proper order.

This weekend, Ben shared a story from the book of Malachi about the Israelites stealing from God. Malachi was a prophet sent by God to the Israelites with a message. At that  time, Israel was in exile—far from a blessed life.

Malachi 3:6-10 (NIV)
6 “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’”
8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.”
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’”
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

In this text, we see Malachi challenging the Israelites to return to God. When they ask “How?” he answers:

“STOP ROBBING GOD.”  He tells them that because they are withholding their firsts. They’re under a curse—the opposite of a blessed life.

Instead, they should, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, and then God will bless you.”

According to Scripture, our greatest motivation for giving comes from God’s love for us which grows our love for others. Just as Jesus Christ died for the sins of others, we ought to freely give of ourselves for others (2 Corinthians 8:8–9). In turn, God promises to reward and bless us when we do.

Luke 6:38
38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Questions:
Do you believe God wants to bless you? Do you want a rich and satisfying life in Christ?

In Malachi 3:6-10, what was keeping the Israelites from God’s blessing? How did Malachi tell the Israelites to return to God?

Next Steps:
I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but it is what I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess. Giving 10% of what God gives to you demonstrates your thankfulness to him for what he has provided and helps you to remember to rely on God instead of riches. Pray for his continued gifts and guidance in your life today. Ask for his guidance in determining your next step in giving.

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 15 Focus – My Relationships (Philippians 2:3-5)

Dear Lord, please help me reflect you in all my relationships with others. Please help me humble myself and think of the needs of others before my own. Help me see how I can serve those around me. Help me show others they matter and let them know they are not alone.

Today’s Parent Prayer


This post was written by Gary Schnabel, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Pray First – Blessed

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In his weekend message, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder mentioned that another way we can give God our first is by praying first in all circumstances. For many, prayer is not a go-to throughout their day.

Unfortunately, we often make it out to be more complicated than it is. I most often do this when I have to pray in front of other people. But newer Christians often don’t know where to begin. Should I prepare? Should I know specifically what I am praying about? Will people like what I am praying for? Will they be impressed by my prayers? Am I doing it right? Is God listening?

I’m not sure if these are questions that you ask when thinking about praying, but in this week’s message, Ben makes the point that in all things, we should pray first. Give it to God.

How?

Prayers don’t have to be long. They do not have to be fancy. There is no need to try to impress God or others with them. Simply put, prayer is you talking to God. It is a chance to connect with him and tell him what is going on in your life and how you feel about it.

By praying first, we are acknowledging our need for God and giving him his rightful place in our lives.

Philippians 4:6-7
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 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.

We saw in Tuesday’s LivingItOut that Jesus gave us a great example of praying first to start our days.

Mark 1:35
Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.

Jesus would get up in the morning to get away from the crowd, from all the demands and productivity he had to get done for the day. He took time to first be present with God before he was present with anyone else. He didn’t get up early to impress God but to connect with him.

The next time you have a difficult decision to make, when you get bad news, or when a difficult circumstance arises—pray first. When things are going well in your life, when something’s worth celebrating, makes you joyful or excited, or is praise worthy—pray first. Before you step into a meeting, make a phone call, etc.—pray first. As you make prayer the first thing you do instead of your last resort, you will experience blessings from connecting with God more often.

Questions:
What keeps you from giving God trust, by praying first?

What doubtful question(s) do you have about praying first?

What does your prayer life look like and how can you give God your first?

Next Steps:
Take five minutes in the morning in silence and simply pray for God’s will for the day and listen.

Checkout CedarCreek’s Personal Prayer Guide:

Join us in 21 Days of Prayer.

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 12 Focus –To Live Confidently (1 John 4:16-17)
Father in Heaven, thank you for loving me. I know I can trust you with all I am, and I am confident in the salvation you have given me. Help me to abide in you, to become more like your Son every day. Show me how to live like him, according to your will, working for your Kingdom in all I do. May my love for you and others be perfected through your love for me.

Friday’s Parent Prayer

Day 13 Focus – To Live Obediently (Philippians 2:12-13)
Heavenly Father, thank you for working in me. I am in awe of the changes you make possible in my heart and how you continue to grow me to love you and others more. I praise you for saving me, for making salvation possible through your Son. Help me to share this gift with others. Teach me to desire what you desire. I trust you to give me the power to do all you ask of me.

Saturday’s Parent Prayer

Day 14 Focus – To Worship Him (John 4:23)
Dear Father, I worship you with all my heart and soul. I want to sing your praises from early in the morning when the sun rises until late at night when the day has passed. I am so grateful to be allowed to be your child as your love washes over me again today.

Sunday’s Parent Prayer


This post was written by Rebecca Roberts, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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First Thing First – Blessed

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Shortly after I became a Christian, I jumped into the deep end!  While going through Christianity 101 (a previous form of GrowthTrack), I learned that one of my spiritual gifts was intercession—praying for others. What?!? In my previous church experience, prayer was something the minister did for us on Sunday, so I was a little hesitant.

I signed up to attend a prayer seminar with a friend, and wow, were my eyes opened! We did an activity that sticks with me to this day because it was so painful. We were given a piece of paper. On one side of the page, we were instructed to write down all the things we did in a day in the order of their importance. On the other side, we were instructed to write down how much time we spent on each item during the day. Ouch!

While I said that God was the most important thing to me, I was not giving him the first part of my day in prayer. That time went to exercise! Whatever time I had after exercising was what I gave to God—he was getting leftovers! I decided to reverse that. I learned to schedule God into my calendar so that the time slot I devoted to him appeared busy, just in case another opportunity for that hour came up. I began to wake up three hours before I had to be anywhere so that I could spend time with God first, exercise second, and then prepare for the rest of my day.

I thank God almost every day that I am a morning person! I’ve even come to thank him that my husband is not, because I can guarantee 3+ hours by myself to sit with God and then allow his word to soak into me during my walking or biking exercise. This means that almost every night, I am in bed by 10 p.m. I love the morning time I spend with Jesus more than the (predictable) end of a movie!

I know—not everyone is a morning person. (Sorry!) But I thank God for this discipline in my life. He has blessed me over and over as I have put him first. As Gateway Church Pastor Robert Morris says, “When I give God the first part of my day, there is a notable difference in the rest of my day.” God gave his best, Jesus, for us before we had done anything to deserve it (as if we ever could). Never forget that!

Romans 5:8
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

It takes faith to give our first: Faith that God will give you the energy to make it through your day with less sleep. Faith that when you offer your money as a tithe, he will bless the rest. Faith that when you put God first in your work, he will bless your efforts. Faith that his blessings will come in his way and in his time. As Lead Pastor Ben Snyder said, “The first gift we can give him in return (for what he has given us) is our trust.”

Questions:
What would it cost you to start your days with Jesus, to put him first? Will you commit to waking up with Jesus by setting your alarm five minutes earlier than normal and gradually increase your time over the next month or year? Or could you end your day five minutes earlier with the same purpose?

Is your trust in God or something else?

Next Steps:
On one side of a sheet of paper, create a column and order your daily activities from the most to the least important. On the other side, write down how much time you spend on each. Figure out how you can adjust your schedule to make the most important things a priority. Remember, what you do first matters.

Join Ben every morning at 7:30 for prayer as we continue our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting..

Read the LivingItOut every weekday.

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 11 Focus – To Love Fearlessly (1 John 4:18-19)
Dear God, thank you for being a God of perfect love. Thank you for loving me first—before I accepted your salvation, before I even knew you, while I was still living in sin. Teach me to love as you love, without fear, without condemnation. Help me to offer grace to those around me, just as you first offered grace to me.

Today’s Parent Prayer


This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people that God used to start CedarCreek in the Fall of 1995, and was on staff until 2013. Lauri loves Jesus, and loves helping people, especially women, live out of the truth about who we are in Christ. She and her husband Mike live in Oregon, but now spend winter months in Florida near daughter Kelda and her family.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


Leave a Comment?

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Closed on Sundays – Blessed

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I am sure many of you can relate to this scenario. You’re out and about getting errands done on a Sunday when your stomach reminds you that it’s lunchtime and you need to eat. You say, “Let’s go to Chick–fil–A. It’s just around the corner, and their salads are fantastic.” So, you make the drive over, pull into the parking lot, and suddenly remember, they’re not open on Sundays! Waaah, waaah, waaah, waaaaaaha.

What’s up with that? Well, Chick-fil-A is living out the principle of firsts. Since day one, founder Truett Cathy and his brother, Ben, decided to close their restaurants on Sundays.

Closing business on one of the biggest sales days of the week doesn’t seem like a wise decision. This is supported by business experts who estimate Chick-fil-A loses close to $1 billion per year by not opening on Sundays. That’s a lot of money! However, even though the franchise closes its doors for one day, it makes just as much money as its competitors do in seven full days.

How is this possible? Truett Cathy wrote in his book Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People, “I believe God honors our decision and sets before us unexpected opportunities to do greater work for Him because of our loyalty.”

They experience GOD’S BEST because they give him their FIRST. In this example, Cathy set aside the first day of his week for God. I don’t know about you but taking a day of rest is hard to do. We all have so much to accomplish and, seemingly, so little time, but God invites us to trust him and honor him by giving him our first day.

Exodus 20:8-11a
8 “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.

Cathy also experienced God’s best because he trusted that God would provide financially. Undoubtedly, he was aware of the money he was giving up by closing on Sundays, but he chose to honor God anyway.

We are also invited to trust God with our finances. Not just by giving up potential income but also by how we manage the money we do have. The basic truth is we can do six things with our money.

  1. Spend it
  2. Save/Invest it
  3. Pay down debt
  4. Pay taxes
  5. Give it away
  6. Return it to God

The only thing that determines the order of that list is what’s most important to you. For many, the order reflects a “me first” attitude and places God somewhere down the list. God doesn’t want to be last on our list, though—or even second. He desires to be first in our lives, and first is right where he should be.

Proverbs 3:9-10 (NIV)
9  Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;    10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

Leviticus 27:30
“One-tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord and must be set apart to him as holy.”

Putting God first in our lives is not the road to our rewards—it is the reward. And the blessings we receive in turn are immeasurable.

Questions:
Do you find it hard to find a day of rest in your week? Why?

If you give your firsts, do you believe that God will bless the rest? Why or why not?

Next Steps:
Over a three‐day period this week, keep a journal of how you spend your time, hour by hour. Afterwards, evaluate what the use of your time tells you about your priorities? How should you reorder your days to place God first?

Use of our time and money is evidence of our true priorities, regardless of the words we say. In your estimation, over a single pay period, what percentage of your income do you spend, save, use to repay debts, use to pay taxes, give away, and return to God? This week, break down your spending from your past paycheck. How did your estimates line up with reality? What changes do you need to make in your budget to place God first?

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 10 Focus – Dependence on Him (Psalms 121:1-2)
Dear Lord, when things become difficult, I know you walk beside me. You will cross the desert with me and weather any storm with me. When things become unbearable, I know you will carry me to the other side. Today, I declare my dependence on you. Amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer


This post was written by Ben Bockert. Ben is a proud husband and father of three beautiful daughters. He is honored to serve as the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


Leave a Comment?

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Give God the First of Your Day – Blessed

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As a mother of five children ranging in age from 9 down to 2, I never get enough sleep. Lately, my charming 2-year-old has taken to visiting me at 3:30 in the morning. If I’m lucky, she goes right to sleep, and I transport her to another sleeping surface. If I’m not lucky, she kicks me for an hour or (this is a new special thing she does) pinches my nose and pulls on my ear until I lose it.

Sleep is a precious commodity, but so is my quiet time each morning before said 2-year-old and the rest of the gang tumble out of their rooms to loudly greet the day. When I had tiny babies, every moment of sleep was absolutely necessary, but now that my children are a little older, my relationship with God needs to come first for me to even hope to love my family the way I should.

The gospel of Mark recounts an example of how important Jesus, the Son of God, viewed his time with his Father. Let me set the stage: In the two months leading up to this event, Jesus had been baptized, fasted for 40 days, been tempted by Satan, watched his cousin John be thrown in prison, and had begun his ministry through teaching and healing.

Mark 1:35
Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.

Jesus was probably exhausted. He was probably hungry. After his busy day of preaching and healing, he probably would have loved to wake up and been served breakfast in bed by his hostess, Peter’s mother-in-law whom he had miraculously healed the previous day. However, he didn’t wake up and groggily “pray” between dreams while laying in bed. He got up while it was dark and left the house. He went to an “isolated place.” In the Greek language, that’s the same word used to describe the wilderness he entered to be tempted. He physically removed himself from all distraction to give God the first and best part of his day. If God’s Son needs this time, how much more do we need it?

So what could this look like in your day? Personally, on a perfect day, I’ll have a good 60 minutes before I have to engage with the rest of the world. I begin by reading Scripture (currently, I’m working through a Bible study on the book of John), and then I like to journal a little and pray. I have a couple other books I engage with, and when I’m finished with that, I’ll send a short message to a dear friend or scroll through Facebook for a few minutes before getting everyone breakfast.

What does it actually look like? Sometimes I do get my hour, but often it looks like reading a Psalm or Proverb and praying before I open my computer. Sometimes, my toddler is sitting on my lap trying to steal my pens while I’m writing. Sometimes, my 4-year-old is trying to dazzle me with her newly acquired balancing skills. Usually, it’s not pretty or peaceful, but the act of offering my first to God helps me frame my perspective on the day.

By humbly inviting God into my chaos, I find that I can draw on his strength when I find the girls giving their toys a bath in the toilet. You don’t need to have an elaborate Bible study that takes you through the original Greek version with a massive concordance out on the table—there is a place for that—but God will meet you right where you are if you invite him.

Questions:
What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? How can you change that habit to allow God to have the first and best of your day?

Next Steps:
Ask God for  the strength and discipline to offer your first moments to him and to help you see how time spent with him is never wasted and always blesses.

This week, make it a point to get out of bed, engage with the Bible, and say a short prayer before turning on your phone or computer to see what the world has to offer, you. Start small by giving God five minutes. As this becomes a habit, you will want more.

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 9 Focus – To Surrender to Him (Romans 12:1)
Heavenly Father, thank you for all you have given me: all the time, resources, relationships, and abilities. I now give them back to you. I surrender it all. I am only a steward—it all belongs to you. God, guide my actions. Teach me to use what you have given me according to your will. Help me to listen for and obey your directions. May your will be done in me and through me.

Today’s Parent Prayer


This post was written by Julie Mabus. Julie has a passion for thinking about big ideas, art, reading, and seeing God reveal himself through creation. She is married and is homeschooling her five young children.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


Leave a Comment?

We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!


Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

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John Reading Plan


Who’s On First? – Blessed

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“Is God first?”

That is the question Lead Pastor Ben Snyder asked during his weekend message. The question struck me harder than I expected. I am a faithful follower of Christ. I make time for prayer and Scripture every morning (well, almost). At work, I get to see the way God is using my gifts to make a difference, and outside of work, I have authentic, life-giving relationships where I can feel God working in my life and in the lives of my friends. I joyfully give God a lot of my time and energy.

But lately, I haven’t been giving my first to God—and that makes a difference. I’ve been giving the first of my thoughts, the focus of my attention, to the things that are wrong in my life and how I can fix them. (Spoiler alert: I can’t.)

Ben talked about the Principle of First: what you do first matters. We all know this is true—ever start something off on the wrong foot, and the rest of it seems to go downhill from there? The bottom line for the week is that we experience God’s best when we give him our first.

God is, by nature, first. He is preeminent: existing before anything else, more knowledgeable and powerful than everything else. It only makes sense to put him first—when you do, you’re submitting to the natural order of the world, as he designed it, and it’s going to help the rest of your life fall into order.

However, if you’re not trusting God by putting him first, the alternative is resisting his order and doing things your own way. Speaking as someone who’s tried to do things my own way many times, it doesn’t work out well. I’ve been giving God my time, thoughts, and energy—but only after I’ve used them to try to fix things I’m not able to fix. I’m giving to him, but I’ve only been giving him my seconds.

God loves you. He wants the best for you—his best for you, which doesn’t always look the way we expect it to. However, if we want to receive his best, we must start by giving God our first and putting him first in our lives. For me, that means focusing on him and giving my problems to him before I try to solve them.

Over the next few days we are going to look at ways we can put God first in our lives and live out this principle.

Questions:
What does giving God your first and putting him first in your life look like right now? Are you putting him first?

Next Steps:
Look at where you invest your resources: your time, money, energy, thoughts, etc., to help determine what you’re putting first. Then, consider what it would mean to put God first in those areas, and start living that out. It’s OK if you don’t do it perfectly at first—reordering our lives according to what God wants for us can be challenging. Be patient, but don’t give up.

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 8 Focus – Broken Before Him (Psalms 51:17)
Dear God, I have missed the mark of righteousness many times. Yet while I was still separated from you, you loved me and sent your Son to die for me. Thank you, Lord. Today, I offer my broken spirit to you, for you alone make it whole. I come to you in repentance, knowing I need you. Heal me, God, and teach my heart to break for what breaks yours. In your Son’s name, I pray.

Today’s Parent Prayer


This post was written by Payton Lechner. Payton is currently the apprentice copywriter at CedarCreek. In her spare time, she freelances as a writer and editor. Besides the English language, Payton loves swimming, cats, and a good cup of tea.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


Leave a Comment?

We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!


Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

Click Here


More Resources

Series Theme Verses
LivingItOut Podcast
RightNow Media
John Reading Plan