Where Is Your Treasure? – The Vault

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Throughout my experience as a Christian, money is a topic that isn’t widely discussed. However, this topic is much more important than most of us realize. Last weekend, we learned that 11 of Jesus’ 49 parables used money as an example. Those 11 parables center around being wise versus being foolish; they teach us how to best use our resources in our earthly lives to prepare for our coming lives in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Our society often prioritizes worldly achievement and “success.” We tend to think that because we seemingly earned it ourselves, it is perfectly fine to spend our money however we want. However, the Bible teaches that we are to give the first fruits of our resources to God. After all, he is the one who blesses us with them. Ultimately, our resources and finances are not our own; everything belongs to the Lord. Everything that we are blessed with was provided to us by God, not solely by our own doing.

As a recent college graduate, I initially took tithing for granted. It is so easy to get caught up in the shiny, worldly things that fight to capture our attention, such as new apartments, new cars, and entertainment. It is scary how easily we can forget from whom our wealth truly comes—we’re just so eager to spend it on ourselves. In this way, we put ourselves before the one who provided us with these gifts in the first place.

Last weekend, we learned that giving to God is like an act of worship. It is; worship is giving praise and thanks to God for not only all of the wonderful gifts he has blessed us with but also for who he is. In the gospels, Jesus teaches about how our heart reflects our priorities:

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

So many of us treasure money, material items, and achievement before anything else. Therefore, it makes sense that the desires of our hearts will reflect that: We will continually desire worldly success. But the pursuit of money alone will never fulfill us. When we make money an idol and worship it before God, we will always be left unsatisfied and wanting more. Instead of centering our lives around money and what it can do for us, we should center our lives around God and how he commands us to use our resources.

Let us not lose sight of worshiping the one who blessed us with these gifts and entrusts us with using them to further the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 25:13
No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.

Questions:
In what ways can you use money as an act of worship?

How can chasing after money and worldly success affect your relationship with God?

Next Steps:
Make an effort to tithe this weekend and give the first fruits of your resources back to God.

Attend a Financial Peace University Group to better understand how to manage and prioritize your finances.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for providing me with the blessings that I get to enjoy today. Remind me that you are the one who blesses me with my earthly treasures, and help me to entrust them to you. Change my heart so that I always give my first fruits to you as an act of worship. Let me become a better steward of my resources to further the Kingdom of God. In Jesus’ name, amen. 


This post was written by Isabelle Billnitzer. Isabelle is a regular attender of CedarCreek and serves in the children’s ministry. She is passionate about writing and loves spending time with her family and friends. Her goal is to show people the love of Jesus Christ.


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Give, Save, Live – The Vault

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When my children were small, we didn’t have much money. Their father and I had married when we were 19—sophomores in college with no money and no marketable skills. After the first few years, when the novelty of being married and new parents had worn off, we really struggled. But I have come to view that time as a real blessing.

That time offered a vital learning experience that taught me how to be content with little. It taught me that money doesn’t buy happiness. It taught me not to be afraid of life without. I worked hard at several different jobs, and we had enough. At the time I thought, “If only I could make $20,000 a year, we would be living on easy street!” It took some years for that to happen, and guess what? We could have used a bit more!

When I became a Christian, though, I learned that the Bible was serious about trusting God with my resources. By that time, I was a single mom with two children, one of whom had developmental disabilities. While I had heard of the concept of tithing, I never thought people actually did it! Give 10% of my income to God? You must be kidding! I was sure there had to be an exception for single moms!

I began to study what the Bible said about the resources I had. As I came to believe that everything I had originated from God, it seemed only reasonable to give back what he asked of me. Eventually, I saw that the system of giving 10%, saving 10%, and living off the rest was truly a wise way to order my finances. I couldn’t begin at 10%, but as I saw God’s blessing in my life, I increased it.

God has been so faithful to me and my family. It is a joy for us to return our tithes to him and the work he is doing through our church. Lead Pastor Ben Snyder quoted his friend in saying, “Your heart will follow your money, so send your money to where you want your heart.” Jesus tells us there will be a reward for this:

Matthew 24:45-46
45 “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 46 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward.”

Malachi 3:10
“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!”

That’s a test I have taken, and I have learned that you cannot outgive God!

Questions:
Do you feel like you honor God with your giving? If not, why? Do you believe that God has provided the gifts and talents that have enabled you to earn what you make?

Next Steps:
Calculate what 10% of your annual income is. Most people don’t know. Divide that amount by 52 weeks. Commit to giving a beginning percentage faithfully and first. Commit to saving the same amount. See if God doesn’t bless that. Then increase your percentage.

Prayer:
Lord God, how can I begin to thank you for the many blessings you have given me? It is a joy to give you thanks and praise for it all! In joyful obedience, I give my tithes and offerings to you, not because you need it, but because you want to be first in my heart. I say that you are first. I pray my life reflects your glory in my giving, in my serving, and in my loving because you loved me first. Amen.


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.


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Natural Consequences – The Vault

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The concept of natural consequences is intriguing to me. It is one item that has been missing from my toolbelt for too many years. While it is doubtful I will ever reach a level of expertise in its use, when utilized, the results are stunning. As we read yesterday in the LIO, there are natural consequences to our foolish actions. Similarly, there are also natural consequences when we are wise.

In the world of parenting, wise parents recognize the value of allowing their children to suffer from natural consequences as opposed to enforcing punitive punishments, and our Father is certainly wise. The Bible presents countless examples of natural consequences that result from a behavior. We saw it with the foolish bridesmaids in Matthew 25:1-12.

Rest assured, God’s love for us is so great he has a plan for us even in the midst of our less than stellar choices. But he may allow us to experience the consequences to help us recognize that life is best when we put God first. And while dropping the excuses, acknowledging wrongdoings, and inviting Christ into our hearts will not always make the consequences go away, it will bring us into a right relationship with him.

Conversely, there are numerous, amazing natural consequences awaiting those who put God first. As we are reminded with this week’s bottom line, “My fulfilling future begins with being faithful today.” We see these natural consequences play out in the experiences of the five wise bridesmaids.

Matthew 25:1-2
1 “Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.”

The fate of the wise bridesmaids—a secure future—is the desire of most everyone. Like most things in life, however, there is a cost attached. One such cost is spiritual discipline. Being wise demands a narrow focus on God and squeezing out unhealthy habits, hurts, and hang-ups. Being wise entails Christian growth—establishing an unshakeable faith. Being wise often means leaning into biblical truth when life knocks you around. Being wise involves trusting fully in the personhood of Jesus Christ when events in life swirl around you.

Although some will be unwilling to pay the price, for those stepping into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the benefits are out of this world! Being a good steward of time and choosing to invest in our own spiritual healthiness will secure a return available nowhere else!

Questions:
Where do you land on the spectrum of being wise versus being foolish? Are there people speaking into your life, expressing concern around your choices? What have you been avoiding in an effort to stay comfortable?

What would stepping into wisdom look like? What natural consequences might result from those wise choices?

Next Steps:
Take an honest look at what your choices may be costing you. Consider life changes that could mean stepping into wisdom and leaving foolishness behind.

Consider joining a Group. Surround yourself with others on your adventure with Jesus who can help speak wisdom and truth into your life.

Prayer:
Father, it is clear to me the folly of my own ways has come at a very high price. Thank you for loving me in spite of this and for bringing others into my life to speak truth in love. Empower me to quickly identify the foolishness of my ways and fill me with your wisdom. May you receive much glory as I follow your lead away from foolishness and into wisdom. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Karen Peck. Karen retired in March 2018 from Lucas County Information Services. She has been married to her husband, E. Michael, for over forty years. Karen is extremely grateful retirement has afforded her several soul-fulfilling opportunities to engage in deeper, meaningful relationship with Him and others.


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Don’t Be Left Out – The Vault

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I used to do a lot of bowhunting. Whenever I went on a hunt, I would carefully prepare my supplies, making sure I had a good scent blocker, backup arrows, at least two deer calls, two flashlights with extra batteries, snacks, coffee, water, and all my other assorted gear. The last thing I wanted was to be given the opportunity to take the buck of a lifetime and miss it because I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t want to look foolish.

Last weekend, we began a new series called The Vault and learned about the “Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids.”

Matthew 25:1-2
1 “Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.”

I want to discuss the foolish ones. Unlike when I would go hunting, these five bridesmaids were not prepared. How did it work out for them?

Matthew 25:3
“The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps.”

Please take the time to read the full parable in Matthew 25:1-12, but here’s a quick recap: As it turned out, the bridegroom was delayed, so the bridesmaids grew weary and fell asleep. Around midnight, they were awakened by loud shouting that the bridegroom was coming, and they were to go out to meet him. All ten bridesmaids began to frantically prepare their lamps with oil, but the five foolish ones’ lamps were going out because they did not have enough. They had no choice but to go find more oil. While they were gone, the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready followed him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked behind them. When the foolish bridesmaids returned, they stood outside calling to the bridegroom for the door to be opened.

Matthew 25:12
“But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’”

Let’s take a moment to examine the moral of this parable. If you’re like me, your ultimate goal in this life is to eventually enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But how do we get there? By preparing wisely!

How? By putting our faith in Christ, growing our relationship with God, and making choices that honor him.

1 Timothy 4:8
“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but we can definitely face it more assuredly if we are prepared for it. The difference is in how we prepare: The foolish man thinks on his own and prepares by focusing on what he thinks is important, or maybe doesn’t prepare at all. The wise man seeks guidance from God and prepares based on what God says is important.

Someday we will all face that moment in the future, and I for one want to feast at the table. I do not want to hear the words, “Believe me, I don’t know you.”

Questions:
How are you preparing for the future?

Are you like the wise bridesmaids or are you at risk of being left out?

Next Steps:
Dig deeper into God’s word to get a better understanding of how he wants you to prepare for your future.

Find a Group of people who will support you in your journey.

Prayer:
Father in heaven, I desire to dwell in your house someday. Give me wisdom and guidance to not be like the foolish bridesmaids but, instead, plan wisely for my everlasting future with you. Help me to put aside the distractions of this world and always seek you first. Amen.


This post was written by Ned Miller. Ned loves serving through writing on the LIO team, prayer team, group leader and as a greeter. He loves spending time with his family and working on his model railroad.


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10% Given; 100% Saved – The Vault

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I heard once that when you’re struggling to save money, you should consider paying yourself like you would a bill. So in addition to your usual budget, gas, electric, and water, add a new one—your savings account. Since becoming a Christian, I would add one more item to the budget too: tithing. Tithing is the Christian principle of giving 10% of your earnings to God.

The bottom line from the weekend message was: “My fulfilling future begins with being faithful today.” If we faithfully give to God, and put aside an emergency fund, some of our anxieties and stress can be eased.

Saving isn’t something that comes easily to me—not that I’m against it or intend to be careless with my money—I have just always been the type to say, “Bills are paid, food’s in my belly, clothes are on my back … what else is there to worry about?”

Then I see my tire going flat, get the slow leak plugged, and the tire guy says I need new tires by winter. Anxiety starts to kick in right there, and I start shoulding on myself: I shouldn’t have bought that video game. Why did I think I should buy four new shirts when I have a closet full already?

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

Our hearts give energy, time, and ultimately money to what we value most. If it’s the market, we will put focusing on our stocks ahead of things that are more worthy of our time. If we allow sports to consume our time and attention, then our heart and money will follow.

What does it look like when we make God the desire of our hearts?

We not only give him our time and devotion, but we also lovingly give him our “first fruits,” or tithe, as a thankful offering for all God has done for us. How do we determine the amount? I’m horrible at math, but this weekend, we were shown how to take our monthly income and move the decimal one spot to the left to calculate our monthly tithe amount. That seemed simple enough to me!

Matthew 6:24
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”

Ben provided us with a simple but very powerful illustration to better understand this scripture using a balloon (our heart) and a stack of money connected by a string. Our hearts and our money are connected, but the question is, “Are we managing our money for God, or has our money mastered us?”

Faced with a choice like that—my heart says to choose God, 100%.

Questions:
Do you set aside a portion of your finances for God? Where do you store your treasures—on earthly things or Godly things?

Next Steps:
Consider joining a Financial Peace University Group to have a better understanding on where your money (and heart) are going. Try living below your means (income) to see if over-spending has been causing you too much worry.

Prayer:
God, show me the pathway to peace with my finances. Give me the wisdom to say “no” to unnecessary spending. Teach me to store my treasures with you rather than on earthly possessions. Help me to put away my resources so that I can live without worry if a financial crisis comes my way. I know you’ve got this. Allow my heart to do your will with my money rather than my own. Amen.


This post was written by Casey Stengel. Casey is a follower of Christ, a dad, and an avid Chicago sports fan. When he’s not working, he enjoys spending time with family and friends. He works in recovery and loves to help people however he can. He is also working toward his Associate Degree in Biblical Studies.


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