Grown in Faith – The Vault

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Being faithful to God, my children, and the life he has given me gives me great joy. Being faithful to what is coming brings me greater joy.

I am an optimistic person, so I tend to look for the best in all situations. Sometimes that can be tough, though. Even the most faithful and optimistic people can get drained and have rough days.

Last weekend, we learned about the “Parable of the Three Servants” (also called the “Parable of the Talents”). As an optimist, I try to see the good in the servant who buried his one bag of silver. I know the parable has a meaning and purpose or Jesus wouldn’t have told it—have faith in your talents, and don’t doubt your abilities by burying them and doing nothing with what you are given.

Matthew 25:29
“To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.”

Follow me as I try to see things from the perspective of the third servant. Is it possible he buried his silver because he was afraid he would mess up? What if he truthfully and prayerfully thought that was the wisest decision he could make? Maybe he became a servant because he wasn’t good with his own money, and the best thing to do with it was hide it from himself? We’ll never know the details, but something caused him to be fearful and bury what he’d been given.

Matthew 25:25
“I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.”

One of my talents is talking to people—it can be a blessing and a curse at times. When I talk to someone and bring them joy or help them through a tough situation in life, it is so rewarding for me. But when I take on too much, I tend to lose track of myself and forget to do things that make me happy, smile, and feel good. Like the third servant, I have a tendency to lose faith and bury my talent when I become overwhelmed. But I don’t want to lose it or waste it.

I have to make a conscious effort to invest in myself and my relationship with God so that I have the energy to dig up my talent when I bury it and the faith necessary to let it grow. Then I’m better equipped to use my gifts to invest in what matters—expanding the Kingdom of Heaven.

What about you? Are you faithfully investing what your Master has given you?

Luke 17:6
The Lord answered, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you!”

It only takes a mustard seed of faith for God to make a huge impact in our lives and in the lives of the people we encounter. When we invest in ourselves and our relationship with God through daily prayer and Bible study, our faith grows and our cup is filled. And when our cup is filled, it’s so much easier to pour ourselves into others’ lives to fill their cups too.

Questions:
Is your cup full? Are you helping to fill others’ cups?

How do you feel when you invest your time to help others?

Is something—fear, burnout, greed—preventing you from fully investing your gifts? Do you need to invest in yourself or your relationship with God (i.e.: find help, join Celebrate Recovery, participate in Financial Peace University, simplify your schedule, join a Group, etc.) so that you’re in a better position to faithfully share what you’ve been given?

Next Steps:
Go through GrowTrack to discover where you are best suited to invest your talents. You won’t regret it!

Ask a friend or neighbor what you can do to help them in their lives.

Invite someone to come to a service with you.

Prayer:
Father, thank you for the mindset you have given me and allowing me to care so much for others. Thank you for giving me the ability to determine when I need you, for being there to listen when I hit a rough patch in faith, and for always loving me through those times. I love you, Father, and am so thankful for the days you allow me to fill others’ cups because you’ve overflowed mine. In your Son’s glorious name, 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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You Need a Budget – The Vault

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My son’s birthday is at the end of the month. He is literally counting down the days—six in case you were wondering. He’s excited because he’s going to be eight, and he’s anticipating the presents he will be receiving. I’m sure he has grand visions of 1,000-piece LEGO sets or packs of Pokemon cards. The cost of these items mean nothing to him. He has a vague awareness of money and that it’s used to buy things, but in reality, things just magically appear in our house. Sometimes it’s from the Amazon delivery person, and sometimes it’s from the store. It really doesn’t matter.

This mentality is cute in a child, but it’s terribly dangerous when an adult lives by this mindset. The average American has almost $6,000 in credit card debt. We live in a culture that believes we can buy now and pay later. We have a vague notion of how much money we are making each month and that it should cover our monthly expenses. In reality, it never seems like we have enough.

To many of us, the thought of a budget seems restricting and, frankly, too hard to figure out. So, we continue in the spiral of spending, growing our debt. This is not how God designed us to function. Debt makes us a slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). The only way to get out of debt is by budgeting. Budgeting allows us to use money as the tool it was meant to be. When we have a budget, money is not our master. We tell it where to go.

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.”

Budgeting helps us discipline ourselves so that money remains the tool it was always designed to be. One key part of a budget includes giving. This sounds counterintuitive when you have a huge credit card bill staring at you, but God promises blessings when we honor him first.

Proverbs 3:9-10
9 Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. 10 Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.

Living within the parameters of a budget allows us to control where our money goes. It allows us to pay our debts, provide for our families, and give to our church. When we tell our money where to go, it loses its power over us—and God remains our master.

Questions:
Do you know where your money is going each month? Do you have a budget? Do you feel like there is never enough money to go around?

Next Steps:
If you have never been through Financial Peace University, consider signing up for one of the Groups starting up this month. If you don’t regularly give to the church, commit to it this month.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for being the giver of all good things. Thank you for the way you have blessed me in so many ways. Forgive me for allowing money to dictate my behaviors. Help me see that you have given me enough and it is my responsibility to steward it well. Help me develop a plan to use my resources in a way that provides for my needs and blesses others. Amen.


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.


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The Responsibility of Your Ability – The Vault

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I’m not sure about the church you grew up in, but at mine, the children went off to Sunday school, while the grownups had devotionals, a sermon, and choir music. The kids were more involved on Youth Sunday (once a month) and during Christmas and Easter pageants, but other than that, it didn’t seem like church was for children.

Sunday school didn’t dive deep enough, but somehow we were expected to automatically transition to listening to the main message when we were old enough. We were always there, but as kids, we had to be quiet while the adults received their lessons from the preacher. We never learned how to grow into our spiritual purpose.  Many of us grew up believing only those who were “called” were tasked to spread the word. I didn’t know the message of the gospel was alive within me.

I naturally began moving toward my personal purpose in my early adult years, but I didn’t recognize the spiritual aspect of it right away. It took some time to realize my art was also my ministry, and when the push came to do more with it, I kept it to myself. I feared my voice wouldn’t be heard or no one would listen.

Matthew 25:24-25
24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’”  

All the servants in the parable were called to do something with what they were given, but the third servant, who received the least, hid what he had been given. In the 1992 movie, Gladiator, the character Miss Higgins has a great line, “Talent is a common thing. People waste it every day. They abuse it. They take it for granted. Success comes not from what God has given you but from what you do with it.” Either the third servant didn’t see the value of his worth or he was afraid to step out in faith. He, like many of us, wasn’t ready to trust God. He wasn’t ready to just do something.

I don’t always trust, but I’ve been learning how to do it more. It started with finding where I could serve in the church, but more and more, I’ve found opportunities for my ministry (spreading the message) at work. Clients ask to have scripture added to the stories I write for them, and some ask to close our interviews in prayer.

Seeing the changes that occur when I focus on the gospel outside the weekend message is amazing.

Questions:
What’s stopping you from using what God has given you? Do you know that we are all called to a spiritual purpose?

Next Steps:
Find moments to share the message in everyday life by asking others if you can pray for them, inviting someone new to church, or asking a friend to join a Group.

Take GrowthTrack to unlock your spiritual gifts.

Prayer:
God, give me the strength and courage to continue to share your truth with wisdom and intuition in fresh ways, even if I have to color outside the lines. In the process, help me encourage others to share the gospel using their gifts. Amen.


This post was written by Jaron Camp. Jaron is a storyteller and a professional ghostwriter who enjoys using his gifts to write for the LivingItOut. When he’s not developing fictional worlds, researching, and writing, Jaron enjoys watching sports, participating in family game night, and spending time with his wife and four kids.


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Seeds – The Vault

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My family is notorious for killing plants. Even the supposedly “unkillable” succulents have died under our care. I have African violets in my room, and while they aren’t dead, they adamantly refuse to bloom.

Plants require a lot of work. You need to give them the right amount of shade and water, and keep away the weeds and insects. Growing them is full of tiny, repetitive actions, like watering and weeding, which can feel annoying at times.

Jesus once told a parable about a master who invited his servants to take part in his business. He entrusted each of them with some money while he was away. Two servants worked hard, and made double the amount of money they had been left with. When the master returned, they showed him their earnings.

Matthew 25:21
“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’”

Like the master, God invites each of us to take part in his story. But it is up to us whether we step into it. Sometimes, the opportunities God gives us seem small and inconsequential. Sometimes, they are monotonous and bore us to tears. Sometimes, they are inconvenient and exhausting. Sometimes, we don’t even see the outcome of our work.

My grandma has some of the most beautiful flower gardens I have ever seen. However, her gardens didn’t just happen. Throughout the spring, she planted left and right. In the summer, she weeded and watered like crazy. But now, in the fall, she can see and enjoy her harvest, her beautiful array of flowers.

1 Corinthians 3:7-8
7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.

Thankfully, God doesn’t expect us to be able to grow the Holy Spirit in others. That is his job. No, he just asks us to join him in planting and watering the seeds. If we can be faithful with that, then what an incredible harvest we will get to enjoy!

Luke 16:10
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”

Questions:
Have you been overlooking or ignoring the little opportunities God is inviting you into? What is one small impact you can make today?

Next Steps:
Find a way to love someone today. It might not seem like much, but a compliment to a stranger, an encouraging text to a friend, or a card game with your kids can bring joy into their day.

Invite someone you know to Halloweekend or the upcoming At The Movies series in November. This is a perfect way to plant a seed in someone’s heart, whether they come or not!

Prayer:
Father, thank you for inviting me into your story. Help me step into my purpose, even when it seems small and unimportant. Thank you for being in charge of growth. I only need to trust you with my seeds. Amen.


This post was written by Lydia Snyder. Lydia has been a story-lover for as long as she can remember, often found reading books or writing. She is thrilled to be making a difference by inspiring others to take part in the best story ever – God’s story. Lydia lives with her three wonderful siblings and two amazing parents.


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Faithful Investments – The Vault

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This weekend, Ben Snyder unpacked the “Parable of the Three Servants (or Talents),” a story told by Jesus. In the story, a master who is going out of town gives each of his three servants the responsibility of managing some of his money while he’s away. He gives one servant five bags of silver, another servant two bags of silver, and the final servant one bag of silver.

When the master returns, the servants each give an account of what they did with the money they were given.

The servant given five bags of silver had invested it and now had ten bags.

The servant given two bags had invested it and now had four.

It’s a whole other discussion why the servants weren’t each given the same amount, but I want to focus on the fact that the master was proud of both of these servants—to each of them he said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” (Matthew 25:21, 23).

It wasn’t about how much they’d been given, but about what they’d done with it.

I might not be qualified to write on this—sometimes I’m embarrassed by how much I’ve been given. Growing up, I never had to worry about money; in college, my parents paid my tuition; and after college, they let me live at home rent-free while I found a job and saved up money.

I can’t take credit for what I have because I know it was given to me. Still, my parents are proud of how I used what they gave me, because I was responsible with it. Although they paid for my college tuition, I took my education seriously and graduated a year early. While they let me live at home rent-free, I put over 50% of my paycheck into savings for a down payment on a house. A lot was given to me, but I invested it faithfully.

My dad, on the other hand, was given much less than I. As the second youngest of twelve kids, he worked hard to pay his way through college and graduated without debt. After he and my mom married, they lived below their means and put extra money toward their mortgage so they could pay off their house early. As a result, they were able to help me so much.

It didn’t matter that my dad started off with less. He was faithful with what he’d been given—arguably more faithful than I was—considering where he started.

Now the third servant, who was given one bag of silver, did not invest it. He buried it in the ground to keep it “safe,” and although the servant gave back what he’d been given, the master was displeased.

I wonder how my father would’ve felt if I’d done the bare minimum in college—graduated without taking my education seriously—or if, while I was living at home, I’d spent all the money I earned on clothing or going out with friends.

I know my dad loves me unconditionally, but I think he’d have been disappointed.

The examples I’ve given involve finances, but the principle is not limited to money in the slightest. We must be faithful with how we invest everything we’re given—time, skills, intelligence, values, and so much more. This goes beyond what our earthly parents have given us. I know for some, that really isn’t much.

Fortunately, we all have a heavenly Father who gave everything for us.

1 Corinthians 6:20
…for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

Questions:
What has your heavenly Father given you? How can you invest it well?

Next Steps:
Take inventory of the resources God has given you—not just your finances—but also your gifts and talents, the people in your life, your job, your strengths, etc. Evaluate how well you are using each of these resources.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the sacrifice you gave to save me. Thank you for giving your Son so that I may live—not just survive—but have a rich and satisfying life. Help me to use what you’ve given me in a way that brings you glory. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


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.


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