July 24 – $ – Confidence in God

Read Luke 12:22-34

The Bible is to draw us into a relationship with God by trusting and depending on Him, not our ability and resources. The foundation of our relationship with Him is believing in Him with confidence and with that belief, being compelled to follow Him. With such an outstanding belief it can’t be compatible with anything other than surrender and a changed heart through the Holy Spirit (2nd Corinthians 5:17).

Many of the things we face today aren’t unique to our current times, but are much deeper heart issues that the Israelites dealt with in Exodus 16. When God first lead His people in the desert to teach and train them, what did He do first? Did He give them the 10 commandments, set up the tabernacle, make a covenant with them? No, after rescuing them from Pharaoh, He provided for their needs with manna and quail. Then immediately after in Exodus 17, He provides water and continued protection from the Amalekites. Yes, they grumbled against God, but He was patient. He was drawing their hearts in to slowly trust His provision. He gave them just enough food for the day because He knows we like to store things up so we aren’t dependent on Him. He even established one day where they were to rest before the Sabbath was even introduced. They had to trust their food wouldn’t be filled with maggots on the seventh day, as it would have been on any other day. He does the same with us because He knows how quickly we form idols out of what He provides (Exodus 32).

Today we have money to buy food, water, and security systems to provide and protect our families. It’s so easy to put our confidence, even subconsciously, in our money. Good things are the easiest things to create an idol out of. God doesn’t just want us to have freedom from debt, He wants us to have freedom in our souls from worshiping our own built-up security. He wants us to depend on and worship Him as our only hope. (Matthew 6:24) (Hebrews 11:6)

Luke 18:28 talks about how the disciples left everything to follow Jesus. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is today still calling disciples to follow Him and give up everything, including our own security and independence for a new life (Matthew 10:37-39).

So, how do we make financial decisions that honor God and keep our confidence in Him alone? There isn’t a blanket 10 step process for everyone. The Israelites were proof of the need for Jesus and the Holy Spirit to make a new way. The new way leads us to humble ourselves before God and lean on Him for daily guidance and strength, even moment by moment (Romans 8:3-5).

Spend time connecting in prayer and looking to know Him more through Scripture, without a specific motive. It has all sorts of benefits that people highlight like financial, relationships, wisdom but the only one that truly matters is knowing Him more. When we live by the Spirit, we don’t just have the right answers, we’re compelled to pursue the right things in our heart. The relationship we build with God is the most important thing and gives us true confidence that lives on for eternity (1st Corinthians 2:10).

Trent Oyer

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July 23 – $ – Debt

Read Proverbs 22:7

Americans are swimming in debt. No… maybe drowning is more accurate. And, if you wanted to switch metaphors, it wouldn’t be a far stretch to say we are enslaved to debt. Need proof? Here you go:

  • A May 2021 report from Debt.org revealed that the total U.S. consumer debt balance grew $800 billion in 2020 – an increase of 6% over 2019, the highest annual growth jump in over a decade.
  • The average American has $90,460 in debt, which includes all types of consumer debt, from credit cards to personal loans, mortgages and student debt.
  • And before you dismiss it all to mortgages, we are seeing consistent growth also in auto, student loan and credit card debt.
  • The average household carries 1.8 times more debt than income.

Think about it. Most Americans are not getting ahead financially because they’re paying someone else rather than themselves. The banks and lending institutions are happy to keep building beautiful, glass high rises with your money, while you struggle to keep up with home repairs.

Earlier in the Proverbs, we are reminded to “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops.” – Proverbs 3:9

While we’re paying a bank or other lending institution, we are struggling to honor God with our money. Rather than generously contributing to the cause of Christ, paying our bills, accruing savings for emergencies and planned expenses, and investing in retirement, our money is flying out of our bank accounts to pay debt on the magic carpets of electronic payments and automatic deductions.

And then we wonder why money is so tight.

God’s principles for financial stewardship work. And when we follow them, we honor Him. And until we follow them, we won’t have financial peace.

When we are a slave to debt or are stressed about finances, it affects our focus on our devotion to Jesus. We can become distracted about money.

Jesus talked about this.  He said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” – Matthew 6:24

Indebtedness makes us slaves to another master.

It’s time to get some peace. I encourage you to register for our next Financial Peace University class in the fall of 2021 (keep an eye out on this page for updates: https://woostergrace.org/events/). No matter how well or how poorly you think you are handling your personal finances, there will be something you can learn to not merely gain peace with your finances, but enhance your generosity, as well.

David Lawson

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July 22 – $ – Contentment

Read 1 Timothy 6:6-12

Currency is a made-up concept. Seriously, think about it…somewhere along the way we decided that we needed to record value with something. We developed currency as that system. It has since developed to where the majority of our monetary worth is recorded electronically as something we can’t physically touch. These electronic records have seen plenty of mockery throughout the past year with “meme stocks” like AMC, GameStop, and Blackberry soaring in the markets from keyboard jockeys pumping their value. Possibly more laughable is the cryptocurrency Dogecoin which was started as a joke to point out that currency is entirely made up.

However, as farcical as currency becomes, it is vital to living in a society. It provides everyday needs, it provides sustenance and it provides fun along the way. Without the right mindset, we can quickly fall in love. But this kind of love is a one-way street; money doesn’t love us and we spiral into a void that sucks us in like an addiction. In our reading today, Paul goes so far as to say that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. I recently read an article about an heir to the Disney fortune saying that some wealthy people “would rather be shot than fly first class,” explaining that private is superior to airline terminals. She went on to compare aspiration of wealth to an addiction that is always just out of reach.

It doesn’t matter how much your bank account reads, everyone can fall into the trap of wanting to reach the next level. I remember, when I was first out of college, that my little paycheck felt like a lot of money. That feeling quickly faded. Then I worked in the financial industry and my earnings increased, yet I assumed happiness would come with the next bonus or increase. We all know that money doesn’t buy happiness but, for some reason, our heart’s emotion tells us differently. This all stems from contentment…we have to find contentment in life which wells up from gratitude. Paul writes that we should flee from such a love of money and pursue a more grateful and loving life.

Every night, when I put my kids to bed ,I ask them what they are thankful for. I want them to realize that, while there is always something else out there, everyday has something to be thankful for. So, let me ask you, what are you thankful for today? Are you pursuing gratitude, contentment, and righteousness? Or are you striving for the next rung which will “surely” make you happy?

Jeff Walter

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July 21 – Leadership – Vulnerability

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I was the student/athlete who brought in Christmas gifts for all my coaches and teachers growing up. It was great, until it went all wrong. I was a freshman and was coming out of the locker room after practice with the few gifts that my mom had stuffed in my gym bag for my coaches. Abruptly I encountered an upperclassman who said, “You bought the coaches Christmas gifts?!?! … Give them to me.” She took them from my hands and walked into the coach’s office and handed each of my coaches the gifts I had for them. She said, “Merry Christmas!”, they shared a special moment of joy and celebration together, and then she walked out. We both had the same first name too, so the “To:” and “From:” even worked out for her. Tears and anger welled up inside of me. Worse yet, when she came out and saw me standing there empty handed, she looked me in the eye and called me a brown-noser.

None of us like being bullied, nor do we like to be in situations where we can be taken advantage of. That’s why the word “vulnerability” makes some of us cringe. Being bullied is one thing outside of our control, but being vulnerable is something we choose. And it puts ourselves in a position where others can hurt us. To be vulnerable is to be able to let others know that we don’t have it all together, that we aren’t picture perfect, and that we have weaknesses. And when others know where we are weakest, they can choose to take advantage.

Paul talks about his weakness and how God responds to his weakness in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The reality is that we all have weaknesses and all are needy. Whether we are physically or emotionally exhausted, going through something that we don’t feel like we can bear, finding ourselves living in sin, or a number of other situations, it’s clear that we are all in need of strength from God. Weakness drives us towards dependence on the Lord. As we admit our need to God, He moves in on our weakness and provides His strength as we depend on Him.

Vulnerability is risky, but it’s also brave. It puts our pride on the line, but also leads to great reward. It’s the driving force of connection. Every time I finally get to a place that forces honesty before my Creator, He meets me there with His generous grace that never runs out (just like He did for Paul). He welcomes me in and gives me everything I was looking for, a new hope and a new power through Him. Vulnerability has taken my relationship with others and with God to a whole new level.

We can self-protect and build walls that keep us from being known by God and others. Or we can tear down the walls of our hearts and let others and God in to even the weakest places of our lives. When we do, God promises that His power will prove strong even there.

Rachel Snyder

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July 20 – Leadership – Excellence

Read Colossians 3:23, 24b

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters . . . It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

I’d like to think Paul wrote this in the middle of a perfect day at his dream job. But history says Paul wrote it from jail. What might Paul possibly have been doing as a prisoner in a jail cell that he could work at with such excellence? It’s the excellence required for leaders, influencers, followers of Christ who actually work for God Himself, not for men and women. 

Maybe you’re like me and you find yourself in the day-in, day-out sometimes mundane work of all that life demands. Whether it’s directing a company or flipping burgers, gathering grocery carts or watching PAW Patrol for the 347th time before changing a diaper, the instruction remains – whatever you do, work at it. With all your heart.

There’s no delineation between what seems important and what feels mundane. No matter what you’re doing, Paul wrote, do it heartily. It’s the Greek word “psyche”, which means the soul, the very energy that is life. In other words, in everything you do as a follower of Christ, an influencer (whether to one person or to a million), do it with all of who you are and with every ounce of your heart and soul. Give it your all.

Do it with excellence.

Leadership and influence often begin right there inside the mundane where it would be easy enough to forget the One who called us to this very moment. It would be so easy to just slide by, forgetting that the Lord of our lives wants to work even here. But when we keep our focus on things above, like Paul wrote at the beginning of this same chapter in Colossians, we work in ways that show Him off. And that’s where He shines brightly through the whole-hearted excellence in our influence.

Think about what lay ahead of you today. Now choose just one task at which you can work whole-heartedly today. How might working with such excellence show off who God is and bring more of a godly influence to the lives of those you lead? Ask God to show you and to give you the enthusiasm to tackle each task with excellence today.

Bria Wasson

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July 19 – Leadership – Model What Needs Practiced

Read Matthew 4:18-22

If you ever want to know what you’re like, have kids. If you want to live in denial, don’t.

Kids are like a living mirror.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been in a social situation with families, and someone’s son or daughter will act up, and one of the parents will say, “I wonder where (s)he gets that from!” And everyone else is marshalling all the willpower they can muster not to blurt out, “YOU! You are the one (s)he gets it from. It’s you!”

So much of life is caught as much as it’s taught.  And, frankly, there is more caught than we might think.  Thus, the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.”

And that is so true of leadership. If we have the privilege and responsibility of leading others, what we do may speak louder than what we say. I heard it said this way: “If what you do is inconsistent with what you say, then what you do will speak so loudly no one will be able to hear what you say.” Whoa! That’s sobering… and convicting.

In our passage today, Jesus didn’t say, “Come, listen to me.” No, He said, “Come, follow me.”

I’ve learned that disciples were not merely expected to learn what their rabbi taught, but their goal was to be who their rabbi was.

In the same way, leadership is as much caught as taught.

So, when we’re leading, let’s make sure we are on the right path.  Let’s make sure our priorities are right. Let’s make sure we are sharpening our skills for leadership (Psalm 78:72b; Ecclesiastes 10:10) and refining the character of our lives (Psalm 78:72a).

Because those who are following us are watching us.

Oh, and one more thing.  This is important. Look at verse 19. As leaders, we need to keep the main thing the main thing. As a Christian leader, our priority is the Kingdom (Matthew 6:33) and fishing for men (v. 19). Our prime directive is to invite, equip, and release people to that cause. And, as leaders, we need to model it and champion it. The priority of the Kingdom and striving to reach our full redemptive potential must be obvious, both in our actions and our words.

Remember, the ones you are leading are watching.

David Lawson

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July 18 – Leadership – Work/Life Balance

Read Psalms 127:2 and Psalm 1:1-6

One season while coaching basketball, we had our point guard lose his balance and somehow fall during practice, breaking his collarbone. He missed 7 weeks of the season. The young man who replaced him got better over the next 7 weeks as he was our point guard for 14 games. When the injured guard returned, he played several games and then it was time for the state basketball tournament (the most exciting event in all of sports). We had two excellent guards and our team was now unbeatable.

Have you ever lost your balance? You could break a bone or hit your head. If you lose your balance in life, it might hurt in other ways. You might lose sleep over it or become distracted from what matters to you.

Sometimes we let our schedule run our lives and rearrange our priorities, as opposed to us taking charge of our schedule and priorities. The result can be exhaustion, stress, and frustration. We risk a “fall.”

Is it worth it?

Be aware of warning signs that your life may be heading towards a fall. Take action today to bring balance to all areas of your life. This requires prayer, planning and continually working at it. This includes maintaining healthy relationships with those closest to you.

Many Americans constantly struggle to find balance between the needs of family and one’s own needs—for exercise, time to read or be alone, to visit with friends, getting adequate sleep, even to take a long hot shower or eat balanced meals. Are you single and working so hard that you have trouble developing a social life, or even finding some downtime for yourself? Are you so involved in social media that you fail to take care of either your physical needs or the demands of your job?

Balance is an issue for all of us.

The Bible says we should have a balanced view of work. It praises hard work and condemns laziness. (Proverbs 6:6-11; 13:4) The Bible encourages us to enjoy reasonable periods of relaxation. “Better is a handful of rest than two handfuls of hard work and chasing after the wind.” (Ecc. 4:6).

To get adequate sleep is extremely important.

“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.” Psalms 127:2

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reports that millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep. Many suffer from daytime sleepiness. Do you?

The key to lasting – and ultimately eternal – fruitfulness and vitality lies in your relationship with God. Maintaining that balance between work and life helps you keep your focus on God. Avoid the setback or fall.

Do you work to maintain balance in your life?

Tom Weckesser

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July 17 – Leadership – Teamwork

Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 and 12:20-25

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”1 Corinthians 9:24

Have you ever noticed that, at a high school or college sporting event, usually the captains of the teams meet and shake hands a few minutes before the game at half court or at mid-field? It is a time for leaders to demonstrate sportsmanship and respect for the game. They briefly discuss the ground rules for the game with the officials and they are reminded that they are the leaders of their team. These leaders were either voted on by their teammates or picked by their coaches. But they should have leadership characteristics such as integrity, self-control, resilience, accountability, humility, positivity and confidence. They need to lead by example and be selfless.

People notice!

Some captains are excellent leaders and some captains are not. Leadership skills are not common, but they can be developed and taught. Picking the leaders is a key to success for any team.

To live and lead on the team that loves Jesus Christ is a war. It is a battle of good (Christ) – such as loving and serving others, compassion and patience – versus evil (Satan) – such as selfishness, greed, human trafficking and abortion. Every single person has spiritual gifts that are indispensable (1Cor 12:22) in the battle. Every little example you set and every word you say is crucial. If everybody on the team is doing their part, then you have a team that is difficult to defeat. If you have selfless, patient leaders, it can make a big difference. What are the priorities in your life?

Consider this priority: “He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30

Look at the words of Jesus Christ:

“This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you’re not on my side, you’re the enemy; if you’re not helping, you’re making things worse.”Matthew 12:30 MSG

To succeed, we need to know the word of God. “Run in such a way as to get the prize.” – 1 Cor 9:24b. This verse is about how we live our lives.

Let’s live as leaders with integrity, self-control and resilience.

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”1 Corinthians 9:25

An athlete is in strict training for a blue ribbon or gold medal. The Christian is in strict training for the crown of eternal life in heaven with Christ.

We need teamwork and leaders in this fight against evil. Be alert and in top condition. Know the Bible. Use God’s weapons such as kindness, gentleness and self-control. Use your spiritual gifts to get the prize!

Tom Weckesser

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July 16 – Leadership – Release

Read Luke 10:1-23

Having very athletic grandkids, I have attended many sporting competitions. While waiting for the games to begin, I have gotten in the habit of watching coaches and their leadership skills…

or lack thereof.

There are the “Micro Managers.”  These coaches cannot let go.  They feel they have to tell their players every single thing to do, “Take two steps forward!” “Hold your mitt this way!”  “Move here or move there.”  They don’t have any confidence in the ability of their players and consequently, their own coaching abilities. That kind of coach/leader only causes confusion. Instead of letting the players concentrate on their own problem-solving skills and knowledge of the game, they become dependent on the coach for everything.

They are not ready to fly solo.

Then there are the “Yellers.”  They have a fit every time a player makes a mistake, may even kick or throw something in their frustration. They aren’t correcting anything, just adding more anxiety. 

Their players are afraid to fly!

The most successful coaches are the ones who have given their all-in training to prepare and equip their players for the competition.  They have confidence in themselves and it shows in the confidence their players have in themselves. If something does go wrong, the coach is there to offer support and will gently remind the players of their training with a hand of comfort on their shoulders.  He/she builds up the player’s own confidence.  Prep is over; when it is time for the competition, the players are ready to fly and the coach is ready to let go.

The latter is what Jesus was doing in our verses today.  Training was over, it was time for His followers to leave their nests, spread their own wings and, not only fly, but soar like eagles!  Jesus had prepared them for adversity, told them what to do when faced with it and move on. 

Letting go is hard for leaders. You have to have confidence in yourself, then confidence in your training and your trainee.  If you have done your job correctly, then you should have confidence in letting them go.

When helping a child learn to ride a two-wheeler and holding on to the back of the seat, there comes a time when you have to let go and trust that the child will continue on and not crash.  The same is true of a leader. 

Who have you taken under your wing? 

Who is looking up to you for advice? Do you have confidence in yourself that you have done a good job in training them and now it is time to “push them out of the nest”, so to speak, and let them fly?

Pat Arnold

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July 15 – Leadership – Equip

Read Ephesians 4:11-14

“We’re following the leader, the leader, the leader.  We’re following the leader, wherever he may go!”

Playing “Follow the Leader” at recess was always one of my favorite things. Everyone would get in a line and we would walk behind each other, imitating any actions the first person did. We would wave our arms when they did. Walk in circles or tap our heads.  Anything they did, we would do it too, until it was our turn to be the leader. It was a mindless game where no one needed to have any training to become the leader, you just did it.  That is ok for the playground, when you are a child but not in the game of life.  

Leaders lead but they also equip. 

You wouldn’t just toss your car keys to your child on his/her 16th birthday and say, “Good luck!”  In the same way, you wouldn’t want to discover that, once your plane was on the runway, the pilot had never flown before!  “But hold it!” you might say.  “Those situations are a matter of life and death!” Exactly, and so is the relationship you and the people around you have with Christ.

As a teacher, I have often marveled at how Jesus taught/equipped His disciples and got them ready for service. There is a kind of “golden rule of teaching” that says, “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand.”  The disciples lived it, saw it and participated in all that Jesus needed them to know.  They heard the words, saw the miracles of healing, multiplying bread, calming storms, walking on water!  Using everyday objects like birds, sheep, lilies, and soil, Jesus cemented in their hearts and minds the lessons He was trying to impart.  So later, every time they saw one of these objects, His lesson would pop into their heads.  Once He was gone, all they needed to do was tell about their own first-hand experiences which they did in their books of the Bible.

All that is expected of you today to be able to lead others to Him is to go TELL your own story of what He has done personally for you.   

“Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

What is your story?  Are you ready and willing to share it?  No one can dispute it because it happened to you, not anyone else.  Maybe take some time just to reflect on your life or make a list of all the times God has been there for you.  You might surprise yourself, once you stop to think about it and write it down.  

To be a leader, you need to first equip yourself for service and then go and equip others.

Pat Arnold

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