July 29 – $ – Planning for the Future

Read Luke 14:28 and Matthew 6:25-34

Planning for the future.

There’s probably a lot that comes to mind when you read that phrase. Some people relish in the dreaming and planning for their future while others just feel anxiety, guilt or frustration. Even further, some of us think about that and may be in middle of those extremes. Regardless of your gut reaction when you read that, we read in Luke 14:28 the importance that Jesus places on planning ahead when talking to a crowd about counting the cost of following Him. The candor and common sense that Jesus shares in this passage is refreshing and insightful:

“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’”

Jesus shares this illustration to emphasize the personal responsibility that we as stewards of His resources need to place on planning for the future and evaluating how our priorities influence our decisions around our time, talents, and treasures. If we believe that everything we have is a gift from God, and that He owns it all, we have a responsibility to honor that with the way we live our lives in every aspect. Part of the way that we honor the gifts God has blessed us with this by stewarding them in a way that aligns with God’s commission on our lives to love Him and to love others.

The planning that we do today, is allowing us to honor God now and in the future.

That being said, you may also ask the question, “But doesn’t God say not to worry and that He will care for all our needs?” The short answer is yes; in Matthew 6:25-34:

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?”

To better understand this, imagine a sailboat. A sailboat is dependent on two critical components:  it’s sail, and wind. Yet, in cooperation, it’s an impressive sight. I picture my responsibility to plan in life as “putting the sail up” and God is the wind that directs the sail. I can’t expect God to move the sailboat without first putting up the sail to catch the wind that he provides.

In terms of planning for the future, it’s our responsibility to present our best efforts by taking the next right step that God has for us (putting the sail up) and allow him to direct our path over time (the wind that moves the boat in the right direction).

In what way can you best plan for the future with a proper reliance on God’s plan for your life?

Ryan Spengler

July 28 – $ – Stewardship

Read Psalm 24:1, Deuteronomy 8:18 and Colossians 3:23-24

I first began to understand the true concept of stewardship when I worked in the trust department of a local bank. A trustee is responsible for carrying out the wishes and direction of the owner of the assets and resources that have been placed in the trust. The trustee does not own those assets and resources; he is simply to manage them based on the wishes and direction of the owner.

Psalm 24:1 says:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

Everything that we have is the Lord’s and we are stewards (trustees) of his resources.  So what does that mean? First of all we have to acknowledge that what we have is not ours, including our time, money, abilities, wisdom and relationships.  We have been entrusted with the care and management of what we have been given but it is not ours.  We may think that by our own ability we have acquired what we have.  Deuteronomy 8:18 reminds us to:

“Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth”.

As a steward, we are responsible to manage those resources according to God’s desires and instruction.  Bill Peel at The High Calling writes “Although God gives us ‘all things to enjoy,’ nothing is ours. Nothing really belongs to us. God owns everything; we’re responsible for how we treat it and what we do with it. Owners have rights; stewards have responsibilities.” 

We are responsible for managing what has been entrusted to us to bring glory and honor to God! How are you managing your time, money, abilities, wisdom and relationships to bring glory and honor to God?

As a steward, we are accountable for how we manage what has been given us. Many times in the financial world, trustees will have to give an accounting to a court of law to show that they honored the wishes and directions of the owner and that they managed those assets prudently. As stewards of God’s resources we will give an account of how we managed His assets.  So how do you manage the free time that you have? The money that you have? The abilities you have been given? The relationships you have been entrusted with?

If we are faithful in fulfilling our role of steward, we are promised a reward. In Colossians 3:23-24 we are told “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”

Manage what you have for the glory of the Lord!

Jeff Swartzentruber

July 27 – $ – Generosity

Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

God’s economy doesn’t always make sense.  It isn’t always ‘logical’ and definitely NOT of this world!

You see, in God’s economy we read things like this: “Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything” (Proverbs 11:24).

Also, “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.” (Luke 6:38)

How does that work exactly?  Well, I’m still learning that myself, but God provides sufficiently and sometimes lavishly.

I remember a time early in our marriage when I had changed jobs and our income was reduced by a decent amount.  My wife and I had the decision to make on some of the ‘extra’ giving that we were doing at the time.  Should we continue our giving (taking a leap of faith to trust Him) or should we stop some or even all of that giving? 

Now, let me hit pause and say that I’m not sure there is a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ answer here and that you need to be wise in what is realistic for you and your situation.  However, for us – in this situation – God was asking us to continue to give extra and I think He has honored that in several ways.  Honestly, we felt the truth of these verses above ring true, as we really didn’t ‘miss a beat’ as far as income.  I’m not even sure my wife would remember that decision to this day because it seemed like the next step or really, obedience, to us.  (And before you think too highly of me, you can ask my wife about 1,000 other times where I wasn’t as generous.  If you know us, you know that she is truly the generous one!)

Generosity, or generous living, can mean generosity with finances, but it doesn’t end there. Generosity could mean sharing your finances or your resources or your skills or your time. 

We have so much to give! 

One of our church’s values is that “It all belongs to God.”  We believe that because it’s biblical (Psalm 24:1).  And if we truly believe that, then what are we doing about it?  You see, if you own a car and a house, you’re in the top 5% (at least) of the world in terms of wealth!  So, you are already rich, whether you feel it or not!

Now, I don’t want to guilt trip or peer pressure you into giving.  In fact, in today’s reading, Paul is writing to the Corinthians and says NOT to do that, but rather says that you must each decide in your heart how much to give. 

God loves a cheerful giver (vs. 7)!

So, ask yourself this question, “What is God calling me to give?”  Perhaps some of you need to start giving period.  Perhaps some of you need to start tithing.  And perhaps God is calling some of you to give to a specific cause, something extra, or to someone specifically.  I’d challenge you to spend some time talking with Jesus today and asking Him what He’s calling you to give…because He’s already promised that He will provide (vs. 8).

Danny Artrip

July 26 – $ – Investment

Read Matthew 25:14-30

Before we can begin a discussion on investing we must first acknowledge that what we have is not ours but God’s.  Everything that we have, has been entrusted to us by God to manage for the advancement of His kingdom “On earth as it is in Heaven”.  1 Chronicles 29:12 says “Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.” 

Our reading today shows God’s perspective on investing.  What did he tell the servant who had “put his money to work”?  “Well done good and faithful servant…Come and share your master’s happiness”. God expects us to put the resources He has given us to work.  That doesn’t mean going out and “betting” on the next sure thing. It means putting together a well thought out plan that furthers the Kingdom, and then implementing it. 

“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”

Proverbs 21:5

The plan you establish should include an asset allocation target. Diversification helps to reduce and control risk. Ecclesiastes 11:2 says “Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.” Risk comes with investing. But, you can manage that risk by spreading your investments across multiple asset classes.

As your investments grow over time it is very easy to become obsessed with what you’ve accumulated.  The more you focus on what you have, the less you see the One who is your provider. Proverbs 23:4-5 says “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.”

Finally, seek advice.  Proverbs 15:22 says “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.”  A good Christian advisor can help you create a plan that honors God with what he has entrusted you.  There are thousands of investment options available, but not all of them honor God.

How can you begin investing for your future and the betterment of the Kingdom?

Jeff Swartzentruber

July 25 – $ – Saving

Read Proverbs 21:5

As you approach the local county fairgrounds, you see all of the cars jammed into parking lots and the signs indicating the possibility of close parking for a pretty penny. Are you paying $15 to park close to the fairgrounds or are you walking from blocks away in order to save that cash?

One of the biggest adjustments Kelly and I had to make upon our marriage was realizing that we are on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to spending money. Kelly is paying $15 all day for close parking where I’ll walk as far as it takes to not spend that money.

(by the way, Kelly has read over this introduction and has approved it haha)

What I have had to realize is that we both need to meet in the middle. She needs to learn, and she is, the value of being wise about purchases where I need to not break out in hives when a necessary purchase opportunity arises. I’m a work in progress…

While our reading today doesn’t explicitly reference money, the principle still applies:

“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”

When it comes to your finances, would you say that you are planning diligently? Or would your money habits best be described as “hasty”?

We all know the consequences of being hasty with our money. The “impulse buy” is a weakness for so many. You see something on the shelves or on Amazon and think to yourself “I deserve this!” or “My life would be so much better with this!”.

Do you think about the difference between “need” and “want”? Do you really NEED what you are looking for?

There are so many more benefits to saving money than I have room for. Think about the space and buffer having a little bit of money saved provides you. When something unexpected comes up, will you be able to afford to make it through?

At the end of the day, we all need to take it upon ourselves to be “diligent” with our financial plans. Whether it is saving, spending, addressing debt or tithing, we should never be hasty or impulsive with what God has blessed us with.

Again, I ask, are you “diligent” or “hasty” with your money? How are you preparing for the future? In what way are you setting yourself up for success? How much of a savings buffer are you going to commit to give yourself so you are prepared for whatever may come?

At the end of the day, we are managing what God has blessed us with. How are you going to handle your money to be the best stewards you can be?

Jake Lawson

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

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

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