Archive for the 'Finances' Category

Plastic Donuts Launches

Sunday we began our latest series, Plastic Donuts. In case you’re still wondering, it’s about “giving that delights the heart of the Father.” I won’t give away the connection to plastic donuts, here. You’ll have to read the book or view the sermon online.

In week one, we were reminded that not all gifts are equal. One of the first stories in the bible after creation is about two brothers, Cain and Abel. They offered gifts to God. One brother’s gift was acceptable. The other’s was not. Not all gifts are the same.

The obvious question then is – how do I give an acceptable gift? Or, how do I give that delights the heart of God? In response to that question, we learned this giving truth: The amount matters. It really does. The amount matters to your mortgage company. It matters to you on your paycheck. And when it comes to giving, amounts matter. Now, amounts that matter aren’t necessarily huge amounts. It just means they’ve been considered thoroughly. If the amount matters to us, the amount matters to God.

The truth is, God looks at our giving in a personal way. When you give to the church, or the poor, or to some mission, you’re not just making a financial exchange. God receives it as a personal gift. That’s amazing! And when we give an amount that matters to us, the Father takes pleasure in our gift and it somehow connects the giver to him. And that’s really what our giving is about, connecting to the Father. He doesn’t need your money. He wants you!

If you missed message one of Plastic Donuts, you can view it here. If you haven’t picked up your family’s copy of the book, Plastic Donuts, make sure you grab one this weekend.

Room to Breathe with your Money

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This past weekend we finished our Room to Breathe series. Room to breathe is the space between you and your limits. We all have them (limits). We just like to constantly push them; to go right up to the edge. We’re guilty of doing it with our time. We’re often guilty of doing it with our money. But life is so much better when there’s room to breathe.

Part of the problem is that we’ve been told that if you raise your standard of living you will raise your quality of life. But many of you know from experience that’s not the case because right now you’re enjoying the highest standard of living ever but you’re not enjoying life. The truth is they’re not equal and in fact creating some room to breathe may require you to lower your standard of living but will raise your quality of life.

When you believe the two lies “I need to adjust my lifestyle to keep up with my income” and “If I had just a little more than I would be fine” and thus don’t allow some room to breathe in your finances, you become a slave to money. Money can be a great tool, but it makes a terrible master. Jesus taught us in Luke 16, “You can’t serve two masters…no one can serve both God and money.”

Maybe it’s time to come away from the edge and quit pushing the limits financially. Create some room to breathe. It may lower your standard of living but will raise your quality of life. Life is better when there’s room to breathe.

If you missed Sunday’s message you can view it here:

Financial Testimony

Sunday we showed this video testimony of Cedar Ridge’s own Mark and Daniella Mercer sharing their recent financial journey. Mark and Daniella participated in a Financial Peace University Class at Cedar Ridge and saw God do some amazing things in their finances, including eliminating $24,000 in debt. It’s not too late to get in a FPU class this fall.

Radical Faith – Let’s All Get Started

It’s hard to believe we’re already three months into our Radical Faith Stewardship Journey. This is the update video we showed at our services this past weekend. Maybe you had good intentions when you made your commitment to Radical Faith but just haven’t gotten started giving. Now is a great time!

Disclaimer: No ATV transmissions were harmed in the making of this film.

Trusting God’s Wisdom on Finances

We’re in the middle of our series, “More than Just a Fortune Cookie,” from the book of Proverbs. Sunday we talked about Trusting God’s Wisdom on Finances. Proverbs is full of wisdom on how to deal with money. And the key principle that Solomon passes on is don’t put your hope in money because, “In the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle” (Proverbs 23:5 NLT).

Proverbs teaching on finances goes against conventional wisdom. We’re told to choose generosity over greed, to show restraint instead of self-indulgence, to work hard instead of expecting something for nothing, and to plan ahead instead of acting impulsively. Maybe Solomon’s greatest advice on the subject has to do with our level of contentment, “give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs” (Proverbs 30:8 NLT).

The verse that keeps haunting me this week is from Proverbs 11:25, “those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” In other words, there is some kind of “boomerang effect” that takes place when we’re generous. God mysteriously resupplies those who give away to others. Not sure you buy it? Don’t take my word for it. Put God to the test. Do your own investigation to see if this general truth plays out. I think you’ll find the same thing that many of us have found, “those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”

Don’t forget to read through the book of Proverbs at least once during this series – just a chapter a day! If you missed Sunday’s sermon, you can hear it at cedarridgecc.com. You can also access accompanying resources like our Journey Group Lessons and our Digging Deeper resources for personal study.

Advancing the Kingdom

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Have you ever thought of being intentional with your giving – so that you can be a part of advancing the kingdom of God? Unfortunately, many don’t consider the benefits of using economic resources for spiritual purposes like Jesus talks about in Luke 16. Sunday, I talked about what happens when we start “placing treasure” toward kingdom causes:

1. We align ourselves with God’s agenda.
2. Part of God’s “To Do” List Is accomplished.
3. God allocates funds toward our heavenly account.
4. God is pleased with our giving.
5. God extends his personal resources to us.

The truth is, at the end of life, the only thing that will matter is what you and I invest with the Lord. So, how are you coming?

Can I share with you one secret that has helped Andrea and I to be more faithful in this area of giving? We started giving to God FIRST – before we made the mortgage payment and even before we went to Wal-mart. We found that if we waited until after we paid the bills, it affected how much we thought we could give. By prioritizing God, and giving to him first, it kept us from short-changing our offering. Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.”

One of the most practical things that has helped us to be more disciplined, is to give our tithe online. Like many, we now pay the majority of our bills through an online bill-paying service offered by our personal bank. Our bank cuts the check and even mails it to the church for us. We never see it, so there’s no chance of misplacing it or holding it until a later date. And when we have to miss church, we can still be faithful in our giving. What might happen before is, I would write a check, but get busy on Sunday morning and possibly forget to put it in the offering. I might find it days later in my pocket, then have to remember to put it in the offering next week (if the money was still there). It’s not that we didn’t want to be consistent; we just didn’t have an avenue that worked for us. This works for us. If giving online helps you to be faithful, then why not take advantage of it?

Remember, we have one brief opportunity – a life time on earth – to use our resources to make a difference.

Here this sermon at cedarridgecc.com.

Giving Generously

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February 2, 2010

Sunday I talked about five “windows” that tithing opens for us.

1. The window of mutual commitment. Tithing says, “I’m loyal to God and he’s loyal to me. I can trust him to take care of me.”
2. The window of personal provision. Tithing puts us into a position to be blessed by God.
3. The window of financial order. Tithing puts discipline into your spending, protecting you from greed and materialism.
4. The window of spiritual identity. Tithing identifies us as “people of God.”
5. The window of ministry impact. Tithing releases resources to support ministry and ministry activities.

If you’re new to this, tithing refers to the practice of giving at least 10 percent of one’s income back to God to be used in ministry. The Israelites were to give 10 percent of their income or crops making it possible for the priests to feed the poor and receive support for their living expenses. Their gifts were used to support ministry. Malachi 3:10 instructed them to, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse…” The storehouse in the Old Testament was the temple. The storehouse in the New Testament is the church. When we tithe into the storehouse of the church, we are releasing funds into the care of church leaders to use those resources to support ministry and ministry activities. For that reason, I believe your tithe should go to the church you attend. Now there may be causes and projects that you are passionate about and want to help fund. The Bible differentiates that as an offering, and it should be given over and beyond our regular tithe.

When it comes to where we give our tithe, Pastor Barry Cameron says, “Remember, we’re to bring the tithe into the storehouse where we are cared for and led. You don’t eat at Burger King and say, ‘I appreciate the food, but I’m going to go down to Taco Bell and give them my money.’ It doesn’t work that way. We’re to bring the tithe, God’s tithe to the storehouse where we’re cared for and led.”

Another conviction I have is that the tithe belongs to God. We are not free to designate it, divide it, or direct it wherever we want. Unfortunately, some people want to say to the church, “Take my tithe and use it for this or apply it to that.” We can’t do that. That’s God’s tithe. In the Old Testament, priests administered the tithes and offerings. Today, Church Elders are charged with that responsibility. They are to take the tithes we bring and prayerfully and carefully direct their use. It’s important for church members to trust their decisions and not try to direct their tithes to their favorite ministries. Not only is that questionable legally, it creates problems for those who track our finances. Now occasionally, there are missions that we support or projects we tackle in which we ask members to consider giving a designated gift, over and above their tithe (like we’re doing now with the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission). But the norm should be to give our tithe to God and trust him for the distribution.

Ultimately, the question of tithing comes down to this, “What do you fear most? Not having enough or not having the involvement of your heavenly father in the realm of your finances.” I hope you’ll take the challenge to start tithing or to grow in your tithing.

Sunday, I also updated you on our current financial situation at Cedar Ridge. For 2009, our giving was about 15 percent down from the previous year. That is a trend many churches are experiencing now. We have certainly been affected by the economy; some members are unemployed or have taken a lesser-paying position. Because of that, we have adjusted expenses accordingly. In crafting our 2010 budget, a 15 percent cut was reflected. Unfortunately since some expenses, like utility costs and mission support, aren’t optional; it means that many of our key ministries took a 40 percent cut in funding. In addition to that, we have cut back our building payments to the minimum amount of principal and interest required by the bank, instead of paying extra on the principal to accelerate our debt reduction.

The good news is that we have not had to lay off staff or cut salaries as many churches have been forced to do. We have not had to cut our mission support. We’re still giving 13 cents of every dollar that’s given, to mission efforts around the world. And God still owns it all. May we be faithful stewards.

If you missed Sunday’s sermon, you can always go back and listen anytime at cedarridgecc.com. Don’t forget to read Chapter Three of the book, Rich Toward God, this week.

Trusting God

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Sunday, I kicked-off a new series called Rich toward God. I asked you to consider four decisions to help you increase your trust in God when it comes to your finances.

1. Put your greed on notice.
Jesus said in Luke 12:15, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Decide that you will keep your greed in check.

2. Recognize your true source.
It wasn’t the rich man and his hard work that produced a good crop. It was the laws of nature that God put into place. 1 Chronicles 29:12 says, “Both riches and honor come from You…” Everything belongs to God. We are just temporary stewards.

3. Do your giving while you’re living.
Don’t do what the rich fool did. He died and his stuff passed on to someone else, without his approval or blessing. He refused to be generous in life, but he had no choice in death. One day, every single one of us will give away everything we have. Are you getting ready…while you have the choice?

4. Make God and His kingdom your top priority.
The problem with the rich man was that he left out God. He was rich toward himself but he wasn’t rich toward God. Jesus said in Luke 12:31, “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

If you missed Sunday’s sermon, you can always go back and listen anytime at cedarridgecc.com. Don’t forget to read chapter two of the book, Rich toward God, this week.

It’s not too late to sign up for the estate planning seminar, Sunday night at 6:00 pm at our Broken Arrow campus. Over a hundred people already have. There is no cost for the seminar, but you do need a reservation.  Reserve your spot by emailing Janice Wilmoth at jwilmoth@cedarridgecc.com or calling the church office, 254-0621 and register with the receptionist.

Looking forward to celebrating with you this Sunday!

Ways to Spend your Money

Several weeks ago, as I was reading through Proverbs, I thought about the different general areas in which you can spend your money. I was reminded of that as I was preparing for this past Sunday’s sermon, Worry Free Living. We’re in Matthew 6, fourth in a series called, The Greatest Sermon Ever. And Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, has some strong words to say about how our money is used:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19).
“where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
“You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24).

I’m not sure this is an exhaustive list, but the way I see it, there are only four areas in which you can spend money.

1. You can spend money on things that span eternity.
When Jesus talks about storing treasure up in heaven, I think this is what he is talking about – investing your money in the kingdom: Giving your money to causes that advance the kingdom (hopefully like your church); Being generous to people who are in need. Those are things that make a difference for eternity. And those have the greatest return on your investment (1 Timothy 6:17-10).

2. You can spend money on things that (generally) last a lifetime.
Like land, a house, a business, an education. Those are all things that we typically think of as an investment – they appreciate in value. Though they are still temporary, they are long lasting items.

3. You can spend money on necessities.
This would be stuff like food, clothing, even a vehicle. You need these items to survive…or at least to survive in our culture, but for the most part they have little lasting value.

4. You can spend money on temporal items that are completely unnecessary.
These would be luxuries, entertainment, hobbies, etc. They are not bad things, just not necessary things. They again have little lasting value (except maybe our sanity).

Most of us spend in all four areas. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is that many people spend excessively in areas 3 and 4 – investing in things that have no lasting value. Again, not all of that is bad. We have to have food. God created us to enjoy things in this life. I guess what I’m hoping to do as I get older is simply prioritize my spending where more and more of the money I’m stewarding gets diverted to areas higher on the list. Anybody have a different take?

Global Market Meltdown!

The stock market records historic losses! Banking industry giants are dropping like flies! No more questions about whether we’re in a recession. The question is how deep will it go. There’s not much good financial news lately. And unfortunately we’re just going to see more desperation by individuals affected by this bleak economic climate.

I’m so glad that Solomon reminded believers of this true reality in desperate times. “Disaster strikes like a cyclone, whirling the wicked away, but the godly have a lasting foundation” (Proverbs 10:25 NLT).

My future is not dependent on the Dow Jones (although my retirement fund may be). My trust is not in the banking industry or the Federal Reserve. In fact, my hope isn’t in government to legislatively fix the situation or our capitalist system to eventually correct itself. My confidence is in the Lord who will see us through whatever lies ahead.