Monday, January 23, 2006

Stewardship Part III

Part III in a 3 part series on Stewardship

In the final part in our series we are going to look at relationships. The way you relate to other people will show your heart for Christ. You could attend church faithfully and give more than your regular tithe but if you don’t honor Christ in your relationships people will see straight through you.

In Colossians 3:18-15 Paul gives us a detailed account as to how we can honor Christ in our relationships with our spouses, family and co-workers.

Colossians 3:18-25
18Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
20Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
21Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
22Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.

Honoring God in your marriage relationship
Colossians 3:18 – We see the duty of wives. This is not an excuse for husbands to abuse their wives and it is not putting women below men in the marriage relationship. Nowhere does it say that a wife is to obey her husband. Children are to obey in verse 20 and slaves are to obey in verse 22, but wives are to submit. There’s a difference.

This is a charge to wives to allow their husbands to take the spiritual leadership role in the family. Some men fail to become spiritual leaders in their homes because they are lazy. Some fail because their wives don’t allow them.

Do you and your spouse feed each other a steady diet of put-downs? If you do, your marriage could be headed for divorce court.

When psychologists Cliff Nortarius and Howard Markman studied newlyweds over the first decade of marriage, they discovered that couples who stayed together uttered 5 or fewer put-downs in every 100 comments to each other. But couples who inflicted twice as many verbal wounds -- 10 or more putdowns out of every 100 comments -- later split up.

Watch what you say! Little, nit-picking comments are like a cancer in marriage, slowly draining the life out of a committed relationship.

Ephesians 5:21 tells us that both husbands and wives are to submit to the Lord and to each other.

Colossians 3:19 shows us the duty of husbands.

The above illustration shows what can happen when harsh words are spoken in the home and many husbands will say that they love their wives but they don’t fully understand the biblical definition of love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

A few years ago, the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, MO made public 1,300 recently discovered letters that the late President wrote to his wife, Bess, over the course of a half-century. Mr. Truman had a lifelong rule of writing to his wife every day they were apart. He followed this rule whenever he was away on official business or whenever Bess left Washington to visit her beloved Independence.

Scholars are examining the letters for any new light they may throw on political and diplomatic history. For our part, we were most impressed by the simple fact that every day he was away, the President of the United States took time out from his dealing with the world's most powerful leaders to sit down and write a letter to his wife.

What better example is there of a man who showed love for his wife?

Honoring God in your family
Colossians 3:20-21

Ray Stedman lists three things that fathers do that can lead a child to discouragement. I’ve added a fourth.

Ignore them. A father who has no time for his children soon creates within them a deep-seated resentment. Children in these homes can grow up to feel unloved and unaccepted and may end up looking elsewhere to have their needs met.

Indulge them. These types of fathers give their children everything they want. This is not good because a child who is indulged all the time can become restless, dissatisfied, and spoiled.

Insult them. Some dads like to criticize their kids and even call them names. Sarcasm and ridicule can knock the stuffing out of a child faster than anything else.

Paul goes on to clarify his charge to parents in Ephesians 6:4.
4Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Honoring God at work
Finally, in Colossians 3:22-25 Paul gives us three ways to honor Christ in our relationships at work.

1. Do your best at your job at all times.

2. Worship at your work.

3. Recognize Jesus as your boss.

Panama Bound

I'm leaving Friday morning for Panama City, Panama. I'll be doing some inner-city ministry work there as well as making preperations for a group trip that our church is taking in March.

I’ll be journaling each day and will post the journal entries here at Abundant Living when I return.

I would appreciate any prayers from my readers for safety, effectiveness and for my family while I’m gone.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Stewardship Part II

Being a Steward of Our Resources
Part II of a three part series on stewardship

When we look at being a good steward of our resources we are talking about becoming better managers of three areas of our lives. Those areas are our Jobs, our finances and our possessions.

Remember, the Christians perspective is that everything belongs to God and He has entrusted us to me managers of the tings that we have.

When was the last time you viewed your job as something that God possessed and trusts you to take care of? Our jobs provide us with three opportunities.

First, our jobs provide us the opportunity to be an example that imitates God. When we first are introduced to God in the Bible he is working. Genesis chapter one records the creation and we see in that account that God worked six days straight. He was diligent in every detail and because of that man had everything that he needed. There was no work until after man sinned. Then we read in Genesis 3:17-19 that because of his sin man would now have to work for everything he had both for survival and pleasure.

Genesis 3:17-19
17 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,'
"Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return."

We have to work! It’s a part of life. God has given us our jobs as a means of provision and survival. We should view our jobs as an opportunity to work just a diligently and hard as God did.

The second opportunity our jobs provide us is a test that develops Character. I once heard a pastor say that when it comes to our career, most of us have our dream job and then we have our real job.

If it was easy it wouldn’t be called work. If it was given to us then we wouldn’t call it earning a paycheck. No doubt all of us have had one of those days at work where we didn’t ever want to go back because things were so stressful and hectic. Look at what James says about those trials.

James 1:2-4
2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Every time your job gets tense or stressful that is your opportunity to develop your Christian character.

Finally our jobs provide us an opportunity to enhance our dignity.

Ecclesiastes 3:13
13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.

We should take pride in the fact that we get to work for a living. It gives us something to be proud of. Our homes, vehicles and possessions are all things that we have earned. That gives us dignity.

A small church needed to have a new roof in the worst of ways, but there was no money in their account. Most of the congregation was very poor except for the local banker. He was an ornery old cuss, and he would be the first in church so he could always sit in the back pew by the door. That way, he could always get up and leave during prayer right before the offering was collected.

One day, on the way to church, an accident in front of him made him late. When he got there, the only place to sit was on the front pew in front of the pastor.

As the pastor prayed for God to send them money for the roof, a piece broke off and fell down, hitting the banker on the head. He immediately yelled out, "I’ll give $1,000. for the roof!" And one of the men in back yelled out, "Hit him again, Lord!"

Like everything else our finances belong to God. He has given us all and only asks for a tiny amount back. Imagine walking down the street in Seattle and you come across Bill Gates. He greets you and tells you that he is going to trust you with his fortune. All you have to do is give him back ten percent. Which one of us wouldn’t do that? You get to keep 90% of his money to do with as you please. Why would you walk away from that deal?

That is what God is saying to you and me. He provides us with everything we have and only ask us to give him ten percent back. Here is a passage from the book of Malachi where God explains the concept of tithing.

Malachi 3:6-10
6 "I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty.
"But you ask, 'How are we to return?'
8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
"But you ask, 'How do we rob you?'
"In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

Do you have enough faith in God to trust Him in that promise? You faith, or lack of, is shown every Sunday when the offering plate is passed.

When it comes to our possessions James gives us an interesting perspective.

James 1:9-11
9The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.

A Christian understanding of possessions changes our view of people. We see people through the eyes of God and understand our equality. We are all limited by time on the earth and we will not be judged by what we have rather than what we do.

It’s fine to have nice things. I don’t believe that is wrong at all. It is when we place our value in those things instead of in God that is wrong.

A Christian understanding of possessions changes our view of possessions. Do you remember the old bumper sticker that said, “He who dies with the most toys wins”? I like the one that followed it that said, “He who dies with the most toys still dies.” The truth is that those things that we posses are material and have no impact on eternity. We cannot take them with us and they don’t help us in get anywhere after our lives end.

Being a good steward of our possessions means understanding them and the people who own them.

I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess. – Martin Luther

Monday, January 09, 2006

Stewardship Part I

As we came into the New Year I was praying about what I could teach my church that would encourage them as they are becoming the men and women that God desires them to be and ultimately the church that He desires for us to be.

So, what was it that the Lord was leading us to study? Stewardship! By definition a steward is one who manages another’s property, finances, or other affairs.

As Christians we believe, or should believe, that everything we have belongs to God anyway and as we grow in discipleship, learning to become more like Christ, we should learn to be responsible caretakers of all that God has trusted us with.

As a church we are going to spend the next three weeks learning to become better stewards.

If you had a bank that credited your account each morning with $86,000 that carried over no balance from day to day...Allowed you to keep no cash in your account, and every evening cancelled whatever part of the amount you failed to use during the day, what would you do? Draw out every cent every day, of course, and use it to your advantage!

Well, you have such a bank, and its name is TIME! Every morning it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it rules off as lost whatever of this you failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balances, it allows no overdrafts. Each day it opens a new account with you. If you fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against tomorrow.
What gets your time? We devote a lot of our time to pursuing things we value. Those things we give our time to become our priorities. Jesus said that if we learn to value and live God’s priorities then the other stuff we need comes as well. (Matthew 6:33)

The key being a steward of your time is knowing God’s priorities!

What Are God’s Priorities?
1. Loving God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength.
2. Loving others as you would yourself.

When we look at the Example of Jesus we see that he made time for God (Matthew 14:23; Luke 2:46-49), he spent time in prayer and in worship. That time alone with the father was valuable time to him and he was not ashamed to be found in God’s presence.

Jesus also made time for other people. He made time to love other people, He made time to reach out to other people, and he made time to serve. Keep in mind that this is God we are talking about. He valued his time as something that was precious and made sure to make every second count.

How would you like to spend 2 years making phone calls to people who aren't home? Sound absurd? According to one time management study, that's how much time the average person spends trying to return calls to people who never seem to be in. Not only that, we spend 6 months waiting for the traffic light to turn green, and another 8 months reading junk mail. These unusual statistics should cause us to do time-use evaluation. Once we recognize that simple "life maintenance" can chip away at our time in such huge blocks, we will see how vital it is that we don't busy ourselves "in vain"

It’s important that we make sure that every thing we do with our time counts. As we become better stewards of our time, let’s learn to live by God’s priorities and not our own.