Category Archives: Stewardship

How to strengthen your stewardship muscles

STEWARDSHIPImagine a community of people unattached to their stuff? 
Living creatively, responsibly, generously in the world
so that everyone can see the living God who is giver of all good things?

We are called to live joyfully surrendered lives as ‘stewards,’ not ‘owners’ of our time, talents, and resources. The last two sermons from the Mind The Gap Series  last Sunday speak to the broader principles of stewardship. I’m also revising a previous post about the dangers of consumerism and the biblical stewardship of our money and possessions.

Consumerism has been called “The Cult of the Next Thing.”  The essay by Mark Buchanon and is available here. In Matthew 6:19-24, Jesus calls us to check our hearts and our eyes as it relates to possessions and Kingdom priorities . If Money is one of the idols – or gods of this world, then Jesus wants us (in the words of Dale Bruner in his commentary on Matthew) to become the real atheists to the secular gods of consumerism, successism, pride in possessions, self-serving, overspending, and indifference to needs…”  

The antidote to terminal consumerism is generosity: both the tithe principle of regular, planned giving and offerings of what we have that come from a heart of compassion in the face of urgent needs.

Randy Alcorn has written extensively on stewardship, especially of our money. As with any author, we may not agree with every emphasis, but Alcorn covers the questions thoroughly and with a heart of Christ-centeredness. His books, The Treasure Principle, and Managing God’s Money are short works and Money, Possessions, and Eternity is his more comprehensive treatment.

Q – How will having a more clear role of ‘Steward’ instead of ‘Owner’ change how you use your time, talents, or resources? 

Live with the end in mind!

Eschatology – or the study of “Last Things,” has often been mis-applied. What the Bible tells us about the end of all things is not to make us speculate or to make us panic and evacuate.  Rather it is about living NOW in light of the in-breaking of Christ and His Kingdom! It’s about being prayerful, pure, watchful, and on-mission.  Preaching on 1 Peter 4:7-11 made me appreciate again, the challenge of living the rest of my life with POSITIVE URGENCY. (Here is the sermon)

This is a section from N. T. Wright’s Simply Christian that further unpacks the practical implications of the Bible’s end-times teaching:

ntw   God’s future has arrived in the present, has arrived in the person of Jesus. In arriving, it has confronted and defeated the forces of evil and opened the way for God’s new world, for heaven and earth to be joined forever…Not only heaven and earth, but also future and present, overlap and interlock. And the way that interlocking becomes real, not just imaginary, is through the powerful work of God’s Spirit. This is the launchpad for the specifically Christian way of life. That way of life isn’t a matter simply of getting in touch with our inner depths. It is certainly not about keeping the commands of a distant deity. Rather, it is the new way of being human, the Jesus-shaped way of being human, the cross-and-resurrection way of life, the Spirit-led pathway. It is the way which anticipates, in the present, the full, rich, glad human existence which will one day be ours when God makes all things new. Christian ethics is not a matter of discovering what’s going on in the world and getting in tune with it. It isn’t a matter of doing things to earn God’s favor. It is not about trying to obey dusty rulebooks from long ago or far away. It is about practicing, in the present, the tunes we shall sing in God’s new world!   Christian holiness is not (as people often imagine) a matter of denying something good. It is about growing up and grasping something even better. Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our fully human role, as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning. That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us.
And a closing prayer:
Almighty God, who alone can bring order to the unruly wills and passions of sinful humanity: Give your people grace so to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, among the many changes of this world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Commitment to Excellence?

excellenceMy working definition of Excellence in the Christian context is this:

Honoring God with our BEST in everything we do!

Listen to the teaching on Excellence for the Glory of God here.

Do to the snow storms of the last two weeks, many were not able to be at Christ Church for this last in the series on What is God Calling Christ Church To Be? so I encourage you to take a few moments to get caught up.

A quote and a poem:

“It is my firm conviction that those who impact and reshape the world for God are those who are committed to living above the level of mediocrity.”

(Chuck Swindoll, Rising Above the Level of Mediocrity)

Life is a leaf of paper white
Whereon each one of us may write
His word or two, and then comes night.
Greatly begin! though thou have time
But for a line, be that sublime–
Not failure, but low aim, is crime.

(James Russell Lowell)

QUESTION: Do you have a commitment to excellence?  If not, what will grow that commitment?

Give Yourself Away

Jim Elliot

He is no fool who
gives what he cannot keep
to gain what he cannot lose!

Last Sunday, I shared the story behind Jim Elliot’s famous quote which he wrote in his journal at age 22 while a senior at Wheaton College. Martyred with 4 of his missionary team mates seven years later, Elliot embodied the self-giving love that is at the heart of Christ and His Kingdom.

The motivation for giving ourselves and our resources come from the heart of Jesus himself:

“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life
will keep it.” (Luke 17:33)

For more on biblical principles of giving and the vision of the church, listen to the sermon from Christ Church here at our website.

Elliot’s journal entry

Money 101

What’s your ‘Game Plan’ for your money? Our Game Plan series continues here at Christ Church.  (Teaching audio and resources here.)
I want to recommend a wonderful, easy-to-read, biblical and inexpensive ($5.99 / 3.99 Kindle) resource by Randy Alcorn.  It is a new and thorough summary of much of his work on Christian Stewardship (of money and possessions.) It’s called Managing God’s Money.  You should have it!

We ended our worship with this hopeful challenge to the church and a prayer based on 1 Timothy 6:17-19 and Titus 2:14.  I’ll post them here: Continue reading Money 101

How Should We Engage Our Culture?

Last Sunday, we asked the question, “How should the church and we as individual Christ-followers engage the culture in which we live?”  There is no more important question for the church than how we look at the culture we live in; how we engage the culture…our posture toward it.  The Big Idea is that we are called to be both distinctively different AND fully engaged (NOTE from Matthew 5:13-16: “You are the light of the world…you are the salt of the earth!”)

I referenced a very important book by Andy Crouch called Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. He outlines the different ways the church, especially in America, has approached culture: Condemning, Critiquing, Consuming, and Copying culture. Crouch posits that the most biblical posture includes both Cultivating (nurturing and embracing the best in a culture) and Creating culture (we are called from Genesis 1 on to be co-creators and stewards of God’s world!)  Here is a review from Books and Culture that provides a good summary and stresses the importance of this dialog for us to BE the church in today’s world.  Click Here.

I would also recommend another work by John Stackhouse called (interestingly) Making the Best of It: Following Christ In The Real World.  He includes an examination of the lives and works of C. S. Lewis, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer for example and direction.

 

The Importance of Fasting

The last ‘deadly sin’ we looked at in our recent series at Christ Church was gluttony.  Fasting is a discipline that helps us fight terminal consumption by both moderation and compassionate action.  (click here to go to the sermon audio and video).

Frederica Mathewes-Green wrote the following article for Christianity Today that reinforces the centuries long practice of fasting together in seasons such as Lent.  I think you’ll find this a helpful explanation, especially if fasting has never been a regular spiritual practice.  (The article is also at her website.)

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. …I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (I Cor. 25, 27)  Lent is a time of year to remember that God has seen fit to make us, not airy spirits, but embodied human beings living in a beautiful, material world. The soul fills the body the way fire fills a lump of coal, and what the body learns, the soul absorbs as well. Spiritual disciplines, like fasting, are analogous to the weight-lifting machines at a health club. One who uses them in a disciplined way will be stronger, not just when he’s lifting weights, but for every situation that he meets.

While some people think of Lent as a time to personally choose something to “give up,” the practice of the Eastern Christians, from the earliest centuries, is to observe a common fast. This is not a complete fast, but rather abstaining from meat and dairy—basically, a vegan diet. Tertullian (160-225 AD) likens it to Daniel’s diet in the king’s court, when he abstained from meat and rich foods and grew stronger than those who feasted.

There’s something to be said for following an ancient, universal Lenten custom like this, rather than choosing your own adventure. Most of us are not capable of being our own spiritual directors. We don’t have the perspective needed to choose the things that will really change us. (Deep down, we may not even want to change. I like to say, “Everyone wants to be transformed, but nobody wants to change.”) A fast like this, observed for 2000 years by Eastern Christians, in lands from Eastern Europe to Africa, India, and Alaska, is time-tested; it is one element of spiritual path that has produced innumerable saints. (The Lenten vegan fast was once a Western custom too, as seen by the lingering custom in some churches of holding a “pancake dinner” just before Lent, to use up the butter, milk and eggs.)

In Lent we are one, not only with the church through time, but with those in our local church. Orthodox Lent begins with the “Rite of Forgiveness,” in which all church members form a circle and, one at a time, stand face-to-face with each other and ask forgiveness. This experience is profoundly healing, and also a preventative; I’m more likely to restrain a harsh word in July if I recall that I will have to ask this person’s forgiveness again in March.

Lenten disciplines train us like athletes, strengthening our earthly bodies and souls, healing the body of believers in our local parish, and forging union with the Body of Christ throughout time. “Forgetting what lies behind” and the sins of the past, we “press on” to combat those sins that lie ahead, made stronger by our Lenten disciplines, “for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14)

Replacing the god of Greed with the God of Mercy

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

“Zacchaeus is one of my favorite Jesus encounters to preach on.  He is a vivid picture of how – in the words of Tim Keller -“Jesus had replaced money as Zacchaeus’ God and Savior, so money could go back to being just what it is: a tool for serving people.”  (Keller has a chapter on Greed in his book Counterfeit Gods)

Wendell Berry on the “Myth of Limitlessness”

Wendell Berry is one of my favorite authors, especially his Sabbath and “Mad Farmer” poems. He is up in years though it seems he has always been at the marvelous place of not caring -in a good way- about the ‘popular’ critique of his work. He speaks his convictions about a Christian world-view and the perils of consumerism in multiple genres of poetry, essay, and novel. A friend sent this link to a May ’08 Harpers article that is brutally relevant to our current world. It is also wonderfully insightful for our current series on what it means to be human. You may not agree with Berry on everything here but being provoked to think and re-think is vital. Here’s the link.

“Keep Yourselves from Idols!”

“Little children – keep yourselves from idols.”  So the apostle John ends his first letter to the early church. (1 John 5:21)  I don’t think he was warning against Caesar dolls!  Interior idols and the cult of ‘Things’ is the ever-present danger.  Whenever we look to something other than God for our meaning or security – we become idolaters.

Imagine a community of people unattached to their stuff?  Living creatively, responsibly, generously in the world so that everyone can see the living God?
Jesus would call it ‘Church!’

I’d like to re-post something from a few years ago on the dangers of modern idolatry.

Consumerism has been called “The Cult of the Next Thing.”  The essay by Mark Buchanon and is available here. In Matthew 6:19-24, Jesus calls us to check our hearts and our eyes as it relates to possessions and Kingdom priorities . If Money is one of the idols – or gods of this world, then Jesus wants us (in the words of Dale Bruner in his commentary on Matthew) to become the real atheists to the secular gods of consumerism, successism, pride in possessions, self-serving, overspending, and indifference to needs…” 

The antidote to terminal consumerism is generosity: both the tithe principle of regular, planned giving and offerings of what we have that come from a heart of compassion in the face of urgent needs.

Randy Alcorn has a voluminous website with a section on Money that is well worth checking out.  As with any author, we may not agree with every emphasis, but Alcorn covers the questions thoroughly and with a heart of Christ-centeredness. Alcorns books, The Treasure Principle, and especially Money, Possessions, and Eternity are excellent.  Much of their content is on the website in the form of articles or downloads.