Greetings in the name of Jesus! This is a continuing effort on my part to make available to family, friends, and any other poor unfortunate souls that run across this, some of the thoughts that run through my mind regarding sermon preparation, newsletter articles, random thoughts (of which there are many), and generally how God is working in my life. I hope to post at least once a week but I'm not promising that.

So welcome to it.

Post Script:
A couple of people have asked me about the address. When I was putting this together I was preparing for sermons from the 6th chapter of John where Jesus refers to himself as "The Bread of Life" and these are passages that I strongly identify with. So artos is bread and zoe is life (roughly) and to quote Forrest, "That's all I have to say about that."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sermon and Notes for Sunday Nov 1

Stewardship as Evangelism          Acts 2:37-42

37Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

[Believers who share a common geographical location are to share a common religious life.]

What happens in this passage:

~ Inspired by the Holy Spirit Peter gives a compelling witnesses to the people about the character and nature of Jesus… (Peter’s words and passion but the Holy Spirit’s power)

~ The Holy Spirit convicted them (they were cut to the heart) and they wanted to know how to have their most fundamental need fulfilled (be reconciled to God… be restored in their relationship with God) “Brothers what should we do?!”

~ Peter tells them:  turn away from the attitudes and actions that separate you from God; be baptized; put your trust in Jesus

~ Those that welcomed his message did just that (which means not all did)

~ Their life began to focus on several things: the apostles teaching (the Word); prayer; breaking of bread (and this is not communion but it can symbolize communion);  AND fellowship

Stewardship is about trust… God trusting us more than our trust in God; Stewardship is about meeting our most fundamental need… a restored relationship with God… it is a way that God transforms us into the character and nature of Jesus; Stewardship frees us… from the things that separate us from God (greed, fear, worry, etc.); Stewardship is about investing in what is important to God… God’s creative purpose… redemption of creation.

Link between Stewardship, Discipleship, Evangelism and Membership:

God entrusts us with a gift of incalculable value… the gift of himself through faith in Jesus. He also provides us with the means to invest that gift effectively in ourselves and in others… one expression of that (the means by which we do that) is Discipleship. Another is Evangelism; sharing the gift of God with others… last week we spoke of it in terms of sharing the invitation that God has entrusted us with… giving people who have not been considered acceptable (in a lot of different ways) compelling reasons to accept God’s radical hospitality. And how effectively we use and give these gifts is stewardship of the gift… and both are means by which we grow into the character and nature of Jesus—they themselves (Discipleship and Evangelism) are not the goal.

God entrusts us with another aspect of who God is in which we are to live out our lives of discipleship and evangelism… God entrusts us with each other the church… the community of faith… because God exists in community (communion of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) we are called to live in communion (community)

Which is consistent with what we’ve been talking about… because earlier we talked about stewardship in terms of God entrusting us with people… with relationships

So this week we are going to be looking at membership in the church as another expression of stewardship.

What is it that is common to all human beings? What is it that we all long for… to know that we are loved and accepted… we want to belong… we want to receive love and give love… we want to have people committed to us and we really want to be committed to people… we long for meaningful relationships… we want to be part of something that makes a difference… all of this is a reflection of or based upon our need to be reconciled to and restored in our relationship with God. Our human relationships are an expression of our need for a healthy relationship with God because God is relational… God wants us to know Him in the way he knows us…

From God’s perspective the church is the best place to do that… that’s why he established it. Jesus in response to Simon Peter’s revelation that Jesus was the Messiah… the Christ said,  “And I tell you, you are Petra, and on this rock I will build my church.”

The passage from Acts can helps us look at why and how being a member of the church is a part of our living a life of faithful stewardship.

So what takes place? What do we see?

First of all Peter’s being a good steward… he is investing what God has entrusted to him and the other disciples by sharing a compelling witness about the character and nature of Jesus and what his death and resurrection can mean to the folks and the Holy Spirit convinces them of the truth of the message.

Then he responds to their question of, “OK, so what do we do now?” by saying, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus” so that:  sins will be forgiven and; they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit… or another way to understand it… they too will be entrusted with the living and abiding presence of God… God will entrust them with himself.

Need to be clear here that it isn’t the act of baptism that does this… it is our conscious act of faith—empowered by God, to place our trust in God—by which God gives the gift of the Person of the Holy Spirit as the seal of that trust. The act of putting water on a head in no way obligates God… The water is a sign of our desire to be part of God’s family… to be a part of God’s household…

It is important however because it points to the covenant promises or commitments that we say that we are making and there are several:  The promise between the parents of a child or the person themselves with God to commit to a life of nurturing their faith as part of the church;  The promise of the church to be there to support the individual and/or the family in their life of faith together;  And last but certainly not least, God’s promise to all to accept them into his family.

One more word about baptism and how it relates to membership in the church… There is the church universal… The larger body of Christ, the saints that have come before and all believers around the world… we become a part of that family in our baptism… but then there’s the local church family.

Rick Warren gives what I think is a great example of why membership is an important choice to make he writes, “Whenever a child is born, he or she automatically becomes part of the universal [biological] family of human beings. But that child also needs to become a member of a specific family to receive nurture and care and grow up healthy and strong. The same is true spiritually. When you were born again, you automatically became part of God’s universal family, but you also need to become a member of a local expression of God’s family.” (The Purpose Driven Life, 2002) What Warren leaves unsaid is that that is necessary to receive nurture and care and grow up healthy and strong spiritually.

Baptism is a sacred gift... we are entrusted with the gift of baptism… it is a sign of our adoption into the family of God… we are not family because the law says we are family… we are family because the law of love says we are family. So baptism is not to be used indiscriminately or off hand… Baptism is a sign of commitment to each other… that we take this trust that God has given us seriously. It should also remind us that membership is accepting responsibility not only for nurturing your own life of faith but also for helping others nurture theirs. So, membership is a commitment to a life of discipleship… a commitment to a particular community of faith.

Many of you have heard me say I would rather have someone be active in the life of the church (the life of fellowship, study, discipleship, mission) and not be an “official” member than have them be an “official” member and only participate in Sunday morning worship. I still believe that. But let me also say this… at some time that level of involvement should translate into the same level of commitment. Membership in a particular church is a seal or sign of a person’s commitment. I would argue that it is similar to the sign of water at baptism.

So membership is important but like discipleship or evangelism it is not the goal… it is a means to the goal.

So, what happened next? The people repented or their sins, they turned back toward God, were baptized and God entrusted them with the gift of the Holy Spirit… what was life like for them?

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

They began to fellowship together as they devoted themselves to the Word of God, to prayer, and the breaking of bread...

For me the key here is fellowship… they didn’t do it on their own… they did it together. We don’t understand this immediately from this passage but it is made clear as we read through the rest of Acts that, in the words of one Biblical Scholar, “Believers who share a common geographical location are to share a common religious life.”

Rick Warren in his book the Purpose Driven Life lists some reasons why he thinks that membership is important to us and I’d like to briefly share those; some of which we’ve already talked about:  identifies us as a genuine believera means to help make us less self-centered; helps us focus on the needs of others; can help us understand, nurture and develop our faithas each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love (Eph 4:16);  God has a unique role for each of us in the churchA spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church (1 Cor 12:7); It will help us share in Christ’s mission in the worldHe created each of us… to join him in the work he does… (Eph 2:10); Can help keep us on trackEncourage one another daily… so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Heb 3:13).

As we look at that list we should notice something… we should notice that each one of the things there are to help us invest what God has entrusted us with… At the risk of sounding like a detective in a bad mystery movie… we have the means; the motive; and the opportunity… all we need to do now is act… to put it into practice.

A couple of weeks ago I said that faith is not what we believe as much as its what we do… in other words our actions witness to what we really believe… our actions are our investment of what God has entrusted us with…

My prayer for us is that we will continue to grow in our commitment to invest more of ourselves in each other as Christ’s church… as His people… that we as his visible body can grow more and more into His likeness so others can receive what God has entrusted us to share with them and join us… in this church, the church universal and the church eternal…

As we grow in this way then we will be able to hear our Master say, Well done good and faithful servant, come and enter into the joy of your master.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Initial Sermon Notes for Sunday 10/25

Stewardship as Evangelism

Matthew 25:14-19, 20-21

14 ‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents,* to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” 21His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”

Luke 14:15-24

15 One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, "Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" 16 Then Jesus said to him, "Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. 17 At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, "Come; for everything is ready now.' 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, "I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.' 19 Another said, "I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.' 20 Another said, "I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.' 21 So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, "Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.' 22 And the slave said, "Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.' 23 Then the master said to the slave, "Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.' "

Initial thoughts on this sermon.

Stewardship is about…

God entrusts us with himself in the person of Jesus. The essence of God is self-giving love (between Father/Son/Holy Spirit) most fully expressed and experienced in Jesus. God exists in self-giving relationship. God’s purpose in entrusting us with this is to accomplish his creative purpose—redemption of Creation (starting with humanity who were created in the image of God). This is done through restoring relationships… Jesus reconciles us to God and God to us through our relationship with Jesus and Jesus’ relationship with the Father.

So God entrusts to us his creative purpose… we are given the gift of stewardship as a means by which God accomplishes his creative purpose… God isn’t satisfied with just us… the process doesn’t end with us… we are a continuation of the God’s creative purpose and so we are called to invite others in this life by sharing with them… investing in them… what God has entrusted to us…

The passage from Luke is symbolic of the completion of God’s Kingdom when God brings all things to himself for final judgment… the implication is that only those who accept his invitation… who honor their relationship with God… will experience the blessing of God or eating at the heavenly banquet that we often hold up as part of our communion liturgy.

The two gospel accounts parallel each other in that they both are focused on the fact that it is our relationship with God (investing of talents faithfully and both accepting the invitation and sharing the invitation of God’s radical hospitality in Jesus Christ) that is going to be the measure of our acceptance into the eternal presence of God.

Evangelism at its heart is sharing the good news that is Jesus Christ (hence our motto Share Grow Serve). Sharing the good news that is Jesus is one leg of our core purposes as the church.

When I think about the parable of the banquet I think about it in terms of the servants doing a couple of different things. First of all:

~ they are sharing the invitation that their master is making…

~ they are going out to where the people are to do it

~ they are witnessing to the truth of it

Evangelism is an expression of stewardship because Jesus is entrusting us with what seem to be two things (at least) but in my mind are the same thing. He is entrusting us with the same invitation that he made to us who are now disciples or followers… and like last week he is entrusting us with himself through the process of discipleship… I said earlier that the good news we share is Jesus Christ… like I have asserted before; Jesus is the Good News that he proclaimed… he is the source of the message, the message itself, and the messenger.

That’s what Jesus entrusts us with for the purpose of sharing it with others… not keeping it to ourselves… the Good News that is Jesus ceases to be Good News if we keep it to ourselves…

Like the manna that the Hebrews received from God as they traveled in the wilderness if they didn’t use it up it didn’t keep… it turned wormy… it turned bad… those that hoarded it or took more than they really needed did not benefit from it and neither did anyone else.

Since we are entrusted with the gift of Jesus and sharing him (not only his love… because to share him is to share his love) the question then becomes: “How do we do that?”

But first another question: “What is Evangelism really about?” or “What do we hope to accomplish?”

Evangelism isn’t about getting more people in the sanctuary on Sunday morning. If it is, it’s destined to fail in the long run because after a while people recognize that they were looking for something more than a religious expression once a week. That’s not to say that what we do here on Sunday’s isn’t important for developing and expressing our faith… it is. But if that’s all that there is, then we shouldn’t be surprised that people stray away.

One of the things I think we need to look more closely at is this question, “With what do we identify in this parable?” In other words what do the actions or titles or subjects mean for us… how we interpret this parable can tell us a lot about how we form our idea of what church and evangelism is.

I submit this for your consideration and it is a generalization. Could it be that when we hear or read this parable we identify the place where the great feast is to be held as the church? In other words when we think of God’s Kingdom we think of the church and more to the point what a large percentage of main line established church’s idea of what the church is? Which is what takes place on Sunday mornings.

Personally I don’t understand God’s Kingdom in that way. There was a time when I would have but not anymore. And the reason I don’t is because I feel that it is too limiting of God and it stands against the witness of the Bible.

Evangelism… sharing the Good News that is Jesus Christ… is about becoming the means by which God is able to fulfill peoples most basic human need (restoring our relationship with Himself). Evangelism is about becoming the means by which God is able free people from greed and fear (among a whole host of other things). Evangelism is about becoming the means through which God helps us invest in his creative purpose (redeeming humanity)

I just finished reading Mitch Albom’s new book, “have a little faith.” One of the things that I was reminded of from reading it centers on evangelism… and it made me take another look at the parable that Jesus told of the great dinner… when the master tells the servants to go out into the streets and the markets and the alleys and country roads and compel people to come in I think we need to understand or look at what I think he means by compel. How do we compel people? Do we give them well reasoned arguments convincing them to follow? Do we forcibly drag them to Jesus kicking and screaming under the threat of violence (don’t discount that one because it has happened countless times in the history of Christianity)? Or do we give them a compelling reason? How about if we love them, if we accept them, if we share with them, if we serve them, if we listen to them, and in the process share with them the reason we are willing to give of ourselves in this way—because what we have experienced of Jesus in our lives.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

10/18/2009 Initial Sermon Notes

Week Two: Understanding Stewardship as Discipleship:

“It is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them…”   Matthew  25:14

Question: What can the parable of the talents teach us about discipleship?

Logical Speculation… reading between the lines:

The servants had an established relationship with their master. They were entrusted with large sums of money. A talent (by some scholars) was equal to 15 years of wages of a day laborer (common worker). So it is reasonable to assume that they had to know what was expected of them. So it is also reasonable to assume that the first servant had a longer relationship with the master because he was entrusted with more than the other two. Likewise the one entrusted with one talent may not have been in his service very long in that capacity.

With that in mind the Master entrusted to them more than money. He gave them a way of thinking or understanding of what he wanted done and how he wanted it done. In terms of conducting his business, he probably trained them to think and act in the manner that he did so that they would be able to accomplish the tasks he had set for them.

Personal example: remember my years as an employee (first as a sales person and then the sales manager) I had instilled in me an attitude of how to approach, address and establish a relationship with every customer… listening to not only what they said they wanted but by asking questions learn what their need was with the purpose of offering them the best possible choices. It took time and practice to develop that attitude towards sales and have it become effective.

God entrusts us with a gift of incalculable value… the gift of himself through faith in Jesus. But He also provides us with the means to invest that gift effectively in ourselves and in others… the means by which we do that is discipleship and how effectively we use and give that gift is stewardship of the gift and both are means by which we grow into the character and nature of Jesus—they themselves are not the goal. So with that in mind God entrusts us with a way of being… a way of living in relationship with God, each other, and the world around us—discipleship. Discipleship is not something we are called to do; discipleship is a way of life through which God achieves His creative purpose—redemption of creation. He brings people back into relationship with Himself through us—His people. Healthy discipleship is an expression of stewardship in that we make us of what God entrusts to us to grow in our relationship with Him, each other, and with those he calls us to reach out to.

I often refer to discipleship as growing into the character and nature of Jesus. Perhaps a more accurate description is that discipleship is a process of growing into the character and nature of Jesus. It’s like I said before, discipleship is a way of being or living. But the transformation that takes place in our lives does not come about at the end… it takes place as we give ourselves to the process… it’s like riding a bike… you can read all you want to about how a bike works, the physics of why it works, and the basics of how to ride it; but none of that will help until you actually get on it and try. And then it’s only as you practice that you will gain confidence in what you’re doing. Most of us needed help and instruction and encouragement along the way. There are going to be times when we fall down and will need that help and encouragement to get back on and try again. So not only is discipleship a process of growing into the character and nature of Jesus it’s also a community process… it’s a life lived together…

So when we think of discipleship we need to think of community. There are a couple of reasons for this but let’s just focus on one for the time being—that’s how Jesus did it. How many disciples did Jesus have? One? Two? Eight? Twelve? How about hundreds. Literally Jesus had hundreds of followers but from those hundreds, he chose twelve to disciple personally and of the twelve he chose 3 to disciple intimately (Peter, James, and John).

So what does that mean? They spent three years not only learning information on how to be a disciple but three years growing closer to Jesus… having instilled in them a sense of justice, compassion, mercy, forgiveness. They became like their master so that when people saw them; they didn’t necessarily see Peter or James or John… they saw—and more importantly—experienced Jesus.

Let’s take it back to discipleship being an expression of stewardship. Stewardship is about giving, right? It’s about trust (God trusting us and then in response us trusting God); it’s about investing in God (so God’s creative purpose is realized through us), it’s about gaining our freedom (from greed and fear), it’s about meeting our most basic human need (being restored in our relationship with God). What did Jesus entrust to his disciples? Was it his teaching? His ministry? His knowledge? His time? To a degree, yes. But most importantly he entrusted himself… he poured his life into them and it happened as they walked and talked and shared meals and as they listened to Jesus open God’s Word to them. And as the final act of self-giving, of entrusting Himself to the them he gave them the gift of His Holy Spirit after he had left them with the promise that he was going to return to claim what was his.

Does any of this sound familiar? “For it is as if a man… going on a journey… summoned his servants… and entrusted his property to them…”

Here’s the thing. Stop and consider for a moment what and who we claim to be; Christians. That name implies that we are followers of Jesus… that we are disciples. We claim the same heritage that Peter and James and John and the other disciples claim. That’s good news… that’s something to be celebrated. It also means that God has entrusted us in the same way; with the same purpose… and again this is good news! God wants to grow closer to us and wants us to grow closer to Him. And, He wants us to do it in the same way that the 12 did. He wants us to spend time with Jesus and do it with others—remember that discipleship is a process where we grow into the character and nature of Jesus… AND… it is not a solitary process. We’re supposed to do it in community with other followers and those who want to be followers of Jesus.

Now traditionally when we talk about discipleship we bring up Bible study and prayer groups in addition to our own reading of the Bible and daily prayer and I want to encourage that and I will make myself available to help start as many as we might need. But also consider this; where did Jesus do most of his teaching, even with his disciples? It was in the streets, in the market places, in the work places, and in the homes of the people. Here’s the point… Jesus developed his relationship with his disciples while he was in the process of reaching out to the people. In fact it was often his interaction with the people that Jesus used as the means to not only teach but also grow in his relationship with the disciples.

So what does this mean for us? Well let me ask it another way… what has God entrusted to us?

What is He asking us to be stewards of? People. Relationships. First with God, then each other and then with people who are not a part of the church—the body of Christ; as well as the rest of His creation. So For us to be good stewards we need to really know God. But not only through prayer and Bible study and small groups as vitally important as those are… we also need to go where Jesus is in the world around us… in the lives where Jesus is at work and waiting for us to show up and share in that work… in the schools, at work, with the folks in our community that we may not normally associate with… sharing with them what we’ve experienced of Jesus in our lives in the past and in the moment… inviting them along in our journey, our process of being formed into the character and nature of Jesus.

Loved ones… Discipleship is a gift… the gift of Jesus… not just knowledge about Jesus… but the living and transforming presence of his life being lived in us… God entrusts us with that gift so that we in thankful response to God can give it to others…

When we can live lives like that… then we will hear Jesus say… well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Inital Sermon Notes, Sunday 10/11/2009

Week 1: Christian Stewardship Defined

Genesis 1:26-28c

26 Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind* in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,* and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’
27So God created humankind* in his image, in the image of God he created them; * male and female he created them. 28God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…

Matthew 25:14-30

[Regarding the Kingdom of God]: 14 ‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents,* to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” 21His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” 23His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” 26But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Note: all the text in [italics], with the exception of Scripture quotations, are taken from an article from www.faithwriters.com by Richard Laribee

Stewardship is about Trust

[What is “Stewardship”? Definition: Stewardship is managing somebody else’s stuff. A “steward” is a manager of resources that belong to another.]

The Kingdom of God is…‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them…’

[The essential idea of stewardship is trust. Not that the steward trusts the owner or king, but that the owner or king trusts the steward. Stewards are entrusted to care or manage the resources that do not belong to the steward.]

In the creation account God created everything (including us as human beings) and made us responsible for taking care of “every living thing.” (Peterson’s The Message) God entrusted us with all of his creation… what an awesome thought.

For every wild animal of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills… *and all that moves in the field is mine… for the world and all that is in it is mine.” Psalm 50:10-12

KEY STATEMENT – [ Faithful stewards manage the resources not for themselves, but for the purposes of the one who has entrusted them.]

What is God’s purpose? To live in perfect relationship with all of God’s creation. Since God’s creation is separated from God and unable to live in perfect relationship with God; God’s purpose is redemptive in nature; working to reconcile creation to Himself. That redemption is expressed in the Person of Jesus Christ and effected by people of faith… the body of Christ… the church… God chose to entrust His creation to human beings for the purpose of reconciling humanity to himself…

In the words of Eugene Peterson’s The Message: Prosper! Reproduce! Take Charge! Be responsible … for every living thing… on the face of the earth.

This truth has implications not only for our use of our natural resources, caring for our environment, but also for providing for the care and nurture of ourselves as human beings:

Physically, emotionally, materially, and spiritually (which really encompasses all aspects of our humanity)

As Such:

Stewardship helps meet our most fundamental need

[The most persistent myth about stewardship is that it has something to do with God’s needs, with funding ministry, with church budgets, or with controlling how others use our gifts. These are simply and entirely false. God has no needs. “If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.” (Ps 50.12). Stewardship is not about funding the ministry, funding the church, or funding God. It is how God transforms us into servants; it is a basic way in which God is changing us into the likeness of Jesus Christ. It’s not about what God needs – but what we most desperately need in our deepest, must fundamental being.]

What is God’s purpose? To redeem our relationship with Himself. God wants us to grow into the character and nature of Jesus…

Stewardship is not about meeting God’s needs (funding ministry, church budgets, etc.)

Stewardship is about the means by which our most fundamental need is met… reconciling us in our relationship with God… ; [it is a basic way in which God changes us into the likeness of Jesus Christ]

Well done good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your master

The payoff for the servant was the nature of the relationship with the master… the parable didn’t say, “hey good job with investing the money, you deserve a raise, or here’s a corner office, or new Cadillac or condo, or vacation home… the payoff was entering into the joy of the master

We need to remember that from God’s perspective stewardship is not primarily about meeting our physical needs… (more in Investing in God) but our spiritual needs

Stewardship Frees Us

[Another popular myth is that somehow giving releases God’s power, that it triggers miraculous power. One may hear that by giving sacrificially, God’s power is released into the world. This is simply and entirely false. God’s power is not passive, latent, or dormant. It needs no external release mechanism or trigger. On the other hand, people find themselves in bondage to fear, greed, and envy. By becoming faithful servants of God, we discover who really owns all of heaven and earth, and we become free. Stewardship does not release God, but it does release us.]

So in this sense only does stewardship release God’s power… by freeing us God’s power is able to flow in and through our lives to achieve his purpose… it’s a matter of perspective… by growing in our stewardship we become more aware and able to live out of God’s perspective… we become freer from the world’s ideas of ownership; not only of material things but also of our own abilities and gifts and relationships… we become less bound to seeking our own security, our own welfare (regardless of what that looks like… physical, financial, or emotional)… and become more motivated to look to the welfare of others…

[Stewardship is essential to our discovering our own spiritual freedom.]

The servant that held onto the talent that he had been given based upon his fear of his master… another way to see it was his lack of trust in his master… his master trusted him but he did not honor that trust… he was a slave to his mistrust and as a result was incapable of making the best use of what he was entrusted with… it kept him from using it to benefit his master’s purpose; from using it to benefit others; and he received no benefit or blessing from it… he did not enter into the joy of his master. He was held captive to it…

Stewardship is about investing in God not ourselves

[A third popular myth is based on human greed. It views giving as a kind of investment. The more I give, the more I get. This is simply and entirely false. Although God may entrust some of God’s faithful servants with great wealth, Scripture claims that many of his most faithful servants live in poverty, while many of the most evil become rich – sometimes at the expense of the faithful. On the contrary, the Scriptures consistently teach us to give ourselves, to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others, with the assumption of no reward in this life. We are to follow the example of Jesus, who “made himself poor that others might be made rich.” Stewardship assumes that we God’s flock, the sheep of God’s pasture. What God chooses to do with us is entirely up to God. God calls us to become servants, to be faithful stewards, regardless of whether we become wealthy or poor in the process of our stewardship.]

While it is true that God gives us guidance on the proper use of our finances that can and do benefit us financially… the emphasis is never on our accumulation of wealth. It is always on being blessed to be a blessing regardless of our economic standing (rich or poor or somewhere in between)

Go back to the example of the first two servants… what was the blessing that they received? Was it money? Was it power? Was it position? No. They received more responsibility AND entered into the joy of their master. Their master placed more trust in them to serve his purpose and they grew in their relationship with him… we might even say that grew to be more like their master… they became an even more influential expression of who he was… when people saw them (the servants) they knew that they were acting on behalf of the one who sent them…

Effective and healthy stewardship is not about gaining something for ourselves… it’s not about what we have or don’t have; it’s not about what will or will not get (materially speaking)… it’s about investing in what is important to God and God’s creative purpose.

Summation: Stewardship is the means not the goal

[Stewardship is about Spirituality. The Scriptures present faithful stewardship as the means, the basic discipline, for learning how to follow Jesus. Stewardship is not the goal of the Christian life, but a method. It is designed to break our addiction to control, greed, the demand for personal security. This is why Jesus told the young man first to sell it all, give it all away, and then to come follow Jesus. It was not the goal, but the gateway.]

With this in mind in the coming weeks we will be looking at Stewardship as expressions of our core purposes as the Church, the Body of Christ

Evangelism; Discipleship; Membership; Mission/Ministry all of which are expressions of our Worship

maran 'athâ' "O, Come Lord."

I think that this is a sign that I'm getting older (and hopefully wiser). It seems that every day I hear or read more and more of how the world is seemingly spiraling more and more out of control; and I think about my kids. Not only about how the culture that they are growing up in has changed even from mine (I grew up during the cultural revolution of the 60's and 70's--love, sex and rock and roll) but also about what the future holds for them. If I stop and dwell on it with the wrong frame of mind or focused on this question from the perspective of the world it can be depressing.

I had a moment like that last night as I was watching the O' Reilly Factor. Dick Morris (former Clinton adviser) was on talking about how the initial signs are there that U.S. policy is moving towards a one world government (at least financially... for the time being). Now my political leanings are moderate conservative (more and more Libertarian these days) and I have to admit that opinion stirred me up a little bit; then it gave me some concern (thinking here about my kid's future); and then I said to myself, "OK, that's good news." So why would that be good news (liberal or progressive viewpoints aside)?

Now I'm not a Jack Van Impe kind of guy. I'm not into trying to look at the current political landscape and world events and point to who on the world stage is represented by a particular Scriptural prophecy predicting when the rapture and tribulation will be upon us. That being said I do take the promise of Scripture seriously that Jesus will return to claim his own and judge the world; that's why I see this as Good News and say maran 'athâ'- "O, Come Lord."

Right or wrong, Rush Limbaugh used to say (and probably still does) that Liberals understood bad news for America as good news for themselves. In a sense that's one way to understand our anticipation of Jesus' second coming: bad news for the world is good news for the church (please don't try to make any political analogies here; that wasn't my intent). As people of faith we look forward to that day because those who are in Christ will claim the promise and have our faith consummated by being taken into the eternal presence of God (heaven... however you want to conceive it). That's Good News!

It's good news because regardless of your political leanings; we have our faith, our trust confirmed. Regardless of what is going on in the world around us... God can be trusted in His promises! Regardless of what happens in the world around us, regardless of our personal circumstances, God is faithful and we can know his peace.

But the reality of having an intimate relationship with Jesus means more than our own spiritual security. It's not about us getting out before things get really bad. The Good News is that our desire becomes: let's make sure others who do not know the love of God make it too.

That's what drives me. And as I get older, as I see the situations in the world seemingly get more and more out of control, I have a growing urgency or concern for people who don't know Jesus. A growing concern for my kids. Not primarily for their physical and financial security but for their spiritual security. Because I know that we are always one day closer to that day of Good News.

Am I worried? No. But I do feel a renewed sense of urgency and redecication to what God has called us to be about as His people and that brings me hope and joy! Any way you slice it that's Good News for both the world and the Church.