Posts Tagged ‘financial stewardship’

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 11: Rejoice in the Lord always

November 5, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

When I answered the call into ministry eleven years ago, I can see now that I did so with an unspoken agreement with God. If I could put it in words, it would sound something like this:

“God, if I do this for you—give up a relatively successful engineering career, uproot my family, sell my house, go to seminary, make all kinds of sacrifices—I need you to ensure that everyone—including my district superintendent and bishop—will love me and praise me and think I’m God’s gift to preaching and pastoral ministry, that I’ll move up church ladder of success, that I’ll make plenty of money, and that I’ll become bishop before I’m 45!”

Maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but my point is this: I wanted success on my terms. I wanted things to go according to my plans.

A part of what it means to be disciple of Jesus, however, is giving up our plans. It means surrendering them to God.

This is exactly what Paul has done in today’s scripture. He’s in prison. He’s suffering. In fact, he says in chapter 1 that he’s not even sure if he’s going to survive or not. Things weren’t going according to his plans. Yet somehow, in the  midst of all this suffering, Paul has composed his most joyful letter by far: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

How is Paul able to be so happy? Because he knows that no matter what he’s going through, God is not only with him, God is working his plan through him. And God’s plans are always better than our own!

Paul’s words in verses 12 and 13 remind me of the John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer. Let’s make his prayer our own:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 10: Rich in what matters most

November 4, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Scripture: Matthew 6:19-21

I’ve made two trips to Kenya, where I’ve taught church history, theology, and church doctrine to indigenous United Methodist pastors. This is part of our United Methodist Church that is growing rapidly. We can’t train or equip pastors there fast enough. We can’t start churches there fast enough.

The pastors there have almost nothing by our American standards. They work multiple jobs to support themselves. While they may take a small portion of the weekly offering—which isn’t much to begin with—they receive no salary. Most don’t even worship in a proper church building.

The point is, I’m literally a thousand times wealthier than any of the people I taught or ministered to. I only wish I were half as blessed as they are!

Some of you know what I mean. Like me, you’ve gone on a mission trip to an underdeveloped or Third World country. And while you’re there, you’ve seen faithful Christians living with so much less stuff than we have. And if you’re like me, you think, “How can these people have so little and yet still be so happy?”

The answer is this: They’re rich in the only way that matters for eternity. They’re rich in treasure in heaven.

We often think of “treasure in heaven” as something that we “cash in” on the other side of eternity—in heaven, after we die. In reality, this treasure is something we begin enjoying on this side. My Kenyan brothers and sisters—along with so many other Christians—are enjoying it now. I want to, as well!

In what ways does your life show that you value “treasure on earth” more than “treasure in heaven”? Pray that the Lord will help you make the changes you need to make to value treasure in heaven even more.

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 9: Debtors to God

November 3, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Scripture: Deuteronomy 8:17-18

We live in a culture that values the so-called “self-made man or woman”: the person who “pulls himself up by his own bootstraps.”

If you don’t believe me, pay attention to the way that presidential candidates of both parties tell their life stories. It’s as if they’re trying to prove that nobody handed them anything; they earned everything. They had to overcome great obstacles in order to be successful.

And I’m sure they did work hard, but…

The truth is, when we consider what we contribute to our success versus what God contributes, it’s not even close: We’re all deeply indebted to God. We’re all blessed by God beyond measure.

Think about it: Our heavenly Father has given us the gift of life and breath; the gift of time and health; the gift of this amazing world which supports our lives so well; the gift of this great nation; the gift of our mothers and fathers and family; the gift of teachers and coaches, doctors and nurses—people who’ve cared for us, looked out for us, and sacrificed for us in order to shape us into the people we are today.

He’s given us the gift of our talents and skills, which enable us to do meaningful work and create beautiful things. He’s given us the gift of music, literature, dance, art, and technology. He’s given us the gift of friendship. He’s given us the gift of romantic love.

And of course he’s given us the gift of his Son Jesus, who made a way for us to become his beloved sons and daughters through faith.

Our Father gives and gives and gives. And he asks us, in return, to also give. But even a tithe—ten percent of our income—is infinitesimally small compared to what he gives us.

Do you ever forget or take for granted the many gifts that God has given you? Take a moment right now to thank God for five specific gifts that he’s given you.

Sermon 11-01-15: “The Risk-Taker and the Scaredy-Cat”

November 2, 2015

choosing_sides

This is a sermon on the biblical understanding of stewardship: “Stewardship means that you always have a why. It means that there’s a reason why you were put on this earth: why you have what you have, why you are what you are, why you do what you do. Stewardship means you live your life like the Daniel Murphys of the world, not for yourself but for Jesus Christ and his glory!”

As I say in my sermon, stewardship is much more than what we do with our money. But it isn’t less than what we do with it, either! Are you a faithful steward?

Scripture: Matthew 25:14-30

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

If you follow the NFL, chances are you’re not a New England Patriots fan—I mean, unless you happen to be from the Boston area or New England. The Patriots are just too good, Tom Brady is too good, and their “evil genius” coach, Bill Belichick, is too good. And they’re all too good at cheating! Mostly, we’re tired of them winning Super Bowls all the time. Given how they’re playing this year, they’ll probably once again be contending for yet another championship.

Vladimir Putin admiring his new Super Bowl ring.

Vladimir Putin admiring his new Super Bowl ring.

With this in mind, none of us was very sympathetic back in 2012, when Patriots owner Robert Kraft revealed to the world that Russian president Vladimir Putin stole one of Kraft’s $25,000 Super Bowl rings. It’s true! But don’t feel too bad: Kraft has three more where that came from! But it’s true: back in 2005, when Kraft was visiting Putin at the Kremlin, he made the mistake of showing the Russian leader one of his Super Bowl rings. Kraft took it out and handed it to the Russian leader, who put it on his finger and said, “I could kill someone with this ring”—because it was so massive. Then, according to Kraft, Putin put in in his pocket, his KGB guys surrounded him, and they walked out—with Kraft’s ring! It even had Bob Kraft’s name engraved on it! Read the rest of this entry »

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 8: Our daily bread

November 2, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Scripture: Matthew 6:7-13

According to a website, I have lived for 16,675 days as of this writing. I’ve never—not even one time—gone without my daily bread. Have you?

In fact, I never worry about my daily bread. I know I’ll be O.K. today. But what about tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year?

See, what worries me most is not my daily bread, but my monthly bread or even my yearly bread. I worry about possible problems far into the future. But notice that’s not what we’re supposed to worry about. Jesus says, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34).

Our heavenly Father doesn’t promise to take care of us next year. He promises to take care of us today. And then, when tomorrow arrives, we can be sure that God will take care of us then, too.

Reflect for a few moments on ways in which your heavenly Father has taken care of you today. Spend time praising God for his faithfulness.

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 7: Faith into action

November 1, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Scripture: Matthew 14:22-33

My mother was a collector of Lladró porcelain figurines. They were these beautiful, delicate knickknacks that she put on a shelf behind glass in a hutch in the “living room”—which was a strange name for it, since no one lived in the living room. No one was allowed in to the living room unless we were entertaining Queen Elizabeth or Prince Charles.

My point is, these figurines were for decoration only; they weren’t action figures. Even though, to a four- or five-year-old kid, they looked deceptively like action figures. And if I played with them—which is to say, if I used them—I got into big trouble. They were not to be used; they were to be put on a shelf, where they looked pretty and collected dust.

I confess that I want my Christian faith to be like these Lladró figurines. I want to possess faith. But I only ever want to have to use it on rare occasions. Otherwise, I’m happy to leave it  on the shelf, where it looks good, collecting dust.

Fortunately for us, we can’t be serious disciples of Jesus for very long without needing to take our faith off the shelf and put it into action.

We see this with the disciples in today’s scripture: Notice Matthew tells us that Jesus “made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side.” In other words, the Lord sent them into this frightening situation—far outside their comfort zones—where they were forced to put their faith into action—especially Peter!

The result? “Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” Their faith was strengthened. They saw for themselves Christ’s power, which in turn gave them greater confidence to face whatever life threw their way. If Peter were ever walking on water again, chances are he would have been able to take at least a few more steps!

Think of a time in your life where your faith was put to the test. Did you “pass” the test? Or, like Peter, did you fail? Either way, how was the experience good for you?

 

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 6: The gifts you give when you’re in love

October 31, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Scripture: Matthew 13:44-45

We’re fast approaching Thanksgiving, which means the start of the Christmas shopping season. Among other things, this means the return of those sappy jewelry store commercials that show a husband surprising his wife with an expensive necklace or earrings. Or a husband surprising his wife with a new car in the driveway—with a big red bow wrapped around it.

The message is simple: If you really love your husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, you’ll spend a lot of money on them without giving it a second thought!

And you know what? These commercials may be on to something.

When you’re in love, after all, you don’t ask, “How much do I have to spend on this person I love?” Rather, you ask, “How much do I get to spend—how much can I afford to spend—because what I want to spend isn’t enough. If I had more, I’d spend more—because this person is worth it to me.”

Why wouldn’t this be true of the money we give to the Lord through church? Financial stewardship is the most tangible and practical way that we show the Lord how much we love him.

Think of an extravagant gift that you bought for someone you loved. How did it make you feel to give it to him or her? Pray the the Lord would give you the same sense of joy about giving through church.

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 5: It’s a cat’s life

October 30, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Scripture: Matthew 6:25-34

Our cat, Peanut, is the very picture of contentment. Obviously a creature that sleeps 18 hours a day doesn’t worry about much. He doesn’t worry, for example, where his next meal is coming from. When his food bowl is empty, he’s learned through experience that all he has to do is meow and purr loudly and rub up against the leg of some human being in the house and one of us will fill his bowl.

Our cat, Peanut, obviously doesn't worry about much.

Our cat, Peanut, obviously doesn’t worry about much.

Peanut is being exactly what God created him to be. He doesn’t worry; he isn’t anxious. Instead he lives in a relationship of complete dependence on us humans—day by day—never doubting for a moment that we’ll provide everything he requires to live.

This is Jesus’ point about the birds of the air: it’s not that they don’t work. As Dallas Willard points out, “They are among the busiest citizens of the earth.” They work hard, “but our feathered friends do not seem to worry about the physical supports of their life, such as food and water and shelter. They simply seek it as they need it and take what they find. And that is how we should be. Having our treasures in heaven frees us to live simply in the present so far as our vital needs are concerned. We work hard, of course, and we care for our loved ones. But we do not worry—not even about them. Having food and clothing and God, we can be content.”[1]

Jesus used birds and flowers to make his point about not worrying. What can a cat or dog teach you about it? As you go through your day today, make note of how frequently you start to worry. Whenever you feel worry coming on, use it as a cue to pray: “God, please handle this thing that I’m worried about. I’m putting it in your hands.”

1. Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (New York: HarperOne, 1997), 209-10.

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 4: Our pockets are always empty before God

October 29, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Warren Buffett is the world’s second-richest man. Several years ago, he announced that he would donate 85 percent of his $44 billion fortune to five charitable foundations. When asked to comment on this extreme act of generosity, he said, “There is more than one way to get to heaven, but this is a great way.”

This statement is wrong on many levels. First, it’s wrong because there’s only one way to get to heaven, as Jesus makes clear in John 14:6 when he says that he’s the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through him. And he’s wrong when he says that doing good things like giving away most of your fortune will get you into heaven. We can do nothing to earn God’s gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. Even $44 billion can’t pay for it. It’s all grace.

This is why, I think, Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God belongs to little children, and unless we become like them we’ll never inherit it: Children depend completely on their parents for survival. Everything they receive is a gift, not a “payment for services rendered.”

The Warren Buffetts of the world imagine that they have to pay for everything, and their generosity comes from their own pockets. A child’s pockets, by contrast, are always empty. They know they have nothing in and of themselves. What they do have comes from their parents.

And this is the secret to generosity toward God: We know that whatever we give comes from our heavenly Father. And we give generously, the way the Lord wants us to, because we know that there’s more where that came from.

Think of ways that children trust in their parents. What can children teach you about trusting in our heavenly Father?

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 3: The parable of the pack of Mentos

October 28, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:6-14

Occasionally, in the checkout line at Publix, I’ll give in to my boys’ request for gum or candy. The truth is, I have a sweet tooth, too, and I love Mentos. Let’s say there are twenty pieces of Mentos in a pack. Would I be asking too much of my son if I said, “Could you give me two pieces?” Of course not! (Two pieces in a 20-piece pack would literally be a tithe.)

But wouldn’t it be ungrateful for one of them to say, “These Mentos are mine. I can’t let you have two pieces. But I’ll tell you what I will do: I’ll cut one of these pieces into three smaller pieces, and I’ll give you one of these smaller pieces”? This would equal about one-and-a-half percent of the pack. (The typical churchgoer in America gives only one-and-a-half percent to church.)

As a father, should I be happy with that tiny portion—especially given that I bought the pack in the first place? Should I be happy with a third of one Mento in a 20-Mento pack? Should I be happy with one-and-a-half percent of a pack of Mentos that I bought with my own money?

Of course not! I’d have a right to be disappointed in my child, wouldn’t I? I’d even have a right to discipline my child by withholding additional future blessings—for instance, the next time they asked for a pack of Mentos.

My point is, we often treat our heavenly Father this way in our financial giving.

As Paul makes in clear in today’s scripture, we’re only hurting ourselves by failing to be generous. We’re the ones who miss out on a spiritual blessing from God—who, Paul says, will “enrich us in every way” and “make grace abound in us.”

Do you tithe (i.e., give ten percent of your income) to God through church? Are you as generous in your giving as you want to be? If you’re not currently tithing, what concrete steps could you make this year toward reaching that goal?