Category: One Focus Blog

Stewardship: Our Greatest Calling

So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.

Romans 14:12

Usually the first thing that comes to mind when we hear the word “stewardship” is the proper use of material resources, money or tithing. Although that certainly applies to this word, an examination of Webster’s definition reveals how far reaching stewardship is for the Christian.

Stewardship is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

John Hall, pastor, Field Street Baptist Church, Cleburne, Texas (my pastor) revealed just how all encompassing stewardship is when he said,

We will answer to God for the stewardship of our lives.

John MacArthur, pastor-teacher, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California, declared that:

All Christians are but God’s stewards. Everything we have is on loan from the Lord, entrusted to us for a while to use in serving Him.

R. T. Kendall, pastor of Westminster Chapel for 25 years, further clarifies this point in his book Imitating Christ when he said,

Finally, the sign of the servant is that he is one who can be trusted. My friend Joseph Ton put it like this to me: “Nothing is given to us on the basis of ownership, only stewardship.” It is required among stewards that a man be found faithful. Each of us has been entrusted with a gift. You have something nobody else has. The very gift you have, when it is used at the right moment, could be the very crux of all that is happening. Your gift, used at the moment when God wants it used, can be the hinge on which everything turns. God has trusted you with it. It is yours to perfect, develop, and to use whenever you are called upon to do so.

Richard L. Blake, Founder and President of Xtend Ministries International (my husband), also clearly made this point in his lectures on “How to Manage Money”.

God is observing what we do with our time, our talent, and our treasure. What may seem such little things to us are major factors in God’s decision to commend and promote us—or reprimand and demote us—in his Kingdom. Therefore, we must ask ourselves, “What opportunities are we missing, or one day will miss, because we have failed to use our money and other resources wisely?”

For the next few blog posts, I am going to share portions of my introduction to a full day’s teaching on the subject of stewardship. In examining how far-reaching our stewardship really is, we will look at a biblical foundation for our calling as stewards.

The amazing thing about being a Christian is that God Himself has entrusted His resources to us. He doesn’t need us to manage anything for Him, but because He loves us, He wants us to. He has made us part of His family and as such, delights in watching us use and enjoy the gifts He has given.

Remembering


And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this  in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19

Today is Memorial Day in America – a day when thoughts turn toward those who have given their lives for this country – the ultimate sacrifice. We are capable of observing such a day because we are still living. We are the ones who remember – who observe a special day – who place a cross on each grave and who create memorial statues and monuments so that future generations will not forget. The ones we remember may have, in their last moments, been aware of their sacrifice for loved ones or their lives may have been taken from them so quickly that there was no time for reflection. Either way, we honor them and realize that without them, life would be very, very different for us. It is for us they died.

Jesus, whose very purpose in coming as our Savior was to lose His life as a sacrifice for ours, pondered on this assignment throughout His entire life. He knew what was coming because He willingly chose to die in our stead. His life’s work was completed in His sacrificial death and His miraculous resurrection.

As we remember those whom He created who followed His example and died so that we could have a chance to live a full life here on earth, we must keep ever present in our hearts the truth that Jesus Christ chose to die so that we could live eternally.

We are the reason He died. We are capable of enjoying eternal life with Him because of His sacrificial love.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;  and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Every Day Should Be God Awareness Day

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “aware” as knowing that something (such as a situation, condition, or problem) exists; feeling, experiencing, or noticing something (such as a sound, sensation, or emotion); knowing and understanding a lot about what is happening in the world or around you.

A doctor’s job is made easier when his patients obtain a greater knowledge about how to be healthy. Among the items on the American healthcare awareness calendar are national birth defects prevention month in January; heart awareness month in February; brain injury awareness month in March, national Parkinson’s awareness month in April and National High Blood Pressure Education Month in May.

Christians know that the problem of sin exists; we know our condition is hopeless without Christ; we have experienced the saving grace of His love and because we have His word, we see His hand in what is happening in the world around us. 

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His courts with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good: His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations (Psalm 100).

Our spiritual health depends on our awareness of God and our dependence upon His presence and guidance in our every day lives. Worship is the reverent awareness of God’s presence – acknowledging to Him that He, and only He, is Lord of Heaven and Earth – expressing that awareness though prayer, song, meditating on His word, obedience to Him and serving Him with joy.

The Joy of Knowing “I AM”

If I believe that Jesus is everything He says He is,

then I have the security of knowing that my needs (physical and spiritual) are met because He is the Bread of life,

the warmth of His revelation because He is the Light of the World,

the confidence that I am safe because He is the Door to the sheepfold and

He will protect me because He is the Good Shepherd.

I have peace because He is the Resurrection and the Life and I know that I am going to Heaven when I die.

I have a sense of direction because He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and

I trust that He will use me because I am a branch connected to the True Vine.

I do believe these things. Do you?

 

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Biblical Mindset about Money: Ownership and Stewardship

I have another blog on “how to stretch your money”. For the last few weeks, my husband has been the guest blogger on that site. I have shared posts from a conference he led on how to manage money. I shared the last post here in full about the biblical principles on how to manage money.

I would also like to provide a link to the next three posts I have placed on http://www.stretchmoney.wordpress.com as they a800px-Foster_Bible_Pictures_0065-1_The_Israelites_Gather_Manna_in_the_Wildernessre also applicable for this One Focus blog.

 

How to Manage Money: Why a Biblical Mindset Matters: https://stretchmoney.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/how-to-manage-money-why-a-biblical-mindset-matters/

 

 

 

 

Silver-Coins-Public-Domain-300x225

 

How to Manage Money: What the Bible Says About Ownership: https://stretchmoney.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/how-to-manage-moneywhat-the-bible-says-about-ownership/

 

 

And

 

How to Manage Money: What the Bible Says About Stewardship: https://stretchmoney.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/how-to-manage-money-what-the-bible-says-about-stewardship/

finance_tree_growth_45EA7BC7B6870

 

How to Manage Money: Biblical Principles

This post was written by a guest blogger, my husband, Richard L. Blake. It is also on my other website – stretchmoney.wordpress.com as the second part of a seven part series.

The_Black_Death

I ask you to come with me 669 years back in time to Lubeck, Germany. In 1347, as the Black Plague swept across Europe killing over 30 percent of the population, the people of Lubeck were terrified. The wealthy citizens sought to enter the huge fortified monastery for shelter. But the monks, afraid of contamination by the disease from the outside world, locked their gates and strictly refused admission.

The nobles and the wealthy pleaded in vain. They then took their money, jewelry and valuables and threw them over the wall, pleading for admission that they might find safety. Within a short time, the money and valuables piled up a meter high. Yet the contaminated treasure was left untouched and the gates remained closed.

Now, why did all these monies and valuables lie at the base of the monastery walls? Because the rich thought that money thrown away would save their lives, and the monks thought that contaminated money accepted would kill them.

There were two entirely different views of wealth. What is your view? This is a very important issue for us to consider.

Develop a Biblical Mindset About Money

When it comes to money and material possessions we find three different views in the church.

Poverty Theology

The premise of Poverty Theology is that money is inherently evil and thus to be poor is to be spiritual. The orientation then is towards shunning wealth. This makes no sense because some of God’s most godly saints are wealthy. Job was the richest man in the ancient east (Job 1:3; 42:12). Abraham was exceedingly wealthy (Genesis 13:2). It’s not a sin to be rich, nor to enjoy the things wealth may bring. In 1 Timothy we are told that God is the one who “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (6:17). Solomon, famed for both his riches and his wisdom, wrote, “As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19).

Some may ask, “Doesn’t the Bible say that money is the root of all evil?” No, it does not. Rather, it says, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Money itself is not evil but evil resides in people who love it. People may be moral or immoral, but money is morally neutral and can be used for good things or for bad. Therefore, we must reject the idea that money or material things are inherently unspiritual.

Prosperity Theology

The premise of Prosperity Theology is that money is a signature gift of God and thus to be rich is indicates God’s special favor. The orientation then is toward splurging wealth. Prosperity theology looks exactly like materialism but it professes to be based on God’s word and is therefore not only permissible but also desirable. Following God through giving and other forms of obedience become a formula for abundant provision and the celebration of prosperous living. There are some Christian leaders that exhort their listeners to give liberally while they live in palatial mansions, own private jets, and pay for luxurious hotel suites while they travel to spread their message of prosperity.

Of course, there are scriptures that seem to link material prosperity with God’s blessing. For instance, God gave material wealth to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Solomon, and Job because he approved of them. Some passages offer material rewards for faithful financial giving:

“You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings” (Deuteronomy 15:10).

      “Honor the Lord from your wealth, and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine; The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered” (Proverbs 3:9-10; 11:25)

      “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows’” (Malachi 3:10).

God does do those things these scriptures promise, but that’s not the whole picture. The scriptures also warn against the dangers of wealth—especially that in their prosperity people often forget the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:7-18). But even when people love and obey God they still may suffer. In fact, they’re promised suffering (Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12). Jeremiah, a righteous man who lived in adversity, complained to God, “Why are the wicked so prosperous? Why are evil people so happy? (Jeremiah 12:1). His question echoed the psalmist who wrote, “This is what the wicked are like— always free of care, they go on amassing wealth” (Psalm 73:12).

If, as prosperity theology maintains, material wealth is a reliable indicator of God’s reward and approval, then crime bosses, drug lords, and embezzlers must be his most favored people, while Jesus and the apostle Paul must be on his blacklist. So, prosperity theology does not square with the teaching of scripture.

Provision Theology

The premise of Provision Theology is that money belongs to God but He has entrusted wealth to us to be used wisely. The orientation then is towards stewarding wealth. This is the biblically correct view of wealth. Our good God has promised to provide for all our needs according to his riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). His provision is therefore good and not to be shunned or apologized for. Neither is it to be coveted or boasted about. The right approach is to see money and all materials resources as God’s property placed under our management. We are stewards of his provisions.

The Importance of Clean Water

635887959829433922-GTY-505416754The water crisis nightmare in Flint, Michigan began in April 2014 when the state decided to switch the source of the city’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River until a new supply line to Lake Huron was ready. Apparently ignoring the fact that the Flint River had a history of being noxiously unclean and neglecting to treat its water with an anti-corrosive agent to protect the pipes resulted in a huge dilemma in trying to restore drinkable water to the city. The toxins in the water were so bad that the water turned brown from the corrosion in the lead water mains. On top of that lead from those water mains began seeping into the tap water coming into approximately half the homes in the city. The toxins and the lead resulted in a water disaster of historic proportions in America. Residents cannot safely bathe in the water, much less drink it.

The original problem was caused, in part, in an effort to save money. The resulting catastrophe will continue to result in dire health problems among the citizens of the city – especially the children – and will in turn cost the city and the state untold millions in repair and reparations.

Had those in the decision making process of this change from Lake Huron to the Flint River anticipated the horrible outcome, they would not have hesitated to have spent the money for the anti-corrosive materials and would have possibly come up with another solution other than using the Flint River in the first place.

We cannot live without water. Worldwide contaminated water has always been a concern. Many get sick and die long before they should when they drink contaminated water. Many mission organisations exist just for that one purpose – to provide clean water for people to drink.

Contaminated water is symbolic of what Satan wants to do in our lives. You can’t always see the contamination, but when he adds his nasty and noxious toxic influence to what God has created, it brings about something harmful and impure. Contamination can be deadly. Purity is the only healthy spiritual choice. 800px-Flint_River_in_Flint_MIchigan

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24:3-4).

For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn for themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13).

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water (John 7:38).

 

I See Home

In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2)

DSC_2040I am blessed with six amazing grandchildren. The most recent addition is another precious girl from China. She was three and one half when she came into the family and was a little over four when I met her for the first time. During my second visit with her and her family, I took her and her sister to the park where her dad, Opa, and her brothers were playing basketball. On the way back, I carried her on my back. As soon as we were in sight of their house, Ava said, “I see home!”

When my son’s family picked her up in China, Ava spoke no English. As any young child can, she has learned fairly quickly although I believe some concepts are still a little confusing to her. In time, everything will make sense. What is so gratifying is that now, after just a few months, she knows exactly what “home” is. It is not only the house she lives in; it is the safe place she shares with the family that is giving her constant and unconditional love.

I am also adopted into God’s family. The older I get, the more I think of Heaven on a daily basis. I have many loved ones who are waiting for me. Jesus promised He is preparing a place for me there. With joyful anticipation, I know that not only will I have a place to forever call home, but it will be a safe place where I can continue to experience God’s constant and unconditional love. As I approach, it is my Brother and Savior who is the one carrying me on His back – every step of the way.

heavenrainbowLike Ava, I see home.

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee (2 Corinthians 5:1-5).

Anxious Thoughts

National_Park_Service_9-11_Statue_of_Liberty_and_WTCPractically everyone I know is struggling with anxious thoughts – uncertainty of finances, safety issues, health problems, dangerous weather patterns and simply losing the ability to have any certainty about where things are headed in this world. When the year that has just ended has been a particularly hard and uncomfortable one, what can alleviate anxieties about things over which we have no control?

David, the Shepherd/King, gives us the answer in Psalm 139.

Union_City_Oklahoma_Tornado_(mature)As a youth, he had already experienced that every battle he fought was not his battle, but the Lord’s (1 Samuel 17:47). Even from childhood, David’s sustainer was God. As he fought the bear and the lion, his only companion was God. As he faced Goliath, he knew that God was the only one he could count on – not heavy armor, not an army, not even his own brothers – only God. From an early age, David recognized his only provider, protector and guide was God. Where most of us would have been afraid to face a lion, a bear or a giant of a man, David was able to do so because he was sure of God’s presence. God would not allow him to go through anything that He would not bring him through.

He begins the psalm with the acknowledgment that God knows his every thought and his every move. You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways (v.1-3).

He ends with asking God to continue to search him and know his heart. Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (v.23-24).How many of us want God to recognize our anxieties, to convict us of our wicked ways? David was a rare example of a man who knew he was blessed by God, who knew he was known by God and who knew, because of his own frailties, that he needed to be examined by God daily.

David’s penning of Psalm 139 does remind us he had anxious thoughts just like the rest of us. The difference between David and many of the rest of us is that he knew those anxious thoughts were part of his life and he surrendered them in advance to God – which is what the rest of us should be doing.

“The Four Freedoms”

On January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a State of the Union address that thereafter became known as the Four Freedoms speech.

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

These essential human rights were then illustrated by my favorite American artist Norman Rockwell (1874-1978) in 1943. Originally oil paintings, these illustrations were reproduced in The Saturday Evening Post over four consecutive weeks in 1943. As a result of a subsequent touring exhibition, the accompanying sales of war bonds raised over $132 million. Freedom from Want has also become known as the “Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving.”

These freedoms mentioned by President Roosevelt and illustrated by Norman Rockwell are being challenged even within American shores. They have not been attained “in our own time and generation.” More than ever, we need to defend these freedoms.

Even so, these freedoms can be practiced in societies that try to tear them down because God is in charge. What He wants His children to do does not depend on what any government says.

Freedom of Speech

472px-%22Freedom_of_Speech%22_-_NARA_-_513536Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.” But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not (Jeremiah 20:9).

Freedom of Worship

471px-%22Freedom_of_Worship%22_-_NARA_-_513537Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! (Daniel 3:28).

Freedom from Want

lossy-page1-402px-%22Freedom_From_Want%22_-_NARA_-_513710.tifIf then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you (Luke 12:29-31).

Freedom from Fear

474px-%22Freedom_from_Fear%22_-_NARA_-_513538“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:28-32).

Mankind will forever be fighting for these freedoms on earth. Trust God. He determines how these freedoms will be exercised in the lives of His own for if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed (John 8:36).