Monthly Archives: May 2014

Stewardship – God Owns It All

Peninsula Community Church

May 18, 2014

Stewardship – Be Rich – Do More, Give More

We began our study on stewardship two weeks ago. We will continue our study, today. As we read the passage before us, we see there are many principles at play in our understanding of stewardship.

As Jesus’ life was coming to a close, He was asked a question about the 2nd coming of Christ. It is interesting to note how He answers this question. In Matthew 24, Jesus deals with the condition of the world and society at the 2nd coming. But, then Jesus seems to shift from the culture to the character of those who are awaiting His return. These stories presented by Jesus speak to how we treat others (24:36-52), how we steward the gifts of God in our lives (25:1-13), and how we steward the talents given to us by God (25:14-30). What is being communicated is that stewardship is a critical part of our Christian walk and it has a bearing on our anticipation of His coming. This is the basis of the text we will read this morning, Matthew 25:14-30. Because it is a lengthy text, I will only read a couple of verses and then summarize the rest of the story. Jesus said “For it (the return of Christ) will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away….

In this story, we find that a landowner was going away on a trip. Before he left for the trip, he entrusted each of his servants with a specific number of talents. In Jesus’ day one talent was worth 6,000 denarii. One denarius was worth about one day’s wage. Therefore, let’s assume in today’s economy that a worker would make a $100 a day. Using that number would mean that one denarii was worth about $600,000. With that in mind, we find that one servant was given 5 talents or $3 million. The second servant was given two talents or about 1.2 million. And, the third servant was given 1 talent or $600,000. 

As you read this passage, note that the talents were distributed to the servants according to their ability. The word ability here is the word “dunamis.” It is the Greek word for power and carries the idea of resident power within something. It is where we get our word dynamite from. There is power resident in the dynamite but the resident power is not experienced until the fuse is lit and the dynamite explodes. The implication here is that the master discerned the ability within each servant to do what was right but they had to act to release that power. We also note that no instructions are given to the servants about what to do with the talents. There is, however, an assumption that they knew what to do based on their relationship with the master. With that in mind it would behoove us to consider that the blessing of stewardship is only activated as we act, give, and invest what God has given us.

As we continue the story, we find that the servant with the 5 talents multiplied their $3 million into $6 million. The one with two talents multiplied their $1.2 million into $2.4 million. But the one, who had been given one talent, hid his talent out of fear, so that no increase was realized. You see his view of the master held him back from investing what he was given. In the end, we find that the two servants who had invested their talents wisely were praised by the master. The master proclaimed “Well done, good, and faithful servant. You have been faithful over little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” But to the one who had not invested wisely, the master had a sad rebuke. Rather than being praised, we find that the master portrays him as being wicked and slothful. Rather than stewarding what had been given him, he kept it hidden and lost the opportunity for growth for himself and for his master. In the end, he lost what he had been given because of his lack of stewardship.

As we have noted, we must understand that God owns everything but He has entrusted us with what He owns for our enjoyment, to honor Him, and to expand the Kingdom. When we understand this principle, our attitude about how to handle the things, we have been given, will change. Let me repeat this principle, everything we have belongs to God. Look at how David describes this reality. He stated “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalms 24:1-2). God owns it, but he has given it to us to steward for our enjoyment, to bring Him glory, and to expand His Kingdom.

Paul reiterates this in Colossians 1:15 when proclaims He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. God owns it all. What an amazing reality. God created it all. It was created for Him and by Him, but we have the joy of experiencing what He has created. We have the joy of using these things for this moment in time. And, how we use what we have been given speaks volumes about who we are and speaks to the character of our inner man. 

When we understand that God owns it all and we are His stewards, our life changes and we see things differently. First, when we understand that God owns everything and we faithfully steward what He has given us, we will understand that we will not lack what we need. Notice I did not say what we want but what we need. The Psalmist observed I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing (Psalm 35:25-26).

Second, when we understand that God owns it all, we have a choice to make. We can choose to hold onto our possessions with clinched fists, or we can use what we have in a way that honors God, brings us enjoyment, blesses others, and invests in the Kingdom. The one servant made the choice to hold onto what he had been given with a clinched fist. When we realize that everything belongs to God, our fists will not be so tight around our possessions. When we hold onto what God has given us too tightly, we begin to manifest issues of greed and selfishness. This reminds me of what has been called a “monkey trap.” A monkey trap is a jar or it can be a coconut with an opening just a bit larger than the monkey’s hand. In the bottom of the jar a banana or other fruit is placed. When the monkey reaches in to grab the banana, they are unable to remove their hand because they refuse to let go of what is in their hand. All the hunter has to do is simply scoop up the monkey and haul it away. When we are led by greed, mistrust, and selfishness, we too can be carried away by the enemy’s tactics of clinched fists which is motivated by fear.

As I was preparing this I came across this story. There was a man who had worked all of his life. He had saved all of his money and was a real miser when it came to his money. He loved money more than just about anything, and just before he died, he said to his wife, “Now listen. When I die, I want you to take all my money and put it in the casket with me because I want to take my money into the afterlife with me.” And so, he got his wife to promise him with all of her heart that when he died, she would put all of the money in the casket with him. Well, one day he did indeed die. At the service he was stretched out in the casket and the wife was sitting next to her friend. When the ceremony was over and just before the funeral director closed the casket, the wife said, “Wait just a minute!” She had a small box about the size of a cigar box with her. She approached the casket and placed the box into the casket. The casket was then locked down, and rolled away. When she returned to her seat, her friend said, “Girl, I know you were not foolish enough to put all that money in there, were you?” She said, “Listen, I can’t lie. I promised him that I was going to put that money in that casket with him.” “You mean to tell me you put that money in the casket with the man?” “I sure did,” said the wife. “‘I wrote him a check and if he doesn’t cash it, then I know he changed his mind.”

When we recognize that God owns it all, our giving will be modeled by joy and not pain.  Too often we hear people say “Give until it hurts.” I beg to differ and say “Give until you have so much joy that you burst into laughter.” Being a good steward should not be painful, it should actually be the opposite. The point is this, whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:6-8). So are you laughing yet! 

The bottom line is that when we realize that God owns it all, our attitudes will change. We will not give half-heartedly, nor will we live with apathy. We will recognize that our stewardship to God is not just our service, nor is it just our giving; it is the totality of who we are. It is our money. It is the gifts we have been given. It is our calling. It is our ministry. It is our relationships. And yes, it is our world. Everything belongs to God….

Audio at http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Mother’s Day – True Beauty

Peninsula Community Church

May 11, 2014

Mother’s Day – True Beauty

Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 

Before I begin my message let me make a comment about the founding of Mother’s Day as an American holiday. The celebration for mothers has been around for centuries but the formal acknowledgement of Mother’s Day, as a celebration here in the United States, was started in 1907 by Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia, two years after her mom died. In 1910, West Virginia became the first state to recognize Mother’s Day. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson officially proclaimed Mother’s Day a national Holiday, the second Sunday of May. 

While Anna Jarvis is the founder of the holiday, it is noteworthy that her prized accomplishment soon turned to bitter disappointment. She became enraged by its quick rise to commercialization. So, the woman who founded the day, filed a lawsuit to stop the celebration of Mother’s Day in 1923. She was arrested later for disturbing the peace at a war mother’s convention. Her complaint was that she wanted it to be a day of sentiment and not profit. Her joy was turned to sorrow.

This week in my preparation time, I also came across this story. It is entitled “Just Trust Mom.” A young man was standing at the grocery store checkout line when he noticed an elderly woman in front of him.  As she unloaded her grocery cart, she kept looking up and staring at him.  After a few awkward moments, he asked, “Why do you keep staring at me?”  The woman said, “I’m sorry, but it’s just that you look exactly like my son who recently died.” “I’m so sorry to hear that,” the young man replied. “Is there anything I can do for you?” “Yes,” she said. “As I leave, if you would say, ‘Goodbye, Mother’ it would make me feel so much better because I need closure.” “I’d be glad to do that for you,” he answered.  As the old woman was leaving, he called out, “Goodbye, Mother!” After unloading his cart, the bill came to $147.50. “How can that be?” he asked the clerk. “I only purchased a few items.” “Oh,” the clerk replied, “your mother said that you would pay for her.”

I must admit to you that as I was preparing this message, I experienced  a level of struggle and difficulty as to where to take this message. The fact is, this struggle actual was used by God to solidify where I should go. The problem in part was that Mothers Day can be one of those times where we focus on the specific role of the mother in a way that disenfranchises a group of people who may be attending the service.

In the process of considering this message, I thought about some of the different circumstances moms find themselves. The fact is I have spoken to some moms this week who have experienced different circumstances. For some, motherhood was a planned process. They looked forward to it with great joy and anticipation. These women knew how many children they were going to have and when they were going to have them. And, for the most part they did not deviate from that plan. For others, motherhood was an accident or at least it was unplanned. These moms did not plan on being a mother or at least they did not plan on being a mother when when they did or for the reasons that they became pregnant. Others have experienced the struggle and continue to struggle to have children because of a barren womb and so no children have been born to them. For many others, motherhood has come as a result of adoption or by way of marriage. There are others who have had children only to find that the child died in an untimely manner or they were born with or later diagnosed with an illness that radically changed the child’s life as well as the life of the parents. Finally, we have those moms who have children who have caused problems beyond imagination. These children have rebelled against their moms and what their moms stood for. 

A secondary issue is that society has established a view of mom that creates dissonance within the individual. The success of moms has been measured by her ability to work full time and then provide for a home at the same time. It is noteworthy that in the 1950’s only 19 percent of mothers with children worked outside the home. As of 2008, more than 80 percent of women with children between 6 and 17 worked outside the home. What used to be a respected role, it seems now that moms who do stay home tend to be viewed negatively by society. Its the do it all mentality. It is the superwoman culture. Please note, I do not think that there is anything wrong with moms working outside the home. The problem is when we try to live up to society’s expectations of what motherhood is all about.

Another societal issue is that too often the success of motherhood is measured by one’s outward appearance or one’s profession and not by the inward quality of a life dedicated to God. In the passage we read that charm and beauty are not the secrets to success but a heart that fears the Lord. This is the person that is to be praised. The writer of Proverbs notes that beauty is vain and charm is deceitful. As always, we must understand that fear is not to be interpreted as trembling with anxiety. Biblical fear is an attitude by which we desire to find our pleasure and our joy in serving the Lord. This fear is an awe inspiring view of God.

With this in mind I also thought of a couple of principles that can lead us to greater success and gain a greater hope for the future. 

First, when you fear the Lord you will see that while you may or may not have chosen motherhood when you did or how you did, God will still use you. Here’s the point, you may not have chosen to be a mother, but God chose you. You may not have chosen the circumstances by which your children were born, but He will still use you and work in you.  He purposed you to raise the children you have been given. We often say that children are never a mistake, but the fact is being a parent is no mistake. For those who do not have children, God will use you to reach other children for God. 

Second, when we fear the Lord, we understand that there are no perfect mothers only perfectible people. The goal is to open ourselves to all that God is doing in us. God does not call perfect people to motherhood but He desires to perfect the non perfect people. The idea here is that God wants to place parents in flesh so that our imperfections point our children to the perfections of God. Through our imperfections we can help our children understand the forgiveness of God and the mercy of God.

Third, your past experiences do not have to dictate your future, therefore we do not walk in condemnation but in faith for a new day. The problem too often is that we view life in snapshots rather than a video. When we view life as a snapshot, we focus on one aspect of our lives rather than the totality of all that God has done through us and in us. We cannot worry about the future based on past experiences and past failures. God is in the business of changing our future and our destiny.

Fourth, we are never too old to begin again and to have a fresh start with Christ. It is never too late to start over. God is the God of new beginnings. We see this in Job’s life. We see this in Sarah’s life because she thought she was too old. We see this Ruth’s life when her world was turned upside down because of the loss of her husband. We see this in the life of Tamar who was rejected and used deception to gain what she wanted. No matter your circumstances, God is a God of new beginnings and He wants to start today. You may be disappointed in your role as a mom, but today you can start over. The fact is, we never stop being a mother or a dad. Even if you have blown it big time, you can start over. It is never too late.

How do we accomplish this? We do so by praying for our children, no matter how old they are. More can be done by prayer than by anything else we could ever do. In our prayer, we can ask that God would change our attitude and how we respond to our children. We can pray that our example before our children would be one that honors God and positively represents the kind of life we would want our children to have. We can pray and then position ourselves so that when we have the opportunity to speak the truth in love we do so with grace and love. 

In my preparation I came across the words of Dorothy Law Nolte. She wrote the poem “Children Learn What They Live.”

If a child lives with criticism, He learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, He learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, He learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, He learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, He learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, He learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, He learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, He learns justice.
If a child lives with security,  He learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, He learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, He learns to find love in the world.

Copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved – Robert W. Odom

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Stewardship – Do More, Give More

Peninsula Community Church

May 4, 2014

Be Rich: Do More, Give More

Today, we begin a new series.While this is a new series it is in reality a continuation of our previous series on the body, soul, and spirit. The title for this series is “Be Rich: Do more and Give more.” Now in an effort to give full disclosure, I must be honest with you and let you know that I borrowed the series title from Andy Stanley (with his permission of course). While this is his title, the substance of the message will be laid out in a different context. 

I also want to caution you to not let the title throw you at all. This will not be a get rich quick kind of sermon. This will not be a name and claim it type message either. It will be one, however, that will lay out some specific tenants that will help us understand the spiritual richness and completeness that comes from having an appropriate understanding of what true Biblical stewardship is all about.

Our verse this morning is a long one but it is a perfect verse for this part of our series. Because it is the perfect verse, we will park here for a couple of weeks as we review the truth expressed through these verses. In this passage, we find Jesus responding to an inquiry on what the return of the Lord will look like. 

Because of the length of this text, I will only read a couple of verses and then summarize the rest of the story. So here in Matthew 25:14-30, we find Jesus’ response to the question posed to Him. Here he relates the story of a master, a land owner, who leaves for a trip. Jesus said “For it (the return of Christ) will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away…. 

Now let me summarize the rest of the story for you. It should be noted here that the master never tells his servants what to do with the talents. He simple doles out the talents and then leaves. There is an implied sense here that they knew what to do without being coerced or told what to do in that moment. In our story, we find that one of the servants received five talents. He took those five talents and produced an additional five talents. The second servant was given two talents. He too took his talents and multiplied them so that he now had four talents. The third servant was given one talent but he chose to not multiply the talent he had been given. He chose instead to hide what he had been given. When the master returned, he called the servants into accountability. The first two servants reported their gain and the success of their investments. These servants were praised by the master. He stated “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Meanwhile, the third servant confided in the master that he hid his talent because he assumed that somehow he was preserving what had been given to him. He states that he was afraid of the master. Rather than being praised, we find that the master portrays him as being wicked and slothful. Rather than stewarding what had been given him, he kept it hidden and lost the opportunity for growth for himself and for his master.

With this story in mind, lets look at a couple of things this morning about stewardship. First, when the master gave the servants the talents, he was calling on them to become stewards. To understand this we must define what a steward is. The term steward in Biblical times was a person who manages another’s property or financial affairs or they administer anything as the agent of another or others. Please note that this includes more than money as it could be everything owned by the master. In essence, a steward is a manager. He manages another’s household or finances. 

In Biblical times it is also noteworthy that the steward was often a freedman. This means that a steward was once a slave who had been released from forced or legal servitude. The individual who was once a slave now serves the master because they want to and not because they are forced to. Before they received their freedom, the freedman was one who had been bound by slavery to serve his or her master. They had to obey the master without question. But as freedmen, everything changed. Rather than serving the master out of fear or forced labor, they now serve their master as a personal choice and with a desire to honor and please their master.

Think about this for a moment. Look at what that means for us as believers. I believe if we could grasp this principle, the focus of our stewardship would change. How we handle everything we own would change. The fact is that before Christ came into our hearts we were slaves to sin. We were mastered by sin and were forced to obey its proclivities. We were focused on ourselves and what we could gain in life rather than how we could bless others. Before Christ, we believed that we owned everything and that our destiny was totally in our hands. Therefore, we set out to get more through any means possible and at any cost. In this state of mind, we lived without any consideration of God’s will or His plan for us. We were in bondage to sin and sin controlled our ways, our thoughts, and our responses to God. But, now we serve God as freedmen. We serve Him because we want to and not because we are forced. If we could establish this principle in our hearts, the way we view stewardship would be changed forever. 

Secondly, to grasp this principle we must begin with the premise and have the understanding that God owns everything but we have the joy and the privilege to manage what we possess on behalf of God. Let me repeat this, everything we have belongs to God. Look at how David describes this reality. He stated “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalms 24:1-2). God owns it, but he has given it to us to steward for our enjoyment and to bring Him glory.

There is a third principle present in this story.  The principle is true stewardship has less to do about the possession of things and more about the character of the heart. Tony Dungy in his devotional book, “Uncommon Life” stated that in life we need substance over style. He stated that the inward character of a person is more important than his outward appearance. As we know from our study of the body, soul and spirit, the inward character of the heart will dictate our outward responses. This applies quite appropriately to our discussion on stewardship. The heart of the person will determine their stewardship more than the outward show of religious piety. In other words, we can exhibit all of the right expressions of worship. We can quote scripture. We can present ourselves as more holy than others, but the heart will almost always betray us and expose us for who we really are.

We have stated before that the condition of our heart will determine the actions we take. If our heart is right, then our actions will be right. If your belief system is in alignment with God’s word and His will, then our actions will also be in alignment with God’s word and His will. When our heart is right, we will be freer to steward everything in a more positive way and with a heart that honors God.

This reminds me of a story I heard some time ago. A local United Way office realized that it had never received a donation from the town’s most successful lawyer. The person in charge of contributions called the lawyer to persuade him to contribute: “Our research shows that out of a yearly income of at least $500,000, you give not a penny to charity. Wouldn’t you like to give back to the community in some way?” The lawyer mulled this over for a moment and replied: “First, did your research also show that my mother is dying after a long illness, and has medical bills that are several times her annual income?” Embarrassed, the United Way rep mumbled, “Um…no.” The lawyer continued: “Or that my brother, a disabled veteran, is blind and confined to a wheelchair?” The stricken United Way rep began to stammer out an apology. The lawyer interrupted her apology, saying: “Or that my sister’s husband died in a traffic accident,” the lawyer’s voice rising in indignation, “leaving her penniless with three children?!” The humiliated United Way rep, completely beaten, said simply, “I had no idea…” On a roll, the lawyer cut her off once again: “…So, if I didn’t give any money to them, why should I give any money to you?” So what was the attitude of his heart? What was his motivation in life?

The final though I want to share this morning is that biblical stewardship requires that we have a correct view of the master. Look what happens in our story. We find that two of three servants found joy in multiplying what had been given to them. But, for the third servant, we see a disturbing attitude in his heart. When we read the story, we find that the third servant did not properly steward what he had been given because he was afraid of the master. In other words, his view of the master caused him not to handle what he had been given properly. His reasoning for not stewarding what he had been given was motivated by fear. He viewed the master as a hard tough man. This attitude prevented him from managing the talent he had been given. 

The fact is our view of God will effect our stewardship. When we have a a false view of God, we tend to hoard and not give away. We tend to hide and not be transparent. We will tend to walk in fear and not in hope. Notice, that we do not see this response from those who doubled the investment. If we view God as a mean and evil God who demands obedience, we will also most likely hide what we have because we are afraid of losing what we have. But, if we view Him as a loving God who allows us to manage his possessions for His glory and for our enjoyment, we will be freed up to give more, and thus do more for the kingdom. The kingdom of God will be expanded and we will reap the benefits in the long run.

So how is your heart this morning? Do you see that all you possess belongs to God? Is your stewardship motivated by fear or by love and joy? How does your view of God change how you steward your possessions? The answers to these questions will change your view of stewardship.

 

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