Monthly Archives: June 2014

Stewardship of Our Relationships

Peninsula Community Church

Stewardship of Our Relationships

June 29, 2014

I John 4:7-12 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

Before we begin this morning let me rehearse what we have discussed so far in our series on stewardship. In our study, we have come to understand that stewardship means that God owns everything and we are simply the caretakers of God’s provision. We are to use what God has given us to provide for our families and to expand the kingdom of God. That is an exciting proposition. 

Secondly, we have come to understand that while our finances and our possessions are in essence not ours, they belong to God but God allows us to enjoy them, and to honor Him in what we have been given. With that in mind, we are also reminded that it is our spiritual duty and responsibility before God to give back to Him. Scripture speaks of the tithe as the template of measurement for giving to God. It is of note that when we give to God out of what He has blessed us with, we will reap rewards and blessings. Look at the following Scriptures with me. Please note these are not my words but are directly from God, Himself.

In Malachi 3:8-12 we find the following: Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you? ’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts. 

Too often in this passage the focus is on the negative but let’s focus on the positive. When we are faithful God will pour out a blessing upon us. The devourer will be rebuked so that you will have a fruitful life and ministry. You will be called blessed because of this. Please note that you will be called blessed by the nonbeliever as well as the believer. 

Again in I Corinthians 9:6-8 we find the words of Paul. 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.

How awesome is that we honor God in our giving and we are blessed as a result? How many believe that is God’s word? We give, God honors His word, we are blessed, and those around us are blessed as well. You see when we honor God, the blessing is never just for us. It is to be shared and will be shared without us knowing it.

Another issue we touched on is that we are to be good stewards of God’s creation as creation is a testimony to who God is and what God wants to accomplish in us and through us. By stewarding God’s creation correctly, we in essence point to God’s creative power and His sustaining power in us and in the world. We are reminded that God’s creation is in itself a testimony of God’s ability to point back to himself and to reveal who He is.

And last week, we looked at the stewardship of the Gospel. We saw that God desires that we share our faith with others. We do so to expand the kingdom of God and to reach people for Christ. We have the joy and the privilege to be God’s messengers of hope in a dying world.

This week I would like to take some time and look at the stewardship of our relationships. This may seem a strange thing but this is critical as we are living in the age of social media. In today’s environment too often we measure our security and self-worth by the number of people we have friended on Facebook rather than the value of the relationships we have. Because of social media we are more connected than ever, but studies have shown that the value of those relationships in many ways can be devalued if we are not careful. For some people this has been a blessings as they can now open up lines of communication that were not available before. For others it is a distraction from regular face-to-face or verbal communication. 

The fact is we have been given relationships and connections with others to serve one another and to honor God through those relationships. There are a number of ways to serve one another and to steward our relationships. How do we do this? 

We find ways to connect with one another. We go to dinner with one another. We communicate with one another. We do things together. One of the complaints I hear often in the church is that “I never get invited any where.” If you have made that statement have you considered that you could do some inviting on your own. Maybe God is calling you to have some folks over. This is the positive of the small groups here at PCC. If we do this right, there will be official groups that are promoted by the church and there will be spontaneous groups that get together to fellowship and to discuss God’s blessing and His word on their life. They will go to the movies. They will go the beach. They will go to a park. They will do life together.

We pray for others. How often do you pray for those with whom you are in relationship? Do you pray for them or do you have the default response of saying “I will pray for you” only to never do so? Here’s another a big question for you. Do you spend more time talking about and criticizing others than you do praying for them? When we are talking about and criticizing others it is easy to find fault with them. It is so easy for us to enter that realm of seeing the speck in others but miss the log in our own eye. I have found that criticism is contagious. Have you heard a criticism of someone and at first you don’t see it but then you continue to hear the criticism to where you begin to believe it.

Let me ask you and I do not need a verbal answer, how much time do you pray for others? How much time you spend praying for the leadership team of PCC and the ministries of PCC? How much time do you spend praying for that person on your job that drives you crazy? Or, that person next door?

We find ways to bless others. When we are in relationships, we find ways to bless others. This is true in the marriage relationship, it is true in the work relationship, it is true in the community we live, and it is true with our church family. We look for ways to bless others and not curse them. We look for ways to minister to them that builds them up and encourages them in the ways of God. Perhaps it is a card. Perhaps it is a text message. Perhaps it is word of encouragement in the hallway or the foyer of the church. Perhaps it is meeting a need in another’s life. Perhaps it is meeting a need in a way that no one else knows about. 

We forgive one another. When we are in relationship with others we must keep a short list of offenses and wrongs we have against another person. We must be able to walk in forgiveness. You see God has called us to forgive as we have been forgiven. Let me ask you how much have you been forgiven of this morning? How much did you deserve that forgiveness. It is not by chance that God placed Matthew 18 and others like it in the Bible. These passages call for us to give forgiveness and to receive forgiveness because there is freedom in forgiveness. There is freedom in letting go of the hurts and the pain of the present and the past. 

Paul honed in on this idea when he penned these words. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14).

This is a powerful scripture. It encourages a Christian lifestyle and Christian character to be revealed in each one of us. Notice what we are to put on … “Compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.” If you have a complaint, find a way to forgive which is most often a choice we make. How do we do this? Our motivation is a recognition of God’s forgiveness for us. That is our motivation. 

We should encourage one another. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11). We need to encourage one another when we see someone doing what is right in God’s sight. We need to encourage that one who has gone astray to do the right thing as well. God has planned for our gloomy days. One tool he uses is encouragement. As we encourage one another we are blessed, restored and renewed. So let’s look for ways to bring an encouraging word to others.

 

© Copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved, Robert W. Odom

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Stewardship of the Gospel

Peninsula Community Church

Stewardship of the Gospel

June 22, 2014

Colossians 1:24-29 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

As we look at this passage this morning, I would ask that you stop for a moment and consider how it was that you came to know Christ. My guess would be that it happened by way of a personal contact with someone in your life. It could have been a parent, a teacher, a coach, a good friend, or a co-worker. Now I also understand that your actual conversion or acceptance of Christ may have occurred at a church service, a revival meeting, or as you were alone but I am sure that even in that case there was someone who played a pivotal role in bringing you to that place of decision. The fact is relationships play an incredible role in seeing people come to Christ. It is noteworthy that studies have shown that the average person requires 5 significant encounters before receiving Christ as their personal Savior. This does not negate the power of the Holy Sprit to convict, but He works through His people to bring the hope of the Gospel to others. The Holy Spirit is always at work, but we get to share in the joy of the process.

It is for that reason that Paul acknowledges that he had been called to steward the Gospel of Christ. His focus was to make the Word of God fully known to everyone he encountered. He recognized that the Gospel had not been presented for him alone, but that it must be shared with others. In particular, he was called to minister to the Gentiles who were considered nonbelievers in his day. To facilitate this, he presented three ways to make the Word of God known. First, there is proclamation which carries with it the idea that the message is presented as a herald, it is done so urgently and it is spoken authoritatively. Secondly, there is warning which is reproof intended to correct a behavior that does not align itself to the word of God. And, lastly there is teaching which deals with specific issues of ignorance and lack of knowledge in certain Biblical concepts and principles. The key here is to speak to one’s emotions but also one’s heart must be enlightened as well. 

Paul also deals with sharing the gospel at the end of his letter to the Colossians. Listen to what Paul says in Colossians 4:2-6. Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

In this passage, Paul sets the example for us by praying for opportunities to present the Gospel. Paul proposes that the Colossians should pray for opportunities to share their faith with others. In particular, he requests prayer for open doors to share His faith. He knew that the God of all creation, who knows the hearts of man, also knows what they need to hear at any particular moment. So for that reason, Paul is asking for prayer that the need of the individual and the message will be united as led by the Holy Spirit. 

Let me ask you a question? How often do you pray for opportunities to share the gospel? I can assure you that if you pray and if you keep your heart open to God, you will find many opportunities to speak to others about Christ. When we pray for open doors, we must then walk with an expectant heart, for there should be an expectation that God will open doors to share His word, if we ask Him. 

The door of opportunity may include those who are battling issues in their life. It could be a next door neighbor who wants to talk. It could be having your friends and neighbors, who do not know Christ, in your home or at a restaurant, so that they get to know you better. It has been proven that most people today will not automatically come to church unless they get to know us first. I want to challenge you to consider to find a few friends, neighbors, or family members that you will share Christ with this year. Pray about having them at your home. Live out the example of Christ before them. Preach the gospel and when necessary use words.

Secondly, Paul tells us to walk in wisdom toward outsiders. First of all we don’t unload everything we know in one moment. We also attempt to ascertain the specific questions being asked so that we can answer the specific questions being asked. Too often, we are answering  questions that are not being asked. I am convinced that if we sincerely answer the questions being asked by individuals that we will be given the opportunity later to ask the questions they are not asking. When answering questions, we must answer them in a way that points to Christ and to the Gospel as a means to secure their hope and the answers to life’s issues. We must recognize that there are many today who have no knowledge of the Scriptures. They do not have the anchor of hope found in the Gospel as most people, even believers, have failed to make the gospel a functional part of their life. It is for that reason that we must not assume that those we speak with have even a precursory knowledge of the Word. 

We must also guard against always trying to a point. We do not share our faith with others to propagate our particular doctrinal nuance or even our favorite Scripture. Instead, we are to be sensitive to the needs and concerns of others. Through wisdom, in our everyday life, we have the opportunity to steward the Gospel in a way that honors God, that brings Him joy, and that expands the Kingdom of God. When we look at the needs of others we will see them in a different light.

Thirdly, make the best use of your time. When God opens a door, go through it. If it seems a door is open, then enter through that door. It is at that moment we do not have to pray about the open door, we simply go through but we never go beyond the level that the door is open. 

Fourthly, let your speech be gracious. While we speak the truth in love, we must be careful and not be too quick to judge those we are speaking with. I have seen this illustrated personally for me. In 1981, I was doing inner city Bible fellowships in NYC and the five Burroughs. One the fellowships I led was in the Bronx. We were averaging 40 to 50 adults each time we met. It was a lively group and they seemed to be growing and maturing in Christ. All was well until my overseer came to one of the meetings. He did two things that set things into a tail spin. First, he began to push that the group should become a church. This was something the group was in no way ready to do at that time. Most of them were young believers who did not have a concept of church, and what little ideas they had about the church were negatively couched. The second issue was that he began to vehemently argue against alcohol consumption of any kind. To fully understand why this was a problem, 90% of those in attendance were Italian and they consumed a glass of wine or a beer at almost every meal. In fact, my overseer and two of the men who were key leaders in the group fiercely argued over this issue. It became quite heated. Needless to say, we never met again after that. My point here is that sometimes we major on things that we do not need to major on. Once a person matures and grows in Christ, they will come to these decisions on their own or by being lovely taught the truth. 

Paul also admonished us that our speech should be and must be seasoned with salt. Salt is an amazing thing. Salt under applied makes the item seem bland. Without salt there is little taste. Too often, we present the gospel in a way that is bland and without excitement. But I am glad that the Gospel is alive and brings life to those who hear it. The Gospel presented correctly will move us and motivate us to joy. Salt also can be overused and the item we are tasting will be rejected, as it will be too salty. We must be careful also and not use a salt substitute. This does not mean that we cannot use philosophers and current thought to make a point but we must always point them to Christ. Paul was the master at this as witnessed by his encounter with the people of Athens. He found common ground so that he could speak into their lives. As he was meeting with them in the midst of Aeropagus in Acts 17, Paul does not condemn them. He notes that they are indeed very religious. He moved on their sense of self worth by way of the gods they worshipped. Then he was very wise as he found a way to turn the discussion to God. He commented that he saw that they had an altar set up to the “unknown god.” He used that as a launch point to tell them about the unknown god they worshipped. In the end, not everyone joined him but many did. The point is Paul began at a point of commonality and used that to bring them to a discussion about God.

In essence, Paul is saying let’s have a measured response to the questions being answered. To do this we must experience the Word of God for ourselves so that it is a supernatural natural response for us to give an answer because we have tried the principle and know that it works. We must love the gospel. We must Live the gospel. We must Give the gospel. 

For an Audio copy of this message you may go to www.pccministry.org

Copyright 2014 © All Rights Reserved  – Robert W. Odom

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Running the Race – Father’s Day

Peninsula Community church

Father’s Day – Running the Race – Finishing Well

June 15, 2014

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

I love American History. This week I read a story about the famous Lewis and Clark expedition across America in the early 1800s. At the end of the expedition all but two men returned with Lewis and Clark. One of those did not return because he got sick and died. The second decided that he loved the land of the west so much that he wanted to stay and explore it on his own. He waved good by to Lewis and Clark and began his journey. As he traveled the land, it has been said that he was the first white man to witness the geysers of Yellowstone. As he took this journey he encountered grizzlies, faced death defying white water, and constantly confronted Indians all of which tested his stamina and his courage. This man’s name was John Colter. But, John was not known for the grizzlies or first seeing the geysers, he is best known for one foot race, because he had to literally run for his life.

The story goes something like this. Colter had been trapping with a friend named John Potts. As they were canoeing down a stretch of river that is not far from what is now Bozeman, Montana they heard a rustling in the bushes. In the next instant, they were surrounded by Blackfeet Indians. Once on shore, one of the warriors grabbed Potts weapon, a rifle. Colter knew that any sign of fear would cost them their lives so he grabbed the gun from the warrior and threw it back to Potts. The warrior stood amazed at this act. Out of fear Potts jumped back into the canoe and was immediately shot by the arrows of the Blackfeet. The canoe and his body floated downstream. Now Colter was on the shore alone and without a weapon. The indians not knowing what to do held a powwow. One of them came up with an idea. They asked Colter if he could run as fast as a deer. He said I cannot run as fast a deer but only as slow as a turtle, which was not true for he was actually a very fast runner. The chief of the tribe took the bait and led them to a sandy knoll. He marked a line in the sand where his warriors readied themselves. He then took Colter and gave him a 300 yard head start. 

Colter quickly outpaced his pursuers. His was naked, his feet were bloody, and his body ached from the pain of the cuts he received from running on the rocks and briers. He outpaced most of the warriors but as he looked back there was one lone warrior who was closing within 200 yards. When the warrior reached 50 feet, Colter turned, faced the warrior, and threw his hands up over his head as if in surrender. Startled, the warrior threw his spear at Colter but as he threw it, he fell face first in the sand. Colter quickly took the spear and ran it through the warrior. Colter fled knowing that the others would be right behind him in a matter of moments. In the middle of the river Colter saw a sand bar. He swam to the sand bar because at the head was a log jam. He swam under the log jam where he found a space which was covered by logs overhead. The indians passed by and never saw him. All was not over. In the cover of darkness Colter swam downstream until he found a bank with a covering of trees. there he lay cold, naked, and bleeding. He was 150 miles from the nearest point of civilization. But he knew if he lay there he would die. So off he went and in seven days he made the 150 mile trek to Bighorn compound. He pressed through and survived. He could have given up but he pressed through.

Certainly, we may never have to run for our life in the way that Colter did but whether we recognize it or not we are all in a race as believers. And, in many ways it is a race for our lives but it is one that is both spiritual and physical. Paul understood this and it was for this reason that he penned the words we read this morning. To communicate his message he uses two athletic metaphors. And in so doing he gives us guidance on how to be an effective and productive athletes that run the race to our fullest capacity.

The first thing Paul communicates is that we have to be in the race. If we want to receive the prize, we have to be in the race. We cannot think that we will win if we don’t run the race. In this race, for some, it is like a sprint and for others it is like a marathon. In fact, in a marathon the quest of the runner is not so much to win first place but to finish the race. As a believer, we join this race the day we accepted Christ as our personal savior. 

Secondly, Paul communicates that athletes exercise self-control. They realize that for them to win the race that they have to be in good shape. It is the same as we run the race in Christ. Self-control means that the runner prepares themselves so that they are equipped with the tools they need to run the race. Most runners I know do not wake up the morning of the race and decide they will run a marathon. In fact, they are running every day to prepare themselves and to condition themselves to endure the race. They watch what they eat. They watch their sleep habits. Runners also realize that they must also pace themselves in the race. When they are in a marathon they are not racing against the other athletes as much as they are racing against themselves. They realize that they cannot exert all of their energy early in the race only to find that they have used up all they have in the early goings. So too, we must not judge the end of our lives by the individual blips on the screen. We must run with endurance. 

Marathoners say that at the 23 or 24 mile mark they hit a wall. The wall is the conflux of fear, physical fatigue, and mental exhaustion. But for that one who prepares and trains correctly they will be able to push through the pain, fear, and exhaustion. As believers, we face difficult times that can bring fear, cause physical pain, and mental exhaustion but when we have prepared ourselves we will be able to push through. We hold onto the promises of God. We focus on the strength that is ours in Christ. We remember that God is with us and He is there to cheer us on as we run the race. 

Thirdly, athletes in human races run for perishable wreathes but as believers we run the race for crowns that are imperishable. You see in the days of Paul, the reward would be a wreath of olive leaves shaped in the form of a horseshoe. These were perishable rewards. The reward we are running for is not destroyed. Paul spoke to his son in the faith and proclaimed that I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

It is interesting to note that Xerxes was interrogating some Arcadians after the battle of Thermopylae. He asked why there were so few Greeks in the battle. His answer was that they were participating in the Olympic Games. when asked what the winner received he stated that he received an olive-wreath. Then Tigranes one of the generals uttered: “God heavens! what kind of men are these against whom you have brought us to fight? Men who do not compete for possessions but for virtue. May it be that we run not for possessions but for the virtue of Godliness.

Fourth, we do not run aimlessly. A runner runs with a goal in mind. They know there is a goal line and that is their focus. They do not run all over the place. They run the most direct path possible. Paul speaks of this in Ephesians 4:14 when admonishes the Church of Ephesus to grow into maturity, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 

Paul emphases this point by adding a second athletic metaphor. He references the boxer. Paul states that when the box is in the ring, he does not box as one beating the air. In other words, what we do counts for something. We are not just swinging and hoping to hit something. We focus on the goal of integrity, righteousness, and God’s will and swing hard.

Fifth, the reason that Paul shares these thoughts is that he does not want to do anything that would disqualify him from the race. Paul does not want to cheat to get to the end. He does not want to cause another harm to be the winner. One of the saddest stories was that of Lance Armstrong. He was a great competitor but was so focused on winning that he was willing to do anything to win and in the end he lost it all. Paul did not want to be disqualified by his attitude or his emotion. He did not want fear to control how he would finish. He wanted to be faithful to the end. He wanted to leave a legacy. He also recognized that the process of preparation and the race it self was just as important as the finish. The process is always more important than the finish. The reason is that in the process we grow and mature. In the process, we develop a sensitivity to God’s will and His word. In the process, we learn much about ourselves and when we allow the change to occur we are better for it.

Paul said it fairly succinctly when he stated But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:11-16).

We run this race with integrity. We run this race to finish. We run this race to influence those around us. We run this race to to leave a legacy so that others challenged to run the race as well. Watch this video clip from the movie “Courageous” with me. 

So will you run the race with faithfulness and integrity?

 

 

Copyright 2014, Robert W. Odom, All Rights Reserved

 

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Stewardship of God’s Creation

Peninsula Community Church

June 8, 2014

Stewardship – Stewardship of God’s Creation

Genesis 1:26-28 “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

In recent years we have heard much news on the environment, global warming, and climate change. We know that billions of dollars have been spent to attempt to evade what some are calling a cataclysmic problem that could destroy the world, as we know it. Proponents of these ideas continue to press the issue by pushing for less coal production, less oil drilling, less gas extractions by concentrating on more natural energy sources such as wind mills and solar panels. While all of this is a valiant effort, it seems to me that little has changed with the climate, although there has already been a large amount of money spent, jobs lost, and prices have drastically increased. 

While we may argue the validity of such claims, the point is we do have a level of responsibly to properly steward the earth and the creation of God. But we must do so in a way that is balanced and Biblically based. The fact is, God has created the world and everything in it. By way of God’s creation, we find that creation itself points us to God and in so doing creation proclaims the glory of God. The intricacies of creation point to a God who is the creator, sustainer, and protector of the earth and His creation. 

Romans 1:19-20 verifies this. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. We also find confirmation of this in Colossians 1:16-17. 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. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

To fully understand the stewardship of creation, we are reminded that God is the creator of all things in heaven and on earth. The undeniable fact is, He is the creator; and He has ultimate ownership of all things. This is confirmed throughout Scripture and particularly by the Psalmist in Psalms 24:1-2. “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.” 

While God created the heavens and the earth, He also created mankind to be intricately involved in creation. Man was not designed to be a passive bystander but he was to be involved. We must understand that God created man to steward His creation. As we have noted before, man gets to enjoy the creation of God, to honor God through our use of what God created, and we have the privilege of using God’s creation to point to people to Christ, glorify God, and to expand the kingdom of God. 

In our passage, we find there are three things that speak to man’s stewardship of God’s creation. First, as a steward of God’s creation, man has been called to be fruitful and multiply. This concept coincides with the parable of the talents. The servants who were complimented were complimented for multiplying their talents. Mankind was called to populate the earth and to multiply what they had been given. The debate is not about how many children you may have but whether you are multiplying what you have. The fact, is God is blessing families and He is blessing the idea of children.

Second, man was to subdue the earth. Man was to rule the earth under the direction of God and according to the laws of God. As we look at society today, we find that man wants to rule the earth without understanding the laws of God, and they do so without obedience to God. Too often this leads to worshipping the earth, but there is a big difference between ruling the earth and worshipping the earth. People, today, are fulfilling the warnings of Romans 1 in unprecedented ways. There is no doubt that people have succumbed to creation worship rather than God worship. The result is a devaluing of man and God. Secondly, when we put the earth, trees, and other living things on equal footing with God, we have created a problem for ourselves and for others. When this occurs, we are in fact minimizing God’s purpose for man and we in fact are devaluing God. Now, let me be clear about something. Our view of God does not change who God is or what God purposes for our lives. It does, however, change how we interact with God and how we do what we do for God. You see it is about our understanding of God and not about God, as God does not change.

You see Paul warned the Christians of Rome about the potential to worship the creation at the expense of worshipping the creator. This kind of worship falls within two extremes. First, there is materialism. Through materialism people are motivated by greed and natural problems are resolved redistribution of resources. The earth is in essence destroyed for personal gain. We do so without any concern of glorifying God but solely for personal gain. 

The second extreme is to believe that God is in everything and is a part of everything. We call this Pantheism. Pantheism is the belief that God is the chair, the tree, the ocean, or the dog. To believe this and to propagate this idea is to minimize the character and grandeur of God. People revere nature to the degree that nature is not allowed to be used for anything at all for everything is sacred.

Third, man was to have dominion over the animals. The animal kingdom was created to serve mankind. When Adam was placed in the garden, he was to tend and care for the garden according to the standards God had established. Adam was to work. Adam was to plant. Adam was to harvest the crops. Adam was to tend to the animals and the plants in the garden. You see the Garden of Eden was not an absence of work. This was evidence by the fact that we believe that work was not hard because they not experienced a fallen creation. Some Christians have a faulty view of this idea of dominion. They use dominion as an opportunity to destroy the earth and do whatever they want to with the earth, without any responsibility. Still others promote the act of dominion as the authorization for Christians to take over the world, take over kingdoms, and build a kingdom here on earth. 

In Genesis 2:15, we find that man’s mandate was to work the garden and to keep it. Man was not to destroy the earth by doing whatever he chose. He was not to have dominion by way of setting up a kingdom here because God’s kingdom is not of this world. From the beginning of time, God’s plan was for man to work and to steward the gift of God’s creation. Do we need to take care of the earth? Absolutely, yes! Any good farmer knows that if you do not tend to the ground that you plant, your productivity will be reduced. Throughout the Old Testament, we see God establish natural laws that guide us as to how we are to tend for God’s creation. For example, when God created the heavens and the earth, He modeled the need to rest and to be revitalized. While we have been placed on the earth to care for the earth, we must never place a higher value on the environment that we do on mankind, who inhabits, subdues, and has dominion over it.

Through our discussion, we are reminded that God is the creator of all things. But we are also reminded that sin has destroyed God’s original intent for mankind and for God’s creation. Because of the sin and the failure of mankind, the earth has become corrupted. Not only is there a curse on man but there is a curse on the earth. It is for that reason, we see that the earth and the creation of God is awaiting the coming of the final and complete redemption by way of Christ’s 2nd coming. But here’s the problem, when mankind sinned the very ground was cursed. Instead of work being a joy, it was now labor. Man now had to work by the sweat of his brow. He had to deal with weeds and thorns that challenged his labor. This is confirmed by Paul’s words in Romans 8:22-23. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

So how do we live this out? First, we take only what we will use. When I was growing up my dad was a hunter. His rule was this, what you shoot you eat. We never hunted for sport, we hunted for food. The same was true of fishing. We would fish for food and not sport. He did not know what catch and release was.

Second, we plant and restore what we have destroyed. Once again when we were kids my brother was a member of the 4-H Club. He purchased hundreds of pine trees which we took to my grandfather’s house where we planted them. Why? Because my grandfather was a lumberjack and he had a desire to replenish the land.

Third, this means what we possess we need to take care of. What is the condition of your car? What is the condition of your home? Are you a good steward of what you possess? Do you treat what you have as if it is owned by God. Once again, I remember my dad’s rule was that if we borrowed something from someone, we were to return it in better shape than we borrowed it. He wanted us to understand that we were stewards of what we were borrowing. 

And lastly, how are you using what you have been given to glorify God and expand the kingdom of God? We have all been given a part of God’s creation and how we steward that speaks to who we are and what we are about. 

So how are you doing? If there are things that need to change, we can do so by the power of the Holy Spirit and through making choices which honor God.

 

Visit www.pccministry.org for the audio version of this message. Note that the notes presented here and the audio message with vary in detail.

 

Copyright 2014 © All Rights Reserved, Robert W. Odom

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Stewardship – Our View Of God Will Determine Our Stewardship

Peninsula Community Church

June 1,2014

Be Rich: Do More, Give More 

Our View of God Will Determine Our Stewardship 

Matthew 25:24-26 “He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours. ’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?

As I return to this message, I must say that this can be a just as hard of a series to preach and as it is to listen to because too often the very mention of the word stewardship can illicit emotions that are painful, are filled with mistrust, and bring a sense of rejection. Too often, we are presented sermons which seem to ram finances down our throats and too often the focus is on guilting people to give or to do rather than issuing a godly challenge of inspiration; but that is not the intended goal here. The goal is to present the truth of the gospel and then allow God to bring about the conviction and the change needed. I am also convinced that we need this message. I need this message. We all need this message. If we get this, our lives will forever be different. 

To be honest with you, as I was preparing this message I was reminded that we all have some areas in our lives that require realignment with God’s will, His word, and His purpose. How many have ever had a car that was out of alignment? When one’s car is out of alignment there is a tendency to veer to the right or the left. When driving the car, it takes a lot of work to maintain a straight path. But, when the car is aligned, the amount of labor required to keep the car on the right trajectory is reduced. So it is spiritually. When we are aligned with God’s will, His word, and His purpose for our life, we find an easier go of things.

Let me look at this another way. Do you remember when you learned to ride a bike? I remember it clearly. In front of our house was a slight incline. My older cousin would take me to the top of the incline, place me on the bike and would walk behind me while she would hold onto the bike to steady it. She did this several times until I was able to gain my balance. At first, it seemed awkward and there was a fear of falling and hurting myself. After a period of time, I remember looking back and realized that she was not longer holding onto the bike. I was riding all by myself. And then I crashed. Eventually, I got the hang of it, and I could ride the bike without falling. In fact, it was not very long before I was able to pop wheelies, ride with no hands, jump off of a 5 foot cliff and more. Why? Because I developed my ability and I had a confidence in the principles of bike riding. When I followed the principles of bike riding, I could ride without fear of falling and if I did I picked myself and continued riding.

My point is this, stewardship can seem foreign to us, especially when it comes to our finances. But as we continue to give our lives, our finances, and our abilities to God; we will be amazed at what we will be able to do. When we learn the principles of stewardship, we will gain our spiritual balance and amazing things will happen. Remember, true Biblical stewardship recognizes that God’s resources are to be deployed through God’s people to accomplish God’s mission. All we have belongs to God and as we come to the place were we can release what we have and trust God with what we have, we will be blessed beyond measure because we will see the Kingdom of God expanded and Christ proclaimed in ways that could not be done otherwise.

Today, I want to focus our attention on the attitude of the servants who were given the talents. As we read this story we find that their attitude toward the master dictated how they invested what they had been given. Two of the servants doubled their investment while the one failed to do so because he was afraid of his master. The first two servants had a healthy view of their master while the third servant projected an unhealthy view of his master. Listen to the words of the servant. ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.’

Just as the servant’s attitude affected his investment, when we have a unhealthy view of God our actions are affected as well. The servant’s view of his master was that He was a hard task master. Because of his attitude, the fear he had of the master trumped his respect for the master. When we walk in fear, we tend to do things that we do not normally do. Charles Stanley had this to say about fear. First, fear stifles our thinking and our actions. It causes indecisiveness that results in stagnation which erodes confidence. Second, fear hinders us from becoming the people God wants us to be. When we are dominated by negative emotions, we cannot achieve the goals He has in mind for us. Third, fear can drive people to destructive habits. We often turn to artificial relief that creates even more issues rather than changing our emotions. Fourth, fear steals our peace. When we live in fear, our life becomes centered on pessimism and gloom. We can develop a negative outlook on life and on our talents and gifts. And lastly, fear creates doubt. God has given us great promises, but when we walk in fear, we will lack trust and we will doubt the words and the promises of God. This is deadly because it is the promises of God that bring freedom and victory for us.

The fact is our view of God effects our stewardship. And, for that matter our view of God effects everything we do. How do we steward our time? How do we steward what we have been given? How do we steward our friendships and relationships? How do we steward God’s creation? Our view of God matters.

The question to be considered here is whether or not we trust God or do we fear Him? Do you trust God that He will do what He says He will do? Or, are you bound by fear? Are you afraid of the giving of yourselves because you have tried before and failed. Have you tried to sing but felt embarrassed and self conscience? Maybe you tried to teach but felt you were not accepted and you felt rejected by those you taught. Have you tried to play an instrument, but were intimidated by others with greater talents? Not only do we exhibit a fear of people and success, but we can have an unhealthy fear of God. 

When we exhibit an unhealthy view of God, we will be focused on the here and now and not the future that is available to us. This focus should be on what we are investing in. Are we investing in eternal things or those things that will only rust and be destroyed? We don’t trust God because we don’t truly believe His word that is filled with promises of blessing when we honor God with what we have been given. We hold onto to things so tightly that we lose control anyway. 

Our view of God will determine if we are tippers or if we tithe. A Center on Philanthropy Panel Study found the average Christian household gives an average of 2.6% to the church which is far from the touted 10%. If that is the case, we are not even good tippers. The writer of Proverbs exhorts us to Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10). 

In Malachi we have this blessing outlined for us. “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return? ’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you? ’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.

I am often asked about what to tithe on. Do I tithe on the gross or the net? My reply is how much of a blessing do you want? Do you want a net blessing or a gross blessing? 

So do you fear or do you trust? Your answer will speak volumes about your heart and about your view of God. 

 

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June 2, 2014 · 10:33 am