MISSION OF THE LOVING SHEPHERD

"We Dare To Believe"


 


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Devotionals
7 Day Devotional: Stewardship


Contents:

Day 1: The Law vs. The Gospel: Tithing vs. Generosity
Day 2: The Danger of Manipulation: the Story of Ananias & Sapphira
Day 3: How I Quit Tithing and Slept Better
Day 4: What Does God Expect of Me?
Day 5: How to Miss the Best and Settle for Less.
Day 6: A Story of the Accountable Steward.
Day 7: The Heart of the Matter

Introduction:

Money and stewardship. Time and stewardship. Skill and stewardship. These are the characteristics of stewardship.

When we're reading (or writing) about characters in a novel, a character behaves in a certain way. Their behavior gives them personality. As we observe the character we decide if we approve or disapprove of their personality, their character.

In our story, our character has an identity. We've been told, if we've spent any time in Sunday school, that money, time and skill define our stewardship. How we make use of our money, time and skill determines if we are acceptable or unacceptable stewards.

Jesus offered several teaching stories about stewardship. Some of those examples are: 1) The servants given five, three, and one talent (Matthew 25). 2) The scattering of seeds (Matthew 13, Mark 4), and 3) The parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16). Obviously, we are to make good use of our money, time and skill, if we hope to be considered worthwhile stewards.

Benefits abound for worthy stewards. Recognition. Additional responsibility. Preference. Then there are the disadvantages of poor stewardship. Rejection. Embarrassment. Disapproval.

This week I'm going to talk about stewardship. Stewardship usually isn't a very popular subject. In fact, stewardship is a subject some Christians would just as soon avoid thinking about or doing anything about.

But don't let yourself skip these devotionals, because I want to show you how a proper view of stewardship can be exciting and fun. Keep a journal of your thoughts during this week.

Let's jump into it, because God has something special for you. Read “Day 1.”

Day 1: The Law vs. the Gospel: Tithing vs. Generosity

In writing my story in my journal, I reluctantly did the research on stewardship. Here's what I found. Some of it I knew. Some of it I didn't know. See what you think.

Admittedly, I got conned into accepting a principle God no longer supports. The scam was slick. The presentation and promise were appealing. It seemed righteous, yet it was anything but righteous.

What am I jawing about? Tithing stewardship vs. Generosity stewardship.

My point is, I got short-changed into accepting tithing as God's intention. It isn't. Bear with me, because this is revealing.

Tithing, as I knew, is a math equation. It involves working out percentages. For instance, if I give someone a bite of my apple, it may actually be less than a tithe of my apple. (Stay with me). If there are 20 bites, in a whole apple, then one bite is just 5%. That 5% doesn't constitute a tithe. A tithe, by OT standards, is 10%. So, if I intend to tithe my apple, I have to allow two bites of my 20 bite apple. Anything less would not represent a tithe of my apple. Now, in a similar way, if I'm tithing time, talents, or treasure the OT percentage is 10%. If this is done daily, 10% of my day, time wise, is 2.4 hours, while 10% of my talent is nothing, if I don't have any talent. And finally, a daily 10% of my treasure, based on my annual gross income and split out into daily increments, amounts to more than what I've been taught is a tithe. Follow?

Okay, let me yammer on. Tithing isn't mentioned in the NT. I didn't know this.

The NT establishes a different word: offering. An offering, as I tracked it, upgrades the concept of giving to: generosity.

Generosity has nothing to do with percentages. A generous offering may mean 5% of my apple or sacrificially handing over the whole apple.

Thus, tithing looks like the better deal, but it isn't the NT way. Tithing is the Law. Generosity is the Gospel.

Did you know that?

Day 2: The Danger of Manipulation: the Story of Ananias & Sapphira

In my story, my preference is to be thought of as a good person. Specifically, a fine, upstanding, and dependable person sounds even better.

But honestly, I'd confess I sometimes fudge things, to make myself appear acceptable. I want to be a part of the in¬ crowd. I acted this way until I read the story of Ananias and Sapphira.

The story in Acts 5 has everything to do with integrity, and figures into our ongoing discussion of NT giving. That is, the proper and the improper way to give. Obviously, there are serious consequences to contemplate.

Apparently, there was a lot of enthusiasm for associating with the apostles and disciples of Jesus. People happily gave something, sometimes everything, for the cause of Christ. All for the common good.

What was offered was recorded in a financial ledger. If there was ever a question concerning what was given, the records were available. It was a reliable and uncomplicated system.

Ananias and Sapphira gave what they gave. It seemed generous. In fact, Ananias and Sapphira agreed and went on record saying it was everything they had. But, it wasn't. They held back a little for themselves. A rainy day sum. In other words, they lied about what they gave.

Ananias and Sapphira may have lived happily ever after among the brethren, if it weren't for the Holy Spirit. As you recall, the Holy Spirit is God.

The Holy Spirit tattled on Ananias and Sapphira. The Holy Spirit whispered to Peter the truth ofthe matter. Peter confronted Ananias ... and then, Sapphira. Both lied. Both died.

The unmistakable point is, who can lie to God with impunity? No one. The Holy Spirit is watching and knows everything. This is a sobering truth. Because it's dangerous to try to manipulate circumstances to make ourselves look good.

As centuries have come and gone is it now easier to manipulate the Holy Spirit?

No, it's just as impossible.

Day 3: How I Quit Tithing and Slept Better

In my continuing story, in my not too distant past, I resented being asked for money for any cause.

I practiced this sound financial principle I heard from I can't recall where:

• Get all you can,
• Can all you get,
• Sit on the lid, and
• Poison the rest.

I never thought of myself as a bad person.True, I didn't always sleep well, still I didn’t feel guilty about not giving up my money, either. However, my ideas began to change when I asked myself: What’s God’s plan for me? Selfishness? Of course not. I figured God's plan was closer to selflessness.

So, I thought about flipping my thinking from canning to distribution. Here's what I mean, instead of declaring, “This is mine!” I comprehended that God was giving me a chance to climb out of my poverty thinking by distributing generously to others.

In my mind I could hear Jesus saying: “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” (Matthew 7:21)

This challenged me. I searched for a cause I could be passionate about. I found more than one. I prayed about these chances to be a better steward. I soon realized God is interested in something far more than money. Like what? God wants my heart. Because if God has my heart, what am I not going to give God? Before, when someone talked about giving money, I became defensive or simply plugged my ears and refused to listen. Now, I listen. I discuss the opportunity with God. I do what I'm directed to do.

And, I sleep better.

I've discovered if God has my heart there isn’t anything I could (or would) withhold. Try it and see what happens. What have you got to lose?

What have you got to gain?

Day 4: What Does God Expect of Me?

As my story continues, now with a new attitude and behavior, I revised my question, What does God expect from me?

When I initially thought of expectation, my first sentiment had little interest in God's expectation. Instead, my first thought was, what can I expect from God? I focused on me, not God.

Such was the caliber of my thinking since my free fall from innocence. Fortunately, I remembered my downfall happened in the Garden of Eden. Although I realize, some refute the Garden’s former existence. Eden, to them, is fiction.

But regardless of what anyone else believes as truth, my previous behavior supported me above all, and God maybe. Until I voluntarily made myself ponder expectation from God's point of view.

Until that time, it never crossed my mind that God's perspective was important. I mean, excuse me, I'm trying to feed and clothe my family, and keep my place of employment thrilled with me. You know what I mean? I'm under a lot of stress here. Who's able to devote time to God's expectations?

This, of course, is the old fashioned Christian word blasphemy. Blasphemy isn't the word I used to describe me, but I certainly can, in rare honest moments, picture me as being the epitome of blasphemy. I'm not proud of this. I am ashamed. The point is, I've let God down (again) ... if that's possible.

But let's not wallow in this muck. Stay on message: What does God expect of me?

God expects me to be what the Lord created me to be. God expects me to be the image of Jesus. Holy. Righteous, which embraces generosity.

Restated, the Creator expects me to reflect the generosity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So when I'm focusing on stewardship, I need to be focusing on generosity. Because God is generous.

This is what God expects of me.

Jesus said, “Let your light shine.”

God has already provided everything I need to meet His expectations.

Day 5: How to Miss the Best and Settle for Less.

In my story, you must understand that I didn't intentionally set out to deny myself the best. But this is exactly what I did. It was my fault. I cheated myself out of owning and experiencing God's plan for me.

Yesterday, I admitted my first thought was about me, not God.

Today, I want to show you how this caused me to settle for less than God's best. Sadly, this is another big mistake I made.

I should say what settling for less than God's best looks like. Inertia. No movement. For me, rather than moving forward, I stood still. I didn't move. Inertia paints a picture of no positive action or effort. This was me. Same-o, same-o. Self-satisfied. Nothing changed.

Why did I need to change? (I want to hammer this home.) I obviously needed to change because I was cutting myself out of God's best.

To illustrate, I'll take a thought from the John 10:10 devotional series. Jesus said, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” My stewardship suffered because the thief tricked me into accepting less as God's best. Foolish me.

The best, of course, results from Jesus' concluding words in John 10:10, “I have come to give you life abundantly.” Therefore, my stewardship prospers when I live inside the fullness of my relationship with Christ.

So, the best God has for me looks different than, less than God's best. The best looks like prosperity. Prosperous stewardship is the result of my harmonious relationship with God, not my harmonious relationship with the thief.

This relationship with Christ is the difference of being cheated out of God's best, or obtaining God's best.

I'm learning how to become a better steward by receiving God best. I've stopped settling for less.

Make a list, what are you getting?

Day 6: A Story of the Accountable Steward.

In my story, I benefited from someone else's story.

A case study that explains this is located in your Bible, in the book of Luke, chapter 16. It's titled in my Bible: A Dishonest Manager or The Parable of the Shrewd Manager.

What these verses taught me is the proper way to handle someone else's wealth. I'm sure this study will do the same for you. This will save you tons of misery ... and save you some embarrassment.

The setting of this manager's story takes place in a rich man's house and his business territory. The characters are a shifty steward and his tolerant-to-a- point boss. The plot is an employee handling the financial affairs of his employer's organization. The conflict is this manager's shrewd and scheming personality. And finally, Jesus' theme is about God's outlook on our trustworthiness and honesty.

When you gather the fast facts of the story, this manager was no dummy. He didn't rise to his position because he was stupid. 1) Yet, the manager was accused of wasting and misusing company funds. 2) He asks himself, what can I do if I don't do this? 3) Then the manager devises a strategy to save his job. 4) He settles his master's accounts by giving borrowers an unmerited discount. 5) By doing this, he raises quick cash and improves the bottom line. 6) The boss was impressed with the shrewdness of this manager.

But then Jesus gives the story a twist. Jesus states that this story is about the love of money vs. the love for God.

What a mess! It's a gotcha situation. I can't squirm away. There's little for me to do but 'fess up that I've been dishonest, that I mishandled and misappropriated what I was entrusted with. I couldn't cheat God and get away with it forever.

This is the point, am I handling my Master's affairs properly? Am I a responsible and an accountable steward?

What happens when God checks the ledger?

Day 7: The Heart of the Matter

This brought me to the heart of the matter in my story.

I've hinted at what God expects and desires of me. Above everything — money, time, and regarded good works — God wants my heart.

I'm afraid of this. If I give God my heart what is going to happen? Am I afraid of intimacy with God?

I am, or rather, I was.

At the outset, I was fearful to love God. I was frightened to let God love me. It isn't that I believed that God had some twisted motive to dominate me, I was simply totally ignorant of understanding who God was and who He is. I was terrified of being unjustly taken advantage of.

Can you imagine God doing such a thing?

Of course, you can. If God loves us so much, why do babies die? Why do tornadoes tear up the innocent? Why are solid citizens oppressed by Machiavellian bureaucracies? Why don't I have a better job?

Unfortunately, it took me too much time to see things clearly. The answers to the above questions, although I'm quick to deny it, occur because of me. It may seem like a stretch to say that I caused these events. But why is this so? Because I walked away from God.

Honestly, the truth is, I willfully disobeyed the known will of God because I assumed I could get a better deal without God. Willful disobedience of the known will of God is a word I cringe to hear (or read). Sin.

Intimacy with God, is what makes my life complete. Without an intimate relationship with God, my life is unfulfilled and unsatisfied.

Nothing is going to connect me to satisfaction and fulfillment like being connected to God.

Like you perhaps did, I sang the song hundreds of times, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” but apparently I didn't believe it.

Finally, I recognized the treasure that is mine in Jesus.

Crazy, huh? It's loco because I've gone to church and Sunday school all my life, and missed the overwhelming message: God wants my heart.

This is the heart of the matter.

It's the key to approved stewardship.

Summary:

My intention this week has been to have us think through our individual stewardship program.

The Law and Gospel are at work in stewardship. We must be careful of the danger to manipulate our stewardship plan to make ourselves look good. We'll sleep better, if we examine what God expects of us and not settle for less than His best. The case study of accountability is the heart of the matter ... love of money vs. love for God.

May the Lord construct a stewardship program in your life that He can be proud of. May the Holy Spirit fill you with His desire.

Let Jesus bless your day.

About the author:

Lee Escobedo is retired from a 25+ year career in Christian radio at Family Life Radio in Tucson, Arizona.
Read his Blog @ Lee's Nite Radio
Get Lee's book Getting Unstuck: 7 Steps to Freedom @ Amazon
Contact me if you have questions or comments: service@missionofthelovingshepherd.org

God bless your day.

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