Providence of Stewardship PII

 

Providence is about the fact, as it applies to stewardship, we have the comfort that Christ is in charge. All we are and have is for His glory and we are His steward.

At the same time, we have free choice, and also determination. This is where we can excel or get ourselves into trouble!

Somehow, beyond our capacity to reason, these two seemingly conflicting sets of reason, free will and providence, come together as friends (St. Augustine and Spurgeon). In theological terms, this is called Concurrence. This is the coterminous relationship between God’s decree and our free choice that somehow are shared in our journey through life, that our free will and choices work into His foreordained degrees without assault to our decisions.

Thus, if we do not receive His Grace and Salvation, even though His election exists, it is because we choose to not accept Him, which He sees by His foreknowledge, and applied to His purpose. To what extent this occurs is a matter of hot debate amongst theologians. But, is safe to say, He is ultimately in charge. (Yes, this will “blow out mind:” i.e. your thinking ability!) Even Calvin spent more time defending and explaining human responsibility and our duty to prayer more than any other subject in his writings. So, it is all in His hands, and it is up to us to get to work, trusting and obeying Him.

Providence refers to God’s foreknowledge. That means that God sees beforehand, and provides. It is a word we do not see much of today, but it has a rich history amongst the Puritans and Reformers as the great comfort that God is God and LORD over all.

God is no clockmaker who made the world, set it in motion, then left it, as the Deists proclaimed. God has ultimate authority and sovereignty over all the affairs of humanity. He is directing, involved, and working through it all, giving us mercy and guidance. He creates, He sustains. The universe is dependent upon His involvement, moment upon moment.

Ultimately, we do not have control over life or death. We make decisions, and we are called to seek Him first (Matt. 6:33). He is our ultimate safety net and security, both in life and eternity. Worry should not even come to our minds, because He is in charge (Matt. 6:25-34). We are in God’s provision, and nobody else has ultimate control. All power and authority is His by both direct and indirect means.

So, what does this have to do with stewardship? A lot!

We need to see our life as being in His hands of love and comfort, that He does have a wonderful plan for our lives, and everything happens for a reason and a purpose. So, we can manage, lead and be wise stewards of all He gives to us, because our comfort is that it is all His, we are His and all we do is for Him, Christ’s glory. So, yes we can excel and do our best!

As we manage God’s stuff and our lives, we need to look for logic, reason, and biblical precepts.

Because, His truth remains the same. We have to see all that happens in our life—form sufferings, tragedies, good times, what we have, what we can do, and all–as opportunities to learn, grow, develop character, and mature. If not, we miss out on what is important in life, causing it to be meaningless!

 

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Updated Research?

We do have some ongoing research, the problem is we have no funding or staff to work it for publication.

So far, there have been no significant variation of what we found and published. Except, there is less giving in American churches, from 2006 to present, due to the economy and loss of jobs and a decrease of income. That is the big variance now and we have not seen any improvement in the last several months, contrary to what has been reported in the media; rather, a significant decrease in giving across the board.

 

The key reason is less about money, and more about the fear of losing what one already has or can have.

Thus, many Christians are not giving because of fear and not realizing the providence of God or being grateful for Who and What He has done.

 

 

The Providence of Stewardship

What is a good way to have good Stewardship? We talked about gratitude, now, one more key word, Providence!

Providence (Genesis 50:20; Job. 38:1-41:34; Psalm 103: 19; Daniel 4:34-35; Acts 2:22-24; 14:16; Romans 1:26-32; 11:33-36; James 1:13-17)

Providence is the doctrine that gives us the knowledge and comfort that God is Sovereign, and thus, He is in control. We are not mere rats in a meaningless maze, where there is no divine plan or purpose.

God, indeed, is in control. Thus, he is in control of our lives and in our finances, if we allow Him to do so.

He does, indeed, have a plan; there is no stray molecule in the universe that does not have His hand of control over it. So, let Him have your checkbook! Be wise with His principles!

Jesus tells us that God knows when even a sparrow falls to the ground. He knows the number of hairs on our head–or the number of hairs we do not have. Therefore there is no chance, no luck, no gambling, no fate, in the worldly sense, to what if or what may have been or what is, as all things happen according to His plan.

 Providence gives us the comfort that Christ is in charge; there are no accidents or mistakes. All we are and have is for His glory and we are His steward.

Or, you may feel you have made a lot of bad decisions in life. If you feel you made too many money mistakes or feel overwhelmed, angry or even prideful that you are entitled, get over yourself and fall to your knees to the Providence of Christ!

Well, you have–we all have made bad choices—but God is still working things out for good (Rom. 8). Therefore, we have no need to dwell upon the past, complain, or play the what if games or fight with our loved ones. Just reboot to His plan and precepts and see your life change for the better, in stewardship and in life!

 How would a healthy biblical view of Stewardship, Gratitude and Providence help you and your church?

Getting our Hearts Centered On What Is Important PII

Matthew 6:19-24

Have you had possessions that claimed your identity and devotion? How and why? What can you do to rid yourself of those false devotions?

You cannot serve two masters: When your attention is divided, you cannot be attentive to either one. In biblical times slaves rarely had more than one owner. That would have been foolish, as their time, interests, and commitment would have been divided. When it did happen, it almost always meant disaster. Just as people try to work two jobs, although sometimes it is necessary for financial reasons, one’s commitment will be divided. But, in our commitment to the Lord, He must be Lord, which means He is ruler over all. When we are seeking things outside of His parameters and precepts, especially with virtue and character, we will be dividing ourselves away from Christ.

When our focus is on possessions, they become our idol and we worship them (1 John 5:21). Our identity, and personification of who we are, becomes branded by what we have, and not who we are in Christ.

Can you go though all of your possessions and tell which ones will rot, and will not apply to your Christian growth? How can that list motivate you to seek what is in verse 33?

When this happens, all of our Christian life will be affected. Those around us will get the wrong impression of Christ as He is reflected in a skewed way. The word, Master, by definition, master demands total loyalty. We cannot please two masters at the same time, especially with God (Ex. 34:14). We have to choose whom we will serve, and be determined to keep our promise and commitment (Josh. 24:14-15; Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5)!

Fear the LORD means to trust, serve, and worship Him. Because money and things can easily become the priorities in our lives! The choice becomes whether we will worship the One True God, or be idolaters, following after false gods (Matt. 6:33)!

“Mammon” is the Aramaic word for possessions, acquired by wealth or riches (Luke 16: 9-11). By gaining mastery over our Mammon, we will avoid lusts, temptations, and foolish decisions (1 Tim. 6:9-19). This will lay a good foundation now and in our eternity to come. You must make the decision. What do you really want?

When we do not obey the Light, all that we are and do will turn into darkness and strife! This will happen when we start to get so busy that we have no time for growth in Christ. Or, when pride and experiences take the place of our sanctification, our growth and maturity are placed on hold. This creates a spiritual vacuum that will collect all that is wrong and unworthy for our character and purpose to glorify Christ.

Whom will you serve, and will you be determined to keep your promise and commitment?

Getting our Hearts Centered On What Is Important PI

Matthew 6:19-24

How do your appearance and your material goods affect the way others treat you? What about other Christians?

This Bible passage warns us how possessions can divide our mind so that they control our direction in life. In so doing, they capture our hearts, and then control our will and aspirations. Yet, we all need various kinds of possessions in order to live, such as food, housing, transportation, clothing, and such.

Jesus is not condemning personal possessions; rather, He is challenging the focus of our hearts.

If we gave up everything, we would not be able to function in society, nor be a blessing to others. At the same time, we cannot have our hearts set on possessions; we need to trust in our God as Provider. God provides us with all we need; it is our responsibility to work, using our gifts and abilities, and not be lazy. Thus, when we live for possessions, and we set our minds on the accumulation of wealth and things, we miss opportunities and marks He has for us. Our hearts become divided. Our attention and devotion go to things that have no real meaning, that will rot away, while things of real, eternal value are ignored. The fleeting, controlling issues in our lives capture our Will and time, while the real work of the Church and our call sit unanswered and unaccomplished.

Do not store up treasures on earth: Possessions take a powerful toll on the human mind. They cause our focus to be distracted from our primary purpose and call, to glorify our Lord. Possessions cause corruption as they often lead people to do what is unscrupulous and depraved.

People in Jesus time would either bury their treasure in caves and under their houses so robbers could not find it. Yet, thieves could still look, find it, dig it out, and steal it. Some wealthy people put their valuables and money in the temple where no thief would dare to go. But, the invading, occupying armies would take it. Some invested in the money changes, and various businesses and trade, which, like today, would close, go bankrupt, or be embezzled. Each of these became temporary. Clothing, which was a very expensive and valuable possession, would get moldy, rot, or be eaten by moths. The iron strongbox, where money was kept, would rust. The money would be lost as it rusted in the sand. And anything else of value would eventually rot.

Rust is a general term that refers to anything that can, and will corrode and decay, by rust, mildew, bugs, weather, wood rot, and anything destroyed by fire. The Jewish book, Tobit 4:7-10, speaks the same theme; perhaps Jesus is again challenging the Jewish leaders with their own teachings. Sometimes, just because we may know something, it does not mean we do something! Other Jewish teachers taught that if you were generous to others, God would help you. When we lay up treasures with God, they last for eternity, which is our home and world to come.

The love of money, temptations of gathering wealth, and the desire to be rich has led astray, and destroyed countless people over the centuries (1 Tim. 6:9-10)!

Later on, in Matthew, Jesus describes the difficulty of lovers of money entering the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19: 16-26). It is difficult, but not impossible. They have to overcome the desires that can easily enslave us! Be careful, for while wealth and riches are not evil in and of themselves, they usually will become our “god”!

Our real and true treasures are imperishable (1 Pet. 1:3-5)!

Why is it important that Jesus challenge the focus of your heart? What is that focus?

If your treasure is on earth, your heart will undergo many disappointments, and the storms of life will overwhelm you (Matt. 7:24-27; Heb. 10:32-39)! All of the things in life in which you find your primary joy are suddenly gone (Luke 12:33-34; 1 Tim. 6:17-19)! Then what will you do and feel?

How can your purpose in life be governed with godly goals and direction? How can you prevent darkness? These questions will determine how you respond to this passage and to life!

First Things First PI

Matthew 6: 25-34 

Here Jesus gives us another warning on how possessions can divide our mind so that they control our direction in life. In so doing, they capture our hearts, and then control our will and aspirations (Matt. 6:19-23). Good stewardship points our mind and attitude to be careful with material things and pursuits that will cause us to worry, and worry will take the place of all else in our life, including Christ. The results of being control by possessions will create worry, as our attention, our heart, and the identity of who we are become wrapped up in them.  

What do I need to do if this happens to me? 

The solution is simple. Put Christ and His will first, everything else, secondary. When we have our hearts centered upon what is really important, our real purposes and plans begin to function correctly, as our perspectives are in line with God’s. The secret to a life of contentment is having the right perspective of our place in the kingdom. 

As a Christian, we have to have the perspective that all things in life, all that we have, see, and use, do not belong to us. It all belongs to God-period! This is what good biblical stewardship is all about. We did not create anything, nor do we really own anything; we are merely the stewards entrusted to care for, develop, and use whatever we have control over wisely. All that we have or can have is meant to be lifted up, all to His glory, and to progress with His call and His Kingdom upon our hearts and the world. 

Jesus calls us to “do not worry!” Yet, we all worry, but, when we think it through, why do we worry? What is it that is so important when compared to our purpose, call, Christ’s care and love, or our place in eternity? 

People throughout history and most people in the world today, have little beyond their basic needs of food, shelter, and a couple pairs of clothing. They also depended upon the help of others, seasons, and weather, especially, rain to irrigate the crops. Thus, the attainment of goods depended on the environment, weather conditions, and the cooperation of others around them. There were no stores, no supermarkets just around the corner. So, they would have had cause to worry, but Jesus addresses them not to do so! Now, consider all that we have today–much more than King Solomon would have had! After all, he did not have the food, material goods, or entrainment we have today. 

When we think we have ownership, we are deluding ourselves, creating worry and needless stress. We then get ourselves off His plan and Will, because we seek possession and not His Kingdome! 

Questions to Ponder 

How have you seen possessions control people and capture their attention, heart, and identify? Have you observed any difference among Christians?

 

If the solution is so simple to our worries (seek Him first), why is it so hard for us to do it?

 

Jesus tells us that pursuing material things will cause us to worry, and worry will take the place of all else in our life. How have you seen this true in your life?

 

How do possessions divide our minds so that they control our direction in life? What can you do to prevent this from happening?

 

© 2002, 2012, R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org

Matthew 22:34-40; “Stewardship Prime”

This passage is about aligning ourselves up to what is important, our relationship to God, our relationship to others and to self and our purpose for His Glory. Thus, what does God want us to do with our stewardship of faith and purpose of life?  

The context is that the Sadducees and Pharisees were not concerned with truth; they only wanted to argue and attack Jesus. This is nothing new as people like to argue, just for the sake of an argument and not for finding true Truth and real effectual meaning. By the way this is reprehensible before God, as you will see in the next chapter, Matthew 23! They are only capable of causing division, hypocrisy, and strife. God desires humility and for the fruit of His Spirit to empower us (Gal. 5:22-23; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:3-8)! When we are too full of ourselves, there is no room for God to be at work in us (Rom. 7:4-6; Gal. 5:19-21)! The Sadducees and Pharisees were experts in ignoring God’s purpose for them; therefore, they spent their time attacking those who were centered on God. Jesus was their main target. 

  • God…of the living means, God is the God of those who exist. God of the dead means, lording over those who do not exist. Thus, if the people who have passed on are still in existence, then there is a resurrection. The Patriarchs are in eternal relationship with God, so they are living—not dead. Dead refers to nonexistence.
  • Silenced. Pleased that Jesus silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees sought to get Jesus with their well-crafted, non-winnable arguments.
  • Which is the greatest…? Jewish rabbis counted 613 to 619 individual laws in the Law, and endeavored to distinguish between “great” and “light” commands. (Since they did not disciple people, serve the needy, or serve the Lord, I guess they had nothing better to do!)
  • Love. The Greek verb is agapao, not phileo!  Phileo means, brotherly love, as in friendly affection; but, agapao means a deep commitment and devotion that comes from our willingness and our realization that it is a duty (1 Cor. 13). It is also a response of our gratitude for the love God gave us (1 John 4:19-21)!
  • Heart, soul, mind are the imperative commands that form the heart of the Law (Lev. 19:18; Duet. 6:5). The purpose is to encompass; we are to love with all we are—our entire personhood. It is not just a part, or an aspect—it is all.
  • Some translations have might, which means mind. Mark 12:30 adds your strength. The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the O.T.) adds “mind.” Jesus combined the Greek and Hebrew meanings to refer to the entire person—his thoughts, behaviors, and goals.
  • This passage in Deuteronomy is called the “Shema;” Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one (Deut. 6:4). This is the Jewish “confession of faith,” and sets the theme for verse five. This passage was memorized and recited frequently at worship services. And the second. Jewish teachers often combined various commands, summarizing them into one. Jewish teachers often taught that love is paramount and covers all we are and all that we should do in life, in service to God and others. Love is who we are and who we are to be. Because God loves us, we should have the motivation to love others (Rom. 8:1-4; 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 13; 1 John 4)! 
  • The Law and the Prophets. Together, Law and Prophets refer to the entire O.T., including the writings. Law refers to the first five books of the Bible, Prophets referred to Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel (the Major Prophets), as well as the twelve Minor Prophets—Jonah, Daniel, etc. This was said to make the point that all of the testimony given to us is from God!  Jesus’ point is that He fulfills the Law and the Prophets; He does not dissolve them, but makes them deeper, and takes our place in obeying them (Ex. 20:1; Matt. 5:17).  

          This is “stewardship prime,” Who is your Lord (Psalm 110)? If Jesus is your Lord, questions do not pose a problem! Your life will be centered on Him, be filled with purpose and meaning, and will benefit all those around you! When we grasp the real Truth, our private faith will become more real and more impacting; then, our public activities will be a blessing to others (Rom. 13; Phil. 2:1-11; Col. 2:2-3). When we love God, we will love our neighbor. If we do not love others, it is highly likely that God is just a convenience, and our love for Him is not sincere! Our “truth” is made up, or misdirected; it is not real Truth! And this will be the baseline on how we see and uses and then grow in the stewardship prime of our faith and live!