Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Being Stewards of God’s Resources

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JoHannah Reardon[1] shared, “The word stewardship comes from the Greek word oikenomous, which means somebody who manages a household. A person doesn't own the household but manages it.” Simply stated, we don’t own anything we think we own. Thus, the truth of God’s word rings true for everyone, “for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Timothy 6:7 ESV).

In highlighting the role of being stewards, notice what the Scriptures say:

1.     God made us stewards: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17
2.     God provision for being a steward: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
3.     God’s expectation from His stewards: Serve with good will, as to the Lord and not to men. Ephesians 6:7

The first principle in becoming a successful steward of God recognizes the simple fact that stewardship is God’s idea. Therefore, our role is instituting it in our lives systematically. It occurs when God’s people apply biblical stewardship in every aspect of their lives: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Dr. Jim Eckman[2] shared A.W. Tozer’s four questions in revealing where our idea of treasure revolves around:

1.     What do we value most?
2.     What would we most hate to lose?
3.     What do our thoughts turn to most frequently when we are free to think of what we will?
4.     What affords us the greatest pleasure?

Next, stewardship is God’s initiative. Therefore, our role is influencing others personally in understanding the concept. It occurs when God’s people let others know about biblical stewardship of God’s resources: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Somebody said an interesting view of money:

Money has been defined as that something which buys everything but happiness and takes a man everywhere but to heaven. But money used in the right way can confer a great deal of happiness and be the means of starting many a person on the path to heaven.

Finally, stewardship is God’s invitation to living free of greed and grace-filled living. Therefore, our role is impacting every generation purposely. It occurs when God’s people take responsibility for seeing people learn about biblical stewardship, thus, weakening the work of the enemy and love of money:  “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10).

In the end, here’s what we need to remember, according to Harvey Nowland:[3]

Christians need to understand that opportunities to achieve God’s agenda in building His kingdom involves not only our material possessions, but also our abilities, knowledge, skills and relationships. To make it really simple – everything from your backyard and bank account to your mind and body - is a resource that you must manage for God. No false humility required here, you are an important member of God’s management team – stewardship.

Let’s talk again!

[1] https://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/churchhomeleadership/accountablegod.html
[2] https://graceuniversity.edu/iip/2011/02/faithful-stewards-of-gods-resources/
[3] https://www.focusonthefamily.com/faith/faith-based-family-finances/stewardship/stewardship-being-co-managers-with-god

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Becoming a Keen Listener

Eugene Raudsepp shared an interesting illustration of the value of listening with intent:

[1]A zoologist was walking down a busy city street with a friend. In the midst of the honking horns and screeching tires, he exclaimed to his friend, "Listen to that cricket!" The friend looked at the zoologist in astonishment and said, "You hear a cricket in the middle of all this noise and confusion?"Without a word, the zoologist reached into his pocket, took out a coin, and flipped it into the air. As it clinked on the sidewalk, a dozen heads turned in response. The zoologist said quietly to his friend, "We hear what we listen for."

In highlighting the value of listening, the Scriptures provided specific guidelines towards becoming a keen listener. 

·      Training our ears to hear and learn from others: Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding. Proverbs 2:2, ESV
·      Submitting oneself to better advice: The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. Proverbs 12:15, ESV
·      Maintaining one’s cool when facing trouble: Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Proverbs 17:27, ESV
·      Accepting other’s insights: Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Proverbs 19:20, ESV

As far as listening is concerned, God exemplifies it towards His children. On the other hand, believers are expected to do the same level of listening with others as well. Dietrich Bonhoeffer offered this timely advice:

Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by Him who is Himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.

From a spiritual perspective, focusing on God’s words sharpens our listening skills. It happens when we become conscious of God’s words and purposefully listens coupled with the application. As a result, those within the sphere of our influence greatly benefit from us becoming a conscious listener to them as well. Robert W. Herron expressed it this way. “Good listening is like tuning in a radio station. For good results, you can listen to only one station at a time. Listening requires a choice of where I place my attention.”

Due to the lack of listening skills, the simple situation worsens unnecessarily. Thus, to avoid aggravating a simple case, applying some strategies in becoming a keen listener is required. It starts by developing patience in listening though being attentive. It’s interesting that “the word 'listen' contains the same letters as the word 'silent'” (Alfred Brendel). Purposefully, we must practice listening without interrupting others. In this regard, John Maxwell provided this reminder: “Earn the right to be heard by listening to others. Seek to understand a situation before making judgments about it.”

In the end, becoming a keen listener involves a decision to see other people’s value and hearing their opinions first before seeing the value of our idea. When this process becomes firmly established, we will earn the right to be heard and to express our opinion.

Let’s talk again!

[1] Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/magazine/19811001/33.html

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Marriage is Bound by God’s Love

Marriage is God’s idea and cannot change its components no matter what. Its idea must be preserved and given the highest priority as far as any human relationship is concerned. In Fashioned for Intimacy, Jane Hansen says, "The union between the man and woman was to be inseparable; it was not to be divided.” God created marriage to benefit humanity and to provide partnership based on God’s love and godly principles. Biblical marriage is a testimony of God’s miraculous power and the manifestation of His love that binds two people as one.

Genesis 1-2 provided the backdrop of God’s creation, including the first man placed in a Garden. Pat Joyce explained, “ The word "man" is Adam in Hebrew meaning mankind or human being.  It is used here as a common noun not the name of a man nor a reference to males only.” Adam received God’s charge over the Garden and all of God’s creation by naming all animals in it. While doing so, God saw Adam’s need for another being just like him: Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him (2:18 ESV).
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God created another being like Adam: So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribsAnd the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man” (2:21-22 ESV). Pat Joyce shared, “The word woman in Hebrew is the feminine form of man (ish = man, ishshah = woman), and Adam called her woman recognizing in her the female version of himself--a human being--his perfect counterpart.” Here are some words to confirm connection: Woman; Madam; and Female.

The next scenario becomes the most important event in human history, i.e., God’s institution of marriage: “…made into a woman and brought her to the man.” God officiated the first marriage at the Garden of Eden after presenting the woman to him. God’s design for marriage never changed ever since.

In our modern setting, allow me to share some principles of making a marriage stronger under God’s love as God intended. First, for marriage to stand out above others, it must be partnered with God’s blessing unwaveringly. When God become fully involved in the process between two people, the result can only be a marriage made in heaven with God’s hand upon it. Single people must stand on God’s word and that God knows every need and desire to release the blessing of a right and a good partner.

Next, for marriage to withstand instabilities, it must be instituted by God’s love unconditionally. Every marriage is a miracle that God provided, so let God cover with His agape love- “the love that keeps on loving even if the other person become unlovable.”

Finally, for marriage to exceed expectations, it must be supported by God’s power unceasingly. “Let no man put you asunder, as God supports it” must become the guiding principle of every Christian marriage. Michael Ventura shared, “Marriage is a journey toward an unknown destination -- the discovery that people must share not only what they don't know about each other, but what they don't know about themselves.” Therefore, keeping marriage bound in God’s love requires intentional attention. It begins by praying for one another. Here’s a beautiful prayer by Bishop Slattery, soon after his marriage, to be used each day in their family devotions at home in Boston, Massachusetts.

A Prayer for a Married Couple
O God, our Heavenly Father, protect and bless us.
Deepen and strengthen our love for each other day by day.
Grant that by Thy mercy neither of us ever say one unkind word to the other.
Forgive and correct our faults, and make us constantly to forgive
one another should one of us unconsciously hurt the other.
Make us and keep us sound and well in body, alert in mind, tender in heart, devout in spirit.
O Lord, grant us each to rise to the other's best.
Then we pray Thee add to our common life such virtues as only Thou canst give.
And so, O Father, consecrate our life and our love completely to Thy worship,
and to the service of all about us, especially those whom Thou has appointed us to serve,
that we may always stand before Thee in happiness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Let’s talk again!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Following Jesus Today

Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated a central truth about following Jesus nowadays “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” Christ and His teachings are inseparable. Therefore, Christ and those following Him cannot follow Him without His teachings fulfilled in their lives as well. What does it mean to follow Jesus in a post-Christian era? The apostle John reiterated the Scriptural principle needed as a Jesus-follower: “Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9b, ESV).

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Understanding the four primary focus of Jesus’ teachings from the Gospels provides anyone with the means of following Jesus proactively. First, faith in Jesus and His words is a must. Our faith in the goodness of God is confirmed after the crucifixion overcame all the powers of death. We know, therefore, that God will be with us always, even to the end of the age. Max Lucado stressed, “In our faith we follow in someone's steps. In our faith, we leave footprints to guide others. It's the principle of discipleship.”

Next, maintaining hope in Jesus’ promises anchors our faith. Because of the resurrection, we have confidence in the communion of saints — that those we love who have died live on joyfully in the nearer presence of God. We have hope that we too are headed for eternal life. One promise we can apply is hoping for His return: “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3a). This promise is a clear message Charles Spurgeon wanted every believer to remember: Our hope in Christ for the future is the mainspring and the mainstay of our joy down here today.

Another principle Jesus displayed is loving others as He did. The crucifixion is the ultimate expression of God’s self-giving love for us. Jesus lays down his life for strangers, for the sake of the world in general, giving up his own life in exchange for ours. Dieter F. Uchtdorf emphasized, “Love is the measure of our faith, the inspiration for our obedience, and the true altitude of our discipleship.”

Lastly, applying peace in all circumstances of life proves our faith in His ability to protect us. Jesus illustrated the kind of peace we must wish for others especially our enemies at the cross when He uttered forgiveness for them (Luke 23:34). Soren Kierkegaard highlighted a key aspect of following Jesus:

Christ did not appoint professors, but followers. If Christianity ... is not reduplicated in the life of the person expounding it, then he does not expound Christianity, for Christianity is a message about living and can only be expounded by being realized in men's lives.

The bottom line of following Jesus remembers a powerful message from Billy Graham, “When we come to Christ, we’re no longer the most important person in the world to us; Christ is.” In answering the question, “What following Jesus means today?” begins by following Jesus with a declaration of the mouth. Next, following Jesus with a decision of the mind. And lastly, following Jesus with a disposition of the heart focused on pleasing Jesus in all aspects of one’s faith life. Remembering these things keeps us aligned as followers of Jesus and as a witness to a fallen world.

Now more than ever, followers of Jesus must take the time in becoming serious towards applying Jesus’ teaching for our Christian journey today until He comes again for all of us.

Let’s talk again!