Reading through the Stewardship Study Bible

About 4 months ago I purchased the Zondervan NIV Stewardship Bible. The idea of stewardship comes from the realization that at no time throughout scripture does God relinquish ownership of anything. Operating our lives from this standpoint is vastly different than the idea that God gives us ownership of what we have or who we are.

One of the most profound readings I’ve read is a commentary on Pride being one of our biggest obstacles to good stewardship. Pride puts us in the owner’s seat. It is impossible for God to be the Lord of our lives and for us live pridefully at the same time.

Pride of: Accomplishment, intellect, possessions, appearance, elitism and influence. Each one vies for us to create subjects, and each one gives Satan a foothold in our lives. He is the prince of pride. His reason for falling was pride. Pride in our lives gives birth to other sins, and ultimately to death.

Our lives are a struggle between master and mastered. Understanding our place helps us to submit our flesh to the one who owns our very being. This is what I’m wrestling out in myself… I’m dragging me out of myself. What do I own? Nothing. God is offended when I take any part of creation as unto my own. The Stewardship Bible is helping me to understand my role in stewarding my relationship to God, self, others and creation.

One of my favorite quotes is from Watchman Nee. “That strong self-assertive will of mine must go to the Cross, and I must give myself over wholly to the Lord. We cannot expect a tailor to make us a coat if we do not give him any cloth, nor a builder to build us a house if we let him have no building material; and in just the same way we cannot expect the Lord to live out His life in us if we do not give Him our lives in which to live. Without reservations, without controversy, we must give ourselves to Him to do as He pleases with us.”

This study Bible has quotes and commentaries from Larry Burkett, Dr. Scott Rodin, Randy Alcorn, Chuck Colson, John Piper and many more. It also provides an incredible index on savings, charity, the poor, debt and more. I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of this incredible resource, but it is already doing more than just scratching the  surface of me.

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The Great Reversal

The Great Reversal was coined by historian Timothy L. Smith. This term identified the shift of many evangelicals away from social concern to individual concern. Put another way, the emphasis of Christianity for the majority of those in the United States and the United Kingdom during the early part of the 20th century shifted. One hundred years ago, Christians en mass abandoned their passions for social concern and works to individual concern and grace.

I believe in sola gratia and most followers of the faith overwhelmingly agree that justification comes through grace alone. However, the very example of Christ’s love, compassion and evangelism, is depicted by a Christ who bore man’s physical burdens as well as spiritual pain.

Many Christians I know dislike the welfare system; I would list toward counting myself among them. The problem is that my spiritual forefathers created the need for the system by abandoning their social concern in favor of pursuing individual spiritual concerns. The Great Reversal preceded, and I believe paved the way, for the modern Government-run/taxpayer funded system of socialist care we provide in the United States. Our current bother was birthed by the impotence of the churches of yesteryear.

C.S. Lewis noted that we don’t have a soul, we are a soul. We have a body. The problem with an over-emphasis on souls is that we forget that the quickest way to a soul is through the body. Prayer changes things in the spirit, but so does a much-needed bandage to the flesh change things in the spirit.

This is not a political, psychological or sociological problem. This is a theological issue. Does the church have, and more importantly, do Christians have a primary charge to provide relief to the poor?

Matthew 19:21

Luke 11:41

Acts 4:34

Our responsibility is not social justice debate. We are in a prolonged exegetical and theological affront to our stewardship theology, primarily as it relates to our personal comfort. Can we domesticate Jesus to the point that we no longer try to look like him, but mold him into our image? We don’t need social justice, we need Jesus justice. The kind that would bring a grown man to his knees, willing to give his shirt, his job and his life for the kingdom. The kind of reckless abandon to the faith that makes it really difficult for people in need to not believe in God.

Watch how one man take on Nike Slave labor

Currently Reading:

When Helping Hurts

Domesticated Jesus

The Christian Atheist

Christmas Guilt

I am the last of five children; twenty years younger than the eldest and ten years after my parents were “done”; four kids a family makes. When Christmas presents came, I might have well been an only child. Although I remember Christmas when I was three or four, it’s the Christmases of my elementary years that really stand out.

Some of my best Christmas memories are about my favorite big brother and me. He had a knack for mischief, and one of those times involved my mom’s present. He was 20 or so, home on leave from the Navy. I was seven, and his biggest fan in the world. My mom loved Almond Roca, and the scant giftwrap did nothing to hide the fact that the tasty confections rested inside.

“Let’s eat them,” my brother goaded. I was speechless, the carrier of an impeccable conscience that in my seven year old mind had never done wrong. “C’mon,” he said in a sinister tone, “She’ll never notice if a few are missing.”

I only remember bits of what happened next. I remember being on the floor on my back, him straddling me, opening my mom’s Roca. We were both laughing; him holding unwrapped pieces in front of my nose and over my lips. I loved my mom. She loved Almond Roca. She really loved her Christmas Almond Roca… from Dad, with love. But the crushing weight of temptation, not to mention the weight of my brother’s butt on my stomach, was way too much for my will to fight.

At least one went down; maybe two or three. It tasted so good! There we laughed, next to the stockings, presents and tree… a swirling mess of colored lights, tinsel, Santa and guilt. Guilt! There you are. I felt it. An unrelenting pressure of knowing that I’d made the worst possible choice. I stole, and now the temptation came to lie in order to cover up my wretchedness.

“We’ll just put the wrap back on & she’ll never know,” smirked my big brother. How could she not know we ate half her candy? How could I look her in the eye… the evil son that exchanged his birthright for some chocolate, scrumptious toffee and wonderful crushed almonds?

This was my first life experience with what Paul writes in Romans 7:19. “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

Several significant things happened around that same time in my life. Within the next year or two, I recognized that I had bigotry in my heart. Other family members had undoubtedly influenced me in ways that I knew weren’t right. My mom prayed with me for Jesus to allow me to love people the way he does. It took.

The other thing that happened was that I asked Jesus into my heart. Sitting on the piano bench with my mom, we stopped from whatever we were singing. I asked my mom what it meant to have Jesus in your heart. She explained that he wants to have a relationship with me, that he would forgive me of my sin (and guilt), and then she asked me if I wanted to ask him into my heart.

I did, and He did.

Back to the forbidden Roca – my mom did find out. The guilt was short lived. I blamed my big brother for everything and he got the evil eye and a tongue-lashing. I told her how sorry I was, and she forgave me. Grace! There you are. There’s nothing that feels as good as the salve of knowing that you’re forgiven.

Romans 3:23-24 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,”

Thank you Jesus for coming! Happy Birthday. Now pass the Roca.

Oh, and Rick, if you’re reading this, you’re still my favorite.