Proverbs in Light of The Cross; What Stewardship Really Means

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine. Proverbs 3:9-10 NLT 

When I was four years old, A family came by, who had lost everything in a fire. My parents gave them some of their own lamps and other things around the house. While the grownups were exploring the house, their little boy was watching me ride my tricycle up and down the driveway. When the grownups came out of the house, my dad walked over and told me, “the little boy does not have a tricycle or any toys.” I jumped off my tricycle and gave it to him.

Even after returning tithes and offerings, my family realized everything we had belonged to God. Some have the idea that stewardship is just about giving tithes and offering and then keeping what is left over for ourselves. Solomon says to honor God with our wealth and the best of everything we own. Stewardship is realizing everything we have belongs to God and should be used to His glory.

My car does not belong to me. It belongs to God. I use it to get to Bible studies, but also to give others a ride who need a ride. My neighbor calls me for a ride to work sometimes because she does not have a car. Actually she does have a car-mine! And she even has a chauffeur-me! I use my personal computer for blogging Bible studies and devotionals, and Bible study presentations. The food in my cupboard is not just for me. Its for whoever comes over and needs a meal, or if need be, I can bring it to them in my car. Sorry! I mean God’s car.

Honoring God with our wealth is not just about giving 10% plus an offering. Its about everything we have and are belonging to God. Stewards are managers, not owners. Stewardship is realizing everything we posses belongs to God, and we own nothing!

That is why I give thanks when I eat the food in my house, I mean God’s house. Because even the food in the house where I live belongs to God. That’s why I thank Him for letting me eat His food.

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; Search, Study, Seek

 I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.  Search for them as you would for silver;  seek them like hidden treasures.  Proverbs 2:3-4 NLT

Sometimes I will be hanging out with a friend, who will ask me a quick Bible question, requesting a quick and simple answer. Still, as I go to my Yourversion Bible app to show my friend the Bible answer, I pause and pray with my friend, asking God to give us insight and understanding, even for one simple verse.  I have read in Steps to Christ, Page 91 by Ellen White, “Never should the Bible be studied without prayer. Before opening its pages we should ask for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, and it will be given.”

As I give Bible studies on how to study the Scriptures, I discover words like “Search” (John 5:39, Acts 17:11) and study, (2 Tim 2:15)  I share with my Bible study student that we are not encouraged to simply read the Bible like you read a newspaper, but to search and study it prayerfully, asking God for insight and understanding.

When I moved to Florida, my GPS told me to turn down Elm street till I came to Maple street where my new home was. So for several years I lived in that home telling people I lived on the corner of Elm and Maple. One day I was sitting at the light at Elm and Maple, just like I had everyday before, when I realized something I never had before. The cross sign did not say “Elm.” It said “Oak.” I then realized that Elm street later turns into Oak street. So for years I was telling people I lived at Elm and Maple when in reality I lived at Oak and Maple.  By just glancing around I assumed I was somewhere I really was not. One day I looked a little closer at the sign. I realized where I really was.  Searching and studying makes a much bigger difference than when we just read and glance at things!

Proverbs 2:3-4 reminds us to ask God for insight and understanding, and it will be given as we, not just casually glance at the Bible, but as we study, search and seek the Bible.

The story you just read is true. The street names were changed to protect the innocent.

Proverbs In Light of the Cross; Understanding

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.” Proverbs 3:13 NLT

I remember several years ago I got to thinking about the fact that I had not really learned anything exciting or new in the Scriptures lately. Since I love studying and finding new things, I asked God why that was. The thought came to me. Have I been doing all that God already showed me? If not, why would He bother showing me more, when I am not even doing what I already know to do?

The story goes of a pastor who preached the same sermon three weeks in a row. After the third time, an elder told him, “you do realize this is the third time you’ve preached the exact same sermon?” “Yes,” the pastor replied. “And you still have not done what I told you.”

Understanding means obeying. There is no reason for God to give us more wisdom, if we’re not using the wisdom we already have.

“Disobedience has closed the door to a vast amount of knowledge that might have been gained from the Scriptures. Understanding means obedience to God’s commandments. The Scriptures are not to be adapted to meet the prejudice and jealousy of men. They can be understood only by those who are humbly seeking for a knowledge of the truth that they may obey it.”  Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons, page 111

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; No Higher Ordination Than That of a Parent

I am writing today from beautiful Florida.

I am writing today from beautiful Florida.

 

My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. What you learn from them will crown you with grace and be a chain of honor around your neck. Proverbs 1:8-9 NLT

Ephesians 5:33 in the KJV calls for wives to reverence their husbands. That is powerful, because the Bible never tells anyone to reverence a priest or a prophet. That word “reverence” for the father tells me, a parent is not only the first teacher but also the first and most important pastor.

I love Christian schools, and have dedicated my time and money to them. I believe in their mission with all my heart. Yet, sometimes when we promote Christian schools, I think we sometimes give credit to the schools that actually belongs to the parents. Of course I understand it is the parents who utilize the school in their home ministry.

I went to Adventist Schools from grades 1 through college. My schools averaged around 100 students a year with different students coming and going throughout my 12 grades. A while back, I went through my year books, and I could count on both hands, and maybe a couple of toes the number of kids who remained in the church after we grew up. Upon further investigation I found, for the most part, the families who remained in the church after growing up, were families that had worship every night in the home. They also encouraged their children to study the Bible for themselves.That is why they are still in the church. Church schools are great, they are wonderful, they are ordained by God, but they are not ordained to take the place of the mother and father and do the work the mother and father are ordained to do. (I understand there are situations, like my late friend Quong, who came to the United States from Vietnam, and was put in an Adventist School, only because it was private. While his parents were athiest, Quong, accepted Jesus, and was forced out of his home at 14 years of age! He slept at the school every night till he found a new family to live with. Thank God for that school!)

A while back I was giving a devotional for chapel at a Christian School. I asked the lower grade students how many of them have family worship at home. Out of about 45 students only 5 hands were raised. I begged the other students to ask their parents to have family worship with them every night, by studying the children’s Sabbath School lessons* and Bible together, and prayer.

The mother and father are more to a child than any priest, pastor, teacher, or even general conference president will ever be. The ordination of mother and father is a much higher ordination than any priest or pastor, and a child should learn to listen to and respect their parent more than they respect any priest, pastor or teacher.

*SSNET has a tab in their menu for lessons for every age group.

Proverbs in Light of the Cross; Oppression and Human Nature

I am writing today from beautiful Florida.

I am writing today from beautiful Florida

Do not envy the oppressor, And choose none of his ways;  For the perverse person is an abomination to the LordBut His secret counsel is with the upright. Proverbs 3:31-32 NKJV

I already know you are not going to like this, but I have heard it said, “The only difference between Adolf Hitler and us, is that Hitler had the opportunity and we didn’t.” Now that is a terrible thing to say, but is it true? Let’s be honest. When left to our our human nature don’t we try to manipulate people and situations as much as is legal and socially acceptable in our situation? Do we try to control other people as far as we are allowed? If so, then that’s all Hitler was doing, controlling people as far as he was allowed. We don’t want to be called a “control freak” but we all know where the line is before we cross over into becoming a control freak. Do we try to get as close to that line as possible?

During the dark ages of papal reign and folks being burned at the stake for exercising their freedom to think for themselves, many fled to a new world where they would not suffer papal oppression.

Yet honest and God-fearing as they were, the Pilgrims did not yet comprehend the great principle of religious liberty. The freedom which they sacrificed so much to secure for themselves, they were not equally ready to grant to others. “Very few, even of the foremost thinkers and moralists of the seventeenth century, had any just conception of that grand principle, the outgrowth of the New Testament, which acknowledges God as the sole judge of human faith.”–Ibid., vol. 5, p. 297. The doctrine that God has committed to the church the right to control the conscience, and to define and punish heresy, is one of the most deeply rooted of papal errors. –Ellen White, Great Controversy, Pages 292-293

So these pilgrims, fled oppression and then, while meaning well, became the oppressors, once the opportunity was available to them. People use the term “papal” to describe someone who is being bossy, narrow minded and controlling. Yet it is not a papal issue. It is a human nature issue. Without God’s grace we all are as papal as the situation will allow.

See now, why some say the only difference between Hitler and us is Hitler had the opportunity and we did not? It may be an extreme illustration, but maybe not as extreme as we would like to imagine. I realize too, there have been people who had opportunities equal to Hitler who were very nice and not the least bit oppressive. Still, it’s something to consider.

Of course hopefully there is one difference. Hopefully we are living in the Spirit instead of the flesh.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 NKJV

The only way to make sure we are not a Hitler, or a papal oppressor is to crucify self and let God’s Spirit live in us.

 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24 

Jesus did not die to control us. He died to set us free from the sin that was controlling us.

 

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; Is Trusting God Practical?

I am writing tonight from beautiful Florida.

I am writing tonight from beautiful Florida.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

Many years ago, a small church where I was a Bible Worker, had a wealthy member who owned his own business. He told me to do the exact opposite of what the pastor instructed me. I told the wealthy member, “no.” Not just because it contradicted the pastor but it was also just plain wrong.

The wealthy member then threatened me, by saying  most all the money in the church came from him, and if I did not do as he said, he would withdraw his support of the church, and there would go my salary. I told him, “no” again. I also told him his church donations do not support me. God supports me! The wealthy man then became angry and told me to get real and be practical. He claimed he supported me and not God!

You know what really broke my heart? This man was an elder in the church, and here he was telling me God’s promises are not practical or real. I lost a lot of respect for that man, not just for trying to threaten me, but for saying his money was more real and trustworthy than God’s promises.

Sadly the wealthy man left our church, once he realized he could not control us with his money. Not only did the church survive without him, it thrived! While he claimed the church and I could not survive without his money, God richly blessed me more than ever after he left, and the church built a new fellowship hall and several classrooms. All paid for. Years later, when I left to take another assignment, the little church hired another Bible Worker and the church has been growing by leaps and bounds.

Yes, trusting in the Lord with all your heart instead of man’s understanding is a very practical thing to do!

 

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; The Two Paths

I am writing tonight from beautiful Florida.

I am writing tonight from beautiful Florida.

 

Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. She offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left. She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying. Proverbs 3:15-17 NLT

The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like total darkness. They have no idea what they are stumbling over. Proverbs 4:18-19 NLT

The only thing that is harder than being saved is being lost! The only thing harder than obeying God is disobeying God. The upward path may be more narrow but it is also more pleasant. The downward path may appear to be easier but it is hard and painful.

In order to go in the path that leads to destruction, there is no need of searching for the way; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad, and the feet naturally turn into the path that ends in death….

But the way to life is narrow and the entrance strait. If you cling to any besetting sin you will find the way too narrow for you to enter….

Yet do not therefore conclude that the upward path is the hard and the downward road the easy way. All along the road that leads to death there are pains and penalties, there are sorrows and disappointments, there are warnings not to go on. God’s love has made it hard for the heedless and headstrong to destroy themselves. It is true that Satan’s path is made to appear attractive, but it is all a deception; in the way of evil there are bitter remorse and cankering care. We may think it pleasant to follow pride and worldly ambition, but the end is pain and sorrow. Selfish plans may present flattering promises and hold out the hope of enjoyment, but we shall find that our happiness is poisoned and our life embittered by hopes that center in self. In the downward road the gateway may be bright with flowers, but thorns are in the path. The light of hope which shines from its entrance fades into the darkness of despair, and the soul who follows that path descends into the shadows of unending night…..

If we take Christ for our guide, He will lead us safely. The veriest sinner need not miss his way…

Christ Himself has trodden the rough way before us and has smoothed the path for our feet.  Ellen White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, Pages 138-140.