I believe there is a great battle that is being waged. Huge cosmic internal battle that is under way right now and you and I are in the very center of it. It is the battle for the hearts of our members. It is a battle for the hearts of our organizations. It is a battle for our own hearts, my heart and your heart. The battle that is wagging right now is the battle for Lordship. Let me set the scene a little bit for this battle.
At the very core of our Christians faith we believe in a Trinitarian God. Our God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And the trinity is defined as three persons but one God. Three persons so interrelated with one another that when we worship God, we worship God in oneness. Our God, by His very nature, is relationship. And so if our God, who by His very nature is defined as relationship, created us in His image, then relationship must be incredibly important to the image that you and I bear. I believe that this was spelt out by the nature in which God created us. I believe that if you read through Genesis and then take the whole theme throughout the scripture, you come away with the absolute conviction that God created us for whole, loving, complete, and fulfilling relationships on four levels.
First of all we were created for relationship with our Creator. We were created to walk with God in the cool of the evening and come face to face unobjectively before God. We were created for wholistic relationships with ourselves.
Secondly, we were created to know: who we are, why we’re here, what our vocation is, what our purpose in life is. Adam and Eve didn’t go away from time to time to try to find themselves and figure out, “Why you and I are here? What is our purpose in life?” No. They knew their purpose in life. They were created “to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, strength and mind”; to love one another and to tend and care for the garden. And in that, they were happy. They were fulfilled. That’s why they were created and that was God’s purpose for us.
Thirdly, we were created for whole complete relationships with one another. It’s God’s deepest intent that we love one another, care for one another and that we live in community with one another. And we saw that as well before the fall.
And fourthly, very clearly, we were created for whole and complete relationships with the created world around us, have dominion over, rule, subdue, tend, be caretakers of the garden, love My creation, share My resources. This all belongs to Me. Use them wisely. That was God’s created intent. And that’s how we reflect the image of the Trinitarian God, with God, with ourselves and neighbors, then with the created world around us. That’s a beautiful picture, isn’t it? But of course it didn’t end there.
In the fall of humanity, the impact that sin had on us, it impacted us significantly on all four levels.
1. Our relationship with God was completely lost. It was destroyed. We no longer could come and stand before the face of our Creator. Adam and Eve hid, made garments for themselves because of sin. And the whole history of scripture, all the way through is God calling His people and bringing them back to Himself because we were completely estranged because of sin.
2.3. I believe that the same thing happened in our relationship with ourselves and with one another. I don’t know what it must have been like for Adam and Eve to all of a sudden stand outside the garden of Eden and look back in and say: “O my God! I was created to love my neighbor and yes I blame Eve for everything that happened. She blamed me and the snake. We’re not talking right now to each other.
4. And finally we can appraise the devastating effect that sin had on our relationship with the world around us, the way we use resources. And all of us here today are committed to be Godly stewards and we see what the world does when it takes words like, “have dominion over, rule and subdue,” and turns them into exploits, consume and abuse. It’s an ugly, awful picture of what was lost on all four levels. But the story doesn’t end there, does it?
For in Jesus Christ, and this is something I feel we can all embrace, all that was lost in the fall has been redeemed. And the word is all, everything that was lost in the fall has been redeemed. Now usually, as good evangelicals, we always want to look to the first one. Our relationship with God was fully restored in Christ. You know the gap has been filled. Christ is the way and we have now been brought near to the blood of Christ. Now we can walk with confidence before the throne of grace, that beautiful verse from the book of Hebrews. And we all embrace that. We love that. We celebrate that.
We can’t stop there because God also in and with Jesus Christ has healed and restored our relationships that we have to ourselves. It is in Christ that you know who you are. So the relationship to the world around us was redeemed and restored in the work of Christ. It was as wholistic as the fall. In fact if you read Paul, he goes on and on in Romans and he says if this is what was lost in the fall, how much more has been restored and redeemed through the work of Jesus Christ. It is all restored. And now this is the step. This is the one that is important to me for this field.
All four relationships that God so badly wanted for us, that He created us to enjoy that were lost in the fall, all four of those relationships have not only been redeemed and restored in Jesus Christ, they have been given back to us as precious gifts to be stewards. When I think of the word stewardship, that’s what it means to me. It means that when:
- I go to church,
- when I worship God, I am carrying out an act of stewardship because I am taking care of this lovely relationship, this precious relationship with God was given back to me.
- When I go to the gym,
- when I try to eat well,
- when I don’t allow the world to dictate who I am, what my self image is, I am being a caretaker, a steward of the relationship with myself that caused Jesus his own blood, to die and redeem and give back to me as His own gift.
- When I love my neighbor as myself, when
- I take time and make my neighbors’ needs more important than my own,
- when I treat my neighbor as the end and not some means to some end that’s going to serve me, I’m practicing stewardship of a relationship that was redeemed and given back to me.
- And certainly when I care for God’s creation,
- when I recycle,
- when I try to buy vehicles that don’t use too much gas,
- when I try to give the percentage that I’m supposed to give and use the resources wisely that are around me and care for God’s creation, I am practicing stewardship of a relationship that God has given back to me.
That is, I believe, a wholistic understanding of what it means to be a steward in the kingdom of God.
Therefore, if that is the case: everything we do as stewards is an act of worship. Do you believe that? It is an act of honoring God and saying if it caused Christ his blood to die and redeem this relationship and give it back to me, I am going to be a steward of this relationship as my of saying: “thank you Lord and praise your name for having loved me so much that you would call me into this stewardship responsibility.” And so everything we do as stewards we do in worship.
One person told me one day: “I’ve redefined what it means to be a professional fundraiser in Christian work.” He said: “I term myself a worship leader because my calling is to lead others to worship God through the giving of their resources.” That’s not a bad definition of a Christian development professional. We are worship leaders.
This all brings us to one conclusion, I believe, is that we as stewards, are living fully out that picture in the kingdom of God. We live in one kingdom with one Lord. Everything belongs to God. Everything was given back to us and as we live out that stewardship responsibility, we only have one kingdom in which we live and we only have one Lord of that one kingdom. Does that make sense? Is it where we are? There’s a key point; this idea of one Lordship. It is a beautiful picture of what it means to be a steward of God in the kingdom of God.
Unfortunately, we have a great enemy. We have an enemy who will do anything and everything in his power to disrupt and destroy our lives living these lives out as stewards in God’s kingdom; an enemy of the kingdom, an enemy of the one Lordship of Jesus Christ. There is a battle that this enemy has wagged against us and it’s a battle for our allegiance. It is a battle asking every single one of us, “who really is the Lord in your life.” And even more, it is a battle that challenges us every single day, every time we turn on the television, every time we open up our checkbook, every time we go to the mall, every time we meet with a neighbor, every time we go to church.
It challenges us to develop in our lives a second kingdom. To develop in our lives a kingdom that we somehow set next to this one beautiful kingdom of God that we just said is where everything happens, is where our whole life should be carried out. It’s a battle for who’s going to be the Lord of our life because if you and I construct second kingdoms next to the kingdom of God, there’s only one possible person who can be the Lord of that kingdom and who reigns supreme in our second kingdom? We do.
What does this second kingdom look like? Well, I would propose to you that when we go to worship and it starts to become,
- What can I get out of this?
- Did I get anything out of the worship service today?
- Did I really like the pastor’s message?
- Was the music okay?
- I didn’t enjoy it this morning cause I didn’t get anything our of worship today.
- I’m not sure that this church is meeting my needs.
That’s living in your second kingdom.
It also is the same when we talk about our self image. The enemy will always want you to do one or two things. The enemy in your life will either want you; see if this isn’t true for yourself. The enemy in your life will want you to think more about who you are than who you really are or less about who you really are than who you really are. He’ll either engender in you a pride that makes you believe that you are more important than what you really are, or he will beat you down and chew you up to where you don’t feel like you’re anything.
In the kingdom of God, you are a beloved child of God. In the kingdom of God, our self image comes from who we are in Jesus Christ, which means that we are both courageous and excited because of God “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” but we’re also humbled because we know that God makes us perfect in our weakness. That balance is thrown out of whack if the enemy can get us to think either more highly of ourselves than we ought or less of ourselves than we ought. And if we do, if you’ve given into any one of those two sides, you’re living in the second kingdom.
And with our neighbor, that’s an easy one. It’s one of the ones I struggle with the most. As soon as I see a relationship with my neighbor as a way to get something from me, I’ve just slipped over in my second kingdom. As soon as I don’t give enough time to my neighbor because my needs are more important than his or hers, I’ve slipped over into my second kingdom. It’s very hard, isn’t it, to have relationships that are really true and pure, relationships where you just love that person for who they are and not worry about what you might get out of it? That’s the kingdom of God relationship and as soon as we move over and it becomes useful for us, we find ourselves in the wrong place.
And finally, a place you and I most deal with is when we begin to see the world as if it is something of ours to use. When I begin to consume in a way because I deserve it, when it becomes my property, things that I own, things that I have control over. Don’t tell me how to spend my money. I worked hard for it. Don’t tell me how to spend my time. My time is more precious to me than my money. Don’t tell me how to use my leisure time. Those are things that aren’t they, that are in my control that I should be able to use for myself? We’ve moved over into that second kingdom.
And so the battle rages. It rages across the church as to who is really Lord of our life. Nowhere, I would contend, nowhere does this battle become more sharply focused than in the issue of money. When you and I ask a faithful member to give generously and sacrificially to the work and kingdom of God, you and I focus a white hot spotlight and objectify this whole battle. It’s right there. It’s in the hearts of our donors and it’s in our own hearts. That is why, my friends, I believe that you and I are engaged in a huge battle. Because everyday we walk out and by virtue of what we do as the very living that we make, we are constantly putting ourselves in that critical moment when the allegiance of whose kingdom we really serve comes into sharp focus in a very tangible and objective way. And so, as you and I are called to help our members become one kingdom, cheerful stewards of God’s resources, we are in the heart of ministry for the kingdom of God.
Luther had it right. There are three great conversions required of every man: the conversion of the head, the conversion of the heart, and the conversion of the purse. Luther knew what he was talking about. The battle that we’re involved in, I believe, is being waged on three levels, in three different places. The first is that it’s being waged in the battle of the hearts of our members. I think we have to believe that every single person whom we talk to, every single person that we ask to support our work, in whatever way, somewhere in that person, this battle is being waged.
You and I know that we have members who’ve pretty much won this battle. They are one kingdom stewards. It is the most joyful, encouraging thing that I think you can ever do: watch somebody really understand that this all God’s resources, to watch them joyfully give sacrificially and generously because they believe so much that God has put this on their heart. They just pour out for your ministry. And they’re more blessed than anybody. Ah, thank God for one kingdom stewards.
But of course that’s not everybody we talk to. There’s a difference between transactional and transformational giving, isn’t there? Just think for a minute, walking in and talking to a potential donor who’s living in a two-kingdom lifestyle, who their mindset has these two kingdoms. They may be giving over to God the religious part of their life, their church life, their relationship with God, they attend faithfully the church, but pretty much a lot of the rest of their life, they have constructed in their own kingdom, especially their money. Their money is their own. Their money is a prize possession to them. And if you can go in and give them a really good excuse and reason why they should transfer, listen to the language, this is a two-kingdom language, why they should transfer money from their kingdom into the kingdom of God, then they might just go ahead and give you a check. And so our role as Christian Stewardship leaders is to help find enough good reasons for people to make the transfer of assets from their worldly kingdom to the kingdom of God.
Is that an exciting reason to get up in the morning? Come up with some clever ways, some techniques, some ways in which we can get people interested in making this transfer of assets, maybe its tax incentive, maybe it’s naming opportunities, maybe it’s some other clever way, maybe we can guilt them into it. After they finally do, after they think okay, tax wise it works, I’m feeling kind of guilty, I can get my name on something, okay, I’ll go ahead and make this gift. Then we turn back and say, “Remember, God loves a cheerful giver.” That’s not giving cheerfully at all. That’s the challenge we face. If you and I are willing to continue doing our work, letting the people to whom we minister live comfortably in a two-kingdom lifestyle. Two-kingdom mind set, allegiance to two lords.
Jesus was serious when He said: “You can’t serve two masters.” There is a battle for your allegiance. You hate the one or serve the other, cling to the one and reject the other. You cannot serve God and self, and mammon and all that will call you over to here. We hear this wonderfully in the story of the rich young ruler in the book of Matthew. There are two wonderful stories. We set them side by side and this becomes so clear. We know them both. The first one, the rich young ruler, we know he comes to Jesus and says: “What must I do to inherit, to enter the kingdom of God?” And after a nice little dialogue there, finally Jesus says if you really want to be made perfect, sell all you have. Give your possessions to the poor, follow me and you’ll have treasures in heaven. And we know what happens, right? He went away, how? Sad.
Just a few chapters from there, Jesus is telling a parable about a man who’s out working in his field. He comes across a treasure he finds hidden in his field. And the treasure was so huge; now listen to what happens here, that he does what? Sells everything he has that he might buy this treasure hidden in the field. And how does he sell everything he has? With joy. He sells everything he has so that he might buy this treasure hidden in the field. And that my friend is a contrast between one kingdom and two kingdom living.
The one kingdom person is so overwhelmed about what God has done for them in Jesus Christ. They’ll gladly, with joy, give everything they had that they may just have this one treasure of Christ. The two kingdom person sees that in order to do the transaction I need to do, in order to get what I want, is too costly for me. The treasure is too costly and therefore they keep what they have and go away sadly. I believe you and I are called to the ministry of helping the people around us return to wholistic one kingdom stewardship. And that is why our work is ministry. It’s in the heart of our donors. That’s the first battle.
The second battle is in your heart and my heart. See there’s a battle for our hearts in terms of how you and I are going to operate as Christian Stewardship leaders. The enemy is just as much in battle in our hearts to make sure that our motivations are wrong, our expectations are wrong, and therefore our techniques are wrong, so that we cannot be ministers to the people around us. Let me give you just one quick example. How many of you pray that the Holy Spirit will move in the hearts of your members so that they may be generous toward your ministry? We all pray that prayer. And we all pray it because we believe that there comes a moment in the life of a Godly donor that once they’ve been presented with a credible need in the kingdom of God, they’ll sit down and pray over it and say: “Lord, should I give or not? And if I should, how much should I give? How generous should I be? How many of your resources, how much should I put into this ministry?” We all expect our members to do that and we pray that God will put on their hearts what’s appropriate and what’s appropriate will be enough to fund our church.
Now the question comes, “to what extend are we willing to leave it to that prayer and that relationship?” In other words, do we resist the temptation to say: “Okay Lord, please put on their heart whatever you would put for them to give. I turn it over to you. I release it to you. And then we go back to our offices and we think: “You know I should really make a follow up phone call to that person. I need to send them one more piece of information. I’m going to have Joe who knows I’m calling, make sure he knows how important this is. I know the president will stop and knock on doors, just to reinforce and make sure they understand that this is really important to what we are doing. I hope we ask them for enough.” All that anxiety! And that anxiety presses us, sometimes my friend, to step beyond and begin to believe that it is up to us. And the minute you believe that it in the end what a person gives is ultimately up to you, you’re operating out of the second kingdom. See that? Believe that? It’s the hardest thing we do, trusting that God will really bring the increase.
But every single one of you in your hearts knows the moment that you have crossed the line between leaving it in the hands of God, to that anxiety in us that says: “I just need to do a little more because I’ve got to figure out a way to make sure that they give this gift.” I tell you. I have been there. And I had to have my hand slapped to say, “Stand back Scott, you gave this to God. It’s in His hand. Why don’t you trust Him? You know, He just might be able to bring about a greater result than you will if you get in and start plucking around. How much do we leave it to God in that transaction?
The enemy will work in our hearts to have us take control. It requires accountability. I will ask each of you here today how much accountability do you have in your development department. Are you holding one another accountable to make sure that your motives are pure and that your heart is right an that you have a ministry mindset as you go out to do your development work? It is faith, it is prayer, it is trust and it is the process of ongoing transformation because it is not easy. One of the reasons I did the devotional the way that I did is because I feel that it is so important as Christian development professionals, we are constantly opening ourselves up for God’s continued transformation of our hearts and our souls because this is really hard work.
It is hard work, not just because money is hard to raise. It is hard work because it is a battle with the enemy, every single step. You think about it for a minute. If the church has, as I believe, given almost as whole sale, the whole area of stewardship to the enemy, that’s maybe a big sweeping statement. But I believe that has happened. I believe that the church of Jesus Christ in the United States has basically abdicated their responsibility to teach and challenge people on Godly wholistic stewardship. And they have done that, they have basically said: “This is an area we’re just going to give it over. We’re not going to fight in this arena. We’re going to let the enemy take this one.” And if that has happened, that means when you and I begin talking to our donors about wholistic one kingdom stewardship with one Lord. It is doing nothing less than marching into the camp of the enemy, putting our sword in the ground and saying: “This now belongs to the king.
No longer are we going to allow you to have free reign in the whole area of Christian stewardship.” Oh my friends, if we do that, we’re in the battle for our lives. Aren’t we? The battle of our lives and we need to be prepared to be warriors in that battle.
Third area is the heart of our organization. How many of your ministries, how many of your organizations believe, teach and speak clearly that their development department is one of the ministries of the organization. How many of your organizations lift you up and celebrate the ministry that you do with donors and pray over you everyday for the work that you do? Bathe your work in prayer. How many of your organizations understand how important it is to hire godly people in the development office? I used to talk a lot to pastors and you know one of the biggest mistakes I see happening in churches? Churches, I am from the Presbyterian Church, we have elders and we have deacons, you know.
The Elders take care of the spiritual things of the church. The deacons take care of the physical, financial things of the church. And so what happens is that they go into the church and the most godly, mature, faithful people, they constantly harass them to come and be en Elder so that you can be a shepherd to the people of the church. But you take a business man with a good business sense, who’s a nominal Christian and they’ll stick him for a minute on the deacon committee. Okay, it his faith isn’t real strong, I think he’s a Christian. He’s kind of coming along. Wouldn’t he be great on the deacon committee because all they do is handle the money of the church? What a mistake!
The battle is being waged in the financial side of things. We need to be putting the most godly, spiritual, mature people that we can find in our development offices, and on our deacon boards. That’s where the battle is being waged. Does your organization supports you in making sure that the people you hire are the most spiritually mature people that you can possibly find. I should grin at how many Christian stewardship organizations don’t understand biblical wholistic stewardship, don’t understand the battle that you and I are engaged in everyday and therefore divide off the development department as that department that deals with that stuff that frankly we’re glad that somebody does it because none of the rest of us want to deal with it. We’re not even sure it’s really Christian. But thank god they do it, because they fund ministry. And if any of that attitude is in your organization at all, you have a battle to fight to reclaim for your organization that understanding of one kingdom stewardship and the work that you do to get the support that they need: the battle for your heart, the battle for your donor’s heart and the battle for your organization’s heart. I believe that is what we are up against everyday when we go tot work.
Now we believe that there is a critical need for the profession of Christian development work to have an advocate and an ally to support you in the work that you do. We want to encourage you to be faithful and well prepared as you carry out your work. I have to tell you that’s my own personal passion: is that every Christian development professional be personally prepared everyday for the battle into which you march, that you can really minister to others. We want to help and equip you as ministers to support your donors into becoming more faithful stewards. That’s our calling: helping the men and women that we minister to to become faithful one-kingdom stewards that they may give cheerfully and joyfully and be blessed. And as a result God’s work may be carried out. And third to whatever extend we can, we want to advocate for you and help you within your organizations so that your organizations understand wholistic biblical stewardship and the role that you carry out in those organizations.
Right now, I believe we are facing both urgency and opportunity. There is an urgent need for a clear biblically sound and compellingly articulate voice to call the church and the Para church back to obedience and wholistic stewardship. You believe that? And it needs to come from both of us. But beyond that, I also believe there’s an urgency for the Christian faith in general to have an association of members and leaders who can consistently and intelligently present that cause of Christian stewardship in the public square, not only in our churches and Para church organizations but into our society as a whole, this message of wholistic godly stewardship and our responsibility to live according to the one-kingdom values of the kingdom of God needs to be proclaimed and strongly and clearly as possible.
And so in conclusion, let me just say again, your work as ministry is nothing less than daily entering into the raging battle for the hearts of your donors, for the hearts of yourself and your development team and for the heart of your organization. It is a battle that Jesus Christ inaugurated Himself. He set this up. He started this battle and He calls us as His followers to come along side to play our role and to go out there with the confidence and the victory that the battle has already been won in Jesus Christ. CSA commits to walk beside you as an indispensable resource as you go through this battle. And as I thought through that battle mindset, I could think of no greater way to end than with the last devotion focusing us on Eph. 6: 10-18. Take it out and let’s read that together. That is my prayer for everyone of you as you prepare everyday to do this work.
“10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. “
I leave you with that icon: the sword of a warrior, Jesus Christ, the sword of the Spirit entering into the battle and as you do so, I will ask that God will empower you for your ministry that you may do His work with courage and humility, with confidence and with grace to His glory, in Jesus’ name, amen.