Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Stewards of God’s Treasure’
© November 16, 2014 by Steve Mickelson
Updated Message Originally Shared at BLCF Sunday September 6, 2009
Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #600 (Christian Stewardship – from Psalms 24 and 50, Haggai 2, Leviticus 27, Proverbs 3, Malachi 3, Matthew 22, 2 Corinthians 9, 1 Peter4); Prayer
Opening Hymn #512 Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service; Choruses
Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings
Scripture Verses: Luke 16:1-13, 1 Corinthians 2:14 , Acts 20:28-32
Let us pray…
Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship on this, the third Sunday of November, 2014.
Before we begin today’s lesson, I would like to make a brief comment about a testimony shared just after Margaret’s message last Wednesday at our weekly community dinner which we serve here, in the heart of Toronto. One of our diners asked to share a testimony with everyone. This woman, whose name I leave anonymous, a single mother and her son were both regular attendees to the BLCF Café for at least six years. Her son, now about eight years of age, virtually grew up with us at the dinner; often playing rhythm with Terry as he played the guitar during the meal. Her testimony was to thank all the volunteers who provided meals, bread, clothing, care, and fellowship for both her and son in the safe and friendly space of the café.
Not being in her circumstance, we would never know how important the café became for her, as she found normalcy and joy at a time in life where she faced protracted financial and social challenges. She arrived at to the café at the time when we share the testimony and message with guests and volunteers, and shared the good news, that after years of unemployment, part time jobs and temporary employment, she had just landed a good job, with normal hours, so that she would have the means and time to prepare regular dinners for herself and her son at home.
Unless we have experienced the challenges of the homeless or working poor, we will never fully appreciate how important the financial security that comes from a regular job and paycheque, especially when raising a child.
There are times when cynics ask why does the church instead of “wasting” funds on a community dinner, instead, spend those funds on new carpeting, updating the sanctuary with new lighting fixtures, and hire professional musicians? Or why not use café funds to make and serve smoothies and cappuccinos to the congregation after our service?
If you could see the joy and appreciation expressed on both the face and by the words of this woman Wednesday, you would know where the Lord expects us, as a church to place as our priority, which is to honour Christ by taking care of the least of our brothers and sisters. This woman could not afford to buy a loaf of bread for her son, let alone an ice cream treat from the local parlour.
I do not know which is sadder; someone who walks the streets of Toronto and is oblivious that such a need exists, or worse, does know and chooses to do nothing about it!
This was not the first testimony shared by a café guest at BLCF, who has given testimony of a restoration of dignity and spirit by the unconditional love of Christ shared every Wednesday at the BLCF Café. This January will mark the BLCF Cafe’s seventh anniversary. At an average of 150 per week, I calculate that some 7,500 guests pass through our doors annually. And with 15-20 volunteers, that is another 750. That is over 8,000 ministered to in a year! Obviously, this is where the Lord expects the church, which after all is the people of Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, to invest their time and money.
By the way, Christmas Eve and New Years Eve both happen to fall on a Wednesday this year and we plan to serve Holiday Lunch instead of Dinner at the café, as we had done last Christmas Day and New Years Day, (which were also on a Wednesday). So if you are interested and available to volunteer to help at the café on either Christmas Eve or New Years Eve, please give Sophie a call at 416-535-9578 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As far as the cynics are concerned, the Good Book says in 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV):
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
Now back to today’s lesson.
A wise man once said: “It takes a lot of hard work to make a dream reality. It’s a lot easier to make a dream a delusion.” This is quite a profound statement. But what is meant by the statement: “It takes a lot of hard work to make a dream reality. It’s a lot easier to make a dream a delusion”, especially with respect our faith, our walk with Jesus?
To begin today’s lesson, let me share with you a World War II story. There was wine steward who was responsible for caring for the finest collection of wine in all of Europe, the wine cellar at the Prince’s Palace of Monaco. At that time in history, the palace was well known for its vintage, rare wines. But the Nazis had overrun the city and now lived and dined in the palace, expecting and wanting to drink the world’s finest vintage wines. The wine steward resented the invading soldiers, so he cleverly and carefully hid all the rarest wines deep in the cellar choosing to serve his enemy only the cheapest and youngest wines, while pretending that those wines were the best.
Though the steward acted with the best of intentions by deceiving his “guests” in order to preserve that what he was entrusted with, he committed the sin of bearing false witness, albeit to his enemies.
But do the ends justify the means, and what is meant by the term “steward”?
Let us answer the latter first. From merriam-webster.com, we have the following definitions of a steward:
1stew·ard – noun \ˈstü-ərd, ˈstyü-; ˈst(y)u̇rd\
1: one employed in a large household or estate to manage domestic concerns (as the supervision of servants, collection of rents, and keeping of accounts)
2: shop steward
3: a fiscal agent
4a : an employee on a ship, airplane, bus, or train who manages the provisioning of food and attends passengers
b : one appointed to supervise the provision and distribution of food and drink in an institution
5: one who actively directs affairs : manager
As Sophie is Director and Manager of the BLCF Café Community Dinner, and by definition is a Steward of the community dinner, a job which she does faithfully and with great integrity. Here is another definition for a steward:
Stewards are people who care for precious people and property that is not their own, often preserving it from disaster.
This brings us to The Parable of the Dishonest Manager, from the sixteenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Luke 16:1-13 (ESV):
The Parable of the Dishonest Manager
1He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Footnotes: a. Luke 16:6 About 875 gallons b.Luke 16:7 Between 1,000 and 1,200 bushels c.Luke 16:8 Greek age d.Luke 16:9 Greek mammon, a Semitic word for money or possessions; also verse 11; rendered money in verse 13
Cross references: A.Luke 16:1 : Luke 12:42 B.Luke 16:2 : 1 Cor 9:17 C.Luke 16:8 : Matt 25:2 D.Luke 16:8 : Luke 20:34; Luke 10:6 E.Luke 16:8 : John 12:36; 1 Thess 5:5; Eph 5:8 F.Luke 16:9 : Luke 12:33; Matt 6:20; 19:21; 1 Tim 6:10, 17-19 G.Luke 16:9 : Luke 16:11, 13; Matt 6:24 H.Luke 16:10 : Matt 25:21, 23 I.Luke 16:10 : Luke 19:17 J.Luke 16:12 : 1 Chr 29:14, 16 K.Luke 16:13 : Luke 16:9
What is the message given to us here? It is a message of stewardship. In this parable, the manager was likely overcharging those who were indebted to his master, by charging them interest which he pocketed for himself.
The manager’s deception, has been discovered by his master, and facing being fired and dishonoured by the master for his bad business practices, he tries to mitigate the circumstances by returning what was overcharged back to the debtors. The manager reasoned that if he were to lose his job, he would generate some good will with the debtors.
Not only was the manager guilty of deceiving both his master and those in debt to the master, but by charging interest to the debtors, he was in violation of Mosaic Law. It is interesting to note that although the master had chastised his manager for being dishonest, he commended him for his business savvy.
The people of Israel were forbidden by law from charging interest to others on credit extended, as we read in Deuteronomy 23:19 (ESV):
19 “You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest.
As Christian stewards, what treasures has God entrusted us with? We may find the answer to this question in John 3:16 and Luke 10:27, which focus on unconditional love:
John 3:16 (ESV) For God So Loved the World
16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”
Luke 10:27 (ESV) Love God and Love Your Neighbour
27And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.”
Each of us has been made stewards of God’s treasure. We are entrusted with God’s love. God only asks that we confess our sins, accept his gift and then return love back to both God and to our neighbour. In order to make any such gift acceptable, God sacrificed Jesus for our sins and make our faith acceptable in God’s eyes.
As Pulpit Preacher and Pastor here at BLCF, I have a responsibility to minister to the needs of the congregation through preaching, teaching, leadership and personal interaction with others in a manner that is both glorifies God and which nurtures the spiritual growth of the congregation in a Christ-like manner.
Our church trustees have been entrusted by our congregation of the Bloor Lansdowne to oversee and to protect the church property from those who may seek to use the Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Church property for their own glorification and not for the glorification of God.
It is the responsibility of the Church Board at Bloor Lansdowne to see that the money spent is spent wisely and in a manner that glorifies God’s by building or edifying the faith and spirit of those who believe or seek God in the BLCF community. The Board must ensure that God’s funds are not for the glorification of any person or group of people. Over the last few years, by God’s grace and provision, our church has faced and endured facing hard financial challenges, which frequently required hard financial decisions, in order to ensure that our church continues to exist, let alone be relevant to the Bloor Lansdowne community.
Your Church Elders are responsible to ensure that whatever is said, planned, and acted in the name of BLCF, is said, planned and acted in a manner that glorifies God as well as showing love and respect to others within the church. For like that manager in the parable if any of what is said, planned, or acted upon by anyone of the church, is determined to associated with an intention to deceive God, Who is our Master, cannot be tolerated and must be acted upon by the Elders. And so in the same manner, anything said, planned or done with the deliberate intention to deceive others in the church is viewed with the same contempt by our Father in Heaven.
As a congregation of believers, we are all stewards of our faith in God. We are managers of His gifts to us. Being His stewards, we need to acknowledge the Lord’s love by returning the same unconditional love to both Him and to our neighbours, as we had read earlier in John 3:16 and Luke 10:27.
The stewardship of God’s gifts comes with the Lord’s expectation that each of us undertake the responsibility to grow in faith to God, by trusting Him, sharing God’s love in the manner of how we treat one another and how we support our church, spiritually and financially.
But you may ask: why do the Pastor, the Trustees, the Board, the Elders, and the Congregation of BLCF just have faith and pray to God to provide for the means to take care of the church? My answer is; while it is true that as Christian believers we must practice our faith through prayer, in understanding His Word, and by trusting God; still we must not put the Lord to the test. We are tasked with the mission of sharing the Gospel of Jesus, without putting our Lord to the test. You may recall from last week’s lesson, what happened to Jesus just after he was convicted by the Holy Spirit, Luke 4:4 (ESV):
4 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil.
Just as Jesus was tempted by the devil right after he was baptized by the Holy Spirit at the beginning of his earthly ministry, and tempted again on the cross, by the exhortations of one of the thieves being crucified beside him he resisted putting God to the test. God did not bring His son on earth as a show, to entertain the Pharisees and other cynics of Christ, but to fulfill His new covenant with true believers. And as followers of Christ, we may anticipate that the devil try to tempt our faith and drive us away from the Lord. This is the warning brought to do the same, as described in this warning from the Apostle Paul in Acts 20:28-32 (ESV):
28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God,[a] which he obtained with his own blood.[b] 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
The lesson from this passage from Luke is; that no matter what our position and line of responsibility as stewards of Gods church here at Bloor Lansdowne, we cannot allow ourselves to be deceived by Satan into putting the Lord our God to the test in matters that God has entrusted us to take care of. Each of us should think, speak and act as faithful and trustworthy stewards providing for the church in a manner that is honourable and glorifying to God and loving and respectful to one another. Just as Christ had a mission to be the Word Made Flesh, we have a mission to be good and faithful stewards of the faith.
Stewards are people who care for precious people and property that is not their own, often preserving it from disaster.
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn # 476: O Christian, Haste, Your Mission High
Benediction – (Romans 8:38-39):
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.