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Stewardship Matters 2018 (January - March)

Philippians 2:5 – Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.
How do we best use our lives – that is, be good stewards of our lives? Paul tells us to  embrace and develop the same mindset that Christ had. Which of Jesus' attitudes of heart and mind do you need to cultivate to live more fully?

John 12:21 – They came to Philip … and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

The visitors give voice to the faithful prayer of all steward-disciples. We wish to see Jesus. We wish to see Jesus in the many ways Jesus appears in the world around us. Most dearly, we want to see him in the eyes and lives of our brothers and sisters.

John 3:16 - Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

Have you heard some Christians say how much they hate this world? But here we learn that God loves the world. So much so that God gave us Jesus. Wise stewards and disciples pray that God would help them reach out to the world in love.

Exodus 20:3 You shall have no other gods before  me.

What do you love more than God? If most of us are honest, we might answer, “Possibly my family, or my own life.” Or maybe “my money” or “my country.” This first commandment seems simple but gets complex as we ponder it. Stewards and disciples know that the more they desire to put God above all else, the smoother their lives are.

Exodus 20:8-11 –
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbathday and consecrated it.                                  

Take one day off per week – God's orders! Gos spends FOUR verses to tell us to keep the sabbath day holy. It's that important! Holy stewardship of our lives means we take time to refrain from work. So chill out! It's literally a sin not to!

Psalm 25:4-5 -
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
As steward-disciples of God, how do we keep our lives focused and on track? Only with God's help. Daily we pray for the Almighty to teach us,guide us, lead us, correct us. How do you "wait" for God?

2 Corinthians 4:6 For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
When do you feel dim, more in darkness than in light? Everyone does once in awhileHere we are reminded that God's eternal light aaaalways shines in our hearts. As stewards of the  mysteries of God, in prayer and faith we draw close to the light.

We are dust. Yes, but we are God’s dust. Our body consists of trillions of atoms, each one a speck of “dust” created by of God, billions of years ago. God put us together from the very stuff of the universe.
Therefore, we are quite literally “earthy” beings, made of the same material as air, water, soil and stone. Part of creation, not separate from it, we work to preserve and sustain the health of God’s creation for all people and future generations.
Therefore, we have reverence for our bodies, expressed through healthy living – eating right, exercising, and avoiding illegal drugs and other poisons.

We are breath. We are “dust,” certainly, but not only dust. Genesis 2:7 describes us as “dust” into which God has “breathed the Holy breath of life.” Our life is the breath of God in our dust.
Therefore, every breath we take is holy. Every breath is a prayer that whispers God’s praise and reminds us of God’s life force in us.
Therefore, we look to God to align our lives and ourselves with God’s holy reality that arcs towards God’s purposes of peace, love, joy, justice and truth.

Our time is brief. Between the time that the “dust” of our lives comes together to form us and when it returns to the earth, we have a finite number of minutes on earth.
Therefore, every hour, every second is sacred. There is not a single moment one to waste. We spend our time wisely, carefully, prayerfully.
Therefore, we do not cling to our possessions, knowing that we don’t really “own” anything, but only hold onto it for a little while.
Therefore, we nourish our lives with world treasures of real and lasting value – friendships, trust, love, joy, service, generosity and harmony.
This Lent spend time in prayer, with openness and honesty. See how God will turn your heart and mind, transforming you into the person you were created to be. Reflect each day on Ash Wednesday. “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

--Rob Bleezard Copyright © 2018, Rev. Robert Blezard. Reprinted by permission. Pastor Blezard is content editor for www.stewardshipoflife.org and serves as an assistant to the bishop of the Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA, in central Pennsylvania.

Isaiah 40:31 
"Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."
God entrusts us to be good stewards of all we have, but especially our strength, our vision, our courage, our life-energy. And in using these gifts, we are not alone. Isaiah reminds us that God renews us, fills us with power and focus. How do you wait for God's renewal?

Psalm 111:1
"Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart!"
What can we do to open the way for God to transform us into more faithful steward disciples? Praise and thanksgiving are keys!  As you go through your day, keep these two phrases in your heart and on your lips: "Praise be to God!" and "Thanks be to God!"  Think of them and say them often. Then see what God can do with you.

Mark 1:17-18 -
And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately Simon and Andrew left their nets and followed him.
What are you here for and what are you doing? Those ARE the questions for steward disciples. When Jesus invites Simon and Andrew to follow him, pursue a life of purpose and strength, and "fish for people," they drop their nets and go. What nets do you need drop to follow Jesus' invitation?
Stewardship Matters – 2018

Think of the three happiest people you know – people whose lives effervesce with joy and peace. Chances are they also have a profound thankfulness for all that God has blessed them with.. They also seem to live with a sense of contentment. Reflect for a minute. Isn't that the case? By contrast, you may also know folks who are considered wealthy but are profoundly Unhappy. Likely they they not only fail to exude thankfulness for their wealth, but they also mistakenly think they need even MORE possessions to be happy. Isn't that right? Now which kind of person do you tend to be? Thankfulness. Happiness. Contentment. These joyful characteristics work together, reinforcing one another. Human experience proves this simple fact to be true: people who are grateful for all they have and all they are tend to be happy and content. Moreover, don't they also tend to possess spiritual depth and emotional maturity? A coincidence? Hardly. Thankfulness, happiness, and contentment interact, but gratitude holds the key. Develop gratitude, then happiness and contentment follow. It doesn't work the other way around. With prayer, devotion, and simple exercises, the Holy Spirit will lead you to deeper spiritual maturity and more happiness. Here are some ideas for you and your family.

Pray daily. Ask God to give you a greater sense of thankfulness. And then thank God for all the day's blessings.

Chart thankfulness. On a big wall calendar, mark one thing for which you're thankful to God. Invite other family members to do the same. When you get in the habit of looking for them, you will find blessings everywhere.

Keep a “blessing list.” Write down things you are grateful for. Then as you say your morning and evening devotions, pray over the list: “God, I'm thankful for this, and I'm thankful for that.” Revise the list as needed.

Start a refrigerator “gratitude board.” Using sticky notes, post on your refrigerator the things for which you are most grateful. Use a different color sticky note for each family member. Keep the board updated.

Send out thank-you notes. Buy a box of thank you notes and send one every week. Go deep, thanking not only the folks that have given you a present or done a favor for you, but also those whose love, support, friendship, laughter, energy, or presence are important to you.

Make a “thank offering.” Express gratitude in a tangible way by making a contribution to your congregation or favorite church cause. Make the donation “just because” or in honor or in memory of a loved one, or on the occasion of a special event or blessing in your life.

Adopt one or more of these exercises as a spiritual discipline ans, with God's help, you will develop the attitude of gratitude that will bring more satisfaction, greater happiness, spiritual depth, ans emotional maturity to your life. Blessings for 2018.

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