Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | February 20, 2015

February 20, 2015 “Many Happy Returns”

“The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” (Leviticus 25:23)

“To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.” (Deuteronomy 10:14)

Good Morning and Blessed Friday Everyone!

I’d like to begin the day with a bit of humor and share an old joke I heard some time ago about pastors and their financial resources:

Three ministers were talking over lunch and before long found themselves discussing how much of the weekly donations was appropriate to keep and how much to give to the Lord. The first minister says, “I just draw a line on the floor, put one foot on both sides, and throw the money into the air… whatever lands on the right side of the line is God’s and whatever lands on the left is mine.” The second minister notes that he uses a similar method, but “I use a small coffee table when I throw the money in the air and whatever lands on the table goes to the Lord and whatever lands on the floor is mine.” They both contemplate each other’s answer and finally turn to the third minister who is sitting there without saying anything. “Well, how do you do it?” asks the first to the third. “Well, I do as you both do and throw the money into the air, but I figure whatever the Lord wants, he’ll grab, and I keep whatever hits the floor.”

At the heart of every amusing story,  most likely there will be an element of truth…something to which the hearer can personally relate. When it comes to “what belongs to me and what belongs to God”, this is no exception. As it relates to Christian stewardship, an individual or a family may ask the question, “How much of our time, talents, and resources shall we give to God?” In light of the passages from Leviticus and Deuteronomy, I believe we are asking ourselves the wrong question. More accurately, we should ask ourselves, “Of the blessings granted to us by our loving and gracious Lord, what shall we return to God?” On our part, there should be “many happy returns” to God. These passages, and others I could reference, inform us that everything we “have” is His. The late Methodist pastor Clovis Chappell once wrote,

“God owns all; He owns me; He owns my home; He owns my children; He owns my property. I have called your attention before to the fact that the modern idea of ownership is pagan. The Christian idea is this: that God is the absolute owner of all things.”   

Everything we “have” is basically “on loan to us” from God. Rather than thinking of ourselves as “owners”, we are more accurately “stewards” of that which truly belongs to the Lord. This includes, as Chappell noted, my property, my finances, my family, and myself…all of it.  One of my favorite hymns often sung around this time of year is “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross”. One verse of that hymn says,

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

It’s a great hymn, but I have two problems with that sentiment: (1). The whole realm of nature is not mine, nor even a minuscule part of it…it all belongs to God. (2). God’s love does not demand my soul, my life, my all…God’s love has paid the price on that wondrous cross. My soul, my life, and my all is not a price I have to pay,nor demanded by God, for the debt has been covered by God’s love who willingly gave His soul…his life…his all for me on the cross. Acknowledgement of that fact through repentance and submission to His Lordship is my proper response. The next time you are tempted to claim ownership of anything, save your sins…(they are your own…and even the weight of them has been borne by Christ), remember that God, and God alone, is the absolute owner of all. Let’s Pray!

Lord of All; That You truly are! Thank You for such blessing and grace, that You would choose to entrust me with those things that are rightfully Yours. Teach me to use these extraordinary gifts wisely, that I may be a blessing to others, as You have so richly blessed me. This I pray in Jesus’ Wonderful Name. Amen!

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