To Give an Account of One’s Stewardship with Joy, and not with Grief

While reading excerpts from various missionary writings for a class recently, the topic of Christian stewardship was raised. The Bible has much to say upon the subject of course: from Jesus’ parable concerning the talents (Matt. 25) to Paul’s admonishing the Ephesians to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (5:15-16), amongst many others. In contrast to this, man’s culture is in most ways antithetical to the concept of stewardship; especially in the West, the idea of being beholden to anyone, or held responsible for something that you do not own, is viewed as reprehensible. However, the stewardship of the Christian is merely an extension of the Gospel and offers a freedom that no “individualism” or materialism can ever match.

During his time preparing for the mission field, Hudson Taylor was pointed by a friend to study the passages in the Bible pertaining to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon further study, Taylor became convicted. He writes in reference to his study of Scripture, “I learned, too, that it was their [new testament saints] privilege, from day to day and from hour to hour, to live as men who wait for the Lord; that thus living it was immaterial, so to speak, whether He should or should not come at any particular hour, the important thing being to be so ready for Him as to be able, whenever He might appear, to give an account of ones stewardship with joy, and not with grief” (320). Taylor goes on to describe how practical this hope was–and the ways that it drove him to, at various times throughout his life, give away earthly possessions that could be better used by others. While this specific example pertains to physical goods, it points to a deeper reality. Taylor wanted to give a good account to his Master of how he had used the ‘talents’ that he had received. This idea of stewardship, of wisely investing the resources God has granted us, has far reaching consequences for Christians–even to the point of life itself. The Psalmist says:

“My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

    the days that were formed for me,

    when as yet there was none of them.” (Ps. 139:15,16)

I love those two lines “in your book were written […] the days that were formed for me”. The days of our lives are a gift, the number of pages that they span are determined, and nothing will alter God’s good providence in completing the story He has for them. What a relief that our lives will never fall short, nor overstay, God’s good purposes for them.

Christians stand at a unique point in the world. The reality that God has made us heirs with Christ (Eph. 2), who are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (10), frees us to pursue hard things knowing that 1) our lives are not our own and 2) we do not labor in our own strength. Christians throughout history have been able to face war, famine, persecution, death, and plague with a genuine sacrificial love for others. Having a loving Father, who will carry us faithfully to the term of our days, frees us to leave behind the fears and selfish motives of the world, and love and serve others without reservation. In light of the hope of the Gospel, and the certainty that the span of our lives exist in God’s merciful hand, let us not engage our time in unbelieving fear, but may the reality of the coming of our Lord cause us to pause and consider, as it did Hudson Taylor, how best we may use the time we have been given; that we too, as the saints who have gone before, may “give an account of [our] stewardship with joy, and not with grief” on that last day.

Works Cited

Taylor, J Hudson. “The Call to Service.” Perspectives On the World Christian Movement, edited by Ralph D Winter, Fourth ed., William Carey Library, 2015, pp. 320.

In Him, Life

The Incarnation is one of the most joyous, miraculous, and astounding events to happen in all of human history. Easily trivialized to little more than a sentimental gesture towards the birth of Christ, it represents with unreserved nakedness the love of God towards a people alienated from his presence.

A Fall and a promise

The Scriptures document thoroughly the fall of mankind. From the first sin when “the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:6) to the first curse:

So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.” (Gen 3)

The subsequent pages of scripture outlining man’s rebellion against his creator demonstrate man’s utter sinfulness in light of God’s complete holiness. However, almost as soon as man’s rebellion is revealed -a more powerful good is made known. Even as he is cursing the serpent, God makes a promise -the first of many -that culminate the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ:

15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel. (Gen. 3)

And down through the ages His promises continued. To Abraham, ” in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:3) and David, “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Sam 7:16).

When Everything Became as Nothing

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1)

The incarnation is diametrically opposed to the way of the world: in a culture where success is measured by upward mobility in work, family, influence, power, etc -humbling oneself from a position of affluence seems unreasonable, if not unthinkable. After all, even Adam and Eve, in the fall, sought only their own elevation and glory. Not only that, but the incarnation represents a condescension of such magnitude that it cannot be fully understood or appreciated -no equivalent comparison exists within the observable cosmos. Returning to the quote from John 1, the implications are quite stark: Christ has been and will always be; he is the one who spoke and brought ALL things into existence -every star, galaxy, planet, creature, and atom. This is who it is who became a cold, poor, crying baby. The following passage from one of Augustine’s sermons is quite helpful thinking about God becoming man:

“Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.”
– Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 191.1)

In Him, life

The Incarnation only makes sense inside the context of fall, promise, and redemption. As Paul says in Galatians 4, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” So this Christmas, as we consider the meaning of the day, let us wonder at God’s love for those who rejected him: that he would become one of them, suffer as one of them, be humiliated by them, and murdered by them -all so that “He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29).

A Prayer of Thanks

Christians are called to rejoice and give thanks at all times, and in all situations -and how can we not if indeed the Gospel is true? As Paul says,

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” ~1 Thess. 5:16-18

This Thanksgiving, the holiday can merely be a break from routine, a time eating lots of good food with family (not a bad thing!) -but it can also be more. While Christians are called to give thanks always, this day provides an opportunity to intentionally praise God for the ways he has worked during the past year. There are any number of ways this can look -but the following from the Book of Common Prayer has helped me as I’ve contemplated God’s working in the past year, and maybe it will be beneficial to you as well:

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have
done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

~Book of Common Prayer -Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

By and By

Mature we rest in natural mooring,

By a stream, dirt and water mingling;

Boughs cumbered with clinging moss, often sighing:

Memories of darkened wood, time breaking.

Neighbors are gone, felled by axe and age,

Leaving impressions on nearby earthage;

But in their shadow grow new tender leaves,

sunward rising, growing from what below lies.

And with each morn – dew returns, and we find

Solace from broken trunk, doleful mind:

Like salve that succors the green leaf tender

Against sun that would it poorer render,

And with relieved voice windy branches cry,

in hope of a better dawn by and by.

Hymns and new songs

It is not everyday that you find new or interesting takes on classic Christian hymns, and while there have been a plethora of covers in various styles (bluegrass, country, etc) -some quite good, an artist who takes a distinct stylistic road is hard to find. Enter JG Hymns, out of Edinburgh, UK. Combining instrumentation with solo male vocals, he weaves the lyrics of classic hymns to a new and unique sound. While certainly not a style aimed at congregational singing, his musical interpretation of well known songs it quite interesting and insightful, and some of his original works are quite good as well.

Just as I am, without one plea

Vocabulary in Old Books

While surfing the internet looking at t-shirts one day, I came across a shirt with an image of a raven spelling the word “nevermore.” Immediately recognizing the reference to Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem The Raven, I went and grabbed my copy off of the shelf and began to read. However, upon opening the book, a small piece of paper fell out, and upon looking closer I realized it contained a bunch of words on it meant for further research in the dictionary.
One of the great advantages of reading older books is the expansive use of vocabulary found in them. While by no means a universal truth, many older authors (especially the ones who have lasted the test of time) maintained a much stronger mastery of the English language than people do today. This makes old books a great way to learn new (old) English words. However, like just about anything, vocabulary growth cannot be obtained in a desultory manner, because then we just end up writing words down to reference later and stick them in a book.
After rediscovering my list of vocabulary from Poe’s book, I continued on to reread The Raven, it took me all of 5 minutes, but in the process I had discovered several more words to add to my small paper. So, find a good book, and whenever you get a chance – read and learn. There’s a whole wealth of words out there that the majority of people do not know, a whole treasure chest just waiting to be discovered. Here are some of the words that I found through reading Poe:

  1. Quiescence –adj. in a state or period of inactivity or dormancy
  2. Asphodel –n. an immortal flower said to grow in the Elysian fields
  3. Desultory –adj. lacking a plan, purpose, or enthusiasm
  4. Nepenthe –n. any drug or potion bringing welcome forgetfulness
  5. Castellated –adj. having battlements
  6. Surcease –n. cessation; relief or consolation