Living Richly for Kids: Introduction

Matthew 6:33, “But seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

When I was in university, I spent a year working in a community garden. We planted, watered, and cared for the vegetables and fruits. And then throughout the summer and fall, we harvested them. Anyone who was part of the garden could eat as much food as they needed from the garden. And the rest was given away. For me, the image of a garden is the beginning of stewardship.

God originally placed people in the Garden of Eden to “steward” it, to care for it. The people had to care for the plants and animals and could eat what they needed as well. It was a relationship of give and take. God also asks us to be good “stewards” today. But stewardship doesn’t begin with giving, it begins with the heart.

Stewardship means noticing all of the gifts we have from God, caring for them well, and sharing them with God and others. The next few weeks we will look at four different parts of stewardship and how God calls us to be good stewards. Each week there will be a challenge or activity for you to do with your family.

Activity: Take a hike! As you hike through the woods, notice the things around you. What has God blessed you with? What does it mean to be a good steward of creation (the Earth)?

Challenge: Memorize the verse of the week!

* If you follow the blog, there will be adult posts every Tuesday, and kid’s posts every Wednesday for the next five weeks. Later this week, you will also be able to download the entire adult or kid’s booklet on the resource page! There will be limited booklets in print at the church as well.

Living Richly with God

As I mentioned last week, stewardship doesn’t begin with giving, it begins with the heart. When we have our hearts aligned correctly before our Creator, everything else seems to fall into place. And it is not a matter of checking off a box and giving stuff away, but rather giving out of correct alignment with God.

As I think over the past few years in my life, I ponder God’s extravagant provision for us. I think about all the times that I have worried about money, or wondered where the next paycheck would come from, and how God provided in radically and ridiculously extravagant ways.

When Grant and I graduated from seminary in 2014 with loads of student loans, an immediate wedding, and four months of unemployment before our first contract began, we had no idea how we were going to make ends meet. But we continually prayed and asked God to show us the way He had for us to go. We honestly didn’t know how we would pay rent, let alone food that summer, and God provided. A surprise scholarship came through at graduation, to pay within a few dollars the exact amount we still needed for rent. The landlords allowed us to plant a garden and eat produce from that for the summer.

Again, when we were in between jobs after our first-year contract was up, the extravagance of God’s provision was overwhelming. We had been offered other positions, prior to St. Paul’s Leaskdale, and turned them down after prayerfully considering what God’s plan was for our lives. But we had to give an answer before we had anything in place at SPL. It was a crazy time where trusting in God has never been so real for us.

But we knew that we had to live prayerfully and dependently on God, waiting for His timing and His movement, despite seemingly dire circumstances. Family members allowed us to stay with them for this couple of month period, and also to store our furniture, and boxes. We had furniture and belongings stored in four different locations across Southern Ontario. It really made us think hard about what we needed and what we could give away!

But when the time came, God’s perfect provision fell into place beautifully, and the little extra dependence on God did not hurt either of us. We got back on our feet after a few months with relatively little issue. But what got me through this whole time is that our God is an extravagant God, one who lavishes His love on us. I’m not talking materially, but much more holistically than that. God lavishes His extravagant provisions on us.

Because we live in the first world, we often get caught up in the many things we don’t possess, instead of living gratefully toward God for the many things He has provided. A complaining spirit stands in stark opposition to a spirit of thankfulness for the many blessings we have. I think we also get confused about what is a necessity and what is a desire.

We rent a small townhouse in a nice neighbourhood, consistently have food on the table, heating in the winter, and even air conditioning in the summer. We do not have nice cars (in fact, currently, mine is not able to leave the driveway), and we do not have cable or satellite, and I do not buy expensive purses or glamorous jewelry. And most of our furniture was either given to us or from Ikea—some of it was given to us and from Ikea. We live relatively simply, but we have so much more than we could possibly ever need! Not to say that my attitude always reflects this notion…sometimes I get caught up in stuff as much as the next person.

But when we align our lives before our Creator first, all of this seems to fall into place as well.

* If you follow the blog, there will be adult posts every Tuesday, and kid’s posts every Wednesday for the next five weeks. Later this week, you will also be able to download the entire adult or kid’s booklet on the resource page!

Activity: Take a hike! Though not all weeks will have physical exercise, this is an excellent thing to do on your own or with the whole family. As you hike through a natural space, notice all of the blessings and consider what being a good steward entails. If you are hiking with someone, discuss what stewardship has to do with being outside in nature.

Living Richly: Stewardship in the Kingdom of God

During university, I spent a year living with a professor’s family as the nanny. The family was heavily invested in an organic community garden initiative in the town I lived in, and I became engaged in the effort as well. The family was Quaker, and believed deeply in simplicity and living in a way that tried to enrich those around them and did no harm. Because of these convictions, they chose to be vegan, and also tried to source all of their food ethically and locally.

It was an interesting time in my life where I was able to learn some great takeaways from them, and also adapt accordingly. But the one thing that I gleaned from them more than anything was their commitment to this community garden on the university campus. I spent many afternoons watering at the garden, and as a member ($10 a year), I could harvest whatever I could eat. We were encouraged not to harvest more than we could eat, but to take as much as we liked for us and/or our families. At that time I was living on a budget of $25 a week for food, so I primarily ate from the garden for a season.

During the growing season, we donated the majority of the food to the food bank. And it was not just a few leftovers, it was a vast array of produce. I remember over 800 lbs of tomatoes were given one weekend to the foodbank and went to hungry families in the area who did not have access to fresh produce.

At the end of the season, all of the growers came together for a potluck. The only condition was that you had to make something from the garden. We spent several hours together feasting on rosemary mashed potatoes, and butternut squash muffins, and delectable soups, and zucchini scallop—a delicious smorgasbord of fresh, homegrown foods. We also spent some of the time pressing cider from the apples that had fallen off of the trees—the freshest cider I have ever had.

And then we prayed together, for the community, for one another, thanking God for His provision and for the abundance of rainfall that had watered the garden that year.

Some of you may be envisioning hippy-dippy nonsense. But I would more liken the experience to the vision in Revelation of the wedding feast. The experience represented to me a beautiful sharing of grace and of God’s provision. I had more than enough, and the people who worked the garden shared all of it in common, taking as much as needed and giving away the rest, like the early believers in Acts (Acts 2:44-47).

Living with the Quakers taught me something of simplicity and of sufficiency. We so often say that God’s grace is enough, it is sufficient. But then we act like we need more, more, more!

For the next several weeks, we will be walking through a series we are calling Living Richly. As a church, we are looking at what stewardship means, what the Bible says about giving, and how that actually leads to a richer, fuller life. Stewardship is defined as “the job of supervising or taking care of something” (Webster), but most commonly refers to money. But first things first! We believe stewardship starts with God, not us.

In short, this resource is a reflection on what it means to live richly. It is broken up into four sections on stewardship. As I mentioned, stewardship doesn’t begin with giving. It begins with the heart. Section one looks at living richly upward—our relationship with God being the firm foundation of stewardship. Section two looks at living richly inward—focusing on contentedness, regardless of circumstance. Section three looks at living richly outward—having communion and community with others as an essential part of stewardship. And section four focuses on living richly forward—the giving of ourselves and stewarding our resources wisely.

The blog will have a new post each week with different exercises for you to do. Additionally, we are changing the KidZone curriculum at this time to correspond with what the “big kids” are learning on Sundays, so there will be additional questions/exercises for the family as well. This will be available in print form at the church, as well as on the blog each week. On Tuesdays and Thursdays the family/adult blogs will be available starting next week.

I hope that we are able to grow individually and corporately in our stewardship through this series, and that the spillover will be able to do some cool things in our community and in the world.

Enjoy, as you work through what living richly means in your life!

 

Introduction to Stewardship Exercises:

What does the Bible say about stewardship? Read up on some of the passages on stewardship in the Bible. You will not get to them all…(The Bible talks about money and stewardship over 1000 times!)

Section 1: Matthew 6:19-34 (God first), Matthew 13:44-46 (pearl of great price)

Section 2: Acts 2:44-47 (shared everything), Leviticus 19:9-10 (gleaning)

Section 3: Philippians 4:10-13 (content in circumstances), Hebrews 13:5-6 (love of money),

Section 4: Matthew 25: 14-30 (parable of the talents), Luke 12:13-21 (parable of rich fool)

 

 

Limitations as Opportunities

This past Sunday, we looked at the limitations of Jesus in Mark 13. When I got to thinking about Jesus’ limitations, I thought also about the limits that other people in the Bible faced, where God then swoops in and does the unthinkable.

God doesn’t do miraculous things through perfect people that can handle it all themselves (if such a person exists). God works miracles through brokenness. I am struck by a passage in 2 Chronicles (a book that I tend to avoid unless I am having insomnia). In 2 Chronicles 20, God’s people are about to go into battle against an enemy that they can’t possibly defeat. They are smaller, less equipped, and simply not up to par with the enemy. They could have trained extra hard, and thought creatively to increase their weaponry, relying entirely on their own strength (or what little of it they had). But they didn’t!

In 2 Chronicles 20:12 the leader of God’s people prays, “We are powerless against this great multitude that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” This sets the army of the Israelites up for a miracle.

Recognizing our limitations poises us to do much greater things through reliance on God.

The amazing thing that happens after this prayer is an example of God’s people recognizing their own limits and relying on God to do the seemingly impossible. The Israelites head into battle after fasting and worshipping and praying, with very limited strength and resources, to find everyone already dead on the battlefield with abundant riches scattered about. What happens, if you read the story, is that more than one strong enemy come up against each other and utterly wipe out each other. By the time the Israelites get to the scene, everyone is dead…their enemy has been defeated and an even scarier enemy is also defeated.

While Israel was fasting and praying and recognizing their limits, God was working the miraculous.

I think that when we take the time to recognize our own weaknesses, our own humanness, our own brokenness, and fix our eyes on God; it allows the all-powerful One to act on our behalf. The Apostle Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” This often-cited passage seems to be a call to pull yourself up by the bootstraps. But it is not! Paul is not saying that he will find strength because he is a believer. He is saying, quite passively, that Christ will give him the strength he needs. He is a vessel—God is the actor.

When we cease to see our limitations as potential failures, and instead look at them as opportunities for something bigger to happen, God works in powerful ways. “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” This humble prayer reminds us of our powerlessness and of his powerfulness. It reminds me that when I am weak, He is strong.

If you are dealing with something that seems overwhelmingly larger than your capacity to handle it, look to the example in Chronicles… “I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on you.” Ask yourself, “What can God do with this?” And then wait for an answer.

Sometimes this means setting better boundaries yourself on what you are doing with your time and energy. Sometimes this means learning to reprioritize your life because you are limited. And sometimes this means that God will work through a seemingly insurmountable obstacle on your behalf. As you head into Holy Week, ask yourself where God is showing you your limits, and turn that into an opportunity for God to act.

 

*For regular readers, this is going to be the last post until after Easter. Next week, during Holy Week, I would encourage you to check out the Seven Last Words Devotional put together by Grant Vissers, here. After Easter, resources will be available on the blog to start our new series on Stewardship called “Living Richly.” Check back for details later!