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What Stewardship Really Is

It seems to me there’s a misconception about the word stewardship among Christians.  We tend to only think of it as the management of finances according to the Bible.  The truth is finances are really just one area of stewardship.  Money happens to be the area of stewardship that gets the most attention in our culture, and unfortunately we haven’t improved much if any.  Many of us have developed a negative connotation for the word stewardship because we associate it only with giving, or more specifically being asked for something.  But this post isn’t about financial stewardship specifically.  I’ve talked a lot about how financial stewardship is balancing giving, saving, and spending according to God’s word and God’s will for each of us in our relationship with Him.  For this particular post I want to open our minds to the idea that stewardship is about a lot more than just finances – it’s about our total devotion to following Jesus.

First let’s take a look at the definition of the word stewardship.  On dictionary.com the first definition of the word stewardship is:

the position and duties of a steward, a person who acts as the surrogate of another or others, especially by managing property,financial affairs, an estate, etc.”.  

This speaks to why we consider stewardship all about finances or things very directly related to finances.  What I like best about this definition is the clear explanation that a steward is a person “who acts as a surrogate of another or others”.  In other words a steward is a person who manages stuff that belongs to others and does it for others not self.  Nothing in this definition suggests that there is anything in it for the self of the steward.  A steward manages for the benefit of others above self, period.  It’s their duty.

Let’s look at the second definition on dictionary.com:

the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving”

This definition also speaks to the duty, or responsibility, and then adds the word protection.  So a steward manages what belongs to someone else responsibly and even protects it.  Now notice the next part of the definition that says, “something considered worth caring for and preserving.”  This is the part of both definitions that struck me.  A steward manages things worth caring for and preserving.  What are things “considered worth caring for and preserving?”  This is why I don’t believe Godly stewardship is all about money, because God is so much more and blesses us with so much more than just money that we should steward for Him responsibly and protectively.

Time is one resource God blesses us with.  James 4:14-15 warns us to use our time wisely for God’s will.  We only have so much time in this life.  We should be making the best use of our time every day.

Talent is another resource God blesses us with.  Romans 12:4-8 speaks of the abilities God gifts to us and encourages us to use them for Him.

Relationships are also a blessing from God.  Our stewardship of relationships should begin with the family.  Ephesians 5:22-25 speaks to how married couples should steward their relationship.  Ephesians 6:1-4 speaks to how parents and children should treat their relationship.  Then there’s all other relationships we are to steward – our friends, acquaintances, and even strangers.  James 2:8 love your neighbor as yourself.  John 13:34 love one another just as I (God) have loved you.  1 Peter 3:8 love one another, be compassionate and humble.

Influence is another gift God bestows on us to steward for his glory.  Matthew 5:13-16 says we’re the salt of the earth and light to the world to be used for God’s glory.  That’s influence!  I hope you’re starting to see how our thoughts and attitudes about these different areas of stewardship are meant to be interwoven into how we steward our entire life for Christ.

Money of course is the resource we think of most that we all know is intended to be stewarded for God, but it seems we struggle with it the most.  Matthew 6:21 & 24 teach us where our treasure is our heart will follow and we cannot serve both God and money.  Doesn’t it stand to reason that if we value (with our heart) how we’re stewarding the other areas of our life (the non-financial ones listed above) that our treasure (how we manage money) will demonstrate that?  Does it not stand to reason that if we’re struggling to keep this focus in our heart that we might be serving money rather than God?

Let’s talk a little more about how the different areas of stewardship are interwoven…

Time is money – right?  We have to invest time in doing work in order to earn money.  Any time spent serving (working for free – from the goodness of our heart) is a sacrifice of money that could have been earned with that time.  (However, that time is NOT a substitute for giving money.  Far too many Christians are using their sacrifice of time as an excuse to not be obedient and faithful to God’s call to give.)

Time is also invested in developing talent.  Whether it’s going to school or being coached or practicing or all of the above, developing our talent costs us something – usually both time and money.  That talent is then used in the work we do to earn money (or at least it could be).

To build relationships we have to invest time, talent, and money.  It takes time to serve others, talent to perform that service, and the money it costs to sacrifice the time, develop the talent, and bless others through generosity.  1 Timothy 5:8 and 1 John 3:17 challenge us to take care of not only our own family but for anyone we see in need.  In both passages the challenge is presented in the form of questioning whether or not we’re even believers in Christ unless we steward our resources for others.

All three – time, talent, and money – should also be used for the purpose of being a good influence – key word GOOD.  There are way too many stories of resourcefulness being used for selfish, evil, or otherwise bad influence rather than good.  Despite all that bad, God has provided all of us the resources to overshadow all the darkness in the world by doing truly selfless acts of service and generosity.

As more of us steward our influence for good, we naturally develop more and better relationships with those around us.  As more of our relationships are guided by good influence, we become more united – of like-mindedness that is mentioned in 1 Peter 3:8. As more and more people experience God’s goodness working through us, an exponential multiplication of our collective salt and light floods the darkness of this world until no one can ignore or deny the glory of God.

It all starts with each of us stewarding everything we’ve been blessed with for the purpose of spreading the love of Jesus.  All these different areas of stewardship have to work together to make up how we’re stewarding our life.  They’re like cogs in a wheel, and weakness in any one of them is a compromise to all of them.

My prayer for us all is that we’re seeking God’s prompting in any one or more of these areas to know what we need to be doing to serve Him better.  Stewardship is not a way of money alone.  It’s a way of life – following Jesus.

Life Is Too Short

Life is too short for lots of things, and lately I’m overwhelmed with that reality.  There’s always something worse to imagine going through than what we’re currently experiencing, and those thoughts might help us cope, but when we’re going through anything tough it can be a harsh reminder to do more…living.

March 26th is normally a wonderful day of celebration for my wife’s, Shawna, birthday.  But this March 26th will forever be marked as the date we lost a very close loved one – our brother (in-law), David Butts.  We are crushed with devastation, and our hearts ache deeply for our sister, Lenae, and their three boys, Gauge, Gavin, & Garen.  No matter how hard we try to love on them and no matter how bad we want to ease their pain, there is nothing we can do to bring David back or replace his love and relationship in their lives.

So many thoughts cross our minds as we think back on our time with David.  We should have ____ more.  The list of things to fill that blank with is endless, and the list of people we could try to fill the blank with is endless.  But life is also too short to try filling that blank with too many things, and it is definitely too short for trying to fill that blank with the wrong people.

As I reflected on that life truth in the days following David’s passing, I thought and prayed that I would live life to the fullest, that I would pursue God’s plan for me – for every relationship, moment, decision.  I live with the attitude that there is always room for improvement, for becoming – whatever we’re becoming.  (I even eluded to that in my talk at David’s memorial service because I believe David was living that way too, whether he knew it or not.)

One area of life I’ve struggled with for years is career.  I’ve known for quite some time that something needs to change.  I’ve felt a calling to something more.  I’ve had opportunities to do things that have helped me develop many skills and qualities.  But I’ve failed to make any significant changes in career path – mostly due to fear of financial failure.  Having these thoughts after our devastating loss I became full of determination to make my existing path look brighter or find another path,  I literally put on my to-do list, “plan talking points for (boss name) – something has to change”.

Before I even got a chance to schedule that conversation, and only a week after the devastating phone call about David’s death, I received another devastating phone call.  It was the boss letting me know that his company, that I’ve loyally served for 11 years, is going out of business.  This came as a complete shock to me because as far as I knew everything was going ok – not great but better than average so far this year for me and for the company too, so I thought.  It doesn’t matter though – the company is closing regardless of the reason, and I am left looking for a job.

Timing can seem crazy, but I believe it’s God’s plan.  Losing my job 8 days earlier might have freaked me out, but that perspective is different when receiving the news on the heals of losing a brother.  Don’t get me wrong – it sucks.  It’s like being kicked while you’re down, but I keep it in perspective by reminding myself it is nothing compared to living in a country where real threats exist – like lions or drug lords.

Apparently, God’s plan is not to stay on the path I was on or to try and fix something that was obviously broken – more than I even realized.  The question now is what exactly is the plan.  I’m completely open and willing to do anything.  Of course, there are certain things that might make more sense than other things but since when did everything God plans for us make sense to us?  No – I’m not limiting my options only to what makes sense.

I’m talking to anyone and everyone.  I’m open to anything.  It’s not all about how much money I can make, but I don’t want to be taken advantage of either.  It’s not all about working for the best company, but I don’t want to be with a losing organization either.  When it’s all said and done I want to be somewhere I feel challenged to continue growing personally, somewhere that wants more out of my qualities than the dollars I can produce, somewhere the people are valued, respected, and trusted, somewhere relationships are genuine and professional, and somewhere family and friends relationships are valued and encouraged.

When I say I’m talking to anyone, I do mean anyone.  I could do pretty much anything.  I’ve done corporate, small business, and ministry work.  I’ve worked in manufacturing process and supply chain management.  I’ve done print industry sales and account management.  I’ve taught and done public speaking.  I’ve overseen web projects, social presence, and other marketing.  I’ve done writing projects.  I’ve lead and managed and participated in team building.  I’ve done finances, forecasting, and strategy.  I love learning, and I love to be challenged.

So, I’m not limiting myself to one particular industry or ministry.  I’m looking for professional challenge, personal growth, and great relationships.  If there’s one thing I have learned from my brother David, it is that life is too short for anything less than…living.

Keeping It Real Update

Quite some time ago I promised to keep it real on here, and I think I’ve done so to some extent, but it’s time for a big time transparent update because I believe that’s what God wants me to do right now.

If you’ve read our story (either in previous posts on this blog or in the e-book) then you know what my biggest struggle has been for quite some time – I live pretty anxious about finances.  Crazy I know – coming from a guy who has been unbelievably blessed and helps other people get on track.  But none of that means I am perfect or don’t experience setbacks that challenge my faith.

I could write a 5000 word report about all the reasons I’m feeling more pressure right now (business is wildly unpredictable, etc).  But there’s really no good point to make there – that’s life.  The lesson I’m learning (or being reminded of) is, that regardless of how bad financial circumstances get, God is still good and He will provide.  Being overly-stressed about things doesn’t change that, and trying to carry that burden on my own takes away from the glory God gets when we keep our faith in Him.

So I’ve been surrendering all this to God and sharing it with others every chance I get.  The money situation is tighter than it’s been in years and it does stress me out.  At times I believe it is a spiritual attack trying to prevent us from fulfilling a giving commitment we felt lead to make.  Just as there’s a God that loves us there’s an enemy that wants to destroy us.

Regardless of why things aren’t easy right now, my family and I will steward what we’ve been blessed with and keep our commitments.  Whatever the results, we’re keeping our focus on God and our faith in His promises.  So pray for us please.

New – Meal Plan Sheet

For most people grocery shopping is not an activity we look forward to doing – especially when it requires sticking to a budget.  Most of us are usually too tired or busy to have to worry about what we’re going to cook.  We end up eating out more than we should, which is unhealthy, and spending more than we should, which is bad for the bank account.

In financial coaching we have found ourselves telling people over and over again about the Meal Plan Sheet (click to download) we use, but no one is ever able to find them.  It is hilarious how many people have come back to us and told their story of searching high and low everywhere for the meal plan sheets we told them about.  Well search no more – there it is!

Here’s why we love meal planning…  Each week we sit down with this sheet on Sunday’s and plan out meals for the whole week.  Having that plan prevents us from having to worry every day about “what’s for dinner.”  When anyone asks “what’s for dinner” they are pointed to the meal plan on the side of the refrigerator, and then they’re asked to help get started preparing it.

Having meals all planned out helps us fight the urge to eat out too.  But most importantly it helps us control our spending at the grocery store.  We’re much more likely to stick to the shopping list when we have a meal plan, and much less likely to stock up on things “just in case” when we have a detailed plan.

Now go print a bunch of them out and get started planning your meals from now on!

An Exciting New adVenture

From the time I was in college I’ve dreamed of owning business, and I actually have in various ways – from the mobile car detailing business I did for a couple of years to network marketing programs to consulting, speaking, and project managing as an outside contractor for other businesses (even my sales job is essentially a business of it’s own).  So I am very excited about the newest venture.

Introducing Impact Sport Events, LLC.  Created to make active lifestyle normal and fun for families – Impact Sport Events exists to provide family friendly and fun opportunities to be physically active.  Our core values are centered around faith, family, community, fitness, and fun.  Part of our excitement is also for the opportunity to support RiceBowls.org with portions of our proceeds.

Shamrock-Shuffle-3-14-15The first event we’re directing is the Shamrock Shuffle at Hartwell Dam in Hartwell, GA on March 14, 2015 – a 5k and 1mi Family Fun Run.  It will be a great day to get out and be active, and it will be an honor to have as many of our family and friends there as possible.  So if you can be there please consider coming out and joining in the fun.  Click here to register!

New Tool – Monthly Budget With Tracking

One of the best disciplines anyone could ever develop is the practice of budgeting.  It is biblical.  It is smart.  And it is completely necessary in order to truly have peace of mind with money.  You gotta plan it and you gotta track it to know how you’re doing against the plan.

There are so many options out there for doing a budget and tracking expenditures, and for me none are as simple to customize to my liking as a good ole fashioned excel spreadsheet.  That’s why I have an ever-changing system that works for me.  It includes an excel sheet I tweak consistently and Quicken that I learn new tricks on as I see fit.  But for everyone I meet with in one-on-one financial coaching I always recommend starting with what is most simple – excel.

The problem with most excel budgets out there is it is simple to create one for budgeting but not as simple to do the transaction entry and reporting that helps you know how well you’re sticking to the plan.  That’s why I created the  Monthly Budget With Tracking tool (click the link to download it).

The beautiful thing about this tool is the transaction log and report page.  Enter your transactions on the log and then use the report page to do the sums and comparisons.  No more of the failed attempts to add up actual spending in your head, or trying to remember exactly how you got to such a wrong amount.  The transactions are right there and they tell the whole story – the truth and nothing but the truth.  Because numbers don’t lie (unless they’re statistics).

It is a bit of a work in progress, but I’ve shared it with several folks in the coaching process and they all seem to appreciate the simple approach to planning, logging, and reporting performance.  So if it might be helpful to you then take some time to download it, read the short instruction page, and get to work.  You can’t control your money without giving it a plan, and you can’t control your plan without tracking your behavior.

As I adapt more of the excel sheets that work for us to be sharable for all I’ll definitely post them on the tools & tips page.  So stay tuned.

Top 3 Reasons We Do and Don’t Give to NewSpring Church

There’s a reason for everything we do.  Actually there are multiple reasons for each thing we do.  There is at least the reason we have in our head and then there is the reason God intends for everything we do.  God’s reason is usually bigger than our own.

Take giving for instance.  There could be many reasons we are motivated to give.  Being obedient to God’s word, that teaches giving, can be a great motivator.  The joy we feel in being generous can be a strong motivator.  The promise of God’s blessing when we’re generous can be a powerful motivator.  But notice how each of those can be considered selfish.  Expecting to feel satisfied by our obedience is a self-centered motivation.  Expecting to experience joy is a self-centered motivation.  Expecting to receive blessings is probably the most self-centered motivation.  I’m not saying any of these are bad reasons.  They’re just not sufficient without God’s reasons, which we might not know on this side of eternity.

The question I want to ask is this:  Would we still be willing to give back to God if there was no selfish hope of satisfaction, joy, or blessing?  That is impossible to answer because we don’t know what that’s like.  God allows us to experience satisfaction, joy, and blessings without fail whether we expect those experiences or not – because we can’t outgive God.

All that being said I just want to be very real about three of the top reasons we DON’T give to our home church, NewSpring Church, and then three of the top reasons we DO give to NewSpring Church.

Top 3 Reasons We DON’T Give to NewSpring Church

Don’t misunderstand – we DO give to NewSpring Church, but there are reasons we DO give and there are reasons we DON’T.  Here are the non-reasons we give:

  1. Perry Noble – the pastor.  He’s cool and all but he sucks just like the rest of us.  God uses him to speak, but he’s just a man.  I like to see him be transparent so we know he’s growing and maturing in Christ just like the rest of us.  But regardless of how he’s doing my family doesn’t give to NewSpring Church just because Perry says so.  I understand leadership and respect it, and trust that Perry and other pastors are good leaders.  But giving to any church just because a pastor says so is a terrible reason to give.  Giving to anything because of the influence of man is so short sighted.
  2. Pretty buildings – a bunch of them.  NewSpring Church has lots of pretty buildings with lots of cool stuff inside.  I know buildings are necessary and having nice ones makes everyone comfortable.  I gave to the last building campaign and I’ll give to the current one.  But my family does not give to NewSpring Church in order to see pretty buildings erected.  It doesn’t matter how awesome those buildings are they are as temporary as Perry and all the rest of us.
  3. Fancy Shows – every Sunday and Wednesday.  No one puts on a better church worship experience than NewSpring Church, and it happens several times in several places on Sundays, and again for youth on Wednesdays.  The preparation that goes into having an excellent experience at NewSpring Church is monumental – from the music and teaching to the parking and care.  But my family does not give to NewSpring Church in order to see fancy shows.  How worship is done now will probably be a laughable fad 50-100 years from now.

Am I saying that Perry, pretty buildings, and fancy shows are not important?  No – those things have a purpose.  Am I saying that giving to fund those things is not important?  No – as long as those things are not the reason for giving to those things.

Top 3 Reasons We DO Give to NewSpring Church

You’ve gotta be getting the point by now.  The right reason for giving is not to impress or please man in any way – it’s to see God move in every way.  My family believes in the work God does through NewSpring Church, and we’re honored to be a part of it.  It’s not about NewSpring – it could be any church we feel God is moving in. But at least for now and the past 11 years it’s NewSpring.

We give to obey and glorify God, and to see Him move.  I can’t think of any move of God more near and dear to our hearts than the salvation and baptism of our three children.  Like it’s said all the time at NewSpring – you can’t outgive God.  Here are our top 3 completely selfish yet God centered motivations for giving to NewSpring Church, where we see God moving in our family:

    1. Devin Asbell – accepted Christ and soon after was baptized in May of 2010.

    1. Skyler Asbell – accepted Christ and after much worry and hesitation was baptized in April of 2014.

    1. Kylee Asbell – accepted Christ and soon after was baptized in May of 2014.

All three of our kids have accepted Christ at home, with us, but while our entire family was attending and being ministered to at NewSpring Church – where God uses broken people, in worthless buildings, with passing-fad experiences to draw the lost to Him.  Then there’s the whole ‘found people find people’ thing – imagine how much impact God could have through those three little people.  I know these things can sound cliche’, but they’re just true.

It can be considered completely selfish motivation for me to give to NewSpring Church because of these experiences with my kids.  Got me – I’m guilty of experiencing overwhelming satisfaction, joy, and blessing from seeing my kids as well as thousands of other people take steps to follow Christ.  Would I have been willing to give without the hope of experiencing that selfish satisfaction, joy, and blessing?  It’s impossible to imagine that, but you have to try it to believe it.  God’s reason for our giving might be bigger than we can even fathom.

Making Money Management Hard For No Reason

Several months ago Shawna and I were coaching a happy young couple with their finances. They were doing great! They were giving, saving, and spending within their means, but there was a little concern that they weren’t sticking exactly to what they budgeted in some of the spending categories. One of the spouses, acknowledging the difficulty of discipline, made this honest statement, “It’s like we’re doing this just to make it hard for ourself for no reason.”

When faced with the challenge of disciplined spending it is no secret that either giving or saving is making up the difference. In this couples’ case it was saving. The underlying question they were asking is, “How do we stay focused on sticking to the budget when we seem to be doing just fine?” Here’s how to answer that question.

Goals

Saving just for the sake of saving is boring. There must be a reason, or goal, for the saving. Goals are not as likely to be reached without time limits. So one motivation for sticking to the spending plan rather than decreasing the rate of saving is so that we get to the goals we’ve set in the time-frame we set them in when we maintain our rate of saving.

Challenges

Whether we see or feel the risk of unexpected challenges or not, they are there and will pop up to surprise us when we least expect them. The prospect of challenges setting us back isn’t very motivating until one actually happens, but then it’s too late.

Future Discipline

When things are going great it’s easy to fall in to the habit of spending more freely. Then when things aren’t going so great it sucks royally having to go backwards – sacrificing the freedoms we grow so accustomed to. So maintaining steady discipline all the time prepares us for those inevitable periods of time when discipline is not an option.

The bottom line – we should keep our spending disciplined so that we can maintain our priority of saving, otherwise we won’t be prepared for challenges and/or our goals might be put off perpetually. No one ever said sticking to the plan was ‘hard for no reason’ when they associate it with breaking through challenges and accomplishing dreams.

For more perspective on striking a balance with Giving, Saving, & Spending check out this ebook on Amazon – God Centered Finances

Beware of Scummy Advertising

One of the incredibly difficult first-world living conditions we deal with here in America is the constant inundation with advertising from every direction.  In one way it is a great thing and in other ways it is terrible.  Businesses have to make a buck, but not necessarily off of me.  The trick is putting all things advertising through the filter of a well-tuned brain cell.

The following marketing and advertising are among the scummiest of all schemes, in my humble opinion formed by bad experience – of course.

"Come turn the key to see if you win a car" ;-)

“Come turn the key to see if you win a car” 😉

Surely I’m not the only person they send these to, so I’m sure you’ve received them to.  Did you really go down there and turn the key?  Really??   I wonder if they’ve ever REALLY given away a car.  To the car dealership credit I have never tried this at the car dealership to see what would happen, but I have to imagine you receive one of the hardest sales pitches ever.  I HAVE tried something very similar to this at a much more shady place than the car dealership, but I won’t go in to it as I still have scars from it (and that’s probably why I distrust these schemes).

The temptation an advertising strategy like this creates exists whether the sales pitch at the car lot is aggressive or not.  That’s why they do it – to get us on their lot looking at the cars and feeling all tempted to buy one.  Before we know it they’ve convinced us to finance something we never planned to buy, just because the payments were low, because we actually believed we were going to win that free car but when we didn’t they had a deal we could not miss.  For the next 5-8yrs we get the monthly reminder of how stupid it was to think we were really going to win a free car without going to Wheel Of Fortune and winning the bonus round.

Here’s another one of my favorite hates of all time:

Somehow using these checks doesn't feel as stupid as using the card.

Somehow using these checks doesn’t feel as stupid as using the card.

Stupid checks like these ate my lunch more than once when I was so naive to believe I would be able to catch up to the debt problem I was creating.  I did it more than once!  (Talk about young and dumb).  As if using checks like this didn’t burn me bad enough the first time I did it – I did it again.  Instead of just throwing them away when they came in the mail I would put them to one side, “just in case we needed them”.  The way we were snowballing stupid financial mistakes how would I not have a ‘just in case’ need?

I’ve never heard ANYONE testify of having a good experience after using these – EVER.  There is a reason!  People who are in a situation to need what these checks are designed to influence us to do are not people who have a great financial plan.  When we’re in desperate financial situations we make terribly irrational decisions.  Before we know it we have a maxed out balance at a ridiculous interest rate and struggle to make the minimum payments that will never go away as long as we’re only paying that amount.

So – next time you get this kind of crap in the mail do what I do.  LOL – seriously, I laugh out loud.  Then throw that crap away as fast as you can.  Shred it, burn it, bury the ashes in mud and put a rock on top of the grave – a freakin boulder if you have to.  Don’t leave any chance that advertisements like this could come back to haunt you.

How To Deposit Checks Made Out to Children

Recently my son Devin had a check made out to him (as a gift), and I couldn’t remember exactly what the proper way to deposit it is for a young child who doesn’t have a bank account.  So I looked up the following instructions that I thought might be useful to other parents:

  1. Print the words “For Deposit Only” on the top of the back of the check. This endorsement restricts the check to only being deposited, not cashed.
  2. Have your child print or sign their name on the check directly under the words “For Deposit Only”, but if your child is too young to sign their own name then write the word “By:” and sign your name with the word “Parent” right after.  
  3. If your child was able to sign their name then sign your name directly underneath your child’s printed or signed name. This will endorse the check over to you so that you can deposit it into your bank account.

Of course it’s always a good idea to check with your financial institution for specific guidelines.