Summary: Third in a series on stewardship

Intro. Everybody loves a home run. It is so exciting to see the batter stand at the plate, especially if the game is on the line, size up the pitcher, make just the right swing, and then see the ball soar high into the centerfield seats. Wow, now that’s baseball! But I would like to suggest to you that even a home run starts at first base. Listen, by the rules, when you hit a home run, you must round the bases beginning with first base, and touch every base before you can touch home plate and be awarded a home run. If you miss one or go the wrong direction, you’ll be called out. Every run in baseball begins with first base and a whole lot more runs are scored by those who get singles or walks than by those who hit homers. First base is, after all, first base.

So how does that relate to Heavenomics? I’ve already shared two principles: First: It’s Not Yours and Second: You Only Keep What You Give Away. What is the next? Well, the third (and I believe the major operating) Principle of Heavenomics is: Keep First Things First. Just like you wouldn’t hit the ball and run to third or just step on home plate, Jesus said that there’s something that takes priority in all of life. It’s not what’s for dinner, it’s not where will we live, it’s not even what will my career be. Jesus said, "Seek first (my 401K, the doctor bill, my education, to get married, the next first the kingdom of God and His righteousness..."

In other words, the first priority in our lives is to walk in relationship with God as a member of His eternal kingdom, to receive His righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to experience righteousness as a part of every day living AND, in doing that, everything else I need in life will be added, by God. I would say, then, that Heavenomics involves wrapping all of my life around what comes first, avoiding distractions and detours, and getting the first things right – in other words, never underestimate first base! You might restate this principle by saying:

Keep God First In . . .

. . . . Handling Assets

(verse 24) "You cannot serve God and mammon..."

A. Uphold God’s Ownership. (First Principle revisited)

1. Practice Scriptural giving.

a. The Tithe: the minimum evidence that I believe God owns it all.

Proverbs 3:9 "Honor the Lord with your possessions, and the firstfruits of all your increase."

The tithe is often misunderstood. Some believe it is Old Testament law & not for followers of Christ. Others believe it is a qualification for being a Christian and God will reject us if we don’t tithe. Neither is correct. The tithe actually originated before the Old Testament law when Abraham gave a tithe of the spoils to Melchizedek (Genesis14:18-20). He tithed to honor God as the One who delivered the enemy into his hands. Jesus later affirmed tithing in Matthew 23:23, "Woe to pay tithe of mint, anise, cummin, and neglect the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy, faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone." In Malachi, God equates withholding tithes to robbing God, saying to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse so we will get blessing from God. (Malachi 3:8-10)

1) The tithe results in God blessing the remainder.

b. Discover generosity.

II Cor. 8:1-2, 7-9 We make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing... But as you abound in everything...see that you abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love...For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich."

1) The Macedonians sent offerings to help with Paul’s ministry, giving both what they had and what they didn’t have. They helped where there was a need.

2) God gives us wealth to share in carrying out His ministry (i.e. giving to missions, local ministries, etc.); to share with people in need (i.e. charities or needy people you know); to help us grow in likeness to Him (like Jesus’ generosity being poor).

Illus. My practice, which I believe fits Heavenomics, is that when I receive any increase (i.e. a pay raise, bonus, insurance rebate, inheritance, etc), I look for why God gave it. Has my faith promise been met? Is this for the building fund? Is there someone I know who is in need? How might God want me to help get His kingdom work done? When we give faith promises, double tithes for the building campaign, extra offerings to help with disaster relief, offerings for the poor, etc., we are becoming like God!

2. Manage God’s Assets. (verse 33) "seek His...righteousness"

Matthew 25:14 The kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.

I Corinthians 4:2 It is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

As the master in the parable expected his servants to handle his assets wisely to bring him a return, the Lord expects us to be faithful in managing His assets. Some ideas for good management:

a. Establish a written spending plan – a budget.

b. Get out of debt.

Definition of debt (Larry Burkett): 1) Owing money with payments that are past due. 2) When your liabilities exceed your assets. 3) When financial responsibilities produce continual anxiety.

1) Reduce or eliminate credit. Overuse of credit can create bondage.

c. Practice moderation and contentment.

d. Start and stick with a savings plan.

Keep first things first -- try stuffy old virtues like thrift, avoiding debt, delaying gratification, etc.

Keep God First In . . .

. . . . Making A Living

(verse 25) "I say to you, do not worry about your life." (not don’t work, don’t worry)

A. A Working Attitude.

Who here jumps out of bed in the morning, rushes to work with a child-like gleam in your eye, whistles all day while you work, and groans when the whistle says it’s time to quit? Why not?

1. What is work?

In a cross-section of people you will likely get a variety of answers. Unfortunately, in contemporary culture it’s increasingly likely most will carry a negative tone: work is a 4-letter word, a bummer, it’s what I have to do for money, or it’s the only way to get to Friday”). Even some Christians believe labor is a curse from the fall.

a. Adam was put to work before the fall.

Genesis 2:15 "The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it."

2. Here’s a new attitude – the work commandment.

Exodus 20:9-10 "Six days you shall labor and do all your work... but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work:

The fourth commandment was given to ensure that we would lay aside the joy of labor and rest one day a week! Far from a curse, creative labor is a glorious privilege. It flows from God Himself, who labored six days creating the world, then put His inventive and energetic image on man, placed Adam in the garden to work, and to increase productivity. Creativity in man, though affected by the fall, is the mirror-image of God’s creativity, and is meant as a source of fulfilling, wonderful joy. When Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man," this assumed that without this commandment, we might be tempted to go on working day after day without a break.

a. Work is profitable, good, and to be pursued; laziness is not.

Proverbs 14:23 "All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty."

Proverbs 10:4 "Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth."

1) It is in the sphere of labor that wealth is generated to meet society’s material needs and to take responsibility for compassionate care of the poor and needy.

B. When Is The Boss Not The Boss?

Ephesians 6:5-9 "Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, not to men, knowing whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he si slave or free. And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him."

1. Obey your boss because you work for Jesus!

a. Employers ought to clamor to hire Christians because they know by experience that Christians come to work every day, on time, do the best they can, can be trusted and left alone, are cheerful and improve morale in the workplace. In short, they’re the best employees! We could end unemployment among Christians if we just kept God first at work!

2. The boss is the head servant. Christian business owners, supervisors, etc. also work for Jesus. The best people around ought to be lining up to work for Christian business people because they’re fair, honest, loyal, kind, generous to employees. Unions would not be necessary with Christians leaders. Keep first things first.

Keep God First In . . .

. . . . Pursuing A Life

(verse33) "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness."

A. Whom Will You Serve? No one can serve two masters

Everybody is going to serve someone. Who will it be?

1. Jesus came to reveal another kingdom (realm) that rises above any physical domain or objective. He calls everyone to be part of that kingdom.

John 18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world...Pilate said, “Are You a king?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly...I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

2. The only way into God’s kingdom is by birth.

John 3:3-6 Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”...Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

The spiritual truth is that all of us are born descendants of Adam, born alive in the flesh ("born of flesh") but born dead in the spirit (we call this original sin). To enter God’s kingdom one must be born of the Spirit. That happens when we believe in Jesus.

a. The first step: enter the kingdom by birth. Why not? Nothing else endures, this realm is eternal.

B. Actively Treasure Spiritual Development. His righteousness

II Peter 1:5-9 "Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins."

1. Jesus is concerned with more than providing fire insurance. He wants us to grow in His graces and fruit, to grow in loving God and people, and to be productive as members of His kingdom (Heavenomics). This doesn’t happen by osmosis. Peter says, "Giving all diligence."

2. Training not trying.

Spiritual transformation is not matter of trying harder but of training wisely. You could never run a 26 mile marathon simply by trying but by training correctly you could. Training occurs like learning the scales on a piano – regular practice of disciplines that enhance my love for God and my love for people.

a. Spiritual disciplines include celebration (worship), prayer, servanthood, reading and reflecting on Scripture, confessing sin, etc.

b. Developing one’s spirit is a "first" thing, not something to be relegated to "if I have time". In fact, Jesus implies it ranks above pursuing the necessities of life when he says these "will be added to you"

Illustration:. A young boy, named James, desired to be the most famous maker and salesman of cheese in the world. He planned to become rich and famous making and selling cheese, and began with a little buggy pulled by a pony named Paddy. After making his cheese, he would load the wagon and drive down the streets of Chicago to sell cheese. As months passed, the boy began to despair because he wasn’t making and money, despite long hours and hard work. One day he pulled his pony to a stop and began to talk to him, "Paddy, there’s something wrong. We’re not doing it right. I’m afraid we have things turned around and our priorities are not where they ought to be. Maybe we ought to serve God and put Him first in our lives." James drove home and made a covenant that for the rest of his life he would first serve God and then work as God directed. Years later, now a man, and the Sunday School Superintendent at North Shore Baptist Church in Chicago, he said, "I would rather be a layman in North Shore Baptist Church than head the greatest corporation in America. My first job is serving Jesus." So, every time you take a bite of Philadelphia Cream cheese, sip a cup of Maxwell House coffee, mix a quart of Kool-Aid, slice up a DiGiorno Pizza, cook Macaroni & Cheese, spread Grey Poupon on your ham, stir a bowl of Cream of Wheat, slurp down Jell-O, eat the cream center out of an Oreo, or serve Stove Top Stuffing, remember this boy, a pony named Paddy, and the promise James Kraft made to serve God and work as He directed.

Conclusion I hope you have come to understand that Heavenomics simply involves giving God first claim on everything from my possessions, to my efforts, to the spiritual stirrings within. If it’s not yours, why give God a back seat in everything? The beauty of all this is that Heavenomics has no downside. The Lord assures us that practicing this kind of lifestyle is decked out in His blessings, He knows what we need, He meets our basic needs, and He even opens heavens windows to pour out blessings beyond our imaginations.

Have you developed a life pattern of keeping first things first? How do you show the Lord you believe He owns all the stuff He puts in your care? Have you practiced the joy of tithing and growing generous? How is your work attitude? Would your boss want to hire another person just like you? What can you do this week to keep first things first?

Have you been born into the kingdom of the Lord and Savior? You can be born again today? How is your training regimen? What do you allow to interfere with keeping first things first?