A devotional guide on Christian stewardship

In the present state of mankind, [money] is an excellent gift of God, answering the noblest ends. In the hands of his children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked. It gives to the traveler and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of an husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless. It may be a defense for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain. It may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death! It is therefore of the highest concern that all who fear God know how to employ this valuable talent; that they be instructed how it may answer these glorious ends, and in the highest degree.  (John Wesley, Sermon number 50, The Use of Money)


Money is a difficult topic for most Christians. It doesn’t matter whether we are clergy or laity, there’s something about money that makes us uncomfortable… especially in the context of faith.

Maybe our discomfort goes back to our commonly held belief that money is the root of all evil. Money may be necessary for our lives in the world. We may need it to provide ourselves and our loved ones with homes, food, clothing, education, medical care, transportation, and entertainment. Yet, we continue to feel as thought there’s something inherently dirty (and most likely sinful) about it. So if we have money, we don’t like to talk about it. We certainly don’t want others to know how much we have. And if we don’t have money, we try our best to pretend that it’s no big matter. Somehow we’ll get along.

We certainly don’t like to talk about money in church. It’s as if God and money have nothing to do with each other… as though sacred worship and prayer need to be separated as far as possible from unrighteous money. This may be why so many ministers (myself included) dread annual stewardship campaigns. It may also be why attendance in worship typically declines during stewardship months. And yet – believe it or not – the Bible has far more to say about money than it does about almost any other topic. Among the things the Bible tells us are:

  • If riches increase, do not set your heart on them. (Psalm 62:10)
  • A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. (Proverbs 10:4)
  • The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 5:10)
  • No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:24)
  • For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. (1 Timothy 6:10)

And that’s just a  small fraction of everything the Bible has to say about money. In fact, money is one of the central issues addressed by biblical authors.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement,  understood the importance of money both to our physical and to our spiritual lives. His sermon entitled The Use of Money provides important guidance on the role that money should play in the lives of Jesus’ followers. Unlike many, Wesley is not afraid of money. He sees it as an essential tool in people’s efforts to lead healthy and productive lives. But just like any tool, it is capable of being use for contradictory ends… to do good or to do bad… to enhance life or to cause harm… to build community or to sow chaos… to do God’s will or to defame God’s honor. More consequentially, money can be used with complete thoughtlessness, giving little or no attention at all to the impact that its use might have on individuals and communities.

Above all else, Wesley’s sermon is a call for Christians to be prayerful and mindful as they make decisions about how to earn, save and spend their money. In Wesley’s way of thinking, Christian stewardship is not just a matter of giving money to the church. It is, more fundamentally, a question of how we use all of our resources, including our money, for the glory of God and the wellbeing of God’s people.


O merciful God,

whatever you may deny me,

do not deny me this love.

Save me from the idolatry of loving the world,

or any of the things of the world.

Let me never love any creature but for your sake

and in subordination to your love.

Take full possession of my heart;

raise there your throne

and command there as you do in heaven.

Being created by you, let me live to you;

being created for you, let me ever act for your glory;

being redeemed by you, let me render to you what is yours;

and let my spirit ever cleave to you alone. Amen.

Click here to read the full text of John Wesley’s sermon, The Use of Money.


I entreat you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, act up to the dignity of your calling! … No more sloth! Whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it with your might!

(John Wesley, “The Use of Money”)

Those who till their land will have plenty of food,
    but those who follow worthless pursuits have no sense.

(Proverbs 12:11)

John Wesley has no use for those who disparage money as a bad or sinful thing. Money is a tool – no more, no less – and it is capable of being put to a wide variety of good and bad purposes. The real issue has never been money in and of itself, but rather the intent of the people who make use of it. So, rather than being discouraged from pursuing money, people need to be taught how to make and use it in ways that are godly and just. To do this, Wesley proposes three plain and simple rules, the first of which is “Gain all you can!”

Recognizing that money is necessary both to provide for a person’s own needs and for the needs of the wider community, Wesley nevertheless encourages his followers to be wise in their decisions about how to make money. He knows that not all work is good work. He understands that some work should be avoided, no matter how much it pays. This is why he tells his followers:

We ought to gain all we can gain, without buying gold too dear, without paying more for it than it is worth.

Wesley asserts that Christians should follow a few simple guidelines as they determine the kind of work they will do in pursuit of monetary gain:

  • Don’t earn money by engaging in work that will jeopardize your life or health;
  • Don’t earn money in ways that will cause harm to your mind or your conscience;
  • Don’t earn money in ways that will endanger the physical, economic or spiritual wellbeing of your neighbors.

Wesley insists that it’s a Christian’s “bounden duty” to make as much money as he or she can, so long as that money is earned in ways that glorify God, edify the community of God’s people, and benefit the world that God has made and loved. Wesley’s call to “gain all you can” is not a call to selfishness or even unrestrained capitalism. It is a call for Christ’s followers to acquire the wealth and resources to survive and do God’s will in the world, using all the understanding and common sense that God has given them.

DAY 1 

Read Deuteronomy 8:18

Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today. 


For a few moments consider the financial and other resources that you have managed to acquire during your lifetime.

Where was the hand of God at work helping you to gain these much-needed resources?

How is God helping you now in your efforts to gain even more?


God, you are generous, and all that I have comes from you! Help me to recognize your hand at work in my life to bring me the financial and other resources I need to survive and thrive in this world. Teach me always to be grateful. Amen.


 Read Luke 14:28

Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?


For a few moments, think about the plans you are making for the next few years of your life.

What are the resources you need to acquire in order to ensure you can bring these plans to fruition?

How will your efforts to carry out these plans bring glory to God or otherwise benefit God’s people?


God of the past and God of the future, guide my planning so that all I do during the course of my life will glorify you. To the extent that my goals and plans are in accordance with your will, help me to gather the resources I need to bring them to completion. Amen.


Read Proverbs 21:5

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to want.


For a few moments, think about some times in your life when you were actively pursuing a worthwhile goal.

How did you exercise diligence in pursuing those goals? What thought did you give to the resources you would need, the strategies you would follow, and the actions you would undertake?

Were there moments when your desire to achieve a goal led to thoughtless haste? What were the consequences of your hastiness?

To what extent did you seek God’s wisdom and will in pursuing these goals?


God who brings order out of chaos, teach me to be diligent and wise as I seek to do your will in the world. Calm my anxiety and slow down my haste so that I might be attentive to your still small voice as it leads me toward your abundance. Amen.


 Read 2 Corinthians 9:8

And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.


For a few moments, consider how you have received God’s blessing in abundance at various times and in various ways throughout your lifetime.

Were there times when you had difficulty seeing God’s blessings in the moment? What prevented you from recognizing the presence of God’s goodness in your life?

How is God blessing you now? Where do you see abundance beginning to take shape in the day-to-day realities of your existence? How are you giving thanks to God for these blessings?


God, you bless me with abundance in all the circumstances of my life. Open my eyes to see through the veil of anxiety and fear that too often keep me from recognizing the good that you are doing. Help me to see glimmers of hope even in the darkest of moments so that I might always live in gratitude to you. Amen.


Read Matthew 6:34

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.


For a few moments, think about the worries and anxieties that tend to dominate your thinking and keep you from living fully in the present.

How does worry about matters ranging from your personal finances to the national economy, from your individual health to the global pandemic, from the wellbeing of your family to the state of national politics, have an impact on your capacity for believing and trusting in God?

What, if any, are the signs that God’s goodness and grace are already active in the current circumstances of your life?

What practical hope and peace can you draw from knowing that God is with you, no matter what is going on in your own life or in the world around you?


God, I worry! You know that I do! And in my worry, I sometimes fail to see you… even though my faith teaches me that you are always beside me. Touch my heart with your grace.  Give me faith to break free from the narrow confines of my anxieties and fears, so that I may view the world through the lens of your boundless love. Amen.


Read Matthew 6:24

No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.


For a few moments, consider one or two times in your life when you felt most devoted to God and most committed to God’s ways?

What are the things in your life that most readily come between you and God? How do they first intrude into your relationship with God, and by what means does your service to them gradually displace your service to God?

What role does money play in your life? How do you bring your relationship with money into harmony with your service to God? Are there changes you could or should make in light of Jesus’ exhortation in Matthew 6:24?


O God of abundance, you have promised to provide for all of my needs. And yet, there are still times when I worry that I won’t have enough. Save me from becoming a slave to the pursuit of money and the things that money can buy. Teach me instead to put my relationship with your first, so that I may devote all that I am, all that I earn, and all that I have to your good purposes for me and for this world in which I live. Amen.


Read 1 Timothy 6:10

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.


For a few moments, ponder the power that money exercises over your life, either by its presence or by its absence. Consider the time, energy and creativity that you expend thinking about money and about how to acquire it.

What do you think John Wesley means when he states: “We ought to gain all we can gain, without buying gold too dear?” What have you expended in pursuit of money? What have you sacrificed in order to acquire money?

The apostle Paul does not assert that money is the root of all evil, though many presume that he does. It is the love of money, not money itself, that too often leads to “all kinds of evil.” How does the love of money manifest itself in your life? What damage has it caused? What steps can you take to root it out?


Save me, O God, from anything that supplants you in my heart and mind. Correct me when I cease to treat money as a tool for serving you, and turn it instead into an idol that demands service from me. Free me from the love of money, so that I may love you with all my heart, soul and mind and love my neighbor as myself.  Amen.


Dates: Wednesdays, May 6 – June 3, 2020 (7:00 PM – 9:30 PM)

Location: Zoom (hosted by Sherman Oaks UMC)

Cost: $35

Registration Deadline: May 3, 2020

Classes are open to participants from all districts. Attendance is required at all sessions for credit. All those seeking certification or re-certification as Certified Lay Servants are invited to attend.

Technical requirements: To participate in Zoom meetings, participants must have a reliable Internet connection, and a laptop, tablet, or smartphone device that can download and install the Zoom app. A web or phone camera and a microphone are highly recommended, although some users may call in via phone if a mic is not available.

Class Options:

    • BASIC Class: Instructor is Rev. Kalesita Tu’ifua, the pastor at Knollwood UMC.
      • This class challenges Lay Servants to develop caring, leading, and communicating skills that support their church and encourage others to a deeper commitment in Christ and faithful discipleship. Participants are encouraged to discover their personal spiritual gifts and to consider the importance of servant leadership.
      • This class is required for Certified Lay Servant status.
      • Required book for you to acquire on your own is “Lay Servant Ministries Basic Course Participant’s Book” by Sandy Jackson & Brian Jackson. (Cokesbury price is $8.49 for paperback on sale as of April 15, Amazon price is $11.00 for paperback and $9.99 for kindle.)
    • Advanced Class – Spiritual Gifts and the Holy Spirit: Instructor is Rev. Garth Gilliam, the pastor at Sherman Oaks UMC.
      • One Advanced Course is required every three years to become or retain Certified Lay Servant status.
      • Required book for you to acquire on your own is “Each One A Minister” by William J. Carter. (Cokesbury price is $14.00, Amazon price is $13.99 for paperback and $9.99 for kindle.)
    • Advanced Class – Leading Small Groups that Transform: Instructor is Rev. Terry Van Hook, retired conference elder.
      • One Advanced Course is required every three years to become or retain Certified Lay Servant status.
      • Explore a Wesleyan way to form small group communities. The class will focus on Wesley’s dynamic organization, it’s origins and structure, along with integrating a devotional life with a life of loving others as Christ has unconditionally loved us.
      • Required book for you to acquire on your own is “Transforming Community: The Wesleyan Way to Missional Congregations” by Henry H. Knight III and F. Douglas Powe Jr. (Cokesbury price is $15.00, Amazon price is $15.00 for paperback and $9.99 for kindle.)

Childcare is not available for these classes. Click here for a full flyer for more information.

For questions, contact registrar Jean Castro at or 818.789.0351.

Register online via the button below:



A Bible Study for Lent 2020 – Tuesdays from 7:00-8:30 p.m.

WEEK 5: Who’d Have Thunk It?

March 31, 2020

To join the Bible study online, either click on the following link or copy and paste it into your online browser:

You can also join by phone by calling: 1-669-900-9128. When prompted, enter the following passcode: 718 454 4317 #


Introduction to Lenten Practices:

So what is a Lenten practice? A Lenten practice is anything we do during Lent that opens us up and brings us closer into God’s presence. A Lenten practice is like going to the gym for your faith. It may be awkward at first and difficult, but afterwards you feel good; and after doing it for a while, you notice changes and strengths, and it becomes so much a part of your routine that you can’t imagine life without it. Some common Lenten practices include prayer, fasting, generosity, confession, Bible study, hospitality, working for justice, and meditation.

The Lenten discipleship practices that we will explore are each tied to the Christian values of generosity, thankfulness, and stewardship. Each week, not only will we learn about a specific Lenten practice, but you will be given ideas about different ways that you can actually do it. Try it; play with it; see how it opens you up to God. By taking this opportunity and trying each practice, you will be making space in your life to actively live out the Way of Jesus.

Opening Litany:

Each step on Christ’s Way, each step of our lives, takes us to new places, new times.

Some of those are times to rest—like Jesus did, when he stopped to pray.

Some are times to be challenged—as Jesus was, by the woman from Syrophoenecia.

Some are times to celebrate, even in the face of grief—as Jesus did, when he shared his last meal with his friends.

Whether our bones are dry, our spirits weary, or we are filled with energy, ready to go…

This is our time to be together—

Listening for the Spirit…

Loving one another…

Worshiping God!

Worshiping God!


Witness of the Stewards:

Last week, we were asked to do an Appreciation Inventory. We were asked to walk around our homes either physically or in our minds eye and to feel appreciation for all that we had been given. We were invited in this way to find contentment in our exercise of gratitude. How has this spiritual practice worked or not worked for you to open you up to God?

For the stories we have shared, for the lives we have lived, for the love you have given—

Thank you, God!

May the stories of our friends remind us all that we are on the Way together!

Thank you, God! Amen!

Reading Scripture – Ezekiel 37:1-14

(The words of Ezekiel are in italics. The words spoken in God’s voice are in bold.)

I felt as if God’s hand was upon me. By the spirit I was carried to the middle of a valley—a dry valley, covered in…bones. God led me around that valley, around those bones. There were so many. Old. Brittle. Dry.

And then I heard God’s voice!

You. I ask you, can these bones live?

God, Most High, you know.

Then be a prophet, Ezekiel. Speak to these bones. Say to them:

(God’s Voice whispers in Ezekiel’s ear.)

So I did as God commanded me. I said to the dry bones, “O dry bones, hear God’s word! God says to you, ‘I will breathe into you, and you will live.’ God says to you, ‘I will put muscle and flesh on you. I will cover you with skin. I will fill you with breath. You will live, and you will know that I Am God!’”

And when I finished speaking, there was a terrifying sound. Bones rattling against stone. Bones rattling against other bones. Bones coming together, each finding its proper place. And, as I watched, muscles grew, and flesh grew, and skin covered the new bodies. But they were lifeless. There was no breath in them.

Speak to the breath, prophet. Say to the breath:

(God’s Voice whispers to Ezekiel.)

So I prophesied to the breath, I spoke the words given to me, like I had never spoken before, “God says to you, ‘Breath: come from the four winds, breathe into these who were killed, so that they may live!’”

The breath came into them. They lived. They stood on their feet. Thousands upon thousands of them!

Human? Listen to me. These bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, we are cut off completely.” So prophesy to them. Tell them that God, their God, is going to open their graves, and bring them back to life, and back to the land of Israel, O, my people! In that moment, you will know that I am God! I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live. I will take you home, and you will know that I have spoken. I have acted.

So I did exactly that. And so did God.

This is the witness of God’s people.

Thanks be to God!


  • In lesson 1 of our Lenten Bible study, we explored the practice of saying ‘No!’ to many things based on the values decisions we have made to say ‘Yes!’ to other things. The spiritual practice of consciously basing our Nos and our Yeses on our fundamental values is THE Stewardship and Discipleship question above all others.
  • In lesson 2, we looked into being a blessing. We have been blessed in order to be a blessing for others. We looked deeper into THE Stewardship and Discipleship question. As people of faith, it’s up to us to decide how we are going to use everything God has given us.
  • In lesson 3, we explored what it means to be stewards of our time… especially as we use our time to worship and follow in the way of God.
  • Last week, in lesson 4, we contemplated the beginning of Psalm 23 and the Lenten practice of contentment. We compiled an Appreciation Inventory.
  • Now, it’s less than a week before Palm Sunday, and Jesus enters Jerusalem for the last time. It’s less than a week before Holy Week and our remembrance of the last days of Jesus before he is handed over to the authorities and crucified. It’s less than a week before the powers of empire and greed seem to win again. It’s less than a week before the beginning of end.
  • We stand with Ezekiel and stare into a valley filled with dead, dried human bones. What a sight! There is nothing but bones as far as we can see: leg bones, ankle bones, arm bones, shoulder bones… And none are connected. The empty eye sockets of bleached human skulls stare into oblivion. Death reigns in this place of endings, of sorrow, of grief. This is a valley of futility and hopelessness.
  • And those feelings are feelings that many people know all too well: depression, grief, hopelessness. There are times when we ask ourselves, “Why bother?”
  • They don’t know it yet, but some of Jesus’ close followers will know this experience all too soon as they watch their messiah, their teacher, their friend, their hope hang on a cross and die. We are left to ask what it is that God might do in this impossible situation. This is a really good question. It may, in fact, be the only question that matters. What might God do in this impossible situation?
  • Think of a time in your life when you were confronted by similarly impossible situation. How did it make you feel? What kind of an impact did it have on your relationship with God? What did God do in that impossible situation?
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  • Jesus’ disciples watch in disbelief as he is arrested and everything they had been hoping for begins to unravel around them. They find themselves powerless to do anything to redeem the situation so they fall into despair and run away to hide.
  • Seeing his battered and abused body coming out of the Roman garrison and being led to the hill of the skull… watching as Roman soldiers strip him and nail him to the wooden cross; despairing as he dies a public and shameful death, most of his followers scatter and cower. But there are a few of his followers – mostly women – who have it enough together enough to take possession of his body and bury it quickly as best they can. Think about how you might have responded if you had been in the place of Jesus’ friends during these horrifying events.
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  •  So, what might God do in this impossible situation? Three days later, the answer is an empty tomb. The answer is resurrection. There is vindication, life, hope! God’s beloved people have a future after all.
  • This new and unexpected reality leaves us asking the question differently. Instead of asking it as a question of abandon and surrender (What might God do in this impossible situation that is beyond even God’s help?), it becomes a question of faith and hope (What might God who is greater than our deepest need do in this impossible situation? Hmmm… I wonder…. Let’s find out!)
  • Faith and hope invite us to watch and expect that God is at work to do something new, for God is surely in this place and time. God is surely about God’s mission in our lives and through our lives. We ask, what God might do in this impossible situation, because we believe and trust that God will do something. It may not be what we expect, but God will do something that brings new life… something that transforms and heals and renews… something unexpected and unforeseen.
  • When we ask the question “What might God do in this impossible situation?” we are activating our faith. We are opening ourselves to God. We are reaching out and grabbing on to hope, even creating hope for ourselves and those around us. Because as long as we can think of one answer, there is hope.
  • So this is our last Lenten practice, the practice of hope. Sometimes it’s tricky; sometimes it’s difficult, but always it’s worth it.
  • So, let us spend a few moments asking that question about our own current situation. Can we imagine even one answer that will let us believe that God is doing something new and life-giving in the face of COVID-19… that God is reassembling our dried and scattered bones, putting flesh upon, and breathing life into them? What gives us hope even now?
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Prayers of the People and the Prayer that Jesus Taught Us

Loving God, we thank you for the journey of our lives, with its ups and downs, with its questions and challenges, and with its moments of joy. We thank you for the beauty around us, for the hills and the trees, for the water and the weather, for all that reminds us of life, and life made new.

Today, we are especially thankful for…

Please share aloud your thanksgivings for the community and/or for current events.

In the quiet of this place, we offer you our celebrations.

A time for silent prayer.

Even as we say “Thank you,” we realize that there is brokenness in us and in our world. We realize that we have not always lived the love to which you call us. Sometimes by action or by inaction, sometimes by just going along with things, we have broken faith with each other and with you. We offer to you our brokenness, loving God, not only asking that we would be forgiven, but that, by your love, we would be made whole, living in new ways, living out Christ’s love. Receive the prayers of our hearts.

A time for silent prayer.

Knowing that we are forgiven, knowing that we are loved, we turn to the world to love it into wholeness. We pray for people living in desert times in their lives, people who are facing famine – of body or spirit, people who are tempted to turn away from what is right and just, people who are overwhelmed by impossible situations. And we pray for this world and for everything within it – all creatures and all places that are facing destruction.

We remember especially…

Name concerns about the congregation or about current events.

We pray for healing and wholeness, and we ask that we would be part of the solution, loving God, turning our prayer from words to actions. Bless our journey, we pray, sharing the words that Jesus gave all his disciples:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Announcements and Assignments:

  • Next week is Holy Week. So I invite you to take part in our online worship services for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. In preparation, take time to read through the story of Holy Week in the gospel of Matthew – Matthew 21-28.
  • As you go through the week ahead, ask what God will do in the impossible (or even semi-impossible situations) that come your way. Turn the question into a prayer: “O God, what will you do in this impossible situation? Or, if you feel especially creative, write some imaginative spiritual fiction about how God does respond in these impossible circumstances of life.
  • Are there any other announcements?

Benediction and Commissioning

Each step on Christ’s Way, each step of our lives, takes us to new places, new times.

Some of those are times to rest—like Jesus did, when he stopped to pray.

Some are times to be challenged—as Jesus was, by the woman from Syrophoenecia.

Some are times to celebrate, even in the face of grief—as Jesus did, when he shared his last meal with his friends.

With bones given flesh, and lives renewed, let us go into God’s world—

 Listening for the Spirit…

Loving one another…

Worshiping God!

And the peace of Christ that passes all understanding rest and remain with us, now and forever.


Based on “Called to Be the Church: Congregational Giving Program,” The United Church of Canada