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Stories of Stewardship

posted on October 05, 2011, under Conference, Member by

Faith and Finance is a 12-lesson practical study on money management, prepared by the North American Division Stewardship Department. This guide to financial planning with a faith factor was edited by Edward Reid, former Stewardship Department director. Throughout Florida Conference, congregations have included Faith and Finance training among their small group ministry programs. “Our first Faith and Finance small group was life-changing and even marriage-saving,” testifies Miami Springs Church Pastor Glenn Aguirre. “It was so effective that leaders Ray and Damaris Mateo have been asked to start another class. I praise God for the lives and marriages this series has changed!”

An Ancient Institution With a Modern Application

by Conrad Duncan, Florida Conference Vice President for Administration

History of Tithing
In the early years of the Adventist Church, there were few settled pastors. Nearly all paid workers were evangelists, church planters, and overseers or administrators of mission. Lay members who served as volunteers conducted member care as well as ongoing local evangelism.

Because of the nature of this dynamic movement, a decision was made early in the Church’s history to send all tithes from congregations to the regional conference or mission office headquarters that coordinated mission expansion. Thus began a most effective system for church finance. As the Church has matured, it has continued to expand its perspective on mission.

For example, Christian education has become recognized as an effective and essential method for discipling young people. Today, Christian education is partially funded by tithe dollars, second only to pastors and evangelists. Other ministries such as literature evangelism and youth ministry are viewed as part of the mission of Adventism and, thus, are sustained in part by the tithe dollar.

Use of the Tithe
God established the tithe and further stipulated its use. Based on these instructions, the Seventh-day Adventist Church follows biblical directions for use of the tithe.

Nearly 80% of the tithe dollar remains in Florida Conference to advance the gospel in our territory. Of the dollars spent in Florida Conference, approximately 75% is spent on salaries and support for workers. Approximately 20% furthers the work of preaching and teaching the gospel around the world.

The portion of tithe dollars not retained by Florida Conference helps fund ministries such as:

  • Overseas missions.
  • Media broadcasts such as Hope Channel, Voice of Prophecy, It Is Written, and other radio and television ministries.
  • Institutions of higher learning such as Loma Linda University, Oakwood University, and Andrews University.
  • Publications such as Adventist World for members and Ministry Magazine for pastors and other church leaders.

Portions of the tithe dollar retained by Florida Conference go toward Christian education. Greater Miami Adventist Academy and Forest Lake Academy, as well as Southern Adventist University, benefit from tithe. Also, up to 30% of our elementary church school salaries are paid with tithe.

The preparation of curriculum for children and youth Sabbath School ministries, as well as courses taught in Adventist elementary and secondary schools, are supported with tithe.

Tithe pays for the quarterly Conference publication, Florida Focus, and contributes to the budget of Southern Tidings which is published monthly by Southern Union Conference.

Camp Kulaqua and Pine Lake Retreat benefit from tithe dollars. At these facilities, dozens of young people accept Jesus as their Savior each year and are baptized. Hundreds more recommit their lives to Him.

Florida Conference also uses tithe to subsidize the MagaBook program which hires young people for literature evangelism. Their earnings help pay for their Christian education while they work to spread the gospel.

Inspiring Testimonies
History is filled with people who believed, accepted, and practiced Bible teachings on tithing. There is mention of patriarchs such as Abraham (Genesis 14:20), Jacob (Genesis 28:22), and even the whole nation of Israel—priests and people alike (Leviticus).

In modern times, there are stories of famous and wealthy people who credited the returning of tithe to God as the secret for their success and prosperity. Among these individuals are: William Colgate of Colgate Toothpaste, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Henry John Heinz of Heinz Ketchup, Milton S. Hershey of Hershey’s Chocolate, and James Cash Penney of J.C. Penney.

As I write, myriads of people in Florida Conference, and around the world, are following this godly principle of tithing and experiencing God’s prosperity in their lives. Continuing this article, you’ll be inspired to read success stories of faithfulness and obedience shared by members of the Florida Adventist family.

Tithing: A Matter of Faith

by Rommel and Theresa Pageotte-Andre, Jacksonville Mandarin Church Members

The Pageotte-Andre family. (Photo: Kern Hercules Images)

It has not been easy, yet, by God’s grace, we have kept our three children, ages 17, 11, and 7, in Christian schools all of their lives. However, something was missing.

With our income, as it was, we were not able to fully pay our monthly debts. We would pay what we felt were the required bills, and we would place tithe at the end. This meant that tithe was usually eliminated.

My wife attended elementary, high school, and college in Adventist schools. She felt strongly about an Adventist or Christian education for our kids. I did not. I believe the devil attacked me often by reminding me that our bills would be paid if the children went to public school. Tithing was always in the back of my mind, but I was ashamed to deal with it.

One day, I spoke with our pastor, Juan Rodriguez, about some family financial difficulties. He politely, but bluntly, told me that tithing is a matter of faith. This truth hit me really hard. I know God is faithful, but I was not obedient to Him. I consider myself a logical person. Logically, it did not make sense to pay tithe and have money to pay our bills. Remember, we did not have enough money in the first place. A few months passed by after talking with our pastor—still not returning tithe—and the financial difficulties remained.

Throughout our wonderful years of marriage, God has blessed us. We have seen and felt His grace. We have testified about what He has been and continues to be in our marriage and family life. Why was it so hard to simply trust that He would bless us financially? He had never failed us before. We knew it was our choice, and that we needed to make the right decision.

Approximately three months ago, my wife and I decided to trust God. We decided to return God’s tithe and let Him lead. The first week, tithe was the first item paid, and our account overdrafted as expected. The next week, our tithe was, again, the first thing paid. To our surprise, everything else was also paid. everything, with no overdrafts.

It didn’t make sense. It was not logical any way we looked at it. We tried to do the math, and it did not add up. Unbelievable! Yet, we are believers. How could we allow the devil to take our hard-earned money? How did we expect God to grow His people if we were selfish in what we wanted for ourselves and our children? He told us He would take care of us. We teach our children that God will always take care of them.

In our humanity, we do not know how, but the bills are getting paid. God has opened and closed the right doors, and He has clearly shown us He always does what He says He will do. Through human eyes, the God we serve is not at all logical, but He is our Father, our Redeemer, and our Provider.

Thoughts On the Fount of Blessing

by Elisa Rahming

Elisa Rahming, Florida Conference Undertreasurer, enjoys traveling, participating in mission trips, and teaching biblical financial principles. (Photo: Kevin Shearer)

The Lord loves to give gifts to His children and is always there to listen to our requests. While I was in college, two required courses for graduation were scheduled at the same time. After much prayer, the Lord worked it out for me to finish both classes and graduate on time.

This experience played a significant marker in my spiritual journey. My relationship with God was deepened, enabling me to experience God’s faithfulness and blessings firsthand. When I consider all He has done for me, how can I not give my time, talents, and tithes and offerings to Him?

Although I spend a significant portion of my day working with dollars and cents, true biblical stewardship is so much more than handling money. It starts with God as our Creator, our Owner, our Provider, and our Sustainer.

Stewardship is the lifestyle of one who has a daily, living relationship with Jesus Christ, accepts His Lordship, walks in partnership with God, and acts as His agent to manage His affairs on earth.

God is the owner of everything, and He is the giver of all good gifts. God is a God of blessings. He pours out blessings, and then He wants us to be held accountable for them. He expects us to act in good human stewardship and to act responsibly.

God wants us to act in partnership with Him. This close association reminds us that there are two sides of stewardship. One side is about embracing that desire for God and His relationship with us. The other side is when God initiates a relationship, and stewardship accepts and embraces that relationship.

For me, even though I was baptized in the ocean at the age of 12 in my home town of Nassau, Bahamas, I didn’t fully grasp the concept of Jesus Christ as Lord of my entire life until later in my walk with Him. In fact, I was in my late 20s. I fully understood Jesus as Savior, but understanding the concept of His Lordship was something that took a little while. I’m thankful that I understand it now. It’s not just one segment or two segments of my life, but it’s everything. It’s my time, it’s my talent, it’s my treasure, it’s my career life, and it’s my ministry life. It’s everything.

The Lord wants to be our Helper by guiding and directing us in everything that we do. Putting God first and foremost in everything and being fully committed and devoted to Him means that we move as He leads and go in the direction He calls us to go.

God expects accountability from us. He also expects faithfulness for what He has given us.

Stewardship is a lifestyle of service. Jesus set an example of a lifestyle of service, a lifestyle of ministry, and a lifestyle of giving. He wants us to do the same. What is lifestyle? It is a way of being and a way of doing. It is living God’s life in the way He did through Jesus Christ when He was here on earth. It is living the way that He would want us to live in every single area of our lives.

Stewardship is all of me in response to all of God. He’s given so much, and He wants all of us. That’s actually part of what gives me joy in giving all of me to all of Him, because He brings me joy in doing so. There are so many blessings that we receive when we give our all to Him, and I’m not just referring to monetary blessings.

We’re not just returning to an entity or an organization. Rather, we’re actually returning to Him. We’re not just returning money. Rather, we’re returning our time, our resources, and our talent. We’re returning all of us to what God is, because He is Lord of our lives.

God wants our heart. He does not just want the money from our pockets. He wants everything that we have, and I enjoy this relationship with Him in giving Him my heart and in giving Him everything that I have. Doing so truly brings joy to those who accept His Lordship and walk in partnership with God.

Elisa’s thoughts in this article are blended with those taken from a presentation by Erika Puni, Ph.D., director of stewardship ministries for the Seventh-day Adventist World Church.

Learning To Live God’s Way

by Mickey and Ana Cuesta

Ana and Mickey Cuesta, Miami Springs Church members, attended a Faith and Finance seminar which changed their lives forever. (Photo: Arlene Montello)

We were married in 2002, and both of us had children from previous marriages. It was a struggle to agree on how to cover our children’s expenses and our own. Each of us had a separate bank account, and this brought friction to our marriage.

A few months ago, our church, Miami Springs, decided to offer a 10-week seminar based on the book, Faith and Finance, by Edward Reid. From the start, Mickey felt this seminar was sent by God.

At the time, Ana was on disability. “Why should we share,” Mickey said, “if she is not bringing any money home? If we could not manage our finances when we both were working, why do it now?” Mickey was also struggling with faithfulness in tithing. His mentality was, “I don’t feel like it,” but Ana was always faithful in this matter.

During the first seminar session, nothing was said about money. It was all about God. He is the Creator, and He owns everything. We are just His stewards. Little by little, conviction came to our hearts that this was going to be a life-changing event. We had to learn to completely trust in God and in each other!

After several weeks, the reality hit home, and Mickey declared, “The hardest part is putting the ego into my pocket,” yet he was not ready for a full commitment. Among the 10 couples taking the seminar, six had separate bank accounts. A short while later, we decided, “We are going to have only one bank account.”

What a major shift in our relationship! Now, no more arguing about how to spend the money. We are consulting each other before paying expenses, purchasing items, and how to help our children. Credit cards were paid off or put in a drawer. “This was the hardest part for me,” confesses Ana.

Through prayer and commitment, we have learned that it’s about doing things God’s way and not our way. God has blessed us in many ways that are not necessarily monetary. We came to understand that faithfulness to God includes returning a faithful tithe. Our relatives and friends have noticed the tremendous change in our relationship—especially no more fighting. We communicate much better and on a deeper level. There is peace and happiness in our home.

We recommend that all churches offer the Faith and Finance seminar for their members. It is such a great blessing, and it will change lives for the better!

Forever Faithful Is Our Goal

by Brian Mori, Miami Springs Church Member

Brian Mori

I am 34 years old and have been a Christian since I was a little boy. Yet, it was only about three years ago that I came to know Jesus Christ. Up until that time, I took my relationship with God for granted by just going through the motions. I didn’t have the fire for Christ that others talk about. Not having this relationship with Christ kept me from receiving the wisdom and knowledge necessary to make it through these economic tough times.

About three years ago, I found myself in an unfamiliar situation. Somehow, my wife and I had quickly accumulated more than $14,000 in credit card debt. I had never before in my life had credit card debt. This situation was causing even more problems in my marriage and family life.

I had just begun my new walk with Christ, and He allowed me to realize that Satan was trying to attack me and bring me down. I began listening to a Christian radio program about money. I kept hearing people in my similar situation getting and staying out of debt while, at the same time, staying faithful to God and being good stewards. Although I slipped many times, I tried to stay faithful to God and give Him 10% as I paid down the debt through making sacrifices while living paycheck to paycheck.

I continued praying and reading Christian books about debt and finances, as well as taking a finance class at my church. All of these resources showed me that only God can allow us to get out of situations we have gotten ourselves into, and we need to remain faithful to Him and do as He asks.

I now fully understand Malachi 3:10 where God talks about opening the floodgates of Heaven and pouring His blessings on those who are good stewards. One of the things I learned from this situation is that if we just ask God to give us a content heart, He will, and He will keep us from falling into the traps of needing earthly possessions.

I am blessed to say that it took a couple of years, but my family and I are now free and clear of the $14,000 credit card debt. We will forever remain faithful to God and keep being good stewards and managers of His money. Our goal now is to pay off all of our debt and ask God what He wants us to do for Him.

You Can’t Outgive God

Reprinted with permission from Jewish Heritage Scripture Studies

Barbara and Jeff Zaremsky lead the Beth-El Shalom congregations in St. Petersburg and New Port Richey.

Jeff Zaremsky and Barbara Gurien met and fell in love—a real match made in heaven. Finances being one of the most important areas of marriage, they decided to find out how compatible they were in this area before they got married.

It turns out that both were already giving a full 20% (10% for tithe, 10% for offerings) of their gross income to the Lord. Even though they were both volunteers, earning just a small stipend at the time, they always had enough.

As plans of a wedding were birthed, they wondered how they could give tithes and offerings on their wedding gifts. How do you give 20% of a blender? Most of their friends did not earn much more than they did, and they were expecting mostly homemade afghans for gifts. They decided to figure out the value of the physical gifts and then give the appro-priate amount in cash. If they did not have enough cash, they would return a blender or something so they would have money for tithe and offerings.

The Zaremskys on their wedding day in 1991. (Photo: Tyrone Greene)

When they finally opened all their presents, they not only had enough in cash gifts to cover their tithe and offerings on both cash and physical gifts, they had enough to cover the cost for their entire two-week honeymoon, including airfare, rental car, and hotels. In addition to the cash, they also received more than they needed for furnishing their new apartment—including two blenders. There was even a little money left over to put in the bank. Weeks after their honeymoon, they took a class on how to set up a spending plan that has kept them out of debt (other than their mortgage) and has helped to buy the things that they really need and often want.

For more than twenty years of marriage, Jeff and Barbara have never lacked for anything they really needed, nor have they even questioned whether they could afford to give 20% back to the Lord. Actually, they decided they couldn’t afford not to and have increased their percentage over the years to 25%. Today, they are totally debt free, including their home. God has always been faithful, and Jeff and Barbara have always had more than enough.

God Sometimes Works In Very Mysterious Ways

by Naomi Zalabak, Avon Park Church Member

Naomi Zalabak shares a memory about faithfulness from her Depression-era farmhouse childhood.

Back in the 1930s, our family was suffering from effects of The Great Depression. Out of work, my father was trying to get established as a farmer on our newly acquired 40-acre home place.

We had a vegetable garden and could pick wild berries in our woods, but my mother was in need of essentials for preparing bread such as flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. I recall hearing Mother and Father discussing their need and whether, under the circumstances, it would be acceptable to borrow the money they had set aside for tithe.

Their decision was to not use the tithe. Right away, Father started walking the mile to church to give the tithe to the pastor so they wouldn’t yield to the temptation to use it.

Shortly after midnight, we were awakened by a strange noise in the field in front of our house. In the dim moonlight, I could see a shadowy figure from my window and heard plodding through the deep grass. As the figure approached the house, Daddy picked up something to use as a weapon, if necessary, and went out to confront the intruder who had started to climb the steps to the front porch. Father was about to strike when he heard a woman’s muttering voice.

The woman was a patient who had escaped from the mental hospital 12 miles from our home. She intended to head toward a relative’s place in town, but a wrong turn brought her to our farm instead.

Father put her in the car and headed for the mental hospital. Upon arrival, those in charge rewarded him with money enough to supply our needs.

God sometimes works in very mysterious ways.

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