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Attitude of Gratitude - Pt. 1

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Consider this... 

The universe is expanding, and is beyond our comprehension... 

The Earth is shifting, spinning, turning, rotating, slipping, sliding... There is no universal up, no universal down, no objective stationary place of rest, no absolute viewpoint only views from a point... And the sun, which is one of those stars that we gaze so longingly at in the evening, is made of matter, but is also energy... at the same... time. 

And then there's you.  A combination of water, carbon and a few other things that stumbles around in the dark looking for a flashlight for about eighty years--if you're lucky--before you go back to being dust for other things. 

"What is man, O God, that you are mindful of him..." 

You are small.  You are dust.  You are only here for a breath of time.  And all it takes is a glance into the sky at night to be reminded of just how crazy-awesome-wonderful that all of Creation is, and how tiny, insignificant and not-that-awesome you seem to be. 

Exce…

The Messenger - Week 3: "Generosity"

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Today we're going to be continuing the sermon series, "The Messenger," a study in the book of Malachi.  This series is preparing us for the coming season of Advent

Today we're going to be focusing on one of the many prophetic words that the prophet Malachi offered to the people of Israel.  And in this one, the prophet really doesn't pull any punches.  

He tells the people that they have been robbing God by their lack of generosity.  And, not surprisingly, they wonder how that could possibly be...  

More on that in a bit.  

When I was a kid, I was taught that you were supposed to tithe back to God 10% of all the money you earned. So, if I earned a dollar, I owed God ten cents.  

There was a time when I would get really excited about giving my tithe. I would drop my coins into the offering plate, slowly... letting them hit and make a lot of noise.  

But the older I got, I started thinking to myself: "10% seems like a lot.  I mean, God really doesn't need my meas…

The Kingdom Within

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In the Gospel of Luke chapter 17, Jesus is questioned by a group of overly-religious people: 

"Jesus, grilled by the Pharisees on when the kingdom of God would come, answered, 'The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, ‘Look here!’ or, ‘There it is!’ And why? Because God’s kingdom is already among you.'" 

Another way to translate that last line is: "Because God's kingdom is within you." 

Two things occur to me this morning:  1) It's important to understand what Jesus means by "God's kingdom, and 2) It's also important to understand why he wanted his followers to know that God's kingdom was "within" them.

Frederick Buechener described God's kingdom like this:  

"The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers.  We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know." 

Another way of describi…

Turn Your When Into Now

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As we approach the season of Thanksgiving, I have been thinking more and more about generosity, and it's inextricable connection to following Jesus.   

Recently, I read a thirty-two year old quote from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.  In 1985, he was being interviewed and delivered the following intensely personal revelation:

"My favorite things in life don't cost any money. It's really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.  As it is, I pay a price by not having much of a personal life." 

Jobs was notoriously driven to succeed.  He was known for working hopelessly long hours, and relentlessly pursuing perfection.  Jobs turned Apple into one of the most powerful companies in the world.  

But after all was said and done, I wonder if those words he spoke over thirty years ago came back to him when he was diagnosed with the terminal cancer that would eventually take his life.  

So many of us constantly pour ourselves into what we believe is preparation f…

Paid In Full

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The other day my dad took his car in for service at his local Toyota dealer.  As he sat in the waiting area, he struck up a conversation with a young woman, who was there having her car serviced as well. 

They had a warm, friendly conversation, nothing in-depth--just passing the time.  

Her car was ready before my dad's, and so she bid him farewell, and went out to pay her bill and pick it up.  A few moments later, a customer service representative came out to let my dad know his car was finished.  

"I've got some good news," he told my dad.  My dad joking replied, "Let me guess, it's all free."  The man looked at my dad quizzically, "How did you know?"  

He went on to tell my dad that the young woman had paid my dad's entire bill.  My dad was floored.  

We could only guess that the young woman might have been moved to her act of kindness because he was wearing a hat that identified him as a Vietnam veteran.  

She had no idea what kind of month …

No Fear

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I decided this morning to tune in to one of the cable news channels to get a bit caught up on the news of the day.  I almost immediately wished I hadn't.  

I have been shying away from the 24 hour news channels for some time--mostly because they end up depressing me, and I don't need any more negativity in my life.  

This morning, on the cable news channel I was watching, the news host was arguing with a United States Congressman, and the two men were essentially talking over one another, raising their voices and making their respective arguments unintelligible.  

Both of these people claimed that all they wanted was the truth.  The thought occurred to me as I listened to them shouting at one another that getting at the "truth" was pretty far down on their to-do list.  

What they really seemed to want to do was fire up the viewership and generate some outrage.  They were going for the lowest common denominator--playing on people's fears.  

Fear seems to be at the core…

Hope That Never Fails

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The last few weeks have been pretty lousy.  

The world around us seems to be going to hell in a hand basket.  

My mom died.  

A pipe broke under our house, which will cost a zillion dollars to fix. 

Our car is in need of repair.  

My oldest son's college tuition is due.  

Our dog had a freak accident and dislocated his knee cap and needs surgery.  

And on top of everything else that has been happening in my life--I caught a nasty cold.  

I should not have been surprised at this considering the fact that my two youngest kids were deathly ill last week, but I thought I'd escaped unscathed.  

Someone told me yesterday, "That sounds like a bad country song." I couldn't agree more. 

Last week, during the class I am teaching on the book of Romans, I read out loud the following verse: 

 "...we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love …