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Surprises - Luke 2:8-20

(With the kids) What kind of presents did you bring with you this morning? (Allow for answers.)  Those are all very nice.  Are they what you were expecting to get/are they what you asked for? (Allow for answers.) Were there any surprises?  Do you like surprises?  I like surprises, most of the time.  A lot of times those good surprises turn out to be far better than what I was expecting.  I remember a couple of years ago, Ms Anita gave me a present to open on Christmas Day.  I was expecting it to be a a pair of dress pants or jeans, I opened it and inside was this amazing jacket.  I was surprised and excited.  You know what, God likes to give surprises to…and they are surprises we should be excited about.  I’m going to let you head back to your seats with your presents while I talk about those surprises.
How many of you like surprises?
I know some people who do, and others who don’t.  I have a dear friend who doesn’t even like to be surprised by how a book or movie ends, and so she wil…

Peace-Makers Not Peace-Keepers: Micah 5:2-5a and Matthew 5:9

Most of us do not like conflict. There are some who I believe thrive on conflict, but for the most part, many of us will try to avoid conflict no matter what the cost. It doesn’t matter if we see something that isn’t quite right, if we think it might cause an argument or start some fighting, we choose silence and/or inaction, and we will encourage those around us to keep that same silence and remain inactive.  Anita will tell y’all that I tend to be one of those folks that doesn’t like conflict and will try to avoid it if I can.  It happens from time to time, and even happened within the last few weeks.  I can’t remember where we were or what the circumstances were, but Anita brought up something that was going on, and felt like she might want to address it because she thought that what was going on was wrong.  Most of the time when this happens, Anita will ask me if she should say something or just let it go and most of the time, I will tell her that I think we ought to just let it s…

Holding On To Hope - Romans 8:24-25

When I was growing up, I remember this picture that I would see hanging in either my mom’s (or one of her coworker’s) office, it read, “when you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”  It had a picture of a cute orange tabby kitten hanging on to the end of a rope by its front paws.  While it was cute, it also carried with it a message of encouragement.  That word to hang in there when things get rough is a word echoed throughout Scripture…from Jeremiah writing to the captives in Babylon (“for I know the plans I have for you…), to Daniel’s apocalyptic visions which were to offer encouragement during the rule of the Grecian empire to John’s similar apocalyptic vision to help the early Christians hang on during the threatening rule of Nero or Domitian of the Roman Empire.  The Biblical word for this concept of “when you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on” is the one that Paul lifts up in today’s reading, “hope.” Paul knew about being at the end of his rope.…

Godly Attitudes: The Widow – Sacrificial Generosity Luke 21:1-4

Over the last month, we have been considering the importance of attitude adjustments and the people who need them…most importantly, as we have acknowledged, the person on our driver’s license, the person we see when we look into a mirror. We have confessed that too often our lives have taken on ungodly attitudes that reflect the attitudes of many in the world.  In Joseph, we heard the call to let God transform our pessimistic worldview into one that is positive… In Ruth, we discovered the need to move from faithless to faithful… With Mary, we learned that we need to leave fear behind and become courageous… While far from being the last attitude adjustment we need, we come to the last attitude adjustment in this short series.  For this we consider a nameless, but well known figure within God’s Word, the widow in the Temple. Jesus and His disciples had entered Jerusalem as many gathered for the week of Passover.  As Jesus came into town, He made His way to the Temple.  There he discovered t…

Godly Attitudes: Mary - Courage Luke 1:26-38

We’ve been spending a few weeks talking about attitude adjustments.  Specifically, we’ve been considering the attitude adjustments that we need to develop Godly Attitudes—the need to surrender our earthly attitudes and let God, through the power of the Holy Spirt, adjust our attitudes.  In doing this, we’ve been considering various people of the bible, part of that great cloud of witnesses, so to speak, on this All Saint’s Sunday.  We’ve considered Joseph as a call to more from negative-worst case scenario kind of thinking to taking on a positive attitude.  Ruth brought to us the message of taking on an attitude of faithful commitment to God and one another. Today I want us to consider another adjustment.  This adjustment ties very closely to the last two, as in the story of Joseph we considered those who were afraid to act because they just knew that the worst possible outcome would happen.  In Ruth’s story, we talked about how nowadays when the going gets tough, everybody gets gone, …

Godly Attitudes: Ruth: Faithfulness Ruth 1:6-22

Let me share with you two stories. The first is the story of a young couple.  They had both finished high school and were pretty serious about each other as they began planning out their future.  The young woman had been battling a chronic condition since early childhood, and they were both aware of this ongoing health struggle.  However, two years into the relationship, things began to change.  At 21 years old, the young woman’s condition began to take a serious toll on her physical appearance and her interaction with others. Her face began to droop and she started to lose her hearing as the condition began affecting her nervous system.  The young man, only a year older, decided that he could not handle all of these things happening to his girlfriend and the uncertain future that would be in store, so he chose to end the relationship. Then there is the story of a small family.  There was the husband, Elimelech, and wife, Naomi.  They had two sons, Mahlon and Chilion.  They lived in a s…

Godly Attitudes: Positive – Joseph Genesis 39:20-23

A country-western song hit the airwaves in the summer after my freshman year of high school that climbed all the way to #5 on Billboard’s charts.  It is song that would not have as good of a reputation now as it did then, and rightfully so, for the violence it seems to advocate, including violence against women and apparent police brutality.  The song, was the 1984 hit by Hank Williams Jr., “Attitude Adjustment.”  In the song, he talks about folks needing attitude adjustments, those adjustments coming in the way of a bar fight, a tire iron, a scene that reeks of domestic violence, and police beating a man into submission while sticking the police dog on him.  Why bring up such a negative song?  Because, over the next several weeks, we are, in many ways, going to talk about those in need of attitude adjustments—primarily the folks we see when we look in the mirror. We are going to spend some time examining the Godly attitudes that we need to develop.  These are the attitudes that we enc…

Psalm 23: Part V – Blessing Upon Blessing Psalm 23:5b-6

Take out something to write with and a piece of paper.  Number your paper 1-10.  Place a title at the top that reads “Ten Blessings From Yesterday.”  This is an exercise that I have challenged our youth, last year’s confirmation class, and the congregation (through the newsletter) last year at some point.  It is also part of my devotional journaling that I do most mornings every week.  What I would like you to do, right now, is take a few minutes and write down ten ways that God blessed you yesterday.  If you need to add numbers because you can come up with more than ten, please do so.  If you are having trouble thinking of ten, let me offer this.  What if you think of everything you did yesterday and everything you used yesterday, and if you woke up tomorrow and it was gone or you couldn’t do it any more, you would feel the loss.  Or as someone put it to me one time, “what if you only have tomorrow what you were thanked God for today?”  Still need some help?  It can be something as s…