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Posts Tagged ‘Generosity’

The story is told of a French soldier returning to his home after the Napoleonic wars.  Weary and alone, he steadily traveled, passing through village after village seeking shelter and the hospitality of his countrymen.

He was saddened to find the devastation of war had broken the spirit of the villagers.  High taxes, poor crops, and uncertainty had stolen their sense of love, trust, and community.  And so our lonely soldier traveled, trying to make his way home, and trying to make these war torn villages more like home as he went.

His luggage was peculiar.  He didn’t carry the rifle that had helped him survive the hard fought battles he had seen.  He didn’t carry a knapsack full of clothing.  Not much could be found in his old wagon, but a large metal pot and a special box with something priceless inside.

One day, he wondered into a village in the region of Lyon and made his way to the town square which housed the local well.  His presence was met by the slamming of doors, the closing of shutters, and mothers calling their children in early from their playing.  The soldier simply whistled and walked on. 

Upon arriving at the well, he filled his metal pot with water, placed it on an old fire pit in the town square, and lit a nice fire underneath.

A miserly old man passed by and scoffed at the soldier.  “Don’t know why you’re stopping here,” he said, “And definitely no need for a cooking fire.  There ain’t a bite to eat in the whole region.  You’ll starve like the rest of us if you stay too long.”

“Oh, I’ve everything I need right here,” the soldier replied.  “In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with the rest of you.”

With that, he opened the box and pulled out a velvet bag and from the bag he removed one small stone and plopped it in the water.  The soldier leaned over the pot, breathed in the aroma with a satisfactory groan, and gave the pot a stir.

Well, it didn’t take long for the entire village to hear word of a stranger cooking up something odd in the center of town.  Many of the villagers began to make their way toward the square, while many others began to peer out of now unshuttered windows.

As the soldier gave the broth a taste and licked his lips in anticipation of a scrumptious meal, hunger began to overtake the villager’s skepticism.

“Ah,” the soldier said to himself rather loudly, “I do like a tasty stone soup.  Of course, some flour would sure thicken up the broth.  It’s hard to beat a thick and rich stone soup.”

It wasn’t long before a villager returned with a cup of flour and offered it to be added to the pot.

“Excellent,” cried the soldier, “You know I once had stone soup with minced spices and a bit of garlic.  It was fit for a king.”

No sooner had he spoken the words than two housewives appeared with garlic and spices to add to the simmering pot of deliciousness.  And with that, the soldier gave one more sniff of the pot, yawned quite loudly and decided to go and rest under a tree while the stone soup gently cooked.

It was all the villagers could do to resist stealing a spoonful of soup smelling so wonderful with the fresh garlic and spices wafting in the air.  As the soldier slept a farmer made his way to the pot with some carrots he had hidden away in his cellar.  He was followed by a boy who had been sent with an onion.  Not long after that, the local butcher came bustling into the crowd with a sausage he decided could be spared for such a grand event as stone soup.

As the soup bubbled and the list of ingredients grew, the soldier rested until dinner time when he promptly jumped up, rushed over to examine the soup, and determined it to be the taste of perfection, if only it had a pinch of salt.

Moments later containers of salt came at the boiling pot from four different directions.  It was all the soldier could do to keep the soup from being ruined by over zealous salters.

That evening, an entire village of once broken and disconnected people enjoyed a mighty feast on the lawn of the town square.  They laughed and danced and remembered the old times with such fondness that, for the first time in a long time, they had a pleasant hope about tomorrow.

You can only imagine the offers that were made to purchase that magical stone from the soldier, but he refused to sell, and on the next day he loaded up and traveled on. 

Steadily making his way home from the war, he went, making war torn villages more like home along the way.

It can be quickly seen that Stone Soup is a metaphor for life, leadership, and generosity.  As you contemplate the impact of that metaphor on your vision for a new year, I encourage you to ponder three truths revealed in the story.

  1. As a child of God, you are a soldier traveling through a war-torn land on your way home.
  2. You have been commissioned to make this ravaged earth look more like home.
  3. Every pot of soup you start, you do for His glory.

Grace and peace and a Happy New Year to you all!

Podcast

Check back soon for this week’s Stone Soup podcast.

Links

Check out the church website for additional information about life at EFC.

Parents — don’t forget to head over to the WorldChangers page to access ways to connect Kid’s Church to your kitchen table.

On the Radar – Church Holiday Schedule

  • Wednesday, December 30 – No Church Activities
  • Thursday, December 31 – New Year’s Night of Worship — and talent show!  Email me at efcsweetwater@aol.com to sign up.

Revelation Bible study is taking a Holiday break.  We will resume our eschatological exploration Tuesday, January 5, 2010.

The Drum Circle will be getting back on rhythm in 2010.  Drop me an email if you are interested in learning to play hand drums.

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, January 3, is the first Sunday of the New Year — and the decade.  We look forward to a great start to this year and a great morning of worship with you!

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It seems pretty often that I catch a news headline about a chain reaction of generosity breaking out at a Starbucks.  It’s amazing how one act of kindness can lead to a morning filled with bright smiles and warm hearts as customers pay forward the blessing of a free cup of coffee.

Every chain reaction has to start with a catalyst.  It has to begin with a person who decides to purchase not only their morning caffeine fix, but an extra hit for the car behind them. 

In the life of David, King of Israel, we see a catalytic moment that pays forward for generations.

It began in the field of Araunah the Jebusite when David made an extravagant offering to the Lord on behalf of the nation.

But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”  –1 Chronicles 21:24 (NIV)

Somehow through this encounter with the Lord, David discerned that at the very place of this sacrificial offering, the Temple of the Lord should be established.

Then David said, “The house of the Lord God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel.”  –1 Chronicles 22:1 (NIV)

For the building of the Temple, on the very ground of his initial offering, David makes the most sacrificial offering ever recorded in human history.  The staggering wealth of his offering is recorded in 1 Chronicles 22.

Then he called for his son Solomon and charged him to build a house for the Lord, the God of Israel. David said to Solomon: “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the Lord my God . . .“Now, my son, the Lord be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the Lord your God, as he said you would . . . “I have taken great pains to provide for the temple of the Lord a hundred thousand talents of gold, a million talents of silver, quantities of bronze and iron too great to be weighed, and wood and stone. And you may add to them. You have many workmen: stonecutters, masons and carpenters, as well as men skilled in every kind of work in gold and silver, bronze and iron—craftsmen beyond number. Now begin the work, and the Lord be with you.”  –1 Chronicles 22:6-16 (NIV)

And, just like a happy morning at Starbucks, David’s generosity becomes a catalyst that ignites a nation to give toward the glorious vision of establishing a house for God to be worshipped on the earth.

Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of the king’s work gave willingly. They gave toward the work on the temple of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze and a hundred thousand talents of iron. Any who had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the temple of the Lord in the custody of Jehiel the Gershonite. The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly.  –1 Chronicles 29:6-9 (NIV)

The story of this threshing floor turned Temple of the Lord is concluded by a verse in 2 Chronicles that ties all of the pieces together.

Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David.  –2 Chronicles 3:1 (NIV)

Now, there is more to the background of this property and the purpose of God in this story, but what we see so clearly in this little sliver of history is the impact of sacrifice and extravagant generosity on the story of human history.

When a person makes a large purchase on their own behalf, a common question they may encounter is, “How much did that set you back?” 

When an extravagant sacrifice is made on behalf of the Kingdom of God, the question that only eternity will be able to answer is, “How much did that set you forward?”

I wonder if Jesus was thinking about this field David purchased from Araunah when he told us this story about the Kingdom of God.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  –Matthew 13:44 (NIV)

Podcast

Click here to listen to Pastor Eric’s message “The Sacrifice of Generosity.”

On the Radar – Church Holiday Schedule

  • Wednesday, December 2 – Lifegroup / Children / Youth at 7:00pm
  • Sunday, December 6 – Second Sunday of Advent
  • Wednesday, December 9 – Lifegroup Christmas Party / Youth Christmas Party
  • Sunday, December 13 – Third Sunday of Advent
  • Wednesday, December 16 – Hayride, Caroling, & Chiminea Christmas Party
  • Sunday, December 20 – Children’s Christmas Pageant
  • Wednesday, December 23 – No Church Activities
  • Sunday, December 27 – Last Sunday of 2009
  • Wednesday, December 30 – No Church Activities
  • Thursday, December 31 – New Year’s Night of Worship

Revelation Bible study this Tuesday from 12:00 – 1:00 pm in my office.  Everyone is welcome to join in, just bring your Bible and a lunch box.  Keep up with the progress at The Watchman’s Gaze.

You Heard it at EFC

Been trying to remember one of those awesome songs we sang?  Here is our worship list from yesterday, for those of you who just absolutely need a copy for yourself.  You can usually find them for purchase on itunes.com.

  1. Happy Day” by Tim Hughes
  2. Your Love Never Fails” by Jesus Culture
  3. Healer” Kari Jobe version
  4. Wonderful Maker” Chris Tomlin version

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, December 6, is the second Sunday of Advent.  We will continue our series on Sacrifice with a look at walking in Sacrifice in our relationships.

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Welcome to the MondayMorningReview Online. The goal here is to connect the power of Sunday morning to the reality of Monday morning. What do you think?

Scripture

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:37-38

Follow Through

I’ve been chasing my boys from baseball game to baseball game for the last 3 weeks. It has been an absolute blast — and I’m developing a real taste for the overpriced cold cheese on stale chips they sale as nachos.

One of the sights that I have grown accustomed to watching is the kids in the outfield as they run up to catch a fly ball – they will come up on it with their glove in the air and have the ball fly just over their glove and land behind them. So I tried to coach my boy on catching pop flies the other day, I dug into my memory and found myself giving the same instruction that was drilled into my head as a young ball player. When the ball goes up – your first step is back.

Looking straight up in the air and trying to find a little round ball in the midst of all of the lights can be a dizzying experience – and that ball is deceptive. And so to gain perspective, to gather your bearings, and to keep from chasing a ball to the fence, when the ball goes up – your first step is back.

That is a principle that applies to more than just baseball. It applies to life. I’m not saying that we run away from the challenges of life, but it is often important for us to take a step back. Gain perspective. Gather our bearings. In fact, there are some events in life that can only be understood from a backward perspective.

A paradox is a truth that consists of two contradictory ideas. Jesus often taught using paradox.

  • If you want to be first, then you must be…
  • If you want to save you life, then you must…

The problem we face in the Body of Christ is that many times we find ourselves only living one side of the paradox, and not embracing it’s contradiction as equally valid. So let’s look at three backward aspects of life in the Kingdom of God.

The first paradox is found in Luke 6:

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Here’s the paradox: Whatever you want to receive in life you must first give.

  • I just want to be heard. Then listen.
  • I just want to be loved. Then love.
  • I just want to be able to pay the bills. Then you give.

When we decide to just take what we want, we acquire it illegally, or out of God’s timing and what could have been a blessing ends up tasting bitter.

When we give what we want in life, we become a magnet to attract the blessing we are releasing.

The Second Paradox is in Ecclesiastes 11:1 (NIV)

Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.

The second key principle is: Bread floats in water.

You hear that and your immediate response is, “no it don’t.”

And my intellectual response is, “yes it do.”

No it don’t — Yes it do.

No it don’t — Yes it do.

We could get stuck here forever.

Now, I realize that bread shouldn’t float on water. It should get all funky and dissolve, sink, or get eaten, but the truth of the Kingdom is that bread floats on water.

And we don’t’ look to what is most logical to make our decisions. We look to what is most biblical.

The third paradox is found in Matthew 13:33 (NIV)

He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Here is the third truth: Little is huge in the Kingdom.

It’s the story of the Bible –

  • it’s the little boy takes down the big giant
  • it’s the little army that routes Midianites
  • it’s the little river that heals the Syrian general
  • it’s the little baby that saves the big world from it’s sins

There is no prayer; there is no person; there is no gift that is too small in the Kingdom of God

I am amazed at the power of the insignificant. The insignificant separates champions from contenders.

Water boils at 212 degrees. It takes 212 of those little buddies to change the physical property of water. 211 won’t do it. One degree separates hot from boiling. One degree.

Many of us watched on television last summer as the fastest men in the world lined up to race 100 meters. And we stood in amazement as Usain Bolt set a new world record in the 100 meter sprint, but did you know that only 3/10 of a second separated first from last place on that day. 3/10 is nothing – we waste 3/10 all the time. But on that day 3/10 set a winner apart from a loser.

The Tour de France is a 2210 mile race on a bicycle. In 2008 the winner of that 2000 mile race was determined by 58 seconds. Less than a minute over 2000 miles determined a champion. If you think that’s close, in 1989, I remember watching as a boy as Greg Lemand came from behind to win the Tour de France by 8 seconds. 8 seconds over 2000 miles.

Or how about the 1992 Indianapolis 500? Men and women driving 500 miles at speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour – and that year Al Unser Jr. won by .04 seconds. Four hundredths of a second.

Those are the numbers that factor into racing history, but what are the numbers that factor into the history of the Kingdom of God? What are the numbers that factor into the history of your life?

The almosts… The not quites… The could’ves… The should’ves… And the would’ves.

My friends, it is sometimes hard to see from this perspective. Sometimes it seems backward and confusing, but there is truth in the Kingdom of God that applies to our lives today. It is a Truth that isn’t meant to be just talked about, but lived.

  • Whatever you want to receive in life you must first give.
  • Bread floats in water.
  • Little is huge in the Kingdom.

If there is one word I would use to describe my King. It is that He is generous. And when we, as His followers, live generously in every area of life, we are displaying the character of the one we live for.

Will you measure a large life unto yourself today?

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