The US Mint Offers A Great Opportunity

The US Mint is trying to increase the public’s interest in numismatics otherwise known as coin collecting. It’s interesting how they’re doing it. Of the nearly 2 billion America the Beautiful quarters put in circulation this year the mint has dispersed among those only 2 million with a “W” mintmark for the West Point mint. Since there are 5 ATB quarters in 2019: Lowell, Massachusetts, American Memorial Park in Saipan, War in the Pacific Memorial on Guam, San Antonio Missions for Texas, and Frank Church’s River of No Return in Idaho, that means there are only 400,000 each of these “W” mint mark 2019 quarters out there. There’s a 1 in 185 chance that you might find one, and, because of the rarity, they’re selling for as much as $70 to $200 per quarter based on condition – a hefty return on investment for 25 cents! For $10 a roll you get 40 quarters to look at, and an opportunity to have a little bit of an early Christmas. What the US Mint is doing is wise as they try to get us to look at our money more closely.

The same thing is true for most churches at this time of year. The fall harvest season is usually the time for stewardship programs. As we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas we don’t want to forget the guest of honor at His own birthday party! To whom do we ultimately owe our thanks – God! So, take a hint from the mint and look at your money more closely. It can make a huge difference in fulfilling God’s ministries for the Kingdom.

Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are the three post-Exilic prophets of the Old Testament, and they each preach a lot about us putting God first. With specificity, Haggai (1:2-11) tells the people to get busy rebuilding the Temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians. For 20 years they had been looking at a pile of rubble and saw it as too mammoth a task to undertake. They focused on themselves and their “paneled houses,” while God’s house remained a ruin. Haggai told them to get their priorities in order. Malachi does the same thing. He tells the returning exiles that they have been robbing God, and when they ask how, he tells them it’s in tithes and offerings. In the midst of rebuke, he offers hopeful words. In Malachi 3:10, God speaks through Malachi and says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Wow!

What’s interesting is the wording in how all three of these post-Exilic prophets encourage the people to put God first. More than any other writers in the Bible they use a specific designation for God: “Lord Almighty”! They want to inspire the people to give God his due because this is no wimpy God, but one to be revered. In Haggai’s 38 verses “Lord Almighty” is used 14 times; in Zechariah the same name is used 53 times, and in Malachi it is 24 times! These prophets were speaking to a people without a king for the first time in 650 years, or rather to a people who had always had a king, but forgot WHO that king is – the Lord Almighty! Our giving reveals whether or not we remember who our King is!

We are a greedy bunch and use any excuse to not give to the church. Boiled down, our excuse is usually greed and selfishness. We need to remember what Jim Cramer said on the TV show “Mad Money:” “Bulls make money! Bears make money! Pigs get slaughtered!” Money can be made whether the stock market is on a high or a low, but if you or I get greedy, we’re going to lose and lose big! We all want to do well on our investments, and investing in the ministries of the church are the best investments that we can make.

Recently I went through the refinancing process to lower both my interest rate and length of amortization. It was a good deal! It dawned on me that refinancing is exactly what we as Christians do with every stewardship campaign, indeed every Sunday and every day as we fulfill our promise to uphold the church with our prayers, presence, gifts, witness, and service. We are literally giving the church our capital to spend on its ministries. Those ministries are worth our investment. Our giving answers an important question, “Do you know how to tell the difference between a flower that’s alive and one that’s dead?” The answer is, “The one that’s alive is growing.” Our resources grow the Kingdom. Our giving refinances God’s goals. Churches that are growing are filled with people who know that we make a living by what we get out of life, but we make a life by what we give. If the US Mint wants us to look more closely at our money, we certainly need to follow God’s advice to do it, too.

Summer Time

Remember the song “Time in a Bottle”? That’s on my mind as I write today. I’m fairly convinced that the type of popular music that we like is linked to when we were juniors and seniors in high school. My personal favorites include Peter, Paul, and Mary, The Birds, Three Dog Night, The Rolling Stones, James Taylor, The Who, The Beatles, and, especially, The Moody Blues, who I repeatedly listened to as I read and reread The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Whenever I think of Middle Earth I can’t help but think of the mystical sounds of the Moody Blues.

Here I am squarely at middle-age, and life’s bookends are staring me in the face. I have enough time under my belt to retire, but that’s too far away to even ponder, much less desire. Being Columbia DS is an exhilarating challenge and last night’s Set-Up meeting has gotten me jacked up for another ministry-filled year! On the other hand, I’m missing summer and wondering how to get back to the beach, mountains, and any place of solitude. That’s my life, maybe yours, wondering about where I’ve come from, and rethinking, remembering. For instance, rethinking childhood and adolescence is an idyllic mixture of triumphs and wounds, from first love to broken bones, winning seasons to a Charlie Brownish dropping of the ball. It’s hard at whatever the age to keep one’s mind off the “befores and afters” of life.
But God is eternal and knows no time though time-bound for a short period through Jesus’ incarnation. For God, age is ageless. For God, time is always kairos not chronos. “Kairos” is one ancient Greek word for time. It defines time by the content of the moment. “Chronos” defines time in the manner that I am most accustomed. By its definition time is spatial, chronological, and linear. Chronological time views things as “fifteen minutes UNTIL something,” or “thirty minutes AFTER something.” Conversely, kairos time is more digital than spatial. It is defined by the God-moment, the experience rather than by what comes before or after.
In this regard our watches and clocks which display time in a spatial way, with spaces between seconds, minutes, and hours, are antithetical to a celebration of the “now.” Digital clocks and watches flash the exact hour and minute begging us to think in the present and live in the now without pressing us to think about before and after. God help us to live in the now! The past may have been great, and I am looking forward to better days ahead, but to live faithfully in this world is to do it as God does – giving my complete attention to whomever and whatever is before me right now. If our favorite music is defined by the content of certain life stages, may we dare give another listen to the sounds about us now? It might not be classical, swing band, country, rock and roll, the blues, or ballads that we need to listen to. There just might be enough God-presence in the sounds of a loved one’s sigh, the arthritic creaking of our own joints belying the hopeful maturity of the years, or the sweet-baby noises unintelligible yet profoundly clear in their message of love upon which we need to focus today. Focus we will, for time is of the essence! Think digital and live digital in God’s Time.