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Ridgecrest is a large Baptist-run assembly ground, nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina. All summer long, every year, thousands of Christians come to Ridgecrest for training, inspiration, Bible study, and challenge.
A few years ago, during a conference, people began to notice a man hanging around the grounds. He did not look like he had just stepped out of your typical Sunday School class. His clothes were tattered and torn; they looked like something even the Salvation Army would throw away. His face had not been visited by a razor for a long time. His shoes could best be described by the title of Hymn No. 2 in the book – “Holy, Holy, Holy”! And worst of all, there was the BO. You know about BO? Let’s just say that when you got close, you did not get a whiff of Chanel No. 5. This young man was clearly “not one of us”, not the kind of person you normally see at Christian campgrounds.
What did he do? Not much, really. He did not approach anyone. He did not harass anybody. He did not ask for money. He mostly just hung around. When chapel services were held, he would walk across the front and sit down. When classes were under way, he would lie down on the grassy slopes nearby. And when meals were being served, he would stand on the dining hall porch, not far from the long lines of people clutching their meal tickets. No begging, no demands, just standing around.
At the end of the week they announced that there would be a special speaker for the closing service, and that he would speak on the theme, “Inasmuch as you have not done it unto one of the least of these, you have not done it unto me.” They promised that the audience would truly remember this message. The hymns were sung, the prayers were prayed, the choir sang, and the special speaker approached the podium. Who do you think was that special speaker? Who brought that memorable message?
That scruffy young man! That hangaround bum with the worn-out clothing, the messy beard, and the offensive BO! It turns out that he was a young pastor who had been asked to play a part by the organizers of the conference. And his message stung as he said to the crowd, “No one tried to include me in anything. No one asked me if I needed help. No one invited me to the dining hall. No one sat down to listen to my story. A few put religious tracts into my hand. One or two pulled out a dollar bill and gave it to me. But most of you turned your eyes and pretended not to see me. My appearance offended you, and you left me out.”
Appearances are deceiving. He looked like a beggar and a bum, but he was a pastor. (Please don’t anyone say that’s all the same thing!).
A professor of mine from seminary told us this story: When he was a young man, all of 23, he had the opportunity to take a summer tour of Europe as a graduation present, he was from a well to do family. He traveled about Europe by train, boat and sometimes by bicycle. Finally he ended up on the beaches of France where he was determined to spend the rest of the summer. His parents, who had paid for his trip, insisted that he stop by to see relatives in Switzerland. This was the last place that he wanted to go, he wanted to stay at the beach. But his mother would not let up, she insisted that he visit the relatives in Switzerland, and she warned him to make a good impression. So, reluctantly, he took the train to the Alps.
He had spent all of his money on having fun at the beach and as a consequence he only had three dollars left in his pocket when he had arrived in his relativeís town. He knew he needed to make a good impression or his mother would be livid, and perhaps call him home before the summer was up. As he walked into town he looked in the store windows to see what he could buy for three dollars to make a good impression for his mother. As he walked, he realized it was hopeless, he had spent all of his money at the beach and there was no way he could afford anything of value as a gift for his relatives. As he pondered his situation, a beautiful young woman caught his eye, she was working in a fine crystal shop. He immediately went into the store, even though he knew he could not afford anything in the store.
Forgetting about his dire situation, he began to flirt with the young woman making her laugh Ė and she promptly dropped a very expensive crystal bowl breaking it into three pieces. The owner of the shop yelled at the young woman who fled into the back of the store crying. It was then, that that the young man realized his hopeless situation was now solved. He purchased the broken bowl for three dollars and asked the shop owner to gift wrap the bowl.
Upon his arrival at his relativeís house, he fake tripped through the doorway, and dropped the gift wrapped box to the ground. Everyone was taken back. He picked up the present apologizing for his clumsiness, but knowing his time at the beach would now be extended. He gave the banged up box to his aunt who opened the box finding a beautiful crystal bowl, broken into three pieces Ė and each piece was individually wrapped in white tissue paper.
Bible Buyers donít buy on impulse, but 88% know before shopping they want to buy a Bible. They spend an average of 21 minutes making a Bible purchase, and 61% buy them as gifts. The two top Bible gifting occasions are ceremonial events (32%) such as graduation, birthday, wedding, etc., and life passage events (17%) or life stage transition (e.g. youth to adult). The average buyer spends $33 per Bible or $44 each if buying multiple copies. (Aspiring Retail 3/07)
THE GRADUATION GIFT
A young man was getting ready to graduate from college. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealers showroom, and knowing that his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted. As Graduation Day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car. Finally, on the morning of his graduation, his father called him into his private study.
His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son, and told him how much he loved him. He handed his son a beautiful wrapped gift box. Curious, but somewhat disappointed, the young man opened the box and found a lovely, leather bound Bible, with the young manís name embossed in gold.
Angrily, he raised his voice to his father and said, "With all your money you give me a BIble?" and stormed out of the house, leaving the Bible.
Many years passed and the young man was very successful in business. He had a beautiful home and wonderful family, but realized his father was very old and thought perhaps he should go to him. He had not seen him since that graduation day. But before he could make arrangements, he received a telegram telling him his father had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to his son. He needed to come home immediately and take care of things.
When he arrived at his fatherís house, sudden sadness and regret filled his heart.
He began to search through his fatherís important papers and saw the still new Bible, just as he had left it years ago. With tears, he opened the Bible and began to turn the pages.
His father has carefully underlined a verse, Matthew 7:11, "And if ye, being evil, know how t...
DON'T UNDERESTIMATE AN ACT OF LOVE
One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, "Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd."
I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friend tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him.
He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, "Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives." He looked at me and said, "Hey thanks!" There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.
I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before.
We talked all the way home, and I carried his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with my friends and me. He said yes. We hung all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him. And my friends thought the same of him.
Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, "Boy, you are going to really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!" He just laughed and handed me half the books.
Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship. Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasnít me having to get up there and speak.
Graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than me and all the girls loved him! Boy, sometimes I was jealous. Today was one of those days.
I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, "Hey, big guy, youíll be great!" He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. "Thanks," he said.
As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. "Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach... but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story."
I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldnít have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. "Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable." I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his Mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth.
Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a personís life. For better or for worse. God puts us all in each otherís lives to impact one another in some way. Look for God in others.
In August of 1983, I started my sophomore year in high school. At that time I made the conscious decision not to be the good little girl anymore. I had a crush on someone I had known for the past 3 years and I was going to date him. Well, not only did he become my boyfriend, before long he had introduced me to sex, drugs and alcohol. Excuses for red eyes and strange behavior were easy after all I was ďthe good little girl.Ē By the end of that year, I was sneaking out of the house at night. Summer came and went and we were still ďhaving fun.Ē Over the next couple of months things started changing. My father and one of the students, also my Bible teacher, were on a first name basis. Well the week before Christmas break things came to a screeching halt for me. I was caught doing drugs on campus. My rebellious behavior resulted in a week suspension, if I agreed to a Christian based outpatient rehab program. Well of course I did. I made some new Christian friends. I thought I was on the right track. We had group meetings twice a week as part of our rehab. I was baptized in my church. Things were good, everyone thought. I gave my testimony in chapel, while I was high. I was searching for something and everyone thought I had found it, but I didnít have a personal relationship with Christ. I still thought life was a party; cocaine and alcohol were my drugs of choice. When graduation came around and everyone was giving out cash gifts, I had plans for it. I gathered the money and bought cocaine. I would do some and sell the rest to make a profit. Well bad idea. 3 friends and I did it all. I was broke and really sick and scared. The times when I was high and coming down the conviction set in and I would become scared. By the time the drugs wore off I felt invisible again. God was reaching out to me and I wouldnít completely let him into my heart and life. By this time my parents were moving and persistent that I move with them out of Miami to this small town called Stuart. Well, ok, but only until I turn 18, which was only 2 months. My intentions were to save money and move after the holidays. Saving money is hard when youíre partying all the time and paying rent. The holidays came and went and in February of 1987 I met Chris, who is now my husband. Chris was very good for me. He wasnít a drinker and he didnít do drugs and he wasnít going to be with someone who did.
Time went on and in September of 1987 I found out I was pregnant. Chris and I made the unfortunate decision to abort the baby. Soon after that we moved in together.
In February 1989 I found out I was pregnant again. Not only was I pregnant, but I was due May 19th (do the math). The question arose, when was the wedding? Well that wasnít in our plans, though in that situation, it certainly would have been Gods plan. Everything got really scary. I was 20 years old and I had 3 months to accept I was going to have a baby and deal with the guilt I felt from us not getting married. That wasnít how I was raised. But, I never prayed so much and so hard as I did for my baby growing inside of me. I loved her so much already and felt we didnít deserve a healthy baby. God blessed us with one anyway. For a while things were great and then I got restless again. When Janine was three, I left Chris and Janine and I moved in with my parents. I started partying again like I was in high school, no illegal drugs at that time, just a lot of drinking. I was a social alcoholic. This went on for about a year. I thought I was about to lose Chris for good. I got scared. Janine and I moved back home and Chris and I started planning our wedding. We went through marriage counseling; Chris accepted Christ and said the sinnerís prayer with my father in my parentís home. I was baptized again with my soon to be husband soon before our wedding. In June 1994 we got married with out daughter Janine as our flower girl. Things were good for a while but with my addictive personality I started partying again and this became a vicious cycle for me for years to come. I knew just how far I could push things and then Iíd cool it for a while. At 31 years old, I was married to a man who proved to love me very much and the mother of a little girl who needed me. But I was still out of control. Guess what, I got pregnant again. I always said God put a baby in my life when I needed one most. Though I was out of control, being pregnant was such a blessing to me, that my life became calm and somewhat normal again.
When I had Bryce, a lot changed in my personal life, aside from having a baby. I realized how much God has blessed me in every aspect of my life. My still being alive for one. Also I am blessed with the most loving parents who also love the Lord and prayed for me constantly and never gave up on me. My wonderful husband Chris and my 2 beautiful children. How could I jeopardize all God had given me? My priorities and even my interests changed. God is amazing. The things I was doing just months before were repulsive to me. Today I come to church and enjoy it. I am becoming more involved and finally, most importantly, I know what itís like to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Personal story of member of Countryside Bapt. Church
In a few short days, you will be busy doing something you have looked forward to for a long time; no, not graduate, not get out of school, and not leave home. You will be opening up graduation gifts. If you are like most graduates, you will receive many gifts; some monetary, some material, such as things you will need at college, and some intangible gifts such as love, well-wishes and support. You will receive many and various gifts and congratulations and you will probably be overwhelmed. If you are a girl, you will spend hours writing nice thank-you notes. If youíre a guy, your mom will probably spend hours writing nice thank-you notes which you will sign and she will buy the stamps for and mail so as not to be embarrassed by her sonís lack of appreciation or rudimentary social skills.
This story was related by Donald Grey Barnhouse. Several years ago, two students graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law. The highest ranking student in the class was a blind man named Overton and, when he received his honor, he insisted that half the credit should go to his friend, Kaspryzak. They had met one another in school when the armless Mr. Kaspryzak had guided the blind Mr. Overton down a flight of stairs. This acquaintance ripened into friendship and a beautiful example of interdependence. The blind man carried the books which the armless man read aloud in their common study, and thus the individual deficie...
Gifts: A new Unity Marketing survey finds consumers are actively buying gifts and spending more on gift purchases. 96% purchased gifts for specific celebration occasions, such as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, graduations, and others, while 84% bought gifts for holidays, like Motherís Day, Valentineís and Fatherís Day. Gifters spent $563 on average buying gifts through 6/30/05. Unity Marketing expects total gift spending to rise 7.4% over last year. The economic impact of the devastating loses from the hurricane and rising gas prices are not factored into those projections. (Unity Marketing 9/6/05)
The son of a wealthy man expected to receive a sports car for his graduation.
Instead his Dad called him into his study, told him that he loved him and handed him a wrapped-up present.
When he opened it, he found it to be a box containing a leather bound Bible, with his name inscribed on the spine.
Angrily the young man tossed the box on his fatherís desk and stormed out saying: with ďWith all your money, all you can give me is a Bible!Ē
And they never spoke again, despite the fact that the young manís father tried hard to contact him.
Years later, he got a call to say his Dad had died, leaving him everything.
As he was going through his fatherís belongings, he found that Bible still in its box.
Curious, he took the Bible out of the box and opened it. The page fell opne at a passage his father had marked. And as he looked at the page, he noticed that his Dad had underlined Mt. 7:11,
ď If you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father give what is good to those ...