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Maybe you’ve heard about the preacher who was visiting various classes during the Sunday School Hour to see how they were doing. One Sunday he visited the class of 6th grade boys. They were talking about things in the O.T.
He listened for a while & then asked, “Who knows who knocked down the walls of Jericho?” Two boys answered, “Preacher, we don’t know who, but we sure didn’t do it.”
Surprised by their lack of Bible knowledge, he turned to the teacher & asked, “What do you think of that answer?” The teacher replied, “Well, I’ve known them since they were little, & they’ve always been honest. If they said they didn’t do it, I believe them.”
Dismayed, he went out into the hallway & saw the chairman of the church board. He told him, “I was just in the 6th grade boys’ class & asked who knocked down the walls of Jericho. Two boys held up their hands & said, “We didn’t do it, preacher.” And the teacher told me that if they said they didn’t do it, he believed them.”
The chairman of the board interrupted him & said, “Preacher, let’s not fuss about who did what. We’ll just fix the walls & pay for it out of the General Fund.”
In England, most radio and television stations are run by the government-operated British Broadcasting Service (the BBC). There are some independent stations today, but 40 years ago, the BBC ruled the airwaves alone in England. In 1965, a free-spirit named Roy Bates, decided to set up his own, independent, illegal, pirate alternative – Radio Essex. Operating a radio transmitter on English soil was clearly against the law, and he was quickly arrested and fined £100.
Not willing to give up his radio voice, Mr. Bates moved his operation offshore. England’s territorial waters at the time extended only 3 miles off the coastline. Roy Bates, once a commercial fisherman, knew of an old abandoned fort six miles off the coast, just far enough to lie within international waters. Rough’s tower, as it was known, was a military platform built during WWII to protect the Thames Estuary – the harbor at the mouth of the Thames river, where large and vulnerable convoys of shipping were assembled. It housed up to 200 men, and had a helipad. These sea forts were equipped with radar and heavy armaments, and housed enough troops to man and maintain artillery designed to shoot down German aircraft and missiles. The fort, built on a barge which was later intentionally sunk, was originally intended to be built within English waters, but was moved to it’s current location at the last minute to take advantage of shallow waters in the area. After the war, the platform had been abandoned and had lain derelict ever since. Roy set up his radio station on Rough’s Tower, safely in international waters, and broadcast his own brand of entertainment over much of England.
Were this all there was to the story, it would still be quite interesting, but what happened next makes it truly epic. In 1967, realizing that his home was in international waters claimed by no country, Roy Bates decided that he could, in fact, claim it as his own sovereign realm. He and his wife Joan declared the tower to be the “Principality of Sealand,” and a independent country. They crafted a constitution, named themselves Prince Roy and Princess Joan of Sealand, and swore loyalty to their new country, using their newly created flag and national anthem. They designed their own passports, postage stamps, and minted coins (about 25 coins of each denomination). The official language is English, and the currency exchange rate is fixed at one Sealand dollar equal to one US dollar. The Sealand national motto is E Mare Libertas, or "From the Sea, Freedom".
Sealand offerred to join the coalition of nations supporting both the first and second Gulf Wars, and issued statements of condolences and offers of assistance to the United States after 9/11. In 2003, Sealand also appointed its first official athlete - Darren Blackburn of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Blackburn has represented the Principality at a number of sporting events, including marathons and off-trail races.
By late 1968, the British navy had become aware of the new situation and dispatched a naval cruiser to quietly resolve the situation. Prince Roy took exception to this invasion of his territorial waters and fired warning shots – basically plinking the side of the naval warship with a shotgun loaded with bird shot. Since Prince Roy was still an English citizen, he was accused of several serious crimes against England and was summoned to a British court. In this widely publicized lawsuit, the court decided that it could not exert any jurisdiction outside of British national territory, which many interpret as the first de facto recognition of the Principality of Sealand. English law had ruled that Sealand was not part of the United Kingdom, nor did any other nation claim it, hence Prince Roy’s declaration of a new Sovereign State was upheld. Prince Roy has been called to British courts several times since to face charges ranging from more incidents between his shotgun and British warships to not paying taxes. In each case the Court ruled that they had no jurisdiction in international waters, strengthening Sealand’s claim to statehood. A well-recognized international precedent known as the Montevideo Convention states that one test of the legitimacy of a nation is when it is recognized by other states. England, by specifically NOT claiming it, was recognizing it.
Prince Roy now claimed Sealand as his own based on de jure (based on law – because the fort was abandoned in international waters) and de facto (based on facts – recognition by other states) precedent.
What would you do with a country of your own. What laws would you pass?
Sealand instituted an international ferry service consisting of a rubber Zodiac. In order to board the Sealand vessel at the dock in England, you had to present your Sealand passport and submit to customs inspection. Smoking and swearing were both subject to banishment, as was taking more than three five-minute showers per week. Sealand printed international postage stamps and used them to post letters in England, which the British postal service subsequently delivered, again recognizing Sealand’s existence and rights.
But dark days soon fell on the brave new country…
SEALAND GOES TO WAR (AND WINS)
In August of 1978, a number of Dutch men invited Roy to continental Europe. It was later found that the men represented organized crime families interested in the possibilities of owning a country beyond the reach of other nations. They stated their purpose was to discuss the possibilities of paying Prince Roy a large amount of money to relinquish Sealand to their control. Roy left Sealand under the control of his Prime Minister (the German night shift disc jockey, who was later discovered to be in league with the Dutch criminals. While Roy was away in Britain, armed men boarded Sealand and staged a coupe, imprisoning Prince Roy’s son the His Royal Highness Prince Michael in the toilet. Prince Roy became suspicious of the delaying tactics employed by the “business men” and returned to his country. Discovering what had happened, Prince Roy declared war on both Germany and the Netherlands, went back to Europe and hired a mercenary unit, and led the helicopter assault to retake his country. They were quite successful. No lives were lost, and the traiters were declared prisoners of war and imprisoned.
During the time that he held the prisoners, the Governments of the Netherlands and Germany petitioned for their release. First they asked England to intervene in the matter, but the British government cited their earlier court decision as evidence that they made no claim to the territory of Sealand. Then, in the most definitive recognition of Sealand’s sovereignty, Germany sent a diplomat directly to Sealand to negotiate for the release of their citizen.
Roy first released the Dutch citizens, as the war was over, and the Geneva Convention requires the release of all prisoners. The German disc jockey was held longer, as he had accepted a Sealand Passport, and therefore was guilty of treason, but was later released as well. He claims to this day that his government was entirely legal, and now claims to be the ruler in exile of Sealand, living in Spain.
On 1 October, 1987, Britain extended its territorial waters from 3 to 12 nautical miles. The previous day, Prince Roy declared the extension of Sealand’s territorial waters to be a like 12 nautical miles, so that right of way from the open sea to Sealand would not be blocked by British claimed waters. No treaty has been signed between Britain and Sealand to divide up the overlapping areas, but a general policy of dividing the area between the two countries down the middle can be assumed. International law does not allow the claim of new land during the extension of sea rights, so Sealand’s sovereignty was safely "grandfathered" in. Britain has no more right to Sealand’s territory than Sealand has to the territory of the British coastline that falls within its claimed 12 nautical mile arc.
In 1997, forged Sealand passports started tuning up around the world. Some of these were used to open bank accounts under false names in various countries. Since few people have ever seen a legitimate Sealand passport (less than 300 exist today) it was difficult for these to be easily detected as forgeries. The source of these forgeries was traced back to the same German disc jockey who was involved in the earlier attempt to take Sealand by force. His Minister of Finance had created a fake Sealand Business Foundation and boasts that he has sold over 150 000 fake Sealand Passports to all comers. Thus there are now unfortunately 500 times more forged Sealand Passports in circulation than real ones. Many of the forged passports were apparently sold to people leaving Hong Kong at the time of Chinese reoccupation for USD 1 000 each. These passports, which were not authorized by the Bates family, were involved in several high-profile crimes, including the murder of Gianni Versace.
Whilst Sealand has been the pride and joy of Prince Roy and his family for well over 30 years, his recent poor health has caused him fundamentally to review the arrangements which have been in place for decades and to look to the future of his Principality. Consequently, his son Prince Michael was appointed Prince Regent as Sovereign pro tempore by Royal Decree in 1999. Since that time, the Royal Family has struck a deal with HavenCo Limited, and that company now leases exclusively its offices in Sealand, where it offers, and is able to offer, unparalleled security and independence to users who wish to take advantage of its Internet services. The presence of an active and rapidly growing high-tech internet industry in Sealand has changed the character of the Principality; once more, Sealand rings with the sound of voices, boasts regular support ferry services, and is host to a growing and dynamic population.
The point of all this? Roy Bates is an extreme example of a man who set up a kingdom for himself here on earth. As cool as that sounds, the Bible tells us that we have a kingdom in Heaven. We are citizens of that country, not this. We are just strangers here.
There’s an old fairy tale that says: Frog + Princess = Handsome prince. Today there’s a new fairy tale going under the guise of science that says: Frog + 10 billion years = Handsome prince.
PEARLS FROM GOD-- COMMUNION MEDITATION
The cheerful girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five. With her mother at the checkout stand, she saw them: a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box. "Oh please, Mommy. Can I have them? Please, Mommy, please!"
Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl’s upturned face. "A dollar ninety-five. That’s almost $2.00 If you really want them, I’ll think of some extra chores for you and in no time you can save enough money to buy them for yourself. Your birthday’s only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from Grandma."
As soon as Jenny got home, she emptied her penny bank and counted out 17 pennies. After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and she went to the neighbor and asked Mrs. McJames if she could pick dandelions for ten cents. On her birthday, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace.
Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere -- Sunday school, kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath. Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.
Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night when he finished the story, he asked Jenny, "Do you love me?"
"Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you."
"Then give me your pearls."
"Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princess -- the white horse from my collection. The one with the pink tail. Remember, Daddy? The one you gave me. She’s my favorite."
"That’s okay, Honey. Daddy loves you. Good night." And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.
About a week later, after the story time, Jenny’s daddy asked again, "Do you love me?"
"Daddy, you know I love you."
"Then give me your pearls."
"Oh Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my baby doll. The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper."
"That’s okay. Sleep well. God bless you, little one. Daddy loves you." And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss. A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed Indian-style. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek. "What is it, Jenny? What’s the matter?" Jenny didn’t say ...
What makes a hero? Webster’s defines a hero as a person “of distinguished courage, moral or physical; chief character in a play, novel, poem, etc.” One of my wife and my favorite movies is “The Princess Bride.” One character of the movie, Inigo Montoya, fits the definition of hero found in the dictionary. He has distinguished courage, which is physical at the heart. He is a sword fighter who has searched years to find the men who killed his father over the price of a sword. Over the years he has dreamt of what he would say to the man and came up with “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Near the end of the movie, he finds and fights the man who killed his father. They fight, and Inigo is winning, so his enemy begins to try and bargain for his own life by offering gold and silver to let him live. Inigo tells him to offer him whatever he asks, and the man replies, “I’ll give you anything you want.” And his request? “Bring back my father.” That was the sacrifice that would have saved this man’s life, but, of course, he could not bring Inigo’s father back to life. Because of his love for his father, Inigo gave up 20 years of his life in the search. That’s a sacrifice.
In the film Shrek 2, Shrek and the princess are married and they have been summoned to see the King and the Queen. As their carriage arrives in the kingdom of ‘Far, far away’ people begin to follow. At last, it is the long awaited return of the beautiful princess, and as the carriage enters the massive courtyard at the palace there is rapturous applause. A basket of doves is set free. There is a traditional fanfare played to welcome her royal highness and her husband. The princess and Shrek emerge from the carriage and as the crowd looks upon the two podgy green ogres there is silence. One of the doves crashes into a wall and a baby starts crying. Shrek is later the hero of the film, but at this point there is a stunned, shocked silence.
God is full of surprises! He often does things which we do not expect. He will never contradict himself and he will never do anything contrary to his nature, but God is a God of surprises.
D. Greg Ebie
A little 2 year old girl stands at the edge of a swimming pool frozen. Her daddy is in the water with his arms raised up toward his little angel saying, “Jump; it’s okay princess, daddy will catch you.”
In that moment that little girl feels for the first time the inner conflict that we have all felt time and again through out our lives. On the one hand fear tells her to stay put; the water is cold, deep and dangerous. She can’t swim. She has never done this before. She is the one being called on to risk her life. What if something bad happens?
On the other hand it is not a stranger calling her to jump; it’s her daddy in the water. He is bigger and stronger than she is. So far he has been trustworthy. Daddy who helped her learn to walk; he has always been there to pick her up when she falls, and to wipe away her tears. The smile on his face says he is confident in the outcome of her jump.
What is a two year old to do?
Philip Yancey, in his book "Reaching for the Invisible God" describes the way God get’s blamed for things in this way.
"When Princess Diana died in an automobile accident, a minister was interviewed and was asked the question “How can God allow such a terrible tragedy?” And I loved his response. He said, “Could it have had something to do with a drunk driver going ninety miles an hour in a narrow tunnel? Just How, exactly, was God involved.”
Years ago, boxer, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, killed a Korean opponent with a hard right hand to the head. At the press conference after the Korean’s death, Mancini said, “sometimes I wonder why God does the things he does.”
In a letter to Dr. Dobson, a young woman asked this anguished question, “Four years ago, I was dating a man and became pregnant. I was devastated. I asked God, “Why have you allowed this to happen to me?”
Susan Smith, the south Carolina mother a couple years ago who pushed her two sons into a lake to drown and then blamed a fictional car-jacker for the deed, wrote in her confession: “I dropped to the lowest point when I allowed my children to go down that ramp into the water without me. I took off running and screaming, ‘Oh God! Oh God, no! What have I done? Why did you let this happen?”
Now the quest...
The movie ‘Shrek 2,’ includes an obnoxious, for lack of a better word, but faithful donkey by the name of ‘donkey.’ The movie is a humorous and satirical take on our favorite childhood fairy tales and includes a trip to that magical place of ‘Far Far Away’ complete with a Hollywood type sign which announces that you have arrived!
It is the home of Fiona’s parents. Fiona was the beautiful princess of story who has a problem. Her problem is that due to one of those spells that all childhood fairy tales seem to have, she turns ugly at night. In fact, she turns ogre ugly!
So her parents put her in a secure location, a tower, I think, with the goal of having her Prince Charming (capital P, capital C) come and break the spell. Unfortunately, he does not get there in time and an ogre named Shrek, rescues her, takes her away, and they get married.
Now, they are headed to visit and meet her parents for the first time since they were married. It is quite a journey and as they slowly make their way to ‘Far, Far Away,’ the donkey starts asking the question that all children ask their parents on trips, ‘Are we there yet?’
He asks it at almost every mile they take much to the increasing frustration of Shrek and Fiona who finally tell him to ‘shut up!’ This causes him to start making an irritating sound which does not help the situation.
I think that this same question, ‘Are we there yet?’ is being asked a great deal by many believers when it comes to current events in the news and the return of Christ. But I think that Jesus tells us in the text that has been read for this morning there is a more important question, implied in the command to ‘be ready all the time,’ ‘Are you ready?’ Jim Kane
The Liberal Prime Minister, William Gladstone, in announcing the death of Princess Alice on 14th December 1878 to the House of Commons, told this touching story.
“The little daughter of the Princess was seriously ill with diphtheria.
And so the doctors told the princess not to kiss her because by kissing her she would endanger her own life by breathing in the child’s breath.
Once when the child was struggling to breathe, the mother, forgetting herself entirely, took the little one into her arms to keep her from choking to death.
Rasping and struggling for her life, the child said, "Momma, kiss me!"
Without thinking of herself, Princess Alice tenderly kissed her daughter.
And as a result she contracted diphtheria herself and died after some days. “
Real love forgets self.