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THE BEGINNING OF LEE
Lee, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and a self-professed atheist was sitting at his desk on Christmas Eve. A slow news day he found himself reminiscing about the Delgado family that he had featured while writing a series of articles about Chicago’s neediest people a few days earlier. The Delgado’s were comprised of a grandmother named Perfecta and her two granddaughters, Jenny age 13 and her sister Lydia 11 years old.
He remembered how unprepared he was when he walked into their two room apartment on the west side of Chicago for the interview; bare halls and bare walls, no furniture, no rugs, nothing but a kitchen table and a handful of rice in the cupboards. He learned during the interview that Jenny and Lydia only had one short-sleeved dress apiece, plus a thin gray sweater that they shared. On cold days when the girls walked the half-mile to school, one of the girls would start with the sweater and then give it to the other at the halfway mark. It was all they had. Perfecta wanted more for her granddaughters and would gladly have worked, but her severe arthritis and age made work too difficult and painful.
Since it was a slow news day Lee decided to check out a car and drive to Chicago’s west side to check up on the Delgado’s. When Jenny opened the door he couldn’t believe what he saw! His article on the Delgado’s had touched the hearts of many subscribers who responded with furniture and appliances, rugs, dozens of coats, scarves and gloves. The girls wouldn’t have to share a sweater any longer. There was cartons and cartons and boxes of food everywhere. They had so much food that the cupboards and closets couldn’t contain it. Someone had even donated a Christmas tree, and under it were mounds of presents and thousands of dollars in cash!
Lee was astonished! But what astonished him the most was what he found Perfecta and her granddaughters doing. They were preparing to give most of it away. "Why would you give so much of this away?" Lee asked. Perfecta responded, "Our neighbors are still in need. We cannot have plenty while they have nothing. This is what Jesus would want us to do." Lee was dumbfounded.
After regaining his composure he asked Perfecta another question. He wanted to know what she and the girls thought about the generosity that was shown to them. Again, Lee was not prepared for the answer. She said, "This is wonderful, this is very good." "We did nothing to deserve this; it’s all a gift from God. But," she added, "It is not his greatest gift, Lee. No, we celebrate that tomorrow. Jesus."
Lee was speechless as he drove back to the office. In the quiet of his car he noted a couple of observations. He had plenty and along with it plenty of anxiety, while the Delgado’s despite their poverty had peace. Lee had everything and yet wanted more, but the Delgado’s had nothing and yet knew generosity. Lee had everything and yet his life was as bare as the Delgado’s apartment prior to the article running. And yet the Delgado’s who had nothing were filled with hope, contentment and had a spiritual certainty. Even though Lee had so much more than the Delgado’s, he longed for what they had in their poverty.
(From a sermon by Bryan Fink "Christmas is for all the Lees/Leighs of the World" 12/25/2008)
So if the kingdom of heaven is so valuable, why doesn’t everybody do everything they can to be a part of it? I think it’s because value is often in the eye of the beholder. What has value and what doesn’t is really up to personal interpretation. What some people think are valuable have no value at all to others. Several years ago I used to heat our house with wood. Every fall I would go out and cut wood with my friend Roger Raether and Bob Bosma. I never liked cutting wood because it was a lot of back breaking work but I liked the price. It was free except for the labor so we would take a Saturday here and there in the fall to cut wood and pile it up for the winter. In addition to cutting wood I used to get the wood scraps from a store called “The Wooden Bird.” They make beautiful hand carved bird decoys and animal decoys out of wood. Every decoy costs from 50 to 250 bucks and they are really nice decorative pieces to put on the mantle. Their shop used to be right here in St. Boni so every couple of weeks I would stop in and pick up their leftover wood scraps to burn in my wood burner. Right before Thanksgiving I stopped in to pick up a load of scraps. I walked in the front door and told them I was there to pick up the wood. The man wheeled out two bins like usual to the loading doors and helped me load them in the truck. Usually the wood was just chunks of pine but this time they looked like decoys. I asked him if he was sure that he was giving me the right wood because they were unpainted decoys. I noticed that they had a few cracks in them so I figured they were throwing them away because of the cracks. The man insisted that I had the right stuff and waved me goodbye. I took my load of wood and promised that I would bring his carts back as soon as I got the chance. He told me there was no hurry and I could even bring them back after Thanksgiving. I went home and unloaded the decoys in a big pile in the basement. The wood burner was low so I grabbed a handful of decoys and threw them in the furnace. That dry pine burned nice and hot so I threw in a few more to ward of the cold. Then I went back to work. After work I went home and reloaded the furnace with decoys and had just enough time to bring back the carts before they closed for the long weekend. When I pulled up in my truck two men ran out of the building and demanded that I bring back the decoys. I asked why and with urgency in his voice he told me that I had taken their entire inventory of Christmas decoys worth tens of thousands of dollars by mistake. He went on and on about calling the police and trying to find my vehicle and driving around for the past three hours in a complete panic because I had taken their entire Christmas inventory of decoys worth thousands of dollars by mistake. I pointed at the guy who gave them to me and he just gave me the deer in the headlights look and walked back into the building. Then the manager said do you still have them because they are incredibly valuable. Each decoy had taken them over a week to make and they needed to get them back. Rather stunned I told them that I had burned a few of them but would bring the rest back. Then I went home and carefully loaded a few hundred decoys back into the bins and brought them back to the Wooden Bird. Value is often in the eye of the beholder. The decoys had no value to me other than a little heat. But to the Wooden bird, the decoys were worth tens of thousands of dollars.
The desire to "get even" seems to be a part of the human psyche.
It is like the story of a mother who heard her seven-year-old son screaming. She runs into the next room to see what is wrong, and discovers her two-year-old daughter is pulling the hair of her brother. The mother gets the hand of the baby unclenched and says, "You will have to overlook this. Your sister doesn't know what it feels like to have her hair pulled."
The mother goes back into the kitchen when she hears the daughter screaming. She runs back into the room and says, "What happened?"
The boy answered, "She knows what it feels like now."
A LITTLE GIRL’S PRAYER
One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do she died, leaving us with a tiny premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator) and no special feeding facilities.
Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. "And it is our last hot water bottle!" she exclaimed.
As in the West it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.
"All right," I said, "Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm."
The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.
During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. "Please, God," she prayed, "send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby’ll be dead, so please send it this afternoon."
While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of corollary, "And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?"
As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, "Amen"? I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything. The Bible says so. But there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever, received a parcel from home; anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!
Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box.
From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys; eyes sparkled as I pulled them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas --- that would make a nice batch of buns for the week...
Dr. Larry Petton
COVERED UNDER HIS WINGS
It was a hot day in the dry old West. As the railroad came roaring down the tracks, sparks were flying everywhere because of the hot temperatures. When the sparks flew, often they would begin a fire that would destroy ranches, homes and livestock.
One particular day, there was a fire that spread from a railroad train in West Texas and did major damage. As the old farmer who owned the property walked through the ashes of his home and ranch, he saw an old hen lying on the ground, burnt to death. Her wings were spread open. In his anger, he kicked the old hen. To his surprise...several baby chicks ran out from under her burnt wings. When the fire came, the hen draped herself over her little ones and took the fire to save their lives.
We have a Savior who did exactly that for us. When the fire of God’s holy wrath should have consumed us...Christ spread out His arms on the Cross and covered us in His blood!
Oh, hallelujah...what a Savior!
The Parable of Water
There are a lot of things I could compare when it comes to living in the world, sexual sin, the lust we have for objects that are shiny; but, I’ve decided that I’m not going to. I’ve decided to discuss two different liquids. One of them is water and the other is Coca Cola.
The two I’m going to compare in this way:
Let’s just pretend that water is the God’s kingdom stuff, the things that come from the Father.(repeat)
Let’s also pretend that Coke on the other hand is the world.(repeat)
By my own admission, there’s always some Coke in the Moffatt family grocery trolley. We are Salvationist’s we don’t smoke, we don’t drink, or gamble – but hey we have Coke in the fridge.
1) When I see a Coke bottle or Coke advertising I’m keen for a Coke. On a hot day I could be said to be craving a Coke. Water might be better for me, the truth is water is better for me, but there is water in Coke, Coke contains carbonated purified water, cane sugar, caramel 150d (colour), food acid (338), flavour, and caffeine. It says that about caffeine twice, the second time in bold letters.
On the other hand water contains two hydrogen atoms to every oxygen atom, a virtual trinity of atoms. All life is dependent on water if it knows it or not.
Coke all that yummy caramel coloured, caffeine enhanced goodness. The caffeine helps fuel the craving. That this has all been in the fridge – ice cold, (open the can), all enhances the craving, (take a sip) – how is that craving going for you? Now remember I’m pretending water is God’s Kingdom stuff and that Coke is the world.
2) Now the lust of the eyes, Coke comes in a “contour bottle” with its hoop skirt appearance and the “dynamic ribbon device” note the attractive red and white against the dark caramel of the liquid. With the trademark Coca-Cola, lettering. Nice! This is one of the most widely recognised designs in the world.
So along with the craving and the eye attractiveness thingy Coke is a must! I even found this bottle that has my name on it, have a Coke with Andrew, that’s clever.
Water on the other hand, well its always close, we see it in creation, it sustains life, it cleans us, allows growth, it rains down on us. All life is dependent on water whether it knows it or not. You could deny all knowledge of water but it still sustains you.
Like Coke / the world comes in different flavours; mmm vanilla, with or without sugar and it’s on special often. Water / that kingdom of God stuff is always there, the benefits of it are always there, the life sustaining growth that it brings is always there, you could almost take it for granted, how often do we pass it over for the Coke. Coke that liquid that comes in a variety of sizes, continually costs, not to mention the litter that is left behind. When if we just turned the tap on, if we just leapt into a lake of water we would have a supply that would never run out and the price of which has been paid for us.
The other thing about the world is that just when you believe that you have found satisfaction in Coca Cola, you discover Dr Pepper!
THE BLOOD AND WATER
Before I became a minister I attended a secular college for a couple of years. While I was there I took several classes I thought would help me when I went to Bible college, and some of those classes were in Philosophy.
Now Philosophy and Christianity are somewhat at odds. Christianity exalts Christ, Philosophy tends to exalt man. Thus, teachers of Philosophy tend to spend a fair amount of their time undermining the faith of their students whenever possible.
In one class the professor said: "Jesus didn't die on the cross... and I can prove it!"
He then went on to set up his premise: "When a person dies," he said, "their heart stops pumping and gravity takes over. If you were to die right now, seated at your desks, your blood would drain to the lowest part of your body -- and settle somewhere around your waist. But the Bible says that when Jesus died, a Roman soldier pierced his side with a spear ... and blood and water came out. Jesus was supposedly dead. He was nailed to a cross. And yet when He 'died' there was blood where there shouldn't have been blood. That proves He hadn't died."
That shook me. I went back to my dorm and had a little talk with God. I said to Him "This sounds pretty convincing. If you can't answer it, I'm gonna go sell insurance. I can't justify spending my life preaching about a God I can't defend against accusations like this one."
Now, that was fairly rude of me. But God was gracious.
I don't know why, but I didn't go to a preacher, or to a campus minister to ask for them to explain this to me. I guess I just waited to see what God would do. And I didn't have to wait very long.
About a month or so later, I was in another philosophy class. The class was over and a few students were gathered around the teacher's desk. Wandering what they were talking about, I made my way into the group in time to hear the teacher say: "I just heard the most intriguing thing this last weekend. Do you remember where the Bible says that Jesus died on the cross?"
That peaked my interest.
He continued "Do you remember where it said that a Roman soldier pierced His side and blood and water came out"
Now, he really had my interest.
"There's a condition known as cardiac tamponade. It happens when a person undergoes enough stress in their life that their heart literally bursts from the strain. When this happens, the blood from the heart mixes with the fluid in the sac that surrounds the heart known as the pericardium. That fluid looks a lot like water. So -- if you were to pierce that sac after person died of cardiac tamponade, what you'd see come out would be 'blood and water.'"
Now that made sense for a couple of reasons:
1) If I cut your arm, you'd bleed. But you wouldn't bleed blood and water. Only blood.
2) The Bible says that when Jesus was on the cross... all of the sins of mankind were brought to bear on His body in that one place, in that one time. The only thing that held that body up under the strain was the power of Son of God. But when Jesus died, He didn't die from the cross itself. Scripture says: "Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.' When he had said this, he breathed his last." Luke 23:46
Thus, when Jesus gave up control over His body, it was like a snapping a rubber band. All the sins of mankind bore down now on a body that was no longer held by His power, and it makes sense that its heart burst.
I went back and explained that to my original Philosophy professor, and he hemmed and hawed, but had no real comeback for that. I doubt that he'd ever heard anything like it before.
I was excited. This was great stuff!
So when I went to Bible College the next year, I was determined to share this gem of knowledge with the professors there. But... there's a reason why Bible college professors are professors. They've heard most of this before.
So when I mentioned this discovery to one of my professors, he replied "Oh Jeff, it's even better than that! When Jesus died on the cross, He was placed on the cross at 9:00 in the morning, and He died at 3:00 in the afternoon. At the Temple, the first sacrifice was made at 9:00 in the morning... and the last sacrifice was offered at 3:00 in the afternoon.
"Now, Passover was a major day of sacrifice. People were lined up around the block to offer their lambs and other sacrifices to God. With all that sacrificing, there was a lot of blood on the altar, the floors and the utensils. How do you think they removed all that blood?
"Well, they'd developed a technique where they would pump water up from underneath the Temple and they used this water to wash down the altar, the utensils and the floor. This liquid then was carried by trenches out beneath the city walls into the Kidron Valley (the Kidron Brook ran between the city of Jerusalem and the Garden of Gethsemane).
People that have visited the Holy Land tell me that the banks of the Kidron are still red from all the blood from the many sacrifices over the centuries. Farmers would go to the Kidron and collect mud from its banks to spread on their fields -- it was a rich fertilizer for their crops.
"Now, if you'd been standing outside the walls of Jerusalem about 3:30 in the afternoon... what do you think you'd have seen coming out of those pipes? (Blood and water)."
Now, if I'd been God, there'd have been more than 21 chapters in the book of John. If I'd been God there'd have been at least another 10 chapters talking about all the applications of that one verse.
But John didn't care. He didn't care! His comment about seeing blood and water come out of the side of Jesus wasn't all that important to him. All John wanted to prove was that there had been no need to break Jesus' bones. Why? Because Jesus was the sacrificial Lamb. John knew that that kind of lamb would be unacceptable to God if it's bones were broken. So, John says "I KNOW Jesus was dead! I SAW the Roman soldier pierce His side, and blood and water came out."
One of America’s greatest poets is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The year 1860 found Longfellow happy in his life, enjoying a widening recognition, and elated over the election of Abraham Lincoln which he believed signaled the triumph of freedom and redemption for the nation.
The following year the Civil War began. On July 9, 1861 Longfellow’s wife, Fanny, was near an open window sealing locks of her daughter’s hair, using hot sealing wax. Suddenly her dress caught fire and engulfed her with flames. Her husband, sleeping in the next room, was awaked by her screams. As he desperately tried to put out the fire and save his wife, he was severely burned on his face and hands.
Fanny died the next day. Longfellow’s severe burns would not even allow him to attend Fanny’s funeral. His white beard, which so identified with him, was one of the results of the tragedy – the burn scars on his face made shaving almost impossible. In his diary for Christmas day 1861 he wrote, “How inexpressibly sad are the holidays.”
In 1862 the toll of war dead began to mount and in his diary for that year Longfellow wrote of Christmas, “A merry Christmas say the children, but that is no more for me.”
In 1863 his son who had run away to join the Union army was severely wounded and returned home in December. There is no entry in Longfellow’s diary for that Christmas.
But on Christmas Day 1864 – at age 57 – Longfellow sat down to try to capture, if possible, the joy of the season. He began:
I heard the bells on Christmas day.
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
As he came to the third stanza, he was stopped by the thought of the condition of his beloved country. The Battle of Gettysburg was not long past. Days looked dark, and he probably asked himself the question, “How can I write about peace on earth, good will to men in this war-torn country, where brother fights against brother and father against son?” But...
In his best selling book called, "Into Thin Air," Jon Krakauer relates the hazards that plagued some climbers as they attempted to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Andy Harris, one of the expedition leaders stayed at the peak too long and on his descent, he became in dire need of oxygen. Harris radioed the base camp and told them about his predicament. He mentioned that he had come across a cache of oxygen canisters left by the other climbers but they were all empty. The climbers who already passed the canisters on their own descent knew they were not empty, but full. They pleaded with him on the radio to make use of them but it was to no avail. Harris was starved for oxygen but he continued to argue that the canisters were empty.
The problem was that the lack of what he needed had so disoriented his mind that though he was surrounded by something that would give him life, he continued to complain of its absence. The lack of oxygen had ravaged his capacity to recognize what was right in front of him.
Friends, what oxygen is to the body, the Bread of Life is to the soul. Some of us are suffocating and starving and we don’t even know it. Jesus is offering life to us while we run around trying to appease our appetites. We will never be filled until we take of the Bread and Water of life, Jesus Christ.
Sermon Central Staff
REPENTANCE IN THE WHITE HOUSE
In 2001, Tim Goeglein started running the White House Office of Public Liaison, providing him almost daily access to then President George Bush for seven years. Then it all ended abruptly on February 29, 2008. A well-known blogger revealed the startling fact that 27 out of 39 of Goeglein's published articles had been plagiarized. By mid-afternoon the next day, Goeglein's career in the White House was over.
Goeglein, who admitted his guilt, said that this began "a personal crisis unequaled in my life, bringing great humiliation on my wife and children, my family, and my closest friends, including the President of the United States."
Goeglein was summoned to the White House to face the President. Once inside the Oval Office, Goeglein shut the door, turned to the President and said, "I owe you an..."
President Bush simply said: "Tim, you are forgiven."
Tim was speechless. He tried again: "But sir..."
The President interrupted him again, with a firm "Stop." Then President Bush added, "I have known grace and mercy in my life, and you are forgiven."
After a long talk, a healing process was launched for Goeglein, which included repentance, reflection, and spiritual growth. "Political power can lead to pride," Goeglein later reflected. "That was my sin. One hundred percent pride. But offering and receiving forgiveness is a different kind of strength. That's the kind of strength I want to develop now."
(Warren Cole Smith, "Wins & Losses," World magazine, 10-23-10, p. 11. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Love and Longing, 5/13/2011)