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ILL: This is an alleged New Year’s letter written from a church member to the pastor.
You often stress attendance at worship as being very important for a Christian, but I think a person has a right to miss now and then. I think every person ought to be excused for the following reasons and the number of times indicated.
Christmas Holidays (the Sunday before & after) 2
New Years (the party lasted too long) 1
Easter (get away for the holidays) 2
July 4th (national holidays) 1
Labor Day (need to get away) 2
Memorial Day (visit hometown folk) 1
School closing (kids need a break) 1
School reopens (one last fling) 1
Family reunions (mine & wife’s) 3
Sleep late (stayed up too long Saturday night) 9
Deaths in family 2
Anniversary (second honeymoon) 1
Sickness (one per family member) 5
Business trip (a must) 1
Vacation (three to four weeks) 6
Bad weather (ice, snow, rain, clouds) 2
Ball games 2
Unexpected company (can’t walk out) 2
Time changes (spring & fall) 2
Special on TV (superbowl, etc) 3
Pastor, that leaves two Sundays per year. So, you can count on us to be in church on the 4th Sunday in February and the 3rd Sunday in August unless we are providentially hindered.
A Faithful Member
MY FRIEND ALLEN
After many years of prayer by friends and family, Allen finally surrendered his life to Jesus Christ.
Initially when I met Allen he hadn’t surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. There was just something about Allen, even when he was upset with you, you couldn’t help but like the man.
But Jesus Christ performed a miracle in his life. He came to church one day and said "Jesse I’m ready to accept Jesus." Now remember, Allen had a flare for the dramatic after all he married Norma on the 4th of July. The men of the church came forward and prayed over him anointed him and his life immediately began to change.
Right there in the back pew, before the service ever started, Allen accepted Jesus as his personal Savior. A few weeks later he was baptized in a horse trough in the church parking lot. The water was a little warm, Allen was joyful and excited about his decision, he said, "All I need now is a little soap and I can really get clean." The several children that witnessed the service were inspired by what he had done and started asking questions about what it meant to be baptized.
Allen and I called each other and prayed over the phone. He was a man of God and I loved him so much, and he loved me, I wish I could have gotten to know him better. But because of his decision I will see him again.
If Allen could speak to you now, I believe he would say, "Dear friends and family please listen to every word that my brother Jesse is about to speak, for if you listen and hear the call I will see you here in Heaven with me a place to wonderful for anyone to describe."
On May 4th, just two months ago, the Lambro family woke to find the backyard of their Windermere home gone. Overnight a sinkhole had formed that grew to more than 100 x 50 feet and swallowed a hammock and 4 trees.
Last month, on June 21st, Susan Minutillo left her house to run a few errands. When the 79-year-old lady returned a half-hour later, she found emergency vehicles at her home and soon discovered that 70 percent of her home had been swallowed by a sinkhole during the brief time she was gone.
Just last week, on July 6th, a 6-year-old girl in Chiefland, FL felt the ground in her backyard get soft beneath her. Before she knew it, she had fallen to the bottom of a 15 foot sinkhole. She was able to grab some roots and pull herself out, but remained shocked for some time.
What is true of Florida buildings is also true of peoples' lives. We must be certain, we must be sure about what we build our lives on. We must be sure that the values we hold dear and the things that we value will stand the test of time. I believe that is the point Jesus makes in Matthew chapter 7 when He warns us to build on the solid ground.
THEY PAID THE PRICE
Americans, you know the 56 men who signed our Declaration of Independence that first 4th of July--you know they were risking everything, don’t you? Because if they won the war with the British, there would be years of hardship as a struggling nation. If they lost they would face a hangman’s noose. And yet there where it says, "We herewith pledge, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor," they did sign. But did you know that they paid the price?
When Carter Braxton of Virginia signed the Declaration of Independence, he was a wealthy planter and trader. But thereafter he saw his ships swepted from the seas and to pay his debts, he lost his home and all of his property. He died in rags.
Thomas Lynch, Jr., who signed that pledge, was a third generation rice grower and aristocrat--a large plantation owner--but after he signed his health failed. With his wife he set out for France to regain his failing health. Their ship never got to France; he was never heard from again.
Thomas McKean of Delaware was so harrassed by the enemy that he was forced to move his family five times in five months. He served in Congress without pay, his family in poverty and in hiding.
Vandals looted the properties of Ellery and Clymer and Hall and Gwinett and Walton and Heyward and Rutledge and Middleton. And Thomas Nelson, Jr. of Virginia raised two million dollars on his own signature to provision our allies, the French fleet. After the War he personally paid back the loans wiping out his entire estate; he was never reimbused by his government. And in the final battle for Yorktown, he, Nelson, urged General Washington to fire on his, Nelson’s own home, then occupied by Cornwallis. And he died bankrupt. Thomas Nelson, Jr. had pledged his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor.
The Hessians seized the home of Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey. Francis Lewis had his home and everything destroyed, his wife imprisoned--she died within a few months. Richard Stockton, who signed the Declaration of Independence, pledging his life and his fortune, was captured and mistreated, and his health broken to the extent that he died at 51. And his estate was pillaged.
Thomas Heyward, Jr. was captured when Charleston fell. John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside while she was dying; their thirteen children fled in all directions for their lives. His fields and gristmill were laid waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves and returned home after the War to find his wife dead, his children gone, his properties gone. He died a few weeks later of exhaustion and a broken heart.
Lewis Morris saw his land destroyed, his family scattered. Philip Livingston died within a few months of hardships of the War.
John Hancock, history remembers best, due to a quirk of fate--that great sweeping signature attesting to his vanity, towers over the others. One of the wealthiest men in New England, he stood outside Boston one terrible night of the War and said, "Burn Boston, though it makes John Hancock a beggar, if the public good requires it." He, too, lived up to the pledge.
Of the 56 signers of the Declaration, few were long to survive. Five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes--from Rhode Island to Charles...
In the year 135 Montanus, a second century Christian, proclaimed himself to be a prophet and prophesied that the New Jerusalem would descend from heaven to earth and take root in what is now Turkey. He was wrong. In 204 a Roman Christian named Hippolytus records that a bishop was convinced that the Lord was going to return immediately. He urged his followers to sell all of their land and possessions and following him into the wilderness to await the Lord’s coming. He was wrong too. On the last day of 999 the basilica of St. Peter’s at Rome was filled with people who terrified as they expected the world to end. They were also wrong. Starting in 1914 the pseudo Christian religion Jehovah’s Witnesses have predicted the return of Jesus so many times it is easy to lose count. I remember back in 1976 reading JW publication saying the end of the world was to be July 4th, 1976. I was rather upset about it, I thought I might miss the great fireworks display if Jesus came early in the day. The Jehovah’s Witnesses keep on predicting…perhaps they figure if they keep guessing…they may just hit it right. But they are wrong and will continue to be wrong. Rev. Colin Deal published a book titled "Christ Returns By 1988 – 101 Reasons Why." The book was made available for a contribution of $5.00. He was wrong. But the good Reverend made some cash on his nonsense. In 1995 I actually found a copy of this book in a Bible Bookstore. It was in the clearance section. Two bucks. There are many others in our day who keep predicting the day when Jesus will return. Usually, there is an exchange of money to find out the exciting details.
As you know, this Wednesday is the 4th of July. The 231st Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence that was signed on July 4th, 1776. The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence contains some of the most moving words ever written. It says…“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,
That among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness . . .”
About 10 years ago on a July 4th, I went with the family to a minor league baseball game. We sat in the grassy area of the ballpark down the first base line, and during the game a foul ball game my way.
It was spinning pretty well, and I had a tough time getting a hold of the ball. Finally, I got a hold of it... well, I thought that I did.
All of the sudden, there was another hand on the ball, and suddenly it was out of my hands. A kid about 12 years old came from out of nowhere and grabbed it out of my hand and took off with it!
I was livid and I was ready to go after that kid! In fact, some of the adults around me said, "You should have knocked him down!" But I did not, and I did not go after him either. It took me a while to calm down but eventually I got over it. But I was very, very angry.
Now for some people they would have shrugged and laughed and not thought any more about it. For others they would have gone after the kid and a messy confrontation probably would have taken place.
Some situations do not bother us at all, but they make others very, very angry. Other situations really make us angry and others respond with a look, or a word, that says, "What's your problem?"
DILEMMA OF AMERICAN ATHEIST SOCIETY
For some reason, Christians feel intimidated by atheism. They assume that the atheist and the intellectual are on the same level. The assumption is groundless:
A recent article published by the American Atheist Society was written by a zealous but discouraged atheist (a graduate of the U. of Texas, and president of "American Atheists") who related 5 basic coronary problems plaguing contemporary atheists of the U.S..
1. The 1st dilemma he cites is a "lack of unity." He begins with a word on how unified Christians seem, in their stand against abortion and in the fact that they do not openly criticize one another. He says history has shown atheistic attitudes towards each other have been nothing but outride hostility... The atheists hate the agnostics, who hate the humanists, who cannot stand the rationalists, who keep their distance from the realists, who will not speak to the Unitarians, and on and on it goes - they cannot even agree on the simple concept that "there is no god."
2. The second symptom is one of "lack of zeal." He says "atheists will simply not get involved with the promotion of their chosen life-style. I cannot think of a group harder to motivate... atheists seem to feel that their position with regard to religion is a deeply personal thing that does not need to be shared with others."
I suppose it is hard to be enthusiastic about the nonexistence of God, when the word "enthusiasm" actually comes from the 2 Greek words "en" and "theos," meaning "in God." If I denied the existence of the sun, I would find it rather difficult to be zealous in my convictions in the light of its brilliance.
3. The 3rd dilemma is "a lack of faith." The writer admits, "I have met many atheists who cannot surpass the ’what if I am wrong?’ stage." The cause of their problem is obviously a lack of unbelief.
4. The 4th ailment is one of "lack of boldness." The president of the society remarks about an incident where a newspaper reporter wanted to do an article on the subject of atheistic life-styles; and how he found nothing but the "fear of man" in tho...
REMEMBERING A DEATH WARRANT
Benjamin Rush to John Adams, July 20, 1811.
Dear Old Friend,
The 4th of July has been celebrated in Philadelphia in the manner I expected. The military men, and particularly one of them, ran away with all the glory of the day.
Scarcely a word was said of the solicitude and labors and fears and sorrows and sleepless nights of the men who projected, proposed, defended, and subscribed the Declaration of Independence. Do you recollect your memorable speech upon the day on which the vote was taken? Do you recollect the pensive and awful silence which pervaded the house when we were called up, one after another to the table of the President of Congress to subscribe what was believed to be by many at that time to be our own death warrants?
The silence and the gloom of the morning were interrupted, I well recollect, only for a moment by Colonel Harrison of Virginia, who said to Mr. Gerry at the table: “I shall have a great advantage over you, Mr. Gerry, when we are all hung for what we are now doing. From the size and weight of my body I shall die in...