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SO MANY VALUABLE POSSESSIONS
Waylon Prendergast, 37, of Tampa, Florida, committed a spur-of-the-moment robbery while on his way home from a late-night drinking session. A very inebriated Mr. Prendergast forced his way into the house through an open upstairs window, filling a suitcase with cash and valuables before setting the living room on fire to cover his tracks. He then escaped through the back door and made his way home, chuckling all the way. Only as he turned the corner into his own street, however, and discovered three fire engines outside his house, did he realize that in his drunkenness he had, in fact, burgled and ignited his own property. His comment: "I had no idea I had so many valuable possessions."
While we may not do anything quite that stupid (at least nothing that makes the national newspapers), there are times when Christians need to stop and reflect, coming to same conclusion Mr. Prendergast did: "I had no idea I had so many valuable possessions."
From family and friends to material comforts (like electricity and running water), from our basic needs (like food) to luxuries other generations never dreamed of (like the computer you're sitting at right now), from the freedoms we enjoy to the jobs we hold, there is much that we have been blessed with that we take for granted.
Even beyond the physical blessings, there is so much that God has given us through Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ."
Truly, I had no idea I had so many valuable possessions. "God, forgive me for taking so much of it for granted."
Sermon Central Staff
ATTITUDE NOT APTITUDE
Jesus' message here is that everybody can be great ... because anybody can serve. Dave Stone says that "service is the language of grace."
One day a couple of church members were out distributing loaves of bread in a low-income housing complex. They came to an apartment where they heard arguing through the door, but they decided to knock anyway. A man opened the door and asked what they wanted. One of the visitors said, "We don't want anything. We just wondered if you know anyone who could use some loaves of bread?"
"Why are you doing that?" the man asked.
"Just to let people know that God loves them."
"What did you just say?" the man asked, rather anxiously.
"We're just handing out loaves of bread to let people know that God loves them."
The man stared and said, "I can't believe this. We just buried our three-week-old son yesterday, and now here you are at our door."
The visitors offered to pray with them, and the couple accepted their offer. As they were leaving, and the door was being closed, they heard the husband say to his wife, "See, honey? I told you God cares. We thought he wasn't paying attention to us, but he sent those people here to make sure we knew."
Too many people make excuses as to why they can't serve. Can you bake a cake? Can you cook some food item? Can you cut someone's grass? Can you call people and give them an encouraging word? Can you do housework? Can you do handy work? Can you donate anything of value? Can you stop along your way and give a smile? Can you take an interest in someone else's life?
The big thing is that you have to be ready to serve. You have to open your eyes and your ears to the needs of others. 1 Pet. 4:10 -- "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."
(From a sermon by Michael Luke, The Demonstration Factor, 5/5/2011)
Sermon Central Staff
WHOSE HANDS ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR?
"A Thanksgiving Day editorial in the newspaper told of a school teacher who asked her first graders to draw a picture of something they were thankful for. She thought of how little these children from pour neighborhoods actually had to be thankful for. But she knew that most of them would draw pictures of turkeys on tables with food. The teacher was taken aback with the picture Douglas handed in... a simple childishly drawn hand.
"But whose hand? This class was captivated by the abstract image. 'I think it must be the hand of God that brings us food,' said one child. 'A farmer,' said another, 'because he grows the turkeys.' Finally when the others were back at work the teacher bent over Douglas's desk and asked whose hand it was. 'It's your hand, Teacher,' he mumbled.
"She recalled that frequently at recess she had taken Douglas, a scrubby forlorn child, by the hand. She often did that with the children. But it meant so much to Douglas. 'Perhaps this is everyone's Thanksgiving, not for the material things given to us, but for the chance, in whatever small way, to give to others,' she thought"
(Author Unknown, Stories from the Heart (Multnomah Books: Sisters, Oregon, 1996), 52). From a sermon by Eric Lenhart, Helping Hands, 8/12/2010
Dr. Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ tells this story of a famous oil field called Yates Pool:
During the depression this field was a sheep ranch owned by a man named Yates. Mr. Yates wasn’t able to make enough on his ranching operation to pay the principal and interest on the mortgage, so he was in danger of losing his ranch.
With little money for clothes or food, his family (like many others) had to live on government subsidy.
Day after day, as he grazed his sheep over those rolling West Texas hills, he was no doubt greatly troubled about how he would pay his bills. Then a seismographic crew from an oil company came into the area and told him there might be oil on his land. They asked permission to drill a wildcat well, and he signed a lease contract.
At 1,115 feet they struck a huge oil reserve. The first well came in at 80,000 barrels a day. Many subsequent wells were more than twice as large. In fact, 30 years after the discovery, a government test of one of the wells showed it still had the potential flow of 125,000 barrels of oil a day.
And Mr. Yates owned it all.
The day he purchased the land he had received the oil and mineral rights. Yet, he’d been living on relief.
A multimillionaire living in poverty.
SEEKING THE RIGHT KINGDOM
She is filled with bitterness as she speaks to me. Jillian (not her real name) has suffered from a stroke and her tears run freely as she recounts once again her desire to live at home.
Those who have power of Attorney have decided that she is best cared for at Shalom, but she doesn’t want to spend the remaining years of her life in an Aged Care Facility. She doesn’t like the room, the people, the food. She has money, so much money, "thousands of dollars," but it is no good to her now.
She looks at me through tears of sheer frustration as her kingdom is beyond her reach. She is bereft and disinherited, with all her money just lying in the bank. In building a kingdom of outward luxury, she has forgotten the kingdom of her heart, those inward resources that would enable her to give thanks in all circumstances and to experience inward joy no matter what she encounters in life. She kicks against the goads and says "I DON’T WANT TO LIVE LIKE THIS!" I can understand that. I’ve exclaimed these words with the same anguished vehemence, only she is in danger of losing her sanity and even worse, her own soul.
Jesus tells a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven in contrast to the kingdoms we try to build for ourselves on earth in Matthew 13:24. Jillian’s freedom and contentment depends on which kingdom she seeks and no, I am not speaking about suicide, euthanasia or death. Seeking the Kingdom of Heaven has little to do with dying and much to do with experiencing life to the full, here and now.
Sure, heaven, the Kingdom of God, is a LITERAL place, but Jesus said something interesting. He said “The Kingdom of Heaven has come” (Matthew 4:17). In fact we pray that way whenever we pray the Lord’s prayer. "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." We pray that the will and authority of the Kingdom of Heaven will be translated into the everyday things of earth, here and now.
A SPECIAL OCCASION
If you are waiting for a special house guest or a special occasion to use something you cherish in your house, consider the following following article by Ann Wells that appeared several years ago in the Los Angeles Times:
My brother-in-law opened the bottom drawer of my sister's bureau and lifted out a tissue-wrapped package. "This," he said, "is not a slip. This is lingerie."
He discarded the tissue and handed me the slip. It was exquisite; silk, handmade and trimmed with a cobweb of lace. The price tag with an astronomical figure on it was still attached.
"Jan bought this the first time we went to New York, at least eight or nine years ago. She never wore it. She was saving it for a special occasion. Well, guess this is the occasion."
He took the slip from me and put it on the bed with the other clothes we were taking to the mortician.
His hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, then he slammed the drawer shut and turned to me. "Don't ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you're alive is a special occasion."
I remembered those words through the funeral and the days that followed when I helped him and my niece attend to all the sad chores that follow an unexpected death.
I thought about them on the plane returning to California from the Midwestern town where my sister's family lives. I thought about all the things that she hadn't seen or heard or done. I thought about the things that she had done without realizing that they were special.
I'm still thinking about his words, and they've changed my life. I'm reading more and dusting less. I'm sitting on the deck and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden. I'm spending more time with my family and friends and less time in committee meetings.
Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experience to savor, not endure. I'm trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them. I'm not "saving" anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event--such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, the first camellia blossom. I wear my good blazer to the market if I feel like it. I'm not saving my good perfume for special parties; clerks in hardware stores and tellers in banks have noses that function as well as my party-going friends.
"Someday" and "one of these days" are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it's worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now. I'm not sure what my sister would have done had she known that she wouldn't be here for the tomorrow we all take for granted. I think she would have called family members and a few close friends. She might have called a few former friends to apologize and mend fences for past squabbles. I like to think she would have gone out for a Chinese dinner, her favorite food. I'm guessing--I'll never know.
It's those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew that my hours were limited, angry because I put off seeing good friends whom I was going to get in touch with--someday. Angry because I hadn't written certain letters that I intended to write--one of these days. Angry and sorry that I didn't tell my husband and daughter often enough how much I truly love them.
I'm trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives. And every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that the day is special. Every day, every minute, every breath truly is ...a gift from God.
Life is a precious gift from God, and he wants us to get the most out of it. Jesus came to give us life "to the full and abundantly" (John 10:10). In other words, he came so that we would live our lives abundantly-full of purpose, meaning, and joy.
What are you waiting for? If it's a special occasion or a "someday,"--- keep in mind that it may never come.
A. Todd Coget
[Parable of Christ’s Sacrifice, Citation: Brad Walden, senior minister with the Tates Creek Christian Church, Lexington, KY; true story told by Mark’s grandfather at Westwood Cheviot Church of Christ, Cincinnati, OH]
The mother of a nine-year-old boy named Mark received a phone call in the middle of the afternoon.
It was the teacher from her son’s school.
"Mrs. Smith, something unusual happened today in your son’s third grade class. Your son did something that surprised me so much that I thought you should know about immediately."
The mother began to grow worried.
The teacher continued, "Nothing like this has happened in all my years of teaching. This morning I was teaching a lesson on creative writing. And as I always do, I tell the story of the ant and the grasshopper:
"The ant works hard all summer and stores up plenty of food. But the grasshopper plays all summer and does no work.
"Then winter comes. The grasshopper begins to starve because he has no food. So he begins to beg, ’Please Mr. Ant, you have much food. Please let me eat, too.’" Then I said, "Boys and girls, your job is to write the ending to the story."
"Your son, Mark, raised his hand. ’Teacher, may I draw a picture?’
"’Well, yes, Mark, if you like, you may draw a picture. But first you must write the ending to the story.’
"As in all the years past, most of the students said the ant shared his food through the winter, and both the ant and the grasshopper lived.
A few children wrote, ’No, Mr. Grasshopper. You should have worked in the summer. Now, I have just enough food for myself.’ So the ant lived and the grasshopper died.
"But your son ended the story in a way different from any other child, ever. He wrote, ’So the ant gave all of his food to the grasshopper; the grasshopper lived through the winter. But the ant died.’
"And the picture? At the bottom of the page, Mark had drawn three crosses."
1 John 4:11, Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
THE POWER OF GIVING THANKS
Something to reflect on as you sit down to your Thanksgiving dinner:
If you had been a Pilgrim, would you have given thanks?
Consider what they had been through, the men and women who broke bread together on that first Thanksgiving in 1621.
They had uprooted themselves and sailed for America, an endeavor so hazardous that published guides advised travelers to the New World, "First, make thy will." The crossing was very rough and the Mayflower was blown off course. Instead of reaching Virginia, where Englishmen had settled 13 years earlier, the Pilgrims ended up in the wilds of Massachusetts. By the time they found a place to make their new home - Plymouth, they called it - winter had set in.
The storms were frightful. Shelter was rudimentary. There was little food. Within weeks, nearly all the settlers were sick.
"That which was most sad and lamentable," Governor William Bradford later recalled, "was that in two or three months’ time, half of their company died, especially in January and February, being the depth of winter, and wanting houses and other comforts; being infected with the scurvy and other diseases.... There died sometimes two or three of a day."
When spring came, Indians showed them how to plant corn, but their first crops were dismal. Supplies ran out, but their sponsors in London refused t...
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On Sept 16, 1620 2 ships set sail from Plymouth Englnad, The Speedwell and the Mayflower. The Speedwell encountered much difficulty as they began their journey springing many leaks in the ship. So when the 2 ships went to Port in Plymouth England, the Speedwell decided to go no further and 42 passengers from the Speedwell joined the 60 passengers and 30 crew members aboard the Mayflower..
Of the 102 passengers on board the Mayflower the majority were devout Christians. They were coming to America to shake lose from the bonds of the church of England so they could worship God as they believed scriptures taught.
And with great excitement and expectations that set sail for a new land... It wasn’t long before the trip became difficult for several reasons, as noted by William Bradford an historian on the Mayflower, who would later became Governor of the colony for 33 years.. Many of the passengers became sea sick as huge waves would crash over the deck of the ship... The nights were cold, damp and dark... Remember there was no indoor plumbing or electricity. And to make matters worse one of the crew, a very large man would constantly curse and abuse those who were sick... saying he was going to throw them overboard and steal all of their possessions... Bradford records, "BUT IT PLEASED GOD BEFORE THEY CAME HALF SEAS OVER, TO SMITE THE YOUNG MAN WITH A GRIEVOUS DISEASE OF WHICH HE DIED IN A DESPERATE MANNER.. AND SO HE HIMSELF WAS THE FIRST THROWN OVERBOARD. THUS HIS CURSES LIGHT OWN HIS WON HEAD, AND IT WAS AN ASTONISHMENT TO ALL HIS FELLOWS FOR THEY NOTED IT TO BE THE JUST HAND OF GOD UPON HIM.."
But their problems were far from over yet, they encountered many fierce storms which shook the ship with tremendous force. So fierce that many times they could not even keep the sail out and the force of the wind -- eventually cracked and bowed the main beams when they had just went over the half way point across the Atlantic. And although the passengers and crew wanted to turn back, Christopher Jones, the ships Master, assured all the vessel was "strong and firm under water." He ordered the beam to be secured. It was hoisted into place by a great iron screw that, fortunately, the Pilgrims brought out of Holland. AND Upon raising the beam, they "committed themselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed." These 100 people; cold, wet -- on wooden ship in the middle of the ocean -- put their hope, trust and lives into the hands of God. The battered ship finally came within sight of Cape Cod on November 19, 1620. Two had died at sea and two had given birth. The Pilgrims scanned the shoreline just to the west of them and described it as, "a goodly land wooded to the brink of the sea," William Bradford writes, "AFTER LONG BEATINGS AT SEA THEY FELL WITH THAT LAND WHICH IS CALLED CAPE COD; AND THEY WERE NOT A LITTLE JOYFUL..."
Before going ashore they decided to write a document know as the Mayflower Compact.
At the heart of the compact lay an undisputed conviction that God must be at the center of all law and order and the law without a moral base is really no law at all.
The day the Pilgrims signed the May Flower Compact, according to William Bradford, "they came to anchor in the Bay, which was a good harbor...and they blessed the God of Heaven, who brought them over the fast and furious ocean... and a sea of trouble. And they read the following from the Geneva Bible (the Bible the Pilgrims used) "LET THEM, THEREFORE PRAISE THE LORD, BECAUSE HE IS GOOD AND HIS MERCIES ENDURE FOREVER."
This coming thursday we will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day... Many will be busy cooking turkeys, making stuffing, baking pumpkin pies.... and watching football games. And that is fun stuff -- it is important to get together with loved ones... But that is not what thanksgiving is really about -- it’s not about food and fun... it is about giving thanks to the Lord God Almighty.
We usually picture the first thanksgiving in America, as the time when the Pilgrims and the Indians got together for a great feast (though I really don’t know how they could of eaten pumpkin pie without cool whip). But I tend to look at that time when on the sea battered Mayflower anchored in the bay at Cape Cod, a group of weary and worn men and women were on their knees praising their God in heaven for bringing them safely through the treacherous sea to this new land, as the real first thanksgiving.
Story of Encouragement:
Several months ago when I was seated on the bus at the terminal and going home from work, a woman showed a kindness that up to now I cannot forget.
The bus was still not full. I sat on the third row, by the window, on the driver’s side. It was nearly six p.m. but the driver showed no intention of getting the bus on the road.
I saw a middle-aged woman take a seat at the opposite side. She was crying. Without directly talking to anyone, she continued to cry and tell her story.
She came to the city to visit her daughter and was going back home to the province. On her way to the bus terminal, one of her bags were snatched and stolen from her.
She weepingly narrated that the bag had half of the money she brought with her. The other half was rolled in a hankie and hidden under her blouse so she still had some money left.
The bus conductor, driver and the other passengers all listened to her tale and tried to sympathize with her. Finally, after a few minutes, she stopped and took out some cheese bread from her bag and began to eat. Then I saw an old man in tattered clothes get on the bus and take the seat directly in front of the crying woman.
A few more minutes and all the seats were already taken and the driver got behind the wheel and got ready to move. The bus conductor took out tickets and began asking us where we’re getting off.
When he got to the old man, he got suspicious and asked if the old man had any money with him. The old man said no, but he knew where he was getting off. He said he spent all his money that morning when he accidentally got off the wrong bus.
Upon hearing this, the bus conductor told the old man that he couldn’t possibly ride the bus and ordered him to get off. The old man wouldn’t budge. He was near to crying and he begged the bus conductor to let him take that ride so he could go home. The driver heard what was happening and approached the old man and he, too, told the old man to get off.
The woman was listening and observing what was transpiring. When the bus driver and conductor started to raise their voices at the old man, she interfered. She said, "Stop harrassing him. Can’t you see he’s just trying to go home?"
"He doesn’t have money!" the driver told her in a loud voice.
"Well, that’s not reason enough!" she insisted. "Where will he get off and how much is his fare?"
The bus conductor mumbled the fare.
"Fine," said the woman and she reached between her blouse and took out her only remaining money. She gave it to the bus conductor. "Here’s his fare and mine. I’ll pay for him. It’s only money. Just stop giving him a hard time. Can’t you see he’s old and weak?"
That made all heads turn to the woman. Minutes before, we were watching her cry over the money she lost and now she was paying for the old man’s fare with what’s left of her money. Everyone, including me, felt humbled by the woman’s kindness and unselfishness.
Finally, the bus left the terminal. Not contented to pay for the old man’s fare, she gave him some of her food and a 50-peso bill. She smiled the rest of the trip.
© 2000 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta firstname.lastname@example.org