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THE RISE AND FALL OF NINE RICH MEN
A popular story recounts a meeting that may have taken place at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago in 1923. There is debate whether the meeting in fact occurred, but what is not in question is the actual rise and fall of the men featured in the story, who were nine of the richest men in the world at that time: (1) Charles Schwab, President of the world’s largest independent steel company; (2) Samuel Insull, President of the world’s largest utility company; (3) Howard Hopson, President of the largest gas firm; (4) Arthur Cutten, the greatest wheat speculator; (5) Richard Whitney, President of the New York Stock Exchange; (6) Albert Fall, member of the President’s Cabinet; (7) Leon Frazier, President of the Bank of International Settlements; (8) Jessie Livermore, the greatest speculator in the Stock Market; and (9) Ivar Kreuger, head of the company with the most widely distributed securities in the world.
What happened to these powerful and rich men twenty-five years later? (1) Charles Schwab had died in bankruptcy, having lived on borrowed money for five years before his death. (2) Samuel Insull had died virtually penniless after spending some time as a fugitive from justice. (3) Howard Hopson became insane. (4) Arthur Cutten died overseas, broke. (5) Richard Whitney had spent time in a mental asylum. (6) Albert Fall was released from prison so he could die at home. (7) Leon Fraizer, (8) Jessie Livermore, and (9) Ivar Kreuger each died by suicide. Measured by wealth and power these men achieved success, at least temporarily. But it did not surely guarantee them a truly successful life.
Many people think of fame and fortune when they measure success. However, at some point in life, most people come to realize that inner peace and soul-deep satisfaction come not from fame and money, but having lived a life based on integrity and noble character.
(From a sermon by Sajeev Painunkal SJ, What Changed Zaccheus? 10/30/2010 )
BIBLE READERS CHANGE THE WORLD
If you’ve read anything by Charles Dickens, you know how terrible conditions were in 18th century England. There were no child labor laws, so children as young as age four were put to work up to 12 hours a day in dangerous factories and sent into the corners of coal mines that were too narrow for adults to reach. If you’ve seen the musical "Oliver," you know that hunger was rampant. Tuberculosis, diphtheria and cholera outbreaks were common. School was only available for the children of the rich.
In 1738, Jonathan Wesley starting forming little Bible studies around the country. He was so keen on using methods to teach the Bible that people called his followers "Method-ists." By 1798, there were 100,000 Methodist Bible studies in England.
One of those Bible reading Methodists was Samuel Plimsoll. Plimsoll thought it was wrong that the merchants overloaded their ships and then shrugged it off and collected large insurance claims when their ships sank and the crews drowned. Plimsoll invented a symbol that marked a line on the ship to indicate its safe loading level. This line has saved thousands of lives and is still called "the Plimsoll mark" to this day.
Another Bible reader was Robert Raikes. Raikes saw that poor children couldn’t attend school because they worked six days a week. So he invited "Sunday school" to teach kids to read by reading the Bible.
Other people from this Bible reading movement formed orphanages, mental asylums, hospitals and prisons.
Florence Nightingale developed the nursing profession.
William Wilberforce brought an end to the English Slave Trade.
Bible readers fought and won women the right to vote.
William and Catherine Booth formed the Salvation Army.
Wesley’s 18th century Bible-reading revolution changed people’s character. It lifted so many English people’s work ethic, care ethic, and sense of personal trustworthiness that, by the 19th century, England had become the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth.
The same thing happened in America. The religious low point of our history was the 1850’s. Then revival began happening all around our country in 1857. People began reading the Bible. This was before gas or electricity. So after dark, families would gather around a few candles at the kitchen table. While mom and grandma sewed and repaired clothes, the father of the family would read the Bible, by candlelight, for an hour or more every evening.
And like in England, work-ethics rose, along with integrity and initiative and care for the poor. The Civil War broke out, in part, because Bible-readers determined that slavery was a sin. America’s 19th century Bible-reading made us the most prosperous and successful nation of the 20th century.
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.
Years ago in Germany, there was a young Jewish boy who had a profound sense of admiration for his father. His family’s life centered on the acts of piety and devotion prescribed by their religion. The father was zealous in attending worship and religious instruction, and he demanded the same from his children. While the boy was a teenager, the family was forced to move to another town in Germany. There was no synagogue in the new town, and the pillars of the community all belonged to the Lutheran church. Suddenly the father announced to the family that they were going to abandon their Jewish traditions and join the Lutheran church. When the stunned family asked why, the father explained that changing religions was necessary to help his business.
The youngster was bewildered and confused. His deep disappointment soon gave way to anger and a kind of intense bitterness that plagued him throughout his life. That disappointed son, disillusioned by his father’s lack of integrity, eventually left Germany and went to England to study. He sat daily at the British Museum, formulating various ideas and writing a book. In that work, he introduced an entirely new world-view, envisioning a movement that would change the social and political systems of the world. Drawing from past experiences with his father, he described religion as an “opiate for the masses” that...
In a recent report by Linda Duxbury of Carleton University’s School Of Business. Ottawa, and Chris Higgins of the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, London, entitled “Work-Life Balance in the New Millennium: Where are We? Where Do we need to Go?,” the authors claimed that many Canadians are finding it very difficult to balance their roles in life as employer, employee, parent and spouse. This shows up in increased workloads, more stress, declining physical and mental health, increased absenteeism, lower job satisfaction and lower commitment to employers. Duxbury says: “Our data demonstrate that the inability to balance work and family life is everyone’s problem. It hurts the employer, the employee, the employee’s colleagues, the employee’s family and Canadian society as a whole.” Estimated absenteeism from work-life conflict costs Canadian firms almost $3 billion a year, which results in extra visits to the doctor adding $ 425million annually to the cost of health care.
Hence, this whole thing of being a great worker is a very live issue in our day and time. If things aren’t working well in the work world it can be damaging to our lives and if we buy into Linda Duxbury’s conclusion, all of Canada, all of life will be affected in one way or another.
"There is an old story about a lighthouse keeper who worked on a rocky stretch of coastline. Once a month he would receive a new supply of oil to keep the light burning so that ships could safely sail near the rocky coast. One night, though, a woman from a nearby village came and begged him for some oil to keep her family warm. Another time a father asked for some to use in his lamp. Another man needed to lubricate a wheel. Since all the requests seemed legitimate, the lighthouse keeper tried to please everyone and grant the requests of all.
Toward the end of the month, he noticed his supply of oil was dangerously low. Soon it was gone, and one night on the light on the lighthouse went out. As a result, that evening several ships were wrecked and countless lives were lost. When the authorities investigated, the man was very apologetic. He told them he was just trying to be helpful with the oil. Their reply to his excuses, however, was simple and to the point: "You were given oil for one purpose, and one purpose only - to keep that light burning!"
A church faces a similar commission. There is no end to the demands placed on a church’s time and resources. As a result, the foundational purposes of a church must remain supreme."
James Emory White, Rethinking the Church (Baker Books, 1997), 27-28.
Some time ago I was reading about the 18th century German sculptor Johann Heinrich von Dannecker. His skills were impressive. He could bring stone to life with his tools. At the height of his powers, he wanted to do something special with his gifts -- he wanted to shape a statue of Christ that would stand out as a witness to his world. For two years he chiselled and scraped and polished the marble, till he was certain that it carried the likeness of his Lord. But he wanted to test his work on eyes that wouldn’t lie. So he went out to the street, and brought in a young girl. He took her into his studio, and he set her down in front of the shrouded stone. Uncovering it, he asked her, Do you know who this is? No, sir! she replied. But he must be a very great man. And Dannecker knew that he’d failed. The statue was good enough for kings and nobles, but it wasn’t good enough to speak the word about Christ.
He was discouraged. He was disheartened. He was depressed. But he knew that he had to try again. So he set his hand to the task. Six years it took him this time! Every day, painstakingly, shaping and carving. Finally it was done. And again, he brought in a child as his first critic. He took off the shroud, and asked her gently, Who is that? Legend has it that tears came to her eyes as she recognized Jesus. It was enough. Dannecker had finished his task. He had created his masterpiece. He had given visible shape to his faith. And later, to a friend, he told the secret of those last six years. It was as if, he said, Christ had joined him daily in his little room. He felt the nearness of his Lord. He sensed the glory of his Presence. All Dannecker had to do, really, was to transfer the vision of Christ that he received to the block of marble.
It’s a powerful story, isn’t it? But there’s more to it. There’s another chapter that comes later, one so striking that it actually makes John’s vision come alive.
Some years later, the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte saw Dannecker’s work. He was very impressed. He sent for the sculptor, and he had a commission for him -- Make me a statue of the goddess Venus for the Louvre! he said. Quite an honor! To be chosen as the creator of a work of art like that! Who could refuse? But you know what?! Dannecker did! He refused the commission. He gave up that honor. And you know why? This is what he told Napoleon:
"A man who has seen Christ can never employ his gifts in carving out a pagan goddess!"
“Torch Races!” Job 6:8-13 Key verse(s) 9:“. . . that God would be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut me off!”
Sometimes it doesn’t matter how quickly you run the race; just that you finish. Everyone has bad days; days which like any other days start out all right but somewhere along the way a bit of sand or a patch of ice has an unforeseen role to play and crash, what started out fine ends up a disaster. Run as hard as you can and you still can’t seem to get out of last place. Perhaps when days like this raise their ugly heads there is only one practical course to take, dropping out of the race and saving the effort for another time.
The Greeks, well known for their competitive spirit, invented the art of competitive running. There were many races that were run during the course of their frequent Olympic competitions. We are familiar with the marathon and high hurdles as well as the myriad of short course races they also ran. But there was one race which held periodically outside of the Olympic competition that was as highly regarded perhaps even more so than all the other competitive races. This race was called the torch relay. The race which spawned the modern day Olympic torch race and ceremony, often took place in the streets and alleys of Athens. Ten or twelve men would assemble before the city fathers, each carrying a torch, a simple bound bundle of twigs inset in a hollow containers. The twigs were coated with tar and then, one by one, each torch was lit from the same flame. On their marks, the runners were sent out as a group and guided along a course that had been laid out among the city streets on which obstacles and barriers had been placed. The object of the race was to cross the finish line with your torch still lit. You could not stop and put the torch down or prop it anywhere. You had to hold it high and run with as much integrity as possible. In this race the victory seldom went to the fastest or the strongest. This was a race that depended upon timing and rhythm. To keep that torch lit required the ability to hold it properly, shielded from objects along the route and held away from the wind. If you ran too fast, you might put out the flame. If you ran to slow, the tar might burn up completely before you reached the finish line. If a runner’s torch flamed out, there was no relighting it. He was forced to drop out. The winner of the race was the first man to cross the finish line with his torch still lit. Winning was, therefore, dependent upon endurance, not speed.
Job was a man involved in a very similar race. God had put numerous “objects” across his path. He handed Job a torch, his earthly lot that must be regarded even when it has become a burden, and put him to the run. In the cour...
John Maxwell tells in his book, “The Leader Within You,” the story of the building of the Great Wall of China. They built it so high that no one could get over it. And they built it so thick that no one could tunnel through it. They built this gigantic wall that still exists today. And then the people of China sat down behind the wall, feeling that their future was secure.
But in the first 100 years of the existence of the Wall of China, China was invaded 3 different times. The enemy didn’t come over because it was too high. They didn’t tunnel through because it was too thick. But each time China was invaded, the enemy came through a gate left open for them.
Those who guarded the gate had been bribed. And while the people of China sat comfortably behind the security & the safety of the wall, they failed to teach their children integrity & patriotism. So they sold out to the enemy. And the enemy invaded their land. What a parable!
In 1957, Lieutenant David Steeves walked out of the California Sierras 54 days after his Air Force trainer jet had disappeared. He related an unbelievable tale of how he had lived in a snowy wilderness after parachuting from his disabled plane. By the time he showed up alive, he had already been declared officially dead. When further search failed to turn up the wreckage, a hoax was suspected and Steeves was forced to resign under a cloud of doubt. His story was confirmed, however, more than 20 years later when a troop of Boy Scouts discovered the wreckage of his plane.
Another “survival story” from centuries ago is still controversial. A man by the name of Jesus Christ walked out of the wilderness making claims a lot of people found difficult to believe. he was later executed and pronounced dead. But 3 days later, He showed up alive. And there have been skeptics ever since.
But consider the facts of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. His integrity is well-founded.
▸ Prophets foretold His coming.
▸ Miracles supported His deity.
▸ Eyewitnesses verified His resurrection.
▸ And today the Holy Spirit confirms that Jesus is alive to anyone who is seeking to know the truth.
Yes, you can believe it! Do you? THE RESURRECTION IS A FACT OF HISTORY
THAT DEMANDS A RESPONSE OF FAITH