Thursday, March 25, 2004

"Appropriate" Attire

Once an old cowboy, feeling himself in need of religion, determined to visit a congregation in a town where he was stopping. When the appointed time arrived, the fellow entered the church and took his seat. Although his clothes were spotlessly clean, he wore jeans, a denim shirt and boots that were very worn and ragged. In his hand he carried a worn out old hat and equally worn out Bible. The remainder of the congregation were dressed in somewhat more expensive clothes and accessories.

As the cowboy took a seat, there was a rustling of displeasure at his appearance. The preacher gave a long "hellfire and damnation" message, followed by a stern lecture as to how much money the church needed to do its good work.

As the old cowboy was leaving the church, the preacher approached him and said, "Before you come back in here again, have a talk with God and ask Him what He thinks would be appropriate attire for worship."

Some time later the same man appeared, with unchanged attire. The preacher approached him and began, "I thought I asked you to speak to God before you came back to our church." "I did," came the reply.

"If you spoke to God, what did He tell you the proper attire should
be?"

"Well, sir, God told me that He didn't have a clue what I should wear; He's never been here before ..."

**Hmm...I think I've been to that church.

The Librarian

The new Librarian decided that instead of checking out children's
books by writing the names of borrowers on the book cards herself,
she would have the youngsters sign
their own names. She would then tell them they were signing
a 'Contract' for
returning the books on time.

Her first customer was a 2nd grader, who looked surprised to see a
new Librarian. He brought four books to the desk and shoved them
across to the Librarian, giving her his name as
was the custom.. The new librarian pushed the books back, smiled,
and told him to sign
them out himself. The boy carefully printed his name on each book
card and then handed them to her with a look of utter disgust.

Before the Librarian could even start her speech he said,
scornfully, "At least that other Librarian we had could write."

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Fake Food For Thought
By LaTonya Taylor

I was sitting at a restaurant with some friends when our waiter came by with a tray of desserts. As the waiter rested the heavy tray of sugary treats against our table, I leaned over to ask a favor of my friend Todd.

"Todd," I whispered, trying to be subtle, "Ask the waiter if that food is real or wax." Todd gave me his you've-got-to-be-kidding look. "C'mon," I pressured him, "I really want to know, but I don't want to ask. You do it. Ask him if it's real or not." After barely suppressing an eye roll, he asked on my behalf. Even though I thought the food might be wax, it was real!

I'm not going to pretend this is normal, but I have always been strangely attracted to fake food. Maybe it comes from making plastic Bacon Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches on my kitchen play set when I was little. Or serving my parents little cups of plastic ice cream topped with shiny plastic cherries. Or frying up delicious cheeseburgers on my toy range. My dolls loved them! Or looking at model homes with my family and marveling at how real those melting "sundaes" looked. Or . . . well, you get the picture. To this day, I am fascinated by fake food—or, as it's called in the fake food industry (yes, there is a fake food industry), "replica food."

I think part of my fascination comes from thinking about how much meticulous, painstaking work goes into making a piece of wax or rubber or plastic or silicone look like a real cake, a loaf of bread, a piece of fruit or a hot dog. It's a long process with several intense steps: matching paint colors, creating molds, pouring the material, and on and on. It's really a lot of work to put into something that just looks good. Something that can't satisfy real hunger. Something that offers no nourishment.

My fake food fascination makes me think of something else: How much work it can take to be spiritually "fake"—that is, to pretend I've got it all together when I haven't. To act like I'm becoming spiritually mature in areas of my life where I'm really just starting to grow. To act like I don't need help when I really need my friends to pray for me, to encourage me, or to hold me accountable for doing the things that result in spiritual growth.

It takes a lot of strength and humility to admit that I am a growing person who makes mistakes along the way. But I've realized lately that being honest with both God and Christian friends helps me grow in my faith. And just like real food provides a satisfying meal, my spiritual honesty ends up being a lot more satisfying and fulfilling than fake faith.

It's not easy, but in the long run, it's better to be who I am and trust that God will use the experiences in my life, both good and bad, to make me who he wants me to be: A real, honest person with nourishing, satisfying faith.

Friday, March 19, 2004

"Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death"
by Patrick Henry

March 23, 1775.

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not [Jer. 5:21], the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it. I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss [Matt. 26:48].

Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on.

We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us [2Chron. 32:8]. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone [Eccl. 9:11]; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace [Jer. 6:14]. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle [Matt. 20:6]? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

North Carolina's Secession Ordinance

AN ORDINANCE to dissolve the union between the State of North Carolina and the other States united with her, under the compact of government entitled "The Constitution of the United States."

We, the people of the State of North Carolina in convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained, That the ordinance adopted by the State of North Carolina in the convention of 1789, whereby the Constitution of the United States was ratified and adopted, and also all acts and parts of acts of the General Assembly ratifying and adopting amendments to the said Constitution, are hereby repealed, rescinded, and abrogated.

We do further declare and ordain, That the union now subsisting between the State of North Carolina and the other States, under the title of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved, and that the State of North Carolina is in full possession and exercise of all those rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State.

Done in convention at the city of Raleigh, this the 20th day of May, in the year of our Lord 1861, and in the eighty-fifth year of the independence of said State.

NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

~Robert Frost

This Day in History - March 19

1831 The first reported bank heist in U.S. history takes place when $245,000 is stolen from the City Bank in New York City.
1931 Gambling is legalized in the state of Nevada.
1987 Televangelist Jim Bakker resigns from the PTL following a sex scandal that involved himself and his secretary, Jessica Hahn.

Christian History Corner: Patrick's Italian Brother
Lost amid the celebration of Patrick is the important story of Benedict, the father of western monasticism.

What is the deal with Saint Patrick? For a guy who began his life story saying "I am the sinner Patrick, the most unsophisticated of people, the least of Christians, and for many people I am the most contemptible," he sure gets a lot of attention. In Dublin, half a million people marched in his honor Wednesday, with millions more in parades elsewhere around the world. And Patrick wasn't even Irish! In his defense against his ecclesiastic critics, he called the green island an "alien land … out beyond where anyone lives." Nevertheless, his work as a missionary bishop changed that land forever, and the Irish reward his memory with pilgrimages and revelry.

But on the Christian calendar, this isn't just the week where Patrick is remembered. It's also the traditional celebration week of Saint Benedict Day—this Sunday, or last, if you're Eastern Orthodox. (Actually, the Western church now honors Benedict on July 11, though Benedictines still observe March 21 as the traditional date of his death around A.D. 550.)

Still, while Patrick is celebrated with green beer, the father of western monasticism isn't even the namesake of the poached eggs and hollandaise dish (which was reportedly named after a Wall Street fat cat).

The two men were nearly contemporaries: Benedict was born around 480; records on Patrick are less credible, placing his arrival as a missionary to Ireland at 432 and his death at either 461 or 493. But they shared something else, as did several other Christian leaders of their day: A belief that lifelong service to Christ was best done full-time in a monastery.

While the popular image of Patrick has him out blasting druids, casting out snakes, and using the shamrock to teach eager Irish about the Trinity, Patrick's own writings don't include these dubious tales. Instead, he boasts that in Ireland, "they never had knowledge of God—and until now they celebrated only idols and unclean things. Yet recently what a change: they have become 'a prepared people' of the Lord, and they are now called 'the sons of God.' And the Irish leaders' sons and daughters are seen to become the monks and virgins (nuns) of Christ."

Patrick provides little detail about the life of these monks and nuns, but later Christians from Ireland, Scotland, and elsewhere in the British Isles would begin to create monastic rules, many of which still exist today.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

FROM DUST

A little boy came home from Sunday School and went into his room to
change clothes.

When he emerged, he asked his mother, "Is it true that we came from
dust?" His mother replied, "Yes, dear. God made us from dust."

The kid ran back into his room and came out all excited. "Mom, I just
looked under my bed, and there's somebody either coming or going!"

~Sermon Fodder

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

If you feel stuck, bring your whole self to Christ, not just the problem, but you. -- Shelia Walsh

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Where Are the Men?

Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

As he grows up, a boy needs at least one man who will pay attention to him. A man who spends time with him, teaches him,
admonishes him, encourages him. If he can't find that in a father, a boy needs another man he can look up to-a mentor. What's become of the fathers, the mentors? Well, I can tell you where they're not.

They're not in the PTA meetings or the piano recitals. They're not teaching Sunday School. They're not at the pediatrician's office holding a sick child. You will see a lot of women there. A dozen grandmothers. But you won't see as many men or fathers. Your sons and the sons in your neighborhood need godly men - men who will sharpen them to be God's best-to mentor and show them the way to righteousness. You may be the only godly man or father your neighborhood kids have. But what does a godly mentor
do?

He does not bend to selfishness. He doesn't let it be his master.
He's got a higher calling than just giving in to what self wants.
He says yes to the next generation of leaders. He calls his Christian brother up and says, "Come on, don't just unplug when you come home.
Reject passivity. Get involved. Be the spiritual leader. Take the initiative in your home."

Boys need Christian men who will be there for them and will cover for absentee fathers-men who aren't afraid to be the Little
League coaches, the Boy Scout leaders, the big brothers and the school teachers. Men who will share their love, wisdom, skills and
time. Men need to give time to help with homework, baths, laundry and grocery shopping. Time to read to children, drive them to ballet and cheer at their soccer games.

What will your son or daughter remember most about you as a dad? Your gifts, toys and trinkets, or your life unashamedly connected to his or hers?

Excerpted from "Moments Together for Couples" by Dennis and Barbara Rainey.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

This Week in Christian History

March 1, 1854: Pioneer missionary Hudson Taylor lands in Shanghai, China. "My feelings on stepping ashore I cannot attempt to describe," he wrote. "My heart felt as though it had not room and must burst its bonds, while tears of gratitude and thankfulness fell from my eyes." Taylor would found the China Inland Mission in 1865, and he popularized the idea that missionaries should live and dress like the people they seek to evangelize.

March 2, 1791: Founder of Methodism John Wesley dies in London. Thanks to his organizational genius, we know exactly how many followers he had when he died: 71,668 British members, 294 preachers, 43,265 American members with 198 preachers and 19 missionaries. Today Methodists number about 30 million worldwide.

The Beggar's Rags

A beggar lived near the king's palace. One day he saw a proclamation
posted outside the palace gate. The king was giving a great dinner.
Anyone dressed in royal garments was invited to the party. The beggar
went on his way. He looked at the rags he was wearing and sighed.
Surely only kings and their families wore royal robes, he thought.
Slowly an idea crept into his mind. The audacity of it made him
tremble. Would he dare?

He made his way back to the palace. He approached the guard at the
gate. "Please, Sire, I would like to speak to the King." "Wait here,"
the guard replied. In a few minutes, he was back. "His Majesty will
see you," he said, and let the beggar in. "You wish to see me?" asked
the king. "Yes, your Majesty. I want so much to attend the banquet,
but I have no royal robes to wear. Please, Sire, if I may be so bold,
may I have one of your old garments so that I, too, may come to the
banquet?" The beggar shook so hard that he could not see the faint
smile that was on the King's face. "You have been wise in coming to
me," the King said. He called to his son, the young prince. "Take
this man to your room and array him in some of your clothes."

The prince did as he was told and soon the beggar was standing before
a mirror, clothed in garments that he had never dared hope for. "You
are now eligible to attend the King's banquet tomorrow night," said
the prince. "But even more important, you will never need any other
clothes. These garments will last forever. "The beggar dropped to his
knees, "Oh thank you," he cried. But as he started to leave, he
looked back at his pile of dirty rags on the floor. He hesitated.
What if the prince was wrong? What if he would need his old clothes
again. Quickly he gathered them up.

The banquet was far greater than he had ever imagined, but he could
not enjoy himself as he should. He had made a small bundle of his old
rags and it kept falling off his lap. the food was passed quickly and
the beggar missed some of the greatest delicacies.

Time proved that the prince was right. The clothes lasted forever.
Still the poor beggar grew fonder and fonder of his old rags. As time
passed people seemed to forget the royal robes he was wearing. They
saw only the little bundle of filthy rags that he clung to wherever
he went. They even spoke of him as the old man with the rags.

One day as he lay dying, the King visited him. The beggar saw the sad
look on the King's face when he looked at the small bundle of rags by
the bed. Suddenly the beggar remembered the prince's words and he
realized that his bundle of rags had cost him a lifetime of true
royalty. He wept bitterly at his folly and the king wept with him.

We have been invited into a royal family, the family of God. To feast
at God's dinner table all we have to do is shed our old rags and put
on the "new clothes" of faith which is provided by God's son, Jesus
Christ. But we cannot hold onto our old rags. When we put our faith
in Christ, we must let go of the sin in our life, and our old ways of
living. Those things must be discarded if we are to experience true
royalty and abundant life in Christ.


From the CCEC Story List; To Subscribe:CCECstorylist-subscribe@MyInJesus.com

Church Committee

A group of people who individually can do nothing, but as a group
decides that nothing can be done.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

WHY DOESN'T SOMEONE DO SOMETHING?

Someone has to tell an unsaved friend how to accept Christ as Savior before he does it.
Someone has to "be a friend" to an indifferent non-attender before he will get the church-going habit.
Someone has to "pick up" and bring people who prefer not to "break the church barrier" alone.
Someone has to forgive an enemy before God's Spirit can work properly in a Christian fellowship.
Someone has to pray that the unchurched and unsaved will be responsive to the urgings of God's Spirit.
Someone has to be loyal to the services so that the church can be a real spiritual lighthouse in the community.

Then I realized I was "Someone."

(The Timothy Report, Swan Lake Communications, Swanlake@jam.rr.com)

Church Stories

The Season of Advent was beginning, and I wanted to inform the
children that, according the Bible, Jesus is coming twice, once as
the baby in the manger, and then as King. So I asked the children,
"How did Jesus come the first time?" Ryan answered, "Down the
chimney."

*****
Years ago the safe in our church chapel was used to keep the Sunday
offering. One night, thieves broke into the chapel and tried to open
the safe. You can still see the marks on the door, and the knob to
the safe is broken off. After hours of pounding with a sledge hammer
and chisel, the burglars couldn't open the safe, so they left. The
irony is they didn't look around. Whoever had custody of the
offering money forgot to put it in the safe. It was sitting in plain
sight on the cabinet next to the safe.

*****

We have Assisted Listening Devices at our church for those who might
not be able to hear the service without them. A few weeks ago I
offered one to Mr. L. He told me that he didn't need one because he
had just bought a new hearing aid, and it cost him $4,000. I asked
him, "What kind is it?" He looked at his wrist and said, "About
10:55."

*****
Billy Graham visited a nursing home one day. He walked up to a
little old woman in a wheelchair she asked her, "Do you know who I
am?" "No, I don"t," she answered with a smile, "but, if you go over
to the office someone there will be able to help you."

*****
There is a scripture, "God loves a cheerful giver." The Greek work
for "cheerful" is hilaron. We get our English word "hilarious" from
it . Imagine that God loves a hilarious giver.

Quilt Sermon

Sunday after church, a Mom asked her very young daughter what the
morning sermon was about. The daughter answered, "Don't be scared,
you'll get your quilt." Needless to say, the Mom was perplexed.
Later in the week, the pastor stopped by for a visit and the Mom
asked him what that morning's sermon was about. He said the sermon
title was "Be not afraid, thy comforter is coming."