1998 Sermons

Can God Bless Your Financial Planning? 11/15/98

Malachi 3: 9, 10
Page 1403 Come Alive Bible

JESUS CHRIST loves you and is compassionately concerned about your welfare.

Do you believe that?

GOD IS CONCERNED
Scripture assures us of His empathy: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26).

Jesus Christ is aware of you and your life-situation and wants to provide for you.

Do you believe that?

GOD IS COMMITTED
Scripture assures us of His commitment to us and our needs. “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10: 29 & 31).

Jesus Christ can be trusted. He is worthy of your trust and obedience.

Do you believe that?

GOD IS CAPABLE
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

Our loving Lord has designed for us an opportunity to demonstrate our trust and dependence. It is a grand test designed to afford you a tangible way to show your love and faith.

GOD IS CONTROLLING
First, He gives us the capacity to earn wealth. “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18).

What ever your earning capacity God has given it to you. Have you ever thanked Him for that ability? It is a gift. Therefore, all you earn is a gift from God. Have you ever looked at your pay check as though it is gift wrapped? It has the signature of the person representing the firm for which you work but it comes from God.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).

Summarily that means we are dependent upon and indebted to God.

Regarding money we play the “I wish” game.

I wish the credit card had never been invented.

I wish I had started saving for retirement sooner.

I wish I had invested more wisely.

I wish I had planned better for my children’s education.

I wish I had not gone into debt so heavily.

I wish I had bought less and saved more.

I wish I had started tithing and giving more to the cause of Christ before now.

All of these areas relate to a phase of stewardship. Stewardship involves your saving and investment plan, planning for children’s education, providing for retirement, avoiding improper debt, as well as giving to the cause of Christ. Too often the message of the church regarding money just relates to giving to the church. Many folks are so unaware of God’s design for over all stewardship they get their finances in a big league mess.

In an audience of this size there are persons from every strata of wealth ranging from poverty to significant wealth. Some of that which is to be shared will apply to each segment. Many of the illustrations won’t relate directly to everyone but the principles illustrated will. Learn the principles and don’t be preoccupied with whether they relate to rich or poor. Biblical principles relate to all of us regardless of our financial position.

Some He trusts with wealth. Some He trusts with little. For each there is a burden, a challenge, and an opportunity. We would do well to pray the Proverb: “Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, And say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8,9).

What are you going to do with what He has entrusted into your care. The word for it is stewardship. It relates to everything He has put in your trust. Everything! It doesn’t refer to simply one tenth. It relates to ten tenths, that’s 100%.

What are you going to do with it?

I. BE PRACTICAL
-Some people evidence selfishness and either spend it upon themselves or some one or thing they like. Provide for your own. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (I Tim 5:8).

However, if you properly budget you won’t have to rob God to do it. Don’t spend God’s money at your own discretion. “Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

II. BE PREPARED
-Some want to get all they can and can all they get. Saving is proper by God’s standard. We have a classic example: “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise Which, having no captain, Overseer or ruler, Provides her supplies in the summer, And gathers her food in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:6 – 8).

There are plenty of ants to model for us. It is estimated there are 7,600 types of ants constituting a world population of over 5 quadrillion. They all have the habit of thrift and savings in common.

It would amaze most people to total all the money that passes through their hands. Your income is likely more or less than $50,000 annually. Therefore let’s use a hypothetical income that represents no one. If a 40 year old husband and wife have an annual income totaling $50,000 more than $2.5 million dollars will pass through their hands by retirement age.

How much of that will you invest in the cause of Christ about which you feel passionately? How much will be frittered away?

Findings noted in “The Millionaire Next Door” indicate we would be better off it we developed the mind set of a millionaire. The authors found that most millionaires had rather have wealth than the appearance of wealth. 36% of the millionaires own a car that is more than three years old.

50% of them had never spent more than $29,000 for a car.

Seven times as many millionaires own a Sears card than an American Express Platinum card.

More important than how much you make is how you manage it. One person said my problem isn’t overspending but under depositing.

It is Biblical to wisely save to provide for your future. Don’t be selfish.

“There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun: Riches kept for their owner to his hurt” (Ecclesiastes 5:13).

III. BE PATIENT
-Some persons in their haste to get more money violate a warning found in Proverbs 28: 20, “A faithful man will abound with blessings, But he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.” A modern English translation makes it easier to understand this passage: “Avoid get rich quick schemes.”

Don’t rob for your own benefit. Next to robbing God robbing Billy Graham would be next.

Reputedly, Dr. Graham came down from his mountain home near Black Mountain, North Carolina to pick up a few items at a grocery store. As he was coming out a would be robber held a gun on him and demanded his wallet. As Dr. Graham handed it to the robber it fell open exposing his drivers license with his name and photo.

The robber looked at it and exclaimed, “Are you Dr. Graham, the real Billy Graham?”

Upon hearing a yes the robber handed it back saying, “Here Dr. Graham keep your wallet, us Baptists got to stick together!”

IV. BE PRUDENT
-Some want to save it and let those they love inherit it. Some deprive themselves of comforts in order to have a better inheritance. That is admirable to a degree. Because of the aging of one strata of people and the emergence of another over $10 trillion will be passed on to a younger generation within the next 10 years. Two things will likely result.

Estate taxes will eat up much of it. In 1932 when the laws regarding estate taxes were passed President Franklin Roosevelt said, “Estate tax is a means of the redistribution of wealth.” That means the government takes a large part of a person’s estate and gives it to who or what ever they desire.

Part of Christian stewardship goes beyond the grave. Estate planning can enable a person to save dramatically on inheritance tax and give more money to the cause of Christ. By virtue of being on the board of a large national Christian organization, I had occasion to be with a group of millionaires hearing an estate planner lecture. I guess I was there because they wanted a token not wealthy person present. After the lecture one multi-millionaire privately asked the estate planner can you show me how to give more money to the cause of Christ?” They can.

Let me share a word of caution regarding a second thing. Wealth without a vision is a burden. If persons inherit wealth without knowing how to manage it grief results.

Get this, 95% of those who inherit great wealth die poor.

Solomon amassed a fortune. His great fear was his heir would not know how to manage it. Sure enough in one generation one descendant squandered his entire fortune.

“For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children” (II Corinthians 12:14).

Leave your heirs a proportionate inheritance but don’t rob God to do it.

-It is estimated by retailers that the average teenager spends $90.00 a week of discretionary income. It is hard to conceive of that as reality when so many have so much less. However those who target teens as a market have studied the issue thoroughly. Teens, it is a blessing to have such discretionary funds, funds you can spend any way you want. However where ever you fit in the $90.00 a week scheme don’t spend God’s money on yourself.

-One of several reasons God instituted the tithe is to give us occasion to prove to ourselves and to Him our unselfishness. How are you doing?

Our government has set a poor model for us. As a result of their deficit spending every child is born with a $64,500 tax debt. That is derived at by dividing our government debt by the number of people. They have spent money they didn’t have and built this enormous debt.

In our rush to have things before we can afford them we have done the same. Financial advisor, Larry Burkett said, “Credit has become a means to push God out of His place in helping us make decisions. As long as you can rely on credit, you don’t rely on God and the result is almost always a disastrous plunge into debt.”

Most of us have to use credit. How it is used is important. Avoid using it for items that depreciate. When it is used for an item that appreciates it is an investment.

A recent Gallup Survey noted that 56% of all divorces result from tension over debt. Don’t put your marriage under this undue stress and tension.

A recent Wall Street Journal described money as “an article which may be used as a universal passport to everything but heaven, and as a universal provider of everything except happiness.”

Exercise self-control regarding things you want. Galatians 5:23 lists “self-control” among the fruit of the Spirit.

According to Malachi 3: 10 there are three pragmatic reasons for tithing:
-PROVISIONS. “That there may be meat in My house.”

It is to provide for the cause of Christ. Are there ministries unprovided, materials unavailable, and messages undelivered because God money intended for those purposes was spent by you for what you decided to use His money?

The cause of Christ is retarded by our failure to fund it. Among church attenders, those who attend weekly contribute 3.4% of their income to charitable organizations. Those who attend only a few times a year contribute 1.4% of their income.

-PROOF: “I will … open for you … and pour out a blessing…”

It is as though God is challenging us to test Him.

Conversely, verse 9 says there is a “curse” on those who don’t obey His command. That in part is what is wrong with America, some churches, and a lot of individuals. This is a part of the text often skipped.

-PROFESSION: It shows our confidence in God as our provider. It reveals we are willing to relinquish part of what He has provided us with back to Him as an indication of our trust of Him.

If you do not know Christ as Savior and Lord this message may well have seemed secular and even carnal. Trying to get your financial profile right with God before first getting right with God yourself is unreasonable. As the Scripture notes: “I do not seek yours but you” (II Corinthians 12:14). Before following God’s plan for your finances declare your desire to follow His plan for your life.

Years ago a Native American heard this explained and responded. “I see that your God does not want my beads, blankets, and horses but me. Your God is very wise for when He has me He has my beads, blankets, and horses.”

Hello, How Are You? 10/11/98

Numbers 6: 23 – 26
Page 208 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ gathered with His bewildered followers on the eve of His execution for His last time with them. Confusion and fear held them in a firm grip as He spoke. Much of what He said is contained in John 14 – 17. In that hostile environment His talk was punctuated with such words as “joy” and “peace.” He spoke often in various settings of His followers as being “blessed.” That is us.

Yet, much of our conduct and conversation gives the impression we have little joy, peace, and experience few blessings. Listen the next time you speak to someone with such a simple greeting as, “Hello, how are you?”

Two common negative responses are often heard. One: “So far, so good.” This sounds like the response of a person on safari in a predator infested jungle. Things have been going pretty good so far but at any minute I expect an attack resulting in catastrophe.

Further translated, “God has taken care of me so far, but at any minute I expect His provision and protection to expire.

A second even more negative response is, “Tired!”

It is 9:00 AM and a healthy individual says, “I am tired.” Causes you that have a “I can’t wait until 3:00 PM” attitude to cycle back and see just how much more tired this person is.

In the Old Testament era followers of Jehovah were taught a special prayer which gave cause for optimism. It is often called the equivalent of the Lord’s Prayer in the Old Testament. It is called the Aaronic Benediction.

“The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace” (Numbers 6: 24 – 26).

God taught us this prayer. Blessing is His idea. A simple response to the greeting, “Hello, how are you?” should well be, “Blessed.”

The prayer in faith expects God to draw near and enfold one in His grace. To pray it is to live expectant of blessings not of dread as expressed in “So far, so good.”

The praying of this prayer is a way of saying, “Yes, Amen!” to God’s promises.

“The Lord bless you and keep you” speaks of present blessings and future care by the Lord. He will “keep you.”

He will “make His face to shine upon you.” On Mount Sinai the Lord in His shining brilliance revealed Himself to Moses and gave to Him the Ten Commandments. It was revelation of His will. This expression, “Make His face to shine upon you” refers to Him revealing His will.

“The Lord lift up His countenance upon you” is a term expressive of a smile. May God find such pleasure in you as to smile and reward you with peace.

The prayer speaks of blessing, presence, and the smile of God. It is not a persons idea it is God’s idea. It is what He wants for you.

Now back to the response to the innocent greeting, “Hello, how are you?” Why in light of the provisions of this prayer do so many people respond “Tired?”

This question concerns the medical community as well as the faith community. Dr. Richard Clark Cabbot of the Mayo Clinic led a team that studied the issue of “How to help people overcome that tired feeling.”

Parenthetically, there are times when we are all legitimately tired. It is a legitimate wonderful condition if the fatigue is the result of energy and effort well spent.

Vince Lombardy, the highly successful former coach of the Green Bay Packers, said, “Happiness is to be lying flat on your back exhausted from an effort to achieve victory.” That is a celebration of honest and honorable fatigue.

However, the doctors of Mayo Clinic in their study were concerned with the chronically tired persons who has no physiological reason for always being tired. They concluded four things to help overcome this negative state of being. They are: WORK, PLAY, LOVE, AND WORSHIP.

The Clinic was so impressed they had a logo designed using a cross with four equal arms each of which represented one of the four: WORK, PLAY, LOVE, AND WORSHIP.

Consider them as daily antidote to having that “tired feeling.” It is a prescription from a highly respected medical source.

I. WORK
The way in which it should be done is found in Colossians 3: 23: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”

Put yourself into your work as though creating a work of art to be viewed by the Lord Himself. Often a worker finds himself under the supervision of a boss that just can’t be pleased regardless of the effort and excellence. This verse relieves the pressure. If you do what you do to an audience of one, that one being the Lord, and He approves and others don’t you don’t get depressed. If you do what you do to the same audience of one, the Lord, and He approves and others applaud you don’t take off on an ego flight. You didn’t do it for them you did it for Him.

This I refer to as THE LAW OF EMOTIONAL EQUILIBRIUM. It helps you keep your balance.

An Italian Duke was walking through his formal rose garden when he came upon a young gardener cutting roses and placing them in a uniquely beautiful carved wooden box. “What are you doing?” he inquired, not knowing the box had been hand carved by the young gardener. “I am pruning the roses and placing them in this chest.” “Does such a menial task demand such craftsmanship,” asked the duke. “No, sir,” came the reply, “but my nature does.”

“What is your name?” the duke demanded, “you shall be flogged for such impudence.”

“My name sir, is Michelangelo.”

It is little wonder that having a nature demanding such excellence in little things resulted in a life of mastery in major things. He was doing that menial carving as unto the Lord and found great pleasure in it.

II. PLAY
Here comes a part you got to like —– PLAY.

Unplug, recreate, and enjoy amusement. Allow yourself to relax and laugh.

Stress, prolonged fatigue, negative emotions, and a pessimistic outlook flood the body with toxins. They release chemical toxins within your body. Don’t make your body a toxic waste dump by depriving it of play.

Health is no laughing matter but it does help if you laugh.

The body is under a biochemical onslaught. Mounting research makes it clear that one’s attitude and emotional state are impressively vital to the preservation of health and recovery from illness.

“Exhibit A” is a stress-sensitized person. Such a ones response to everyday stress has the same flush of biochemical release as during a major threat. This biochemical rush suppresses the immune system to various infections and diseases, according to psychological research. Hormones released by stress promote ulcers, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and strokes.

Conversely, a positive, optimistic, jovial spirit releases health inducing pain killers and a “feel good” mood. These chemicals known as endorphins and enkephlins when released into the body by the brain are a morphine-like substance that act as a good natural anesthesia and relaxant. A person senses his or her highest level of well-being when they are at work. PLAY! For your health sake play.

If God smiles, and our text says He does, so should we. The Bible says, “[God] will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy” (Job 8: 21).

That means you may yet experience a growth spirt in your funny bone.

Solomon, the wisest of the kings, wrote there is a “time to laugh” (Ecc. 3: 4). In praise of the Lord the Psalmist wrote, “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy” (Psalm 126: 2).

Infect people around you with “cheer-germs.” Those who catch the disease will find their load lighter and their Christianity brighter.

III. LOVE
Try giving yourself away. A lady when asked what she had been doing said, “I’ve been trying to get something for my husband.” Came the reply, “Did you have any offers?”

If you try loving and giving yourself away there will be lots of offers.

A short version of Jesus’ summation of the law is simply, “You shall love…” He went on to say, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind'” (Matthew 22:37).

Don’t look upon God with suspicion. Release yourself to love Him.

Additionally He instructed us to love our neighbor as our self.

Studies show babies are not born knowing how to love, but with the capacity to receive and experience love. They learn to love from how their parents love them. Perhaps you missed it. Maybe bitter circumstances have made it difficult to love others. It is at this point God, the Father, steps in to show us love. We then learn how to love from the Father. He has demonstrated His love for us. He has shown us the true meaning of love by loving us.

We are slow learners. Here it is right in the Book: “We love because God first loved us” (I John 4: 19).

John follows this up by alerting us to our opportunity to show God’s love for others by the quality of our love: “For he who does not love his brother which he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (I John 4:20).

Babies learn to love by receiving the love of their parents. We learn the highest law of love by experiencing the love of the Lord Jesus.

We put into practice our love by doing for others what God has done for us. We learn to accept people with all of their faults and failures just as God accepted us.

If you dare to love people you are going to be hurt. If you don’t you are going to be sick. Hadn’t you rather be hurt than sick?

Not long ago, a magazine article about Roseto, an Italian- immigrant village in eastern Pennsylvania that became famous for its residents’ low levels of heart disease was researched. Despite hard lives and high-fat diets that included plenty of lard (because olive oil was too expensive to import), the heart- attack rate among Rosetans was less than half the U.S. average. Well, that was then. In the past three decades, the town’s heart disease rate has risen to approach that of any other place in over stressed America. What made the difference? Some doctors believe Roseto actually lost its heart. Earlier in the century, Rosetans lived with as many as four generations of family crowded into a single home. Residents worked together, socialized together, and were extremely dependent on one another. Then came your basic American prosperity: better-paying jobs, big homes on the outskirts of town, and television. According to researcher Stewart Wolf, M.D., there was a “conspicuous social change from family-centered attitudes toward more self-centered, materialistic concerns.” As people grew apart, they also developed more heart disease. Is it possible to find other ways of achieving the close community and personal intimacy the Rosetans had long ago? According to Dr. Dean Ornish, it isn’t just possible, it’s vital. In “Love & Survival,” Ornish issues a powerful call for doctors and everybody else to start considering love, intimacy, and emotional and spiritual growth to be as important as any high-tech medicine in preventing and treating physical illness. American society is facing an epidemic of “emotional and spiritual heart disease,” Ornish says, that is every bit as harmful to our bodies as cholesterol and other risk factors.

In my files I found a poem by Helen Steiner
Rice penned in my mother’s hand writing.
Where there is love the heart is light,
Where there is love the day is bright.
Where there is love there is a song
To help when things are going wrong.

Where there is love, there is a smile
To make things seem more worthwhile.
Where there is love, there’s a quiet peace,

A quiet place where turmoils cease.
Love changes darkness into light
And makes the heart take ‘wingless flight.’

Blessed are they who walk in love,
They also walk with God above.
And when man walks with God again
There shall be peace on earth for men.

IV. WORSHIP
This is the fourth necessity for avoiding “that tired feeling” according to the research by Mayo Clinic doctors.

Two ancient factors distract us from worship:
One is TRIVIALIZATION. We, like the ancient Gnostics, have made God in our image and refer to Him as the “Old Man,” or the “Man Upstairs,” or even the “Big Guy.”

The name Gnostic means “one who knows all.” That bunch of know it alls from the first century talked about God. They expressed their opinions regarding Him. They didn’t talk to Him or worship Him. They talked to each other a lot about God but they didn’t talk to Him.

The second is TRIBULATION. Roman persecution in the first century distracted the people from worship. It was not popular to be a follower of the crucified Christ. It was not lawful to be a Christian. This caused economic discrimination, social ostracism, imprisonment, and martyrdom.

John, the beloved disciple of Christ, encountered the Gnostic philosophy that trivialized God and personally experienced tribulation. His tribulation resulted in him being imprisoned on the Island of Patmos. There, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he worshiped and penned the Revelation. Therein he teaches us of worship and to worship.

The Book of the Revelation begins, “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day…” (Rev. 1:10).

On the last page of the Bible, after momentary distraction by angels, he refocuses on the issue and exhorts us “Worship God” (Rev. 22: 9).

By the time our study comes to the final entry in the library of 66 books called the Holy Bible, our minds are bursting with knowledge and our hearts burning with desire.

Why then aren’t things better in society and particularly in the Christian community? Could it be that we have become modern Gnostics talking much about God and little to Him. Motivated to work for Him but failing to worship Him. Perhaps we have even read the revelation searching for knowledge regarding the lamp stands, seals, bowls, and beast without getting the central message. That is “worship God.”

Perhaps we even come to our main hour of worship each Sunday bleached out emotionally and depleted physically by the activities of Saturday. Perhaps we have even adopted the world’s calendar and now schedule things on the Lord’s day that interfere with worship. Are some paying tribute to persons on the Lord’s Day when they should be giving it to worship? That is an unpopular thing to say, but if a representative of the Lord doesn’t say it the trend worsens.

A clarion call to worship and an unequaled example is found in the book of the Revelation.

The only way we can stay alert to the reality of God in Christ ruling and saving is in the act of worship.

The only way we can be trusted to say anything about God that is close to true, to do anything for God that is halfway right, is by repeated singing, praying, listening, and believing with the elders around the throne, where the scroll is unsealed and the gospel read out clear and strong in worship.

If we absent ourselves from worship or treat it as marginal on our social calendar we become dominated by the world rather than directed by worship.

Worship is the primary means we are give to orientate ourselves to God’s will. Therein and thereby we are energized. When we truly worship the Living God then – – – –
“The LORD bless you and keep you; [His protection is ours.]
The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; [His provisions are ours.]
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace” [His peace is ours.] (Numbers 6: 24 – 26).

Hello, how are you? BLESSED!

Thomas, the Twin

“Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples,
‘Let us also go, that we may die with Him'” (John 11:16).

Jesus Christ called Thomas to follow Him. Because of misunderstanding of him he has been stereotyped with a title second only to Judas Iscariot with negative connotations. He is inappropriately known as Doubting Thomas. A closer look will reveal Him to be Devoted Thomas.

His name appears in many translations as Thomas Didymus. The name Didymus is Greek for Twin. In Didymus can be heard the English word Ditto, meaning the same. It isn’t known who his twin was, whether male or female.

Thomas was a pragmatist. He wanted empirical evidence. He was a show me type person. All of his comments recorded in Scripture occurred in the last week of Christ’s life. His questions were not so much born of doubt as to give occasion for insight. Questioning isn’t bad. Doubting is. He was legitimately inquisitive.

Some persons harbor their tired old doubts and pose them as questions anywhere they are reasonably sure they can’t get an answer. They hope by their seemingly unanswerable questions to appear intellectual. Revealed ignorance is a poor way to try to appear to be smart. Thomas asked his questions where he could get answers. The answers were met with his response of devotion.

In His threefold admonition Christ said, “Ask and it shall be revealed to you.” Thomas’ questions got wonderful answers.

I. HE RELATED WORTHILY
Jesus was encamped along the Jordan when news reached Him that His dear friend Lazarus had died. In an act of seemingly indifference Jesus waited two days before responding to the news. In that delay was wisdom. There was a misconception regarding death in that era. It was believed that the spirit stayed in the body for three days after death before departing. Jesus knowing what He was going to do regarding the death of Lazarus wanted to wait until this period had passed before bringing Lazarus back to life so this old superstition could not be credited.

Bethany, Lazarus’ home town, was only about two miles from Jerusalem. The apostles knew what the mood of the religious leaders of Jerusalem was regarding Christ. They knew His life would be in jeopardy if He went to Jerusalem. Not knowing His reason for delaying going they doubtless were relieved by the fact of His delay.

When Jesus said, “Let us go to Judea again,” the disciples responded: “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?” (John 11:8).

Jesus knew His hour had come. His death was immanent. The apostles knew this open act of defiance would incur the wrath of the ruling religious Jews. Nevertheless, Thomas responded: “Let us go that we may die with Him” (John 11: 16).

That was a statement revealing great devotion. There was no wavering or equivocation in that self-sacrificing statement. Unfortunately most readers over look it and remember only a later misunderstood statement by Thomas.

Thomas fought with his fears and by faith won.

He had been there earlier in a teaching session and heard Christ say: “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

Years lapsed and in recent times missionary Jim Elliot who was martyred by Auqua Indians in South America made a comparable statement: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Thomas was willing to give all and gain all.

Are we willing to pay the price for following Christ?

II. HE REASONED WISELY
On the eve preceding His execution Jesus gathered in an upper room with His apostles and taught them: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know. Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?'” (John 14: 1 – 5).

Thomas wanted to know “where” and “how.” Jesus answered He was the “way.”

A missionary in Africa contracted with a native guide to lead him to a certain remote village. Armed only with his machete the guide lead the way. They traveled through tall brush and thick jungle. During one of their rest stops the missionary commented, “There is not path. How do you know the way?” The native answered, “I am the way. I know where to go. Follow me.”

Jesus is personally the way. If we follow Him we get where we should be.

III. HE RESPONDED WORSHIPFULLY
After Christ’s resurrection the apostles were gathered in an upper room. For whatever reason Thomas wasn’t there. Let’s let John relate what happened.

“Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing. And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed'” (John 20: 24 – 29).

Thomas had such faith in Christ he had learned to doubt his doubts. We must do the same.

Thomas was our proxy in questioning in order that we might not have reason to doubt. He questioned the word of his fellow apostles but he did not doubt the Lord Himself.

We need to employ the technique used by Thomas to deal with doubts. He went where there were people of faith; where the unseen Lord was likely to make Himself known. We need to seek such environments also.

In response to Christ’s invitation to touch His wounds Thomas responds: “My Lord, and my God!” The sullen skeptic glows with shining faith. There is no indication he touched the wounds of Christ, but his faith embraced the truth shown.

Jesus then included us in His response. “Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed'” (John 20:29).

We are challenged to walk by faith not by sight.

Everything we say we know and believe, everything, we first accepted by faith. 2 X 2 = 4. We believe by faith. We accepted that long before we could prove it. It is a faith principle. We live by faith. It is just a matter of what the object of that faith is. Let it be Jesus. We not only receive Him by faith but those who reject Him reject Him by faith.

IV. HE REPORTED WILLINGLY
Immediately after His resurrection Jesus gave instruction to the witnessing women to tell the apostles He was going to Galilee. Immediately they went to Galilee. They wanted to be where He was. This was in effect reporting for duty. This warm interchange was a prelude to the last encounter the apostles would have with the resurrected Christ.

On the Mount of Olives as Christ was departing He commissioned His church: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28: 19 – 20).

Thomas took Him at His word. Secular records reveal Thomas went east establishing the Assyrian Church, the Nestorian Church and others. He is considered the founder of the Church in India. There still exists the church known as “The Christians of St. Thomas,” said to have been established by him in 49 AD.

He is said to have suffered much persecution and eventual martyrdom in India. While praying soldiers of King Mizdi allegedly thrust a lance through him.

In giving his all he gained everything.

Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride 11/22/98

Psalm 100:4 – 5
Page 886 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ taught us to pray. In the model He gave us is a symphony of praise and thanks: “FOR YOURS IS THE KINGDOM AND THE POWER AND THE GLORY FOREVER.”

We are so blessed we have reason to pause and thank Him. Let our hearts and voice resound with songs of praise:
“My country, ‘tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing:
Land where my fathers died, Land of the pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountain side let freedom ring!

Our fathers’ God, to Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing,
Long may our land be bright with freedom’s holy light;
Protect us by Thy might, Great God our King!”

Our Lord desires and deserves our thanks. Our Pilgrim predecessors modeled it for us.

The Scripture says: “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:18).

Note, “in everything give thanks.” Our response is a one word question, “everything?” Giving thanks is an act of the will. Feeling thankful is an act of the emotions. The text does not say in everything we should feel thankful. We simply don’t. However, we are inclined to give thanks once we become convinced of the truth in Romans 8: 28:
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

With that reference point we can give thanks. It must be readily conceded that at times circumstances don’t dictate a spontaneous desire to give thanks. Retrospect often gives reason to have done so.

Consider the Pilgrims progress and see if stages of their advance automatically called forth thanksgiving.

The Pilgrims were political refugees fleeing religious persecution. Having moved from their native England to Holland to avoid further persecution they soon found themselves isolated on the continent of Europe. There children were beginning to adopt the frivolous manners of the Dutch. In this could they give thanks? Yes! However, they didn’t feel thankful. They simply found in it reason to accept an offer by a group of English investors to fund a voyage to the new world. In exchange they promised their benefactors, the Merchant Adventurers, to work for them for seven years.

In July of 1620, they set sail on the Mayflower and the Speedwell. About 300 miles out to sea the Speedwell sprang a threatening leak necessitating a return to England. Could they now give thanks? Yes! However, you can well imagine emotionally they weren’t feeling thankful.

On September 6, 1620, after one aborted attempt, they crowded onto one ship and set out on their 65 day voyage to the new world. There were 44 Pilgrims and 66 persons known as “Strangers.” Their long and arduous journey caused sickness and death. Could they give thanks? Yes, but you can be sure they weren’t emotionally feeling thankful.

Their dread fear on the journey was of the Native Americans and potential deadly conflicts with them.

On November 11 a small party went ashore looking for food. They happened upon a Nauset Indian grave yard where they found baskets of corn which had been left as a gift to the dead. Their gathering of this unexpected bounty was interrupted by the angry Nauset warriors protecting their burial grounds.

At about this same time British merchant ships had captured some Native Americans and sold them in Spain as slaves. One was named Squanto. He worked his way to England and eventually back to his native land. Upon his return he learned all the members of his tribe had contracted a “white man’s disease” and died. He went to live as a “ghost” with another tribe.

On November 10 land was spotted. However, the Pilgrims didn’t land there they sailed on to Plymouth where they were greeted by the friendly Patuxet Indians.

That first harsh winter in their new land only 50 of their number survived. Could they give thanks? Yes! You can be sure they weren’t emotionally feeling thankful.

The next Spring a Native American named Samoset stepped from the forest and in broken English said, “Welcome, Englishmen.” He had learned a bit of English from traders along the coast. After an overnight visit he disappeared. Was it a trick by a scout sent to penetrate their ranks in preparation for an attack? Could they now give thanks? Yes! Still no emotional thankfulness however.

Soon Samoset returned with another Native American. His name, Squanto. The Native American sold as a slave in Spain had learned good English in the home land of the Pilgrims. Could they give thanks now? Yes. Now, they even had reason to feel thankful.

Squanto taught them how to tap maple trees for syrup, what plants were poisonous, and how to plant corn.

Out of hearts of thanksgiving in 1621 the Pilgrims met with 90 Wampanoag Indians for a time of thanksgiving. For three days they celebrated and feasted on clams, corn, codfish, geese, ducks, turkey, eel, bass, barley, venison, and corn bread.

This was the land of the Pilgrims’ pride.

Two years later in 1623 a drought threatened the Pilgrims. Governor Bradford issued a proclamation on November 29 that all the people should gather in the meeting house to “listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye God for all His blessings.” Before the meetings were held rains came and the services became times of thanksgiving.

In 1789 President George Washington issued a Thanksgiving proclamation setting the last Thursday of November as a time of giving thanks for the new Constitution.

In 1863 Sarah Joseph Hale, author of the well known poem, “Mary Had a Little Lamb” persuaded President Lincoln to establish a day of Thanksgiving. The fourth Thursday of November was set.

In 1941 Congress established the fourth Thursday of November as a national holiday of Thanksgiving.

President Washington’s proclamation contained in part the following:
“It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of All Mighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and to humbly implore His protection and favor, to pardon our national and other transgressions, to render our National Government a blessing to all of the people by being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discretely and faithfully executed and obeyed.”

Residents of the Land of the Pilgrims’ pride had reason for giving thanks and they did.

Thanksgiving is an act of the will. It comes from a certain mind-set. What is your mind-set? What ever it is you have trained yourself to have it. You can retrain yourself. For many reasons you will benefit by training yourself to be a grateful person.

King Alfonso XII of Spain was a devout Christian. It was called to his attention that the pages in his court were acting as ingrates and not expressing thanks before their meals. He invited them to a banquet. The table was lavish with varied foods. During the meal a meagerly dressed beggar entered and seated himself at the head table. He ate like a starving man. Got up and walked out without a word. At first there was a murmur among the pages then a critical complaint about the ill mannered stranger who did not express his gratitude.

Then King Alfonso spoke, “Bolder and more audacious than this beggar have all you been. Every day you sit down at a table supplied by the bounty of your Heavenly Father, yet you ask not His blessings or express your gratitude.” Gratitude to our Heavenly Father needs to be expressed far more than we do.

Find ways to say thanks. A little boy visiting his grandmother tried to show his thanks by making her a cup of coffee. It was undoubtly the worst cup of coffee she ever had, but she didn’t indicate it. As she was finishing she saw three of the child’s three little green Army men in the bottom of her cup. Before she realized it she blurted, “What is the meaning of this?”

The child replied, “You know, Grandmother, like it says on TV —- ‘the best part of waking up is soldiers in your cup.’”

Hans Selye in his book, The Stress of Life,” says research proves gratitude is the healthiest of emotions and revenge the most unhealthy.

Colossians 2: 6, 7 gives a model of proper praise and thanksgiving: “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6, 7).

Three things are noted in this text in present voice, meaning we are to continue to do them.

They are:
EDIFICATION. In the word can be heard our word edifice which is a building. If you edify someone you build them up. When a person has the right regard for others there is no difficulty in “esteeming others better than self.” This is no self-put-down.

ESTABLISHMENT – “in faith.” Faith creates a spirit of praise. Train yourself to give thanks. Your day may begin and continue in a certain manner, but thanks can lift you up. Even though I clutch my blanket and groan when the alarm rings each morning, Thank you Lord, that I can hear it.

Even though I keep my eyes closed against the morning light as long as possible, Thank you Lord, I can see.

Even though I curl up in my bed and offer resistance against rising, Thank you Lord, I have the strength to rise.

Even though the first hour of my day is hectic, when one sock is missing, toast is burned, tempers are short, Thank you Lord for understanding friends and family.

Even though my table doesn’t look like one in a magazine and the menu is at time unbalanced, Thank you Lord, I have food.

Even though the routine of my job is at times monotonous, Thank you Lord, I have a job.

Thank you Lord for the gift of life.

You can find something for which to thank the Lord. Consider: a good yawn with a stretch. That’s so good. It deserves a thanks. A reachable itch that can be scratched. Knowing the answer to the quiz show question and answering before anyone in the room. A parking meter with time remaining on it. Hearing the laughter of a friend.

Have you thanked God for your financial and physical resources?

“…it is He who gives you power to get wealth…” (Deuteronomy 8: 18).

Sacrifice your ego and thank Him.

What would be your answer if the Lord were to ask you, “What have you done with the resources I have given you?”

One reason our Lord ask us to give in His name is to allow us to demonstrate our faith. When we give we acknowledge it all comes from Him and we are dependent upon Him.

Often it is said, “The church is always asking for money.” Not so, it is the world that constantly asks for money. The check-out clerk at the grocery store always asks for money. The mortgage company always wants money.

If you are like most folks each month you get a number of letters with windows containing bills. Are any of them from the church?

Who withholds a portion of every dollar you earn? It is not your Heavenly Father, but your Uncle Sam.

There are no free-lunches except at church. The price of admission and the cost of a seat hasn’t gone up in ages. The church offers free counseling, hospital visits, and a free newsletter without a subscription notice asking for money.

When a loved one dies the funeral home wants money. There is no charge at church.

You have to pay taxes to provide your child free public education, but your church Sunday School provides free Christian education at absolutely no charge.

The church requires no membership dues, no annual fee and never sends a bill. No other organization in the world operates that way.

The church exists to lovingly provide the love of Jesus. Any money given is voluntary and goes to provide ministries in His name. It constantly provides ministries without looking to see if the recipient has given anything or not.

EFFULGENCE – “abounding in it with thanksgiving.”

The Bible speaks of a “sacrifice of praise.” Sometimes we don’t feel thankful but we give thanks. When you praise someone or express thanks you sacrifice your ego. In giving thanks we are saying you did something for me and I grateful.

Have you thanked God for the people in your life? Have you affirmed your spouse, children, siblings, and friends? Have you sacrificed your ego enough to say “thanks.”

The people around you are all “possibilitiarians.” That is, they have the possibility of becoming someone wonderful. You can encourage them on their pilgrimage.

It is estimated that 6 of every 10 people who attend church come with a burden. What atmosphere do you help create to encourage them?

The text says we are to be “rooted.” That is perfect passive, meaning there is a time when we become once and for all rooted. That moment is when we trust Christ as Savior. Have you thanked God the Father for Christ? Has this expression of thanks been in the form of faith in Him as Savior? What do you believe?

Don Quixote said, “I have never had the courage to believe nothing.”

Stress Management 7/19/98

Psalm 37:1 – 7
Page 826 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ was God in flesh and blood. He was called “Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.” We do well to learn from His example as well as His teaching. On an occasion when He was depleted from ministering to others He left the demanding crowd and went off by Himself. Even He knew He could not minister out of a bleached out body and spirit. He learned to take minute vacations as well as to retreat.

On an occasion the disciples came to Him and said the whole world is here to see you. He walked away. He just walked away. Sounds impersonal and disinterested doesn’t it. He knew His limit and limited His public ministry in order to be renewed Himself.

Ours is a stressful society. The other day I saw a teenager zoom onto the parking lot at a funeral home going at least twice the appropriate speed while talking on a cell phone. I thought, “Has life has become so urgent and so stressful as to demand this.”

Adults often manifest a martyr complex by overextending themselves. It is as though there is a guilt complex by persons who think they can relieve the guilt by abusing themselves. We seem to have developed a “Society for the Admiration of the Stressed Out.”

Stress is a subject Christians need to address. UPI just released the results of a study made by three sociology professors at the University of New Hampshire that shows Georgia ranks third, behind only Alaska and Nevada, in stress.

Stress related diseases are higher in Georgia and the other two states than the national average. Georgia ranked number 8 in alcohol related deaths and alcoholic psychoses.

Family stresses are given as the reason for the high stress level in Georgia.

We need to manage to control stress for economic reasons also. Stress-related pain is estimated to cost American businesses some 700 million workdays and $60 billion a year.

Stress results in a chemical or hormonal imbalance caused by heavy demands made on the body. It is a major contributor to cardiac disease, hypertension, peptic ulcers, arthritis, and numerous other maladies, all with a common denominator —- excessive stress.

Researchers estimate that 60% to 70% of all illness is stress related.

Dr. Hans Selye, M.D. is perhaps Canada’s most celebrated scientist. He founded the International Institute of Stress. He concluded stress induced diseases are on the increase in our society because the changing environment creates great demands on mind and body. He wrote:

“Stress can and does affect every aspect of life. Though it is necessary and unavoidable, too much of it produces staggering changes in intellectual and emotional attitudes as well as in health.”

Dr. Selye and his colleagues stated that though undue stress is adverse to good health and performance stress it is also the spice of life and the absence of stress is death. It is a stimulus that motivates us. We thrive on properly balanced stress. Such is called eustress.

To control stress it is essential to be attentive to the early warning signs. There are four, check yourself on them now and often:
Physical – upset stomach, dry mouth, muscle aches and pains.
Cognitive – loss of the ability to concentrate, being forgetful or humorless.
Emotional – being short tempered, sarcastic, or demoralized.
Behavioral – uh-oh, drinking more coffee or alcohol, eating more sweets, or over sleeping, and compulsive exercising.

Just the normal every day demands are enough to devitalize a person. When it happens what can a person do? Therapy for such a time is noted in Psalm 37.

I. DO GOOD (VS. 3)
Enter the training school of duty. Don’t sit in despair. When stress comes your way reach out to help someone.

In the poem “The Shoes of Happiness,” Conrad the old cobbler dreamed the Master would visit him. Expectantly he waited. Each time someone came by or entered his shop he excitedly responded hoping it was Christ. He didn’t come. A beggar came and Conrad gave him shoes. An old woman came stooped beneath a load. He refreshed her and gave her food. A lost, teary eyed child came and he returned her to her parents. His Divine guest didn’t come. However,
Then soft in the silence a voice he hears.
‘Lift up your heart, for I kept my word.
Three times I came to your friendly door;
Three times my shadow was on your floor.
I was the beggar with the bruised feet,
I was the woman you gave to eat,
I was the child in the homeless street.’

Christ said, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).

II. REST IN THE LORD (VS. 7)
The Hebrew text reads: “Be silent in God” or “Hold still before God.” This implies a troubled mind, an agitated state of being, a person perplexed, mentally extended, emotionally exhausted, and physically depleted. It depicts one with a great cloud over his or her spirit.

These words are addressed to two groups:
(1) Persons suffering from a guilt conscience – convicted, sin weary unbeliever.
(2) Distracted and distraught believer experiences trials.

There is an active and a passive rest.

ACTIVE rest is being engaged in work, doing God’s will. This enables one to get your mind off yourself and yourself off your mind. This requires involvement but with detachment.

PASSIVE rest involves unplugging and setting aside time to be alone with God. This is the interior fountain of active goodness.

This is difficult for those of us enthusiasts.

A well known psychiatrist has written, “Repose in God is the secret of power.” Psychologically there is a reason. We use only a small percent of our mind. It is divided into the conscious, fore- conscious, and subconscious. In the routine of a busy day the conscious mind is used. The fore- conscious mind is the seat of the imaginative and contemplative faculties. Poems, music, prayers, insight and creativity of all forms rise from here. It is there that great enterprises are given birth. There God and man meet.

Dr. Selye notes prayer is one of the three most effective treatments for stress. Don’t neglect this vital factor.

We are like birds looking for a tree in which to nest, but every tree in the forest has a woodsman’s mark on it awaiting the cutting. Every tree that is, but one. That one is illustrative of Jesus.

I have been reading a delightful little book recently entitled: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.” The sub title is: “And All Stuff Is Small.”

We tend to get up tight when someone cuts us off in traffic or slows down just enough to get through a green light but too much for us to make it. Steam rises from our collars. This often slows us down at least .6 seconds. That’s small stuff. Give yourself a break, don’t sweat the small stuff and remember —– all stuff is small.

REST IN THE LORD. He is personally our royal chamber.

HIS POWER – I have omnipotence on my side.

HIS PROMISES – COROCOVADO, a massive statue of Christ rises over Rio, Brazil in a striking manner. It can be seen from all over the city and for miles around. It is often obscured from view by clouds, but it is there. So God’s promises remain.

HIS PURPOSE. He is to be glorified in us. Learn the happy art of passing all praise on to Him. The intended end of life is not happiness, but duty. God has a purpose for you.

“Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” JESUS CHRIST.

III. WAIT PATIENTLY ON HIM (VS. 7)
Serving the Lord is a challenge – it is difficult.

Suffering for the Lord is demanding – it is more difficult.

Waiting on the Lord is the most severe discipline – it is THE most difficult.

Waiting on the Lord does not hint of passive indifference but active perseverance.
WE ARE TO WAIT – – – –

A. CONFIDENTLY. Vs. 7 “…wait patiently…”
This means to trust God to do His part when we are perfectly sure we have done ours.

We can do this if we will:
1. Pay attention to God’s rules regarding our minds and bodies. Various people have different mental stamina. Physically fatigued bodies can’t fight spiritual battles. What affects the body influences the brain.

2. Maintain a good conscience. This even influences our cholesterol. Diet has about a 10% influence on cholesterol. High adrenalin causes high cholesterol. Our mental attitude dramatically influences our adrenalin level. A good conscience can lower both.

3. Regularly feed your mind on God’s Word. Don’t expect God’s blessings while you are in a state of disobedience.

4. Cast every particular care on the Lord. “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (I Peter 5:7). The word “cast” means to toss them to Him. If you do they are no longer in your hands. Let go of the stressors.

5. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” Employ His strategy of gratitude. This enables one to do the best of things in the worst of times.

6. Engage in prayer. Dr. Selye notes prayer is one of the most effective treatments for stress.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4: 6 – 7).

Ask God to give you the strength to change what needs to be changed, the ability to accept what can’t be changes, and the wisdom to know the difference.

B. CHEERFULLY. Vs. 7 “…fret not because of him…” We often fret and fume as though there is no eternity, no day of reckoning. The ultimate end of the wicked is described:

He shall “be cut off” (vs. 9); “not be” (vs. 10); “perish” (vs. 2).

C. COMPLYING. Vs. 34 “Wait on the Lord, and keep His way…”

Years ago there lived an elderly couple in a modest cottage on a tiny island in the Great Lake area. They lived alone in isolation without any neighbors for many miles. Their remoteness and isolation concerned their friends, Dr. and Mrs. Roy L. Smith. One day the Smiths had a council of love and decided to invite the couple to come and live out their days with them. The next day Dr. Smith and one of his daughters went by boat to the remote island where the couple lived by themselves. To the gracious invitation came the reply, “Of course, we can’t accept the invitation, can we, dear?” The couple then led Dr. Smith through the yard and along a winding pathway until at last they came to a clearing with a carpet of green grass bordered by beautiful flowers. In the center of this little clearing was a tiny mound with a snow white cross at its head. The old man put his arm around his wife and said, “We can’t leave our island home, for you see we lost a son here.”

Likewise, no matter what happens, God will never leave this floating island in the sky called, planet earth, because He lost a Son here!

He will never leave us or forsake us. You can wait on Him.