From: William Gibbons Jr
Sent: Thursday, November 22, 2018
To: 'william's email list 2018'
Subject: Thanksgiving

Greetings to each of you,

I like Thanksgiving, both the holiday and the precept. Except for those doing the cooking (or writing a newsletter with over a year backlog of photographs, 34,818 pictures, staring you in the face, waiting for your attention), I think it is lot less stressful approaching Thanksgiving than either Halloween or Christmas in our culture. Those two high activity holidays are the ones Thanksgiving is sandwiched between, and they tend to dwarf it to the point of almost being an afterthought. Yet, it is one of the most important "reminder" holidays. Having an "attitude of gratitude," as they call it in 12 step programs, is deemed essential by those working in spiritual fields, and also by health professionals, to help maintain good physical and mental wellness, beyond even religious considerations. The more I listen to people complain, the more I am thankful just for the ability to be thankful, and that doing so can be a choice, even if it does not come naturally to us. 

I, of course, see every ability as a gift from God. I have not always held such a belief. Not growing up religiously, I was in my 30s before I decided I was free to seek out the Truth for myself, wherever it lead me. Today, I am pretty firmly in the Jesus of Nazareth camp. That journey is a complex story in and of itself. But this thanksgiving newsletter is not about the path getting me here. It is about thankfulness, especially in the midst of disagreement, conflict, and the me versus you attitudes so prevalently surrounding most of our endeavors. 

The last newsletter I sent was shortly following Independence Day this year. After God, freedom tops my list of things to be thankful for. Real freedom is a great deal more than just independence from oppressive governments, regimes, or terrorism. Somewhat amazingly, I have discovered like so many others that the words servant and freedom can walk beautifully hand in hand. 

This email is your introduction to the Thanksgiving newsletter online. If you want to continue, all you have to do is click . . .

http://www.wsharing.com/WS-NLE-181122-T.htm#T2018

God's peace,

william

 

 

 I am going to start this newsletter on a complete opposite note from thanks giving by sharing an excerpt from an email I received back at the beginning of August.

" . . . . There are choices in life, and I choose to stand with those who believe freedom entails the freedom from control by one over another. That flies both ways, conservative and liberal. I have no more patience with the so called social justice warriors than I do with religious zealots. But that is all religion is - organized zealotry disguised as righteousness. And, while I realize it will never happen, the entire concept of religion deserves to be consigned to the dustbin of history. There aren’t any gays out there trying to convert non gays. There aren’t any women having abortions who are out there trying to convince other women to get pregnant so they can have abortions too. There are no blacks trying to take the vote away from whites. But the opposite of each of those is certainly true. It’s all about control . . . ." 

That is just a piece of the longer email, but it is the section which started me thinking about what I could find in "religion" to give thanks for. For most of my life, I was simply indifferent to what is called "organized religion." Once I entered into a personal relationship with God, I actually became more critical of the "church." The dictionary on my desk defines religion as "a system of beliefs and practices relating to the sacred and uniting its adherents in a community." A pastor once told me religion is nothing more than what someone believes about reality. Everyone has a religion, whether inside, or outside, of community. But for me, as a follower and servant of Jesus, whom I believe to be the Christ (Messiah, or Anointed One), the Son of God, I am identified as a Christian, within a community bearing the title Christianity. There are days when I am still happy to declare my belief in and allegiance to Jesus, but do not wish to be associated with "Christianity." The Christian Church has plenty of blemishes, and even huge atrocities throughout its 2000 year history. Over my years of walking in faith, I have told people not to look at Christians, but to look to Jesus Himself if they are seeking to find Truth. Christians, as a body, have fallen short all along the way. If all I had to look at was Christians, I would not be a follower, or believer in Jesus. And yet . . . .

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven . . . .  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." (Luke 6:37, 41-42 NIV) 

We are all just people struggling to find our way. Sometimes we do it well. At other times we do it very badly. It is not my place to judge another's life choices, currently or historically. It is always ultimately between us and God individually. So, as I wrestle with the planks in my own eyes, I was wondering what I could find in religion, specifically in Christianity, to be thankful for. 

The first thing is a no-brainer. If Scripture is accurately recorded, then I can be most grateful that God was willing to show His immense love for me by having His Son, Jesus, incarnate into this world to save a sorry ass like mine. Even enduring the horrific process of dying on a cross for me (and for you). Then dazzling us all by emerging from the tomb victorious, and inviting us into the Family. I do not truly understand the why God chose it to play out like this right from the beginning, but I am thankful for His tremendous show of love, and unbelievably generous invitation. 

But what have we done? As response to His mercy and love, what have we accomplished that I can be thankful for, even enough to be able to say, yah, I am one of them? 

I was watching a DVD about daily lives and challenges of followers in early Christian communities in various cities around the Roman Empire, well before the time of Constantine. Apparently, taking care of the infirm, handicapped, disfigured, the poor, or widows, was not commonplace in pre-Christian times. Orphans did not typically fare well. One of the things that set the early Christians apart from others was their compassion and caring for people in these circumstances. In fact, in one of the cities highlighted, it was common practice to take an unwanted baby to the dump, and simply leave it. Christians visited the dump daily to rescue any babies left there to die. It was a bold move that often identified them as belonging to "that sect" the surrounding community frequently referred to as "agitators and troublemakers." Laws that over time prohibited such casual attitudes toward the lives of babies were most likely proposed by Christians. Even today, it is primarily Christians who give voice to an about to be born child in a culture that still allows it to be discarded with the trash. I am thankful for hearts that see beyond the rhetoric that such an act is merely a matter of protecting a freedom of choice.  

Early Christians were often deemed "agitators and troublemakers" because they would not bow down to, or enter into any act of worship of, the man-made gods the other inhabitants of the cities believed would grant them favor. You would most likely be expelled by a guild (trade union) if you did not conform, and honor the god they thought they depended on for success. This relegated early Christians to the fringes of the culture, and often removed their livelihood, or even got them killed as a way of showing a god that the others were serious about punishing disobedience. In spite of their treatment, followers of Jesus did not take up arms, but heeded His admonition not to live by the sword.

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. (Matthew 26:52 NIV)

"At no other time in the history of Christianity did love so characterize the entire church as it did in the first three centuries. And Roman society took note. Tertullian reported that the Romans would exclaim, 'See how they love one another!' Justin Martyr sketched Christian love this way: 'We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.'" 

(http://www.earlychurch.com/unconditional-love.php)

Though we have drifted far from the instructions of Jesus, I am thankful for the example shown by those early Christians who set the tone, and gave us something to look back to as we try to right our paths to a genuine response to Jesus, the Christ. 

 

I am thankful we have a God, and a Holy Scripture, that tells us to care for the poor, the infirm, the handicapped, the disfigured, the widows, and the orphans. Do we always do that? Not even close. But many of us are making exceptional efforts to do so. You might recognize . . . 

These are just a few of the more well known of many hundreds of Christ centered organizations trying to live out the good news of Jesus in tangible ways. Going to the Y? The organization known simply as the YMCA is the Young Men's Christian Association. Although a member of a Christian denomination, Clara Barton, who started the American Red Cross, was not particularly religious. Still, the first local chapter of the American Red Cross was established in 1881 at the English Evangelical Lutheran Church of Dansville at Dansville, New York. 

Feeding America is a United States based nonprofit organization that is a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community based agencies. It is the third largest U.S. charity. In the late 1960s, John van Hengel, a retired businessman and devout Roman Catholic, began working at Immaculate Heart Church in Phoenix where he drove the bus and coached sports. He also began volunteering at the very busy St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen.  He started soliciting food donations for the kitchen, and ended up with far more food than the kitchen could use in its operations. Around this time, he spoke with one of the clients, who told him that she regularly fed her family with discarded items from the grocery store's garbage bins. She told him that the food quality was fine, but that there should be a place where unwanted food could be stored and later accessed by people who needed it, similar to how banks store money. Van Hengel began to actively solicit this unwanted food from grocery stores, local gardens, and nearby produce farms. His effort led to the creation of St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance in Phoenix, the nation's first food bank.  John bought an old milk delivery truck for $150 and used it to gather gleaned citrus fruit and other foods to bring to the soup kitchen. Every evening John would deliver any surplus to the homeless missions in downtown Phoenix. Searching for an efficient, less time consuming method of distributing this food, John approached Father Ronald Colloty from St. Mary’s Basilica about setting up a warehouse where the missions could come and pick up the food. 

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, located in Memphis, Tennessee, and founded in 1962, is a pediatric treatment and research facility focused on children's catastrophic diseases, particularly leukemia and other cancers. It costs about $2.4 million a day to run, but there is no cost to the patient to be treated. St. Jude was founded by entertainer Danny Thomas, with help from Lemuel Diggs, and Thomas' close friend from Miami, automobile dealer Anthony Abraham. It was founded on the premise that "no child should die in the dawn of life." This idea resulted from a promise that Thomas, a Maronite Catholic, had made to a saint years before the hospital was founded. 

I did not know it, but The Salvation Army is actually considered a Protestant Christian church. An international charitable organization, their mission statement reads: The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination. Its founders sought to bring salvation to the poor, destitute, and hungry by meeting both their "physical and spiritual needs." It is present in 131 countries, running charity shops, operating shelters for the homeless, and disaster relief and humanitarian aid to developing countries. 

Samaritan's Purse is an evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization that provides aid to people in physical need as a key part of Christian missionary work. Bob Pierce founded Samaritan's Purse in 1970 with a vision "to meet emergency needs in crisis areas through existing evangelical mission agencies and national churches." Pierce had previously founded World Vision in 1950. Franklin Graham met Pierce in 1973. Graham became president of Samaritan's Purse in 1979 following Pierce's death in 1978. As the organization grew, Samaritan's Purse not only funded mission partners but also began to develop its own large-scale relief projects: Providing medical care in the midst of conflicts in Somalia in 1993, Rwanda in 1994, Sudan since 1997, Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan in 2002, and Iraq in 2003. Rebuilding or repairing thousands of houses following Hurricane Mitch in 1998, the El Salvador earthquakes in 2001, the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Chartering emergency airlifts to Indonesia and Pakistan in 2005, North Korea in 2007, and Myanmar and China in 2008. Distributing food to hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Uganda and Darfur. 

Habitat for Humanity International, generally referred to as Habitat for Humanity or simply Habitat, is an international, non-governmental, and nonprofit organization, which was founded in 1976 by Linda and Millard Fuller. Former United States President Jimmy Carter helped bring Habitat into the spotlight by being a volunteer worker on a number of its projects. Habitat has been devoted to building "simple, decent, and affordable" housing. A self-described "Christian housing ministry," it has addressed the issues of poverty housing all over the world. 

The Association of Gospel Rescue Missions. Each year, their network of some 300 rescue missions serve approximately 66 million meals, provide more than 20 million nights of shelter and housing, assist some 45,000 people in finding employment, provide clothing to more than 750,000 people, and graduate nearly 17,000 homeless men and women from addiction recovery programs into productive living. Rescue missions have been providing hospitality to impoverished people in America since the 1870s. Rescue mission staff members provide effective care for men, women, and children who are hungry, homeless, abused, or addicted. AGRM is North America’s oldest and largest network of crisis shelters and rehabilitation centers. Our local Lansing City Rescue Mission is one of my favorite places to contribute to. They do wonderful work. 

Then there are the many denominational outreaches. Catholic Relief Services is the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. Founded in 1943 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the agency provides assistance to 130 million people in more than 90 countries and territories in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Lutheran World Relief is an international non-governmental organization that focuses on sustainable development projects and disaster relief and recovery. It continues to receive high rankings from Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, Great Nonprofits and the Better Business Bureau. Since 2000, it has increased its emphasis on sustainable agriculture and climate adaptation while continuing to respond to major natural disasters and humanitarian crises around the world. 

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is the global humanitarian aid and development organization of the United Methodist Church. It works through programs that address hunger, poverty, sustainable agriculture, international and domestic emergencies, refugee and immigrant concerns, global health issues, and transitional development. These programs are categorized into three major areas:  Humanitarian Relief / Disaster Response, Sustainable Development, and Global Health (in collaboration with UM Global Ministries). Unlike most relief organizations, UMCOR was designed so that 100% of all donations go directly to the intended projects. This goal was achieved by instituting the One Great Hour of Sharing donation. This is an annual collection taken at United Methodist churches around the world in March. UMCOR receives enough support through OGHS each year to cover all overhead, administrative, and operation costs for the coming year. Excess funds received are directed to the most urgent or least funded projects. Every dollar received in response to emergency appeals is spent on direct relief. 

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_charitable_foundations)

I am thankful for these fellow Christians, and the thousands upon thousands of other Christians, who tirelessly try to live out the instructions Jesus left us with. 

 

 
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14 NIV)

Athenian law supported all orphans of those killed in military service until the age of eighteen. Jewish law prescribed care for the widow and the orphan. The Romans formed their first orphanages around 400 AD, after Christianity had become a primary religion in the Roman Empire. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orphanage)

The other dynamic influencing the treatment of orphans are adoption agencies. Among others, both the Catholic and Lutheran denominations have huge adoption operations. Another care concept heavily influenced by Christianity was hospitals which took care of everyone. 

While some medical care systems showed up in Egypt, China, and India, and the Romans constructed buildings called valetudinaria for the care of sick slaves, gladiators, and soldiers around 100 BCE, the declaration of Christianity as an accepted religion in the Roman Empire drove an expansion of the provision of care. Following First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, construction of a hospital in every cathedral town was begun.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_hospitals)

I am thankful that we have a God, and a Bible, that tells us to welcome, and provide hospitality, to the stranger in our Land. Have we failed to do this? Often incredibly so! Still, a search I did on Wikipedia using the words "Christian refugee service" told me a single page does not exist, "but consider checking the search results below to see whether the topic is already covered." With page after page of listings available, you could choose whether to view 20, 50, 100, 250, or 500 per page. I chose not to continue reviewing them at all, already knowing once again that among others, both the Catholic and Lutheran Churches have branches of "Immigration and Refugee Service" which handle and help an enormous amount of immigrants coming into our country. 

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic,
love one another, be compassionate and humble.
(1 Peter 3:8 NIV) 

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
 that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be
 no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.
(1 Corinthians 1:10 NIV) 

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration,
encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.
And the God of love and peace will be with you.
(2 Corinthians 13:11 NIV) 

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said,
“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last,
 and the servant of all.”
(Mark 9:35 NIV) 

Be of one heart and mind? I suspect unity is the one thing we fail at the most as followers of Jesus these days. Although, I personally am thankful for the diversity found within Christianity. Much as the parts of our body have different functions, I see denominations each having special gifts and contributions they might bring to the Christian table. But, ecumenical efforts aside, there is still much division among churches. I once used Mark 9:35 (above) to tell Mormon missionaries visiting the Center, whose church believes themselves to be the true remnant of Christian believers, that there was one simple reason I did not believe them to be the one true church. While they do an exceptional job trying to live what they say they believe, they do not put themselves last. Almost all denominations who claim they are the one, exalt only themselves. Instead of being the servant of all, and trying to help build up the entire body of Christ across denominational lines, they try to draw people to their own denomination. Our Christian history, especially in this present time, is filled with examples of how Christians have done the exact opposite of how our Christ said we should behave if we were truly his disciples. Seeing the poor, the homeless, the disabled, the disfigured, and the disenfranchised as equals through the eyes of God, and that they need to be treated as equals in the body of believers, is but one small piece in the Christian life. At the end of my emails, I have two quotes of Francis of Assisi. “You can show your love to others by not wishing that they should be better Christians,” and “We must bear patiently not being good . . . and not being thought good.”

As I work on the planks in my own eyes, I am thankful for the wisdom and examples of historical Christians like St. Francis. And I am similarly thankful for contemporary Christians like Dr. Martin Luther King, so instrumental in the civil rights movement. I am thankful for American icons like Abraham Lincoln who was a man of great faith and focus, with a wisdom that did not claim God was on our side, but prayed that we were on God's side. I am thankful for exceptional recent "religious" people outside of Christianity, and their living examples, like Peace Pilgrim, and Gandhi, and the still with us Dalai Lama. And, for every one of them, there are hundreds whose lives are less known, but just as exemplary. I am especially thankful for those unsung heroes of religious faith. 

“Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.”
- Peace Pilgrim

Each of us gets to live the consequences of our personal beliefs, choices, and actions. I am thankful for a God, and a book filled with His Guidance, that offers beliefs, choices, and actions which not only increase the likelihood of better consequences in this life, but grants us exceptional eternal outcomes as well. Finally, I am thankful for a God who is longsuffering in patience with my inability to grasp, embrace, respond, behave, and rest in His absolute love for me. And, I am thankful I am not the only one He does this for. He is indeed that patient with every one of us, including you. 

 

_______ 

 

 

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

“No one can serve two masters . . . . You cannot serve both God and money.”

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. 

(Matthew 6:19-34 Excerpts)

 

The above passage appeared in my last newsletter as well. It is, however, one of the reasons there is a william's works at all. In the spirit of thankfulness, I am very grateful for a God and the Book of His Instruction which includes Matthew 6. It told me how to put money into its proper perspective, and not to worry about the things I would need to live on when I turned my life over to Him. Most of the people I know, consider Matthew 6 to be very radical, and highly unrealistic. I find Matthew 6 to be very comforting, totally realistic, and a remover of an immobilizing barrier of stress. 

_______

From: Elaine Holistic
Sent: Tuesday, July 24, 2018 8:23 PM
To: william
Subject: Gratitude List

Is it time for another gratitude list? Every now and then we need to deliberately sit down and contemplate all the blessings in our lives. Our very first lists probably had a lot of material things on them: homes and families and jobs and friends. As the years go by we hopefully can see other more elusive traits to be added to that list.

Was there a time you could have gotten angry and instead you let it go?

Was there a time you could have given in to despair and instead found a little hope to hang on to?

Was there a time when you forgave yourself?

Was there a time when you picked yourself up and started over?

Was there a time when you were frustrated and you stepped back and took a few deep breaths?

All those and more deserve to be on your gratitude list. When your list is front and center in your mind, you will find a lot of peace.

Many blessings,
Elaine

_______

This is an email story received February 10, 2017. It is possible I have shared it before, but even if I have, it is worth repeating. Whether it is true, or total fiction, matters not. It is a story which should be true in every person's life who deems themselves to be Christian. I am thankful for stories like this, which bring a ray of light to a communications system often filled with unimportant clutter. 

IT'S NOT WHAT YOU GATHER, BUT WHAT YOU SCATTER
THAT TELLS WHAT KIND OF LIFE YOU HAVE LIVED

"I was at the corner grocery store buying some early potatoes . . . I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily appraising a basket of freshly picked green peas. 

I paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. 

Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller (the store owner) and the ragged boy next to me. 

'Hello Barry, how are you today?' 

'H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas. They sure look good.' 

'They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?' 

'Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time.' 

'Good. Anything I can help you with?' 

'No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas.' 

'Would you like to take some home?'  Asked Mr. Miller. 

'No, Sir. Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with.' 

'Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?' 

'All I got's my prize marble here.' 

'Is that right? Let me see it' said Miller. 

'Here 'tis. She's a dandy.' 

'I can see that. Hmm mmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?' the store owner asked. 

'Not zackley but almost.' 

'Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble'. Mr. Miller told the boy. 

'Sure will. Thanks Mr. Miller.' 

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile she said, 'There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever. 

When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, when they come on their next trip to the store.' 

I left the store smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Colorado, but I never forgot the story of this man, the boys, and their bartering for marbles. 

Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community, and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died. 

They were having his visitation that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them. 

Upon arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased, and to offer whatever words of comfort we could. 

Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts . . . all very professional looking. They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband's casket. 

Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket. 

Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one; each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes. 

Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and reminded her of the story from those many years ago, and what she had told me about her husband's bartering for marbles. With her eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket. 

'Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about. 

They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim 'traded' them . . . Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size . . . they came to pay their debt.' 

'We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world,' she confided, 'but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho.' 

With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles. 

The Moral: We will not be remembered by our words, but by our kind deeds."

_______

T&SC NEWS

In late September we (the T&SC organization) entered into an agreement to purchase the Sharing in Christ building (417 South Bridge Street in Grand Ledge) effective October 1, 2018.  The mortgage is privately held by the Trust which sold us the property, and has very favorable terms with a low monthly payment. It also provides total interest forgiveness if we are still operating as a spiritual resource center when we pay the mortgage off.  If you would like to help us reach this goal, you may designate your contributions by simply noting them as for the “mortgage.” Thank you. 

 

 

I read a couple of books, and parts of others, these past several months. One given to me by a Seventh Day Adventist is called The Great Controversy. It is a select history of the Christian Church, and the Protestant Reformation in particular, from an Adventist perspective. Part of my role at the Center is trying to learn directly from their own materials about various denominations, and other religions. I tagged a few spots as I read along. I thought I would share those with you here. 

(Page 191) "The freedom which they [protestant reformers] sacrificed so much to secure for themselves, they were not equally ready to grant to others. 'Very few, even of the foremost thinkers and moralists of the seventeenth century, had any just conception of that grand principle, the outgrowth of the New Testament, which acknowledges God as the sole judge of human faith.' The doctrine that God has committed to the church the right to control the conscience, and to define and punish heresy, is one of the most deeply rooted of papal errors. While the reformers rejected the creed of Rome, they were not entirely free from her spirit of intolerance. The dense darkness in which, through the long ages of her rule, popery had enveloped all Christendom, had not even yet been wholly dissipated. Said one of the leading ministers in the colony of Massachusetts Bay: 'It was toleration that made the world antichristian; and the church never took harm by the punishment of heretics.' The regulation was adopted by the colonists that only church members should have a voice in the civil government. A kind of state church was formed, all the people being required to contribute to the support of the clergy, and the magistrates being authorized to suppress heresy. Thus the secular power was in the hands of the church. It was not long before these measures led to the inevitable result -- persecution. 

(Page 194) Though a few faithful men arose, from time to time, to proclaim new truth and expose long-cherished error, the majority, like the Jews in Christ's day or the papists in the time of Luther, were content to believe as their fathers had believed and to live as they had lived. Therefore religion again degenerated into formalism; and errors and superstitions which would have been cast aside had the church continued to walk in the light of God's word, were retained and cherished. Thus the spirit inspired by the Reformation gradually died out, until there was almost as great a need of reform in the Protestant churches as in the Roman Church in the time of Luther. There was the same worldliness and spiritual stupor, a similar reverence for the opinions of men, and substitution of human theories for the teachings of God's word. 

(Page 324) Could the veil which separates the visible from the invisible world be swept back, and the children of men behold an angel recording every word and deed, which they must meet again in the judgment, how many words that are daily uttered would remain unspoken, how many deeds would remain undone. 

_______

It is very likely I have shared this next piece before. But I reread the In His Steps book this summer between my two newsletters, as a way of coming back to the basics, and part of the the foundation upon which the Teaching & Sharing Centers, and all my work, stands. I am very thankful for this book, and the honest message it relates to us about the challenges in real discipleship. I did not edit, or update, this article for inclusion here. It appears as I found it in my files. 

_______

Other than the four Gospels of the Bible, the books “In His Steps” and “Peace Pilgrim” have had the most significant influence on the development of all I have done, and the choices I have made, since 1994 when I left a twenty year business career, to pursue the path I felt God calling me to.  I give away copies of both of these books (as well as Bibles to anyone who does not have one) at the Teaching & Sharing Center of Grand Ledge. 

When the book “In His Steps” was first published (as a series of sermons in 1896), the publisher made an error that threw it into the “public domain” unprotected by copyright law.  As a result, because of the great number of publishers who picked it up, the book has had a larger circulation than any other book except the Bible.  As well as the many print options, you can find various e-versions of it online. 

Right from the start in 1995, the sign in front of the Teaching & Sharing Center of Grand Ledge has asked the question “What would Jesus do?”  I almost removed it when the WWJD craze seemed to trivialize the question by making it trendy.  Since it remains at the core of my choices, the sign remained.  Each Christian must decide for themselves what Jesus would do in their place, but if you are not asking the question . . . well, that is between you and Him.  I offer up this excerpt from Charles M Sheldon’s classic for whatever inspiration it might have. 

Keep in mind the book was written in 1896.  The issues of those days are voiced in the vocabulary of the day, but they are not so different than our times, and with very little adaptation can still be seen as contemporary.        

Excerpt from chapter thirty-one (the last chapter of “In His Steps”)

. . . . “Is it true,” continued Henry Maxwell, and his fine, thoughtful face glowed with a passion of appeal that stirred the people as they had seldom been stirred, “is it true that the church of today, the church that is called after Christ's own name, would refuse to follow Him at the expense of suffering, of physical loss, of temporary gain?  The statement was made at a large gathering in the Settlement last week by a leader of workingmen that it was hopeless to look to the church for any reform or redemption of society.  On what was that statement based?  Plainly on the assumption that the church contains for the most part men and women who think more ‘of their own ease and luxury’ than of the sufferings and needs and sins of humanity.  How far is that true?  Are the Christians of America ready to have their discipleship tested?  How about the men who possess large wealth?  Are they ready to take that wealth and use it as Jesus would?  How about the men and women of great talent?  Are they ready to consecrate that talent to humanity as Jesus undoubtedly would do?

“Is it not true that the call has come in this age for a new exhibition of Christian discipleship?  You who live in this great sinful city must know that better than I do.  Is it possible you can go your ways careless or thoughtless of the awful condition of men and women and children who are dying, body and soul, for need of Christian help?  Is it not a matter of concern to you personally that the saloon kills its thousands more surely than war?  Is it not a matter of personal suffering in some form for you that thousands of able-bodied, willing men tramp the streets of this city and all cities, crying for work and drifting into crime and suicide because they cannot find it?  Can you say that this is none of your business?  Let each man look after himself?  Would it not be true, think you, that if every Christian in America did as Jesus would do, society itself, the business world, yes, the very political system under which our commercial and governmental activity is carried on, would be so changed that human suffering would be reduced to a minimum? 

“What would be the result if all the church members of this city tried to do as Jesus would do?  It is not possible to say in detail what the effect would be.  But it is easy to say, and it is true, that instantly the human problem would begin to find an adequate answer. 

“What is the test of Christian discipleship?  Is it not the same as in Christ's own time?  Have our surroundings modified or changed the test?  If Jesus were here today would He not call some of the members of this very church to do just what He commanded the young man, and ask them to give up their wealth and literally follow Him?  I believe He would do that if He felt certain that any church member thought more of his possessions than of the Savior. The test would be the same today as then. I believe Jesus would demand — He does demand now — as close a following, as much suffering, as great self-denial as when He lived in person on the earth and said, ‘Except a man renounce all that he hath he cannot be my disciple.’  That is, unless he is willing to do it for my sake, he cannot be my disciple. 

“What would be the result if in this city every church member should begin to do as Jesus would do?  It is not easy to go into details of the result.  But we all know that certain things would be impossible that are now practiced by church members. 

“What would Jesus do in the matter of wealth?  How would He spend it?  What principle would regulate His use of money?  Would He be likely to live in great luxury and spend ten times as much on personal adornment and entertainment as He spent to relieve the needs of suffering humanity?  How would Jesus be governed in the making of money?  Would He take rentals from saloons and other disreputable property, or even from tenement property that was so constructed that the inmates had no such things as a home and no such possibility as privacy or cleanliness? 

“What would Jesus do about the great army of unemployed and desperate who tramp the streets and curse the church, or are indifferent to it, lost in the bitter struggle for the bread that tastes bitter when it is earned on account of the desperate conflict to get it?  Would Jesus care nothing for them?  Would He go His way in comparative ease and comfort?  Would He say that it was none of His business?  Would He excuse Himself from all responsibility to remove the causes of such a condition? 

“What would Jesus do in the center of a civilization that hurries so fast after money that the very girls employed in great business houses are not paid enough to keep soul and body together without fearful temptations so great that scores of them fall and are swept over the great boiling abyss; where the demands of trade sacrifice hundreds of lads in a business that ignores all Christian duties toward them in the way of education and moral training and personal affection?  Would Jesus, if He were here today as a part of our age and commercial industry, feel nothing, do nothing, say nothing, in the face of these facts which every business man knows? 

“What would Jesus do?  Is not that what the disciple ought to do?  Is he not commanded to follow in His steps?  How much is the Christianity of the age suffering for Him?  Is it denying itself at the cost of ease, comfort, luxury, elegance of living?  What does the age need more than personal sacrifice?  Does the church do its duty in following Jesus when it gives a little money to establish missions or relieve extreme cases of want?  Is it any sacrifice for a man who is worth ten million dollars simply to give ten thousand dollars for some benevolent work?  Is he not giving something that cost him practically nothing so far as any personal suffering goes?  Is it true that the Christian disciples today in most of our churches are living soft, easy, selfish lives, very far from any sacrifice that can be called sacrifice?  What would Jesus do? 

“It is the personal element that Christian discipleship needs to emphasize.  ‘The gift without the giver is bare.’ The Christianity that attempts to suffer by proxy is not the Christianity of Christ.  Each individual Christian business man, citizen, needs to follow in His steps along the path of personal sacrifice to Him.  There is not a different path today from that of Jesus' own times.  It is the same path.  The call of this dying century and of the new one soon to be, is a call for a new discipleship, a new following of Jesus, more like the early, simple, apostolic Christianity, when the disciples left all and literally followed the Master.  Nothing but a discipleship of this kind can face the destructive selfishness of the age with any hope of overcoming it.  There is a great quantity of nominal Christianity today.  There is need of more of the real kind.  We need revival of the Christianity of Christ.  We have, unconsciously, lazily, selfishly, formally grown into a discipleship that Jesus himself would not acknowledge.  He would say to many of us when we cry, ‘Lord, Lord,’ ‘I never knew you!’  Are we ready to take up the cross? 

Is it possible for this church to sing with exact truth . . . 

Jesus, I my cross have taken,

All to leave and follow Thee?

If we can sing that truly, then we may claim discipleship.  But if our definition of being a Christian is simply to enjoy the privileges of worship, be generous at no expense to ourselves, have a good, easy time surrounded by pleasant friends and by comfortable things, live respectably and at the same time avoid the world's great stress of sin and trouble because it is too much pain to bear it — if this is our definition of Christianity, surely we are a long way from following the steps of Him who trod the way with groans and tears and sobs of anguish for a lost humanity; who sweat, as it were, great drops of blood, who cried out on the up reared cross, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ 

“Are we ready to make and live a new discipleship? Are we ready to reconsider our definition of a Christian?  What is it to be a Christian?  It is to imitate Jesus.  It is to do as He would do.  It is to walk in His steps.” 

When Henry Maxwell finished his sermon, he paused and looked at the people with a look they never forgot and, at the moment, did not understand.  Crowded into that fashionable church that day were hundreds of men and women who had for years lived the easy, satisfied life of a nominal Christianity.  A great silence fell over the congregation.  Through the silence there came to the consciousness of all the souls there present a knowledge, stranger to them now for years, of a Divine Power.  Every one expected the preacher to call for volunteers who would do as Jesus would do. But Maxwell had been led by the Spirit to deliver his message this time and wait for results to come . . .  

 

 

 

Newsletters, Letters & Emails Index