Cheerful Giving

The long-awaited morning finally arrives. The heap of torn wrapping paper rivals the size of the remaining pile of unwrapped packages. Mom sips coffee and nibbles on fruitcake. Grandma admires the present her granddaughter has just opened. Then the young son eagerly bounces over to Dad with a poorly but carefully wrapped present.

Of course, inside waits a gift the boy has made himself. It might be a pencil holder or a beaded keychain. Dad doesn’t really care, because he’s already received his gift – the indelible image of his son jumping up and down, eyes shining, unable to contain his excitement until Dad opens his lovingly made gift.

Perhaps this child’s eagerness to give to his father comes close to the idea of the “cheerful giver” God desires of us. Paul said, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Richard J. Foster wrote, “Giving makes life with God an adventure in the world; and that it worth living for and giving for.”

During this week of Thanksgiving, we will do well to focus on the second part of that word – giving. God is pleased when we are filled with thanks. But the real proof is in the giving. When was the last time you brought some gift of sacrificial proportion before your heavenly father with the same zeal as the young boy who brought his gift to his Dad on Christmas Day?

TV’s First Presidential Speech

On this day in 1947, Americans saw their first presidential speech on television. The president was Harry Truman. The address came from the White House. Truman asked Americans to cut back on their use of grain in order to help starving Europeans. At the time of Truman’s food-conservation speech, Europe was still recovering from World War II and suffering great famine.

Truman, the 33rd commander-in-chief, worried that if the United States didn’t provide food aid, his administration’s Marshall Plan for European economic recovery would fall apart. He asked farmers and distillers to reduce grain use and requested that the public voluntarily forgo meat on Tuesdays, eggs and poultry on Thursdays, and save a slice of bread each day. The food program was short-lived, as ultimately the Marshall Plan succeeded in helping to spur economic revitalization and growth in Europe.

Last week, 84 million Americans tuned in to watch our next president, in a classic debate. In a few days, they will square off again. It’s amazing to note how things have changed.

Today, candidates promise everything from tax breaks to free college. Back in Truman’s day, the president went on the air, not to promise blessings, but to ask for sacrifice.

Yesterday’s president called on us to give from hearts of love and sacrifice. Today’s candidates are full of insults and they promise the moon. And we call this “progress.”

Father Damien

Tourists travel to the Hawaiian Island of Molokai for its quiet charm, gentle breezes, and soft surf. But Father Damein came for a different reason. He came to help people die. He came to Molokai because leprosy came here first. It started about 1840.

Because of their gross disfigurement, lepers were outcasts placed on a small piece of land called Kalaupapa. There they lived out their lives in isolation and poverty. Then, in 1873, Father Damien stepped into the picture. He pled with his supervisors, “I want to sacrifice myself for the poor lepers.”

Father Damien entered their world, dressing their sores, hugging their children, and burying their dead. He sang to them and taught them about God’s love.

He didn’t just join them; he became one of them. Due to his constant contact with them, he became a leper. He wrote to his friends, “It is one thing to treat a leper, but far better to become one.”

On April 15, 1889, Father Damien died of leprosy. But he made a difference. He did what Jesus did. Not content to simply “treat” a man, Jesus became a man. And he died a man. He has been where you are. And now, he is where you can be.

The Bible says, “He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, and was taken up into glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).

“Allah Is God!”

On April 18, 2007, three Christians in Turkey were killed for their beliefs. Necati Aydin was one of them. He was a 35-year-old pastor in the city of Malatya. In a country of 76 million people, Christians number 153,000. And the persecution from Muslims is severe.

It seems Necati came to his office that morning with two friends. They were ambushed by a group of Muslims, captured, and told to shout, “Allah is God!” They were ordered to recite, “There is no God except Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”

When Necati refused, the torture began. For an agonizing hour, they were cut, beaten, and terrorized. Finally, when they refused to say “Allah is God,” their throats were sliced.

Their dying words were, “Christ is Messiah. Christ is Messiah.”

This leads me to a question. These men gave up their lives for Christ. What have you given up for him lately?

God may not be asking you to give up your life. But could you at least give up your parking spot, your place in line, or your pew on Sunday morning? Could you at least give up a little time to feed the hungry?

The Rushmore Report: Woman Buys Moon Dust for $995, Sells for $4 Million

It was one of the biggest moments in history. The Apollo 11 mission of 1969 brought man to the moon. There were also a few things that came back with the astronauts. While there, Neil Armstrong collected some moon dust and placed it in a bag. NASA forgot about it and accidentally auctioned it off for $995. Nancy Carlson bought it, and had it analyzed. Now NASA wants it back. But that will cost them a tidy sum – $4 million.

Carlson, a Chicago attorney, was certain the bag had real moon dust, so she sent it back to NASA to have it tested, knowing official verification would turn her bag of dust into a fortune. Carlson was right.

NASA confirmed that it was real moon dust, and then refused to give it back, saying they had made a mistake by selling it so cheap. Carlson went to court over the matter and won. Now she is auctioning it off, and it is expected to draw about $4 million.

How Carlson came to possess the celestial souvenir in the first place is a space odyssey in its own right. Previously, the government had seized the bag in a criminal case against Max Ary, the former president of a space museum in Kansas. He was convicted in 2006 of theft for selling objects from the museum, court records show.

While investigating Ary, authorities learned the moon bag had been auctioned off for $24,150 and seized it from its purchaser. But because of a mix-up with another bag that did not contain moon dust, no NASA official at the time was aware of the historical importance of the artifact.

The initial auction asked for a beginning offer of at least $20,000, but nobody bid on it. When Carlson, a corporate attorney and avid collector of space objects, saw the bag at auction again in 2015, she was the high bidder. She then sent the bag to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where its contents were verified.

Over time, the U.S. government has given away about 270 moon rocks to foreign dignitaries. Never have they sold any lunar objects.

Carlson did what many others could have done. She saw a value in that bag of dust that others simply missed, including the scientists at NASA. Then she bought it. Now she has a real prize, which is about to be turned into more money than she will need for the rest of her life.

Jesus told a similar story one day. He told of a man who found a rare treasure, then sold all he had to secure it. His point was simple. When we find that which brings us peace and security, for this life and the one to come, there is no price too high. We need to go all in.

Like the people at NASA, we often don’t recognize what is right before us. God has provided peace and eternal blessing through his Son, Jesus Christ. The next move is ours and it’s a simple one. We must be willing to give up that which we cannot keep anyway, in order to secure that which we will never lose.

But unlike the moon dust, God’s gift has already been paid for. And because we have an Advocate in Christ Jesus, no attorneys need to be involved.