Five Kernels of Corn
The next time you and I are tempted to complain about the price of groceries or the state of our economy, remember the following: During that first long winter at Plymouth Colony, seven times as many graves were dug for the dead as were homes built for the living. Of the 110 Pilgrims and crew who left England, less that 50 survived the first winter. The ship that was supposed to bring food and relief brought 35 more mouths to feed, but not an ounce of provisions. Despite the lack of food, the cold, and the death of so many family and friends, they were a thankful people. Pilgrim William Brewster, rising from a scanty dinner consisting of a plate of clams and a glass of cold water, thanked God "for the abundance of the sea and the treasures hid in the sand." For three years the Pilgrims struggled to grow crops and maintain a foothold in the New World. Only the providence of God kept the colony from failing. The 3rd year brought a spring and summer that was hot and dry with the crops dying in the fields. Governor Bradford ordered a day of fasting and prayer, and it was soon thereafter that the rain came. To celebrate—November 29th of that year was proclaimed a day of thanksgiving. This date is believed to be the real true beginning of the present day Thanksgiving Day.
- The Pilgrims didn't have much, but they possessed a great gratitude and it was upon this attitude of thankfulness that America was built. Over the years, many artists have attempted to illustrate the First Thanksgiving. One of the more well-known renditions of the event shows our Pilgrim forebears sitting around a table of abundance. It's a famous painting by Jennie Brownscombe. entitled The First Thanksgiving. It hangs in Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts. It shows the Pilgrims giving thanks. But someone who's pretty good at Photoshopping has revised the picture to reveal a more contemporary Thanksgiving celebration. Is this what Thanksgiving has become in America today?
The first Pilgrims didn't have it quite so good. To commemorate their first winter in New England, in subsequent years the Puritans began the custom of putting 5 kernels of corn upon each empty plate before the annual dinner of "thanksgiving" was served. Each member of the family would pick up a kernel and tell what they were thankful for. It was to remind them that during their first winter in America, the first Pilgrims were in such dire straits that their food allowance was only 5 kernels of corn per person each day.
We have many reasons to be thankful. Let's take 5 grains of corn, and using Psalm 103:1-5 as a basis, think of 5 things to praise God for. In this Psalm David calls upon his body, mind, soul, and spirit to join in one grand symphony of praise for the benefits God has so graciously bestowed upon him. Can you see the 5?
I. THE KERNEL OF FORGIVENESS
- Verse 3a: ".. .who forgives all your sins..."
- ILLUS. One day a fellow was visiting with his pastor in the parsonage. Seeing a book on geography lying on the end table in the Pastor's Study, he picked it up and began to read while the pastor finished a phone call. Suddenly he shouted, "Glory to God! Praise the name of the Lord'" The pastor was taken aback by the sudden outburst and asked his parishioner, "What's the matter with you?" The visitor replied, "This book says that in certain places the sea is 5 miles deep!" "Yes, that's right," said the pastor. "Why do you find that so exciting?" The visitor answered, "Because the Bible says that my sins have been cast into the depth of the sea, and if its that deep, I'm not afraid of them ever find their way to the surface again!"
- King David is clear in this Psalm—God offers forgiveness
- “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:8–12, NIV)
- all any person must do is repent and forsake his sin, look to Christ in faith, and God will forgive him and revoke the penalty of sin
- this forgiveness is a...
- a Promise of the Father
- a Provision of the Son
- a Product of the Holy Spirit
- a Proclamation in the Bible
- a required Practice in the church
- our gratitude should ascend to Heaven like incense to the throne of God
II. THE KERNEL OF REDEMPTION
- Verse 4a: ".. .who redeems your live from the pit..."
- ILLUS. Remember Joseph? His father, Jacob, has sent him out to check up on his olderbrothers who are with the herds of sheep and goats. To put it mildly, Joseph's brothers don't care much for their younger sibling. First of all, they consider him a tattle-tale who repeatedly gives bad reports to their father regarding their behavior. Second, Joseph is clearly their father’s favorite child and Joseph knows this and lord's it over the other children in the family. As they see him coming, they immediately begin conspiring to kill him and then dispose of his body in an old water cistern. Reuben talks them out of murdering Joseph, but when their brother arrives, they attack him, strip him of his robe and toss him into a pit. A while later the see a caravan coming and they sell their brother into slavery. If it hadn't been for the gracious providence of God, Joseph may well have died in that pit.
- to find oneself in a pit, has become a metaphor of the dangers and difficulties of this life
- but as in Joseph's case, the gracious providence of God pulls us up out of our pit and places our feet upon the solid rock
- it is an unspeakable miracle of divine grace that God pulls us out of the pit of sin and damnation and redeems us by the precious blood of His Son
- if you want to understand your personal worth to God, all you have to do is look at the price you were bought with
- "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20foryou were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, ESV)
- "Christ died for us at a time when we were helpless and sinful. 7No one is really willing to die for an honest person, though someone might be willing to die for a truly good person. 8But God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful. 9But there is more! Now that God has accepted us because Christ sacrificed his life's blood, we will also be kept safe from God's anger. WEven when we were God's enemies, he made peace with us, because his Son died for us. Yet something even greater than friendship is ours. Now that we are at peace with God, we will be saved by his Son's life. 11And in addition to everything else, we are happy because God sent our Lord Jesus Christ to make peace with us." (Romans 5:6-11, CEV)
- ILLUS. Pat Neff was the governor of Texas from 1921-1925. He was also a life-long Baptist. While governor he traveled around to the state's various penitentiaries speaking to the convicts. On each occasion, he would finish by saying that he would remain to listen if any man wanted to speak with him. On every occasion, numbers of men remained, wanting to tell their story. One by one they would each tell the governor that he was there through a frame-up, or injustice, or a judicial blunder. Each asked to be freed. Finally, one man came up and said, "Governor, I just want to say that I'm guilty. I did what they sent me here for, but I believe I've paid for it. If I were freed, I would do everything I could to be a good citizen and prove myself worthy of your mercy." The governor pardoned this man. Why? Because he admitted his guilt.
- so it is with us if we are to be redeemed from the awful sentence we're under
- but there is a difference
- we can't say that we've paid for any of our sins
- ILLUS. As the old hymn says, "Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; sin has left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow."
- the world, the flesh and the devil are bent on damning our souls and destroying our Christian walk
- but thanks be to God who redeems our lives from their power
- to illustrate this evil triad, all one has to do is take a look at our penitentiaries, sanitariums, hospitals, and half-way houses
- they are filled with people whose lives are being destroyed by these three enemies of the Christian life
- Jesus told His disciple in the Sermon on the Mount
- "Go in through the narrow gate. The gate to destruction is wide, and the road that leads there is easy to follow. A lot of people go through that gate." (Matthew 7:13, CEV)
- "He litted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD" (Psalm 40:2,3).
III. THE KERNEL OF HEALING
- Verse 3b: ".. .who heals all your diseases..."
- when first considering this passage of scripture, I was reluctant to use it because I couldn't reconcile it with the fact that God doesn't heal everyone who has an "incurable" disease
- but I believe the Holy Spirit can help us to see three important truths contained in this verse
- First: All healing is divine healing and all recovery from sickness, injury and surgery is the result of the healing properties that God has built into our bodies
- medicine, surgery and therapy are merely extensions of God's healing ministry
- Second: This verse doesn't say that God heals everyone's diseases, but that He has healed His servant David’s diseases
- ILLUS. We ought to recognize the fact that many of God’s choicest servants have been ill and afflicted and have never been healed in this life. The Apostle Paul was one of these. He had a thorn in his flesh. It may have been eye trouble. If anyone should have claimed healing, it seems to me he should have. The great hymn writer Fanny Crosby was blind to her dying day, as was John Milton the author of some of the world’s greatest Christian poetry. What about these people? Do we have the audacity to say that something was wrong with these people’s faith because they were not healed? It is wonderful to be healed, but that is not always God’s plan. Understand one thing: some of God’s choicest servants never experienced healing at all.
- "Bless the Lord, O my soul," he said, "who heals all your diseases"
- the diseases of the soul emanate from the virus of sin
- Jesus identified this virus and its symptoms and disorders in Matt 15:19-20:
- "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone." (Matthew 15:19-20, ESV)
- “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5, NIV)
IV. THE KERNEL OF LOVE AND COMPASSION
- Verse 4a: "...crowns you with love and compassion..."
- ILLUS. Dr. John Wilbur Chapman was one of our country's great evangelists at the end of the 19th century. During a time of testimony at one of Chapman's crusade meetings, a man rose to give the following remarkable testimony: "/ got off at the Pennsylvania depot one day as a tramp. For a year I begged on the streets for a living. One day I touched a man on the shoulder and said, "Mister, please give me some money so I can have something to eat." As soon as I saw his face, I recognized him as my father. 'Father, don't you know me?' I asked. Throwing his arms around me, he cried, 'I've found you! I've found you! All I have is yours!' Think of it! That I a tramp, stood begging my father for a few cents, when for 18 years he had been looking for me to give me all he was worth."
- how similar this is to the loving kindness and tender mercies of the Lord which accompany our lives every day
- our God is like the father in the Story of the Prodigal Son
- at his son's return he commands a ring be put on his son's finger, his tattered cloths are exchanged for new and be immediately begins to plan a homecoming party
- our God greats ever sinner who come home with the same love and compassion
V. THE KERNEL OF SATISFACTION AND RENEWAL
- Verse 5: ".. .who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."
- this reminds me of the words of Jesus, given in the sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matt.5:6, NIV)
- there's a great paradox here
- we're satisfied but never fully satisfied
- ILLUS. My mother-in-law makes the world's best dinner rolls. I'm always satisfied when I eat one, but I always want more because what I've experienced makes me want to taste it again and again.
- we're filled and the filling is so sweet and so rich and full that we want more
- "For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things." (Psalm 107:9, ESV)
- Jesus told his Disciples that he was both the bread and the water of life
- if our lives draw from the great resources of the Lord Jesus, who is our Water of Life, and our Bread of Life, we will grow strong as the days and years go by
- in Christ, I am constantly being renewed, refreshed, and revived in my soul and God is doing it all!
- no wonder then that the Psalmist said, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!"
As you sit down to your Thanksgiving meal Thursday, take time to thank God for these blessings—these five kernels.