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THE BEGINNING OF LEE

Lee, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and a self-professed atheist was sitting at his desk on Christmas Eve. A slow news day he found himself reminiscing about the Delgado family that he had featured while writing a series of articles about Chicago’s neediest people a few days earlier. The Delgado’s were comprised of a grandmother named Perfecta and her two granddaughters, Jenny age 13 and her sister Lydia 11 years old.

He remembered how unprepared he was when he walked into their two room apartment on the west side of Chicago for the interview; bare halls and bare walls, no furniture, no rugs, nothing but a kitchen table and a handful of rice in the cupboards. He learned during the interview that Jenny and Lydia only had one short-sleeved dress apiece, plus a thin gray sweater that they shared. On cold days when the girls walked the half-mile to school, one of the girls would start with the sweater and then give it to the other at the halfway mark. It was all they had. Perfecta wanted more for her granddaughters and would gladly have worked, but her severe arthritis and age made work too difficult and painful.

Since it was a slow news day Lee decided to check out a car and drive to Chicago’s west side to check up on the Delgado’s. When Jenny opened the door he couldn’t believe what he saw! His article on the Delgado’s had touched the hearts of many subscribers who responded with furniture and appliances, rugs, dozens of coats, scarves and gloves. The girls wouldn’t have to share a sweater any longer. There was cartons and cartons and boxes of food everywhere. They had so much food that the cupboards and closets couldn’t contain it. Someone had even donated a Christmas tree, and under it were mounds of presents and thousands of dollars in cash!

Lee was astonished! But what astonished him the most was what he found Perfecta and her granddaughters doing. They were preparing to give most of it away. "Why would you give so much of this away?" Lee asked. Perfecta responded, "Our neighbors are still in need. We cannot have plenty while they have nothing. This is what Jesus would want us to do." Lee was dumbfounded.

After regaining his composure he asked Perfecta another question. He wanted to know what she and the girls thought about the generosity that was shown to them. Again, Lee was not prepared for the answer. She said, "This is wonderful, this is very good." "We did nothing to deserve this; it’s all a gift from God. But," she added, "It is not his greatest gift, Lee. No, we celebrate that tomorrow. Jesus."

Lee was speechless as he drove back to the office. In the quiet of his car he noted a couple of observations. He had plenty and along with it plenty of anxiety, while the Delgado’s despite their poverty had peace. Lee had everything and yet wanted more, but the Delgado’s had nothing and yet knew generosity. Lee had everything and yet his life was as bare as the Delgado’s apartment prior to the article running. And yet the Delgado’s who had nothing were filled with hope, contentment and had a spiritual certainty. Even though Lee had so much more than the Delgado’s, he longed for what they had in their poverty.

(From a sermon by Bryan Fink "Christmas is for all the Lees/Leighs of the World" 12/25/2008)

 
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Manuel Amparo
 
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A grandfather found his grandson, jumping up and down in his playpen, crying at the top of his voice. When Johnnie saw his grandfather, he reached up his little chubby hands and said, “Out, Gramp, out.”

It was only natural for Grandfather to reach down to lift the little fellow out of his predicament; but as he did, the mother of the child stepped up and said, “No, Johnnie, you are being punished, so you must stay in.”

The grandfather was at a loss to know what to do. The child’s tears and chubby hands reached deep into his heart, but the mother’s firmness in correcting her son for misbehavior must not be lightly taken. Here was a problem of love versus law, but love found a way. The grandfather could not take the youngster out of the playpen, so he crawled in with him.

God did not spare Paul and Silas the suffering and imprisonment, but He did come down into the prison with them.

God did not keep the three Hebrew children out of the fiery furnace, but He went into the furnace with them.

God will not always deliver us from trouble and heartache, but He has promised grace for every situation of life.—By Fred W. Parsons, These Times, March 1969.



 
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Michael McCartney
 
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Henry Blackaby said, "You never find God asking persons to dream up what they want to do for Him...Without doubt, the most important factor in each (Biblical) situation was not what the individual wanted to do for God. The most important factor was what God was about to do." (Experiencing God, page 66)

He adds, "God reveals His purposes (His tasks) so you will know what He plans to do... When God came to Noah He did not ask, 'What do you want to do for me?' He came to reveal what He was about to do. It was far more important to know what God was about to do. It really did not matter what Noah had planned to do for God. God was about to destroy the world. He wanted to work through Noah to accomplish His purposes of saving a remnant of people and animals to repopulate the earth." (page 99)

 
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Davon Huss
 
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CYMBALA'S EASTER STORY

Jim Cymbala preaches at a church in the slums of New York. He tells the following story: It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people.

As I was sitting there I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?”

We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.”

He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him. I asked him, “What’s your name?”

“David.”

“How long have you been on the street?”

“Six years.”

“How old are you?”

“Thirty-two.” He looked fifty--hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed.

“Where did you sleep last night, David?”

“Abandoned truck.”

I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking; I’ll give him some money. I won’t even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don’t give money to people. We take them to get something to eat.

I took the money out. David pushed his finger in front of me. He said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.”

I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me. See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels.

But oh, did that change! David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!”

Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I...

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NOT MY JOB

The names in this story have been changed out of respect for their privacy. Julie W told her family's story in a magazine article.

[My daughter], Allison, came home for the weekend. She opened the door, didn't speak, and dropped her duffel bag. Smudges of mascara circled her eyes. I whispered a "God-please-no" prayer.
"Come tell me about your classes." I patted the sofa. She muttered,
"Gotta take a shower."

As she clomped upstairs, I analyzed the recent changes in her: complaints of not having any money, rarely answers the phone, weight loss, pinpoint pupils, and a "who gives a rip" [facade]. I searched her purse and found a leopard-colored pipe and the unmistakable sweet odor of pot. My heart fluttered wildly like a bird stuck inside my chest.

She plodded down the stairs, hair in a towel, wearing the same wrinkled clothes. Be still and talk in a sweet voice, I told myself. You must convince her to stop. "We need to talk, honey."

"Not now. I'm tired."

"I found your pipe."

She stared at me with death-row eyes. "Chill, it's not that big of a deal."

The tightness in the den suffocated me. I needed air. "Want to walk?" I asked brightly. "Like we used to?"

"Whatever."

I knew I could talk some sense into her. "Honey, please. You've gotta stop." I grabbed her hand.

"Mom!" She jerked away.

"We have a strong family history. You don't want to..."

I never got to finish the sentence. Allison stormed out of the room and within minutes was headed back to college. I knew what I had to do--abandon everything in my life and start to worry/fix/control full-time.

I began spending most days by the phone. I evaluated Allison's reactions, gestures, and comments. Thoughts circled my mind like buzzards: What if she never stops? What if I never see her again? What if she overdoses? Or goes to jail?

I lured Allison into therapy by promising we'd go to an Italian restaurant before visits. Her first appointment day arrived. She played with her spaghetti, and I couldn't eat. "So, what do you plan to say to the counselor?" I asked.

"How should I know?"

When they called her name at the office, I hurried in to make sure the counselor understood. Allison refused to sign for me to have any information. I considered eavesdropping, but too many people were around. An hour later, she walked past me as I paid.

"What'd you talk about?"

"Just stuff."

Our therapy/lunch charade continued that way for a few weeks. Then Allison's sister informed me she was still using. She denied it, refused to see the counselor, dropped out of college, and stopped answering my calls.

I was convinced if I forgot about Allison, even for a second, or enjoyed anything, something bad might happen. Several months later, after another night of little sleep, I glanced in the mirror. I could have passed for the addict: dark circles under hopeless eyes.
I called my friend Linda. Her son, also an addict, had been sentenced to state prison. "You can't imagine all that's going on here," I said.

"Come over for coffee," she urged.

I wanted to stand guard at home but knew she'd listen and understand.

"Hey, girlfriend." Linda hugged me. I didn't touch my coffee as I blurted the saga. Linda didn't sweet-talk. "You need help."
"You haven't heard the whole story," I argued. "I'm fine--my daughter, she needs help."

"You're addicted to worry and control," Linda said. "I've been where you are." She stretched out on the sofa. "The only one you can control is yourself."

The possibility that she might be right terrified me. "It took me years to realize that I'm not in charge. God is," Linda admitted. "By worrying, you're telling God he can't handle things. Go to Al-Anon with me." I'd heard of Al-Anon but didn't see how it applied to me. But I agreed because I was in awe of Linda.

I didn't open my mouth during the meeting. Every word spoken sounded like my own thoughts:

"I worried myself sick about my alcoholic husband."
"My peace comes only when I let go and let God."
Then the speaker said, "To change, you'll have to leave behind some familiar lifelong habits." But how? This is who I am--what I do. "An alcoholic can't drink, and those of us in this room can't allow an ounce of worry. For us, it's every bit as dangerous and addictive. Worry robs our serenity."

I didn't think change was possible. Not for me. But I knew one thing for sure--I was destroying my life. That night at home I got real. "Help me, God. I can't do this without you." I began to ask God for help each morning. I whispered, "Not my job," as worry, fear, or control tried to needle back in.

Two years after that first Al-Anon meeting, Allison and I met for an impromptu lunch. She'd gone back to the same therapist. On her own.
"You can't imagine how easy it is to study when you're not high," she laughed.

"Nope, I guess not." I blinked back happy tears.

"Thanks, Mom."

"For what?"

"When you didn't fix my problems, it scared me. A few times I had to dig change out of the seat of my car for gas money. Some days," she paused, "I didn't have food." My throat felt warm with pride. She'd done it on her own. "I'm making A's. And look," she handed me her checkbook. "I have money again."

Recovery defies logic. It means doing the opposite of what feels natural. When I took care of myself and my addictions, Allison did the same.

Citation: Condensed from our sister publication Today's Christian,© 2008 Christianity Today International Julie W., "Not My Job," Today's Christian (July/August 2008)

Everyone needs a hero. For the mother who told this story it was her friend, Linda. Then she turned to God as her ultimate hero. We all could do with someone to help us work through our troubles. We need a victorious warrior to fight our battles. No one knows that better than God himself.

From Mark Haines' Sermon "Our Mighty God"

 
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Michael McCartney
 
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THE TRUTH OF THE BOOK

John Ortberg states

"It’s a strange thing: the book has never been so accessible. According to Guinness Book of Records, L. Ron Hubbard’s writings of scientology have been translated into 65 languages; the Koran is supposed to be read in Arabic so it hasn’t been translated as much; the Book of Mormon is in about 100 languages. But 2,656 languages have all or some of the Bible. Some 65 million copies of the Bible are brought or distributed in the U.S. every year--nothing else is a close second. The average house has at least three. People cheer the Bible, buy the Bible, give the Bible, own the Bible-they just don’t actually read the Bible. According to George Gallup: One Third of those surveyed know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Fewer than half can name the first book of the Bible; 80 percent of born-again Christians believe the phrase Go helps those who help themselves is in the Bible (it’s Ben Franklin, if you’re curious). So I’m thinking a lot these days about how to help the people that God brings my way to know and love the book" (Article People of The Book, pages 37-40 from Leadership Edition Winter 2008).

 
Contributed By:
Andrew Moffatt
 
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The Parable of Water

There are a lot of things I could compare when it comes to living in the world, sexual sin, the lust we have for objects that are shiny; but, I’ve decided that I’m not going to. I’ve decided to discuss two different liquids. One of them is water and the other is Coca Cola.

The two I’m going to compare in this way:
Let’s just pretend that water is the God’s kingdom stuff, the things that come from the Father.(repeat)
Let’s also pretend that Coke on the other hand is the world.(repeat)

By my own admission, there’s always some Coke in the Moffatt family grocery trolley. We are Salvationist’s we don’t smoke, we don’t drink, or gamble – but hey we have Coke in the fridge.

1) When I see a Coke bottle or Coke advertising I’m keen for a Coke. On a hot day I could be said to be craving a Coke. Water might be better for me, the truth is water is better for me, but there is water in Coke, Coke contains carbonated purified water, cane sugar, caramel 150d (colour), food acid (338), flavour, and caffeine. It says that about caffeine twice, the second time in bold letters.

On the other hand water contains two hydrogen atoms to every oxygen atom, a virtual trinity of atoms. All life is dependent on water if it knows it or not.

Coke all that yummy caramel coloured, caffeine enhanced goodness. The caffeine helps fuel the craving. That this has all been in the fridge – ice cold, (open the can), all enhances the craving, (take a sip) – how is that craving going for you? Now remember I’m pretending water is God’s Kingdom stuff and that Coke is the world.

2) Now the lust of the eyes, Coke comes in a “contour bottle” with its hoop skirt appearance and the “dynamic ribbon device” note the attractive red and white against the dark caramel of the liquid. With the trademark Coca-Cola, lettering. Nice! This is one of the most widely recognised designs in the world.

So along with the craving and the eye attractiveness thingy Coke is a must! I even found this bottle that has my name on it, have a Coke with Andrew, that’s clever.
Water on the other hand, well its always close, we see it in creation, it sustains life, it cleans us, allows growth, it rains down on us. All life is dependent on water whether it knows it or not. You could deny all knowledge of water but it still sustains you.

Like Coke / the world comes in different flavours; mmm vanilla, with or without sugar and it’s on special often. Water / that kingdom of God stuff is always there, the benefits of it are always there, the life sustaining growth that it brings is always there, you could almost take it for granted, how often do we pass it over for the Coke. Coke that liquid that comes in a variety of sizes, continually costs, not to mention the litter that is left behind. When if we just turned the tap on, if we just leapt into a lake of water we would have a supply that would never run out and the price of which has been paid for us.

The other thing about the world is that just when you believe that you have found satisfaction in Coca Cola, you discover Dr Pepper!

 
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Tim Harrison
 
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THE REFINER'S FIRE

The story is told of a group of women that met for Bible study. While studying in the book of Malachi, chapter three, they came across verse three which says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." This verse puzzled the women and they wondered how this statement applied to the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out more about the process of refining silver, and to get back to the group at their next Bible study.

The following week, the woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him while at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest, beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.

As she watched the silversmith work, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire, where the flames were the hottest as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot, then she thought again about the verse, that "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."

She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the entire time the silver was being refined. The man answered yes...

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Contributed By:
David Tack
 
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THE 40 MARTYRS

"History knows them as the forty martyrs of Sebaste. They were soldiers in the famed Twelfth Legion of Rome’s imperial army, around A.D. 320. One day the captain informed his troops that Emperor Licinius had sent down an edict commanding all soldiers to offer a sacrifice to his pagan god. Forty of the soldiers were followers of Christ, and they refused. 'You can have our armor and even our bodies, but our hearts' allegiance belongs to Jesus Christ,' they said.

"The emperor decided to make an example of the soldiers, so in the middle of winter he marched them onto a frozen lake and stripped them of their clothes. 'Renounce your God and you will be spared from death,' he told them. Not one man came forward. So he left them there, huddled together to contemplate his offer. Throughout the night the man stayed together, singing their song of victory: Forty Martyrs for Christ. When morning came, thirty-nine of the men had frozen to death. The one survivor finally relented and crawled to safety, recanting his confession of faith in order to live. The officer in charge that night had been so moved by the scene that during his watch he’d come to Jesus, so he broke rank and walked out onto the ice. Stripping his clothes he openly confessed his faith in Christ. The furious emperor demanded that he renounce Jesus, but he refused. When the ordeal was over, the Roman soldiers carried forty frozen men off of the ice."

(Ref: Lahaye, Tim, Jerry B. Jenkins and Frank M. Martin ed., Embracing Eternity, Living Each Day With a Heart Toward Heaven: The Persecuted, Matthew 5:10- February 15. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004.)

 
Contributed By:
Bishop Lalachan Abraham
 
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"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." (Socrates)

You cannot learn Godly wisdom in a University and get a degree in it. It can only come to a heart in right relationship with God, and seeking it.

 
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