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Illustration: At first I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there sort of like the president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I didn’t really know Him. But later on when I recognized this Higher Power, It seemed as though life was rather like a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that God was in the back helping me pedal. I don’t know just when it was that he suggested we change places, but life has not been the same since—life with my Higher Power, that is. God makes life exciting! But when He took the lead, it was all I could do to hang on! He knew delightful paths, up mountains and through rocky places—and at breakneck speeds. Even though it looked like madness, he said, “Pedal!” I worried and was anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into adventure. When I’d say, “I’m scared,” He’d lean back and touch my hand. He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance, and joy. They gave me their gifts to take on my journey, our journey, God’s and mine. And we were off again. He said, “Give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage, too much weight.” So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving I received, and our burden became light. At first I did not trust Him in control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it. But He knows bike secrets—knows how to make it lean to take sharp corners, dodge large rocks, and speed through scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places. I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant Companion. And when I’m sure I just can’t do any more, He just smiles and says, “Pedal!”
James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 247-248.
HISTORY IS STORY OF UNFORSEEN
In the introduction to his A History of Europe, H.A.L. Fisher writes:
"Men wiser and more learned than I have discovered in history a plot, a rhythm, a predetermined pattern. But these harmonies are concealed from me. I can see only one emergency following another, as wave follows upon wave--there can be no generalization. There is only one safe rule for the historian--that he should recognize in the development of human destiny the play of the contingent and the unforeseen."
— Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations —
Sermon Central Staff
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: MERIT YOUR FREEDOM
In the last days of the Civil War, the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia, fell to the Union army. Abraham Lincoln insisted on visiting the city. Even though no one knew he was coming, slaves recognized him immediately and thronged around him. He had liberated them by the Emancipation Proclamation, and now Lincoln’s army had set them free. According to Admiral David Porter, an eyewitness, Lincoln spoke to the throng around him: "My poor friends, you are free—free as air. You can cast off the name of slave and trample upon it ... . Liberty is your birthright."
But Lincoln also warned them not to abuse their freedom. "Let the world see that you merit [your freedom]," Lincoln said, "Don’t let your joy carry you into excesses. Learn the laws and obey them."
That is very much like the message Jesus gives to those whom he has liberated by his death and resurrection. Jesus gives us our true birthright—spiritual freedom. But that freedom isn’t an excuse for disobedience; it forms the basis for learning and obeying God’s laws. It gives us direction in action.
(From a sermon by Christopher Surber, All Things are Possible with God, 8/15/2012)
WHAT MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME
My mother taught me RELIGION: When I spilled grape juice on the carpet, she instructed, "You better pray the stain will come out of the carpet."
My mother taught me LOGIC: From her decisive words, "Because I said so, that’s why."
My mother taught me FORESIGHT: "Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you’re in an accident."
My mother taught me IRONY: "Keep laughing, and I’ll give you something to cry about."
My mother taught me about STAMINA: "You’ll sit there ’til all that spinach is finished."
My mother taught me about WEATHER: "It looks as if a tornado swept through your room."
My mother taught me THE CIRCLE OF LIFE: "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."...
I was riding one of our Shetland ponies, Trigger or Sugarfoot. They were prone to buck you off from time to time and one of those occasions occurred. Well, as I hit the ground I heard someone call my name, “Bruce.” I rolled over to see who it was and no one did I see. However, when I looked back the pony had just stepped where I rolled from. In God’s grace, He was teaching me to learn to listen to His voice and to trust Him to protect me. God was teaching me to depend upon Him for the help I would need in living life.
Sermon Central Staff
THANKFUL PEOPLE ARE HAPPY PEOPLE
I read a news story once of a woman who was getting ready to jump off a 44 story building in New York City.
Witnesses said that she did not look like the type of person who would do such a thing. She was very distinguished and well dressed.
All the attempts made by the police to get the woman off the ledge had failed.
One of the officers asked if he could call his pastor in to see if he could help. When the pastor arrived, he asked permission to go to the ledge and talk to the woman.
As the pastor neared the edge the woman screamed, "Don't come any closer or I'll jump!"
The pastor took a step back and then said, "I am sorry that you believe no one loves you."
This got the woman's attention and it got the attention of the police. That was something that you don't usually say to a person who is threatening suicide.
The woman took a step towards the pastor and said, "My grandchildren love me and so does my children. My whole family loves me! I have 8 wonderful grandchildren and they love me."
The pastor took a step towards the woman and said, "Well then, you must be very poor, maybe that is why you want to take your own life."
The woman who was a little overweight said, "Do I look like I go without any meals? We live in a very nice apartment. I'm not poor."
The pastor took another step closer to her and was now 3 feet from her when he asked, "Then why do you want to kill yourself? I don't understand."
The woman thought for a moment and then said, "You know, I don't really remember."
The story ends with the pastor and the woman walking towards the elevator as she shows him pictures of her grandchildren. Eventually this woman becomes a volunteer on the city's suicide hotline, helping others choose life.
What did the pastor do to help this woman?
He helped her get her eyes off herself and onto the many ways that God had blessed her.
She learned a valuable lesson that day. She learned that thankful people are happy people.
If you don't learn anything else today, I hope you learn this valuable lesson. Thankful people are happy people.
(From a sermon by Greg Carr, Thankful People are _______ People, 12/23/2010)
Catherine Marshall wrote:
"My friend Marge had an experience aboard a plane bound for Cleveland, waiting for takeoff. As she settled into her seat, Marge noticed a strange phenomenon. On one side of the airplane a sunset suffused the entire sky with glorious color. But out of the window next to her seat, all Marge could see was a sky dark and threatening, with no sign of the sunset.
"As the plane’s engines began to roar, a gentle Voice spoke within her. 'You have noticed the windows,' He murmured beneath the roar and thrust of the takeoff. 'Your life, too, will contain some happy, beautiful times, but also some dark shadows. Here’s a lesson I want to teach you to save you much heartache and allow you to abide in Me with continual peace and joy.
"'You see, it doesn’t matter which window you look through; this plane is still going to Cleveland. So it is in your life. You have a choice. You can dwell on the gloomy picture. Or you can focus on the bright things and leave the dark, ominous situations to Me. I alone can handle them anyway.
"'And the final destination is not influenced by what you see or feel along the way. Learn this, act on it and you will be released, able to experience the peace that passes understanding.'"
The Unbaptized Arm
Ivan the Great was the tsar of all of Russia during the Fifteenth Century. He brought together the warring tribes into one vast empire--the Soviet Union. As a fighting man he was courageous. As a general he was brilliant. He drove out the Tartars and established peace across the nation.
However, Ivan was so busy waging his campaigns that he did not have a family. His friends and advisers were quite concerned. They reminded him that there was no heir to the throne, and should anything happen to him the union would shatter into chaos. "You must take a wife who can bear you a son." The busy soldier statesman said to them that he did not have the time to search for a bride, but if they would find a suitable one, he would marry her.
The counselors and advisers searched the capitals of Europe to find an appropriate wife for the great tsar. And find her, they did. They reported to Ivan of the beautiful dark eyed daughter of the King of Greece. She was young, brilliant, and charming. He agreed to marry her sight unseen.
The King of Greece was delighted. It would align Greece in a favorable way with the emerging giant of the north. But there had to be one condition, "He cannot marry my daughter unless he becomes a member of the Greek Orthodox Church." Ivan’s response, "I will do it!"
So, a priest was dispatched to Moscow to instruct Ivan in Orthodox doctrine. Ivan was a quick student and learned the catechism in record time. Arrangements were concluded, and the tsar made his way to Athens accompanied by 500 of his crack troops--his personal palace guard.
He was to be baptized into the Orthodox church by immersion, as was the custom of the Eastern Church. His soldiers, ever loyal, asked to be baptized also. The Patriarch of the Church assigned 500 priests to give the soldiers a one-on-one catechism crash course. The soldiers, all 500 of them, were to be immersed in one mass baptism. Crowds gathered from all over Greece.
What a sight that must have been, 500 priests and 500 soldiers, a thousand people, walking into the blue Mediterranean. The priests were dressed in black robes and tall black hats, the official dress of the Orthodox Church. The soldiers wore their battle uniforms with of all their regalia--ribbons of valor, medals of courage. and their weapons of battle.
Suddenly, there was a problem. The Church prohibited professional soldiers from being members; they w...
LOOKING THROUGH CLEAN WINDOWS
A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside.
'That laundry is not very clean', she said. 'She doesn't know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap'
Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Everytime her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments.
About one month later, the woman was surprised to see nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband: 'Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?'
The husband said, 'I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.'
And so it is with life. What we see when watching others, depends on the purity of the window through which we look.
The Spirit of Power that we receive is not like the human power that we recognize as strong. It’s a power unlike anything we can do on our own.
A young man growing up in the wrong part of Houston became a bully. He would get in fights in school, in the neighborhood, and began mugging people to get spending money. He even beat up people just for the sake of doing it.
He learned to box, and became pretty good at it. He began to make a lot of money and could have almost anything he wanted. One day, during his training session for an upcoming bout, he heard his mom talking to his sister on the telephone about his favorite nephew. The young boy had had a seizure and now lay in a coma in the hospital. Doctors said he would probably die, but that if he came out of the coma he wouldn’t be able to move his limbs, or speak, or do any of the human functions we consider part of living.
He ran into the room where his mom was on the phone and shouted, “Momma, call the hospital and tell those doctors to give him the best of everything. Tell them I’ll take care of all the bills, to fly in the best doctors from wherever they have to. Tell them who I am, and that I’ll take care of everything — whatever it costs.”
His mom spoke to the doctors, and then told him, “Son, you’re just going to have to pray.”
He realized then how grave the situation was. When someone tells you the only thing you can do is pray, things are looking pretty bad.
Then it hit him. All of his money, his fame, his influence, his friends — none of that could solve this problem. It was out of his hands, out of the doctor’s hands, out of everyone’s hands. For the first time, he was totally powerless.
And for the first time, George Foreman dropped to his knees and prayed.
He wasn’t sure God existed, but he knew that when all else failed, people prayed. He asked God, if he really existed, to help his nephew. Then he got back in bed. A few seconds later, he got back on his knees and offered to give up all his wealth if God would heal his nephew. Then he got back in bed again. A few seconds later he got back on his knees a third time and got angry at God for letting this happen to his nephew, a child who hadn’t experienced life yet. George told God to take his life instead. Let the boy live and take George’s life instead.
The next morning George’s sister called from the hospital. His nephew had woken up and could move his eyes, but the doctors said he wouldn’t ever walk again.
She called later that day, and the boy had begun moving his toes. The next day the boy was talking, and a week later he was on his way home, “walking, talking, and back to normal.” The doctors had no logical explanation. But George Foreman knew God had just given him a miracle.
Three months later in March 1977, George Foreman died in his locker room after fighting Jimmy Young. He collapsed in a heap, and entered what he describes as “a deep, dark void, like a bottomless pit.”
In his book, God in My Corner — A Spiritual Memoir, George wrote “I knew I was dead, and that this wasn’t heaven. I was terrified, knowing I had no way out. Sorrow beyond description engulfed my soul, more than anyone could ever imagine. If you multiplied every disturbing and frightening thought that you’ve ever had during your entire life, that wouldn’t come close to the panic I felt. …
“ I screamed with every ounce of strength in me, ‘I don’t care if this is death. I still believe in God.’
“Instantly, what seemed to be like a giant hand reached down and snatched me out of the terrifying place. Immediately, I was back inside my body in the dressing room.”
George accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, and devoted himself to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. He realized his human power, his money, his prestige, were worthless in the next life, and meant to be used as tools to lead others to Jesus during this one.
He went on to win the Heavyweight Championship of the World twice. He was ordained as an evangelist in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and became pastor of a small church. He also became involved in prison and hospital ministries.
You probably know him best for the George Foreman Grills that continue to sell around the world. And he recently baptized his own 23-year-old daughter who finally decided to dedicated her own life to Jesus.
That’s God’s idea of power.