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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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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"

 
Contributed By:
Bobby Scobey
 
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A law on drunken driving in Louisiana is now one of the toughest in the nation. There is a mandatory prison sentence for anyone convicted of driving while intoxicated. Getting it passed was a major victory for various groups against drunk driving. They could not have gotten it passed it if were not for the help of one particular state legislator who sponsored the bill.

Not long after the new law took effect the first person to be arrested for DUI was brought before the judge and found guilty. He was sentenced to a prison term. Who was he? The same legislator who sponsored the bill! Jesus said, “For the way you judge, you will be judged, and by your standard of measure it shall be measured to you.”

 
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GETTING PAST YOUR PAST

Consider Charles Colson, the aide to Richard Nixon who was sent to jail for Watergate. As as a result of his experience as a convicted felon, Colson founded Prison Fellowship, now the world’s largest Christian outreach to prisoners and their families. Prison Fellowship has more than 50,000 volunteers working in hundreds of prisons in 88 countries around the world. A ministry that has blessed millions of people got started twenty-five years ago because Charles Colson committed a crime. God’s eternal purposes for that man included even the sin that sent him to prison. It was a part of God’s plan from the very beginning.

But the story that matters most to you isn’t Peter’s, or Paul’s, or even Charles Colson’s. It’s yours. And what I want to say to you this morning is that the story of your life has not been ruined, not by your sin or anyone else’s. God’s good plan for your life is not buried under the mistakes of the past. God has a plan for your life, a good plan, a wise plan, a loving plan, a sovereign plan, and that plan is still in effect. You haven’t missed it. He is working ...

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Contributed By:
Austin Mansfield
 
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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.

 
Contributed By:
Bruce Ball
 
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PRAYER AND THE MOTORCYCLE

There was a woman at work when she received a phone call that her daughter was very sick with a fever. She left work and stopped by the pharmacy to get some medication for her daughter.

She returned to her car to find that she had locked the keys inside the car when she went into the pharmacy and was now unable to get into her car to drive home.

She didn’t know what to do and started to panic, so she called home and told the baby sitter what had happened and that she did not know what to do. The baby sitter told her to find a coat hanger and see if that would open the door.

The woman looked around and found an old rusty coat hanger that had been thrown down on the ground, possibly by someone else who also had locked their keys in their car. Then she looked at the hanger and said, "I don’t know how to use this." So she bowed her head and asked God to send her some help.

In so doing, she obeyed the command to never stop praying. Do you think God would reward her for that?

Within five minutes a motorcycle roared up and pulled into the parking space next to her car. A rough, dirty-looking biker got off and saw her situation. He asked if he could help her. The woman thought, "This is what you sent to help me, God?"

She finally told him yes, as she needed to hurry and get home to her sick daughter. He walked over to the car, and in less than one minute the car was opened. She hugged the man and through her tears she said, "Thank you so much! You are such a nice man."

The man replied; "No, I’m not, Lady. I just got out of prison for car theft." The woman hugged the man again and with sobbing tears cried out to God, "You even sent me a professional."

 
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THE RISE AND FALL OF NINE RICH MEN

A popular story recounts a meeting that may have taken place at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago in 1923. There is debate whether the meeting in fact occurred, but what is not in question is the actual rise and fall of the men featured in the story, who were nine of the richest men in the world at that time: (1) Charles Schwab, President of the world’s largest independent steel company; (2) Samuel Insull, President of the world’s largest utility company; (3) Howard Hopson, President of the largest gas firm; (4) Arthur Cutten, the greatest wheat speculator; (5) Richard Whitney, President of the New York Stock Exchange; (6) Albert Fall, member of the President’s Cabinet; (7) Leon Frazier, President of the Bank of International Settlements; (8) Jessie Livermore, the greatest speculator in the Stock Market; and (9) Ivar Kreuger, head of the company with the most widely distributed securities in the world.

What happened to these powerful and rich men twenty-five years later? (1) Charles Schwab had died in bankruptcy, having lived on borrowed money for five years before his death. (2) Samuel Insull had died virtually penniless after spending some time as a fugitive from justice. (3) Howard Hopson became insane. (4) Arthur Cutten died overseas, broke. (5) Richard Whitney had spent time in a mental asylum. (6) Albert Fall was released from prison so he could die at home. (7) Leon Fraizer, (8) Jessie Livermore, and (9) Ivar Kreuger each died by suicide. Measured by wealth and power these men achieved success, at least temporarily. But it did not surely guarantee them a truly successful life.

Many people think of fame and fortune when they measure success. However, at some point in life, most people come to realize that inner peace and soul-deep satisfaction come not from fame and money, but having lived a life based on integrity and noble character.

(From a sermon by Sajeev Painunkal SJ, What Changed Zaccheus? 10/30/2010 )

 
Contributed By:
Jim Kane
 
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In 1994 two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on Biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments, and a large orphanage.
It was nearing the holiday season for the orphans to hear for the first time the traditional Christmas story. They told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem and finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where Jesus was born and placed in the manger.
Throughout the story, the children, according to one of the Americans, “sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.”
As a follow-up activity to the story, each child was given three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manager. Each child was also given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins which the children tore into strips the paper and carefully laid them in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel from a thrown away nightgown were used for the baby’s blanket. From pieces of tan felt a doll-like baby was made.
As they made their way around the room to observe the children this is what one of the Americans noted, “All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project.
As I looked at the little boy’s manger, I was startled to see, not one but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger.”
The observer goes on to note that Misha very accurately recalled the story that had been told until he came to the part where Mary put Jesus in the manger. “Then Misha,” it is noted, “started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said, “And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no momma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay.
Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn’t because I didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I t...

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Contributed By:
Sean Harder
 
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VALENTINUS

"Valentinus was the name of a young man who lived in Rome during reign of Claudius II when Christians were being persecuted. Although he was not a Christian, he helped them, but he was caught and put into prison. In prison he became a believer in Jesus. Because of this, Valentinus was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs, stoned and finally beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate on February 14, 269. After his death, this gate was known as Porta Valentini. While he was in prison he sent messages to his friends saying, "Remember your Valentine!" and "I love you."

Even Valentine's Day, like Halloween, has Christian beginnings, but the world has taken them over and removed any trace, like it is trying to do with Easter and Christmas, as well.

 
Contributed By:
Nathan Johnson
 
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Dr. Thomas M. Carter, an ex-convict, tells a thrilling story of his mother who constantly followed him with her prayers. On one occasion while he was in prison, she received a telegram stating that he was dead and asking what she wanted done with his body. Stunned by the news, she opened her Bible and laid the message beside it. "Oh, God," she said, "I have steadfastly believed that You are a rewarder of them who diligently seek You. I felt sure that I would live to see Tom saved and preaching the Gospel; and now this wire says he is dead. Lord, which is true, this telegram or Your promises to me?" When she rose from her knees, having won the victory, she sent this note to the prison: "You must be wrong. My boy is not dead!" There had been a mistake -- Tom Carter was alive! He was later converted and lived to preach!

 
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