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Contributed By:
Jim Kane
 
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Redemption and Restoration in Real Life


I conclude this morning with a story about what happened since a tragic event that took place 9 months ago around Christmas time at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. I share it because I think it makes a point about moving beyond the 'Who, Them?' To THEM!

The event was the shooting of several people in the church parking lot and building that left three dead and three wounded. The young man, who had done the shooting, killed himself after being shot by a security guard. Earlier that day, he had entered Youth with A Mission Headquarters in suburban Denver, shooting four and killing two. His name was Matthew Murray, and he had been raised in a Christian home.

The tragedy shook the church that had just started to come out of the painful and very public story about their former pastor's, Ted Haggard, sexual sin. Now they were faced with this terrible tragedy.

In a recent Christianity Today article, it was told that after granting the interview to talk about that day and its after effects, it was revealed that Brady Boyd, the current Senior Minister, called Murray's parents and asked if they would like to come to New Life and see where 'their son had passed away.' They said they had wanted to, but had refrained from do so because of their concerns for the church. They were also asked if they would be willing to meet with members of the family who had lost two teenage daughters that morning. They said yes. The same invitation was extended to the victim's family, the Work's. They said yes.

After showing the Murrays around the church where the tragic events took place, they met with the Work's in Boyd's office. "What happened there in the two hours in my office ... was the most significant ministry moment I've experienced, maybe in all of my life," Boyd said. When they first entered the office, the two families embraced. They sat, wept, and cried together, Boyd said, for "I don't know how long." Then they prayed together.

Later Jeanne Assam [the security guard who shot Murray] was invited to join them. When Jeanne, who had undoubtedly saved many lives but had been forced to shoot the Murray's son, walked into the room, "the Murrays embraced her and hugged her and released her from any guilt and remorse. The dad looked at Jeanne and said, "Please know we're so sorry that you had to do what you did. We're so sorry."

The article concludes with these words from Boyd, "We can talk philosophically about repentance and redemption and going forward with God," Boyd said, "but what I saw in that room in my office was the greatest testimony of forgiveness and redemption that I have ever seen. It was a testimony that God really can restore and redeem."

 
Contributed By:
C. Scott Ghan
 
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Letter home from a W VA farm kid enduring Marine Basic Training on Paris Island.

Dear Ma and Pa, I am well. Hope you are. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minch by a mile. Tell them to join up quick before all of the places are filled. // I was restless at first because you get to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m. But I am getting so I like to sleep late. Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot, and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing. // Men got to shave but it is not so bad, thereís warm water. // Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food, but tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the two city boys that live on coffee. Their food, plus yours, holds you until noon when you get fed again. Itís no wonder these city boys canít walk much. //We go on íroute marches,í which the platoon sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, itís not my place to tell him different. A íroute marchí is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks. // The sergeant is like a school teacher. He nags a lot. The Captain is like the school board. Majors and colonels just ride around and frown. They donít bother you none. // This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I donít know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and donít move, and it ainít shooting at you like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You donít even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes. // Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, they break real easy. It ainít like fighting with that ole bull at home. Iím about the best they got in this except for that Tug Jordan from over in Silver Lake. I only beat him once. He joined up the same time as me, but Iím only 5í6í and 130 pounds and heís 6í8í and near 300 pounds dry. // Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get onto this setup and come stampeding in. // Your loving daughter, //Alice

 
Contributed By:
Larry Wilson
 
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A RELIGION WORTH HAVING

Dr. F. E. Marsh used to tell that on one occasion he was preaching on the importance of confession of sin and, wherever possible, of restitution for wrong done to others. Afterward a young man came up to him and said: "Pastor, you have put me in a sad fix. I have wronged another and am ashamed to confess it or try to put it right. I am a boatbuilder, and the man I work for is an unbeliever. I have talked to him often about his need of Christ and have urged him to come and hear you preach, but he scoffs and ridicules it all.

"In my work, copper nails are used because they do not rust in the water, but they are quite expensive, so I had been carrying home quantities of them to use on a boat I am building in my back yard." The pastor's sermon had brought him face to face the fact that he was just a common thief. "But," he said, "I cannot go to my boss and tell him what I have done, or offer to pay for those I have used. If I do he will think I am just a hypocrite, and yet those copper nails are digging into my conscience, and I know I shall never have peace until I put this matter right."

One night he came again to Dr. Marsh and exclaimed,"Pastor, I've settled for the copper nails, and my conscience is relieved at last."

"What happened when you confessed?" asked the pastor.

"Oh, he looked queerly at me, and then said, 'George, I always did think you were just a hypocrite, but now I begin to feel there's something in this Christianity after all. Any religion that makes a dishonest workman confess that he has been stealing copper nails, and offer to settle for them, must be worth having."

--Emergency Post Knight's Master Book of New Illustrations.

 
Contributed By:
Mark Brunner
 
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ďSome Stings Are Worse Than Others!Ē 1 Samuel 18: 1-14 Key verse(s): 11-12: ďSaul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had left Saul.Ē
Chuck Swindoll tell the story of a man who backed his bright, shiny new Cadillac out of the driveway and headed for the freeway on his daily commute to work downtown. He was busily shaving himself as he drove--a normal operation for him. I suppose he had his radio on, and he was listening to the news and traffic reports as he made his way to his office. Witnesses say that suddenly he reached up behind his neck and slumped over the wheel. The car swerved and went into a culvert, and he was killed. His car was completely demolished.

An autopsy was ordered. Ad they began to put together the details, a keen-thinking physician noticed a small pinprick behind the manís ear where a wasp had probably flown from behind the seat, or some part of the car, and had stung him, temporarily paralyzing a particular area of the nerve and blinding him with pain. He slumped over the wheel, lost control of the car, and died. Normally a grown man with normal strength can just swat away a little wasp with no problem. But when that wasp struck its mark, it led to a fatal crash. (Swidollís Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes, pg. 180)

When a loved one becomes an enemy, just swatting away at the problem will seldom attain the results so necessary for the restoration of that relationship. A loved one become an enemy may be an enemy whose sting can cause long-lasting, even fatal harm to a relationship. David knew this well. Saul had taken David in as his own son. He ate at the kingís table and shared in the relationship of Saulís family. Jealousy, however, had caused Saulís love to turn into a hatred for David almost overnight. Saul craved fame and glory and when he saw David garnering more than him, he turned on David and tried to kill him. David had a choice. He could defend himself against these attacks and possibly make Saulís hurts even deeper or he could flee the relationship altogether in hopes that time and separation would bring repentance and reconciliation. David chose to flee and retain h...

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Author and teacher, Dr. Howard Hendricks tells the story of a young man who strayed from the Lord but was finally brought back by the help of a friend who really loved him. When there was full repentance and restoration, Dr. Hendricks asked this Christian how it felt away from the Lord. The young man said it seemed like he was out at sea, in deep water, deep trouble, and all his friends were on the shore hurling biblical accusations at him about justice, penalty, and wrong.
“But, there was one Christian brother who actually swam out to get me and would not let me go. I fought him, but he pushed aside my fighting, grasped me, put a life jacket around me, and took me to shore. By the grace of God, he was the reason I was restored. He would not let me go.”

 
Contributed By:
David  Yarbrough
 
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Recently one of the testimonies at a Missions conference was so powerful it seemed to take the breath away from the people attending. It was the story of a blind woman by the name of Pani. She was listening to the Jesus film in her village as those with their sight were watching. Pani was greatly moved when, she heard on the film, Jesus restored the sight of the blind man. When Pani heard these words she cried out, “I want to receive my sight too.” At the conclusion of the film a miracle took place. Pani could see! Jesus restored her sight! As the mission conference attendees heard this wonderful story they began to show emotion for such a miracle. They were stopped of their emotional exuberance by the missionary as he gave them a reminder. The restoration of Pani’s sight was not the greatest miracle that evening.
A greater miracle took place than the restoration of her sight. Pani received forgiveness of her sins that night by trusting Jesus as her Savior! She heard Jesus speak the sweetest words of all, “Your sins are forgiven.”

 
Contributed By:
MELVIN NEWLAND
 
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A few years ago Calvin & Hobbes were my favorite cartoon characters - Calvin, the hyper-active little boy with a wild & vivid imagination, & his companion, Hobbes, a tiger.

Well, in one cartoon Calvin & Hobbes were lying in the shade of a tree on a summer afternoon discussing the important things of life. Calvin says, "What if there is no heaven? What if this is all we get?" Hobbes answers, "Well, if this is all we get I guess weíll just have to accept it." Calvin replies, "Yeah, but if Iím not going to be rewarded for my good deeds, I want to know it now."

 
Contributed By:
Scott Weber
 
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Leonardo was ďskilled at painting the difference between the sexes,Ē and the ďdelicate folded hands, and the hint of a bosom. It was, without a doubtÖfemale.Ē

The reference to delicate folded hands as a proof that the figure traditionally identified as John was really Mary Magdalene is forced. In the Study for the Hands of John in the Windsor Castle Royal Collection (no. 12543), they do not appear distinctly feminine. They may be the hands of a woman, but then again they could as easily be those of a man. In The Last Supper itself, Johnís hands are no less masculine than most of the other hands in the picture.

As for the hint of a bosom, this is entirely unjustified. Even if an overly fertile imagination might find such a ďhintĒ on the character of John where his clothes are loose, on the other side, given the absence of the loose cloak, we should be able to detect even clearer evidence of a bosom, we see instead that Johnís chest is conspicuously bosomless. Here again Brownís assertion may derive from his reliance on the conspiracy book The Templar Revelation, where we read of ďthe tiny, graceful hand, the pretty, elfin features, the distinctly female bosom and the gold necklaceĒ (p. 20).

Interestingly a more recent, post-1999-Last-Supper-restoration book by The Templar Revelations author Lynn Picknett now replaces the old distinctly female bosom claim, with the equally groundless assertion that there is ďa dark smudge where Ďhisí breasts should be.Ē Picknett apparently wants us now to believe that the female bosom was originally there, but that it was subsequently rubbed out.

In a posting from ABC News (Nov 3, 2003) we read.
ďMany art historians have dismissed the theory that the figure is a woman, saying itís just a tradition to paint John as beardless and long-haired. ĎIt looks like a young male. I see no breasts,í art historian Jack Wasserman told ABCNEWS.Ē Wasserman is a well-known Leonardo scholar.

Finally, Johnís face is admittedly effeminate, but not more so than th...

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Contributed By:
Richard Goble
 
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As I was growing up with a younger brother and sister, one of our favorite games to play was baseball. We had a plastic bat and ball, and we would team up with some of the neighborhood kids and play ball in the back yard.
On one particular occasion my mom took our bat away from us because we were arguing, like all brothers and sisters tend to do. But this did not deter us from playing our favorite game. Mom took the bat, but not the ball. So we took the metal brace from the swing set (the metal bar that is used to brace two legs together on each end) and started using it as a bat.
I was at bat when I swung at a pitch and felt two distinct points of contact; one was with the ball, and the second was with my sisterís head. I didnít realize that she had walked up behind me, and on my follow through I clobbered her on the forehead with the end of the brace.
I turned around only to discover that my sister was screaming and bleeding profusely. In fact, not much of her face was really visible because she was covered in blood. I knew I was in trouble, so while my sister bled and cried, I pleaded with her not to tell momma. I figured that washing her down with the water hose to get rid of the blood would be enough to take care of the situation. Once the bleeding stopped, I would be in the clear. But in my panic to discover a way to keep from getting a good whipping, I couldnít see that the greater need was for my sister to receive medical attention. She had to be taken to the emergency room where she received several stitches to bind up her wound.
The point of this story is this. When my mom came out to find out what was going on, she didnít stop to dwell on how guilty I was for disobeying her, or to find out every detail about what had happened. As soon as she saw the blood, she swept my sister up in her arms, carried her into the house to put a bandage on her head, and drove her to the hospital so that she could get the medical attention she desperately needed. As a matter of fact, the whipping I deserved never came. My momís actions showed that her concern for my sisterís health and well-being was more important than trying to blame somebody for the accident that had caused her injuries, or for punishing the one who was responsible.
Pastors need to learn that lesson.
So many times we have been guilty of preaching on sin just so we can point a finger of blame at someone who has stumbled under the load of temptation that Satan brings to bear upon us. God forgive us for our arrogance and our shortsightedness. Forgive us for falling short of our God-given responsibility to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised (Luke 4:18). Our obligation as pastors is not only to warn people of sin and the consequences it brings, but also to bind the wounds of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been victimized by the enemy, and to tell those who have never known the washing of regeneration that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay their sin debt, that His blood can wash away all of your sins, and that He rose from the dead to prove that He has power over death, hell and the grave.
Christians need to learn that lesson.
How many of us have been guilty of shooting our wounded? How many have kicked a brother or sister when they were down, rather than bearing their burden, and helping to restore them back into the sweetness of full fellowship with our Lord? We ought to be ashamed, for the Church is to be our refuge, our safe haven, and our place of restoration. But all too often it becomes a place of torment and ridicule because of those who have forgotten to ďconsider themselves, lest they also be tempted.Ē
Some of you this morning have been through the ringer in your battle with sin this week. Youíre battered and bloodied from the near lethal blows that Satan has inflicted upon you, and you desperately need medical attention, the kind of medical attention that only Jesus Christ can give. So I stand before you today, not with a pointed finger, but with outstretched hands, pleading with you to come this morning and be washed in the pure refreshing waters of Godís abundant grace and mercy. You need to be washed, to clean your feet. Youíve already been bathed in His loving grace and mercy. But you need to come to Jesus, confessing your sins and you will experience complete and total forgiveness and cleansing. Your fellowship will be restored, and your hope will be renewed. Youíve struggled with sin long enough. Now is the time to come back into the grace and mercy of the Lord.
Others of you may just simply be lost. Youíve washed your feet many times. Youíve turned over a new leaf only to find the same old dirty sin on the other side. Youíve attended church, and maybe even been baptized and joined the church. But youíve never trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ to save you from your sins. Friend, let me tell you, because I love you, that if you donít come to know Jesus Christ in the full pardon of sin, your eternal destination is hell. But if you come, you must come trusting in nothing but the shed blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse you all of your sins. You canít do anything to earn His favor, and you canít bring anything with you but a broken heart and a contrite spirit. You canít get better to come to Him. You can only plead with Him to forgive you as you are, a worthless sinner begging for mercy and pardon. You can only come to Jesus Christ in absolute unworthiness to ask Him for His free gift of salvation.

 
Contributed By:
Sermon Central Staff
 
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THE RING OF SALVATION

It began at West Point in 1835. It is a practice that has endured almost 200 years. You may have chosen to obtain one, and undoubtedly you waited anxiously for it to arrive. Others of you werenít really that into it and decided to pass. Some of you in the room may still wear it proudly as a pronouncement of accomplishment. Some of you may have simply discarded it into a drawer to be forgotten. You may have used it is to symbolize commitment or exclusiveness. When it was returned to you it may have been accompanied by pain and even a steady stream of tears. However, you would never have ascribed the power of life and death to this high school tradition.

Who knew that this tradition would also become the story of Easter?

You know the Easter Story or you wouldnít be here today. The story of God who sent His Son to become man to die for us. A Son who bears our burden of our sin and becomes the great sacrifice. A Son who defeats death and comes to life again.

Most of us have heard it until we have become numb to it, but perhaps if I tell you the story a little differently today.

"By all rules, Skinner was a dead man." With these words Arthur Bressi begins his retelling of the day he found his best friend in a World War II Japanese concentration camp.
The two were high school buddies. They grew up together in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania---playing ball, skipping school, double-dating. Arthur and Skinner were inseparable. It made sense, then, that when one joined the army, the other would as well. They rode the same troopship to the Philippines. Thatís where they were separated. Skinner was on a rescue mission when Bataan fell to the Japanese in 1942. Arthur Bressi was captured a month later.

Through the prison grapevine, Arthur learned the whereabouts of his friend. Skinner was near death in a nearby camp. Arthur volunteered for work detail in the hope that his company might pass through the other camp. One day they did.

Arthur requested and was granted five minutes to find and speak to his friend. He knew to go to the sick side of the camp. It was divided into two sections--one for those expected to recover, the other for those given no hope. Those expected to die lived in a barracks called "zero ward." Thatís where Arthur found Skinner. He called his name, and out of the barracks walked the seventy-nine-pound shadow of the friend he had once known. He writes:

"I stood at the wire fence of the Japanese prisoner-of-war camp on Luzon and watched my childhood buddy, caked in filth and racked with the pain of multiple diseases, totter toward me. He was dead; only his boisterous spirit hadnít left his body. I wanted to look away, but couldnít. His blue eyes, watery and dulled, locked on me and wouldnít let go.

"Malaria. Dysentery. Pellagra. Scurvy. Beriberi. Skinnerís body was a dormitory for tropical diseases. He couldnít eat. He couldnít drink. He was nearly gone."

Arthur didnít know what to do or say. His five minutes were nearly up. He began to finger the heavy knot of the handkerchief tied around his neck. In it was his high-school class ring. At the risk of punishment, heíd smuggled the ring into camp. Knowing the likelihood of catching a disease and the scarcity of treatment, he had been saving it to barter for medicine or food for himself. But one look at Skinner, and he knew he couldnít save it any longer.

As he told his friend good-bye, he slipped the ring through the fence into Skinnerís frail hand and told him to "wheel and deal" with it. Skinner objected, but Arthur insisted. He turned and left, not knowing if he would ever see his friend alive again.

Skinner took the ring and buried it in the barracks floor.

The next day he took the biggest risk of his life. He approached the "kindest" of the guards and passed him the ring through the fence. The guard asked, "Is it valuable?" Skinner assured him that it was. The soldier smiled and slipped the ring into his pocket and left.

A couple of days later he walked past Skinner and let a packet drop at his feet. Sulfanilamide tablets. A day later he returned with limes to combat the scurvy. Then came a new pair of pants and some canned beef.

Within three weeks Skinner was on his feet. Within three months he was taken to the healthy side of the sick camp. In time he was able to work. As far as Skinner knew, he was the only American ever to leave the Zero Ward alive.

The ring elevated his position in the camp. The ring secured restoration. The ring brought provision. The common class ring brought salvation.

That is the Easter Story! Arthurís ring is the perfect illustration of what happened at Easter. However, there is another ring account that also communicates the power of Easter to us.

Skinner attempted to refuse the very ring that would ultimately save his life. He almost declined the life-giving gift his friend could give him.

I wonder if there are some here that have refused the gift of life that Christ has tried to provide for you? It is the greatest gift a loving father could ever extend to you . . . the gift of His eternal love! If you donít accept the great gift of His love you are doomed to death in bondage.

Skinner leveraged the ring and it gained him privileges and a new lease on life. I wonder if maybe you are here today and even though you have taken hold of the ring of salvation you have failed to leverage the authority, provision, and the freedom that such a relationship with Christ can afford? You are saved, but you are still living in the prison! The ring of Christís love and resurrected life can bring complete and total freedom today.

(From a sermon by Charles Sligh, Fellowship of the Ring, 4/20/2011)

 
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