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BE LIKE MIKE...?
Gary Thomas, in his book Authentic Faith, describes a friend of his named Mike. He met Mike when he went to college. Mike was a leader among students. He had everything: a contagious personality, athletic ability, good looks, and natural appeal. And everybody wanted to be around Mike. Everybody wanted to be Mike.
But a few years after college, Mike suffered a brain hemorrhage, and, as a result, he lost everything: his handsome appearance was gone, his voice was slurred, he couldnít teach any more. Everything that others admired in Mike was now taken from him.
His treatment required months of grueling therapy, but eventually he was able to function again. The devastating effect on his body was paralleled by an equally powerful change in his spirit. He still attracted followers, but he was no longer focused on himself. He was focused on God. Gary Thomas says, "In college, when I was around Mike, I wanted to be like Mike. Now, after spending time with Mike, I want to be more like Jesus."
John Newton: Infidel Restored
John Newton continued his ministry into his old age, turning a deaf ear to friends who urged him to accept retirement, as by the time he reached 80 he was almost blind and partially deaf. "I cannot stop" he replied. "What! Shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?"
But in December 1806, the end was coming. His diary recorded his prayer asking God to help him meet his end with a faithful spirit: "Oh for grace to meet the approach of death with a humble, thankful, resigned spirit becoming my profession. That I may not stain my character by impatience, jealousy or any hateful temper but may be prepared and permitted to depart in peace and hope and be enabled, if I can speak, to bear my testimony to thy faithfulness and goodness with my last breath. Amen." Thatís the prayer that I would make my own and perhaps you as well.
Newtonís friend wrote: "I saw Mr Newton near the closing scene. He was hardly able to talk; and all I find I noted down upon my leaving him was thus: íMy memory is nearly gone but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Saviour.í"
Newton would not have been pleased by the eulogistic reference in The Times report of his death to his "unblemished life," for he never forgot that he owed his redemption from a life of sin to a life in Christ entirely to divine mercy. He made this clear in the epitaph he wrote for himself. It was to be the inscription on his tomb at Olney and on a commemorative tablet to him at St. Mary Woolnoth:
"Once an Infidel and Libertine,
A Servant of Slaves in Africa,
Was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST,
Preserved, restored and pardoned,
And appointed to preach the faith
He had long laboured to destroy."
Sermon Central Staff
VICTOR OR VICTIM--THE CASE OF ROBERT REED
If ever there was a person who could have offered Jesus an excuse, Robert Reed would be that person. His hands are twisted and His feet are useless. He canít bathe himself. He canít feed himself. He canít brush his teeth, comb his hair or put on his clothes by himself. His shirts are held together by velcro. He has cerebral palsy. This disease keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike and just going for a walk. But it didnít keep him from graduating from high school and then from college with a degree in Latin. It didnít keep him from eventually teaching at the college level. And it didnít keep him from going on 5 overseas mission trips. And it didnít keep him from becoming a missionary to the country of Portugal. He moved there, rented a hotel room and began to study Portuguese. He found a restaurant owner who would feed him after the crowd was gone and he found someone who would tutor him in the language there. Then he stationed himself daily in a park where he gave out brochures about Jesus. Within 6 years he led 70 people to the Lord. Why? Because he chose not to offer any excuses. In kindness I would ask you, whatís your excuse today?
Have you been crippled from the past? If so, do you want to hold on to it? Itís the choice of being a victor or a victim.
(From a sermon by David Henderson, "A Lame Excuse," 1/5/2011)
MISS BETTYE AND HER ALL-NIGHT PRAYER KITCHEN
Just this last September (2009), the Chicago Tribune ran a story about Bettye Tucker, a Christian cook who works the night shift at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. She has been doing her job for 43 years -- 28 of them on the night shift.
On that shift, she sees a steady stream of parents in her job, many of them frightened and weary. On the night she was interviewed for the article, Miss Bettye (as she is called by all who know her) served food to a mother whose three-year-old fell out of a second story window that morning, another mother whose seventeen-year-old was battling a rare form of leukemia, and a third mother whose eighteen-year-old had endured seven hours of brain surgery.
Their stories break the heart of Miss Bettye. "That's why she feeds every last one of them as if they had walked right into [her own kitchen]," so says to one of her coworkers. Another coworker, a member of the hospital's housekeeping crew adds this thought about Miss Bettye: "You need someone to bring you life, and she brings it in the middle of the night."
Miss Bettye herself says, "When I ask, 'How you doin' today?' and they say it's not a good day, I say, 'Don't lose hope.' When the nurses tell me it's a bad night, I say, 'I understand it's a bad night. But guess what? I am here for you. I'm going to get you through the night.'"
There is a picture in the article which shows Bettye sitting down, head bowed, over a meal. "I'm a praying lady," she says in the article. "I pray every night, for every room and every person in the hospital. I start with the basement, and I go up, floor by floor, room by room. I pray for the children, I pray for the families, I pray for the nurses and the doctors... I say, every night while ...
Does He Show Through?
One Sunday on their way home from church, a little girl turned to her mother and said, "Mommy, the preacherís sermon this morning confused me."
The mother said, "Oh? Why is that?"
The little girl replied, "Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?" The mother replied, "Yes, thatís true honey."
"And he also said that God lives in us? Is that true, Mommy?" Again the mother replied, "Yes."
"Well," said the little girl, "if God is bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldnít He show through?"
Sermon Central Staff
RAVI ZACHARIAS: CHANGED LIVES SHOW THE TRUTH OF CHRIST
In his book Has Christianity Failed You? Ravi Zacharias points to one of the greatest proofs for the truth of Christ and the reality of his resurrection: the changed lives of Christians. He writes:
"During the course of nearly 40 years, I have traveled to virtually every continent and seen or heard some of the most amazing testimonies of Godís intervention in the most extreme circumstances. I have seen hardened criminals touched by the message of Jesus Christ and their hearts turned toward good in a way that no amount or rehabilitation could have accomplished. I have seen ardent followers of radical belief systems turned from being violent, brutal terrorists to becoming mild, tenderhearted followers of Jesus Christ. I have seen nations where the gospel, banned and silenced by governments, has nevertheless conquered the ethos and mind-set of an entire culture."
Then in his own words, Zacharias lists examples of Christís power to transform lives:
"In the middle of the twentieth century, after destroying all of the Christian seminary libraries in the country, Chairman Mao declared that...Christianity had been permanently removed from China, never to make a return. On Easter Sunday in 2009, [however] the leading English language newspaper in Hong Kong published a picture of Tiananmen Square on page 1, with Jesus replacing Chairman Maoís picture on the gigantic banner, and the words "Christ is Risen" below it.
"I have also been in the Middle East and marveled at the commitment of young people who have risked their lives to attend a Bible study...I have talked to CEOs of large companies in Islamic nations who testify to seeing Jesus in visions and dreams and wonder what it all means. The British author A. N. Wilson, who only a few years ago was known for his scathing attacks on Christianity...celebrated Easter [in 2009] at a church with a group of other church members, proclaiming that that the story of the Jesus of the Gospels is the only story that makes sense out of life and its challenges. [Wilson said], 'My own return to faith has surprised none more than myself...My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have knownónot the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in light of the resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die.'
"Matthew Parris [a British atheist who visited Malawi in 2008] wrote an article titled "As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God." [Parris wrote], 'Iíve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa...I used to avoid this truth...but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it."
[Ravi Zacharias, Has Christianity Failed You? (Zondervan, 2010), pp. 105-107. From a sermon by Michael McCartney, Experience the Spirit in the Resurrection, 5/11/2011]
"An ambassador is a person who, having failed to secure an office from the people, is given one by the Administration on condition that he leave the country."
THE DEFINITION OF A SAINT
A young boy went with his parents touring around Europe one summer. Part of their tour included visits to the great old cathedrals of the past. As he visited cathedral after cathedral, he was impressed the massive stained glass portraits of the disciples and of other saints as he stood in their great empty halls looking through the beautiful stained glass windows.
Upon returning home, he was asked by his Sunday School teacher about holiday on the continent and what he liked the most. He thought for a moment of those great churches and their grand windows and he said, "I loved the sense of awe and the hugeness of who God must be, and I loved the stained glass windows with their images of the saints."
"And what is a saint?" his teacher asked. His mind went back to those beautiful windows and he said, "A saint is a person the light shines ...
MISTAKEN FOR JESUS
Carolyn Gillette told the story of a hospice chaplain named Larry, and how he became friends with an 80-year-old lady named Mary. Mary was a hospice patient. Larry visited with her many times, and was greatly impressed by her faith. One day, he got a call that Mary had taken a turn for the worse. And that if he wanted to see her alive, heíd better go that day.
Larry went to visit his friend, and found her in a very deep sleep. Larry didnít wake her up, because he knew Mary had been in a lot of pain. But just as he turned to go, she opened her eyes wide and stared right at him. Mary looked intently and then said to him, "Oh, for a minute, I thought you were Jesus."
They laughed about it for a moment and had a good visit together. Just two hours later Mary did see Jesus face to face.
But Maryís comment really hit a note with Carolyn Gillette. Carolyn later wrote: "I believe we all ought to be mistaken for Jesus, every once in a while. God has given you a mission, just as God gave a mission to Jesus. If youíre living it out, if youíre showing his unconditional love, if youíre treating other people with care and compassion; if youíre bringing good news to the poor, and healing to the sick, and freedom to those whose lives are being torn apart. Then maybe someone will look at your life and say, íOh, for a minute I thought you were Jesus.í"
(Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, Sermon: "What God Gives" - Found in Jan. 25, 2004 email from Sermonillustrations.com. From a sermon by Rick Crandall, "Lord, We Need Your Help!" 2/9/2009)
JESUS TO THEM
A missionary, lost at sea, washed up on edge of a remote native village. Half-dead from exposure, starvation, and sea water, the natives nursed him back to health. He lived with them 20 years; never made a confession of faith, no songs, no sermons, no Scripture; but attended the sick long into the night, gave food to the hungry, visited the lonely, taught the uneducated, took the side of those that had been wronged. After the 20 years, missionaries come and preach about a man named Jesus. "Heís lived among us for many years; come and we will show you." And they took the missionaries to the hut of the lost missionary.