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Illustration results for Strengthen Faith

Contributed By:
Michael Deutsch
 
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HONESTY MATTERS

I read about a high school golfer, Chelsee Richard, of Bloomingdale High School in Brandon, Florida. She lost her chance to win the 2004 state championship — by being honest. In the qualifier for the state finals, Chelsee hit her tee shot on the second hole into the rough. Without knowing it, she played another golfer’s ball out of the rough and finished the hole. On the third hole, she realized what she had done. The rule is that a golfer must declare on that hole, they hit the wrong ball before putting the ball into the hole, or they are disqualified.

Chelsee drew strength from her favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13 - "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." She reported her error, a painful ending to her senior season and her dream of going to State. She said: “With my faith and with God, being honest was the most important thing to me, and that’s what is going to advance on throughout my life, being honest and making the right choices." (November, 2004; www.PreachingToday.com)

Her honesty spoke of her Christian faith and the Lord she serves. Honesty is important. The truth really does matter, because it honors Christ. It makes our faith in Jesus more attractive to a world longing for something better than what they have.

 
Contributed By:
Daniel DeVilder
 
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Max Lucado (Angels were Silent)

Describes how in a similar way we cry out for something to cut through the clutter of life, turning to faith and religion to give us simplicity, instead finding things just as complicated:

Enter, religion. We Christians have a solution for the confusion don’t we? “Leave the cluttered world of humanity,” we invite, “and enter the sane, safe garden of religion.”
Let’s be honest.

Instead of a “sane, safe garden,” how about a “wild and woolly sideshow”? It shouldn’t be the case, but when you step back and look at how religion must appear to the unreligious, well, the picture of an amusement park comes to mind.

Flashing lights of ceremony and pomp. Roller-coaster thrills of emotion. Loud music. Strange people. Funny clothes.

Like barkers on a midway preachers persuade: “Step right up to the Church of Heavenly Hope of High Angels and Happy Hearts ….”
• “Over here, madam; that church is too tough on folks like you. Try us, we teach salvation by sanctification which leads to purification and stabilization. That is unless you prefer the track of predestination which offers …”
• “Your attention, please sir. Try our premillennial, non-charismatic, Calvinistic Creed service on for size … you won’t be disappointed.”

A safe garden of serenity? No wonder a lady said to me once, “I’d like to try Jesus, if I could just get past the religion.”

He goes on to tell a favorite story of his where this simplicity was found:

Once a bishop who was traveling by ship to visit a church across the ocean. While en route, the ship stopped at an island for a day. He went for a walk on a beach. He came upon three fishermen mending their nets.
Curious about their trade he asked them some questions. Curious about his ecclesiastical robes, they asked him some questions. When they found out he was a Christian leader, they got excited. “We Christians!” they said, proudly pointing to one another.
The bishop was impressed but cautious. Did they know the Lord’s Prayer? They had never heard of it.
“What do you say, then, when you pray?”
“We pray, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.’ ”
The bishop was appalled at the primitive nature of the prayer. “That will not do.” So he spent the day teaching them the Lord’s Prayer. The fishermen were poor but willing learners. And before the bishop sailed away the next day, they could recite the prayer with no mistakes.
The bishop was proud.
On the return trip the bishop’s ship drew near the island again. When the island came into view the bishop came to the deck and recalled with pleasure the men he had taught and resolved to go see them again. As he was thinking a light appeared on the horizon near the island. It seemed to be getting nearer. As the bishop gazed in wonder he realized the three fishermen were walking toward him on the water. Soon all the passengers and crew were on the deck to see the sight.
When they were within speaking distance, the fisherman cried out, “Bishop, we come hurry to meet you.”
“What is it you want?” asked the stunned bishop.
“We are so sorry. We forget lovely prayer. We say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name …’ and then we forget. Please tell us prayer again.”
The bishop was humbled. “Go back to your homes, my friends, and when you pray say, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.’ ”





Those three fisher men had encountered that you don’t have to be too complicated in your faith, you don’t have to get it all right.

Instead, they had hearts that were focused and strengthened by simple trust in God.

The two men in our story in Luke—like so many of us searching for strength and security and sense in a complicated and confounding world—ended up finding their answer in a remarkable man that cut through all of their confusion.

 
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INTRO: Football practice was over, and Denny was sore from head to toe. Slowly he climbed the graffiti-laden stairway of the aging apartment building.
Suddenly, his mother’s chilling screams pierced the cold, still air. He had heard the sound many times before. Still, a sickening knot formed in Denny’s stomach. Denny had tried for years, without success, to quell his father’s drunken fits of anger and abuse. Today would be different.
Something snapped inside him. With adrenaline pumping, Denny stormed through the apartment door and tore his dad away from his mother. Hardened by years of football training, he hammered his dad with two quick punches. Then, empowered by years of burning memories, he lifted his father from the floor and threw him through their second-story window.
Amazingly, his father sustained only minor injuries in the fall. But memories of what he’d done haunted Denny through two marriages and a string of friendships shattered by a fiery temper. Alcoholism, something he swore would never destroy his life as it had his father’s, slowly ate away at him as well. Little did Denny realize that if he had any chance at all for a worthwhile life, it would come by learning to honor his dad.
Miraculously, even Denny discovered the freedom to be found in honoring his dad. After six years Denny finally consented to attend church with an old high school team-mate and placed his faith in Jesus Christ. Soon he met and married a wonderful Christian widow. Prompted by his wife and several Christian friends, Denny placed three phone calls to his dad over the course of seven years. Each call began with, “Dad, I love you,” only to be abruptly cut off with a prompt “click” on the other end. Finally, on the fourth attempt, Denny was able to convince his father to listen. In the ensuing moments, he explained how much his life had changed, and how he could forgive and honor his dad now because of all he had been forgiven.
Several months passed. One day his mother called him at the office with the shocking news that his father was near death. Before he could leave for the airport, his mother called again to report that his dad had disappeared. His father had checked into an alcoholic rehabilitation clinic in order to be able to talk with Denny about spiritual things, sober, before he died.
Denny did see his father again, and had the incredible privilege of leading him to the Lord. Several months later, his dad died. Denny waits with great anticipation to see him again, eager to pick up where they left off.
Having found the freedom in giving the gift of honor, Denny now moves through life unencumbered by the chains of hate that once paralyzed him. By choosing to bestow honor, even when it wasn’t deserved, he liberated himself and brought his dad to Christ. For Denny, and for many others, the gift of honor is the gift of life. (Gary Smalley)

 
Contributed By:
Martin Dale
 
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Story: Nizhizaka Hill is the place in Nagasaki Japan where the 26 martyrs were executed on 15 February 1597, 400 years ago. They went to their deaths singing Ps. 113. Paul Miki was preaching. Contrary to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the ruler of Japan’s expectation the Christians’ faith was strengthened.

Amongst them was a young boy, Thomas Kosaki, was crucified for being a Christian with his father.

He wrote to his mother a letter while on his way to martyrdom:

"Mother we are supposed to be crucified tomorrow in Nagaski. Please do not worry about anything because we will be waiting for you to come to heaven. Everything in the world vanishes like a dream. Be sure that you never lose the happiness of heaven. Be patient and show love to many people. Most of all, about my...

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Contributed By:
Mark Brunner
 
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“Sheila-ism?” Matthew 25:14-30 Key verse(s) 24:“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.’”

Taking the safest route is something that my father always taught me to do. If you are moving a large, heavy piece of furniture from one room to another, the best thing to do is to take the time to remove the passageway door from its hinges first, thereby giving you ample room to clear the portal without scratching the woodwork. And, of course, there were the safety instructions connected with riding my bike. Always take care to be sure that your chain guard was in place so that the cuff of your trousers didn’t get caught in the chain and pull you off your bike.

These safety rules were many and varied and they were given for a reason. Parents want the best for their children and will, therefore, impress upon them rules of conduct that promote safety. Because I wasn’t always mindful of the rules there were many times that, because of my disregard, I suffered the consequences. This tendency carried on into my teen years and, of course, manifested itself in some of the predicaments that I found myself in when I first started driving a car. The rule “Always Wear Your Seat-belt” was forgotten, even neglected at times. I live today with a gimpy elbow because of that. Then there were the other oft-neglected rules like “Check Your Oil and All of Your Fluid Levels Regularly!” Perhaps its the nature of a teenager, in that he is so often wont to don the cloak of invincibility and durability, to assume that his well-being was somehow magically inherited by his alter ego sitting in the driveway. You know, “I feel good today. I’m sure that this feeling will somehow pass through the steering wheel, clutch, brake and accelerator pedal to my car as well!” Check the fluids? Perhaps next time. One expensive valve job later and I discovered how invincible my car was and how vulnerable my wallet could be.

Over time and with plenty of hard experience under my belt, I learned that putting safety first is a norm that makes a whole lot of sense. Perhaps it isn’t as much the physical discomfort that led me to that conclusion as it was the financial pain that could result from disregard of the rules. Nevertheless, playing it safe in whatever I did that involved risk has become ingrained to some extant in all that I do today. Note “to some extant.” Much depends upon the nature of the activity. If following the rules of safety dictates that I would have to discover and adopt an involved, even tedious routine to accommodate the procedure, I am still inclined to disregard or at least skirt the issue in favor of a quicker, albeit less safer, route. For example; there are, of course, those tedious instructions that come with almost any item that can be assembled. Rule of thumb, if the instructions are less than four pages, you can read the first line of each paragraph, look at the parts list and read the picture captions. If they are as many as eight pages, there is only a need to look at the parts list and read the picture captions. Anything longer than eight pages requires a blank look, a restless thumbing through and then applied Yankee Ingenuity. No instructions necessary. Safety or no, there are just some frontiers I have never been able to cross by the assigned paths. Self-interest is often more important than personal safety.

But, what about faith? When it comes to strengthening our faith and following the directions that God has put in the instructions, His holy Word, should self-interest or anything else dictate a more facilitating approach to believing? A poll sheds some light on what appears to be a paradox of increased religiosity and, perhaps, decreased morality in America. According to sociologist Robert Bellah, 81 percent of the American people also say they agree that “an individual should arrive at his or her own religious belief independent of any church or synagogue.” Thus the key to the paradox is the fact that those who claim to be Christians are arriving at faith on their own terms – terms that make no demands on behavior. A woman named Sheila, interviewed for Bellah’s Habits of the Heart, embodies this attitude. “I believe in God,” she said. “I can’t remember the last time I went to church. But my faith has carried me a long way. It’s ‘Sheila-ism.’ Just my own little voice.” (Charles Colson, Against the Night, p. 98.)

There is a difference between “playing it safe” in terms of self-interest and playing it safe in terms of “soul-interest.” When it comes to eternity we only get one shot at it. There won’t be an opportunity to make regrettable repairs or take the risk and see if it works. When given the tools of Yankee Ingenuity or good, old-fashioned reading of the Instructions, in regard to our souls, the choice becomes an easy one. Soul is spelled G-O-D not Y-O-U.

 
Contributed By:
R. David Reynolds
 
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Today Christ the King calls you and me to “be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth until He comes in final victory, and we feat at His table for ever.” I deeply love, appreciate, and respect the ministry of Chicago Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the Founder and President of The International Fellowship of Christians and Jesus, a ministry I wholeheartedly support.
I have been reading all week his awesome book THE JOURNEY HOME. It tells the story of “Rabbi Eckstein and a Christian journalist named Jamie traveling together in Israel and coming to strengthen their own personal faiths through each other’s eyes.” Other than the Bible I believe it is the best book I have ever.
In Chapter six Rabbi Eckstein shares this compelling account of their encounter with a Hassid, a Hassidic Jew, in Jerusalem one Sabbath evening: “We came to the center of the neighborhood square, where a Hassid with a long black coat, hat, and beard was stopping men who were not dressed like him and urging them to put on phylacteries.”
“Are you Jewish?” he asked me.
“Yes,” I replied to the Hassid.
“Did you put on tefillin this morning as the Torah commands?” he asked.
“Yes, I did,” I responded, quickly proving my bona fides by citing the commandment in Hebrew, “And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and as frontlets between your eyes.” He smiled and turned his attention to someone else, not doubt assuming that Jamie was Jewish and had put on tefillin that day too.
“That’s noble,” said Jamie.
“What is ‘noble’? I asked.
“That he feels so strongly about his faith that he stands outside in the hot sun sharing it with others.” [SOURCE: Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, The Journey Home (Chicago: Shavit House, 2001), 74.
We have a wide open mission field the Holy Spirit calls you and me to reach in Kankakee County and throughout the territory of our Illinois Great Rivers Conference with the same zeal, enthusiasm, and urgency as did this noble Hassid

 
Contributed By:
Russell Brownworth
 
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I am only vaguely aware of how God fits everything together. But, often looking back we see more clearly. I was searching through some old papers and came across a note from Sarah Hollis. Sarah was Carrie’s age (10) when we went to Jacksonville, Florida. She rode our van to church each week – her parents never came. I had the privilege of baptizing Sarah.

One Sunday she came to me with a two-fold request. She wanted me to pray for her uncle and his wife, and also go see them to “baptize their baby”. When I met Sarah’s uncle and his wife it was clear they had very little church background. What they had was worried hearts over a very sick, premature baby in an incubator. They wanted me to baptize their baby; the doctors said he was going to die within a day or so. My heart went out to them. As a Baptist pastor I couldn’t baptize this infant, but I would pray for him with everything I had.

I was fearful of the trust that couple placed in me as they asked me to talk to God for their son. I told them the little kitten-sized child was in God’s hand. I held their hands and we prayed.

That was in 1990. Five years later Sarah wrote me this note:

…I still remember the day you prayed for Scott (my cousin) and gave his parents faith and helped them believe. On the 28th of this month he turns 5 year[s] old. Today is his party. Thank you for giving me the faith and hope. Thank you, Sarah Hollis

Sarah remembered that day as a time when her pastor gave her faith. At the time my main thought was frustration over Sarah putting me in an awkward situation about baptizing a baby. I’d never even laid eyes on his parents. I went, because I was her pastor. But I went, mostly because I couldn’t deny Sarah’s pleading eyes.

Looking back, I know, and she also probably knows, it was God who gave her faith. In the end, God used a pastor doing his job to build faith in a little girl. And God used a 10 year-old kid’s faith to spur a forty-something, Christian pastor into good works. Sarah impacted my life with her faith, and my faith was strengthened because of her impact.

 
Contributed By:
Clark Tanner
 
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During the time I was a police officer there was a dispatcher who was no more than a co-worker and casual friend to me. Near Christmas time one year, I walked into the dispatch center and she lifted a package from the table next to her and gave it to me. It was a Christmas gift, and it was personal. It was not one of fifty things she had made to pass out to all her co-workers.

I was quite taken back by it, not expecting anything at all from this person, and managed to blurt out the obligatory, ‘but you didn’t have to get me a present’.
Very matter-of-factly, she countered, ‘I know I didn’t have to, Clark. I just wanted to give you something. Merry Christmas’.

Now here was a totally unexpected gift from a person with whom I had no emotional ties other than as a casual acquaintance. This told me something very clearly, that I could never be certain of in the case of a loved one or a family member giving me a gift. It told me that the one and only reason I was receiving this unexpected gift is because the person giving it to me wanted to. Of her own initiative she thought about it, procured it, wrapped it, and gave it freely, obviously expecting nothing in return.

Christians, let your faith be strengthened and your encouragement renewed today. You serve a God who, throughout the history of a fallen race, has, of His own initiative, reached out, made contact, poured out blessing, provided salvation, brought life from d...

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Contributed By:
R. David Reynolds
 
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How do you do that? I have a perfect illustration from my favorite book next to the Bible THE JOURNEY HOME by Orthodox Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. I’ve shared excerpts from his book with you in the past. Although it is classified as fiction, it is based on authentic events and a genuine friendship Rabbi Eckstein enjoyed with evangelical, charismatic pastor Jamie Buckingham. Pastor Buckingham went to be with Jesus in 1992 after a courageous fight with cancer. Rabbi Buckingham wrote his book as a tribute to Pastor Buckingham and their friendship. The fictional character Jamie is a caricature and personification of Pastor Buckingham. A journalist who is going to write a series of articles on Israel, this Jamie is touring Israel with Rabbi Eckstein. The two of them come to strengthen each other’s faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Jamie admits in the beginning of the novel that He really is not a real Christian. He honestly confesses, “‘Christianity isn’t something we’re born into like you Jews are born into Judaism.’ He sighed. ‘It’s something we accept. And I never really accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior’ [THE JOURNEY HOME, 5].”
The Holy Spirit begins moving in Jamie’s heart as he and the Rabbi travel through the Holy City. When they visited the Kotel, the Western Wall, or the Wailing Wall, Jamie was deeply touched.
Rabbi Eckstein continues the story: “I notice, out of the corner of my eye, that Jamie was writing a note and placing it in the cracks of the Wall. He, a Christian, was moved as I was by touching the hem of God’s holy earthly garments.
“‘What did you pray for?’ I asked reverently.”
“‘I asked that God would restore my faith in Him.’ Jamie looked abashed, humbled” [THE JOURNEY HOME, 8].
On the Via Dolorosa a few days later, Jamie was truly born again. Rabbi Eckstein finishes the testimony:
“‘Don’t you see?’ he said, suddenly sobbing. ‘He died for me, sinner that I am.’ With that, Jamie broke down and cried uncontrollably, ‘O Jesus, sweet Jesus. I’m sorry for my sins. O Jesus, thank you for saving me. O Jesus. . .’
“I stood in awe and silence as I watched his born again transformation and what God was doing to his heart. Jamie could not speak. He just sat down on the ground, clasped his head in his hands, and wept.
“‘Oh Jesus,” he finally said between sobs, ‘I accept you as my personal Lord and Savior. I receive you as my Lord, my Christ, my Friend.
“‘Fill me, Father, with your Holy Spirit, that I may serve You faithfully all the days of my life. You are my Lord, and in the Name of Jesus, I pray. Amen. Thank You, Father, thank You, Father, thank You. . .’
“Jamie looked at me tearfully, almost oblivious to my presence yet eager to hear my reaction. Frankly, I didn’t know what to say. I had never witnessed anything quite like that before, except on those television evangelist shows . . . . A beautiful peace seemed to come over Jamie, as if the burden of life’s struggles was lifted from him. I envied him that peace” [SOURCE: Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, The Journey Home (Chicago: Shavit House, 2001), 194-5.]

 
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There were two Churches of Christ in the small north Texas town. The church where I ministered had split from the older church years before over some petty differences. I was beginning a sermon series on the "One-another" passages of the Bible, when Gabe, a former elder, got up and walked up to the pulpit and said, "Fred, do you trust me?" Confused as to why he interrupted my lesson to ask if I trusted him, I warily said "Yes". Gabe then asked to speak with the congregation. I relinquished the pulpit and sat down. I’m unable to recall the exact words, but in essence Gabe pointed out a lack of love that permeated our congregation. Then he requested that we get up and hug one of our brothers or sisters. No one moved Raising his voice he pleaded, "Do you hear me? Please go hug one of your brothers or sisters and say "I love you." Immediately I jumped up and ran to the song leader and hugged him. Almost everyone else followed suit. "Okay," he said, "now let’s go across town and tell our brothers and sisters at the other church that we love them, too.’ No one moved Returning to the pulpit I said, "I was going to present a lesson on strengthening Christian relationships this morning, but brother Gabe did a much better job than I could have. Let’s get into our cars and tell our brothers and sisters across town that we love them." The majority of the congregation got into their vehicles and headed toward the downtown church. As the long procession began, someone commented to Tom, our Family Involvement Minister, that it looked as if someone had died and we were going to a funeral. "We are going to a funeral," Tom astutely replied. "We are dying to ourselves" During the invitation song Gabe came forward and requested to speak to the congregation. He told the assembly that there had been hard feelings between the two churches since the split. He said we had come to let them know that we love them and want full fellowship once again. We sang the song: Blest Be the Tie That Binds, and closed with a prayer. After the "Amen," almost everyone in the building started embracing each other. I overheard comments like: "I’m sorry for the way we have been acting." "Let’s forget the past." "I have done you wrong. Will you please forgive me?" Tears. Laughter. Hugs and kisses. Hearts opened. Offenses forgiven. Grudges forgotten. Bitterness melted. Barriers destroyed. Hatred dissipated. Love permeated. One could truly feel and see the effects of the Holy Spirit moving through that little church all because of the efforts of one man who dared to step out on faith even when he was afraid.

 
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