LOOKING FOR FATHER
One of the most dramatic stories that I have ever read or shared is one by journalist John Fountain. If you have a lack in your relationship with an earthly father, this story will either bless you or perhaps overpower you. You won’t know until you listen to it. One person told me that the story “stayed” with him for days. He thought about it over and over. Let it speak to you!
The most famous short story in the world is the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. In a few hundred words, our hearts are gripped by a story we can all connect with in one way or another. We all know “prodigal stories”. Dwight L. Moody tells such story about his own brother who was the prodigal in his family. It will move you in a powerful way; you’ll begin to think of that person in your life who needs to “come home to the Father”. You may even pray for that person!
The most prolific Christian writer of our day has to be Max Lucado of Texas. God has gifted him to write like few people I know. His piece written about the second coming of Christ is breathtaking. He paints a picture that you and I can not only understand, but one that takes the return of Christ and makes it immediate and real. See if it doesn’t give you a new way of thinking about the most important event in the future. The Christ who came is the Christ who is coming again!
I’ve never been one for written prayers. I don’t write them or pray them. But there’s one I’ve kept in my Bible for over 30 years! When you hear it, you’ll understand why. It was found on the body of a confederate soldier during the civil war. I’m sure he had no idea that people would be listening to its words 140+ years later. Let the words of this prayer become your prayer. They just may change your life.
One never knows the impact of a story until it’s told. This story produced a response from people that I wasn’t expecting. It produced feedback from people who had never responded before. Maybe it will speak to you about what really is important in your life. You won’t know for sure until you listen to this story, told by a woman by the name of Evelyn Burch of Martinsburg, West Virginia.
Some of you will remember a time in our nation when Christmas was at the very least, accepted. Even those who weren’t followers of Christ were able to embrace the idea at least culturally. Those days are gone! Today, there is even a spirit of antagonism toward Christmas by many in our society. It’s considered politically incorrect to “foist this holiday” on non-believers. We share a quote of Harry Reasoner, former anchor of ABC News how Christmas should be received, even by those who don’t acknowledge Christ. His words powerfully make sense, even in 2016.
…BUT YOU DIDN’T
The phrase, “but you didn’t” figures heavily in this story. One author commenting on this piece says he believed it was the saddest usage of that phrase he had ever heard. Listen to this sad account of love by a young woman in the Vietnam era. After you hear it, the words “but you didn’t” will take on a whole new meaning for you. It really will!
The Bible says that “children are a heritage from the Lord”. That means that they are gifts, not earned possessions. Julie Sellers talks about her adopting a child from Russia, with the handing over of the baby from one woman to her was in a sense a “relay”. The “baton” of life was handed to her in the relay of life. That’s really not a bad analogy. So much of life is really a relay: the job, the house, the tasks, the family itself is like a relay race. One person hands the baton to another. We’re all recipients of a “baton”. What are we doing with the batons that have been handed our way?
SAYING I’M SORRY
It’s one of the hardest things people do, saying they’re sorry. Some husbands stumble over the words to a wife. Wives get strangely tongue-tied apologizing to their husbands. Parents mumble the words perhaps, to a son or daughter. What about you? Have you had difficulty in asking anyone for forgiveness? This story by Ken Sandy, attorney from Idaho addresses this issue in a powerful and moving way. (If you are a dog lover, you have to listen!)
First, be warned this is not a “happy” story. But it is a story that will bless you in perhaps a way that “happy stories” won’t. Susan Kittredge is a minister in the Friends Church. She tells of her grandmother going through the trauma of being assaulted in her apartment in New Jersey. She was a seamstress. After the assault, Susan noticed that her grandmother stopped sewing “new” things; she just mended things that needed repair. Was it a way of saying, “My brokenness needs to be mended?” Most of our lives need mending in ways we don’t even know. Listen to one of the most powerful “Visual Stories” we have ever shared.
Coming to Christ in a very real sense is “coming home to the Father”. We come home to the Father through the Son! Dr. Bruce Larson tells the story of an elderly woman in the congregation he served at the time who shared her experience with her earthly father and her Heavenly Father. Needing to be rescued from her one room school house in North Dakota during a blizzard, she discovered something about both of her fathers!
LIFE OR DEATH
Christianity is not a matter of “comparative difference”; it’s a matter of life and death! What does that mean? Some people think that if someone becomes a Christian, they will be a better man or woman. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus in John 8:24 said this: “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins!” That’s nothing about being “better or worse” as a person; it’s a matter of life and death. Listen to the story of Janet, a prostitute from Boston who discovered that truth.
Some people are put off by what we call “Christian testimonies”. To be honest, I know Christians who have been at best suspicious of other people describing the “changes “in their lives. And yet, a personal testimony can be powerful and life-changing just by hearing them! Listen to Mary Dolfin’s testimony who describes the change in her life this way: “I went from being a hopeless addict to a person living in the full hope of Jesus!” Most of the people I know aren’t addicts; yet hopeless is a word that may describe them. How about you?
Having religion and believing in Christ is the same thing, right? Not at all! Having a relationship with Christ transcends “religious” activity or belief. This piece, written by Josh McDowell says it better than any other person I know. Relationship trumps religion! Jesus said that knowing Him was life itself, not just a belief in a concept or religion. Listen to this “visual story” on CrossHope and you’ll see why!
Have you ever walked with a small child holding your hand or perhaps just even your finger? You’ll never look at that simple experience the same after hearing this story by a minister by the name of Fred Muster. I never hold the hand of one of my grandchildren now, without thinking of this story! It speaks to a great spiritual truth in your life and mine. Listen to “Stumbling” and see if you don’t agree.
What would you identity as the “three great lasting qualities” of your life? Some might answer with personality, charm, talent, or abilities. Did you know that the Apostle Paul in the 13th chapter of First Corinthians does that very thing? It’s the only time I know of in scripture where the Bible says, “Here are the three great lasting qualities of life.” My sister, Cathy Weber of Columbus, Ohio reads it for you. It will bless you to watch and listen to this Visual Story on CrossHope.
A “paradox” is something that is contrary to common sense, but is true. A glider pilot gains altitude by lowering the nose of the glider. Doesn’t’ make sense, but it’s true. This is a paradoxical story told by Dennis Kinlaw. A young woman who had everything discovered she really had nothing without Christ. That just may be the greatest paradox of all, having everything physically and financially, but not having that which truly gives life! Hint: his name is Jesus.
QUENCHING THE SPIRIT?
It’s a word we don’t use much: “quench”. It means to extinguish something, to put out as a fire, or to repress something. The Bible says that it’s possible for us to “quench the Holy Spirit of God” at work in our lives. Have you ever felt prompted to say or do something spiritually? Did you dismiss the thought? Perhaps you were quenching the Spirit in your life, but just didn’t know it. Listen to a real life story of sincere parents who perhaps quenched the Spirit of God working in the life of their son. I’d like to think that they just didn’t realize it, until years later!
Most people have something or someone they would like to forget. What would that be for you? Jim Downey’s story will move you deeply. He would give anything to forget the man who killed his police officer father. He would give anything to forget the day there were flashing lights in his driveway with other officers there to deliver the terrible news. What do we do with the unforgettable in our lives? Listen and perhaps find a possible answer.
Would it make any difference in your life if you truly thought God had a plan for your life? What if you truly thought God actually has a plan for your marriage, your family, even your career? He does! We tell the true story of a woman named Cathy from Cincinnati who struggled with all of those questions. Even in her lack of belief, she still had the desire for a relationship with a God who does have a plan, despite our belief or lack thereof. Listen to her story; maybe it’s your story!
How’s your reputation? Maybe you have a good reputation, maybe you don’t. Author Max Lucado describes a time in his life when he “polished and protected his reputation like a ’65 Mustang”. What mattered most was what people thought of him! Max says we can’t promote two reputations at the same time. We either are promoting our reputation, or we are promoting Christ’s! It’s that simple! Decide today to promote Christ’s reputation; He’ll take care of yours!
“Did you know that you may be the only Jesus that some people encounter?” That was a question that an older believer posed to me years ago. It’s a valid question because it’s true! You represent Christ to others by the way you talk, the choices you make, and the responses you manifest to life itself. Even your countenance reflects what or who is inside you and me. Listen to this thought provoking piece by Max Lucado. We all “color” Jesus with the “crayons” we’ve been given in life.
Have you ever lived in the “shadow” of an older or more successful brother or sister? Have you ever lived in the “shadow” of another athlete, co-worker, or friend? We all can relate to that in one way or another. Corrie Ten Boom of Holland lived under a different shadow in a prison camp during World War II. She lived under the shadow of the “furnace”, and all that the furnace represented in her life. Her story will speak to you, and prompt you to ask yourself, “Do I live under the shadow of the Cross?”
There nothing super spiritual about praying “long” prayers; there’s nothing less spiritual about “short” ones either. A prayer is a human being calling out to the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer of all life. My friend David Ruleman discovered the power of short prayers in his battle with cancer. Maybe you can relate to his recent prayer to the Lord. It just may prompt you to offer a short prayer to the God who loves you more than you love yourself!
All of your life is a series of choices. Just think of all the “small” choices that you made today: getting up, eating, going to work or school, speaking to people (or not), what you read or watched. But there are “big” choices that impact your life and future. The biggest choice of all has to do with the God you believe in and serve. We quote a scripture today that says, “Choose life or choose death”. It’s all connected to the God of creation, the God of redemption, and the God of deliverance!
Having never written out a prayer in my life, I wasn’t necessarily excited about reading another minister’s prayer. But when I found out this minister that I had heard speak in my childhood had written this prayer shortly before his death in an automobile accident, I was at least curious what he wrote. What made it even more intriguing was he was person who had profound hearing loss. His speech was affected by his deafness. Some thought he had a foreign accent. His prayer for his life just may become your prayer for your life!
We’ve all walked out on ice perhaps. Have you ever felt so insecure about the thickness of the ice, that you felt compelled to crawl on it? That’s what the person in this story chose to do. Rather than risk walking on the ice, he chose to sprawl out over it, only to be shocked by a horse drawn wagon full of wood passing his prone body with no difficulty. Could it be a parable for your life and mine? As you watch this Visual Story, could your spiritual journey be described as “creeping on ice” as opposed to “walking in boldness” with the Lord? This is a powerful parable for today!
To be honest, there are a few stories that I tell that get to me, emotionally. This is one of them. Everyone wonders at some time in their life that they wonder, “Does the Lord really and truly forgive me for what I’ve done?” That’s your question. This story answers that question in a powerful way. I wish there was a way I could see you as you watch and listen to this story. If you’re like me, it just may bring a lump to your throat and a tear to your eye!
Letters aren’t what they used to be, but even a text message or email can be a blessing or a curse. You know that from the words you have received; you may know it from what you have sent. This visual story is really a “story about a story”. It will speak to you in a powerful way about how we actually write “letters” every day with every conversation, every verbal exchange with another person. What do your letters say about your heart? The answer may surprise you and me.
One of the most remarkable statements of Jesus is this, “Inasmuch as you have done for the least of these my brothers, you have done it for me.” (Matthew 25:40) If I were to give you a real life example of this truth, it would be this story, told by John Maxwell of the John Maxwell Company. His story of reaching out financially to a complete stranger will speak to you in a powerful way. This story just may prompt you to do something extravagant, not for you, but for someone else!
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jesus is all about “improving” our lives. He’s not into changing us by degree. He’s not into taking decent people and making them more decent. He’s not into taking moral, upstanding citizens of a community and making them more moral and more upstanding. He’s into making “new creations” out of all of us! Listen to Lettie Kirkpatrick’s story of her journey and you will see exactly what we mean!
Adrian Rodgers was one of my favorite preachers of the gospel. He still is! Listen to this Visual Story called, “Ripples”. It tells about a “chain of witnessing” that happened over decades on two continents. Adrian tells of one person’s story of witnessing and leading a person to Christ; then those people who were won to Christ leading others to Christ. What “ripples” have you and I started for the Kingdom of God? We all start ripples that have no impact on eternality, these do! Before you leave this earth, start a ripple for the Lord!
There is no greater “defender of the faith” that I know of living today than that of Ravi Zacharias. He speaks with a clarity and boldness that both convicts and inspires. World leaders come, world leaders go, which means they die! They have a start date and an end date to their lives and reign. Only One came without a beginning and without an end. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God. If He is who He claimed to be and what the New Testament claims Him to be, there is nothing in the universe that is more important than knowing Him! Do you? Does your spouse? Do your children?
I like to describe a “defining moment” as being a moment when the course of your life is changed by something you say, something you do, or something you decide. Actually, I believe that we have many such moments in life, we just don’t recognize them! The opposite experience is also true. That’s when the course of our lives is changed by something you don’t say, something you don’t do, or something you don’t decide. We look at the defining moment in the life of Charles Colson who died just a few years ago. All three elements of this statement take place in his conversion to Christ.
Perhaps you have had a DNA test with an organization that focuses on ancestry issues. I recently had the test done; like many others, I was surprised by the results. I wasn’t the person that for years I thought I was! In a sense we have what may be called “spiritual DNA”. They are the markers of spiritual identification with the Christ who saved us from the sin in our lives, and has given us hope that is forever in Him! The number one marker of the Christ like life in us is the capacity to forgive. It’s a gift that comes from the very spirit of God! We don’t have what it takes to forgive; the Lord gives that capacity to us through His spirit. It’s an “inside job” or work of the Holy Spirit.
WHAT MATTERS MOST!
How much do relationships mean to you? Perhaps for some, not much. For others, they mean everything. Max Lucado believes they will mean more as we begin the process of slipping away from this world into the next. He believes that when death extends its hands to us, we will evaluate what really matters in our lives. It won’t be the degrees from a college or university. It won’t be the car or cars in the garage, it won’t be your investments; it will be the people in your life. If that will be true right at the edge of death, why wouldn’t that be true now? Think about that right now!
Dealing with the chemical addiction of a loved one is not an event; it’s a journey that usually goes on for months or even years. There are good days, there are horrible ones! This story written by a school psychologist about her daughter’s addiction will speak to you in a powerful way. She came to the conclusion that her ultimate tool in dealing with her daughter was love. She couldn’t “fix” her, but she could love her. She certainly was right. We tell her story and take it into the next level as a believer in Christ. Her ultimate tool was intercession! She could lift her daughter up in prayer to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. It’s really not a bad combination for any of us: loving and praying for the person we care for. Does that speak to you at all?
The dictionary defines balance as a “state of equilibrium”. It has to do with the distribution of weight or energy. Spiritually speaking, it has a whole different meaning. Balance has to do more with the “center” than it does with distribution of anything. A balanced life is a Christ centered life. That’s true with parenting; a balanced parent is a Christ centered father or mother. When the center is right, most other things become right. Listen to author Linda Hunter’s piece on balance in a mother’s life in our culture today. It just may change the balance of your life!
PERSON OF COMFORT
This just may be a newsflash for someone: God may use another person in your life to comfort you in a distressful situation. Then, He just may use you to comfort someone else, maybe even utilizing your experience of receiving comfort to bless someone else. Where would I come up with such a wild concept? It’s actually Biblical, coming right from the first chapter of 2nd Corinthians. The Apostle Paul tells us that God comforts us through others, then expects us to comfort others with the comfort of God we have received from Him and others. Author Sue Monk Kidd gives a powerful example of that from her own life. Let her story spill over into yours and someone else’s!
If you were doing research on the subject of death, where would you start? We might look at medical text books, do internet research on articles by the “experts”, or talk to a friend in the medical field. My first response would be to look at what Jesus said about the subject. His claim to be the resurrection and the life (if true) makes Him the ultimate expert on life, death, and eternity! A man who lost three sons in death also has something to say about death and dying. Listen to his powerful accounting as a believer in Jesus Christ as the Son of God! It just may speak to you in a powerful way now, or in the future when you need it!
We see manifestations of power all the time. A running back covers more than 90 yards after being handed a football, knocking potential tacklers off like flies. Someone says, “What power!” A soldier single-handedly attacks a military position as if no one were there. Again, some says, “what power!” The greatest demonstration of power was when Jesus was speaking in a synagogue, and a man possessed by many demons confronts Jesus, “what do you want with us, Son of the Most High!” Jesus expels the demons with His authority and power. He had both! Listen to this story about actor Mel Gibson and discover what we mean when we say “real power”. This story has power in several levels!
The word intervention is big in our culture today. It is most often used with the drug epidemic. Did you know that many city and county morgues around the country have “run out of room” because of drug related deaths in their areas! Drug intervention can be a matter of life and death! The greatest intervention of all took place when Jesus Christ came to this earth to intervene in history, your life, your family, and your marriage! The word intervene means to “come between”. He came between you and your sin, sin that according to scripture is a death sentence. Listen to this story about a car owned by Adolf Hitler, and how it relates to the atoning death of Christ on the cross. Embrace the cross that Jesus died on! It’s a matter of life and death!
Satan is referred to as the “father of all lies” in scripture. That means every lie in a figurative sense can trace its lineage back to the father of lies. Actually, Satan likes to hijack the truth by misleading people to believe an alternative truth, an alternative god, or even an alternative savior! We share a very powerful story of something that happened on the Friday after the horrible events of 9/11/2001. If you flew days after the nightmare we simply call “9/11”, you will be able to relate to what happened in this story told by Allan Dunbar of Canada. It’s a dramatic story that will speak to your heart!
Would you believe that you are becoming what you really are, right now? That may sound strange, but it’s true! When we face the latter days of our lives, our “essence” will shine through. Essence has to do with those little things that make us what we are. Habits, attitudes, biases, resentments and our deepest desires contribute to the picture of who and what we are. Author Ben Patterson wrote a piece about that very issue by looking at two relatives in his family. At the end of their journeys, they simply became who they were, all along. That’s true for you and me. Our essence defines who and what we are. Let Christ determine your ultimate essence. Why? Because He can and will if you let Him!
Most people, when asked how one experiences grace in life, would respond that we experience it when someone forgives us. We experience it when we feel someone has given us a second or third chance in life. We experience it when we feel that perhaps that even God Himself has shown us mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Did you know that answer is just “half” right? Believe it or not, we can also experience grace when we show it to someone else. We experience mercy when we offer it someone else. Listen to this story told by a former POW in a Japanese prison camp during World War II. What he says may change everything you believe about grace, mercy, and forgiveness. It’s that powerful, told by a man by the name of Earnest Gordon. See what his story does in your life!
I don’t know if you remember a made-for- television movie that aired years ago about a couple named Jim and Jenny Stolpa, lost in the snow covered mountains of California. Ray Bennett, an engineer at the Boeing Plant in Seattle, writes about the story and makes some interesting applications to the church. This couple and their baby were totally lost, with little or no hope of even surviving. A rancher and a ranger became the heroes of this story who after more than a week, rescued the couple and their baby. Ray compares the couple to people of today who are lost in the mountains of skepticism, secularism, and narcissism. (I would add the mountains of materialism and hedonism in our culture today.) Ray Bennett’s story about the story will challenge you about the “lost” around you, and how the church is the rescue organization that goes out to the “mountains” to bring back the lost. Let this story stir your thinking as well!
THE FACE OF GOD
To be honest, very few stories I hear or tell bring a tear to my eye. This one does! For some reason, this story by Joe Reagan touches a responsive chord in my heart and soul. It reminds me of our “early days” in the ministry was money was tight and there were times that we had to make choices. How long can be wait on paying this bill? What has to be paid now? Can this bill ride another week or two? Some of you know the drill. Maybe that’s why this story may touch you deeply. Listen to this story twice! It’s about seeing the face of God in the people God brings into your life to help in ways they’re not even aware of. Have a tissue handy, just in case.
It’s got to be one of the most depressing words in the English language. It’s the word that describes anything that is without significance, purpose, or value. It’s the word meaningless. When it describes your life or mine, that’s serious business! And yet, it describes the lives of many people in our country today, people you know, and people you love. Dr. Leslie Weatherhead wrote of a “meaningless cruise” on the ocean. It’s an interesting fantasy; a cruise ship with all the amenities and pleasures. There’s only one problem: no destination! Listen and see if this imaginary story may be more real that you and I are willing to admit.
Have you ever told someone to “wake up and smell the coffee”? It’s a figurative expression that means someone is not aware of the situation at hand. That can be true spiritually. It can be true eternally! This story is about a man who said that he believed nothing, but “woke up” to the reality of who Jesus was and is. The apostle Paul in Romans said this, “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber!” Could it be that now is your hour of waking up to the truth of who Jesus Christ is? Maybe it’s decision time in your life!
A story has power whether we realize or not. As a speaker who uses stories a great deal in my messages, I can honestly tell you that more people have retold this story to me over the years that probably any other story I’ve told! Some people forgot that they heard this from one of my messages and think they are telling me something new to me. When you hear the story, you’ll understand why people remember it and requote it! We have all told someone something in anger that we live to regret. Can you relate to that at all?