The very wealthy English Baron Fitzgerald had only one child, a son, who understandably was the apple of his eye, the center of his affections, an only child, the focus of this little family's attention.
The son grew up, but in his early teens his mother died, leaving him and his father. Fitzgerald grieved over the loss of his wife but devoted himself to fathering their son. In the passing of time, the son became very ill and died in his late teens. In the meantime, the Fitzgerald financial holdings greatly increased. The father had used much of his wealth to acquire art works of the "masters."
And with the passing of more time, Fitzgerald himself became ill and died. Previous to his death he had carefully prepared his will with explicit instructions as to how his estate would be settled. He had directed that there would be an auction in which his entire collection of art would be sold. Because of the quantity and quality of the art works in his collection which was valued in the millions of English pounds, a huge crowd of prospective buyers gathered, expectantly. Among them were many museum curators and private collectors eager to bid.
The art works were displayed for viewing before the auction began. Among them was one painting which received little attention. It was of poor quality and done by an unknown local artist. It happened to be a portrait of Fitzgerald's only son.
When the time came for the auction to begin, the auctioneer gaveled the crowd to attention and before the bidding began, the attorney read first from the will of Fitzgerald which instructed that the first painting to be auctioned was the painting of "my beloved son."
The poor quality painting didn't receive any bidders…except one! The only bidder was the old servant who had known the son and loved him and served him and for sentimental reasons offered the only bid. For less than an English pound he bought the painting.
The auctioneer stopped the bidding and asked the attorney to read again from the will. The crowd was hushed, it was quite unusual, and the attorney read from the Fitzgerald will: "Whoever buys the painting of my son gets all my art collection. The auction is over!"
In today's world, everyone wants the Father's blessings. They want God to heal them of their physical aliments, provide them with nice things, give them good jobs, and guarantee them salvation. They want all of God's blessings, but they are not interested in God's son. They have no use for Jesus. But unless people accept and embrace the son, there are no blessings from God. All of God's inheritance and blessings are given to only those who love and bid for His son!
More Stories From The Heart
Alice Gray, Multnomah, pp. 126-127.
As Our Friend
Two adventurous teenage boys who were good friends were out spelunking (exploring caves) when they found what appeared to be huge bear tracks deep inside a long, cavernous tunnel. They bravely decided to keep going, but they moved ahead slowly and with extreme caution, keeping their eyes and ears open in case they actually encountered a bear.
Suddenly, from the darkness behind a rock jumped the biggest, meanest-looking grizzly bear they had ever seen. Standing squarely in front of them, the bear beat on his chest and roared like a lion, sending a terrible sound echoing off the walls of the cave. Scared to death, the two boys decided they had better run for their lives. They immediately turned to make a dash for daylight.
Just then, one of the boys dropped to the floor and started untying his hiking boots. He whipped the boots off, jammed on his running shoes, and began tying the laces.
His exasperated friend yelled at him, "Come on, man! Let's get out of here! Why in the world are you changing shoes? We don't have much of a chance of outrunning that bear anyway!" Lunging to his feet and starting to run, the first boy replied, "I don't have to outrun the bear. All I have to do is outrun you."
Do you ever feel like your friends treat you like bear bait? When the going gets rough, they bail out on you. They remain friends with you until it costs them something-then they ditch you.
One of the great things about having Christ as your friend is knowing that He will never leave you nor forsake you (see Matt. 28:20 and Heb. 13:5). He is the friend who is not only willing to lay down His life for you, but He has done exactly that. "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" John 15:13).
Hot Illustrations For Youth Talks
Wayne Rice, Zonderzan, pp. 26-27.
C. Truman Davis, M.D., in The Expositor's Bible Commentary writes:
What is crucifixion? A medical doctor provides a phys cal description: The cross is placed on the ground and the exhausted man is quickly thrown backwards with his shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flex and movement. The cross is then lifted into place.
The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees flexed. The victim is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain-the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid stretching torment, he places the full weight on the nail through his feet. Again he feels the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of the feet.
As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward to breathe. Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled. He fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath. Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.
Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins: a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.
It is now almost over-the loss of tissue fluids reached a critical level-the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues-the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air.
He can feel the chill of death creeping through his tissues.... Finally, he can allow his body to die.
All this the Bible records with the simple words, "And they crucified him" (Mark 15:24).
What wondrous love is this?
Illustrations For Preaching & Teaching
Editor Craig Brian Larson, Baker Books, p. 50-51.
In his book Written in Blood, Robert Coleman tells the story of a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion. The doctor had explained that she had the same disease the boy had recovered from two years earlier. Her only chance for recovery was a transfusion from someone who had previously conquered the disease. Since the two children had the same rare blood type, the boy was the ideal donor.
"Would you give your blood to Mary?" the doctor asked.
Johnny hesitated. His lower lip started to tremble. Then he smiled and said, "Sure, for my sister."
Soon the two children were wheeled into the hospital room-Mary, pale and thin; Johnny, robust and healthy. Neither spoke, but when their eyes met, Johnny grinned.
As the nurse inserted the needle into his arm, Johnny's smile faded. He watched the blood flow through the tube. With the ordeal almost over, his voice, slightly shaky, broke the silence. "Doctor, when do I die?"
Only then did the doctor realize why Johnny had hesitated, why his lip had trembled when he'd agreed to donate his blood. He'd thought giving his blood to his sister meant giving up his life. In that brief moment, he'd made his great decision.
Johnny, fortunately, didn't have to die to save his sister. Each of us however, has a condition more serious than Mary's, and it required Jesus to give not just his blood, but his life.
Illustrations For Preaching & Teaching
Editor Craig Brian Larson, Baker Books, p. 25.
Has Set Us Free
Dr. Gordon one Easter brought an old beat-up rusty birdcage and sat it next to the pulpit. As he gave his sermon that Easter morning he held up the cage and said, "You might be wondering why this is here. As a matter of fact, that's not the normal part of a service, have a bird cage here."
He said, "Let me tell you the story of it. Several days ago I was noticing a little boy in tattered and torn blue jeans and a dirty T-shirt cap off to the side, whistling, walking down an alley, swinging this birdcage. Clinging to the bottom of the cage were little field sparrows he had caught. So I stopped him and asked, 'Say, sonny, what do you have there?' He said, 'Oh, I've got some birds.' 'What are you gonna do with 'em?' I asked. 'Oh, mess around with them, tease 'em, something like that.' 'Well,' I asked, 'when you get tired of 'em, what are you gonna do?' He thought a moment and said, 'Well, I got a couple of cats at home and they like birds. I think I'll just let them have at 'em.'"
Dr. Gordon said his heart went out to the little birds so he made the little lad an offer. "How much do you want for the birds?" Surprised, the boy, said, "mister, these birds ain't no good." "Well," Dr. Gordon said, "regardless, how much would you like for 'em?" The little fellow said, "How about two bucks?" He said, "Sold." So he reached in his pocket and peeled off two-dollar bills. The little boy shoved the birdcage forward pleased with his stroke of good fortune.
When the boy left, the minister walked a good distance away, lifted open the little cage door and said, "Shoo, shoo." And he shoved them out of the door and they flew free.
The empty birdcage was a perfect illustration of how Satan had the human race trapped and frightened. Jesus Christ not only paid the price for our freedom; He has set us free.
The Tale Of The Tardy Oxcart
Charles R. Swindoll, Word, p. 171.
I hurried into the local department store to grab some last minute Christmas gifts. I looked at all the people and grumbled to myself, "I am going to be in here forever."
Christmas was beginning to become such a drag. I kinda wished that I could just sleep through Christmas. But I hurried the best I could, and finally made my way to the toy department. Once again I kind of mumbled to myself at the prices of all these toys, and wondered if the grandkids would even play with them.
I found myself in the doll aisle. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a little boy about 5 holding a lovely doll. He kept touching her hair and he held her so gently. I could not seem to help myself. I just kept looking over at the little boy and wondered who the doll was for. I watched him turn to his aunt and say, "Are you sure I don't have enough money?" She replied a bit impatiently, "You know that you don't have enough money for it." The aunt told the little boy not to go anywhere that she had to go get some other things and would be back in a few minutes. And then she left the aisle.
The boy continued to hold the doll. After a bit, I ask the boy who the doll was for. He said, "It's the doll my sister wanted so badly for Christmas. She just knew that Santa would bring it." I told him that maybe Santa was going to bring it. He said "No, Santa can't go where my sister is, I have to give the doll to my Momma to take to her. I asked him where his sister was. He looked at me with the saddest eyes and said "She has gone to be with Jesus. My Daddy says that Momma is going to have to go to be with her."
My heart nearly stopped beating. Then the boy looked at me again and said, "I told my Daddy to tell Momma not to go yet. I told him to tell her to wait till I got back from the store." Then he asked me if I wanted to see his picture. I told him I would love to. He pulled out some pictures he'd had taken at the front of the store. He said "I want my Momma to take this with her so she don't ever forget me. I love my Momma so very much and I wish she did not have to leave me. But Daddy says she needs to be with my sister."
I saw that the little boy had lowered his head and had grown so very quiet. While he was not looking I reached into my purse and pulled out a hand full of bills. I asked the little boy, "Shall we count that money one more time?" He grew excited and said, "Yes, I just know it has to be enough," so I slipped my money in with his and we began to count it. And of course it was plenty for the doll. He softly said, "Thank you Jesus for giving me enough money." Then the boy said, "I just asked Jesus to give me enough money to buy this doll so Momma can take it with her to give to my sister. And he heard my prayer. I wanted to ask him for enough to buy my Momma a white rose, but I didn't, but he gave me enough to buy the doll and a rose for my Momma. She loves white roses so very, very much."
In a few minutes the aunt came back and I wheeled my cart away. I could not keep from thinking about the little boy as I finished my shopping in a totally different spirit than when I had started. And I kept remembering a story I had seen in the newspaper several days earlier. In the story, a family was deciding on whether to remove the life support. Now surely this little boy did not belong with that story. Two days later I read in the paper where the family had disconnected the life support and the young woman had died.
I could not forget the little boy and just kept wondering if the two were somehow connected. Later that day, I could not help myself. I went out and bought some white roses and took them to the funeral home where the young woman was. In the casket, the young mother was holding a lovely white rose, the beautiful doll, and the picture of the little boy in the store. I left there in tears, my life changed forever.
The love that little boy had for his little sister and his mother was overwhelming. It is the same kind of love that Jesus has for you and me.
Written By V. A. Bailey
On May 21, 1946 in Los Alamos, New Mexico, a young and daring scientist was carrying out a necessary experiment in preparation for the atomic test to be conducted in the waters of the South Pacific.
In his effort to determine the amount of U-235 necessary for a chain reaction, he would push two hemispheres of uranium together. Then, just as the mass became critical, he would push them apart with his screwdriver, thus instantly stopping the chain reaction.
Even though the young scientist had successfully performed this experiment many times before, on that day something went terribly wrong. As the material became critical, the screwdriver slipped. The hemispheres of uranium came too close together. Instantly the room was filled with a dazzling bluish haze.
Young Louis Slotin, instead of ducking and thereby possibly saving himself, tore the two hemispheres apart with his hands and consequently interrupted the chain reaction. From his instant, heroic act, he saved the lives of seven other people in the room.
As he waited for the car that was to take them to the hospital, he said quietly to his companion, "You'll come through all right. But I haven't the faintest chance myself." It was true. Nine days later he died in agony.
Before Jesus Christ came to the earth, mankind was contaminated by a deadly uranium called sin. But Jesus heroically stepped in right in the nick of time and saved mankind from spiritual destruction. He died on the cross, to free us from our sins.
According to the Chicago Tribune, on June 22, 1997, parachute instructor Michael Costello, forty-two, of Mt. Dora, Florida, jumped out of an airplane at 12,000 feet altitude with a novice skydiver named Gareth Griffith, age twenty-one.
The notice would soon discover just how good his instructor was, for when the novice pulled his ripcord, his parachute failed. Plummeting toward the ground, he faced certain death.
But then the instructor did an amazing thing. Just before hitting the ground, the instructor rolled over so that he would hit the ground first and the novice would land on top of him. The instructor was killed instantly. The novice fractured his spine in the fall, but he was not paralyzed.
One man takes the place of another, takes the brunt for another. One substitutes himself to die so another may live. So it was at the cross, when Jesus died for our sins so that we might live forever.
Choice Contemporary Stories & Illustrations For Preachers, Teachers, & Writers
Craig Brian Larson, Baker Books, p. 57.
A particular church recently received personal greetings from the Kejave Medical Center staff in Kenya and read of the following amazing story.
Eight-year-old Monica broke her leg as she fell into a pit. An older woman, Mama Njeri, happened along and climbed into the pit to help get Monica out. In the process, a dangerous black Mamba snake bit both Mama Njeri and Monica. Monica was taken to Kejave Medical Center and admitted. Mama Njeri went home, but never awoke from her sleep.
The next day a perceptive missionary nurse explained Mama Njeri's death to Monica, telling her that the snake had bitten both of them, but all of the snake's poison was expended on Mama Njeri; none was given to Monica. The nurse then explained that Jesus had taken the poison of Monica's sin so that she could have new life. It was an easy choice for Monica. She became a Christian.
The Tale Of The Tardy Oxcart
Charles R. Swindoll, Word, p. 541.
Back in the days of the Great Depression, a Missouri man named John Griffith was the controller of a great railroad drawbridge across the Mississippi River. One day in the summer of 1937, he decided to take his eight-year-old son, Greg, with him to work. At noon, John Griffith put the bridge up to allow ships to pass and sat on the observation deck with his son to eat lunch. Time passed quickly. Suddenly he was startled by the shrieking of a train whistle in the distance. He quickly looked at his watch and noticed it was 1:07--the Memphis Express, with four hundred passengers on board, was roaring toward the raised bridge! He leaped from the observation deck and ran back to the control tower. Just before throwing the master lever he glanced down for any ships below. There a sight caught his eye that caused his heart to leap into his throat. Greg, his son, had slipped from the observation deck and had fallen into the massive gears that operate the bridge. His left leg was caught in the cogs of the two main gears! Desperately John's mind whirled to devise a rescue plan. But as soon as he thought of a possibility, he knew there was no way it could be done in time.
Again, with alarming closeness, the train whistle shrieked in the air. He could hear the clicking of the locomotive wheels over the tracks. That was his son down there--yet there were four hundred passengers on the train. John knew what he had to do, so he buried his head in his left arm and pushed the master switch forward. The great massive bridge lowered into place just as the Memphis Express began to roar across the river.
John Griffith sacrificed his son to save four hundred passengers on that train. Likewise, God sacrificed His son to save you and me.
The Tale Of The Tardy Oxcart
Charles R. Swindoll, Word, pp. 541-542.
In 1937, the great Golden Gate Bridge was completed. It cost $77 million. It was built in two stages: the first slowly, and the second rapidly. In the first stage, twenty-three men fell to their death. And the work ground to a halt because fear paralyzed the workmen as helplessly they watched their companions plummeting from the structure to the water far below. Finally, an ingenious person thought, "There needs to be a security net." So they put together, for $100,000, the largest net ever built and hung that net beneath the workmen. When phase two began, ten were saved who fell into that net. The work proceeded twenty-five percent faster until the job was done.
As Christian, when we fall or stumble, we can rest assured that Jesus, our security net, will catch us and lift us back. We are secure in the arms of Jesus.
The Tale Of The Tardy Oxcart
Charles R. Swindoll, Word, pp. 509-510.
The Empty Tomb
He was 9 years old--in a Sunday school class of 8-year-olds. Eight-year-olds can be cruel. The third-graders did not welcome Philip to their group. Not just because he was older. He was "different."
He suffered from Down's syndrome and its obvious manifestations: facial characteristics, slow responses, symptoms of retardation.
One Sunday after Easter, the Sunday school teacher gathered some of those plastic eggs that pull apart in the middle--the kind in which some ladies' pantyhose are packaged.
The Sunday school teacher gave one of these plastic eggs to each child. On that beautiful spring day each child was to go outdoors and discover for himself some symbol of "new life" and place that symbolic seed or leaf or whatever inside the egg.
They would then open their eggs one by one, and each youngster would explain how his find was a symbol of "new life." So…
The youngsters gathered a round on the appointed day and put their eggs on a table, and the teacher began to open them. One child had found a flower. All the children "oohed" and "aahed" at the lovely symbol of new life. In another was a butterfly. "Beautiful," the girls said.
Another egg was opened to reveal a rock. Some of the children laughed. "That's crazy!" one said. "How's a rock supposed to be like a "new life?" Immediately a little boy spoke up and said, "That's mine. I knew everybody would get flowers and leaves and butterflies and all that stuff, so I got a rock to be different." Everyone laughed.
The teacher opened the last one, and there was nothing inside. "That's not fair," someone said. "That's stupid," said another. The teacher felt a tug on his shirt. It was Philip. Looking up he said, "It's mine. I did do it. It's empty. I have new life because the tomb is empty." The class fell silent.
From that day on Philip became part of the group. They welcomed him. Whatever had made him different was never mentioned again.
Philip's family had known he would not live a long life; just too many things wrong with the tiny body. That summer, overcome with infection, Philip died.
On the day of his funeral nine 8-year-old boys and girls confronted the reality of death and marched up to the altar--not with flowers. Nine children with their Sunday school teacher placed on the casket of their friend their gift of love--an empty egg.
Brethren, that young child knew that since the tomb was empty -- that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead -- he had a new life. Likewise, through His resurrection, we too may have a new life in Christ.
Stories From The Heart
Alice Gray, Multnomah, pp. 15-16.