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God’s Glory Is Stitched In Your Genes

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Topic: Self-esteem
Scripture: Genesis 1:27; Ephesians 2:10; Matthew 5:16
Source: Conference Message: Passion 2015
Author: Lecrae / Illustration Exchange

Lecrae Devaughn Moore (1979 – ), simply known as Lecrae, is an American Christian rapper, songwriter, record producer and actor. He is the president, co-owner and co-founder of the independent record label Reach Records, and the co-founder and president of the non-profit organization ReachLife Ministries.

At a conference appearance (PASSION 2015), Lecrae told the story of a recent trip to Hollywood during which he stopped into a department store to buy a T-shirt. Not a fancy silk or diamond studded shirt—just a plain cotton T-shirt. As he pulled one from the rack, he noticed the price tag and thought to himself that it must be mis-marked. So he pulled another only to find the same price on the tag. Incredulous, he approached the salesperson to question the exorbitant price—$640!

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When Life Calls For A Transfusion

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Author: InfoPlease.com / Illustration Exchange
Scripture: 1 John 4:16
Source: “Blood Types” published InfoPlease.com, retrieved 5/9/15

If you ever find yourself, either by virtue of illness or injury, in need of a blood transfusion, you’d better hope your local blood bank has a good supply of a compatible blood type.

According to INFO PLEASE:

Human blood is grouped into four types: A, B, AB, and O. Each letter refers to a kind of antigen, or protein, on the surface of red blood cells. For example, the surface of red blood cells in Type A blood has antigens known as A-antigens.

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Good Morning Videos Help Comfort Dementia Patients

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Topic: Comfort
Scripture: Psalm 63:1-8
Source: “Families make videos to reassure patients with dementia” by Associated Press, posted FoxNews.com, April 17, 2015
Author: Illustration Exchange

Morning can be a really tough time for our aging loved ones struggling with Alzheimers or other forms of dementia. As both the body and the mind effectively reset after a night of sleep, many may need help to “break through the morning fog of forgetfulness that can often cause them agitation and fear.”

Why am I here? How did I get here? How am I supposed to get through this day? These and other questions–not to mention feelings of loneliness, abandonment, even anger–all combine to make the common admonish to “rise and shine” seem nearly impossible.

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Beautiful or Average, You Choose

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Topic: Self-Image
Scripture: 1 Peter 3:3-4
Source: “Watch what happens when women are forced to choose between walking through doors marked ‘average’ or ‘beautiful’… as it is revealed that 96 PER CENT of women rate themselves as average looking” By ANDREA MAGRATH FOR DAILY MAIL AUSTRALIA, PUBLISHED: 8 April 2015
Author: Barnett Gushin

Beautiful or average? As a woman, how would you categorize yourself?

The makers of Dove soap asked that question in a worldwide survey. To demonstrate the results, they set up signs at the entrances of buildings around the globe. At each location, one door was marked “Average” and the other was marked “Beautiful.” (Click the link to source above to view the video that has gone viral. )

Across the board, women overwhelmingly chose to walk through the door marked “Average.” In fact, a staggering 96% chose that door. A mere 4% chose to walk through the door marked “Beautiful.” Sure, some stopped and pondered the possibility of choosing “Beautiful,” but all too often they abandoned the choice. The reasons were varied. Many felt that it seemed like vanity to admit that they considered themselves beautiful, while others genuinely believed themselves unworthy of walking through the “Beautiful” door.

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Relax or Die

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Topic: Sabbath
Scripture: Mark 2:27; Hebrews 12:29; Romans 2:12; Matthew 11:28-29; 1 Corinthians 3:12-13; Galatians 3:24
Source: “‘They Were So Pure,’ Father Says of 7 Kids Killed in Fire” by Michael Balsamo ASSOCIATED PRESS, posted On ABCNews.go.com, March 22, 2015
Author: Illustration Exchange

A Brooklyn father came home to his worst nightmare to find that a house fire had killed seven of his eight children and critically burned his wife and surviving child. The house, itself, was a total loss.

The cause of the fire was determined to be the use of a malfunctioning hot plate. It sparked a fire which rapidly spread up the stairs, trapping the children in their bedrooms.

The Sassoon family, members of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, moved to Brooklyn less than two years prior. The father escorted the remains of his children back to Israel for burial.

Why, you might ask, was the hotplate left on while the family was sleeping?

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Google Maps Is My Shepherd

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Topic: Guidance
Scripture: Psalm 23:1-2; John 10:14, 16
Author: Mitchell Dillon

While traveling with my adult son, I asked him to Google directions to our destination. As the voice commands on Google Maps began to direct us, I become concerned. It had us turning to proceed in exactly the opposite direction of where I knew we needed to go. When I mentioned this to my son, he didn’t seem the least bit concerned.

“But what if it’s wrong?” I asked.

“It won’t be wrong” he explained. “Sometimes Google anticipates traffic jams and sends you around them. Go ahead and follow the prompts.”

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Ambiguous Wedding Dress Color Causes Internet Stir

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Topic: Relativism
Scripture: Judges 17:6; Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 14:12; Proverbs 16:25
Source: “THE SCIENCE OF WHY NO ONE AGREES ON THE COLOR OF THIS DRESS” by Adam Rogers for Science on Wired.com, 2/26/15
Author: Illustration Exchange

There’s no doubt you saw it AND that you had an opinion on it—the viral pic of a wedding dress—is it white and gold or blue and black? That question taunted the internet and social media for days.

It all began when a mother-of-the-bride sent a pic to the bride and groom of the dress she planned to wear to her daughter’s wedding. They were confounded. The bride saw the dress as white and gold; the groom saw it as blue and black. Before the feud could threaten their upcoming nuptials, they posted the pic to Facebook and solicited the opinions of their friends to end the debate.

Alas, it only ignited even greater debate. Within hours, the pic had gone viral and, it seemed, the entire world was debating the issue. People standing in the same room, at the same time, saw the dress as different colors. What’s more, some saw the dress as white and gold one minute, then as blue and black the next.

Color perception experts soon began weighing in on the phenomenon.

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The $300 Hammer

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Topic: Suffering, Pain
Scripture: 1 Peter 4:12-13
Author: Jeff Johnson

I once spent two weeks in Brownsville, Texas, volunteering for World Mission Builders erecting a church from the ground up. When we left it was ready for brick on the outside and drywall inside.

While we saved the newly planted church nearly a half a million dollars in labor, it still was very costly work. Not only did it cost time, it also cost a lot of pain. Hammering nails all day takes its toll on the forearms, especially untrained forearms like mine. I had never hammered so many nails. I hammered floor joist braces, hammered spacers up in the rafters, hammered off the same spacers once the rafters where supported.

We were hammering all the time, and my arms ached all the time. I even bought some BenGay at a local Walmart and rubbed it in each night.

On the very last working day of the trip, a vendor showed up carrying five hammers for us to try out. I just happened to be standing close enough to receive one. It was made of titanium and looked very modern. The rep said the hammer retails for $300. I felt very unqualified to be the new owner of a $300 hammer and yet I couldn’t wait to bring it back home and show it off to my family and friends. I asked the rep what made it so special, and he explained that the design of the hammer absorbed the shock that causes muscle fatigue. I knew that fatigue well.

I had some final jobs to do that afternoon, and as usual they included some hammering. So I tried out my new $300 hammer, and immediately felt the difference. My first thought was, “This is exactly what I need!” My second thought was, “Where was this two weeks ago!? This is the last day of my mission trip, I have already been through a bottle of Advil and half a tube of BenGay!”

Application:

After reflecting on my work trip, I have come to appreciate exactly how the events in Brownsville turned out. If the vendor would have shown up on the first day and handed me the $300 hammer, I never would have known its true worth. I certainly wouldn’t have gone home night after night nursing my forearms. Most importantly, I would have never felt the difference between a $30 hammer and a $300 hammer.

Sometimes we need a little pain to appreciate the remedy.

Additional Application:

The pain we have experienced, whether because of our own choices or simply because of life’s difficult circumstances, makes the cross all the more meaningful.

Imagine if Jesus had taken away not only our sin debt at the cross, but also all suffering and pain. We would exist in this world without any first hand knowledge of suffering. Pain would be an historical subject, but not something experiential. Would we ever really know what Jesus went through for us?

I know none of us can fully grasp the depth of humiliation, agony and suffering Jesus experienced as He hung on that cross, but we can imagine at least some of it.  We’ve all experienced some degree of pain, loss, and suffering in our lives. If we hadn’t, Jesus suffering would be completely unrelatable.

Take it a step further and consider the cure. If we never even touched the edges of the sufferings of Christ, would we be able to appreciate the freedom the cross brings? Would we feel the weight lifted, the guilt paid for, or the shame taken away? Would we long for the promises of the cross, including the day Jesus wipes away every tear?

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13).

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The Vine

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Topic: Fruit of the Spirit
Scripture: John 15:5
Author: Thomas Bevers

Have you ever walked into a factory? The noise is usually deafening. You have to wear ear plugs just to avoid bodily harm.

Can you imagine taking a nap near an assembly line? The sounds of air compressors, pistons and other loud machines would make it nearly impossible. It takes a lot of noise to produce a car.

On the contrary, have you ever walked into an orchard? The still, the calm, the birds singing all evoke a great sense of peace and tranquility.

Can you imagine stretching out under the shade of the vines and just resting? It doesn’t take much noise to produce fruit.

Application:

When man produces what he produces, it is accompanied by an over abundance of noise, commotion and little rest. But not so with what God produces.

When Jesus told us He is the vine and we are the branches, He intended us to remember that He is the one doing all the work; He is the one producing the fruit through us.

What does the branch do besides act as a go between? It’s the vine that does all the work! The branch bears fruit by remaining at rest in the vine. Likewise, you and I bear fruit by remaining at rest in Christ.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

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Man Who Walks 21 Miles to Work Receives Windfall Blessing

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Topic: Faithfulness
Scripture: Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 20:13; Galatians 6:9
Source: “Detroit man who commuted by foot 21 miles a day surprised with donated car” by Stephanie Gallman, posted FEBRUARY 6, 2015, by CNN WIRE
Author: Illustration Exchange

Fifty-six year old James Robertson is a native of Detroit, MI. Over the years, he’s seen the ravages of hard times eat way at the economy and the job market of the city he calls home. With limited options close to home, he was forced to take a job outside Detroit in neighboring Rochester Hills, where he would come to earn $10.55/hr for a job in an engineering factory. It was a 21 mile round trip commute, which wasn’t so bad until 10 years ago when his 1988 Honda Accord conked out on him. Unable to afford a new vehicle (who could on a $10.55/hr wage?!), he was left to hoof it.

That’s right—for the past 10 yrs, James Robertson has walked the 21 mile round trip trek to work. Even more amazingly, he has managed to achieve perfect attendance.

Robertson sometimes indulged in riding the bus for part of his journey, as well as occasionally enjoying a lift here and there from a compassionate commuter. But most of the miles (some 54,600 of them!) have been trod on the soles of his feet.

Blake Pollack, a financial executive who travels a similar route to work, first spotted Robertson about a year and a half ago. “Climbing over snow banks, when it was pouring down rain in the summer,” Pollack said, “whatever the weather, he was there.”

Pollack approached Robertson, heard his story, and promised to give him a ride the next time he saw him. He has since driven him to work, he estimates, between 40 to 50 times. Pollack and Robertson have since become good friends.

Pollack began sharing the story which eventually caught the attention of a 19 yr old college student, Evan Leedy, who identified with Robertson’s plight and started a GoFundMe page to raise money to help buy him a car. Leedy was hoping to raise at least $5000 to go toward a used vehicle. His hopes, however, were far exceeded when, in a matter of days, the donations exceeded $300,000!

Pollack and Leedy worked together to surprise him with a brand new 2015 Ford Taurus. It’s the car Robertson said he dreamed of owning someday because it is simple on the outside and tough on the inside, just like him.

Pollack has also arranged for attorneys and financial planners to help manage Robertson’s new found fortune in an effort to ward off those who’d seek to take advantage, and to help him plan for a financially sound future.

Fox News reported Leedy saying, “This money that is being given to him — he earned every penny of it, just by his work ethic and his attitude.”

Robertson is filled with deep appreciation, calling those who donated to his cause the real heroes of this story.

He has no plans to quit working. “I can’t imagine not working,” Robertson said. “It’s what I’ve always done.”

Application:

If total strangers respond so generously to the humble efforts of a faithful man, imagine how God will respond to our humble efforts to faithfully serve Him. Don’t grow weary in well doing. Continue to doggedly put one foot in front of the other, and store up for yourself blessings beyond measure.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

“A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Proverbs 10:4, ESV). “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread” (Proverbs 20:13, ESV).

From My Cold Dead Hands

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Topic: Control
Scripture: Romans 5:12; Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:16
Author: Mitchell Dillon

“I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands” was a bumper sticker slogan made popular by the NRA (National Rifle Association).  Then on May 20, 2000, at the 129th NRA convention, actor Charlton Heston, who served as the organization’s president at the time, famously concluded a speech by pausing to wave a replica of a flintlock rifle in the air.

“So,” said Heston as he gripped the gun, “as we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed … ‘From my cold, dead hands!'”

Mr. Heston would conclude each of the NRA conventions over which he presided with that same declaration.*

In similar, though rather humerous fashion, the 1997 farcical comedy, MEN IN BLACK, portrayed a scene in which a farmer, disturbed by a load noise, exits his house only to discover that an alien has crash landed in his front yard.

When asked to drop his shotgun, the farmer replied, “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.”

The alien calmly responded, “Your proposal is acceptable.”

The farmer is not only killed, but the alien then dons the farmer’s skin to wear as a disguise.

Application:

Since the time when Eve first held the forbidden fruit in her hands, we have clutched the want for power and control with a deadly grip, in essence telling God, “You can take it from me when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.” To which God responded, “Your proposal is acceptable.”

Since then, as the Apostle Paul explained it, “… sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned (Romans 5:12).

Nevertheless, God promises, “If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13).

We can only fully experience life as we loosen our grip of control, “die daily” to the power of self and sin, and allow the Spirit of God to manifest the life of Christ in and through us.

Like the alien in MEN IN BLACK, God wants to live His life in our skin!

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

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*Click link to source above to see a video of Mr. Heston’s call to arms.

The Sound of Pounding Footsteps

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Topic: Atheism
Scripture: Romans 10:15; 1 Peter 2:15
Source: As quoted in THE REAL FACE OF ATHEISM, revised and updated edition, by Ravi Zacharias, p. 135.
Author: Ravi Zacharias / Illustration Exchange

In a debate between social critic Dennis Prager and Oxford atheistic professor Jonathan Glover, Prager asked:

“If you, Professor Glover, were stranded at the midnight hour in a desolate Los Angeles street and if, as you stepped out of your car with fear and trembling, you were suddenly to hear the weight of pounding footsteps behind you, and you saw ten burly men who had just stepped out of a dwelling coming toward you, would it or would it not make a difference to you to know that they were coming from a Bible study?”

Application:

While atheists are loath to admit that the world needs what Christianity has to offer, they’d most assuredly prefer to be discovered in the wrong place, at the wrong time, by the “pounding footsteps” of young men who are followers of Christ.

Knowing Christ makes a difference–to everyone!

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15).

“For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15).

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I Am A Great Man

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Topic: Pride
Scripture: Mark 9:35; Matthew 20:26; Matthew 23:11
Source: “THE LION CAGED” by William Manchester, as published on AmericanHeritage.com, retrieved 1/19/15
Author: Illustration Exchange

Winston Churchill was notoriously hard to work for. He was demanding, impatient, and oftentimes, downright rude.

On one occasion, a servant was bold enough to stand up to the man, taking strong issue with Churchill’s behavior.

Churchill, it is variously reported, responded saying, “You were very rude to me, you know.”

“Well,” replied the servant, “you were very rude to me, too.”

“Yes,” said Churchill, “but I am a great man.”

While some suggest the comment was made, at least to some degree, tongue in cheek, others, like Churchill biographer William Manchester, suggest that it was serious and in keeping with his difficult temperament.

Application:

Winston Churchill, prime minister of England both during WWII and again from 1951-55, was indeed a “great” man by any worldly standard. He is rightly reputed to be one of the greatest wartime leaders of the modern era. But “greatness” does not necessarily translate into “goodness.”

“Many,” said the great preacher Charles Spurgeon, “wishing to be great have failed to be good.”

In God’s Kingdom, greatness is not measured by accomplishment, but by character—character marked by humility, servanthood, and most importantly, agape love.

No doubt, Churchill, though flawed by perfectionism and impatience, was at heart a deeply caring and compassionate man. Nevertheless, accomplishment and position are no excuses for thinking oneself “better” than any other.

“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all’” (Mark 9:35, cf. Matthew 20:26; Matthew 23:11).

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Playing Monopoly With Life

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Topic: Money
Scripture: Luke 16:10-11
Author: Mitchell Dillon

Did you know that every year more Monopoly money is printed than real money? When I first heard this, I found it difficult to believe. Then, after I thought about it, I realized that I had a lot more Monopoly money than I did real money!

Unfortunately, monopoly money is of no use in the real world. Not because of the inferior paper on which it is printed, or the cheap ink which is used to manufacture it, but because it lacks the backing of the United States Treasury. It is the authority of the government that gives greenbacks their value. If the Treasury Department were to decide to back Monopoly money, then things would be different. Until that happens, I’ll continue to be richer at play than in real life.

Application:

In the same way, when it comes to what is important in life, there is only one authority with the right to determine the value and meaning of things, and that authority belongs to God. Whatever God approves has real value and meaning. Conversely, whatever God opposes is counted as debt to those who live accordingly. We fool ourselves when we presume to have the right to decide what matters in life. Our puny pronouncements amount to nothing more than play money.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? (Luke 16:10-11).

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Billions In Unused Gift Cards Stashed In Drawers

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Topic: Stewardship
Scripture: Philippians 4:19; Colossians 4:5
Source: “Unused gift cards total $44B since 2008: study” By Gregory Bresiger, posted NEW YORK POST, January 26, 2014
Author: Illustration Exchange

Have you ever been given a gift that you’ve simply failed to use? Millions have—every day!

“People are letting cash slip away that they could be using,” says John Kiernan, a senior analyst with CardHub:

Kiernan, citing CardHub numbers, estimates that some $44 billion in unredeemed gift-card value has been accumulating since 2008.

“I’m not surprised by that number at all,” adds Bill Hardekopf, CEO of LowCards. “People get these cards and often put them away in a drawer and then forget about them. And that’s too bad.”

Application:

As God’s children, we have been given many invaluable gifts. God’s love has been deposited in our lives in a salvation that brings us forgiveness and healing. We have also been enriched with spiritual gifts that enable us to share God’s love in specific ways, so that others might also know the power of God’s love and healing.

Yet, every day, we fail to annex these gifts or make full use of their great value. We have the riches of the Kingdom of Heaven at our disposal, and the calling of God to use them to impact our world. But like so many consumers, we put the gifts and callings of God away in a drawer and forget about them.

Pull them out! Redeem them! Experience the riches of your new life in Christ!

“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NLT).

“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5, NLT).

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