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Several years ago in Timisoara, Romania, Laszlo Tokes became pastor of Timisoara's small Hungarian Reformed Church. Tokes preached the Gospel boldly, and within two years membership had swelled to five thousand.
But success can be dangerous in a Communist country. Authorities stationed police officers in front of the church on Sundays, cradling machine guns. They hired thugs to attack Pastor Tokes. They confiscated his ration book so he couldn't buy food or fuel. Finally, in December 1989, they decided to send him into exile.
But when police arrived to hustle Pastor Tokes away, they were stopped cold. Around the entrance of the church stood a wall of humanity. Members of other churches-Baptist, Adventist, Pentecostal, Orthodox, Catholic-had joined together to protest.
Though police tried to disperse the crowd, the people held their post all day and into the night. Then, just after midnight, a 19-year-old Baptist student named Daniel Gavra pulled out a packet of candles. He lit one and passed it to his neighbor.
When Tokes peered out the window, he was struck by the warm glow reflecting off hundreds of faces. That moment, he saidlater, was the "turning point in my life." His religious prejudices evaporated. Here were members of the body of Christ, completely disregarding denominational divisions, joining hands in his defense.
It was a moving testimony to Christian unity.
The crowd stayed all through the night-and the next night. Finally police broke through. They bashed in the church door, bloodied Pastor Tokes' face, then paraded him and his wife through the crowd and out into the night.
But that was not the end.
No, the religious protest led-as it always does-to political protest. The people streamed to the city square and began a full-scale demonstration against the Communist government. Again Daniel passed out his candles.
First they had burned for Christian unity; now they burned for freedom.
This was more than the government could tolerate. They brought in troops and ordered them to open fi re on the crowd. Hundreds were shot. Young Daniel felt a searing pain as his leg was blown off. But the people of Timisoara stood bravely against the barrage of bullets.
And by their example they inspired the entire population of Romania. Within days the nation had risen up and the bloody dictator Ceausescu was gone.
For the first time in half a century, Romanians celebrated Christmas in freedom.
Daniel celebrated in the hospital, where he was learning to walk with crutches. His pastor came to offer sympathy, but Daniel wasn't looking for sympathy.
"Pastor, I don't mind so much the loss of a leg," he said. "After all, it was I who lit the first candle."
The candle that lit up an entire country.
With a candle, a nineteen-year-old boy sparked a revolution that is still being felt today. Romania is a free country thanks to the efforts of people like Daniel Gavra who were willing to put their lives on the line for the sake of the Gospel and for basic human rights.
You can make a difference wherever you are if you are willing to take a stand. Don't wait for everyone else to do it. Be the first to light your candle.
A Case of Mistaken
Little River Community Church was located just down the street from First Memorial Church. Since they were located on the same street in the same town, the two youth groups from the two churches were often competing with each other. They participated in the same softball league, the same basketball league, and had become intense rivals. Little River Community was always trying to outdo First Memorial and vice versa.
One Sunday, following a Bible study on serving others, the youth group at Little River Community Church decided to go out into their community and put their faith into action. The youth pastor organized the kids into "ministry teams" and challenged them go out and to serve others. They could do anything-but they needed to remember: "Do what Jesus would do."
So the youth group from Little River Community Church fanned out into the neighborhood and starting serving. One group washed cars for people up and down the street. Another group pumped gas for free at a self-service gas station. Another group went to a convalescent home and sang songs to the shut-ins who lived there.
After the time was up, all the ministry teams returned to the church and reported what they had done. Each group had stories to tell, as they shared what they learned and how it made them feel.
One of the groups told of how they had gone to serve a woman who lived close to First Memorial Church. When First Memorial, their rival, was mentioned, everyone groaned. "We mowed grass, raked leaves and did yardwork for her," said one of the students. "She was real nice. And after we were through, she invited us in and prayed for us. And then she said, 'You young people from First Memorial Church are always doing such nice things for us old folks.'"
"Oh no!" said the youth pastor. "She thought you were from First Memorial? Well, I hope you set her straight. Did you tell her that you weren't from First Memorial but from Little River Community?"
"Well ... no we didn't," said the student, surprised by the youth pastor's question. "You told us to do what Jesus would do, didn't you? We decided that Jesus would just keep his mouth shut."
This true story (the names have been changed) is remarkable because most of us would probably have been quick to let the woman know she was wrong to credit someone else for the work we had done. But the way of Jesus is not concerned with who gets the credit. In fact, the way of Jesus is to actually rejoice in the good fortune of others. It is to put others first, ourselves last.
When we serve, we should not be concerned with getting credit for it, but with glorifying God. He is the one who should receive praise and thanks. The object of service is not to make ourselves look good, but to direct people's attention to God.
A Diet for Losers
If you are interested in losing weight, I present to you the incredible new "Loser's Diet." Just follow this diet and you are sure to lose.
BREAKFAST 1/2 grapefruit 1 slice whole wheat toast 8 oz. skim milk
LUNCH 4 oz. lean broiled chicken breast 1 cup steamed zucchini 1 Oreo cookie Herb tea
MID-AFTERNOON SNACK Rest of the package of Oreos 1 quart rocky-road ice cream 1 jar hot fudge
DINNER 2 loaves garlic bread Large pepperoni and mushroom pizza Large pitcher of root beer 2 Snickers bars Entire frozen cheesecake, eaten directly from freezer
If no one sees you eat it, it has no calories.
If you drink a diet soda with a candy bar, they cancel each other out.
When eating with someone else, calories don't count if you both eat.
Food used for medical purposes never counts, such as: hot chocolate, toast, and Sara Lee cheesecake.
If you fatten up everyone else around you, then you look thinner.
Movie-related foods don't count because they are simply part of the entire entertainment experience and not a part of one's personal fuel.
Cookie pieces contain no calories. The process of breakage causes calorie leakage.
This diet sounds a lot like how some people try live the Christian life, doesn't it? We start off great in the morning-maybe even with a little Bible reading and prayer. But then things start to disintegrate and by the end of the day, we discover that we have blown it big time. We rationalize our behavior with statements like "Well, if no one sees me sin, then it's really no big deal." Or, "If I sin with my friends, then it's okay because everyone is doing it."
That kind of Christianity, of course, is just as ridiculous as the "diet for losers." When we commit ourselves to Christ, we commit ourselves to following Jesus over the long haul. As Paul wrote in Philippians 3:14, "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Paul not only started well, but he ended well. He didn't give up every time the going got a little rough. He didn't try to change the rules. Instead, he hung in there and finished the race. So can you.
A Million Frogs
A farmer came into town and asked the owner of a restaurant if he could use a million frog legs.
The restaurant owner was shocked and asked the man where he could get so many frog legs! The farmer replied, "There is a pond near my house that is full of frogs-millions of them. They croak all during the night and are about to drive me crazy!"
So the restaurant owner and the farmer made an agreement that the farmer would deliver frogs to the restaurant five hundred at a time for the next several weeks.
The first week, the farmer returned to the restaurant looking rather sheepish, with two scrawny little frogs. The restaurant owner said, "Well ... where are all the frogs?"
The farmer said, "I was mistaken. There were only these two frogs in the pond. But they sure were making a lot of noise!"
Next time you hear somebody criticizing or making fun of you, remember it's probably just a couple of noisy frogs.
Also-remember that problems always seem bigger in the dark. Have you ever lain in your bed at night worrying about things which seem almost overwhelming-like a million frogs croaking? Chances are pretty good that when the morning comes, and you take a closer look, you'll wonder what all the fuss was about.
A Picture of God
A little boy sat down at the kitchen table with his crayons and a big sheet of blank paper, and he started to draw.
His father, noticing the youngster hard at work at the table, stopped to look. "What are you doing, son?"
"I'm drawing a picture of God," said the little boy.
"But son," said the father, "You can't draw a picture of God. Nobody knows what God looks like."
The little boy thought for a moment and said, "Well-they will when I get through!"
Most people would agree with the father in the story. No one knows what God looks like. But maybe that's one of the reasons God created us and called us to serve him. He created us "in his own image" so that we could-in a sense-show the world what God looks like. When we are being conformed into the image of his son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29), people can see in us a reflection of our Heavenly Father.
All of us have the ability to represent God to the world-and to do it in our own way. You don't need to worry whether your picture of God looks like everybody else's. You are to serve God uniquely, with the gifts and abilities that God has given to you, and when you get through, people will have a little better idea of what God looks like. They will see God in you!
Excerpted from More Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks by Wayne Rice Copyright © 1995 by Youth Specialties. Excerpted by permission.
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