Perfect Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion

Perfect Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion

by Preaching Today, Inc., Christianity Today International, Preaching Today Inc

Good communicators are always on the lookout for fresh, relevant anecdotes and examples to drive home the point of their words. This handy reference contains 300 anecdotes and illustrations for pastors, writers, teachers, and other Christian communicators on a variety of topics. Each entry includes Scripture references, cross-references to related topics, an


Good communicators are always on the lookout for fresh, relevant anecdotes and examples to drive home the point of their words. This handy reference contains 300 anecdotes and illustrations for pastors, writers, teachers, and other Christian communicators on a variety of topics. Each entry includes Scripture references, cross-references to related topics, an anecdote or illustration, and a citation of its source.

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Tyndale House Publishers
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Perfect Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2002 Christianity Today International
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8423-6004-2

Chapter One




1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6

Abstinence; Boldness; Children; Child-Rearing; Disease, sexually transmitted; Education; Morality; Parenting; Sex; Sexual Immorality

I held a notice from my 13-year-old daughter's school announcing a meeting to preview the new course in sexuality. Parents could examine the curriculum and take part in a lesson presented exactly as it would be given to the students.

When I arrived at the school, I was surprised to discover only about a dozen parents present. As we waited for the presentation, I thumbed through page after page of instructions on the prevention of pregnancy or disease. I found abstinence mentioned only in passing.

When the teacher arrived with the school nurse, she asked if there were any questions. I asked why abstinence did not play a noticeable part in the material. I was shocked by what happened next. There was a great deal of laughter, and someone suggested that if I thought abstinence had any merit, I should go back to burying my head in the sand. The teacher and the nurse said nothing as I drowned in a sea of embarrassment. My mind went blank, and I could think of nothing to say. The teacher explained that the job of the school was to "teach facts," and the home was responsible for moral training.

I sat in silence for the next 20 minutes as the course was explained. The other parents seemed to give their unqualified support to the materials. "Donuts at the back," announced tthe teacher during the break. "I'd like you to put on the name tags we have prepared and mingle with the other parents." Everyone moved to the back of the room. As I watched them affix their name tags and shake hands, I sat deep in thought. I was ashamed I had not been able to convince them to include a serious discussion of abstinence in the materials. I uttered a silent prayer for guidance.

My thoughts were interrupted by the nurse's hand on my shoulder. "Won't you join the others?" The nurse smiled sweetly at me. "The donuts are good." "Thank you, no." I replied.

"Well, then, how about a name tag? I'm sure the others would like to meet you."

"Somehow I doubt that," I replied.

"Won't you please join them?" she coaxed. Then I heard a still, small voice whisper, Don't go. The instruction was unmistakable: Don't go!

"I'll just wait here," I said.

When the class was called back to order, the teacher looked around the long table and thanked everyone for putting on name tags. She ignored me. Then she said, "Now we're going to give you the same lesson we'll be giving your children. Everyone please peel off your name tags." I watched in silence as the tags came off. "Now, then, on the back of one of the tags, I drew a tiny flower. Who has it?"

The gentleman across from me held it up. "All right," she said. "The flower represents disease." Then she asked the man, "Do you recall with whom you shook hands?" He pointed to a couple of people. "Very good," she replied. "The handshake in this case represents intimacy. The two people you had contact with now have the disease."

There was laughter and joking among the parents. The teacher continued, "And whom did the two of you shake hands with?" The point was well taken, and she explained how this lesson would show students how quickly disease spreads. "Since we all shook hands, we all have the disease."

It was then that I heard the still, small voice again. Speak now, but be humble. I rose from my chair. I apologized for any upset I might have caused earlier, congratulated the teacher on an excellent lesson that would impress the youth, and concluded by saying I had only one small point I wished to make. "Not all of us were infected," I said. "One of us ... abstained."

Citation: Source unknown; submitted by Eric Reed, associate editor, Leadership

* * *



1 Corinthians 6:18-20; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 Abstinence; Passion, sexual; Sex; Teenagers; Youth

Here are some recent statistics on teenage sexuality gathered by Project Reality and The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy:

Percentage of teens who say the main reason they don't engage in sex is because of religion and moral values: 26 Percentage of teens who say it is important for teens to be given a strong message about abstinence: 93 Percentage of teens who received abstinence education and said that sexual urges can be controlled: 51

Citation: "Losing Our Promiscuity," Christianity Today (July 10, 2000), p. 38

* * *



1 SAMUEL 16:7; MATTHEW 19:30

Achievement; Grace; Human Worth; Self-Worth; Works

The late Henri Nouwen, a best-selling author and professor, recalls his first days at L'Arche, a community for the mentally and physically disabled, in Toronto:

The first thing that struck me when I came to live in a house with mentally handicapped people was that their liking or disliking me had absolutely nothing to do with any of the many useful things I had done until then. Since nobody could read my books, they could not impress anyone, and since most of them never went to school, my 20 years at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard did not provide a significant introduction. My considerable ecumenical experience proved even less valuable. Not being able to use any of the skills that had proved so practical in the past was a real source of anxiety. In a way it seemed as though I was starting my life all over again.

In the same way, when we enter the kingdom of God, all our achievements won't matter. What God cares about is who we are-do we have faith in Him?

Citation: Kevin A. Miller, editor and author, Wheaton, Illinois; source: Gordon MacDonald, "Atmospheric Influences," Leadership (Winter 1999), p. 32

* * *



Hebrews 13:4

Adultery; Marriage

Overall percentage of men who have cheated on their wives: 23 Percentage of couples who divorce after an affair (even with counseling):34

Percentage who later describe the marriage as unhappy or empty: 78

Citation: Men's Health (December 1998)



Romans 8:28; Philippians 2:12-13

Adversity; Hardship; Purpose; Trials; Victory

In July 2000, Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France for the second year in a row. In 1999, the first year Armstrong won, much was made about the fact that he had survived testicular cancer that had spread into his lungs and brain. Armstrong not only recovered from the cancer, but went on to win the most prestigious race in cycling.

But there were those who said his victory was hollow because some of the best competitors had to sit out the race in 1999 due to a doping scandal. Few believed he would win in the year 2000 when the best cyclists would be back and the course more mountainous. This year Lance Armstrong not only won, but won by a whopping six minutes!

In analyzing his victory a commentator pointed out that it was after Armstrong's bout with cancer that he became a premier cyclist. After recovering from cancer, Lance was 40 pounds lighter than he had been before. And while he bulked up some in the recovery years, he always remained leaner than he ever had been before. This loss of weight made a difference in Armstrong's biking and played significantly into his becoming a two-time Tour de France winner.

As Christians, we often ask why bad things happen. However, what we are called to shed through adversity today may help us have victory tomorrow.

Citation: Jeff Hinman, Independence, Oregon

* * *



Ephesians 6:4

Affirmation; Children; Education; Encouragement; Expectations; Parenting

He was always in trouble at school, so when the parents of the junior high boy received one more call to come in and meet with his teacher and the principal, they knew what was coming. Or so they thought.

The teacher sat down with the boy's father and said, "Thanks for coming. I wanted you to hear what I have to say."

The father crossed his arms and waited, thinking what defense he could use this time. The teacher proceeded to go down a list of ten things-ten positive affirmations of the junior high "troublemaker." When she finished, the father said, "And what else? Let's hear the bad things."

"That's all I wanted to say," she said. That night when the father got home, he repeated the conversation to his son. And not surprisingly, almost overnight, the troublemaker's attitude and behavior changed dramatically. All because a teacher looked past the negatives.

Citation: Bonne Steffen, editor of Christian Reader; source: Peter Lord, former pastor of Park Avenue Baptist Church, Titusville, Florida

* * *



Romans 3:10-31; 4:1-25; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:3-8

Afterlife; Conscience; Culture, popular; Faith, justification by; Faith and Works; Grace, salvation by; Heaven; Morality; Salvation by Faith; Self-Righteousness; Works

I'm not a practicant, but I pray. I read the Bible. It's the most beautiful book ever written. I should go to heaven; otherwise it's not nice. I haven't done anything wrong. My conscience is very clean. My soul is as white as those orchids over there, and I should go straight, straight to heaven.

Citation: Sophia Loren, actress, USA Today (February 4, 1999)

* * *



Genesis 12:4; Exodus 7:7; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Ageism; Aging; Call; Calling; Ministry; Missions; Service

As a 15-year-old girl in 1927, Lois Secrist promised God she'd go overseas as a missionary, perhaps to Africa or India, helping the needy. But Lois never made that trip of mercy.

At 23 she married Galon Prater, a handsome farmhand who became a heavy drinker.

Many years later, Galon did become a Christian and testify about the peace of Jesus to his drinking buddies. But by then he was almost 80 and nearing death. When he died January 9, 1988, Lois's childhood desire of becoming a missionary returned.

At first she resisted. At age 76, she felt her opportunity to serve overseas as a missionary had slipped away.

"I said, 'Lord, I'm too old to go now. I can't do this,'" Lois admits.

But this great grandmother was determined to fulfill her unforgotten promise. Lois, pricked by the memory of ignoring God's calling as a teenager, would not refuse a second chance at becoming a missionary.

So at 87, Lois Prater has become the unlikely builder of an orphanage in the Philippines, a lifeline to 35 children whose lives have been rescued from neglect, begging in the streets, and parental abuse.

Today the 35 orphans living in the two-story, 2,000-square-foot, white stucco home call Lois "Lola," which means "grandmother" in their native Tagalog language.

Lois's "children," as she calls them, range in age from eight months to 10 years. Each of their stories is heartbreaking.

Lois has built the orphanage without taking out a loan, relying instead on individual financial support from across the United States. Because of her age, she is not supported by any church denomination and depends solely on private donations.

When asked if that makes her nervous, she says confidently, "I serve a mighty God. He's in control. I feel I'm not talented enough to do any of this. But God enables me. My responsibility is to do what I can."

Citation: Gail Wood, "Mission Delayed," Virtue (June/July 1999)

* * *



Job 12:12; Proverbs 3:13-16

Aging; Fruitfulness; Perseverance; Service; Work

The world seems to worship youth and is terrified of aging. But there was a time when getting older was associated with wisdom and experience. In fact, some of the greatest accomplishments in history came very late in life. Immanuel Kant wrote one of his best philosophical works at the age of 74. Verdi penned his classic "Ave Maria" at 85.... Michelangelo was 87 when he completed The Pietà, his greatest work of art.... And Ronald Reagan was the most powerful man in the world at 75.... This notion that life should be winding down at 50 or 60 years of age is crazy.

Citation: James Dobson, Coming Home (Tyndale, 1998); submitted by Brad Estep, Kenneth City, Florida

* * *



2 Samuel 15; James 3:13-16

Ambition; Emotions; Heart; Power, human; Success

Clare Sheridan, journalist for the New York World, once interviewed Mussolini, the Italian dictator:

What [she] remembered particularly was Mussolini's parting advice on what it took to succeed in life. "Above all, keep your heart a desert!" the dictator told her.

Citation: James R. Mellow, Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences (Perseus, 1994), p. 202

* * *



Proverbs 15:1; Galatians 5:19-20; Ephesians 4:26, 31; James 1:19

Anger; Impatience; Self-Control; Stress; Swearing; Violence

America is becoming a nation of angry, short-tempered people. From road rage to airplane rage, grocery store rage, and violence at youth sports events, the media has been reporting these emotional outbursts with unprecedented frequency.

More than three-fourths of Americans believe angry behavior has increased in places like airports and highways, according to a recent USA Today CNN/Gallup Poll. Flight attendants and pilots report a dramatic increase in problem passengers: 66 incidents in 1997, 534 incidents in 1999.

C. Leslie Charles, author of Why Is Everyone So Cranky? writes:

I'm describing a fuming, unrelenting, sense of anger, hostility, and alienation that simmers for months, even years, without relief. Eventually, all it takes is a triggering incident, usually minor, for the hostile person to go ballistic.... Cell phones, pagers, and high tech devices allow us to be interrupted anywhere, at any time. This constant accessibility, and compulsive use of technology, fragments what little time we do have, adding to our sense of urgency, emergency, and overload.

James Garbarino, human development professor at Cornell University, reports a major social shift:

There is a general breakdown of social conventions, of manners, of social controls. This gives a validation, a permission, to be aggressive. Kids used to be guided by a social convention that said, "keep the lid on."


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