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August 31st, 2008

Story : Jesus Came To Dinner

Jesus came for dinner

Ruth looked at the envelope again. There was no stamp, no postmark, only her name and address. She read the letter one more time…

Dear Ruth,

I’m going to be in your neighborhood Saturday afternoon and I’d like to stop by for a visit.

Love Always,

Jesus

Her hands were shaking as she placed the letter on the table. “Why would the Lord want to visit me? I’m nobody special. I don’t have anything to offer.”

With that thought, Ruth remembered her empty kitchen cabinets. “Oh my goodness, I really don’t have anything to offer. I’ll have to run down to the store and buy something for dinner.”

She reached for her purse and counted out its contents. Seven dollars and forty cents. “Well, I can get some bread and cold cuts, at least.” She threw on her coat and hurried out the door.

A loaf of french bread, a half-pound of sliced turkey, and a carton of milk…leaving Ruth with a grand total of twelve cents to last her until Monday. Nonetheless, she felt satisfied as she headed home, her meager offerings tucked under her arm.

“Hey lady, can you help us, lady?” Ruth had been so absorbed in her dinner plans, she hadn’t even noticed two figures huddled in the alleyway. A man and a woman, both of them dressed in little more than rags.

“Look lady, I ain’t got a job, ya know, and my wife and I have been living out here on the street, and, well, now it’s getting cold and we’re getting kinda hungry and, well, if you could help us, lady, we’d really appreciate it.”

Ruth looked at them both. They were dirty, they smelled bad and, frankly, she was certain that they could get some kind of work if they really wanted to. “Sir, I’d like to help you, but I’m a poor woman myself. All I have is a few cold cuts and some bread, and I’m having an important guest for dinner tonight and I was planning on serving that to Him.”

“Yeah, well, OK lady, I understand. Thanks anyway.” The man put his arm around the woman’s shoulders, turned and headed back into the alley.

As she watched them leave, Ruth felt a familiar twinge in her heart. “Sir, wait!” The couple stopped and turned as she ran down the alley after them. “Look, why don’t you take this food. I’ll figure out something else to serve my guest.” She handed the man her grocery bag.

“Thank you lady. Thank you very much!” “Yes, thank you!” It was the man’s wife, and Ruth could see now that she was shivering.

“You know, I’ve got another coat at home. Here, why don’t you take this one.” Ruth unbuttoned her jacket and slipped it over the woman’s shoulders. Then smiling, she turned and walked back to the street . . .without her coat and with nothing to serve her guest. “Thank you lady! Thank you very much!”

Ruth was chilled by the time she reached her front door, and worried too. The Lord was coming to visit and she didn’t have anything to offer Him. She fumbled through her purse for the door key. But as she did, she noticed another envelope in her mailbox. “That’s odd. The mailman doesn’t usually come twice in one day.” She took the envelope out of the box and opened it.

Dear Ruth,

It was so good to see you again. Thank you for the lovely meal. And thank you too, for the beautiful coat.

Love Always,

Jesus

The air was still cold, but even without her coat, Ruth no longer noticed.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?”

The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Matthew 25:37-40

August 30th, 2008

Is God Waiting For Our Prayers?

God waiting for You everyday at a table for two

Table for Two  –  Is God waiting for our prayers?

He sits by himself at a table for two. The uniformed waiter returns to his side and asks, “Would you like to go ahead and order, sir?” The man has, after all, been waiting since seven o’clock–almost half an hour.

“No, thank you,” the man smiles. “I’ll wait for her a while longer.

How about some more coffee?”

“Certainly, sir.”

The man sits, his clear blue eyes gazing straight through the flowered centerpiece. He fingers his napkin, allowing the sounds of light chatter, tinkling silverware, and mellow music to fill his mind. He is dressed in a sport coat and tie. His dark brown hair is neatly combed, but one stray lock insists on dropping to his forehead. The scent of his cologne adds to his clean cut image. He is dressed up enough to make a companion feel important, respected, loved. Yet he is not so formal as to make one uncomfortable. It seems that he has taken every precaution to make others feel at ease with him. Still, he sits alone.

The waiter returns to fill the man’s coffee cup. “Is there anything else I can get for you, sir?”

“No, thank you.”

The waiter remains standing at the table. Something tugs at his curiosity. “I don’t mean to pry, but…” His voice trails off. This line of conversation could jeopardize his tip.

“Go ahead,” the man encourages. His is strong, yet sensitive, inviting conversation.

“Why do you bother waiting for her?” the waiter finally blurts out. This man has been at the restaurant other evenings, always patiently alone.

Says the man quietly, “Because she needs me.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Well, sir, no offense, but assuming that she needs you, she sure isn’t acting much like it. She’s stood you up three times just this week.”

The man winces, and looks down at the table. “Yes, I know.”

“Then why do you still come here and wait?”

“Cassie said that she would be here.”

“She’s said that before,” the waiter protests. “I wouldn’t put up with it. Why do you?”

Now the man looks up, smiles at the waiter, and says simply, “Because I love her.”

The waiter walks away, wondering how one could love a girl who stands him up three times a week. The man must be crazy, he decides. Across the room, he turns to look at the man again. The man slowly pours cream into his coffee. He twirls his spoon between his fingers a few times before stirring sweetener into his cup. After staring for a moment into the liquid, the man brings the cup to his mouth and sips, silently watching those around him.

He doesn’t look crazy, the waiter admits. Maybe the girl has qualities that I don’t know about. Or maybe the man’s love is stronger than most. The waiter shakes himself out of his musings to take an order from a party of five.

The man watches the waiter, wonders if he’s ever been stood up. The man has, many times. But he still can’t get used to it. Each time, it hurts. He’s looked forward to this evening all day. He has many things, exciting things, to tell Cassie. But, more importantly, he wants to hear Cassie’s voice. He wants her to tell him all about her day, her triumphs, her defeats….anything, really. He has tried so many times to show Cassie how much he loves her. He’d just like to know that she cares for him, too. He sips sporadically at the coffee, and loses himself in thought, knowing that Cassie is late, but still hoping that she will arrive.

The clock says nine-thirty when the waiter returns to the man’s table. “Is there anything I can get for you?”

The still empty chair stabs at the man. “No, I think that will be all for tonight. May I have the check please?”

“Yes, sir.”

When the waiter leaves, the man picks up the check. He pulls out his wallet and signs. He has enough money to have given Cassie a feast. But he takes out only enough to pay for his five cups of coffee and the tip. Why do you do this, Cassie, his mind cries as he gets up from the table.

“Good-bye,” the waiter says, as the man walks towards the door.

“Good night. Thank you for your service.”

“You’re welcome, sir,” says the waiter softly, for he sees the hurt in the man’s eyes that his smile doesn’t hide. The man passes a laughing young couple on his way out, and his eyes glisten as he thinks of the good time he and Cassie could have had. He stops at the front and makes reservations for tomorrow. Maybe Cassie will be able to make it, he thinks.

“Seven o’clock tomorrow for party of two?” the hostess confirms.

“That”s right,” the man replies.

“Do you think she’ll come”” asks the hostess. She doesn’t mean to be rude, but she has watched the man many times alone at his table for two.

“Someday, yes. And I will be waiting for her.” The man buttons his overcoat and walks out of the restaurant, alone. His shoulders are hunched, but through the windows the hostess can only guess whether they are hunched against the wind or against the man’s hurt.

As the man turns toward home, Cassie turns into bed. She is tired after an evening out with friends. As she reaches toward her night stand to set the alarm, she sees the note that she scribbled to herself last night. “7:00,” it says. “Spend some time in prayer.” Darn, she thinks. She forgot again. She feels a twinge of guilt, but quickly pushes it aside. She needed that time with her friends. And now she needs her sleep. She can pray tomorrow night. Jesus will forgive her. And she’s sure he doesn’t mind.

——————————

Story : Does God still speak to people?

August 30th, 2008

Story : Information Please

Information Please - what is death

When I was quite young, my father had one of the first telephones in our neighborhood. I remember well the polished old case fastened to the wall. The shiny receiver hung on the side of the box. I was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination when my mother used to talk to it.

Then I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person – her name was Information Please and there was nothing she did not know. Information Please could supply anybody’s number and the correct time.

My first personal experience with this genie-in-the-bottle came one day while my mother was visiting a neighbor. Amusing myself at the tool bench in the basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer. The pain was terrible, but there didn’t seem to be any reason in crying because there was no one home to give sympathy. I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway – The telephone! Quickly I ran for the footstool in the parlor and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up I unhooked the receiver in the parlor and held it to my ear. Information Please I said into the mouthpiece just above my head.

A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into my ear. “Information.”

“I hurt my finger. . .” I wailed into the phone. The tears came readily enough now that I had an audience.

“Isn’t your mother home?” came the question.

“Nobody’s home but me.” I blubbered.

“Are you bleeding?”

“No,” I replied. “I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts.”

“Can you open your icebox?” she asked. I said I could. “Then chip off a little piece of ice and hold it to your finger.”

After that I called Information Please for everything. I asked her for help with my geography and she told me where Philadelphia was. She helped me with my math, and she told me my pet chipmunk I had caught in the park just the day before would eat fruits and nuts.

And there was the time that Petey, our pet canary died. I called Information Please and told her the sad story. She listened, then said the usual things grown-ups say to soothe a child. But I was unconsoled. Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers, feet up on the bottom of a cage?

She must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly, “Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in.” Somehow I felt better.

Another day I was on the telephone. “Information Please.”

“Information,” said the now familiar voice.

“How do you spell fix?” I asked.

All this took place in a small town in the pacific Northwest. Then when I was 9 years old, we moved across the country to Boston. I missed my friend very much. Information Please belonged in that old wooden box back home, and I somehow never thought of trying the tall, shiny new phone that sat on the hall table.

Yet as I grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left me; often in moments of doubt and perplexity I would recall the serene sense of security I had then. I appreciated now how patient, understanding, and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.

A few years later, on my way west to college, my plane put down in Seattle. I had about half an hour or so between plane, and I spent 15 minutes or so on the phone with my sister, who lived there now. Then without thinking what I was doing, I dialed my hometown operator and said, “Information Please”.

Miraculously, I heard again the small, clear voice I knew so well, “Information.” I hadn’t planned this but I heard myself saying, “Could you tell me please how-to spell fix?”

There was a long pause. Then came the soft spoken answer, “I guess that your finger must have healed by now.

I laughed, “So it’s really still you,” I said. “I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time.

“I wonder, she said, if you know how much your calls meant to me. I never had any children, and I used to look forward to your calls.

I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and I asked if I could call her again when I came back to visit my sister.

“Please do, just ask for Sally.”

Just three months later I was back in Seattle. . .A different voice answered Information and I asked for Sally.

“Are you a friend?”

“Yes, a very old friend.”

“Then I’m sorry to have to tell you. Sally has been working part-time the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago.” But before I could hang up she said, “Wait a minute. Did you say your name was Paul?”

“Yes.”

“Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down. Here it is I’ll read it ‘Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He’ll know what I mean’.

I thanked her and hung up. I did know what Sally meant.

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