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Friday, May 12, 2006

"Remarkable Things"

Photo of Sonny & Pat Oliver
Sonny and Priscilla Oliver with the Webers
(Click on photo to enlarge)

"Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, 'We have seen remarkable things today'" (Luke 5:26).

Sonny Oliver is a friend of ours from our years at Bible College. He has a remarkable testimony of God's transforming and sustaining grace.  He was born in South Carolina to sharecroppers. When he was seven he moved to Chicago where his parents hoped to find better economic opportunity. He served in Vietnam in the mid sixties and while in the service became addicted to drugs.  After returning to Chicago he went into a downward spiral and for four years he was a heroin addict, in and out of jail and various treatment centers.  A therapist diagnosed him a hopeless sociopath.  But it only got worse and he believed he would die a heroin addict.

A follower of Jesus reached out to him in June 1970 and a remarkable thing happened; Sonny had a life transforming encounter with Jesus Christ and was gloriously saved.  He received his earliest grounding in Teen Challenge and then went to Springfield, Missouri to attend Bible College with a call to ministry. He was overwhelmed but received encouragement from godly professors who mentored him.  He graduated and has had a long-term, fruitful ministry impacting thousands for Jesus Christ. Just last week I spoke to a mutual friend now pastoring in Indianapolis who was blessed by Sonny's ministry.

Last night he spoke at a banquet for a drug and alcohol program in our area.  He shared a dynamic message based on today's text and the healing that preceded it.* As I listened to Sonny share I was especially gripped by the concluding verse in the Scripture portion he used, "Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, 'We have seen remarkable things today'."

The work of Christ's Kingdom is ultimately a result of individuals turning to Him. His Kingdom is not advanced by force but by His followers sharing and demonstrating the love of God. Today this is happening and remarkable things are taking place.  Last year our choir sang a song that speaks of the ordinary people God is using all over the world to advance His purpose; "I'm so very ordinary, nothing special on my own. I have never walked on water, and I have never calmed a storm."  God continues to call and use ordinary people like you and me to accomplish remarkable things!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen C. Weber

Brooksyne's Prayer:  Jesus, I am reminded today that no one is beyond the scope of Your redemptive power.  Your amazing grace works wonders that are unexplainable by human understanding.  Over and over You redeem the hearts of men and women, boys and girls whom others have given up on.  You call us to be heavenly messengers to those without hope.  Our words of support and godly instruction coupled with actions of love and belief in the unlovable ones of our society brings about remarkable change in their lives as well as our own, for You bless both the giver and receiver of Your divine grace.

Brooksyne's Note:  Two thoughts Sonny shared last night really touched my heart and may very well speak to you as well.  He mentioned a couple who invited him into their home when he was a young believer leaving a tremendous impact upon his life to this day.  Their faith in him, when he didn't even have it in himself, spoke volumes and helped him to believe he could remain faithful to God.  Also, when he attended Bible College the challenge of the studies far exceeded his abilities academically.  Students were willing to help by taking notes for him in the classes he attended to make his studying more understandable.  God speaks to our hearts to do major things like the couple taking in a former heroin addict but He also speaks to us about doing little things like the students and yet He uses it all to bless and enrich other lives.

Personal note: It was nice catching up with Sonny last night. We had not seen each other for some 25 years when he last shared a message in the church I pastored in northern Pennsylvania. He shared some other interesting details about his testimony.  Sonny's wife, Priscilla directed the Teen Challenge choir for many years and I still recall her singing in our church a song I thoroughly enjoy titled "Ordinary People."  It has a great message for all of us. 

Just ordinary people, God uses ordinary people.
He chooses people just like me and you,
who are willing to do as He commands.
God uses people that will give Him all,
no matter how small your all may seem to you;
Because little becomes much as you place it in the Master's hand.

Oh, just like that little lad, who gave Jesus all he had;
How the multitude was fed with a fish and loaves of bread.
What you have may not seem much,
but when you yield it to the touch
of the Master's loving hand,
then you will understand how
your life could never be the same.

"Ordinary People" Hall, Danniebell © 1977 Birdwing Music (a div. of EMI Christian Music Publishing) / BMG Songs, Inc. (Mech) (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing) CCLI License No. 2005306  I couldn't find a full version audio clip of the song "Ordinary People" on the web but here's a short sample.

* Context of today's passage (Luke 5:17-26)

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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