THE DAY MY SON (almost) DIED

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Our youngest child was only six days old when he was rushed to hospital. We were about to discover Theodore had been born with a heart defect causing his pulse to race erratically and dangerously.

In the emergency room at the hospital they hooked our boy up to the ECG monitor. My wife and I knew immediately – by the audible gasps from the medical staff – the situation wasn’t good.

Young Theodore was showing a pulse of 280 beats per minute which is more than double the average infant’s heart rate. A team of three doctors and even more nurses tried a multiple treatments to bring our son’s heart rate down, but nothing was working. There was worry in the room that my infant son could die at any moment.

A medical specialist from a nearby hospital was called in. When she arrived she took a briefing from the existing staff and immediately called for a large bucket of ice-water. Then, this specialist doctor took hold of our six-day-old son and physically turned him upside-down, plunging him headfirst into the bucket of freezing water. She held him there for what seemed like eternity but in reality was only a few seconds – before she pulled Theodore back out of the bucket.

There was no change to our son’s racing heart. 

A second attempt, this time holding him a little longer upside down in the bucket. Everyone’s eyes turned to the monitor. The reading showed a sudden return to a normal heart rate. Relief!

I’ve since learned the human body has a number of natural reflexes that can restart our heart. Cold water on the face and head is one of them, and it’s the only one  feasible for use on an infant child.

According to the Bible all of us have been born with a spiritual heart defect. We have hearts defaulted to selfishness which was not in our Creator’s original design for us. The only way for us to have our heart spiritually restarted is to come to an understanding of the identity of Jesus Christ.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” was the prayer of a king three thousand years ago.* And for thirty centuries it has been the prayer of all repentant believers who have wanted their hearts restarted by God.

May it be your prayer today.

*Psalm 51:10

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read of one man’s sacrifice on the Kwai River in Burma.David speaking 2

To the Moon and Back

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A true story is told of a nine-year-old boy playing in his home one evening, when his mother gave the usual: “Jimmy, it’s time to get ready for bed.” 

Unlike most kids, Jimmy obeyed his parent the first time his mother made her request, and he went straight upstairs to his room.

An hour or so later his mother came up to check on her son, and to her surprise she found Jimmy sitting quietly by his bedroom window staring upwards. 

“What are you doing, Jimmy?” asked the the young boy’s mother.

“I’m looking at the moon, mum. Isn’t it beautiful?”

“Well, it might be beautiful, but it’s time to get into bed now.”

Jimmy climbed in between his sheets, and his mother kissed him good-night.

“Mum…” began Jimmy, “You know one day I’m going to walk on the moon.” 

“Yes dear,” was Jimmy’s mother’s response. “Now go to sleep.”

Thirty-two years later James “Jim” Irwin became the eighth person to walk on the moon, one of only twelve humans to have ever done so. When James Irwin returned from to Earth from his time in the vastness of space he surrendered his life to Christ. 

Jim Irwin’s time in space looking back at our planet convinced him there must be a Creator of our complex universe.

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The Bible talks about people through history who have had a God-given calling placed on their lives, and then had the courage to follow their Creator’s vision for the remainder of their years. 

The Hebrew Bible’s “Book of Joel” talks about the Creator giving dreams and visions to both the young and the old.*  The challenge for each of us is to be brave enough to recognise when the Lord is calling us (and also giving us a calling). 

What’s God’s vision for the rest of your life?

* Joel 2:28

 

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read the story of an Olympic rower who stopped for ducks.David speaking 2

 

 

“When Every Second Counts”: A story of self-sacrifice

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The story of Aron Ralston climbing through a canyon one day in 2003 was made into an Academy-award nominated movie. Aron was an experienced outdoorsman and confident of his wilderness skills. Perhaps too confident. Aron only planned to be out canyoning just for the day, and so he didn’t think it was necessary to tell anyone where he was going. 

Aron would soon regret that mistake when a boulder came loose while he was descending into a  narrow crevice. The large rock tumbled down and crushed Aron’s right hand against the canyon wall.

Aron spent the next five days unsuccessfully trying to move the 360kg boulder from his arm. He stayed alive by sipping on the small amount of water he had and slowly rationing the snacks he’d brought along for his day-trip.

By the fifth day, Aron Ralston scratched his name and date into the rock – assuming that would be his last day alive. In addition, he made a short video of himself with his camera, saying goodbye to his family. Aron didn’t expect to survive the coming cold night. 

During that night Ralston drifted towards death. He began to hallucinate and had a vision of himself playing with some future yet-to-be-born son. In his dream Aron had part of his right arm missing.

When he woke, alive, the next morning – Aron knew what he need to do in order to survive. The trapped outdoorsman began to cut his own arm off with a small, blunt knife he had in his kitbag. Without any anaesthetic and after 127 hours of being trapped, Aron Ralston hacked through his own skin, flesh, tendons, and bone to free himself. He then rappelled down a twenty metre wall one handed, and then walked ten kilometres out of the canyon. By the time he reached safety he had lost a quarter of his body’s blood.

Aron was crippled for life, but he was alive. A few years later Aron would be the father of a child he feels he dreamed about on the final night when he was trapped by the rock. This incredible story of survival was made into a Hollywood movie called “127 Hours”.

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The story of Aron Ralston has some parallels to the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth, although the major difference in the biblical story of redemption is that Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t free himself but instead frees us.

Let me explain: our Creator knew humanity was trapped by a metaphorical boulder called sin. No matter what we try we can’t free ourselves from the death our sins ultimately bring us. So, in order for us to truly live, Jesus came in human form – and in the process cut off a piece of His own divinity. 

Our Creator actually cut off a piece of Himself in order to rescue you and me – and His body shall forever show the scars of this sacrifice. 

The Apostle Paul understood this sacrifice when he penned the famous words: “Though Jesus was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to keep. Instead, Jesus cut off his divine privileges. He took the humble position of a servant and was born a human – and became obedient to death, even death on a cross – so you and I might truly live.” (Philippians 2:6-8)

Hollywood remembered the 127 hours Aron Ralston endured in a lonely canyon – and his sacrificial actions to survive – by making a movie. Even more so we should remember the sacrifice Christ made for us on a lonely hill called Calvary. As His children, we shall one day meet face-to-face the Father who sacrificed so much. It’s our Redeemer’s sacrifice that allows us to live this life free from the heavy stone of sin. 

It’s by His blood we can live eternally.

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and he lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

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Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this “Reverential Ramblings” series? Click here to read the strange story of how one orchestra member saved his colleagues from the wild temper tantrums of their world-famous conductor

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The Inspiring Story of the Writing of the Famous Hymn: “It Is Well With My Soul”

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Even though he was a faithful Christian, nineteenth century lawyer and businessman Horatio Spafford knew the deep pains of tragedy.

In the year of 1871 not only had Horatio’s four-year-old son suddenly died, but also the “Great Fire of Chicago” had wiped out most of his business investments. 

With some of the small savings he had left, Horatio Spafford arranged for a family holiday in Europe with his Norwegian wife Anna and their four daughters. 

As their departure date loomed Horatio did what many overly-focused businessmen still do today – he allowed a work emergency to take precedence over his family’s vacation. Horatio Spafford put his wife and daughters onto the boat and told them he would meet them in France after he had quickly sorted the business issue. 

Horatio would never see his four young daughters again. 

A week after leaving New York  the ship Horatio’s family was travelling in was hit by another boat in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. The large passenger ship sank in a matter of minutes, and Horatio’s wife Anna was one of the few to survive. Anna was found unconscious in the ocean, floating on a beam of wood. 

Hundreds of other passengers were lost – including Horatio’s four daughters. 

Many of those who drowned in the tragedy might have been saved  – but for the fact the lifeboats had recently been repainted and the drying paint had caused them to become glued to the side of the ship. 

When Anna’s rescue boat arrived in Cardiff nine days later she sent a telegram to Horatio: “Saved alone. What shall I do?” Horatio Spafford immediately left Chicago to go to his now childless wife and bring her back home. 

On the ocean voyage to Europe, the captain of the ship Horatio was on knocked on the Christian businessman’s cabin door. The captain informed Horatio they were currently passing over the same spot the accident had happened only a few weeks’ previously. Horatio Spafford thanked the captain, spent a moment in prayer, and then picked up his pen to write down some of his thoughts.

In that cabin, in the middle of a cold North Atlantic Ocean, Horatio Spafford wrote the words to the famous Christian hymn of hope: “It is Well With My Soul”

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

And the reason Horatio Spafford – in the midst of his grief – could write those words “It is well with my soul” is:- Horatio Spafford had faith he would see his children again. 

Horatio believed the promises of Christ that there is a day coming when the Lord returns where there shall be a glorious resurrection and death shall be no more. The Bible calls this “The Blessed Hope”.

The final verse of Horatio’s song describes this hope well:

“And Lord, haste the day when our faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.”

How is your soul today in the face of life’s difficulties?

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The four Spafford daughters who died when the ship SS Ville du Havre sunk in 1873

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read of why one olympic rower stopped in the middle of his race.David speaking 2

Defending the Innocent

On May 2, 1962, a strange advertisement appeared in an American newspaper – the San Francisco Examiner. The ad read:

“I don’t want my husband to die in the gas chamber for a crime he did not commit. I will therefore offer my services for ten years as a cook, maid, or housekeeper to any leading attorney who will defend him and bring about his vindication.”  

One of San Francisco’s most famous attorneys, Vincent Hallinan, either read or heard about the ad and contacted Gladys Kidd, the woman who had placed it. Her husband, Robert Kidd, was about to be tried for the killing of an elderly antique dealer. Kidd’s fingerprints had been found on the murder weapon – a bloodstained ornamental sword in the victim’s shop.

During the trial, Vincent Hallinan – the famous lawyer – proved that the antique dealer hadn’t even been killed with that sword, and that Kidd’s fingerprints were on the sword because Kidd had inspected the sword a few weeks before the murder when he was out shopping.

At the conclusion of the trial the jury found Robert Kidd not guilty.

It was Robert Kidd’s desperate wife Gladys who did whatever she could to secure a top class advocate and gain her husband’s freedom – even being willing to work for nothing for ten years.

In the same way we have Jesus Christ who did whatever He could to secure our spiritual freedom. His sacrifice was to become one of us, and then die on a cross in order that you and I might have eternal life.

The Bible says: If anyone has sinned – we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is our sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” (1 John 2:1-2)

By the way, the lawyer in the story – Attorney Hallinan – refused Gladys Kidd’s offer of ten years’ servitude. Just like the fact Jesus requires nothing from us to benefit from His sacrifice – only that you simply place your faith in who He is: the Saviour of the world.

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Vincent Hallinan once ran for the office of President of the U.S.A.

 

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read of one man’s sacrifice on the Kwai River in Burma.David speaking 2

“The Man Who Stopped For Ducks”

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Henry Pearce – “Bobby” to his friends – was destined to be a champion rower.

Bobby had the family background for rowing. His father and grandfather were both Australian champion rowers, with Bobby’s dad even representing Australia in the world championships in 1911 and 1913.

So it was no surprise when Bobby Pearce entered a rowing race at the age of six and finished second. What was a surprise was that the race was for fifteen and sixteen year olds!

Bobby earned selection for the Australian team in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games – and even carried the Australian flag an the opening ceremony. At well over six feet tall and close to 100kgs of muscle – Bobby was one of the favourites for the gold medal in the single rowing sculls race.

The Australian rower won his opening two races with ease. It was in his third race, the quarter final race against a French rower – that something happened that became front page news around the world.

In this 1928 Olympic quarter final Bobby Pearce was comfortable leading the race, and here’s what happened next… in Bobby’s own words:

“I had beaten a German and a Dane in earlier heats and I was racing a Frenchman when I heard wild roars from the crowd along the bank of the canal. I could see some spectators vigorously pointing to something behind me, in my path. I peeked over one shoulder and saw something I didn’t like, for a family of ducks in single file was swimming slowly from (one side of the) shore to the other, and they were in my lane.

It’s funny now, but it wasn’t at the time for I had to lean on my oars (and stop my boat) and wait for a clear course, and all the while my opponent was pulling away to a five length lead.”

Bobby let the ducks with their little ducklings pass safely and then he started to row again, trying to chase down his competitor. In an amazing effort that would have been considered impossible for anyone else, Bobby caught and then passed the Frenchman. Bobby won the race in a time faster than the three other quarter finals.

Bobby’s kindness towards a family of ducks made front page news around the world.

Bobby Pearce would win his next two races and the Gold Medal for Australia in those  1928 Olympics – and he won in a record time that wouldn’t be beaten for another 34 years.

This story from Olympic sporting annals is a superb illustration of the simple act of kindness.

Success in any field doesn’t have to be at the expense of care and concern for others in God’s creation. The world may say a soft heart always finishes second, but it’s not true. There is a way to win without wounding.

The story of Bobby Pearce stopping for ducks proves it.

 

 

“When God our Saviour revealed his kindness and love to us he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. The Lord has washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” (Titus 3:4-6)

 

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read what the Duke of Wellington can teach us about taking Communion.David speaking 2

Billy Graham… Incognito

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Pastor Billy Graham would sometimes tell the story of a time he travelled to a city in Canada for one of his famous public evangelism campaigns. He arrived a day early and went along to a church service where he sat incognito.

For decades he was one of the most famous Christian communicators, but on his impromptu visit to a Canadian church Pastor Graham was wearing a hat and dark glasses, and no-one recognised him as he sat at the back of the congregation.

As Billy sat alone, he noticed an older gentleman sitting in front of him who was listening intently to the preacher’s words. At the end of the presentation the preacher invited people to come forward to the alter as a symbol of public commitment to Jesus Christ.

In an act of personal evangelism the famous preacher leaned forward and touched the shoulder of the older man sitting in front of him. Billy asked the gentleman:  “Would you like to accept Christ? I’ll be glad to walk down the front with you if you’d like.”

Pastor Graham says the elderly gentleman looked at him, thought for a moment, and then responded: “No, I think I’ll just wait for the big gun Billy Graham to come tomorrow night.”

While the story is funny in a small way, it does underline a bigger issue – the problem of Christians thinking the job of evangelism is for the “Big Guns”; famous preachers in large auditoriums. But for thousands of years the kingdom of God has expanded one soul at a time. The Gospel has mainly spread through one person’s willingness to extend themselves to someone else.

Rather than “evangelism” being the job of the Big Shots in large auditoriums and stadiums, the spreading of the Gospel is often the result of the small sacrifices of humble followers of the Saviour.

How is God wanting to use you as an agent of his grace today?

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read what the Duke of Wellington can teach us about taking Communion.David speaking 2

When Success Comes Through Helping Others

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Every athlete dreams of winning an Olympic gold medal in their chosen event, but even among professional athletes very few have the privilege of standing on the highest dais when the medals are presented.

But there is one very special award given at each Olympic Games to only one athlete. It’s the “Pierre de Coubertin International Fair Play Trophy” – named after the French founder of the modern Olympic movement.

The Fair Play Trophy is given to one athlete every four years who is deemed to have exhibited the spirit of fairness, compassion, and good-sportsmanship.

The first ever Fair Play Trophy was awarded to an Italian bobsledder named Eugenio Monti in the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics. It was for a gesture that exhibited incredible selflessness. Monti was representing Italy in the two-man bobsled event at the 1964 games, and was the competition’s leader after his final run. The only competitor with a chance to beat Monti was a British bobsledder named Tony Nash.

As Nash and his teammate prepared for their final run, they discovered that a critical bolt on their sled had snapped at the last moment. Without the crucial part the Great Britain team couldn’t make their final run and the Italian team would win gold.

Eugenio Monti of Italy was informed of his competitor’s problem. Without thought or discussion, Monti immediately took the corresponding bolt from his own sled and sent it up the mountain to Nash.

Nash fixed his sled with Monti’s part, then came hurtling down the course to set a record and win the gold medal.

He may have came second, but Monti won the hearts of his nation and was awarded the first ever Pierre de Coubertin International Fair Play Trophy.

This Olympic story from over half a century ago reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s words in Scripture:  Let nothing you do be done through selfish ambition or greed, but in humility let each of you think more about others than yourself. Let each of you constantly look out for the interests of others. When you do this you will have the same approach to living as that of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:3-5)

Jesus says that for those who live a selfless life as they surrender daily to Him their “reward in heaven is great” (Matthew 5:12). May Christ’s promises be the award and recognition you seek.

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series of short stories – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read the story of the link between monkey catchers in Africa and losing one’s soul.David speaking 2

“The Gift of One Minute”

Fyodor Dostoevsky, the famous Russian writer from the nineteenth century, is one of the most celebrated novelists of all time.  

Dostoevsky describes an experience when he was 27 as a major turning point in his life. Even though the celebrated author was born into a privileged family in imperial Russia,  Dostoevsky committed himself to helping the poor under-classes who were being deliberately oppressed throughout society.

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Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 – 1881)

Dostoevsky joined a progressively-minded group of writers and teachers in St. Petersburg, but was then arrested by Emperor Nicholas I. The Russian Emperor feared Dostoevsky and his friends would cause a revolution. 

The arrested group of writers and academics were placed in a fortified prison where conditions were deplorable. For over a year Dostoevsky and his fellow prisoners survived in damp cells without much light. They were continually tortured and interrogated to hand over more names of people who might be a threat to the Emperor and the status quo in Russia at the time.

One cold December morning, all of the prisoners were taken from their cells without explanation and taken to the town square. The sentence of death was read out to them, and they were tied to stakes in front of a firing squad. The condemned men waited in front of raised rifles to be shot. They waited for a minute when unexpected one of the Emperor’s messengers rode in on a horse. The messenger had a royal proclamation, and he announced the Emperor had changed the sentence from death to life-long exile. The prisoners were untied, taken back to the prison, and soon after sent to Siberia.

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A 19th-century sketch of the ‘mock execution’ of Dostoevsky’s “Petrashevsky Circle” in St. Petersburg in 1849

Later, in a letter to his brother Mikhail, Fyodor Dostoevsky described how that single minute of waiting for death changed his outlook towards life. Dostoevsky told his brother: “When I look back on my past and think how much time I wasted on nothing, how much time has been lost in futilities, errors, laziness, incapacity to live; how little I appreciated it, how many times I sinned against my heart and soul – then my heart bleeds. Life is a gift,” 

The Russian author concluded, “And every minute can be an eternity of happiness.”

As I retell this story of a nineteenth century Russian novelist’s experience of waiting one minute for what he thought would be his death, I’m reminded of the words of Jesus Christ. He told the listeners during His Sermon on the Mount: “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries” (Matthew 6:34). Jesus continued by telling His listeners that we are simply to focus on the tasks and travails of the day we’ve been given. 

Each day is a gift from God. Maybe that’s why it’s called the present.

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read the inspiring story of how one soldier’s sacrifice changed an entire prisoner-of-war camp during World War II.David speaking 2

Martin’s Half Coat

As a young boy Martin knew would one day he would be compelled to join the military. He was the son of a senior army officer during the time of the Roman empire, and it was expected he would follow his father’s career by the age of fifteen. Martin was always obedient to his family’s wishes – except for one thing…..

At the age of ten, young Martin started attending a Christian church and began contemplating the claims of Christ. This practice disappointed his parents, and while they hoped Martin would grow out of this interest in Christianity, they stopped short of forbidding him from attending Christian worship services.

The story is told of Martin as an 18 years old, riding with his army colleagues into the city of Amiens, in modern day France. On that bitterly cold winter’s day the soldiers were grateful for the exercise that was keeping them warm.

Martin was not just young in years compared to his seasoned army compatriots, but Martin was also young in the Christian faith. During his teenage years he’d been intrigued by the teachings of this man named Jesus and the idea that a Creator God could love mankind so much that He would become one of them in the person of Jesus.

As Martin rode along that freezing day his attention was diverted to a figure on the side of the road – just outside the city gates. An old man sitting and shivering in the cold – wearing only threadbare and torn clothing, insufficient at pushing back against the sub-zero conditions.

Martin stopped and pulled out his sword. The soldiers riding behind Martin stopped, thinking their comrade might put the wretch by the side of the road out of his misery. Instead, Martin took off his soldier’s coat and – using the sword – cut his coat in two from top to bottom. He gave one half of the coat to the beggar, and wrapped the other half around himself. Martin rode on, and behind him heard the sniggers of the other soldiers.

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Martin and the beggar. Martin cut his coat in two, giving the beggar half.

 

As Martin slept that night he had a dream. In his vision he saw the risen Jesus who was standing before in heaven in all His glory wearing only half a coat. In the dream Martin saw an angel ask Jesus where he’d obtained the coat from: “My friend Martin gave it to me” was Christ’s response.

The dream had a dramatic effect on Martin. He was baptised a short time later and went on to devote his life to the Lord, becoming a bishop in the early Christian church

Martin’s action over 1,600 years ago when he was young Roman soldier echoes the words Jesus found in Matthew 25: “Whenever you feed and clothe and visit and help someone else you are feeding and clothing and helping me.”

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A statue at Höchster Castle (central Germany) of Martin cutting his cloak into two parts

Today, as you continue your walk with Jesus and find yourself helping someone in need, remember this story and the need to interact with others as if you’re helping the very Creator of the universe.

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read the inspiring story of how one soldier’s sacrifice changed an entire prisoner-of-war camp during World War II.David speaking 2