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Story: At the very start of his ministry in Florence, Savonarola the Italian political reformer (1452-1498) noticed an elderly woman who used to come and pray regularly before that statue of the Virgin Mary.
One day, Savonarola took an elderly priest aside , who had been serving in the cathedral for many years, and said,
"Look how devoted this woman is. She comes every day to offer prayers to the blessed Mother of Jesus. What a marvellous act of faith."
But the elderly priest replied,
"Do not be deceived by what you see. Many years ago when the sculptor needed a model to pose for this statue of the blessed Mother, he hired a beautiful young woman to sit for him. This devout worshiper you see here everyday is that young woman. She is worshiping who she used to be."
Have you heard the story of Charlie Riggs? Over 50 years ago, he came to Christ and was discipled by a young man named Lorne Sanny, who himself was being discipled by Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators.
Charlie was willing to grow in Christ, but he was a bit rough around the edges and didn’t seem very promising as a Christian leader. When Lorne wrote to Dawson, he told him that Charlie Riggs was the only man he was working with and he felt discouraged by the prospects. Trotman wrote back and said, “Stay with your man. You never know what God will do with him.” So, Lorne Sanny continued to work with Charlie Riggs.
A few years passed and a young man named Billy Graham came on the scene. In 1952, the Navigators “loaned” Charlie Riggs to the Graham team to handle the follow-up in their early crusades. He planned to return to the Navigators eventually. However, he worked out so well that he stayed with Billy Graham.
In 1957, on the eve of the famous New York City crusade at Madison Square Garden, the crusade director suddenly had to be replaced. Who could they get? The lay chairman suggested Charlie Riggs, but Billy Graham wasn’t sure if he could handle the job. “All he does is pray and quote Scripture.”
The layman insisted, Charlie Riggs got the job and the rest is history. The New York campaign became a model for the many crusades that would follow in later years. Billy Graham said, “I didn’t think he could do it. But I had this peace—that Charlie so depended on the Holy Spirit that I knew the Lord could do it through Charlie.”
Charlie Riggs retired after many years of effective service to the Lord. What was his secret? How could a man with little formal training rise to such a high position and hold it for so long?
He says, “I always asked the Lord to put me in over my head . That way, when I had a job to do, either the Lord had to help me or I was sunk.” God was delighted to answer this prayer time after time. He put Charlie Riggs in over his head—and then bailed him out.
So many of us dads play it safe with our families. We pray only for what we think we can handle. Our answers are small because our prayers are small.
Here’s a challenge. Let’s take Charlie Riggs’ prayer as our own: “Lord, put me in over my head.” It’s safer to stay in shallow water where you can always feel the bottom under your feet, but the real challenge is to jump in where the water comes up over your head. What are the challenges we face when we’re in over our heads? Job changes, teenagers, college costs and church schedules to name a few.
How about it, dads? Are you ready for some excitement? I am. Let’s ask God to put us in over our heads. And then, let’s watch God keep us floating just when we think we’re about to sink.
From “On the Father Front,” Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer, 1995
One of my favorite columns by Erma Bombeck tells of God in the act of creating mothers. She says that on the day God created mothers He had already worked long overtime. And an angel said to Him, "Lord, you sure are spending a lot of time on this one."
The Lord turned & said, "Have you read the specs on this model? She is supposed to be completely washable, but not plastic. She is to have 180 moving parts, all of them replaceable. She is to have a kiss that will heal everything from a broken leg to a broken heart. She is to have a lap that will disappear whenever she stands up. She is to be able to function on black coffee & leftovers. And she is supposed to have six pairs of hands."
"Six pairs of hands," said the angel, "that’s impossible." "It’s not the six pairs of hands that bother me." said the Lord, "It’s the three pairs of eyes. She is supposed to have one pair that sees through closed doors so that whenever she says, `What are you kids doing in there?’ she already knows what they’re doing in there."
"She has another pair in the back of her head to see all the things she is not supposed to see but must see. And then she has one pair right in front that can look at a child that just goofed & communicate love & understanding without saying a word."
"That’s too much." said the angel, "You can’t put that much in one model. Why don’t you rest for a while & resume your creating tomorrow?"
"No, I can’t," said the Lord. "I’m close to creating someone very much like myself. I’ve already come up with a model who can heal herself when she is sick - who can feed a family of six with one pound of hamburger - & who can persuade a nine year old to take a shower."
Then the angel looked at the model of motherhood a little more closely & said, "She’s too soft." "Oh, but she is tough," said the Lord. "You’d be surprised at how much this mother can do."
"Can she think?" asked the angel. "Not only can she think," said the Lord, "but she can reason & compromise & persuade."
Then the angel reached over & touched her cheek. "This one has a leak," he said. "I told you that you couldn’t put that much in one model." "That’s not a leak," said the Lord. "That’s a tear."
"What’s a tear for?" asked the angel. "Well it’s for joy, for sadness, for sorrow, for disappointment, for pride." "You’re a genius," said the angel. And the Lord said, "Oh, but I didn’t put it there."
Erma Bombeck wrote this essay entitled, When God Created Women. “By the time the Lord made mothers, he was into his sixth day of working overtime. An Angel appeared and said "Why are you spending so much time on this one?" And the Lord answered and said, "Have you seen the spec sheet on her? She has to be completely washable, but not plastic, have 200 movable parts, all replaceable, run on black coffee and leftovers, have a lap that can hold three children at one time and that disappears when she stands up, have a kiss that can cure anything from a scraped knee to a broken heart, and have six pairs of hands,"
The Angel was astounded at the requirements for this one. "Six pairs of hands! No Way!", said the Angel. The Lord replied, "Oh, it’s not the hands that are the problem. It’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers must have! One pair of eyes are to see through the closed doors when she asks, “What are you kids doing in there?” Another pair in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t but what she has to know. And of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say, “I understand and I love you without uttering so much as a word.
The Angel tried to stop the Lord. "This is too much work for one day. Wait until tomorrow to finish." "But I can’t!", the Lord protested, "I am so close to finishing a creation that is so close to my own heart. She already heals herself when she is sick AND can feed a family of six on a pound of hamburger and can get a nine year old to stand in the shower! The Angel moved closer and touched the woman. "But you have made her so soft, Lord." "She is soft," the Lord agreed, "but I have also made her tough. You have no idea what she can endure or accomplish." "Will she be able to think?", asked the Angel. The Lord...
Over 25,000 Americans commit suicide each year. Over one million will try but only one out of fifteen will succeed. It is the tenth highest killer in the U.S. More will die by suicide than by murder. The model age for attempting suicide is 32 for men and 27 for women. The model age of succeeding is 50-54 for men and women. Men kill themselves twice as often as women, but women attempt suicide twice as often as men. There are over 5,000 suicides among teen-agers each year. Some 10,000 college students will attempt suicide in a year. It is the second highest cause of death among young people aged 15-24 surpassed only by accidents. Thirteen young adults each day consider life not worth the living. That is twice as many as ten years ago and three times as many as twenty years ago. One report indicated that as many as 12 percent of all school-aged children will contemplate suicide at least once in their formative years.
Barb’s life is a mess. Her drinking problem is out of control, and her husband Ken refuses to cover for her anymore. Everyone around her sees Barb’s problem, but they all pretend like everything’s just fine, a classic case of denial. Every Sunday Barb and her family dress in their Sunday best and go to church as the perfect family. Everyone at church looks at Barb and her family as the model family...they look so…perfect.
Sitting in the row behind Barb at church each Sunday morning is Joe. Everyone likes Joe, especially all the guys, because he’s a man’s man. Joe played football in college for a PAC 10 school, and he’s filled with stories of athletic conquest. But when Joe’s all alone his heart is filled with emptiness because of his inability to sustain long term relationships. His marriage only lasted six months, and over the years he’s driven away everyone close to him with his sort fuse. But that Sunday when a friend asks Joe how things are going he quickly says, "Great…never been better."
Joe and Barb have both learned that church is a place for plastic people, a place for perfect people. So Barb’s become Barbie, complete with her husband Ken and her perfect plastic children. And Joe’s become G. I. Joe, a plastic action hero everyone admires but no one really knows. But inside Barb and Joe are dying, because they’re not made of plastic.
Churches throughout our culture today are filled with Barbies and Joes. We’ve learned that image is everything, that what counts is how you look, the impression you make. So we in the Christian community have perfected the fine art of faking it.
I received this story in an e-mail, so I am not sure of the original source.
A little boy purchased a model sailboat. He was so excited about building the boat. He diligently constructed the boat and was ready to test it on the water. He walked down the the lake to sail his boat. As soon as he placed the boat into the water the wind took the boat all the way across the large lake. The boy tried to walk to the other side to find the boat but night fell so he decided to return the next day to find the boat. Early the next morning the boy returned to the lake only to find the boat missing. He looked all around the lake but could not find his boat. Sad, he started the walk home. As he walked he passed a hobby shop. The boy looked in the window and to his surprise he saw his sailboat. He approached the owner of the store and explained that the sailboat was his. The owner stated that he just bought the boat from a gentleman and that he could not just give the boat to the boy. The boy was sad but more determined than ever. He ran home and scrapped up enough money to buy his boat. He went back to the hobby shop and bought the boat. Walking home and clutching his boat tight whispered to the boat, "Now your mine twice, I made you and now I bought you".
The Lord Jesus Christ is whispering to us the same thing. He made us and He has purchased us with his Blood.
A SURVEY OF FATHERS
The June 2003 issue of Family Circle Magazine contained results from a recent national survey of fathers. It had some interesting results:
* 94% feel building a family is the hardest and most important thing
a man can do.
* 71% say fatherhood is more demanding than they expected, while 88% say fatherhood is more rewarding
* 87% say the rewards of fatherhood trump those of career, and 89% approve of men leaving fast-track careers to spend more time with family.
* 90% say becoming a father made them ...
In early 1991, the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite sent back information to Earth that caused a sensation in scientific circles. This satellite had been hurled into space to peer into the depths of the universe.
But what it eventually produced was far more than pictures and measurements of distant stars. In effect, it sent us snapshots from the distant past, from what appeared to be the origin of the universe. And there we could make out the telltale sign of the Creator’s fingerprints. Someone was there. Someone was there when it all began.
Astronomers, astrophysicists, cosmologists. These are not the sort of people you see jumping up and down with excitement too often. They usually spend their time in research centers going over bits of data that seem unintelligible to the rest of us. But something made them jump in April, 1992. Something really got their attention.
Stephen Hawking called it, “The discovery of the century.”
Another scientist exclaimed, “It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in my life as a cosmologist.”
Another said, “They have found the Holy Grail of cosmology.”
What was all the fuss about? Information coming back from the COBE satellite provided a final, critical piece in the puzzle of the origin of the universe. What the COBE satellite really did was to prove that the universe did indeed have a beginning. It came as close to proving this as is humanly possible.
Now, let me explain why this is important, and why this shook the scientific community. Let’s say that your picture of the universe leaves no room for God. Let’s say that, for whatever reasons, you simply can’t believe that there is a personal Creator behind it all.
But what’s the starting point? There has been only one answer to that question. It may not really be an answer, but it’s the best people can do when they take God out of the picture. What they say is simply that the universe has always been there. It’s eternal. Matter has always been there. That’s the usual starting point.
When you get down to the basic question of origins, there aren’t that many alternatives. You either start with God or you start with matter. You start with a God who is eternal, outside of time, who can create the complexity around us. Or you start with matter always being there, and slowly evolving into more and more complex things.
But, if the universe hasn’t always been there, it had to have a beginning. Well, that pretty much narrows down the alternatives to one.
How did the COBE satellite fill in the picture of how it all began? How did it produce the final piece of the puzzle?
First, it measured temperatures in different parts of the universe. This provided a picture of how the universe is radiating or dissipating energy in the form of heat. It’s known as the “microwave background radiation temperature.” COBE indicated it to be very low and smooth—no big irregularities in temperature. This confirms the model of the universe beginning at one specific moment in time and radiating smoothly thereafter.
COBE also took measurements related to something called “exotic matter.” It provided information about the proportion of exotic matter to ordinary matter in the universe.
According to Dr. Hugh Ross, author of The Creator and the Cosmos, the measured proportion exactly fit the proportion you would expect—if the universe had a beginning. That’s what the COBE satellite told us. The Hubble Space Telescope also helped fill in the picture. It made measurements that confirmed this proportion of ordinary matter and exotic matter.
That’s what caused the big stir. As one Berkeley astronomer put it: “What we have found is evidence of the birth of the universe . . . It’s like looking at God.”
Recent scientific data points in the direction of a Creator God.
Music is major influence for "mosaic" generation
On a recent edition of the radio program "For Faith and Family", pollster George Barna discussed the significant cultural influence music exerts on the Mosaic generation (those born between 1984 and 2002): "Music is really interesting because essentially that is the language of our culture. If you need an example of how that works just think about churches. Even in churches this is true. What is the biggest war we have in churches? It doesn’t tend to be theological. It tends to be over what style of music you’re going to use in the worship service. We’ve had all kinds of fights, but music is the way that we suggest to somebody, Hey, I understand where you’re coming from. I speak your language. This is the feel; this is the sound that constitutes who you are and what you’re about."
"One of the ways I would describe it is every generation has to have it’s own private language that people over 30 can’t penetrate. And that’s really what today’s music is doing for young people. They have icons within the culture that we don’t understand - many of whom we don’t appreciate - but they’re important to the Mosaics because it helps them to develop a life philosophy. Many of those individuals become role models for them. It helps them to identify some of their values and lifestyles. And, it also helps develop a sense of community among themselves. So it’s hugely important."
PreachingNow Newsletter, August 6, 2002