The Intent of Our Heart

Story of the Day for Friday October 9, 2015

The Intent of Our Heart



We all stumble a lot.

James 3:2

A little four-year-old girl has a secret plan. Her mother’s birthday is tomorrow morning, so she is going to make her mommy breakfast in bed.

Her older brother shows her how to set the alarm clock so she can wake up before the rest of the household. Her mom tucks her in for the night, but she can hardly sleep – she is too full of joy at the thought of the present she is going to give her mommy in the morning.

When the alarm goes off, she yawns, tiptoes downstairs into the kitchen, and prepares a birthday feast. She makes toast with jelly (lots of it), pours a glass of orange juice, and heats a pot of hot water for tea. On the tray she puts the birthday card she made the night before.

The little four-year-old bursts into the bedroom, crying, “Surprise! Happy Birthday Mommy!” She beams as she rushes to set the tray on her mother’s lap. But, in her excitement, she trips on the rug by the bed. Orange juice flies everywhere. Hot tea scalds her mother’s arm, and the toast lands on the new quilt – jelly-side down.

As your distraught little girl breaks into tears, what do you do? Will you be furious because of the hot tea water that splattered on your arm? Will you punish her for the damage done to your quilt?

Or will you hug her tight and say, “It’s okay, sweetheart! It was an accident. Thank you for making me such a special breakfast. I love you!”

Think hard about how you would respond to your brokenhearted little daughter, because that little girl is you.

All of us stumble through life. The problem, however, is that we’re usually lousy at assessing our guilt. We tend to feel guilt based on the consequences of our behavior, rather than the intent of our heart.

But, the unintentional mistakes we make can occasionally have big consequences. As long as we assess our guilt based on the degree of damage we caused, rather than the intent of our heart, we will never find relief from our feelings of guilt.

When I said that the little girl who stumbled was you, I didn’t just mean that, like her, you goof up a lot (which we all do).

What I was really getting at, is that Jesus doesn’t punish you based on the consequences of your mistakes. Instead, in your grief, he is crying with you. He wants to wrap you up in his love, and let you know that it’s okay.

God always offers forgiveness for the sins of our heart. And he has nothing but love and understanding for the disastrous mistakes we never intended.

(text copyright 2011 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday October 8, 2015

The Dog Ate My Lug Wrench



. . . he sent his servant to tell those invited, “Come, because everything is prepared.”’ But one by one, they began to make excuses.”

Luke 14:17-18

If I would teach my dog to fetch, and then throw a pipe wrench into my garage, he wouldn’t come out until November. I have no excuse for not cleaning it up. But I’m not worried. I have all afternoon to think up a good reason for waiting until tomorrow.

Excuses are so handy. They free us from doing unpleasant tasks or acting responsibly. Not only that, making excuses exercises our creativity – and, although I’m not an expert, I think the process of inventing excuses keeps brain cells from dying.

I have a friend who doesn’t like to make excuses. When his garage gets messy he just cleans it up. He worries me because I have no idea what his lack of excuse-making may be doing to his brain cells.

As beneficial as making excuses can be, there is a serious drawback. Once we get into the habit of making excuses, we begin to lose credibility. Let me ask you: can you recognize a person who habitually makes excuses? Of course you can. But do you see what that means? Other people can see through your excuses as well. It doesn’t take many excuses before others become skeptical and we lose believability.

Making excuses is really a desperate attempt to avoid repentance. When we repent, we acknowledge our failures and own up to them. But when we make an excuse, we are claiming we are not responsible for our present state of affairs.

So, what do you do? When you’re late for an appointment do you apologize or make excuses? I find I can fool myself by sounding like I am apologizing when really I’m making an excuse: “I’m sorry I’m late, but I had a flat tire and the dog ate my lug wrench.” The crucial word is “but.” If you apologize, and then use the word, “but,” you didn’t really apologize – you made an excuse.

Want to know what repentance sounds like? “I’m sorry I’m late,” (followed by total silence). You are confessing your fault to the person and asking him to forgive you.

Do you see why this is such a big deal? If we get into the comfortable habit of making excuses to ourselves and others, then why not try it out on God? You can say that’s ridiculous – God knows our heart and mind – you can’t buffalo the Lord. That may be true, but you have no idea how clueless we can be at times. We try it anyway. Once we become addicted to making excuses, we can’t help ourselves.

We need to repent of not repenting. (I hope I didn’t just say something theologically dopey, but there you are.) I admit, I still like my excuses (and don’t forget about those brain cells), but repentance is so much better. Jesus wants to forgive, and that feels good. Growing in integrity feels good. And when we take responsibility for our faults, we become more than we were – which is what we were created for.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Second Nature

Story of the Day for Wednesday October 7, 2015

Second Nature

Train yourself to be godly.

1 Timothy 4:7

How quickly can you say your ABCs? If you’ve got a nimble tongue you can recite the entire alphabet in about four seconds. Try it; I’m in no hurry.

Okay, very good. Now, try reciting the alphabet again — and make sure you time yourself –but this time start with Z and go backwards to A.

Hmmm . . . not quite as impressive.

Let’s try something else. Few things are easier than buttoning a shirt. You’ve done it hundreds of thousands of times. So, with your hands folded on your lap, imagine exactly how you button your shirt.



It’s harder than you think. Do you use your middle fingers? What do your thumbs do? What does your left hand do? What are the last fingers to touch the button?

Malcom Gladwell stared at Vic Braden in disbelief. “What do you mean? That’s crazy!” Gladwell could hardly believe what Braden, a famous tennis coach, had just told him. Braden interviewed some of the best tennis players in the world, such as Andre Aggasi, Pete Sampras, Chris Evert, and Jimmy Conners, and would hold long conversations with them about their game.

For over thirty years Braden talked to the best tennis players in the world, “I can honestly say that there is nothing to be learned about tennis,” Braden confided to Gladwell, “from talking to top tennis players about tennis.”

Braden, for example, would ask the tennis greats, “How do you hit a topspin forehand?” Every one of them told him that, at the moment of impact, they would roll their wrists. Braden then filmed these tennis players in top tournaments and discovered that not one of them roll their wrists at the moment of impact. They only roll their wrists after the ball is gone as part of their follow-through.

When the best tennis players in the world hit a topspin forehand, it’s as natural and unconscious as saying your ABCs or buttoning a shirt.

I’m quite conscious about my spirituality. I know when I’m generous or when I’m (trying to be) patient. You know why? I’m still on my learner’s permit and following Jesus has yet to become second nature. My wife, on the other hand, doesn’t think of herself as generous or patient. That’s because she is. It’s second nature to her.

The apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, and told him that learning the life of godliness was like an athlete going into training.

The odd thing about godliness is that the more we train, the less we have to consciously think about what we’re doing.

It becomes second nature.

(text copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Tuesday October 6, 2015

Why Some Good Manners Are Bad

But God has composed the Body as to give greater honor to those lacking it.

1 Corinthians 12:24

Finns are considered one of the most informal cultures in the world. Some have said their national costume is the tracksuit. They seldom wear suits and ties and normally call teachers by their first names.

The Finns don’t make a big fuss about a person’s status in society. But they are kind, and understand their informality could easily offend those from other cultures. Thus, guidebooks on social etiquette have been frequent best-sellers in Finland.



Manners should be motivated by respect for other people. But, sometimes, manners originate to show our dis-respect for them.

In medieval times, feudal societies marked their social status by their “manners.” Our English word, “courtesy,” originally referred to the behavior of those in royal “courts” – as opposed to the feudal peasants. Those who received a formal education adopted distinct manners to indicate their superiority to the uneducated masses. Before 1611, dining forks were unknown in England. After Thomas Coryate introduced them from Italy, they soon became markers of social status and sophistication.

Don’t get me wrong: I highly encourage showing respect to those in offices of authority. While performing their duties, we’re doing a good thing when we call a judge “Your Honor,” or a policeman, “Officer.” But we must remember that drinking tea with our pinkie in the air can become a thinly disguised means of displaying our snobbishness.

The Bible says we should show respect for those in authority. But God destroys snobbishness by flip-flopping the rules. He has composed the body of Christ so that those who lack status are to be shown special honor.

A century ago, Cecil Rhodes was, to put it mildly, an influential man. He founded the Rhodes Scholarship, the largest diamond company in the world (DeBeers), and even founded a country (Rhodesia).

As a British statesman, Rhodes was a stickler for proper dress. Once, Rhodes invited a young man to dinner. The man arrived by train and was directly escorted to Rhode’s mansion in his travel-stained clothes. The young man was aghast to see all the other guests wearing full evening dress.

When Rhodes spotted his young guest, he immediately disappeared. When he returned to his guests, he was no longer wearing evening dress, but instead, an old suit similar to that of the young man who just arrived off the train.

Manners can be used to flaunt social status. But manners can also be used to show that, in God’s eyes, we’re all loved equally. And to remind each other of that fact.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

More Than Knowing Facts

Story of the Day for Monday October 5, 2015

More Than Knowing Facts

The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.

Psalm 32:10

It is a law of physics that a freely swinging pendulum will not return to the point from which it started. With each arc it loses momentum, thus shortening the distance of its swing.

Do you believe this? If you don’t, you should, because it’s a law of physics.

At a summer youth camp they fastened a chain to the middle of a ceiling and attached a bowling ball on the other end. A counselor not only explained the law of physics about pendulums, but demonstrated it: he pulled the bowling ball up to one wall and let it go. The ball swung to the other side of the room, and on the return swing fell noticeably short of the wall.



The counselor asked the kids if they believed in this law of physics, and they all did.

The Bible makes a big deal about having faith in Jesus.

But faith doesn’t mean you simply believe certain facts about Jesus are true. When Jesus would cast out unclean spirits from people, the demons knew – and believed – the fact that Jesus was the Son of God. They said so.

Having faith involves more than knowing facts.

Knowing something is trustworthy is not the same as trusting in it. To believe in Jesus doesn’t just mean you acknowledge he healed people, or that he died on a cross.

When the Bible talks about believing in Jesus, it’s talking about trusting that he alone can take away all your guilt and make you clean again. It means that you place your hope of restoring harmony with God, not in how good you might become, but in accepting the gift of forgiveness that Jesus gives you.

Once everyone was convinced that the bowling ball would fall short of its starting point, the counselor asked each kid to take a turn standing with his back to the wall while he held the bowling ball up to the kid’s nose. After letting go of the bowling ball, the idea was to watch the ball swing toward the opposite wall and then fly back at their face – only to fall short due to the loss of momentum.

All the kids said they believed in the law of physics about pendulums. But faith is quite different when a bowling ball is hurling toward your head. Some kids lost their nerve and bolted out of the way.

And some kids put their trust in what they knew to be true and kept their backs to the wall while the bowling ball dutifully did what it was supposed to do.

A chair is not supporting your weight when you’re standing next to it. A chair is not supporting your weight even when you believe that it could. A chair is only supporting your weight when you’re sitting in it.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Live With High Passion

Story of the Day for Thursday October 1, 2015

Live With High Passion

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

Booker T. Washington was born into slavery. As a slave child, he was made to work the fields rather than go to school. After he was freed from slavery he heard of a school in Hampton, Virginia, that provided an education for blacks. In his autobiography, Washington said, “. . . I was on fire with one ambition, and that was to go to Hampton. This thought was with me day and night.”


Booker T Washington National Monument Virginia


Booker set off on his 500 mile trip to seek enrollment at Hampton. Hotels refused to provide him a room because he was a negro, so we would walk through town at night to stay warm.

When he reached Richmond, only 82 miles from Hampton he had run out of money. “I was tired,” he recalls, “I was hungry, I was everything but discouraged.” He found temporary work in Richmond and slept under a boardwalk with his satchel as his pillow.

He finally made it to Hampton with 50 cents – clearly not enough to pay for an education. So he worked to pay for his education. He spent a bitterly cold winter living in a tent. Virtually every hour of his day was filled with study or work.

But his passionate determination paid off. He got a good education and went on to found Tuskegee, a college for blacks.

Jesus doesn’t teach us to avoid sin for his sake but for ours. Sin does not satisfy us. If we are greedy for money, once we have it we will only crave more money. Pornography only creates the desire for something more lurid. If we bent on hating someone, our anger is never assuaged.

But we are encouraged to be passionate in seeking righteousness. When we seek the life of God, we find satisfaction. We are filled.

Jesus isn’t telling us something new here. Psalm 23 already tells us that, when the Lord is our shepherd, we will not be in want. We will lie down in green pastures. Sheep don’t eat lying down. If sheep are lying down with green grass all around them, it can only mean that they have eaten and are filled.

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been in the past. You can start fresh. You can change the direction of your passions.

Buddhism teaches us that the goal of life is the elimination of desire. Jesus, on the other hand, invites us to live with high passion. Nothing can compare with the wild enthusiasm of hungering and thirsting for the things of God.

We will not walk away from his table with empty bellies.

(copyright 2013 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Rhino Tracks

Story of the Day for Wednesday September 30, 2015

Rhino Tracks



For false Messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

Matthew 24:24

Hugh Troy was an illustrator for children’s books, but his work as an artist failed to exhaust his creativity. This excess of imagination led him to the slightly deviant habit of inventing practical jokes.

Once, Troy and an accomplice, dressed in workman’s clothes and carrying ladders, strode into the elegant lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Calmly and efficiently, they removed every light bulb and then left. No one questioned them or tried to stop them.

Serving as a captain in Army Intelligence during World War II, he became bored with the endless paperwork so he began submitting a Daily Flypaper Report to the Pentagon. Using official report forms, Troy filed detailed reports on the number of flies stuck to the flypaper in the mess hall each day. Troy carefully analyzed the wind direction, proximity of the kitchen, and the nearness of the flypaper to windows, and slipped his report in with his other required paperwork. Other officers began asking him how to fill out a form on flies because the Pentagon was hounding them for not submitting their Flypaper Report.

Although some question its accuracy, Hugh Troy’s most legendary prank took place when he was a student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Troy found a hideous wastebasket with an actual rhinoceros foot as its base. He tied thirty feet of clothesline to both sides and filled the wastebasket with weights. Late one winter night, he and a friend suspended the wastebasket between them and carried it across the snow – dropping it every few feet to make a rhinoceros footprint, but keeping their own footprints away from the rhino track.

The next morning, someone excitedly summoned learned professors, and pointed out the rhinoceros tracks. The trail led them onto ice-covered Beebe Lake, where the tracks ended by a large hole in the ice.

The school’s drinking water came from the lake, and afterward, some stopped drinking the tap water. A handful of imaginative paranoids even claimed the water tasted like rhinoceros.

The Devil doesn’t mind at all if you believe in Jesus – just so long as the Jesus you believe in doesn’t exist. The Devil hopes you are entranced with reports of miracles – just so long as you believe the false signs and wonders he is able to concoct. The Devil wants you to be open to the spiritual world – just so long as you are open to the messages of false prophets.

If the truth of God is . . . true, then it can stand up to questioning and investigation. Jesus doesn’t scold us for lacking faith when we work to discern the truth from a hoax. He’s the one who told us to do it.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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