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Story of the Day for Tuesday March 31, 2015

Palm Sunday 013The Palm Sunday When….Things Happened

The people were absolutely amazed at Jesus. “He has done everything well.”

Mark 7:37

Last Sunday was the most joyous Palm Sunday celebration I have known, and most everything went wrong.

We drove to church early because there was so much to get ready. After unloading the van I discovered it wouldn’t start. Wayne and I surveyed the situation and tried to think of something insightful, but neither of us were great mechanics. Soon, the reinforcements arrived and I excused myself to go inside and prepare for the service.

My wife was handing out large palm branches to all the kids. At the beginning of the worship service, they would walk in from the back of the church – waving palm branches and singing a song that Mary Ann composed for the occasion.

As soon as the palm branches were handed out, my ten-year-old daughter and her friend, Kyoti, sensing the importance of setting a good example for the little beaners, immediately started thrashing each other with their palms.

The Palm Branch Incident of 2011 was brought to a premature conclusion, and when order was restored, my wife used the moment to clarify palm branch protocol.

“Now,” my wife asked the kids, “what are your palm branches to be used for? Do we use them to whack each other and bother the person sitting in front of you?”

The littlest ones shouted in unison, “YES!!!”

Palm Sunday was turning out to be far more exciting than they had imagined.

Outside, Robert brought a donkey and a colt, the foal of a donkey, for the kids.

I went down to the basement, late, for Bible study. So late, in fact, that we decided to rehearse the hymns instead. But, so many adults were poking their heads out the window to watch the kids with the donkeys, that we no longer had a quorum of attentive hearts.

We called it a day for the Bible study (in which we never opened a Bible) and I rushed upstairs to go over the service and my sermon one last time. But soon, the kids thundered in and the little ones spotted me in the office. They knew you weren’t supposed to hit people with palm branches, but recalling no rule against holding branches over someone’s head, they did just that. The office was crammed with giggly little girls trying to hide me under a palm branch canopy, and if I wasn’t having so much fun, I would’ve added this to the list of things you shouldn’t do with your palm branch.

One of the musicians left her music at home so the special music was postponed until later while her husband drove home to retrieve it. I wrote the opening hymn in the wrong key and had to do a little mental calculating.

I used to think a Sunday would come along in which everything went right. I’m no longer that naïve. But I really don’t care. The thing that matters most is not that we get things perfect, but that we learn to focus on the One who does all things well.

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

Story of the Day for Friday March 27, 2015

https://i2.wp.com/tgmnet.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/istock_whats_your_excuse.jpgThere’s Nothing Like a Good Excuse

Moses said to the Lord, “Look, the Israelites will not listen to me. Why would Pharaoh listen, since I speak with a stammering tongue?”

Exodus 6:12

While the people of Israel moaned under the crushing weight of slavery in Egypt, God sent Moses on a mission. He was to tell the people a word from God: “I am the Lord and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.”

Moses told his fellow Israelites the good news. Yet, instead of exuberant shouts of joy, the Israelites ignored him. They were far too discouraged to believe in good news.

Great. You say exactly what the Lord wants, and no one listens. The next time, the Lord wants Moses to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. This time Moses is ready . . . with excuses. “Tried it already.” “Didn’t work.” And, just for good measure, Moses adds, “I’m a lousy public speaker.”

We can’t brag up Moses too much, (because he’s not walking away as the winner of this argument), but these are really good excuses. And, Moses was absolutely right. He did go to Pharaoh, and Pharaoh scoffed at him – just as Moses said he would.

Excuses are wonderful things because they absolve us from responsibility. They defend us against embarrassment and failure.

But, in the process we become “victimized” by life. Listen to these actual insurance claims and see if you notice a pattern:

               * “A pedestrian hit me and went under my car.”

               * “. . . as I reached an intersection, a hedge sprang up obscuring my vision.”

               * “As I approached the intersection, a stop sign suddenly appeared. . . “

              * “The telephone pole was approaching fast. I attempted to swerve out of its path when it struck my front end.”

Did you notice it? When those filing insurance claims try to avoid responsibility, their passivity becomes comical. They are poor, passive victims living in a hostile world where stop signs and telephone poles dart in front of their cars and attack them.

Moses had good excuses for not becoming God’s messenger. But God told Moses to speak; he didn’t tell him to make Pharaoh respond. That’s God’s department.

Moses did end up doing what God said (with Aaron’s help), and, in the end, everything turned out all right.

Do you have excuses for not doing what the Lord wants you to do? I hope they’re good ones (and don’t forget that “I already tried it; doesn’t work” is a solid performer). But, at the end of the day, are we trying to persuade God, or just ourselves?

God’s ways often don’t make sense – to us anyway. But once we know His will, it’s always best to trust him. No excuses.

(text copyright 2011 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://tgmnet.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/istock_whats_your_excuse.jpg)

Story of the Day for Wednesday March 25, 2015

Settled Into a Higher Purpose

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http://realseriousstuff.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/purpose.jpg

And the king said, “Get me a sword . . . and cut the living child in two. Give half to each one of them.”

1 Kings 3:24-25

Two mothers bring their case before King Solomon. One woman claims her child was stolen in the night – that the other woman’s son died, so she stole hers. The other woman says it’s a lie. Both women claim to be the mother of the child, and now Solomon must decide who the true mother really is.

Have you ever wished you had greater wisdom? I’m not talking about the ability to dominate at Trivial Pursuit™. Wisdom is not about knowledge, but the ability to see. It’s not about the quantity of our intelligence but the quality of our decisions.

We left King Solomon a moment ago with a dilemma: two women claiming to be the mother of a child. To which woman should he award the child?

While we give Solomon a moment to think, let’s grow in wisdom by playing a game. If you can solve Solomon’s dilemma in one hour, I’ll give you five bucks. If you can figure out how Solomon can know the real mother within ten minutes, I’ll give you all of my daughter’s pets. And, if you solve this case within one minute, I’ll stage a coup d’etat and install you as the dictator of a Third World country. (If, however, you’ve already been taught this story in Sunday school, you’re disqualified from the competition, and, if you wish to become a despot, I must leave you to your own devices.)

Since I’m dangling some pretty handsome rewards in front of you, you might as well set your watch and start thinking before you read further. Just remember: your reward is based on how quickly you solve the riddle.

Researchers from MIT, the University of Chicago, and Carnegie Mellon did a study in which they gave rewards for the speed with which participants could perform various tasks. If the tasks involved simple mechanical skill, rewards increased the speed with which the tasks were completed. But – and here is the surprise – when the task involved creative thinking, the higher the reward offered, the longer it took the participants to find the correct solution.

Wisdom is like that: you can’t increase it by trying harder. It doesn’t come through the desire for reward. Wisdom thrives when we’re relaxed and settled into a higher purpose than personal benefit – like when we’re living for the glory of God.

Solomon, as you may know, solved his dilemma by requesting a sword and offering to slice the child in two – giving half to each woman. The woman who protested and pleaded that the child be given to the other claimant was deemed the true mother.

If you figured out the solution to Solomon’s problem, I hope you won my daughter’s pets. Inciting an insurrection in a Third World country is dicey . . . and offering to do so wasn’t very wise of me.

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

Coming to Know Him


Story of the Day for Tuesday March 24. 2015

Coming to Know Him

 

May grace and peace be multiplied to you by the knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:2

Can you know things beyond what you can comprehend with your conscious intellect? Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, Blink, cites a gambling experiment at the University of Iowa where you are given four decks of cards – two red and two blue. Your task is to turn over cards in any deck you choose to maximize your winnings. What you don’t know is that the red cards are rigged so that you can win a lot at times, but can never win in the end.

https://i1.wp.com/i01.i.aliimg.com/wsphoto/v0/627165315/Original-Bicycle-Poker-1-pcs-price-Red-or-Blue-Bicycle-Regular-Playing-Cards-Rider-Back-808.jpgAfter about 80 cards, most players can understand intellectually why the red decks are a bad choice. But, after 50 cards, most people develop a hunch and start choosing the proper deck, but have no idea why.

But it gets even more intriguing. The players were hooked up to machines that measured sweat glands in the palms as well as temperature. Stress and nervousness can be measured this way. After only 10 cards were played, the Iowa scientists could detect stress when players chose a red card – 40 cards before they had a “hunch” and 70 cards before they intellectually figured out the game.

Peter is telling us that the source of the grace and peace we receive is found in the knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus Christ. But what does it mean to know God? Is it just an intellectual comprehension of facts about God? I don’t think so.

A newborn baby immediately cuddles with its mother. That little infant finds comfort from its mother long before it is old enough to intellectually grasp the concept, “You are my mommy.” Just as in the experiment with the four decks of cards, there is a kind of knowing that extends beyond our conscious, intellectual recognition.

When we know someone, we know them in a deeper way than what documented facts can provide. Let me give you an example.

The FBI caught a ring of forgers in San Diego. They were selling thousands of fake autographs and fraudulent historical documents. How did the FBI discover this ring of counterfeiters? Among other things, the curiosity of the federal officials was no doubt aroused when they attempted to sell baseballs autographed by . . . Mother Theresa!

Before the feds could document whether Mother Theresa was hawking autographed baseballs, we have an intuitive hunch that Mother Theresa is not like that. We feel that we know her enough to doubt she would autograph baseballs before we can prove it intellectually.

As we grow in our faith, we are not just learning facts about God; we are coming to know him. What you will find at the end is a shower of grace and peace.

(text copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://i01.i.aliimg.com/wsphoto/v0/627165315/Original-Bicycle-Poker-1-pcs-price-Red-or-Blue-Bicycle-Regular-Playing-Cards-Rider-Back-808.jpg)

Story of the Day for Monday March 23, 2015

Race for the Other Ditch Without Hesitation

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http://www.allochthonous.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/prairie-dog1.png

At dawn the angels urged Lot, saying, “Get up! Take your wife and two daughters, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” But Lot hesitated.

Genesis 19:15-16

One of the greatest singers of all time, Luciano Pavarotti, knew what he wanted to be from a young age. He wanted to be a soccer goalie.

Luciano’s mother urged him to become a teacher instead, so he sought a degree in education. But his father, Fernando, introduced him to the joy of singing. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor, took on Luciano as a student — teaching him without pay.

Pavarotti was torn. Should he pursue a teaching career or seek to become a professional singer? Finally, his father put it to him bluntly, “Luciano, if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.”

When Abram and Lot started running out of elbow room, they decided to part ways on friendly terms. Abram gave his nephew Lot first choice, and he chose the fertile lands to the east. Lot settled with his family in the town of Sodom.

One day, two angels warned Lot to take his family and flee from the city because God was about to destroy it. This wasn’t a great time to hesitate, but that’s exactly what Lot did.

Major decisions in life have the tendency to paralyze us. No matter what we decide we can always say, “Yes, but on the other hand . . .” When we seek to serve the Lord with our gifts and abilities, our problem is seldom that we choose the wrong direction; it’s that we can’t decide, so we choose no direction at all.

Up on Pinkham Creek, the animal version of Russian Roulette is to attempt to run in front of a vehicle without becoming road kill.

The gophers gather in the ditch and one of them says, “Okay Harvey, it’s your turn.” Another gopher shouts, “Hey, I hear something coming!” The gophers keep Harvey poised until the vehicle is closing in on them and then they shout, “Go, Harv, hit it!” And Harvey barrels across the road as fast as he can scamper . . . which isn’t all that fast.

Yet, while gophers aren’t all that fast, they seldom get hit because they always race for the other ditch without hesitation.

The pine squirrels play the same game but are far faster. Yet, in the middle of the road they stop, turn around and start to run back. Hesitate. Turn around. Run the other way. Stop. Hesitate . . . Squirrels are lightning quick but often lose at Russian Roulette.

There’s a lesson here.

But, then again, do I really need to spell it out for you?

On the other hand, without an application my meaning could be misunderstood.

Nevertheless, shouldn’t I trust you’re smart enough to figure it out for yourself?

Okay, maybe I should explain the meaning of the gopher story, but I always limit my articles to one page, so it’ll have to be brief.

Oh, for crying out loud, I just ran out of space.

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

Story of the Day for Thursday March 19, 2015

The Midnight Ride of Israel Bissel

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http://www.writeonnewjersey.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Midnight-Riders.jpg

Whatever you do, work with all your soul, as for the Lord and not for people, since you know that will receive the reward of your inheritance from the Lord. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians 3:23-24

Paul Revere won fame for his midnight ride to warn the people the British were coming. I doubt any of us would know of Revere were it not for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote a well-known poem, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”

You might disagree and say you would have learned this fact from history. Think so? Then why have you never heard of Israel Bissel?

Paul Revere galloped on his famous ride for only 10 miles before he was captured by the British. Israel Bissel also rode to warn the American citizens of the British advance. He warned the citizens of Worchester, Massachusetts, then rode on to New Haven, Connecticut. After that he rode to New York, and then to Philadelphia. Paul Revere rode 10 miles; Bissel rode 345 miles. But nobody wrote a famous poem about Israel Bissel (let’s face it: not many words rhyme with “Bissel” – other than “missle,” and “thistle.”)

You know what? We all love being like Paul Revere — noticed and appreciated for what we do. You don’t have to be ashamed of that. If anyone tells you that enjoying appreciation is sinful pride, here’s what you do: Say, “Why, thank you. I really appreciate your insightful wisdom!” Wait until they flash a pleased smile (they will), and then wink at them.

Seriously, think about it: if being appreciated is a bad thing, then we should stop being polite and thanking people for things. We’re only harming them by showing our appreciation!

Feeling appreciated is not wrong. Be aware, however, that it is dangerous. A craving for recognition and appreciation has the potential to warp our motivation. Instead of doing things out of love for Jesus and our neighbor, we can begin acting so that others will notice us and appreciate us. Not good.

Want to know a test to find out if the desire for appreciation has bent your motives? Ask yourself: Would I behave exactly the same way if nobody ever saw or noticed what I did?

Here is a suggestion to monitor your motives: make a point to do one small thing every day that no one will see. No one will thank you, or appreciate your act. You did it simply for the wild joy of serving the Lord.

The Bible encourages us to work with all our heart and soul – whether anyone notices or not – whether anyone pats us on the head or not.

There is One who sees. And that is all that really matters.

(copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Even A Bug Can Teach


Story of the Day for Tuesday March 17, 2015

Even A Bug Can Teach

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https://carolread.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/bug1.jpg

When pride comes, disgrace will follow. With humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 11:2

The 19th century was the golden age of British conquest. The sun never set on the British Empire, and the cultured English bathed in their glory.

Having conquered and colonized vast uncivilized cultures of the world, in the spring of 1845, they set out to conquer Nature.

Sir John Franklin led the best-funded expedition in history to find the fabled Northwest Passage to the Orient. Two 350-ton vessels were equipped with steel reinforced hulls, a 1000 book library, and heated cabins.

Confident of their invincibility, they defied the arctic seas . . . and lost. The massive ice flows slammed into their ships and wedged them fast. For two years they waited for the ice to release its grip, but the ice refused to budge, and all of Franklin’s men perished.

Oddly enough, Franklin’s men met the native Inuit of the area. A decade later, Francis Hall spent time with the Inuit, who told him of their encounters with Franklin’s crew. The Inuit gave seal to the starving men, but the British sailors never asked for help in survival. Though the Inuit could travel long distances on their dog sleds, they never asked for help in sending out a rescue party.

The Victorians of this age were intent upon asserting their superiority over all other cultures. They saw the arctic natives as ignorant savages, and refused to swallow their dignity by begging them for assistance.

Years later, twenty-eight-year old Roald Amundsen, slipped out of the harbor at Oslo with six others in a small, second-hand fishing boat. They sailed until the arctic winter set in and found themselves in the same vicinity as Franklin’s stranded expedition.

But Amundsen sought out the Inuit. He befriended them and learned their secrets of survival in the arctic. They taught him how to hunt seals and build igloos. He was amazed to find their reindeer clothing far better than his own. He lived on their diet.

When he borrowed their sled dogs for an exploratory trip, he bogged down and had to dump half his supplies to make it back to the Inuit village. They were amused, but showed him how to reduce the friction of the sled runners.

When the spring ice thawed and allowed the Norwegians to continue their journey, Amundsen dismayed the crew by refusing to sail. He claimed they still hadn’t learned enough from the Inuit in how to survive in the Arctic.

Amundsen would not only sail on to discover the Northwest Passage, but would later outrace the British to plant the first flag on the South Pole.

God tells us in the Bible to observe the behavior of ants and learn from them. Even a bug can teach us spiritual truth, but only the humble have the ears to listen.

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