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Story of the Day for Wednesday March 4, 2015

 

Doing the Right Things the Right Way

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                    Don’t deceive yourselves by merely listening to God’s Word – put it into practice.

James 1:22

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a firm believer in reading and learning the Bible. Nevertheless, there is a hidden danger in regularly studying the Bible. Over time we easily view our practice of knowing Scripture as virtuous, rather than putting what we have learned into practice.

Life shouldn’t be this way, but it is: those who are the most devout, those who want to establish a daily time for reading the Bible, are the ones who are most prone to this deception. We begin by wanting God’s wisdom to transform our life, but, subtly, we can discover that we have been training ourselves to simply know facts.

 This morning I read a portion from Colossians. I shut my Greek New Testament, thinking, “There, I did it. Read my Scripture reading for the day.” But if you would ask, “So, Marty, what do you intend to do today based on what you read this morning?” I wouldn’t know how to answer you.

The more disciplined we are, the more likely we are to train for the wrong thing. David Grossman, in his book On Combat, writes of a law enforcement officer who trained himself to snatch a weapon from an assailant’s hand. With a partner pointing a revolver at him, the law enforcement officer practiced relentlessly. As soon as he successfully disarmed his partner he would hand the gun back to him and practice his technique again.

One day the officer was able to put his technique into practice. An assailant pulled a gun on him and the officer deftly snatched the weapon from the assailant’s hand. And then, just as he had practiced for hours . . . he handed the handgun back to the assailant! (Fortunately, the officer’s partner was present to shoot and disarm the assailant).

After just reporting the disappointing results of my morning Bible reading, I’m hardly the one who should be offering advice. So, I won’t tell you what you should do. But, here’s what I intend to change: I’m going to try turning my Bible reading time into a prayer. Before I close my Bible, I want to take a moment to ask God what I should do with this knowledge, and then ask him for the strength to do it.

Learning to practice the right thing is crucial. I’ve seen video footage of NFL quarterbacks in practice throwing to receivers. The receiver catches the ball, turns his shoulders downfield, and then lopes back to the line of scrimmage.

Yesterday, however, I watched a video clip of a quarterback in his red jersey flipping a short five-yard pass. The receiver didn’t just make the catch and trot back to the line for the next play. He caught the ball and shot off like a rocket all the way down the field to the end zone. No surprise that this team has the highest “yards after catch” in the NFL.

More important than doing the right things is doing the right things the right way.

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

Story of the Day for Tuesday March 3, 2015

The World’s Worst Pet

 

                    Put up with each other and forgive whatever complaints you may have with each other. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 

Colossians 3:13

I just read a list of the worst pets to own. The article held no value to me because I’ve never been tempted to own a Madagascar hissing cockroach, or an iguana (which can grow to six feet and often carries disease), or a boa constrictor (which can do just what its name suggests).

Don’t get me wrong – I do own dangerous and undesirable pets (which, inexplicably, failed to make the list.)  I’m not proud of this, but I currently own a menagerie of pet peeves.

https://i1.wp.com/thehilljean.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Pet-Peeve.jpgPet peeves multiply faster than rabbits, and you waste a lot of time feeding them. A pet peeve, by definition, is something that annoys you. So why I keep adding to my collection of things that irritate me is, to say the least, mystifying.

But, just as mystifying is the new school of thought that help us cope with life’s grievances. The new thinking claims we have a right to be angry. When we experience injustice – or even unfortunate events – we, supposedly, are entitled to be upset.

Well, okay. Maybe it does help to ventilate anger and express grievances. But I can’t help thinking about Charlie Plumb. Lieutenant Plumb was a Navy pilot in the Vietnam War, when he was shot down on May 19, 1967, south of Hanoi. As a POW, he endured unimaginable tortures, starving, and humiliation. Five years and nine months later, Plumb was released and returned to the United States.

Plumb underwent routine psychiatric counseling to help him deal with the trauma from his years of imprisonment. “You have the right,” the psychiatrist kindly told him, “to be bitter.”

But Plumb refused to accept this kind of therapy. “I have the right to be bitter?” he would ask, “That’s like saying I have the right to have diarrhea.”

Now, I doubt if I could stagger out of a prison camp like Charlie Plumb and simply forgive those who tortured me, and get on with life without experiencing deep emotional damage. But, I wish I could.

A few weeks ago, I rode over a thousand miles with a guy named Rob. When I drive I get easily annoyed with other drivers who fail to dim their headlights or signal a turn in busy traffic. But Rob had a different approach. He talked other drivers through their faults. “Hey, buddy,” he would calmly say, “no need to cut so sharply in front of me.” “Hey, buddy, no need to tailgate me; I can’t go any faster than the car in front of me.”

By the end of our trip Rob had a lot of “buddies.” But he taught me that life is better lived when we calmly accept the faults of others rather than adding to our growing list of grievances.

Peeves make lousy pets.

(text copyright 2011 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://thehilljean.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Pet-Peeve.jpg)

Story of the Day for Monday March 2, 2015

Feed Your Soul on Failed Speech

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                Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

John 6:67

There is this politician I know and I want to share something that happened to him. Off the record, of course.

Quite a few years ago, he was asked, as an afterthought, to speak at a special gathering. The committee told him he shouldn’t try to be funny or to talk too long. You have to admire any politician who would agree to those stipulations, but he did.

Then, just as he was getting reading to leave, his son got sick. Normally, this wouldn’t be overly traumatic, but their older son had just died the year before, and now his wife was in hysterics about him leaving. He felt, however, that he had to fulfill his obligation, and sadly, walked out the door on his sick son and angry wife.

And, then, on his way to give his speech, he got sick himself. He still hadn’t written his speech. Dog tired, he tried to put some thoughts together.

Fifteen thousand people attended the gathering. A singing group from Baltimore performed a song, and then he was on.

If you’re a preacher, public speaker, or even a student in a high school speech class, you know what it feels like to bomb. You’re embarrassed and humiliated.

He gave his speech. When he finished, there was an awkward silence, followed by tepid, scattered applause. He bombed.

When he slumped into his seat on the podium, he told his friend sitting next to him that his speech failed, and, as if to confirm this, pointed out the disappointment of the crowd.

But a tepid response from the crowd was nothing compared to some in the media. The Chicago Times jumped all over him, calling his speech “silly, flat, and dishwatery.” The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania paper chose to ignore his “silly remarks” in order to spare their readers from such an awful speech.

 I’ve kept quiet about this politician’s name, but I guess there’s no harm in sharing it with you now. His name was Abraham Lincoln (I didn’t say I knew him personally). And the speech he gave was for the dedication of a seventeen-acre military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

 When Jesus was at the height of his popularity, he gave a speech and the crowds disliked it. So many people quit following him that he had to ask his own disciples if they intended to leave him as well.

People may reject or ridicule what you have to say – not because it isn’t true, but because they’re not ready to hear it.

Want to know what you should do? Speak the truth anyway. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address took time to become the most well-loved speech in American history.

And two thousand years later, we still feed our souls on Jesus’ “failed” speech.

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

He Did Know


Story of the Day for Friday February 27, 2015

He Did Know

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                   O God, search me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Psalm 139:23

 A small town prosecuting attorney called an elderly woman as his first witness. He approached her on the witness stand and said, “Mrs. Jones, do you know me?”

“Why, yes, I do know you, Mr. Williams,” she said. “I’ve known you since you were a young boy, and frankly, you’re a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat, you manipulate people. You think you’re such a hotshot, but you’re never going to amount to anything but a two-bit ambulance chaser. Yes, I know you!”

The lawyer was stunned. As he tried to collect himself he pointed across the courtroom to the other attorney and stammered, “Do you know him?”

“Why, yes, I certainly do. I’ve known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster too. I used to babysit him when he was little. And he’s a big disappointment to me as well. He’s lazy, bigoted, and drinks too much. The man can’t build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the shoddiest affairs I’ve ever seen. Yes, I know him well!”

At that moment the judge rapped his gavel and called both attorneys to approach the bench. In a low voice the judge warned them, “If either of you asks this woman if she knows me . . . I’m going to jail you for contempt!”

As a young boy, Ted Koppel quickly learned that showing weakness invited bullying. So, he developed an air of confident self-control.

Later in life, as a former anchor for ABC’s Nightline, Koppel has won every major broadcasting award you can name — including 37 Emmys. He is known for his air of confidence in reporting the news.

He candidly admits, however, “No one is that confident in reality, but ours is a business of appearances, and it’s terribly important to be self-confident. The moment you give evidence of doubt, people are going to eat you alive.”

Yet, no matter how confident we appear, no matter what persona we present to others, there is still the nagging fear that someone is going to find us out. They’ll see our doubts and fears, our weakness and wobbly faith.

In one sense, we have good reason to hide behind a mask. If we blurted out all our insecurities to the world, some would use our faults as a weapon to harm us.

King David’s prayer in Psalm 139 is shocking because he invites God to scrounge around in the dark corners of his heart and to discover all his anxieties. David could only ask God to search his heart if he knew God could see him for who he really was — and still accept him.

When Jesus met a woman at a well, he offered her “living water.” He didn’t love her because he mistakenly assumed she was a good woman. He loved her because he did know her sin, and wanted her to find forgiveness.  When the woman ran back to her village, she shouted, “Come! See a man who told me everything I ever did! Could this be the Messiah?”

(text copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://midliferocksblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/unknown-man.jpg)
 

According to Their Pace


Story of the Day for Wednesday February 25, 2015

According to Their Pace

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                He will tend his flock like a shepherd. He will gather the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart. He will gently lead the ewes that have young. 

Isaiah 40:11

My friend, Stan Holder, is a really great guy, and I would never want to embarrass him. So, to protect his identity, I’m going to refer to him, throughout this article, as Buford A. Tiddschnickle.

Sta—I mean, Buford, is not a hiker; he is a Hiking Machine. When his wife, Mrs. Tiddschnickle, managed a U.S. Forest Service district in California, Buford and his wife hiked every trail in the district – to the astonishment of everyone who knew how many miles this entailed.

But Buford’s slide into infamy began with “The Mount Ksanka Incident.” Ksanka rises majestically to the east of Eureka, Montana. On Bufe’s recommendation, I decided to climb it.

“How long does it take to get to the top?” I asked.

“Oh,” Buford replied, “forty-five minutes?”

After several long hours of desperate scrambling up the western face, no jury in the land would have convicted me had I enacted my plot to short-sheet his bed and put a dead toad in his stew pot.

This is a cautionary tale: never ask a hiker with enormous calves how long it takes to go anywhere. They will tell you sincerely, but they calculate according to their own pace.

The thought of following Jesus used to intimidate me. How can I keep up with the Son of God? His life is one of perfect beauty. He forgives the very ones whose hammer blows nailed his body to a tree, while I’m pathetically harboring dark thoughts about toads in stew pots.  How could I have the audacity to consider myself his follower?

But, then, one day, this verse from Isaiah stripped away my fears and excuses. Jesus will lead us like a shepherd. He doesn’t out-hike the flock and disappear over the horizon. Shepherds lead at the pace the sheep are able to walk.

And what if you can’t walk very fast? Isaiah says this Shepherd will go at a gentler pace. And what if you’re only a lamb and can’t keep up at all? Then He’ll pick you up and carry you close to his heart.

For years, Buford A. Tiddschnickle has invited me to hike with him, but I’ve always concocted inventive excuses.

This last year, however, I’ve learned a secret about Bufe. He loves to hike with friends and family. He loves to hike with kids. But he always hikes at their pace — not his own.

I think I’m going to hike with him, and deliberately walk slow – just to bug him (since I’m still a little peeved about this Ksanka thing.)

But my conscience has convicted me about the dead toad in the stew pot.

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

Story of the Day for Monday February 23, 2015

Beautiful Things Through Them

I can do all things through the One who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13

George Dantzig greatest achievement came about because he was late for class.

While taking a graduate-level statistics class at the University of California, Berkeley, he got to class late, but managed to copy down the homework assignment on the board.
George worked on his homework assignment, but found it tough going. But he finally completed the assignment, and handed it in to his professor, Jerzy Neyman.

Six weeks later, George was awakened one morning with a knock on the door. “It was Neyman,” Dantzig recalled, “He rushed in with papers in hand, all excited.” Professor Neyman wanted to immediately send Dantzig’s work for publication. Dantzig had no idea what his professor was talking about. The problems on the blackboard that he had solved, Neyman told him, were in fact two famous unsolved problems in statistics.”

Now, how was Dantzig able to solve these two baffling problems? He was certainly intelligent, but so were all the other scientists, professors, and students who were stymied by these problems. But, George Dantzig had one advantage over the others: no one told him that it couldn’t be done.

Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”

Now, obviously, Mr. Ford’s statement is not a universal truth. If you believe you can snort my Ford pickup up your nose, that doesn’t mean you can. Conversely, if I don’t believe I’ll see an elk while hunting tomorrow, that doesn’t mean I won’t.

We Christians are often leery about talking of faith in what we can do, and rightly so. Anything that fosters the notion that, if we believe in ourselves, we can work our way into God’s good favor is an abomination. For starters, we can’t. And, secondly, the mistaken notion that we might be able to earn God’s love destroys the truth that you can never earn God’s love. God’s already loves us despite our most miserable failures.

All that said, a little shepherd boy did what no soldier in Israel’s army dared: he believed he could defeat Goliath, and offered to do so. But, he had practiced hard to achieve mastery with his slingshot. Yet, he chose five smooth stones because he knew the first one might not find its mark.

Did this little squirt have confidence in his abilities? I think so. But, ultimately, David’s faith was not in himself, but in what God could do through him. Yes, God could’ve worked unilaterally and conked Goliath on the head with a thunderbolt – without David’s assistance. David, however, believed that God would utilize his rock lobbing talents to win this victory. And God would get the glory.

God is at work in this world. But he delights in working through his children . . . children who believe in a God who can do beautiful things through them.

(copyright 2011 by climbing higher.org and by Marty Kaarre)He

 


Story of the Day for Friday February 20, 2015 

Sharing a Mutual Love for Potato Chips

The head priests and the Bible scholars saw the wonders Jesus did and the children shouting in the temple, saying, ”Hosanna to the Son of David!” And they were indignant.
Matthew 21:15

Alina, one of my wife’s former students is now grown up, married, and has two little girls. Last week, her daughter said a bedtime prayer for her Mommy and Daddy, sister, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends. And then she added, “And God, please be with all the potatoes because I know you and me just LOVE potato chips!”

I’d like to casually toss out the fact that I’m a Bible scholar. If you’re confused about the soteriological implications of proleptic eschatology, I’m your man. And, excuse me while I politely cough, but I also (ahem) . . . read the New Testament in the Greek! Yes.

We Bible scholars tend to wince at the prayers and praises of children. They don’t know what they’re talking about. When we scholars compose a prayer, it’s carefully sculpted to reflect a theologically precise view of God. The grammar is impeccable and nuanced. You will never – and I repeat myself for emphasis – you will never find us composing prayers which go romping on about our delight with potato chips.

Yet, ironically, the Bible scholars of Jesus’ day, for all their knowledge of Scripture, couldn’t recognize God if he was standing right in front of them. They knew a lot about God, but they didn’t know him.
The kids, on the other hand, shattered the solemnity with their boisterous praise to the Son of David. When the theologians objected to this, Jesus defended the kids and pointed to the Psalm which said, “From the mouths of children and nursing infants I have prepared praise.” Jesus liked their worship.

The beauty of a child’s understanding of God is that it is a relationship.
Yes, it’s important to have correct theology, but not at the expense of knowing God personally. I can easily find myself viewing the Trinity, say, more as a complex mathematical formula than the God who protects me, and loves me, and gives me strength.

Once, when our daughter, Erika, was little she asked for something and we told her we couldn’t buy it because we couldn’t afford it. Later that evening, she came into my office and gave me a dollar to bail us out of our fiscal crisis.
I wasn’t offended at my little daughter’s unsophisticated view of finances nor did I hand the dollar back to her in disgust at her ignorance. Instead, I was deeply touched by her thoughtfulness and generosity.
I have a little box on my dresser. And, every now and then, I open it and look at the dollar she gave me.

In the end, it’s all about relationship . . . like sharing a mutual love for potato chips.
(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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