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Archive for October, 2010


Story of the Day for  Saturday October 16, 2010

The Joy of a Two-Stroke Penalty

. . . We are certain we have a clear conscience.  We want to behave honorably in all we do.

Hebrews 13:18

Professional golfers play by strict, unbending rules. The rules state the situations where you must play the ball where it lies, and when you are allowed to move it. They even have rules for playing the ball if you hit it into an alligator’s mouth (I’m not making this up!)

In 1994, Davis Love III was playing in the Western Open near Chicago. He chipped a shot close to the hole and put a marker where his ball lay, but then moved his marker so it would be out of the putting line of the next golfer.

Later, as they continued play, Love couldn’t remember if he moved his marker back to the original spot. Whether he did or not, it made no difference to his “gimme” putt.  He probably moved his marker according to the rules, but he just couldn’t remember.

The rule book states that, if you think it’s possible you committed an infraction, and no one else was present to judge the case, then you have committed an infraction.

So, Love penalized himself with a two-stroke penalty.

That penalty he called on himself knocked him out of the tournament. Without that penalty, he would have automatically qualified for the Masters.

In the end, it all worked out well for Love. He did qualify for the Masters by winning a PGA tournament in 1995. And he came in second in the Masters – winning over a quarter million dollars.  But he did not know this at the time he gave himself the penalty that disqualified him from the tournament.

In his book, Every Shot I Take, Love does not consider what he did that day to be worthy of praise, and quotes Bobby Jones, “Don’t praise me for calling a penalty on myself. You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank.”  Yet, most ignore Love’s self-effacing comments and praise him anyway.

But, some think he is a fool. Why penalize yourself two strokes when you’re not even sure you committed a penalty? Why penalize yourself when, even if you did make a mental error, it was not intentional? And it did not affect your score?  And, after asking everyone present, no one saw you commit a penalty?

Love’s defends the inflexible rules of his golf: “This may sound harsh to the non-golfer, but it’s not. Adhered to strictly, it eliminates the possibility of a golfer playing with a guilty conscience.”

Did you get that?  Love believes the money and fame is not worth it, if he does not have a clear conscience.

Yes, absolutely yes – Jesus can and will cleanse us when we have a guilty conscience. But we also need the wisdom to see that living an honorable life is more satisfying than all the money and fame this world can offer.

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


Story of the Day for Friday October 15, 2010


What Music Can You Play on a Broken Stradivarius?

And the God of all grace . . . will restore, establish, strengthen, and set you on a firm foundation.

1 Peter 5:10

Peter Cropper, from Sheffield, England, is a distinguished violinist. He is so good, he was asked to perform at the prestigious Kuhmo Music Festival in Finland.

The Royal Academy of Music in London honored him by loaning him the use of a priceless Stradivarius violin. The violin, made by Antonio Stradivari was 258 years old and was made in his “Golden period.” It was considered one of the most valuable violins in the world.

On the night of the festival, Mr. Cropper hurried on stage and tripped on an extension cord. He fell on the Stradivarius and broke the neck completely off.

Peter was inconsolable.

Charles Beare offered to repair the violin. The Royal Academy thanked Beare for his gracious offer, but assured him a broken Strad could never be repaired. But Cropper urged the Academy to see what Beare could do, and they finally relented and handed the violin over to Beare.

Beare spent endless hours trying to repair the broken neck and a cracked bass bar with animal glue. After a month he presented the violin to the Academy. With Cropper in attendance they looked in astonishment – they could not find the slightest sign that the violin had ever been damaged.

Not only did the restored violin look impeccable, but Cropper said, “. . . the violin is now in better shape than ever, producing a much more resonant tone.” That next week he performed with the Lindsay Quartet in Carnegie Hall, playing the restored Stradivarius.

We all fail in life.

So, what does God think about us when we botch things up? We know that He cares deeply about behaving the right way, so it stands to reason He is furious when we do wrong.

Yes, God does care deeply about living rightly, because living wrongly creates so much pain to ourselves and others. But He’s the God of grace.

Jesus never walked the streets with a clipboard – sifting out the rejects and patting the righteous on the head. If Jesus only approved of those who never failed in life, there would be no heads to pat.

Never write the chapter of your failures as the last chapter of your story. The Lord, as a master craftsman, always offers to take the broken pieces of your heart, and restore you.

And make you stronger than before.

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

Story of the Day for Thursday October 14, 2010


Working at Happiness

It is God’s gift that everyone would see good in all his labor.

Ecclesiastes 3:13

A Chinese proverb says, “If you want to be happy for an hour, get drunk. If you want to be happy for three days, get married. If you want to be happy for eight days, kill your pig and eat it. If you want to be happy forever, learn to fish.”

Now, — don’t even think it – I’m not advocating getting drunk, and my wife and I have shared 28 years together, and we’re still on our honeymoon. Last month, we butchered our pigs, and I’ve been happy about that for several weeks.

We want to commend, however, the wisdom of the Chinese in seeing the vital connection between work and happiness.  Researchers at Gothenburg University in Sweden published their findings that people are made happy by working toward a goal (not the attainment, but the striving).

And this is where things get bollixed up. We tend to focus on the money (i.e., the “attainment”) as the source of happiness, when it is really the striving (i.e., the work) that brings fulfillment.

We are made in the image of God. As God creates, so he has made us to create – to be creative.  Work really is meant to be satisfying.

One of the most respected studies on job satisfaction was done a few years ago at the University of Chicago.  The school’s National Opinion Research Center found little correlation between job satisfaction and money. Nor is there a link between job satisfaction and time for leisure (two of the top three happiest professions work over 50 hours a week).

What makes a job satisfying? Helping other people, being creative, and using special talents and expertise.

Want to know the profession that produces the greatest job satisfaction? (Are you ready for this?) Pastors.  They are followed by physical therapists, firefighters, school principals, artists, teachers, authors, psychologists, and special education teachers.

Beside the school principals and psychologists, the pay is average.  But when we  are active in helping and using our God-given creativity, we are the happiest in our work.

The point of all this, however, is not that you need the right job to find fulfillment. What you need is the right attitude.  Figure out how your work serves others. Be creative. And recognize the uniqueness of the talents God gave you.

Final note: Although the University of Chicago doesn’t consider this an “occupation,” I believe the most satisfying job involves long hours and no pay. The occupation is called: “being a mom.”

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


Story of the Day for Wednesday October 13, 2010


The Most Contagious Disease

Then the people from the area discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from continuing to build. .

Ezra 4:4

One of the most contagious diseases known to man is discouragement.

All great achievements have come about because people persevered in the face of seemingly impossible odds. In 1915, Ernest Shackleton gathered a group of adventurous men and set out to be the first ones to traverse the entire continent of Antarctica. But they never reached the mainland before ice flows trapped their ship, and crushed it.

Alone on an ice flow, with no one to call for help, they embarked on a desperate attempt for survival. The odds were grim.

If you were their leader, what would you determine was the greatest need for your men?  Food? Warmth? Shelter? All these are vital for survival.  But great leaders realize that, in times of crises, morale is vital. One man’s skepticism could demoralize the entire crew. Optimism would not guarantee their survival, but without it, failure was certain.

So, what did Shackleton do? Alfred Lansing, in his book, Endurance, describes how Shackleton made sure Frank Hurley attended the high-level meetings. Hurley was not an officer, nor did he have any previous Antarctic experience. Shackleton included him because he knew that Hurley needed to feel important and did not want him spreading discontent to the others. When Shackleton made tent assignments, he put Hudson, James, and Hurley in his tent. Why? Because these were the men most likely to discourage the rest of the crew.

After surviving the Antarctic winter the crew climbed into lifeboats and made their way through the ice flows to Elephant Island. With his crew very weak, but on dry land, Shackleton needed to leave immediately in a row boat and travel almost a thousand miles to find help. He chose Worsley because he was the best navigator, and McCarthy, because he was built like a bull. But the others, Crean, McNeish, and Vincent were chosen to accompany him because they were the ones who were the most pessimistic at the time. After a year and a half of struggle, Shackleton and all his crew were rescued.

When God’s people began rebuilding the temple, their enemies didn’t force them to quit. Instead, they tried to discourage them so that the people would decide to quit.

Pessimists like to point out what great achievers already know: that the odds their venture will fail is high. And, once any group is convinced it will fail, its downfall is ensured.

Those who refuse to give in to discouragement – who persevere through innumerable obstacles, are the ones who are most likely to attain success.

Has the Lord called you to a high goal?  Don’t give in to discouragement.

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

**Climbinghigher.org apologizes for neglecting to post a story for Monday October 11th.  Pastor Marty was at a wedding in a remote location in northwestern Montana without electricity and internet!  Enjoy today’s story!


Story of the Day for Tuesday October 12, 2010


How to Make Hubert Humphrey Invisible

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they don’t see the light of the glorious good news of Christ . . .

2 Corinthians 4:4

Hubert Humphrey is the patron saint of politicians to Minnesotans.  As an influential senator, and former vice-president, he was wildly popular in his home state.

Once, while traveling with a friend, Humphrey stopped at a gas station to use the rest room.  Humphrey’s friend gazed at a tour bus as it pulled into the gas station.  Immediately, he hatched a brilliant and devious plan.

He walked onto the tour bus and asked where they were from.  After a little chit-chat, he said, “Can I ask a small favor of you?  I have a friend who has a weekend pass from the mental institute.  His problem is that he thinks he’s Hubert Humphrey!  Matter of fact, he does look a bit like Humphrey.  But, he’s harmless, and I was wondering if I could bring him on the bus, and you could pretend he really is Hubert Humphrey.”

The people on the tour bus agreed to the plan.

When Humphrey returned to the car, his friend said, “Hey, Hube!  As you were going inside, this tour bus pulled up, and they recognized you.  They’re asking me if they can meet you.  Would you mind going on the tour bus and greeting them?”

No problem.  Humphrey hopped into the tour bus and went down the aisle, shaking hands and introducing himself.

When he got back in the car, his friend asked him how it went.  Humphrey had a puzzled look on his face.  “It was the oddest thing,” he said, “every time I shook their hand and told them my name, they giggled.”

The people on the tour bus shook hands with one of the most famous citizens of their state.  They saw him, but they didn’t see him.

Jesus encountered the same thing.  Who was this man?  To the religious leaders, who saw him as a threat to their authority, he was demon possessed. Herod Antipas was haunted by a guilty conscience after he executed a holy man, John the Baptist.  When he heard of Jesus, he said, “John the Baptist, whose head I cut off, has come back from the dead.”  Others thought they were seeing a lunatic, a prophet, an imposter.

Everyone could see Jesus, but not everyone  could see him.

“Yeah, but how do we know we’re not the ones who are deceived?”

Good question.

When skeptics objected to Jesus’ true identity, he pointed them to the truth.  When the religious authorities confronted him about his identity, he pointed them to the Scriptures.  When his compassion was questioned by an untouchable leper, he touched him (and healed him).  Jesus does not shrink from honest questions; he invites them.

We are bombarded by lies and deception.  Jesus cuts through the fog, and sets before us the light of truth.  Don’t be afraid to follow the evidence to see where it leads.

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



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Story of the Day for Saturday October 9, 2010

A Continual Feast

All the days of the afflicted are miserable, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.

Proverbs 15:15

At the Olympics, two athletes reach the podium. Who will be happier: The athlete who won the bronze medal or the athlete who took silver?

Not too difficult to answer, is it? The athlete who won the silver medal did better than the athlete who won the bronze, so obviously he or she is happier.

But Richard Wiseman, professor at the University of Herfordshire, UK, suggests otherwise. He believes that those who win a bronze medal are happier about their achievement. Why? The silver medalists looks to the top of the podium, and tends to think, “If only I had done a little better, I could have won the gold. But I fell short.”

Bronze medal winners tends to look in the other direction. They see that, if they hadn’t outperformed the other competitors, they wouldn’t have made it to the podium at all. The difference in attitude between silver and bronze medalists is not accomplishment, but perspective.

We are not victims of happiness or misery. Our disposition is not determined by outside forces beyond our control, but by our attitude. A Hollywood celebrity can become furious because the chateaubriand was served medium rather than medium rare, while a starving man may burst with joy at finding a moldy piece of bread.

Prof. Wiseman, has written a book called The Luck Factor, where he seeks to discover the differences between people who are considered lucky and unlucky. (Wiseman rejects the notion of luck as a magical, superstitious power. When he talks about “luck” he simply means “fortunate.”) He asked the participants in his study to imagine they were waiting in line at a bank. Suddenly, an armed robber enters the bank, fires a shot, and the bullet hits them in the arm. Wiseman asks them, “Would you consider yourself lucky or unlucky?”

Those who defined themselves as unlucky people said this shooting would be very unlucky.  Just their luck to be in the bank when a robbery takes place.  But those in the study who considered themselves lucky were far more likely to consider themselves fortunate. “You could have been shot in the head,” they would say.  Some thought about how you could sell your story to the newspapers and make some money.

Wiseman concluded that much of the good and bad fortune we encounter in life is a result of our thoughts and behavior. In other words, it’s about our attitude.

An old saying goes: “The same sun that melts the ice, hardens the clay.”  Identical circumstances in life may make some people bitter, and other people better.

God teaches us in this proverb that cheerfulness is an attitude. It comes from the heart. But let’s never forget that the Lord provides the ultimate basis for cheerfulness over misery. All our most vital battles will end in victory because of Jesus.

And thinking about that is a continual feast.

 

 

Story of the Day for Friday October 8, 2010
 

 

Clarence Jordan’s Failure

How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you don’t listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you don’t come to the rescue?

Habakkuk 1:2

When they blow up your buildings and strafe your house with machine guns, you begin to get the feeling that some people really don’t like you.

Clarence Jordan became a Baptist minister with a Ph.D in New Testament Greek. In 1942, Clarence, and his wife, Florence, went to Sumter County, Georgia, because they wanted to live out the teachings of Jesus.

They started a farm, called Koinonia (the Greek word for “Community”). Their goal was to bring both blacks and whites together, to share their goods with each other, and to help those poorer than themselves.

In those days of racial segregation, many objected to Koinonia Farm. The Baptists kicked Jordan out of their church. Vandals cut their fences, stole crops from the field, dumped garbage on their property, put sugar in their gas tanks to ruin their truck engines, chopped down nearly 300 pecan trees.

The community boycotted the farm. They refused to sell seed, fertilizer, or fuel to them. They refused to buy their goods – forcing them to wastefully slaughter thousands of chickens that couldn’t be sold.

It got more serious than that. The farm’s roadside store was burned down. Gasoline pumps were punctured. Crosses were burned at night on the lawns of the black residents. Fires were set on the property. The smokehouse was dynamited. Residents were beaten, and even the children were sprayed with gunfire while out playing.

After that incident, Clarence wrote: “. . . neither property nor lives were ours but God’s. They never had really been ours in any sense of the word. We hadn’t even ‘given them back to Him’ – they were His all along. And if this was the way He wanted to spend His property and His people in order to accomplish His purpose, why should we pitch a tantrum?”

On October 21, 1968, the year before Clarence died, he wrote: “. . . Koinonia stands at the end of an era or perhaps its existence.” Only two families were left.

Clarence and Florence Jordan’s dreams never materialized. Or did they? That last year of his life, a young couple, Millard and Linda Fuller visited the farm and ended up staying. Jordan and Fuller conceived a dream of providing housing for the needy.

You may have heard of their dream. They called it Habitat for Humanity. Its headquarters is not far from the farm at Koinonia . . . in the Clarence Jordan Center.

Jordan put it well when he observed that the Lord doesn’t call us to be successful, but to be faithful. He just let the Lord do what He wanted with His own property.

Story of the Day for Thursday October 7, 2010

The Candle Problem

They watched Jesus closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath – in order that they might condemn him. . . And Jesus asked them, “Is it legal to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath?”

Mark 3:2-3

Here’s a problem for you to solve. You are led into the front of a church, and stand behind a table. A little kid walks up and sets three objects on the table before you: a Bible, a prayer book, and a hymnal. Your assignment, in ten seconds, is to pick up the object which represents the most religious activity you could do at that moment.

What would you pick up?

How ‘bout if I give you a clue to (what I believe) is the correct answer.

In 1945, Karl Duncker first conducted The Candle Problem. On a table, he set a candle, a box of tacks, and a book of matches. The assignment was to attach the candle to the wall so that the wax wouldn’t drip on the table.

Most people will begin by trying to tack the candle to the wall, but the candle is too large in diameter to do that.  The second most popular solution is to light a match, melt some candle wax, and attempt to “glue” the candle to the wall. The candle, unfortunately, is too heavy, and this doesn’t work either.

It usually takes several minutes before the participant solves the puzzle. The answer is to take the box of tacks and thumbtack it to the wall. Then you can melt wax in the bottom of it and set the candle in the box.

Most people see the box only as the means to hold the tacks; not as the solution itself.

One Sabbath, Jesus was in the synagogue surrounded by religious people — and a man with a withered hand. They knew Jesus could heal miraculously, so they watched closely to see if he would heal the man. The Sabbath was a day of rest, and healing was . . . you know, like, work. If Jesus healed on the Sabbath, it proved he was not a religious man, and that he defied the law of God.

Jesus, on the other hand, thought the most important religious act he could at that moment was to help a handicapped man on the holy day of rest.

So, back to your puzzle. The little kid sets a Bible, a prayer book, and a hymnal on the table in front of you. What should you pick up as the most religious act you could do at that moment?  Okay, here we go. Ten seconds.

Tick-tock.

Times up. The answer is to . . . pick up the little kid. Thank him for bringing you books that are very special to you. Give him a great big hug. Then get down on one knee – so you’re at his eye level — and ask why he has that bandage on his finger.

I know I’m going to catch a lot of grief from today’s story. And, I would love to debate this issue with you, but right now I’m busy. Reading my Bible.

(But only after the little kid has left to go out and play.)

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Marty’s Story of the Day returned to its original page on the http://www.climbinghigher.org site.  Please find them there again and pass the word.  Share the stories.  The archived ones will still be found here and you may access them at any time.  We will update this blog when we learn more about it’s sharing uses and formatting, etc. Have a great day!

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You’re Kidding, Right?


“Behold, I’m sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.”

Matthew 10:16

St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, has a football coach whose methods are . . . different.

John Gagliardi (pronounced gah-LAR-dee) does virtually no recruiting. No player is offered a scholarship. And there are no tryouts. If you want to play, you’re on the team.

Gagliardi doesn’t use a whistle in practice. He never raises his voice. And you’re not allowed to call Coach Gagliardi “coach.” He insists you call him, and all the other coaches, by their first names. His players call him “John.”

The team has no spring practice sessions. There is no compulsory weight lifting. During practice, they run no wind sprints. They run no laps. Matter of fact, they don’t even do calisthenics. (I take that back: they do a couple of workout exercises. One is called “Ear Lobe Stretches” which is followed by the “Nice Day” drill. Players lie flat on their backs to stretch, then lean over and say to a teammate, “Nice day, isn’t it?”).

It gets worse: the team doesn’t have a playbook, and players don’t watch game film. During practice, they use no blocking sleds or tackling dummies. In fact, tackling is NEVER allowed in practice.

You think I’m making this up, don’t you? Well, I’m not. The St. John’s Johnnies are an NCAA Division III school in a highly competitive conference.

The next question is: has this goof of a coach ever won a football game?

Matter of fact, John Gagliardi has won over 470 games – more than any other college football coach in history. His team holds the college record for the most offensive points scored, on average, throughout a season (61 points per game). He has won 27 conference titles, four national championships and is in the NCAA’s College Football Hall of Fame.

When Jesus sends us into the world, his methods are a little . . . different. He doesn’t want us to be fierce lions. It’s almost embarrassing, but he wants us to be a sheep.

Sheep have no offensive strengths. They can’t claw, trample, or bite you to death. Sheep have no defensive power. They can’t outrun savage wolves. They don’t know how to hide. They’re sheep.

Is this Jesus’ method for conquering the world? Going out into a hostile world like a harmless bag of wool?

I’m afraid so.

And yet, Jesus’ sheep have done what mighty armies could not. They have won the hearts of men by the power of God’s love.

Jesus’ method boggles the imagination.  That’s why I appreciate John Gagliardi so much. He reminds me that, sometimes, doing the impossible works best.

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What Are You Hiding Under the Woodpile?

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth isn’t in us. If we confess our sin, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sin and wash us clean from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:8-9

What’s it like to hear confession from nuns? One Roman Catholic priest said it’s “like being stoned to death with popcorn.”

We can only assume the nuns are giving it their best, but just can’t come up with any juicy stuff.  On the whole, however, I’m not impressed with people who claim they’re never at fault for much of anything.

Why do we fall into the habit of blaming other people for our troubles, or minimizing our own faults?  We think we’re avoiding guilt. But we’re not; we’re avoiding grace.

Whenever we rationalize our behavior, we keep accumulating a load of guilt. When we’re honest with God and spill out the whole, sordid story of our failures, he completely and totally forgives us. It’s so outlandish that the “perfect” remain in their guilt, and the guilty have a clean conscience, but that’s irony for you.

If you really rummage around in the dark cellar of your soul, you might find some pretty icky stuff.  The only question is: how long are you going to keep that moldy junk down there? When Jesus says he wants to cleanse us, he really means that. But he won’t bust down the basement door. You have to open it; he’ll do the rest.

Richard Hoefler, in his book Will Daylight Come?, tells the story about two young kids who visited their grandparents one  summer. The boy, Johnny, was given his first slingshot. He practiced shooting it in the woods, but missed everything he aimed at.

One day, when he came back near the house, he saw his grandma’s pet duck. Impulsively, he aimed a stone at it and let it fly.  He hit the duck and killed it.

Johnny panicked and hid the duck under the woodpile – only to notice his sister, Sally, watching him.

Sally said nothing to her grandparents about the duck. But, after lunch, grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” Sally said, “Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today . . . didn’t you Johnny?” Then she whispered to him, “Remember the duck.” So, Johnny did the dishes.

On another occasion grandpa asked if the kids wanted to go fishing. Grandma said, “I’m sorry, but I need Sally to help make supper.” Sally then claimed that Johnny wanted to help with supper, and again whispered, “Remember the duck.”  So, Johnny stayed home while Sally went fishing.

This went on for several days. Johnny was doing both his chores and Sally’s. When he could stand it no longer, he went to grandma and told her that he had killed her duck.

“I know, Johnny,” she said, giving him a hug. “I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing.” Then she added, “I wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave out of you.”

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Basic Training


“Basic Training”

Just as you learned from us how to live in a God-pleasing way, now we ask and urge you to do this more and more.

1 Thessalonians 4:1

Riding in a car when your kid has a newly printed learner’s permit is like riding on a roller coaster. You normally survive, but it feels like you have flirted with death.

I remember when my daughter, Krista, started driving. The Advisory Committee (consisting of her parents and older siblings) would pile in the car, and we would all offer valuable suggestions for the completion of a successful voyage. The urgency in our voices increased with the speed of the car, until Krista found herself overwhelmed by a bombardment of instructions. We meant well, but pointing out every detail and nuance to be mastered is not the best way to learn a new skill.

If you want to learn how to drive, you should first put duct tape over the mouths of everyone else in the car.  You can still tell if they’re screaming, which is helpful, but other that that, you can focus on practicing the skills your driving instructor taught you.

Every athletic coach, music teacher, and drill sergeant knows the pattern: you start with the basics. Once you learn the fundamentals you repeat them again and again and again. Eventually, it becomes second nature.

Vince Lombardi, considered by many the greatest football coach of all time, understood this process. When he noticed his team’s sloppy play, he gathered his players and began his lecture by saying, “Gentlemen, we’re going back to basics. This is a football . . .”

After he instructed them on the fundamentals, they repeated plays endlessly until each player’s movements became second nature.

Lombardi was not a complicated man. The Packer playbook was thinner than most high school playbooks today. But, while the opposing teams knew what plays to expect, they had a daunting time trying to stop them.

Paul taught the believers in this Greek city how to live in a God-pleasing way. But now he is urging them to practice their faith more and more.

The Christian life is not complicated. You don’t have to begin by memorizing the book of Ephesians or by knowing the date the second temple was rebuilt. Instead, we begin by learning to be loved by God and find cleansing in his forgiveness. Then we duct tape the mouths of everyone around us so they won’t criticize us as we learn to live more like Jesus.

Now when I ride with my daughter, Krista, she zips down the highway at an exhilarating pace – while she simultaneously listens to music, eats gummy bears, and chatters non-stop with fellow occupants.

Personally, I think she’s a show-off.

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The Lightning Rod that Created a Storm

The disciples, James and John, said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven and destroy them?” Turning around, Jesus scolded them, and they traveled on to the next village.

Luke 9:54-55

Where would we be without Benjamin Franklin? For starters, we wouldn’t have any Ben Franklin department stores. And, without him, that oval in the middle of a fifty dollar bill would’ve been blank.

Seriously, though, Franklin was a genius. For starters, he invented the Franklin stove and bifocals. But, perhaps his most important invention was the lightning rod.

Unfortunately, Franklin’s lightning rod was not greeted with gratitude by theologians. Many devout churchmen believed lightning was God’s way of sending His wrath on a wicked world. Using a lightning rod, therefore, defied the will of God.

Franklin introduced the lightning rod in 1752. Three years later, an earthquake rocked Massachusetts – causing some preachers to shout that this was God’s punishment for the “Franklin rods” installed on some buildings in their state. Soon, Bible scholars in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain united in denouncing Franklin’s invention as heresy.

James and John were two of Jesus’ closest disciples. He renamed them the “Sons of Thunder.” Hmm, I wonder why?

As Jesus headed toward Jerusalem, he sent messengers into a Samarian village to get things ready for him. When the Samaritans, who hated the Jews, found out Jesus was going to Jerusalem, they refused to welcome him to their town.

What to do? The Sons of Thunder, eager to help, suggested they pray to God to rain down fire from heaven. That would teach them a lesson.

Jesus, however, did not scold the Samaritans; instead, he scolded his disciples for their snotty attitude.

Throughout the ages, some have thundered the message of God’s judgment so loud, the world can barely hear the words of God’s tender mercy. Unbelievers get the feeling God wants to destroy people.  If James and John would’ve called down fire and destroyed that Samaritan village, how many religious people would have nodded in approval?

The church in San Nazaro in the Republic of Venice, was designed with huge vaults. The military saw the vaults as the ideal place to store a hundred ton of gunpowder.

In 1767, the church was struck by lightning. Not only the church, but much of the city was obliterated, and more than 3000 people were killed.

Suddenly, theologians made a startling discovery – “Franklin’s rods” did not defy the will of God after all.  From that time on, cathedrals and churches installed lightning rods on their buildings.

James and John, the Thunder Brothers, wanted to pray for God’s wrath. They had yet to understand that Jesus, with all due respect to Benjamin Franklin, made the first lightning rod. He was the first lightning rod.

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