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Archive for November, 2012


Story of the Day for Friday November 30, 2012

The Earthy People

 

                Accept each other, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

                                                      Romans 15:7

 

You’ve heard of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.  Have you also heard of the Am ha aretz?   The Pharisee’s need to feel loved meant they had to be better than others.  But, for them to be superior, somebody had to be inferior.  And so, they called the “common” people, who were not as religious as they were, the Am ha Aretz, which literally means “the earthy people.”

A pious Pharisee would not invite “common people” to dinner, would not converse with them in the street, and did their best to keep their shadow from touching them.   The Pharisees were very religious, very moral – because they felt they must, somehow, earn God’s love and approval.

But their pathetic need for approval turned cruel.  They viewed those who were physically sick or deformed as cursed by God for their sin.   Thus, they banned them from entrance to the temple.  If you were blind or lame, for example, you could not go to the temple to pray or worship or offer a sacrifice.   You were classed as one rejected by God.

 

Is it any surprise that the Pharisees were outraged at Jesus’ behavior?  He gravitated to the sick, the weak, the sinful, and showed them compassion.  He touched lepers and other people considered “unclean.”  He ate with tax collectors and whores. Jesus said that it was not the healthy who needed a doctor, but the sick.  And, like a caring physician, he had come to help those who are weak and helpless.

Jesus came with this simple, clear message: you don’t have to earn God’s love or approval.  You don’t have to think of yourself as superior to others in order to meet God’s standard.  You are loved.  You are accepted, and there is nothing you have to prove.

 

Steve May tells the story of a young woman who was nervous because she was dining with her boyfriend’s parents for the first time.  Would they like her?  Would she be acceptable?   She took one last look at herself before heading out her door.  She noticed her shoe had a dirt spot so she used a paper towel to wipe the dirt off.  It was the same paper towel that she used to blot her bacon grease at breakfast that morning.

When she arrived at her boyfriend’s house, his parent’s poodle immediately smelled the bacon grease, and followed her wherever she went.  At the end of the evening, as she was leaving the boyfriend’s parents said, “Cleo really likes you, dear, and she is an excellent judge of character.  We are delighted to welcome you into our little family.”

Our acceptance is not about us.  It does not depend whether we are good or bad.  It is all about the Lord.  His love for us is not based on who we are, but who he is.  He is the God of love and mercy.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Story of the Day for Thursday November 29, 2012 

God’s Problem

 

 

                Don’t worry about anything. But in everything, with prayer and requests, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

                                     Philippians 4:6-7

 

 

Years ago, I saw an odd thing.  A pickup truck in an alley slowly crossed a street and made its way past me.  That was not, however, the “odd thing.”  What was unusual was that the truck was being driven by a dog.

A man parked his truck in the alley and left the engine running while he ran a quick errand.  Apparently, his dog got behind the wheel and managed to bump the shift lever into gear.   When the man returned to his vehicle, he found it a hundred yards down the alley – angled into a hedge.

There is a good reason why we don’t issue driver’s licenses to dogs.  They’re lousy drivers.

Throughout my life I have wanted to be in the driver’s seat.   If God would only answer all my prayers the way I ask them, everything would be so great.  But He doesn’t.  And, that is why I sometimes get anxious.

But this passage makes an amazing statement: it doesn’t say we will be at peace once God answers our prayers the way we want.  Instead, it makes the wild claim that we can find peace as soon as we “present our request to God.”

Do you understand why this is so?   If you think you can only be at peace when God gives you whatever you ask for, then it means you want to be in control.  The fact is, though, we can steer the universe about as good as a dog can drive a truck.

Once a friend took me flying with him in a small plane.   As we crested a mountain range we hit fairly severe turbulence.  I white-knuckled the arms of my seat as we bounced along and the wings flapped like they were going to snap off.  Now, suppose my pilot friend told me to take over the controls.  Would that lessen my fear?  No way.

Trying to take control from the one who knows best what to do always increases  anxiety.

The Bible teaches us we can find peace before we get the request we want from God.  Peace is found as soon as we pray.  Why?  Because, in prayer, we are taking all our worries and problems and making them God’s problem.  We are trusting Him to know best how to guide and direct our lives.

Why don’t you take all your worries and bundle them up in a big bag?  Make sure you have all of them in there.  Then hand the bag over to the Lord.  Tell Him what you need.  He can take it from there.

And you can know a peace that is beyond understanding.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Wed. November 28, 2012

Doing Dishes and Giving Foot Rubs

 

                     Many will say to me in that day, “Lord, Lord!  Didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many miracles?” 

And then I will say to them plainly, “I never knew you . . .” 

                                                                      Matthew 7:22-23

 

I can move objects with my mind. Experts in the field of the paranormal call this phenomenon “telekinesis.”

Yesterday, when we drove down the mountain into town, my wife put a small plate of chocolate-chip cookies on the dashboard. At the foot of Twin Lakes hill is a sharp right turn that I have recognized as a “psychic field.” In some mysterious way, it focuses my telekinetic powers.

We sped down the hill and my concentration was so intense I neglected to brake around the turn at the bottom. Focusing on the cookies, I actually slid them along the dashboard toward me. Using only my mind!

 

My wife is less than impressed with my paranormal powers.  She is more thrilled when I offer to wash the dishes, or pick wildflowers for her, or when I leave the toilet seat down.

 

When Jesus walked this earth the supernatural flowed out of him. He was continually working miracles and driving out demons. And he authenticated the authority of the Twelve by giving them the power to do miracles too.

Yet, oddly enough, Jesus never considered the supernatural to be a sign of our spirituality.  He never tells us we supposed to perform miracles. Matter of fact, when Jesus gave his most extended teaching, the Sermon on the Mount, he never mentioned miracles at all, except as a cautionary tale.

He said that, on the Judgment Day, many people will try to prove their allegiance to him by the supernatural feats they performed in his name. Jesus, will tell them he’s not impressed. Then he’ll say, “I never knew you.  Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

 

What, then, is Jesus looking for in his followers?  The final words of his sermon tell us we are wise if we listen to his words and put them into practice. Faith is not shown by displays of the supernatural, but by fruit.  Jesus never said, “By this all men will know you are my disciples: if you perform miracles, and brag about them at a prayer meeting.”

 

I don’t think my wife wants to acknowledge my amazing paranormal powers, because, when the cookies slid across the dashboard, they, unfortunately, fell on the floor.  Next time, I think I’ll amaze her by sliding a book, or something.

Until then, I’ll just have to impress her by doing the dishes and giving her foot rubs.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Tuesday November 27, 2012 

Rustling Leaf

 

 

                The sound of a rustling leaf will cause them to run, and even when no one is chasing them, they will flee as though from a sword. And they will fall. They will stumble over each other. 

                                                     Leviticus 26:36-37

 

Miners in Upper Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula had been on strike for five months, and so the miner’s family Christmas party was especially welcome during such a gloomy time.  On Christmas Eve in 1913, over 500 people crowded into the upstairs ballroom of Italian Hall in the town of Calumet.

And then someone entered the building and yelled, “Fire!”  Orderly evacuation quickly evaporated as people began to panic.  Soon there was a stampede for the stairs.  In their fear, people tripped over one another, and the stairway filled with bodies piled on top of each other.

73 people were crushed to death – 59 of them children.

The warning cry that started the stampede, by the way, was a hoax.  There was no fire.

Italian Hall was torn down in 1984, but in the 70s I would go to Calumet and walk down 7th Street to stand outside the dilapidated red brick building. . . and remember.

 

Fear is highly contagious.

In Leviticus, the Lord explains the blessing of remaining in a covenant relationship with him, and the consequences of rebelling against him. Those who live in opposition to God will find that they are easy prey to fear.  A trembling leaf will be enough to start a panic.

Many people are fearful about their financial investments.  Not long ago, false numbers were reported on the stock market, and an instant panic was created.  And, like most panics, the resulting stampede is far more harmful than the original cause of the fear.

 

The Lord tells us, through the prophet Isaiah, that we should not say, “It’s a conspiracy!” just because the crowd is screaming about a conspiracy.  Then he adds, “Do not fear what they fear.”

That’s easy to understand; it’s not so easy to put into practice.  When we see the crowd panicking we don’t normally question whether everyone is running from a rustling leaf.  We try to keep up with them and ask questions later.

 

In Isaiah, however, the Lord goes on to say, “The Lord of hosts is the One you shall regard as holy. And he shall be the One you fear.”  When we wander off the reservation, in other words, it doesn’t take much to make us afraid.  We’re insecure, and we’re on edge.  But when we fear the Lord, we no longer take our cues from the crowd.

It’s good to know God wants to be a sanctuary for us.  It helps us to see that trembling leaves are not as scary as they appear.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Monday November 26, 2012 

Thankful for the ‘Whys’ of Life

 

 

                            “Why, O Lord . . .?” 

                                               Psalm 88:14

 

 

When Nick Vujicic (pronounced VOY-a-chich) was born, his mother did not cradle him in her arms. Instead, she screamed in horror, “Take him away!”

Nick was born without arms or legs. He is head, neck, and trunk – with a little deformed foot (which he calls “my little chicken drumstick”).

 

As he grew up in Australia, Nick was banned from attending public school.  When he was finally admitted, he was cruelly bullied. At the age of 10, he contemplated suicide. He felt hopeless, alone, cold, and bitter.

Nick cried out to God, “Why?” Why did you make me like this?  Why won’t you answer my prayer and grow arms and legs for me? Why?

 

And then Nick realized that the Lord could use him just the way he was. He noticed that others considered him an inspiration.

Today, Nick is a college graduate with a double major. In 2005, he received the “Young Australian of the Year” award. He is a dedicated Christian man – whose mantra is: “I love life! I am happy!” Nick has learned to be thankful for what he has instead of bitter for what he doesn’t have.

 

Nick has spoken to millions of people. Without legs, of course, he can’t stand in front of his audiences. He is just plopped there on stage. And then he deliberately tips over.

“So, what do you do when you fall down?” he asks the audience.  You get back up. “But I tell you,” he says as he lies on the stage, “there are some times in life where you fall down and you don’t feel like you have the strength to get back up.”  He talks about trying a hundred times to get back up . . . and failing a hundred times.

Nick thinks you should never give up.  Failure is not the end, he tells us: “It matters how you’re going to finish.  Are you going to finish strong?” After a long pause he concludes, “Then you will find that strength to get back up.”

Slowly, he moves toward a book and puts his forehead on it. Then he arches his body and convulses it and plops upright.

 

When Nick would go to the beach, he says he would watch couples holding hands and realized that, when he marries, he can never hold his wife’s hand. He fell into a mindset focusing on “I can’t do this; I can’t do that.”

Now Nick says, “But I realize, I may not have hands to be able to hold my wife’s hand. But, when the time comes, I’ll be able to hold her heart. I don’t need hands to hold her heart.”

 

Nick Vujicic is a happy man. He cried out to God, “Why?” And, I for one, have been deeply touched by God’s answer.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Saturday November 24, 2012 

Waiting For the Moment

 

                Jesus said . . .”Do you still not understand?”

                                                                 Mark 8:17

 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created one of the greatest fictional detectives: Sherlock Holmes. Doyle is said to enjoy telling stories where he becomes the butt of the joke.

Once, as the story goes, he left a railway station in Paris and hailed a taxi. When a taxi pulled up, he got in and was about to tell the taxi driver where he wanted to go, when the driver asked, “Where can I take you, Mr. Doyle?”

Doyle was surprised that the taxi driver recognized him, and asked whether he knew him by sight.

“No sir, I’ve never seen you before.”

Doyle was puzzled and asked what made him think he was Conan Doyle.

“This morning’s paper,” he said, “had a story about you being on vacation in Marseilles. This is the taxi stand where people who return from Marseilles always come to. Your skin color tells me you’ve been on vacation. The ink spot on your right index finger suggests to me that you’re a writer. Your clothing is very English, and not French. Adding up all those pieces of information, I deduced that you are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”

“This is truly amazing,” Doyle replied. “You are a real life counterpart to my fictional creation, Sherlock Holmes.”

“There is one other thing,” the driver said.

“What’s that?”

“Your name is on the front of your suitcase.”

 

When Jesus walked among us, he didn’t blurt out his identity – that he was God come in human flesh. Instead, he dropped loaded clues. And we must remember that even Jesus’ chosen disciples didn’t fully know who they were following at first. When Jesus calmed a furious storm on the lake, they asked, “Who is this?”

The disciples struggled to connect the dots. Jesus flashed one clue after another, but the disciples couldn’t pick up on them. “Do you still not see or understand?” Jesus asked them.

 

Why was Jesus so coy about who he really was? He wasn’t trying to tease us; he was simply waiting for the right time.

When the Jewish high council sat in a midnight session, the high priest demanded, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”

“I am.”

You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out what Jesus was waiting for. He was waiting for the moment when he could offer his life for yours. Only then did he publicly reveal the nameplate on his suitcase.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)  

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Story of the Day for Wed. November 21, 2012

Rock Lobbing Talents

 

               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 that believe in a God who can do beautiful things through them.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

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