Archive for August, 2013

Story of the Day for Friday August 30, 2013 


There’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 wasabsolutely 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 younotice it? When those filing insurance claims try to avoid responsibility, their  passivity becomescomical. 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://andreakrobson.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/moses-and-pharaoh_ten-commandments.jpg)


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Story of the Day for Wednesday August 29, 2012 


Well, Join the Crowd 


                    Strive to enter through the narrow doorway. 

Luke 13:24        



George Evans served as the press agent for a young singer whose career had not yet ignited. But, after spending sixty dollars, Evans catapulted Frank Sinatra into stardom in one night.  

In 1942, Sinatra was booked to sing at the Paramount Theatre in New York. In order to generate enthusiasm forSinatra, Evans hired a dozen teenage girls and paid them five bucks a piece to follow his instructions.  

The girls were paid to sit in the front row at the concert and swoon. They rehearsed in the basement of the Paramount. Some of them practiced fainting in the aisles when Sinatra sang his slow songs, and others rehearsed jumping up and screaming, “Oh, Daddy!” when Frank sang Embraceable You. Evans then made sure the concert hall was packed by passing out free tickets.  

That night, a dozen girls earned their five dollars. About twenty girls, who weren’t paid to faint, also passed out. The crowd went hysterical. The next time Sinatra performed at the Paramount, a promoter recalled, “They went nuts. Absolutely nuts!”  

Frank Sinatra became an overnight sensation, and soon was the most popular singer of his day.  


George Evan’s stunt may be ethically dubious, but I admire his genius in understanding how easily people are swayed by the behavior of the crowd. None of us likes to admit that we tend to conform our behavior to those around us, but we do.  


The Asch Paradigm, developed in the 1950s, was pivotal in our understanding of conformity.  Solomon Asch of SwarthmoreCollege developed a simple experiment. He gave students a “vision test.” Participants were shown a vertical line, and then a group of three lines of various lengths. They simply had to identify which of the three lines matched the length of the first line. When subjects were given the test privately, only one of out 35 ever gave an incorrect answer.  

But things got interesting when Asch gave the same test to a group. The first several participants were confederates. They were told, in advance, the answer Asch wanted them to give. The last student asked didn’t know this.  

At first, the confederates would give the correct answer. Then, they were cued to deliberately give the wrong answer – to say a vertical line matched the first line, when it, obviously, did not. What would the unwitting student say when the rest of the group gave the wrong answer?  Seventy-five percent would conform their answer to that of the group.  


Jesus wants us to be thoughtful about life and not be swayed by the opinions of others. Have you ever felt as if youwere being manipulated to conform to the decisions of a group? Well, join the crowd. No, wait – that’s not what I meant . . . 

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

(image: http://teenagefilm.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/columbusdayriots-1024×814.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Wednesday August 28, 2013 


The Value of Leaping and Dancing 


                        Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have I give to you In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 

                                                                                                                 Acts 3:6             


Doug Storer, in his book, Amazing But True Facts, writes about the sinking of the Dutch steamship, Tambora, in May, 1901. When the ship hit a reef and sank near a small island in the East Indies, the island natives rowed to the wreckage to salvage what they could find.  

A Chinese merchant, who made regular trading visits, visited the area a few months later. The merchant met a native who wanted to buy a needle and thread and offered to trade a large fishbone for them. The Chinese trader had no interest in buying a fishbone, but the native was so insistent that the merchant finally agreed to examine the fishbone which the man had in his hut.  

The native only had a fishbone to trade because, unfortunately, he arrived late on the scene of the sunken Dutch steamship and all the valuable items had already been taken. All he found was a box of brightly colored paper.  

When the trader stooped into the man’s hut to see his fishbone, he could hardly believe what he saw: insulating his hut, the native had plastered $40,000 in Dutch banknotes to his walls.  


One of the biggest challenges of life is sorting out the relative value of things. Bill Hybels, in his book, Honest to God?, cites a study in which college freshman, in 1967, were asked whether it was more important to be well-off financially or to discover a meaningful philosophy of life. The vast majority chose a meaningful philosophy of life. By 1986, however, eighty percent said it was more important to be well-off financially.  


In Proverbs it says that God’s wisdom is more valuable than rubies. All the same, just about everyone would prefer to be foolish and wealthy – which (I must be stern here) – is foolish.   

If you amass enough rubies you can buy cool stuff like a white truffle from Tuscanyor a riding lawnmower. And God doesn’t have a problem with rubies. He really doesn’t. Material things only become a curse when we cherish them above giftsof greater value.  


A beggar spotted Peter and John as they were entering the gateway into the temple. The beggar didn’t get what he wanted, but was given more than he could have dreamed. He was thinking about a fishbone but was about to discover the Dutch treasury.  

A silver coin does have value, but not as much as the ability to leap and dance in the temple court 

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

(image: http://amandafarrar.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/fotolia_5037869_m.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Tuesday August 27, 2013 


Sounds Kind of Gross 


                           As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.  

Proverbs 26:11        


On October 26, 1991, the passengers in the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 jetliner stumbled in the inky darkness to the emergency exits. But their real troubles didn’t begin until they exited the plane. As they jumped down the emergency slides, 28 people were injured.  


The jetliner didn’t crash but was sittingquietly in a darkened airport hangar in Long Beach, California. The FAA requires allnew aircraft to satisfy government safety requirements — including the requirement that they must be able to evacuate all passengers within 90 seconds. McDonnell Douglas failed the test — taking 132 seconds. 

As the sound of the ambulances rushing victims to the hospital died away, the airline engineers and FAA officials had time to assess the debacle.  

Back to the drawing board, right? Experts would need time to determine what went wrong and find a way to fix the problem.  

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Instead, hours later, they conducted the identical test a second time. Not surprisingly, they failed the evacuation time requirement again, but far more tragically, scores of people were again injured as they tried to bail out of the jet. One woman was permanently paralyzed from the neck down 

None of the participants in the second test were allegedly told that 28 people were injured during the first test. At the end of the day, around 50 people were injured.   


Ever since we are toddlers we are warned against doing harmful things. We‘re taught to look both ways before crossing the street and not to touch a hot burner.  

God does the same thing. He tells us not to cross certain lines — not because he hates to see people having a good time — but because he knows that certain behaviors are harmful and can cripple joy. 

One way to avoid unnecessary pain in our lives is to listen to what God says. A second way to avoid unnecessary pain in our lives is to ignore what God says, and learn from bitter experience that sin really isn’t worth the effort.  

But the greatest tragedy is when we fail to learn from either God’s wisdom or bitter experience.  

I’m just guessing here, but it seems that guilt leads us to repeat sinful behavior — even though we recognize the misery it causes. Guilt makes us feel we deserve to hurt.  

But God has a better way. He doesn’t want us to live in guilt. Instead, he forgives and cleanses. And even more, the Bible says that God’s kindness empowers us to change our ways.  


In Proverbs it says that deliberately returning to the sin that was so repugnant is like a dog that eats something really rotten, throws up, and then later goes back to eat its vomit.  

Sounds kind of gross, but I think that’s the point.  

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

(image: http://a.abcnews.com/images/GMA/gma_landing_120720_wg.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Friday August 23, 2013 


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, its 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 didI 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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Story of the Day for ThursdayAugust22, 2013 


Past the Thumb Sucking Stage 


                 The end of a matter is better than its beginning. 

Ecclesiastes 7:8      



If you want to become a master chef, the first lesson you must learn is how to stand on a chair and turn off the smoke alarm. If you want to master the violin, you must imagine the sound of a cat being swung by its tail and do your best to imitate it.  


Beginnings aren’t impressive. When Abraham Lincoln was old enough to write his name, he wasn’t being hounded for his autograph, and there was no sign near Sinking Springs Farm proclaiming: 




Autographs 5 cents 


On August 13, 2010, Scottie Pippen was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. But who would’ve guessed it from his unpromising beginning?  

Scottie’s family of eleven brothers and sisters was dogged by poverty. He played basketball, but just for fun. It wasn’t until he yearned for a job as a factory manager that he got serious about basketball – because a scholarship was the only way he could afford a college education.  

But Scottie couldn’t land a scholarship. His high school coach finally found him a chance to play for the University of Central Arkansas on a work-study arrangement. He worked summers as a welder to pay for school, and he worked as the team manager in order to play ball.  

Not a great start, but if he wasn’t willing to begin by passing out towels in the locker room, he never would have ended in the Hall of Fame with multi-million dollar contracts.  


When the Gospel message reached the seaport city of Corinth, in southern Greece, the newborn believers began by doing what all newborns do: crying, drinking milk and soiling their diapers. But that’s a good thing, because life has begun. 

When Paul writes to these young believers, he’s a little distressed because they should be past the thumb-sucking stage, but he is so excited about what God has begun in this bawdy sailor-town. Paul could write to them, “. . . you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have great confidence in you. I take great pride in you.”  


Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Start by doing what is necessary. Then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”  

The point, however, is to start. . . even if it only  means taking the battery out of the smoke alarm.  

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

(image: https://kaarre.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/64e53-thumb_sucking_closeup.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Wednesday August 21, 2013 


Carry  Him in Your Pack 


                 Each one should use whatever spiritual gift he has received to serve others. . .  

1 Peter 4:10    


When we talk about spiritual gifts, we can easily get the wrong impression.  The emphasis seems to be on the word “spiritual” – distinguishing it from normal gifts, such as being a talented musician or mechanic.   

Surprisingly, the Greek word for “spiritual” is not even present in the term.  Instead, if you translate it literally, it comes out like “grace gift.”  The emphasis is not that the gift is “spiritual” or “miraculous,” but that it is a gift of God’s grace to us.   

When God gives us grace, he is giving us something we haven’t earned.  We don’t get it because we deserve it. It’s just a gift.  When God washes us clean from our sin, it’s a gift.  When he promises us eternal joy in heaven, it’s a gift.   


As Jesus gave his life in sacrifice to us, he wants us to know the same kind of life.  Whatever talent we have is a gift of grace, which we are not to use to promote our own glory, but to serve other people.   

Using your talents to serve others doesn’t sound especially fun – at least not when you compare it to receiving admiration and becoming the focus of attention. But once you get the hang of what it really means to help others, there is no comparison.   


Father and son, Frank and John Schaeffer, wrote a book, Keeping Faith. Marine recruit John Schaeffer explains how, if you drop out of training for medical reasons, you are put in another platoon and pick up where you left off.  But no one wants to leave their platoon.  They have suffered so much together.  They are a band of brothers. 

Schaeffer writes about Recruit Parks.  Parks was a small, skinny kid from New York.  He developed double pneumonia just before the final, tortuous test to becoming a Marine called “The Crucible.” Their Senior Drill Instructor, Staff Sergeant Marshal told the platoon: “Parks is going to finish with us if I have to carry him in my pack!” 


The night before the Crucible, unbeknownst to the Drill Instructors, a few of the stronger recruits took out the heavier items in Park’s pack and put them in their own.   

For the 2 ½ day Crucible, they marched 54 miles with all their equipment.   They only slept four hours a night and received only two meals for the entire ordeal.   

Each squad had to pretend one of their men was wounded and drag and carry him through combat conditions.  Park’s squad designated him as “wounded” and carried him.  They put recruits on each side of him on the ropes course. 

 As they stood at attention and saluted the flag at end of the Crucible, Parks stood with them, weak and pale.  He received his “Stars and Bars” – becoming a Marine with his platoon.  Tears streamed down the cheeks of his comrades.  They carried each others burdens.  And no one was left behind. 


Ask those Marines if it’s worth it to use your strengths to help your brother.   

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

(image: http://www.lifeforcemagazine.com/dec2011/index_htm_files/327.jpg)

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