Archive for January, 2014

Story of the Day for Friday January 31, 2014 


Straining Gnats and Swallowing Camels 


                “You strain out a gnat but you swallow a camel.” 

Matthew 23:24   


My friend, Mike, from Upper Michigan once told me his experience as a new father.   One day his wife needed to go to church and asked if he could take care of the baby and then bring her to church when he came later.   Hey, no problem.  He has his list of things to bring: bottle, blanket, diapers, baby formula, tiny little baby spoon.   

Then he drove to the church and met his wife.  He had remembered everything on his list.  But the first question his wife asked was, “Where’s the baby?”   

“The baby!!!   

(You will want to know he raced back home to find his little daughter safe and sound, sleeping in her crib.)  


Among other reasons, I like Mike, because now I don’t feel so alone for doing similar kinds of things.   Sometimes we can get so absorbed by details that we get diverted from the Big Picture.  As someone once said, “The main thing is to keep the ‘main thing’ the main thing.”   

You would think the importance of the “main thing” would determine our attention to it, but that isn’t true.  A good example of that is Eastern Airlines Flight 401.  The pilot,  on his final approach to MiamiInternationalAirport, put the landing gear down, but the indicator light in the cockpit didn’t come on.   

Puzzled, he circled around and leveled the plane off at 2000 feet.  The fist officer took a look and he couldn’t figure it out.  A mechanic from Boeing happened to be sitting in the jump seat that flight so he got up to take a look.   All three were so absorbed with the malfunctioning light bulb that they didn’t realize the plane was losing altitude.  No one was flying the plane.   

Captain Robert Loft’s last words, before the jet crashed into the Everglades, was, “Hey!  What’s happening here?”   

Nothing could be a higher priority for the pilot than to land the aircraft safely.  All the same, his focus was diverted from that by a $12 light bulb.    


We can say a lot of awful things about the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, but no one can fault their attention to the smallest details of keeping the commandments.  They not only tithed their money, but they counted out their garden seeds, and carefully picked out every tenth seed to give to God.   

But, in their attention to the tiniest detail, they lost sight of the Big Picture.  Jesus pointed out their hypocrisy of tithing seeds but neglecting the weightier matters of God’s Law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness.  Jesus’ assessment of them: “You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”    


You’re really busy these days, aren’t you?  So many things to do.  What is the main thing that your Lord wants you to be about? 

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by MartyKaarre)

(image: https://kaarre.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/0c932-camel.jpg)


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Story of the Day for Thursday January 30, 2014 


Olympic Torch Lighting 


Some people, familiar with idols, still consider eating food which had been offered to an idol as idolatry, and their conscience is . . . defiled.  

1 Corinthians 8:7  


In preparation for the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, the Olympic torch was winding its way across Australia.Cross-country runner, Harry Dillon, was bearing the torch into Sydney, where 30,000 eager spectators lined the streets. Dillon would run to the Town Hall, hand the torch to the mayor, Pat Hills, who would give a speech, and then pass the torch to the next runner.  

But, ten minutes before Dillon reached the city, Barry Larkin, a college student, emerged from the crowd with a torch and ran down the center of the street.  The torch was a wooden chair leg with a plum pudding can nailed on top. A pair of underwear soaked in kerosene was lit to produce the flame.  

Soon Larkinwas swarmed by photographers. The police, thinking Dillon had arrived, joined in with a full escort to the Town Hall — to the thundering roar of the crowd.  


The torch’s early arrival caught the mayor off-guard. But he proudly accepted the torch and held it high, while Larkin quietly disappeared in the crowd.  

As the mayor‘s speech rambled on, there was a murmuring among the dignitaries, and then one of them interrupted the mayor to whisper that the torch he was holding was actually a chair leg with a flaming plum pudding can on top.  

When Dillon approached the Town Hall a few minutes later with the real torch, the confused crowd grew surly. An army truck had to clear a path for the next torchbearer to leave the city. 

Isn’t it annoying whenthe solemnity of an ancient tradition is ruined by a smart aleck  

But, did you know that the Olympic torch relay is not an ancient tradition at all, but was the invented by Adolf Hitler‘s Nazi regime?  For the 1936 Olympics in Germany, the torch was lit in Olympia, Greece and relayed 1,500 miles to Berlin to symbolize the continuation of Aryan supremacy from ancient Greek civilization to the Third Reich.   

Barry Larkin knew all this, and disrupted the ceremony to expresshis disdain for the torch relay’s despicable origins.  

Some early Christian believers thought the same way. Some, who had been converted from paganism, knew that the meat sold in the market had first been taken into a temple and dedicated to a pagan god. They refused, therefore, to eat the meat.  The apostle Paul admired their convictions, but believed the meat was perfectly fine to eat because the meat’s origin didn’t matter. 

If a practice or tradition is tainted by its origin, we’re all in big trouble. Did you know that wedding rings and wedding cakes arose from pagan superstitions?  That honeymoons originated as the time you spent in hiding after stealing a woman from a neighboring village?  That saying Gesundheit after someone sneezed was to keep evil spirits from invading their body? That early church leaders condemned the celebration of a birthday because of its pagan origin?  

Anxiously trying to trace the origin of every tradition to make sure it’s “pure” is self-imposed slavery. God doesn’t care where things came from. He only cares what it means to you. 

I, for my part, intend to thoroughly enjoy the pageantry of the Olympic torch lighting. (Just don’t tell anyone that I‘m still grinning at Barry Larkin’s glorious chutzpah.) 

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Story of the Day for Wednesday January 29, 2014 


Who’s Calling the Shots? 



                When they insulted Jesus, he refused to return the insult. 

1 Peter 2:23      


https://i0.wp.com/i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/03/05/article-2288463-0039C05400000258-642_306x423.jpgI know a guy who wears a grumpy face and looks like he just flunked out of Charm School. When I smile at him and say “Hi,” he normally just scowls and says nothing.  

While driving through northern Wisconsin, I was listening to the radio and was jolted by the words of a Jewish man who survived the Nazi holocaust.  

After Hitler’s regime collapsed, some Jews were intent on seeking vengeance against the Nazis. They were plotting how to torture those who had worked under Hitler  

But the Jewish holocaust survivor on the radio said he would meet a fellow Jew and ask, “Do you like the Nazis?” 

“Like them!” the other man would spit back, “I LOATHE them!”  

“Then, why do you want to be like them?”  


When we lash back against those who have hurt us, we inevitably begin to resemble the ones we’re angry with. “They hurt me.” we conclude. Well, I’m going to give them a taste of their own medicine.”  

We become like the ones we hate.  

We may not be aware of it, but when we fall into this way of thinking, we surrender our freedom to decide how we will behave. We relinquish that prerogative to those whose behavior we find disgusting. If they’re snotty to us, then we’ll be snotty to them.  But we must understand clearly: our adversary is now the one calling the shots.  


Jesus never let others dictate how he would behave. When they hammered his body on a cross, his enemies smugly assembled to taunt him and enjoy their triumph. But Jesus refused to trade insults or make threats.  

Jesus’ enemies didn’t choose his behavior; he did.  


Michael Green tells a story that goes something like this: A man goes to a newsstand to buy a paper. He politely asks for a daily newspaper and the man working at the kiosk rudely shoves it at him and, muttering, hands him his change.  

As a friend observes all this, he asks the man as they walk away, “Does he always treat you so rudely?” 

“Yes, I’m afraid so.”  

“And are you always so polite to him?” 

“Yes, I am.”  

“Why are you so nice to him when he’s so rude to you?”  

“Because I don’t want him to decide how I am going to act.”  


My sour-faced friend may never smile and return my greeting. He doesn’t have to. He doesn’t get to decide how I choose to behave.  

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

(image: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/03/05/article-2288463-0039C05400000258-642_306x423.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Tuesday January 28, 2014 


Obey First and Ask Questions Later 


             By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place that he would receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he didnt know where he was going.   

Hebrews 11:8  



I have several friends named Paul.  But this story is about the Paul who owns a sailboat – the one who cheerfully takes friends out into fierce winds and angry waters and leads his captives into greater depths of prayer.     

That Paul.   


Paul loves to take people sailing, because he is a kind and generous man.  But, once you accept his invitation, you fall under the heel of an authoritarian dictator.   

“When I tell you to do something,” he instructs his crew, “you mustNOT question my instructions.”   

What is so odd about our naval dictator is that he always has twinkling eyes and a warm handshake. He’s as friendly as a golden retriever.  Once you meet him, you almost want to take him home with you.   

But when Paul is at the helm of his boat, he is all business.  And for good reason.  He not only wants to take you out on the lake; he also wants to bring you backHe knows both the fun and the dangers of sailing.  When Paul says, “Heads down!” and you ask, “Why?” the boom of the mainsail will answer your question.   And you will be given a floating wreath and a touching memorial service as your reward for hesitation in obeying your captain. 

Paul takes people sailing because he wants them to have an enjoyable time.  But he knows, from years on the water, that things can happen fast.  On occasion, he must instruct his crew to act fast, and there is no time to explain his reasons.  


In 1976, an Air France flight was highjacked by Palestinian terrorists. 103 Jews were taken hostage and held at an airport in Entebbe, Uganda.  In a daring rescue, Israeli commandos surprised the captors as they stormed into the airport with machine guns.  They shouted in Hebrew, “Get down!  Crawl!”  Only the hostages understood Hebrew and immediately fell to the floor.  The seven kidnappers remained standing, and were gunned down in a hail of machine gun fire. 

One hostage, who was already lying down, stood up to see why he was ordered to lie down.  He joined two other hostages who apparently wanted an explanation before they would hit the floor.  But there was no time to explain.  The three Jewish hostages who needed a reason before they would obey were killed in the shower of bullets.   


When God called Abraham to obey him, Abraham did not know where he was going.  But he went.   

Would you follow God’s instructions before you had all your questions answered?  Don’t misunderstand: God is not offended when we ask the question, “Why?”  But part of what it means to trust in God is obey first and ask questions later. 

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

(image: http://www.blackpast.org/files/blackpast_images/Entebbe.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Monday January 27, 2014 


“The Flyswatter” 


                Don’t forget to do good and share with others, because God is pleased with these kinds of sacrifices.  

Hebrews 13:16     


One hot, summer day, our family shared the living room with a pesky fly. My dad asked my sister, Mary, who was two years old, to get the flyswatter. Mary eagerly scooted off on her mission. She returned without the flyswatter, but my parents were pleased nonetheless.  


Before I tell you why my parents were so delighted with their little daughter, let me ask you a question: Do you live with an on-going sense of failure in your relationship with God? I’m not talking about the times you deliberately do wrong things, but the times you’re trying to get it right. When you pray, does it feel as if God expected you to have prayed more? When you share with others, does it always feel as if God wanted you to give more than you did?  

If you picture the Lord as looking at you with his arms folded across his chest in a perpetual scowl, then maybe you’ve forgotten how you laughed at a baby’s first words.  

What do parents do when they hear their child first say, “Mama” or “Dada”Or when their child attempts those first wobbly steps? They’re ecstatic!  They can hardly wait to call friends and family and tell them the news. Parents are so very pleased by every step of growth in their children’s lives.  


But can I ask you another question: Do you think parents are satisfied by the first, immature actions of their children? Of course not. They won’t be satisfied until their kids learn to talk and walk and act like adults.  


The Scottish writer, George MacDonald, points out that, in the same way, our heavenly Father is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.  

If we don’t know God as our Father, but only as Judge, then everything we do is doomed to failure.We simply can’t keep his perfect law.  

But once we become his children, everything changes. God is not only pleased, but delighted by our far-from-perfect attempts to do his will. We don’t have to be perfect in order to please him. Like any loving parent, our heavenly Father is pleased by every step of growth that his children take.  

If you feel as if your every action is a deep disappointment to God, maybe you need to ponder the kind of relationship you were meant to have with him.  


When my two-year-old sister was asked to bring the flyswatter, she bounded off to do what she was told. Instead of getting the flyswatter, however, she ran into the kitchen and returned with a glass of water. She proudly handed the glass to my dad, “Here’s the flies’ water!”  

And my dad could hardly have been more pleased.  

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

(image: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/27/Fly_swatter.jpg/1024px-Fly_swatter.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Thursday January 23, 2014 


Play Like a Wild Man 


                     . . . Don’t you know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 

Romans 2:4  



The second half of the Rose Bowl had not yet begun before Roy Riegles sinned. 

Riegles was an All-American defensive lineman for the University of California.  He recovered a fumble and started to run with the ball.  But, for reasons he could not later explain, he got turned around and started running in the wrong direction.   

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/22/Roy_Riegels.gifHis coach, Nibs Price, could not believe what he was seeing!  His teammates shouted furiously for him to stop.  Benny Lom, a halfback, raced after him.  After a 65 yard scamper, Lom caught him on the one-yard line.  A few plays later, a punt from the end zone was blocked for a safety. 

To say that Roy Riegles was discouraged in the locker room at half-time is to master the art of understatement.  He was completely distraught.  After his idiotic mistake, he had no intention of going back on the field for the second half.  When coach Price told him he would start the second half, Riegles objected, “Coach, I can’t do it.  I’ve ruined you.  I’ve ruined myself.  I’ve ruined the University of California.”  He was too ashamed to face the crowd.   


Coach Price knew that Riegles did not need a good chewing out.  He needed comfort.  The coach encouraged him and sent him back into the game in the second half.   

And Riegles played his heart out.  So much so, that, despite his huge mistake, he was later named to the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.   


Roy Riegles is the poster boy for all of us who commit sins which let our friends and family down.  Which let ourselves down.  Which let our Lord down.   

What do we need at times like these? A good chewing out?  You’ve experienced that, haven’t you?  And it has left you ever more depressed. 

Jesus wants to put his arm around your shoulder, and let you know it’s going to be okay.   


But here is the thing that seems hard to understand, at times.  If you comfort someone when they sin, and tell them Jesus forgives them, doesn’t that just give them an excuse to continue sinning?   

Well, let me ask you this: Do you think coach Price’s comfort and encouragement at Roy Riegles blunder made him want to go out the second half and make more mistakes for his team?   

No way.  The coach’s kindness lifted Riegles up, and he played like a wild man in the second half.   

God’s kindness does the same thing.  It leads us to repentance.  It fires us up to play the second half with renewed passion and enthusiasm.   

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

(image: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/22/Roy_Riegels.gif)

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Story of the Day for Wednesday January 22, 2014 


Should I Poison My Dinner Guests? 


             Some people, coming from Judea, taught the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you can’t be saved.” This created sharp disagreement from Paul and Barnabas, and a big debate erupted.  

Acts 15:1-2      


Pack rats are smelly and can do more damage in my workshop than I can. So, they’ve got to go. Using rat poison, my devious scheme invites them to be my dinner guests. 

Mona, our husky with a brain as big as a lima bean, shares my feelings about pack rats. But her strategy involves chasing them under wood piles and then standing guard over them for hours. Her policy of aggressive harassment scares away my clients.  

Mona and I are bonded in a common quest: to get rid of pack rats and make this world a better place in which to live. But, though we are both committed to The Cause, we have conflicting strategies.  



Christians aren’t supposed to fight, but, as believers, we are highly prone to butting heads, because we care so deeply about spiritual things.  


Years ago, Capper’s Weekly reported about Joyce Grimm, from Lucas, Kansas. She was walking across a parking lot when she saw a driverless car. It was slowly rolling out of its parking space. 

Joyce swiftly ran beside the car, swung the door open, and jumped in. She hit the brake and brought the rolling car to a halt. As she got out, a man in overalls approached her. She beamed with slightly suppressed pride and said, “Well, I stopped the car.” 

The man in overalls said, “I know. I was pushing it.” 

Both Joyce and the man in overalls had the same objective: to assist the owner of the vehicle. But, because they understood the situation differently, they found themselves working against each other.  


Some well-meaning Christians in Antioch told new gentile converts that they needed to get circumcised, like Moses taught, in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas sharply disagreed. Everyone had the same goal (that the gentiles find salvation) but they disagreed on how to get there.  

This issue could easily have divided the church in her infancy. But they talked it out and got it right: both Jews and gentiles are saved solely by the grace of the Lord Jesus.  

When we encounter conflict in the church, a good starting place is to find where we agree – where we share the same convictions . . . and work from our shared beliefs rather than our differences.  


I believe that poisoning my dinner guests is still the way to go. And I still think my dog is a dingbat for trying to defeat pack rats by intimidation. But we will continue to discuss the issue with an open mind and monitor results. It’s what you do when you’re a partner in The Cause.  

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

(image: http://www.friendsofkootenay.ca/sites/default/files/blog/Pack%20Rat_large.JPG)

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