Archive for June, 2014

Story of the Day for Monday June 30, 2014

Playing Favorites


My brothers, don’t show favoritism in holding the faith of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

James 2:1


We show non-favoritism by treating everybody equal. How can you argue with that? But I believe we best show non-favoritism by showing favoritism.

So, while you’re re-reading that last sentence, I’d better get busy lining up my ducks in a row. This may be a hard sell.

When I was about twelve, my parents let me spend a week at my cousin’s place in southern Indiana. To get home, I had to take the Greyhound bus. I had never ridden on a commercial bus, and I was scared. I boarded, and couldn’t see an empty seat.

“Uh, it looks full,” I said to the driver.

“It’s not full,” he gruffly replied. “Take a seat.”

I took a seat next to a black man. He heard my comment to the driver and drawled, “You didn’t want to sit by me because I’m black.”

“No,” I protested, “That’s not why.” I didn’t want to admit I was just plain scared, and didn’t know what to do.

He just stared straight ahead. “Yeah, it was.”

This black man had been so used to mistreatment and rejection because of his race, nothing I could do or say would convince him that I didn’t want to sit by him because he was black.

From that experience I learned that, often, the best way to show non-favoritism is by showing favoritism.

Here’s what I mean. This last spring, I flew into Minneapolis and had to take a train that ran north from the airport, so I could get to the Amtrak station. When I got on the train, I noticed that all the whites sat toward the front, and all the blacks sat in the back.

I sat in the back. It was deliberate favoritism.

Some of my black brothers shot quizzical looks at me. But I got into a great conversation with one guy, and even ended up saying some complementary things about the Vikings.

I told him I needed help, because I didn’t know where to get off. He got off several miles early from his destination, escorted me to my next bus connection, and then had to buy another ticket to take a different bus to get where he was originally going.

The Bible says that our faith in Jesus Christ should express itself by not showing favoritism. But, sometimes we need to play favorites in order to demonstrate to them that, in God’s eyes, we are equals.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://www.hockeydrunk.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/alone_in_the_dark.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Friday June 27, 2014

Settled Into a Higher Purpose


And the king said, “Get me a sword . . . and cut the living child in two. Give half to each one of them.”

1 Kings 3:24-25

Two mothers bring their case before King Solomon. One woman claims her child was stolen in the night – that the other woman’s son died, so she stole hers. The other woman says it’s a lie. Both women claim to be the mother of the child, and now Solomon must decide who the true mother really is.

Have you ever wished you had greater wisdom? I’m not talking about the ability to dominate at Trivial Pursuit™. Wisdom is not about knowledge, but the ability to see. It’s not about the quantity of our intelligence but the quality of our decisions.

We left King Solomon a moment ago with a dilemma: two women claiming to be the mother of a child. To which woman should he award the child?

While we give Solomon a moment to think, let’s grow in wisdom by playing a game. If you can solve Solomon’s dilemma in one hour, I’ll give you five bucks. If you can figure out how Solomon can know the real mother within ten minutes, I’ll give you all of my daughter’s pets. And, if you solve this case within one minute, I’ll stage a coup d’etat and install you as the dictator of a Third World country. (If, however, you’ve already been taught this story in Sunday school, you’re disqualified from the competition, and, if you wish to become a despot, I must leave you to your own devices.)

Since I’m dangling some pretty handsome rewards in front of you, you might as well set your watch and start thinking before you read

further. Just remember: your reward is based on how quickly you solve the riddle.

Researchers from MIT, the University of Chicago, and Carnegie Mellon did a study in which they gave rewards for the speed with which participants could perform various tasks. If the tasks involved simple mechanical skill, rewards increased the speed with which the tasks were completed. But – and here is the surprise – when the task involved creative thinking, the higher the reward offered, the longer it took the participants to find the correct solution.

Wisdom is like that: you can’t increase it by trying harder. It doesn’t come through the desire for reward. Wisdom thrives when we’re relaxed and settled into a higher purpose than personal benefit – like when we’re living for the glory of God.

Solomon, as you may know, solved his dilemma by requesting a sword and offering to slice the child in two – giving half to each woman. The woman who protested and pleaded that the child be given to the other claimant was deemed the true mother.

If you figured out the solution to Solomon’s problem, I hope you won my daughter’s pets. Inciting an insurrection in a Third World country is dicey . . . and offering to do so wasn’t very wise of me.

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

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Story of the Day for Monday June 23, 2014

Drops of Water on the Summit


. . . Jesus firmly decided to go to Jerusalem.        

Luke 9:51


 Keri Russell said, “Sometimes it’s the smallest decision that can change your life forever.”

Triple Divide Peak, in Glacier National Park, is the only mountain in the world that feeds into three oceans. Rainwater falling on the western slope drains into the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, and eventually flows into the Columbia River — which drains into the Pacific Ocean. The northeastern slope flows across Canada into Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean. And rain from the southeastern slope feeds into Marias River, which flows to the Missouri, and then joins the Mississippi River to empty into the Atlantic Ocean.

Three raindrops could fall within an inch of each other on Triple Divide Peak, and each one would end up in a different ocean.

The religious authorities in Jerusalem wanted to arrest and execute Jesus, but they didn’t know how to get their hands on him. As long as Jesus stayed put up north in Galilee, he had a huge following of people who would protect him.

The most momentous stride in history was the first step Jesus took when he decided he would walk south to Jerusalem in order to die.

Making a decision and acting on it can change the entire destination of our lives. The problem is that – unless you decide to run for the presidency or to have yourself shot out of a cannon – no one really notices what you’ve done. Or cares. No one finds the first inches a raindrop travels on Triple Divide Peak to be of any significance. Who noticed Jesus’ first footstep after he firmly resolved to walk the dusty road to his own execution?

We can talk a lot about God’s will. We can think a lot about The Dream that the Lord has put in our hearts, but everything depends on the direction of our first footstep . . . and taking it.


My friend, Carl, once asked me: “Three frogs are sitting on a log and one frog decides to jump into the pond. How many frogs are now sitting on the log?”

“Two,” I said.

“No, three. Because, until that frog acts on his decision to jump, he’s nothing but a frog sitting on a log.”

For several years now, I’ve wanted to climb Triple Divide Peak and pour a few drops of water on the summit – and think of the water levels rising in the Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic Oceans.

I’ve never stood on the top of Triple Divide Peak, however, because I’ve never made the decision to do it. One of these days, though . . .

(text copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(images: http://www.colleenscomputercorner.com/images/dividesbothupclose.jpg and http://i.stack.imgur.com/aPPl4.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Friday June 20, 2014

Not a Matter of a Cost-Benefit Analysis


Those who suffer according to God’s will should commit their lives to their faithful Creator, and continue to do good.

1 Peter 4:19


Jim Elliot was the class vice-president in high school. He won the lead role in theatrical plays. In college he lettered in sports and graduated in 1949 with honors. Popular, handsome, intelligent, and a gifted speaker, Jim’s prospects for the future were bright. Just a matter of time before he could afford a two-car garage and an electric potato peeler.

But Jim Elliot did not care about money or status or success. He took a boat to Ecuador and prepared for mission work. In college, he wrote in his journal, “God, I pray thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee.”

https://i2.wp.com/reneeannsmith.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/guys.jpgJim and four friends decided they would bring the Good News of Jesus to the primitive Auca Indians. The Aucas were known to be fierce, and no missionary had been able to established friendly contact among them.

After depositing gifts for the Aucas, Jim and his fellow missionaries made friendly contact with a few of the natives. Encouraged by this, the five missionaries flew again into the jungle to further their contact with the Aucas.

But they never returned. The Aucas murdered them all.

Hah. See? That just shows you, doesn’t it? It’s fine to be committed to the Lord, and all fired up to serve him – but you don’t have to be so fanatical about it. Look where Jim Elliot’s burning zeal got him, eh?

You’re right — Jim Elliot’s passion to reach the Aucas got him killed.

But, commitment to the Lord is not a matter of scribbling out a cost-benefit analysis. Jim and his friends were fully aware of the risk they were taking. And they would never see any fruit from their brave attempts to build a friendship with the Aucas.

https://i1.wp.com/www.assistnews.net/images12/elisabeth-and-kids.jpgJim would never see his widowed wife, Elizabeth, boldly venture into the jungle to continue his mission and establish contact with the Aucas. He could not have known that Elizabeth (and wives of the other missionaries) would eventually live among these natives. Who could have known that the forgiveness these young widows showed after the Aucas killed their husbands would be exactly the demonstration the Aucas needed to understand the sacrificial love of Christ? Through this powerful demonstration of forgiveness, many became converts to Christ.

We are called to commit our lives to the Lord. We can seldom see the effect that our commitment will have on others. The beautiful thing is. . .we don’t need to. All we need to see is God’s promise to be faithful, and that the results of our dedication to his will are in his hands.

He’ll take it from there.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(first image: http://reneeannsmith.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/guys.jpg ; second image: http://reneeannsmith.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/elisabeth-and-kids.jpg

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Story of the Day for Thursday June 19, 2014


The Big Reunion


“Now you may leave. Go in peace.”

Acts 16:36


Have you noticed that, when parting ways with a friend, how often we speak to each other a blessing or a promise?

“Good-by” is the abbreviated form of the blessing, “God be with you.” The French say adieu – which means, “Go with God.” In Spanish, adios means the same thing.

Even in our secularized culture we still offer the common benediction: “Have a nice day!”

When we’re not wishing them well, then we tend to leave others with a promise of reunion, such as “See ya later.” Whenever I left the home of an old German couple, they https://kaarre.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/52b58-poster_happy_trails_leanin.jpgwould wave and say, Auf wiedersehen, and I would return the sentiment by saying, “All feet are the same!” My sister says “See ya later, crocodile,” and my mom (whose native language was Finnish) used to say, “Näkemiin, Jellybean” – which is roughly translated, “See you later, you oblong, gelatin-based sugar candy.”

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans have trumped everyone by combining both a blessing and the wish for reunion with “Happy trails to you (blessing) until we meet again (reunion).”

There are, of course, times when people offer neither blessing nor promise. The British like to say tootle-oo or cheerio. But then the Brits will be Brits, and there’s not much we can do about that.

What causes this common desire that those we leave would be blessed and that we would meet again? You could say, I suppose, that these blessings and promises of reunion are simply ways to ease the awkwardness of leaving someone, but I’m not buying it.

C.S. Lewis says that a man’s hunger doesn’t prove he will get bread, but it does indicate that there is such a thing as food which is necessary to nourish his body. Peter Kreeft jumps on this point by claiming “No one has ever found one case of an innate desire for a nonexistent object.”

“If I find in myself a desire,” Lewis goes on to say, “which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

When we part from friends and loved ones, we share a longing that God would go with them; that they would fare well. And we long to be reunited again.

I believe the blessings and hopes of reunion that we offer each other when we part speak to a deeper reality. They express the spiritual longing that God would bless us and reunite us in heaven.

A man’s hunger doesn’t prove that food exists, but it does indicate it’s available to us. God is inviting us all to the Big Reunion.

(text copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: https://kaarre.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/52b58-poster_happy_trails_leanin.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Wednesday June 18, 2014

Get Rid of the Garbage


Get rid of all bitterness and rage, and anger and shouting, and cursing and any kind of evil. Be kind and compassionate to one another, showing grace to each other, just as in Christ God showed grace to you.

Ephesians 4:31-32


 So, how do we take control of our anger?

For starters, let’s realize that anger does not control us. We like to say, “You make me so angry,” but no one makes us angry. We choose to become angry because of our own pride or impatience or selfishness.

Secondly, be careful about the environment you choose. Have you ever watched other groups of people and noticed how they tend to adopt similar habits of behaving? Though it is much easier to notice in other people, we all do the same thing. That is why Proverbs 22 says, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man. Do not associate with someone who is easily angered, or you might learn his ways.”

Third, don’t resort to cheap fixes. Find the source.

Let’s suppose my house reeks from rotting garbage. What can I do? I could open a window and let in some fresh air. Good idea, right? And what would that do? Besides being unpleasant to my neighbors it would only lesson the stench temporarily.

There is another way to relieve the disgusting smell. Get rid of the garbage!

The Bible tells us to “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” God’s Word isn’t telling us to open a window, but to get rid of the garbage.

We are to replace anger with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.

That’s great, but how? The apostle Paul continues, by “showing grace to each other just as, in Christ, God showed grace to you.”

That’s the key. If we are bitter it is because we haven’t dealt with our own guilt. Let God forgive you. He’s not mad at you. He has taken all his anger for the injustice of our sin on Jesus. People who have accepted this kind of love from God are well on their way to laying down their anger.

Years ago, a pastor told us about visiting one of his members. As she recounted a grievance about someone from years ago, the pastor expressed surprise that she could even remember all the details that happened so many years ago.

She explained, “Oh, I keep a book. Every time someone hurts me, I write it all down.”

The pastor then learned she had been keeping a record of grievances for 25 years. After patiently explaining the beauty of our forgiveness by Christ, he told her she needed to take her book and immediately throw it in the fireplace.

She paused. Then, with a sigh, her precious book was turned to ash.

They prayed. And then she smiled, because she knew she was free.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://ittakes30.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/nyc-trash.jpg)

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Story of the Day  for Tuesday June 17, 2014

Choosing a Focus


And climbing out the boat, Peter walked on the water and came to Jesus. But looking at the windblown waves, he became afraid and started to sink.

Matthew 14:29-30


In the midst of the storm, Jesus’ disciples cowered in fear – looking for safety in the boat. Peter, however, stepped overboard, and in the howling storm, looked for safety in Jesus.

And, as long as he looked to Jesus, he could do it. He shared in Jesus’ power over the storm. He was walking on water!

Everything depended on focus. Peter looked at the waves, and as he became alarmed at the fierceness of the storm, he started to sink.

Let me ask you: if a board is lying on the ground, twenty feet long and twelve inches wide, could you walk from end to end across it? Almost anyone could do it. But what if the board spanned two skyscrapers eighty stories high? Suddenly things change. We see the traffic so far below us. We panic and begin to totter.

The problem is not our balance; the problem is our focus.

Karl Wallenda is one of the greatest tightrope walkers of all time. One of his grandsons reminisced about how grandpa started him on the wire when he was only seven. His grandson said the most important lesson he taught him was to focus his attention on a point at the other end of the wire.

In his mid-seventies, Karl was performing in Puerto Rico when he fell to his death – not because of old age, or the gusty wind, but because of misconnected guy ropes along the wire.

But this story is, in the end, not about Karl, but rather is granddaughter, Rietta. At 17 years old, she was the only family member still performing with her grandpa. She watched in horror as her grandpa fell to his death. But five hours later, she was scheduled to perform in the Big Top in San Juan. She received a thunderous standing ovation, when, with tears streaming down her cheeks, she performed her stunts on the tightrope.

That’s focus.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make, as we seek to live as disciples, is to take our focus off Jesus, and look at the storm. If you focus on your troubles, they will always overwhelm you.

Raging waves can be high. But never as high as the One who rules the wind and waves. You can’t avoid the storms, but you can choose your focus.

And don’t ever forget: when Peter did lose his focus and started to sink, someone was there with a helping hand.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://ampandpivot.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/get-focused.jpg)

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