Archive for July, 2014

Story of the Day for Wednesday July 30, 2014

Kissing a Clenched Fist


(Photograph: Trekandshoot / Alamy)

They got into such a heated argument that they parted company.

Acts 15:39


Before Paul became a believer, he despised the church. He breathed out murderous threats against the church and tried to arrest anyone who listened to Christian radio stations. Jesus finally turned Paul’s life around, but the church leaders were too afraid of him to let him into the fellowship. Barnabas, bless his heart, took Paul to meet the leaders of the church and convinced them his conversion was genuine.

Paul befriended Barnabas and the two stood by each other’s side in a great theological debate about how to handle pagans who came to the faith. On a missionary trip, the two shared their adventures together.

Yet, despite their close friendship and shared adventures, Paul and Barnabas got into a squabble about whether to take Mark along on their next trip. The argument grew so heated that Paul and Barnabas parted ways.

We’re all a bit daffy about arguments. If we estimated how often the rest of the world is in the right when they argue, we’d say, “Oh, about half the time.” But, if we ask ourselves how often we’re in the right when we get in an argument, we would respond, “All the time!” All of us think this way, but if you do the math, it doesn’t add up.

Arguments often flare up over trivial differences. If Paul and Barnabas would have decided to take a nap first or share a candy bar, I doubt they would have even gotten into the scuffle they did. They could’ve worked it out.

James Kay, in his book, Seasons of Grace, described an incident in Damascus, Syria, where a bicyclist rode down a market street, balancing a crate of oranges on his handlebars. A man, bent over with a heavy load, walked in his way and the two collided. Oranges went rolling down the street and the two got into a quarrel over who was at fault. A crowd gathered as the cursing and clenched fists indicated a fight was about to erupt.

Then a little man walked into the fray, took the clenched fist of the bicyclist in his hands and kissed it. The two men relaxed and the crowd murmured their approval. Instead of assigning blame everyone gathered the oranges and put them back in the crate, as the little man slipped into the crowd.

Like the rest of us, even the apostle Paul could slip up. But all was not lost because he knew where he wanted to go. He knew that we should avoid quarreling, but when we do, we must learn to reconcile.

As an old man, he advised Timothy, “Avoid foolish and stupid disputes because you know they cause quarrels. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel.”

And, he also asked Timothy to bring Mark along on his next visit, because “he is a good help in my ministry.”

Have you ever ‘kissed a clenched fist’ in order to avoid foolish and stupid disputes? Have you ever been in a situation where doing that would have caused relaxation and reconciliation could take place? Tell us about it, please.

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

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Story of the Day for Tuesday July 29, 2014

Small Enough to Win

God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong.

1 Corinthians 1:27


Napoleon, the great conqueror, sneered, “I observe that God is usually on the side of the strongest battalions.”

Maybe he shouldn’t have said that.

On Russia’s western border the town of Vilna (presently Vilnius of Lithuania) had a signpost. As you traveled east it said, “Napoleon Bonaparte passed this way in 1812 with 410,000 men.” As you turned west to leave town, it read, “Napoleon Bonaparte passed this way in 1812 with 9000 men.”

How could one of the world’s greatest military commanders lose virtually his entire fighting force? Napoleon’s army did not encounter a fierce, superior army. Instead, the main enemy was the snowflake. Lots and lots of them.

A snowflake is so fragile and delicate. But when snowflakes band together – watch out. Napoleon knew how to conquer opposing armies, but he was not prepared to fight an army of snowflakes, and so he was forced to retreat from Russia and his once mighty army was destroyed.

God loves to take weak things and use them to conquer the strong. You shouldn’t think that he has something against those who are powerful or influential. It’s just that, as we grow in power and influence, we like to hog the credit for it. Once we are awed by our own sense of accomplishment, we inevitably lose a sense of dependence on the Lord. The most loving thing God could do for us when we enamored with ourselves is to humble us and teach us to depend on him. And, conversely, when God empowers the weak, he is providing us a powerful object lesson for the truth that all spiritual gain begins when we acknowledge our weakness and God’s strength to save.

https://i1.wp.com/media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/f0/55/52/f05552bc2a9d5b6af2544c18e4136c41.jpgGideon complained when God told him to save Israel from the Midianites. He offered the helpful reminder to the Lord that his tribe of Manasseh was the smallest in all Israel.

If Gideon only knew that God considered his tribe far too big! Gideon marshaled an army of 22,000 men, but the Lord told him, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands.” Only when Gideon whittled his army down to 300 did God consider it small enough to win.

And, just to make sure Gideon understood how this all worked, God instructed them to wage war by making noise: blowing trumpets, smashing clay pots, and hollering.

We often talk about how God’s ways are mysterious and beyond our understanding. True enough. But, when we see God using the weak things of this world to humble the mighty, we see a living parable : that the true power for salvation comes from him.

That God should act in such ways that teach us his grace is not mysterious at all.

(text copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)  (image: http://www.the glorystory.com)


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Story of the Day for Monday July 28, 2014

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 Tuscany or 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 gifts of 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.

(text 2011 copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) (image: http://www.clipartof.com  1117087 )

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Story of the Day for Thursday July 17, 2014


The Gospel With Strings Attached


Why do you . . . put yokes on the necks of the disciples which neither our forefathers nor we have been able to bear?

Acts 15:10


 In the late 1800s, missionaries evangelized the Yahgans to extinction.

The Yahgans lived in Tierra Del Fuego, an archipelago on the southern tip of South America. In the 1860s, Christian missionaries from England sailed to South America to bring the gospel to these primitive natives.

The Yahgans had developed an unbelievable tolerance for the cold, harsh climate. The women would dive into the frigid waters to find shellfish. They would grease their bodies to repel water. Except for a bikini-like cloth around their bottom, they were, well, like, naked.

Some of the missionaries objected to this “immorality” and insisted they wear clothes. They prevailed. But their clothes, which were perpetually wet in the damp climate, produced outbreaks of pneumonia and tuberculosis. This, along with the introduction of European diseases, reduced the Yahgan tribe to extinction

In the U.S., well-meaning Christians have tried to force the citizenry to behave like Christians. “Blue Laws” were once common, in which civil laws were passed forbidding stores or businesses to open on Sunday.

Where did we get the notion that we could make the world more Christian by ramming our religion down their throats? The Christian faith is about a relationship of love with God. Love never emerges from coercion. The only result of force is bitterness and resentment. How many believers can you name who were bludgeoned into the faith by being forced to behave like Christians?

Early in the life of the Church, the disciples faced a dilemma. People who weren’t Jewish began to believe in Jesus. Should they insist these Gentiles get circumcised and follow other Jewish practices?

Peter became a hero. He stood up and reminded everyone that both we and they are saved by grace of the Lord Jesus. Forcing them to bear the burdens of Jewish customs and laws was not going to bring them closer to the Lord.

The Church chose wisely and grace prevailed. And that’s why Gentile Christians have never gone extinct.

(text copyright 2013 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre )

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Story of the Day for Wednesday July 16, 2014


A Robe Dipped in Blood


image: http://www.openheaven.com/forums/uploads/LynMcSweeney/48F_arm2.jpeg


Pride goes before destruction, and an arrogant attitude before a fall.

Proverbs 16:18


England did her best when they sent General Edward Braddock to the Colonies during the French and Indian War of 1754 – 1763.

He arrived in his shiny brass buttons as commander-in-chief of North America, and led two brigades through the Pennsylvania wilderness to recapture Fort Duquesne (where Pittsburgh sits today).

Benjamin Franklin met with Braddock beforehand and warned him against Indian ambushes, but the general sniffed at the suggestion that savages could intimidate his highly trained British soldiers. Franklin observed later that Braddock “had too much self-confidence” and too low an opinion of the Indians.

A Virginia militia volunteered to fight with the British, and their young, 23-year-old leader, suggested that his rangers lead the expedition, since they understood Indian tactics and were familiar with the terrain. The 60-year-old Braddock was offended: “What! An American buskin teach a British general how to fight!”

The Virginians were sent to the rear.

The British march was a display of pomp and military precision. One observer said, “General Braddock marched through this wilderness as if he had been in a review in St. James Park.” The general sacrificed speed for ceremony, and, as a result, the Indians easily monitored his every move.

As they neared Fort Duquesne, the Indian ambush caught the British off balance. The young Virginian leader urged Braddock to disperse his troops and hide behind trees — as the Indians fought. Instead, Braddock stubbornly concentrated his men in tight platoons which were decimated as quickly as they were formed.

As Braddock tried vainly to rally his disorganized troops he was shot in the chest. Later, realizing he was mortally wounded, he gave his ceremonial sash to the Virginian officer whose advice he had ignored.

That young Virginian, George Washington, reportedly wore Braddock’s blood-stained sash for the rest of his career as commander of the Colonial Army. After becoming the first president of the United States, Washington continued to wear the sash. He would never forget that the greatest enemy to victory is pride.

Just as pride blinded General Braddock to the strength of his adversary, so pride blinds us to the power of sin. This is not a battle we can win on our own. It is not even a battle we must fight.

Jesus has conquered the Enemy. He rides a white horse with a robe dipped in blood. And only the notion that you don’t need his help can keep him from bringing you the victory you long for.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Where They Found Bread

Story of the Day for Tuesday July 15, 2014


Where They Found Bread

Christmas 2010 045

Jesus said, . . . “Everything they do is done to impress others.”

Matthew 23:5


When I was in seventh grade, our Science and English teachers were both single, and I think they were flirting.

After Science, we tumbled into Miss Polk’s English class. She noticed someone’s assignment given by Mr. Brinkman, our Science teacher. Snatching the assignment, she copied it on the blackboard (white boards were black in those days) and we spent the class period parsing it for grammatical flaws. We were all sobered to discover that it was a gravely flawed exhibition of the English language.

Miss Polk encouraged us to hand our revised copy of his assignment to him the next day – which we cheerfully did.

People who know a lot about sub-phyla and nematodes are not easily intimidated, and Mr. Brinkman took our chastisement in good humor. You could tell, however, that he was plotting revenge. He asked us to participate in a science experiment for English class next hour, and we all eagerly complied – because we all coveted a well-rounded education.

Mr. Brinkman asked us to engage in an act of civil obedience. He told us to walk into Miss Polk’s class without saying a word. He wanted us to be a model of perfect behavior.

The next hour, we quietly walked into class and took our seats. No talking, no laughing, no gum chewing. We all put our hands on our desks and stared attentively at Miss Polk.

At first, Miss Polk look surprised, but we noticed she was becoming unnerved by our attentiveness. As she started her lesson, and stared at a classroom where every face was focused on her every word, she became increasingly agitated. After five minutes, she waved toward the door and said, “Class dismissed.”

A classroom of perfect children is so eerie and unnatural that it soon becomes unbearable. Yet, sometimes, Christians get the impression that the world would be impressed if we acted perfect – as if we were unaffected by grief or temptation.

A plastered pious smile, when inwardly our heart is broken, looks phony — because it is phony. And when we try to hide our imperfections we look like a bald man whose toupee is sitting on his head sideways.

The world isn’t looking for us to be perfect; they’re looking for us to be honest. They’re not impressed with someone who claims that they’re never hungry, but they are intrigued by anyone who simply tells them where they found bread.

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

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Story of the Day for Friday July 4, 2014

More or Less Securely Fastened

In Joppa, a disciple by the name of Tabitha . . . was always doing good deeds and acts of mercy for the needy.

Acts 9:36

In the fourth century, John Chrysostom, a pastor in Antioch wrote, “Every day the church feeds 3000 people. Besides this, the church daily helps provide food and clothes for prisoners, the hospitalized, pilgrims, cripples . . .”

At the same time, in Rome, Jerome mentions a Christian woman, Fabiola. “She was the first person to found a hospital, into which she might gather sufferers out of the streets, and where she might nurse the unfortunate victims of sickness and want.”

All this distressed the Roman Emperor, Julian, who wanted to destroy the Christian faith. He, futilely, urged the pagan priests to try to copy the compassion of the Christians. “It is disgraceful,” he moaned, that Christians “support our poor in addition to their own.”

Julian accused Christians of showing excessive compassion, and we’ve been guilty ever since.

Benjamin Rush, in addition to founding our country’s first Bible society, was also the leader in showing compassionate care to the mentally ill. The official emblem of the American Psychiatric Association features his portrait in the center.

Red CrossAfter seeing the carnage of the Battle of Solferino, with little attention paid to the wounded, Henry Dunant, a devout Christian, inspired the founding of both the International Red Cross and the creation of the Geneva Convention.

A British nurse, Cicely Saunders was appalled by the lack of care given in the hospital for the dying. She founded Hospice to provide compassionate care to the terminally ill.

Habitat for Humanity, Prison Fellowship – we find that Christians are continually finding ways to help the poor and needy.

Some (well-meaning) Christians believe the sole purpose of the Church is to preach the Gospel and save souls. But, if this is true, what do we make of Jesus? Yes, he came to open the path to heaven. Yet, on his way to cross, his feet kept following his heart – which invariably led him to the tear-stained faces of the poor, the sick, and the outcasts.

Amy Carmichael went to India as a missionary, and spent much of her time working to free children from temple prostitution. She was criticized by fellow-Christians for not focusing solely on saving souls.

Amy responded, “One cannot save and then pitchfork souls into heaven . . . Souls are more or less securely fastened to bodies . . . and as you cannot get the souls out and deal with them separately, you have to take them both together.”

Since we can’t pry a person’s soul away from their body without killing the patient in the process, we might as well love the whole darn thing.

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

(image : http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/browse-author.php?a=15960)

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