Archive for August, 2014

Story of the Day for Tuesday August 19, 2014

Letting Him Find You

I have gone astray like a lost sheep. Seek your servant.

Psalm 119:176



Stephen Pile, in The Book of Failures, tells the story of a traveler returning, years later, to his native Italy. In 1977,  flew from San Francisco to Rome. His flight stopped for a couple hours in New York for refueling. Mr. Scotti assumed they had already landed in Rome and left the airport.

Scotti was confused by the unusual skyline, but assumed the city had undergone recent modernization. He was amazed that most people spoke English, but figured that Rome was a popular tourist attraction for Americans.

When Scotti spotted a policeman, he asked, in Italian, for directions to the bus depot. Oddly enough, the policeman was an immigrant from Naples and conversed with him in fluent Italian.

But Scotti was baffled when he found no one else in Rome who could speak Italian. Even when told he was told he was in New York, he refused to believe it. In the end, police officers drove him back to the airport and sent him on a return flight to San Francisco. But, for Nicholas Scotti, the police car racing to the airport only confirmed he was in Rome. “I know I’m in Italy,” he said, “That’s how they drive.”

Nicholas Scotti has nothing on me. Yesterday I got lost while hunting.

Northwest Montana has immense tracts of forbidding wilderness and I love to disappear into the deep woods to explore new areas. Yesterday, my wife drove me several miles up a winding mountain road and dropped me off.

I worked my way up a steep mountainside to an open ridge, but then the fog rolled in and obscured all the surrounding peaks I use as landmarks. Though I had never been in this area before, it, somehow, didn’t look right. Very odd.

The most dangerous time in getting lost is when you don’t know you are. Like Mr. Scotti, you try to reinterpret everything that is confuses you and make it fit your assumptions.

One of the best things that can happen is to be lost, but know it. When the fog lifted yesterday I was astounded to see that Lydia Mountain was no longer sitting in its traditional location. That revelation told me where a road was.

The road was important – not because I could now find my way home – but because my wife could now come looking for me and find me.

In today’s religious thought, we think of “The Lost” as those who have no saving faith in Christ. But that usage is rare in the Bible. Usually it is God’s own people who manage to go astray and lose their bearings.

When you know you’ve strayed in life and lost your way, it’s not so much a matter of finding God as letting him find you.

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

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Story of the Day for Monday August 18, 2014

Distill the Truth


. . .Our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.”. . . However many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:18, 20


At church, I often park next to a red pickup, with a sticker that says: DRIVE IT LIKE YOU STOLE IT. “Well,” I think to myself, “what kind of a Christian truck is that?” But when I learned that the truck’s owner is a grandmother, her sheer spunkiness was inspiring. You go, grandma!

Let’s talk about bumper stickers. Now, I didn’t choose this Bible verse from 2 Corinthians because I have the slightest intention of explaining what Paul means by it, but because it summarized the fulfillment of all God’s promises by one word: “YES.” In Jesus, everything God promises is “YES.” That’s as pithy as it gets.

Bumper stickers have to be like that. You can’t blab. If your kid is an honor roll student at Westwood High, or if you visited Carlsbad Caverns, you have to get to the point.

Bumper stickers can also be used as a witness to Jesus – which is why I never use them – I’m not that good a driver. But, in addition to that, I’m a bit snooty about the whole thing. Bumper stickers are a little too simplistic for my refined sophistication. How can you fit the depth of God’s wisdom on a bumper sticker? I have scoffed at the shallowness of it all.

But I have repented.

Yes, the wisdom of God is deeper than anything that will fit on a bumper sticker. Nevertheless, I’ve discovered that, when you can state your goal or belief in a phrase short enough to fit on a bumper sticker, it is more helpful than complex formulations of faith. When I am lazy and want to veg out, “Carpe Diem” (“Seize the Day”) gets me going. On cold, gray mornings, when I don’t want to put snowshoes on and run the dogs up the mountainside, it helps to say “Just Do It.” When confronted with repeated failure, a friend taught me to say what Peter said to Jesus: “. . . nevertheless, at your word, I will let down the nets.” When I want to judge a fallen brother, I am aided by the phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Jesus habitually pushed the envelope by shocking and surprising people to get them to think about the kingdom of God. In my bumbling way, I want to do the same. But maybe finding spiritual edification in bumper stickers is going too far.


But think about it: if the biblical truth you want to ingrain in your life can be put in one phrase, it becomes a practical motivator. Something you can apply.

Listen to God’s Word. Then distill the truth down until you can . . . fit it on a bumper sticker.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://thumbs2.ebaystatic.com/d/l225/m/msHM97tZTeIwtnlhHYjdibw.jpg)


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Story of the Day for Friday August 15, 2014

“It Ain’t Over ’til Its Over”

Now the Philistines rulers assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to celebrate, for they said, “Our God has given Samson our enemy into our hands.”

Judges 16:23


Bobby Cruickshank was a likeable Scot – one of the most popular golfers on the PGA circuit. But he could never win a national championship. In 1923 he almost won the U.S. Open, but came in second – as he did again in 1932. But Cruickshank persevered.

In 1934, with only eight holes to play in the U.S. Open, Cruickshank held the lead by two strokes. As Bobby made his approach shot to the green, he watched in horror as his the ball fell short into the Baffling Brook which guarded the green.

But the ball, apparently, hit a rock in the stream. It bounced out of the water, and rolled on the green, ten feet from the pin.

A miracle! As the crowd broke in wild cheers, Bobby tossed his club into the air, tipped his hat to the spectators, and celebrated his good fortune. At last, the first tournament win of his life was only moments away.

https://i2.wp.com/deafmissions.com/inc/devotions/1248591600.jpgRelations were strained between Samson and the Philistines – to put it mildly.

When they finally caught him, they gouged out his eyes, bound him with brass shackles and paraded him down to Gaza like a circus curiosity.

Samson’s downfall called for a party. The Philistines sacrificed to their god, and, in a celebratory mood, called for Samson to be led out of prison to entertain them. Few things are more satisfying than gloating over a fallen enemy.

But we never know when one chapter in life has ended and the next has begun, and, for this reason alone, it’s not a good idea to be presumptive.

Samson lost his power when they shaved his head. But, the Bible adds the little detail that, during his time in prison, his hair had begun to grow.

The Philistines were in high spirits as they paraded their fallen prisoner before the public. Three thousand people stood on the roof of the temple of Dagon as Samson stood between the two main pillars.

Samson’s final prayer was that his strength might be renewed one last time.

We left Bobby Cruickshank on the eleventh hole with the “miracle shot” and the ecstatic crowds, and his pitching wedge thrown to the heavens in celebration.

Whatever personal opinions you may hold about gravity, you have to admit it isn’t whimsical. Bobby’s golf club obediently returned to earth, but not before it made a brief visit to the top of Cruickshank’s noggin.

After trying to collect his wits, Bobby staggered to the green and actually two-putted the thing. But he really wasn’t with us for the rest of the competition. By the time he finished, the woozy Mr. Cruickshank had slumped in the polls, and wandered into the club house in third place.

As Yogi Berra once said, “Don’t count your chick –” No, wait, that’s not it . . .

(text copyright 2013 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)  (image: http://deafmissions.com/inc/devotions/1248591600.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Monday August11, 2014

Free to Live

. . .the king should issue a decree and enforce it that anyone who prays to any God or man during the next thirty days – except to you, O King – shall be thrown into the lion’s den.

Daniel 6:7


You know how political power struggles work, don’t you?

The ancient ruler, Darius, appointed three people to rule under him. He then appointed 120 satraps who would be accountable to these three rulers.

Daniel was one of the three rulers under king Darius, but he displayed such exceptional character that Darius was planning to increase his authority.

The satraps, however, resented Daniel’s emerging influence so they looked for ways to tar his name. If they could get the goods on him, they could, perhaps, convince Darius to curb his authority. But they couldn’t find anything. Daniel was a man of integrity.

Then Daniel’s underlings finally came up with a dastardly plan. Why not use Daniel’s character against him? He faithfully follows his God. Why not make his loyalty a crime?

The satraps, (those miserable, pinch-faced little weasels), persuaded Darius to issue an imperial edict that anyone caught praying to anyone but king Darius would have his body torn to shreds by the lions.

Daniel was a man of conviction, and continued to pray to God.  https://i2.wp.com/www.facstaff.bucknell.edu/gcarr/19cusww/lb/martyrsm.gif

Elijah Lovejoy was a journalist and then became a Presbyterian pastor. He returned to the press because he wanted to reach more people. After witnessing the lynching of a black man, Lovejoy committed himself to the repeal of slavery.

Mobs threatened Lovejoy. They repeatedly destroyed his printing presses, but he would not be silenced. “If by compromise is meant,” he wrote, “that I should cease from my duty, I cannot make it. I fear God more than I fear man. Crush me if you will, but I shall die at my post . . .” Four days later he was murdered.

Holding to our convictions in the truth of God doesn’t mean we will always be spared from the jaws of the lions. We might be delivered; we might be martyred. Holding to our convictions means that we are living for something greater than ourselves, and we don’t have to be consumed with recalibrating our values based on our own self-interest. If we have nothing worth dying for, we have nothing worth living for.

Daniel refused to budge in his loyalty to the Lord, and God used this, in the end, to prosper Daniel and to have Darius’ kingdom “reverence the God of Daniel.” Elijah Lovejoy refused to back down, and he was killed. But one man, newly elected to the Illinois legislature, was deeply moved by Lovejoy’s convictions against slavery. And who could guess that in the years to come his signature would ratify the Emancipation Proclamation.

When you live by your convictions you are free to live – and let God worry about the results.

Are you living freely? Have you ever been freed from the jaws of the lions? How were you delivered? What are you living for that is greater than yourself? What in your life is worth living and dying for?

(text copyright 2013 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)   (image: http://www.facstaff.bucknell.edu/gcarr/19cusww/lb/martyrsm.gif)

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Story of the Day for Friday August 8, 2014

That’s What Love Does


The chief priests and elders of the people approached Jesus while he was teaching and asked, “By what authority do you do these things?”

Matthew 21:23


Derek Redman posted the fastest time in the first round of the 440 meter sprints at the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona.

In the semi-final run, Redman is racing at the front of the pack when suddenly he goes down on the track – grabbing his hamstring. When the medical crew arrives with a stretcher, Derek tells them, “I’m going to finish this race.”

Slowly, Redman stands up and begins to hobble down the track.

Derek’s face is twisted in pain, when, suddenly, his father jumps over the railing and runs onto the track to help. When Derek recognizes his dad holding onto him he collapses in tears in his father’s arms.

https://i1.wp.com/www.fitnflexed.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/redmond2.jpgJim Redman tells his son, “You don’t have to do this.”

“Yes. I do.”

“Then,” his father said, “We’ll finish together.”

And so, arm in arm, father and son slowly make their way to the finish line.

The 65,000 spectators in the stadium have risen to their feet with a thunderous roar. The television announcer for the race says, “He’s getting THE cheer of the Games!”

The poignant finish of Derek Redman and his father is considered one of the most moving events in all of Olympic history.

But not everyone saw it that way. When Jim ran to help his son, security guards chased after him to remove him. He was, after all, not allowed on the racetrack. Even after Jim reached his son, an official ran up to them, and you can see Derek’s dad trying to swat him away.

The rules clearly state that a runner is not allowed to receive assistance in a race. And even though Derek was lying on his back in agony while the other racers finished, he still was officially racing, was he not?

Weren’t the officials who tried to force Jim Redman off the track simply doing their duty? Following the rules?

Perhaps. But that’s the problem with legalism: it sees rules, but not people. Legalism follows the letter of the law, but is blind to circumstances.

Legalism could never make sense of Jesus.

Some see the Bible as nothing more than a list of rules to be obeyed. But, at its heart, the Bible invites us into a relationship. Jesus came to break down the barriers that keep us from fellowship with him. He came to restore the relationship between God and man.

Yes, Derek Redman and his dad broke the rules. From time to time, that’s what love does.

(text copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://www.fitnflexed.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/redmond2.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Thursday August 7, 2014

The Home Field Advantage

“Commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people. . .

Deuteronomy 3:28


Two writing groups were formed at the University of Wisconsin. Both groups were comprised of bright and talented writers. The men would meet and share their writings with the other guys for evaluation. The critiques were so critical of each others writing that they named their group The Stranglers.

So, some of the gifted women decided to form their own writing group and called themselves The Wranglers. They also read their writings to each other for comment. But with this difference: they didn’t criticize. The comments were positive. No matter how poor or undeveloped the writing was, they found a way to offer encouragement.

Twenty years later, a university alumnus researched the careers of his classmates. The two writing groups were examined. Not one of the talented Stranglers ever became successful. By contrast, a half dozen of the Wranglers became well-known writers. One of them, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings even won a Pulitzer prize in literature in 1939.

If someone tells you the opinions of other people don’t matter at all to them, don’t believe them. We may chafe at the thought but others have an enormous influence on who we believe we are and what we can accomplish. Yet, sports commentators often talk about the “home field advantage”? What is that? Isn’t it simply the fact that the team with a stadium of fans cheering encouragement is more likely to win the game?

Encouragement gives people strength. In the book, Band of Brothers, Stephen Ambrose relates the story of 101st Airborne Division. Before shipping off for Europe, their commander read that a Japanese Army battalion set an endurance record by marching 100 miles in 72 hours.

Not to be outdone, Colonel Sink declared, “My men can do better than that.” He picked the 2nd Battalion to prove his point. The men had to carry all their gear and weapons – which, for some soldiers, were heavy mortars and machine guns.

100 miles of the 118 mile march was over slippery, muddy roads. The weather could hardly be worse. The biting wind combined with sleet and snow. At night the temperatures dipped into the low twenties, with many boots frozen to the ground. Soldiers would have to completely unlace their boots in order to get their swollen feet back into them. Since the cook stoves wouldn’t work in the cold, the men had to survive on bread with butter and jam.

On the third day, they still had 38 miles to go. One soldier was too exhausted to stand up so he crawled to the chow line.

News of the march spread quickly in Georgia. As the weary soldiers straggled to the final mile of the march, they were met by a huge crowd who lined the road and cheered wildly for them. A band began to play.

And that is when the magic began. Malarkey, the soldier who crawled to chow earlier that day, said, he had “a strange thing happen to me when that band began to play. I straightened up, the pain disappeared, and I finished the march as if we were passing in review at Toccoa [their training camp].”

Encouragement costs us nothing, but the difference it makes for others is beyond counting.

(text copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
(image: http://www.churchestogetherkingslynn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/encourage-synonyms.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Tuesday August 5, 2014

Rise Again

Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Even though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.

Micah 7:8


Leroy and Mike were high school friends who shared a passion for basketball. They both tried out for the varsity, but Leroy made the team, while Mike was cut.

Mike was crushed.

He asked the coach if he could at least ride on the bus with the team for the district tournament. The coach let him accompany them – as long as he helped carry the player’s uniforms.

So, how do you respond to failure?

When I fail, I find it convenient to give up – claiming it is God’s will. I have often felt that, if God is behind it, then I will be successful, and it will be easy.

Over the years, I have begun to realize that Jesus doesn’t share my theology. He told a parable of a widow who kept coming to a judge with the plea, “Give me justice against my adversary.” Again and again the judge ignored her.

Eventually, she wore him down, and he heard her case.

The point that Jesus is making is that – even after repeated failure – we should never give up. The Lord will come to our aid.

In 1976, Ronald Reagan challenged the incumbent president, Jerry Ford. Reagan fought hard to gain the nomination, but in the end, Ford won.

Reagan had lost, but hadn’t given up. At the Republican National Convention, he met with tearful supporters and quoted from an old ballad, “Sir Andrew Barton.” There is a line in this poem which says:

I am hurt but I am not slain;

I will lay me down and bleed a while,

And then I will rise and fight again.

When, Mike failed to make the basketball team, he didn’t give up. All summer long, he practiced basketball with his friend Leroy Smith. And that next year, Michael Jordan did make the team.

Failure didn’t keep him down. It fueled a fire within him. Jordan says, “It all started when Coach Herring cut me.”

Do you feel like you’ve stumbled into a deep pit? Invite your enemies to come quickly, because they won’t have much time to gloat over you. The Lord is our light. He heals, he strengthens, he forgives. You can wallow in the pit for a while, but don’t get used to it down there; the Lord intends to pull you out.

You’re going to rise again.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)  (image: yogametaphysics.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/rising-sun-goryu-dake-peak.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Monday August 4, 2014

Gain the Same Reputation

Everyone will know you are my followers by this: if you love each other.

John 13:35


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/43/QE2-South_Queensferry.jpgIn A Severe Mercy Sheldon Vanauken writes of the time he and his wife, Davy, traveled across the Atlantic on an ocean liner. During the voyage, a woman traveling to Rome lost her handbag containing all her money: four hundred dollars. Sheldon and Davy were struck by the fact that there were four hundred passengers on the ship. “Only one dollar apiece,” Vanauken thought, “and the poor lady would smile again.”

The couple took their idea to the Purser, who said company rules forbade employees from taking up a collection, but urged them to take up a collection themselves.

The Purser gave them the passenger list and almost everyone – from a Shropshire landed baronet to an American communist gave a contribution. They faced the most suspicion from New Yorkers, who wanted to know what their racket was. They learned to say politely: “Do you mind me asking, are you from New York? You are? Well, never mind, then. We’re not asking New Yorkers – too suspicious. Forget it. Thank you very much.” Later, some of the New Yorkers would sidle up to them and hand them their donation – one giving twenty dollars.

Vanauken tried to keep their activities anonymous, but someone spilled the beans and the woman, who received the collection, rushed to their dining table and wept in gratitude. The woman was so moved by their compassion that she asked if they were Christians.

Have you ever gone out of your way to help a stranger and have them ask you that? If you’re a Christian, it’s a gratifying question. But what if you’re not? In Sheldon and Davy’s case, they told the woman, no, they were not Christians.

It must be annoying for those who don’t follow Jesus to go out of their way to help someone, and then be asked if they’re a Christian. Do you have to be a Christian, for Pete’s sake, just to be kind to someone?

No, you don’t. But isn’t the question thought-provoking? Why is it, when we show care to a stranger that we don’t hear them inquire, “Excuse me, but are you an atheist?” Or, “You wouldn’t, by any chance, happen to be a Steelers fan, would you?”

Sheldon Vanauken and his wife held no religious beliefs. But they were taken aback by the mere assumption that this woman immediately suspected they were Christians. Why, Vanauken wondered, do so many people think that, when compassion is shown, Christians are the most likely culprits?

History provides exceptions, of course. We point to crusades and inquisitions staged in the name of Christ, to TV evangelists who are con men posing as prophets.

Yet, the very act of pointing out hypocrisy in the name of Christ suggests a revealing truth: that Jesus was known by his sacrificial love for the world, and he calls his followers to gain the same reputation.

(text copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) (image: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/43/QE2-South_Queensferry.jpg )

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Story of the Day for Friday August 1, 2014

Throw Your Hat Over the Fence


“The Lord has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary. Be courageous and act.”

1 Chronicles 28:10


On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress and proposed the outrageous goal of landing a man on the moon before the end of the decade. No one knew exactly how such a goal could be achieved. Even many experts at NASA said it couldn’t be done.

Sometimes it’s prudent to launch a venture only after you have figured every step of the process. But, at other times, the commitment creates the solution.

The ancient Roman armies centered their identity around their standards – poles with military ensigns. These poles identified each division and company, and were considered sacred and represented the spirit and soul of the military unit. When the Romans went to war in Germania, their objective was simply to recover the military standards lost by Varus in the Teutoburger Wald.

When you consider how highly the Romans honored their company standard, it may seem surprising that, when Romans soldiers were locked in a tight battle the commander would sometimes throw the Roman standard into the lines of the enemy. The idea was to create a challenge so his soldiers would be forced to find a way to recover their standard.

Before David died, he told his son, Solomon, that he must build the temple. Such a project would be enormous, and David doesn’t tell him how to do it. He simply tells him to be courageous and do it.

So, when should we commit ourselves to stepping out in faith, and when should we develop an airtight business plan first? I don’t know.

But I do know that when we rise to a high challenge, it ignites our courage and passion. When we commit our cause to the Lord, we may not always know where that path may lead us. But seeking to stretch our faith will drive us to prayer – to a greater sense of dependence on the Lord.

Is it time for you to throw your hat over the fence? That phrase was used by President Kennedy in a speech promoting the space program. He cited the Irish writer, Frank O’Connor, who, as a boy would walk through the countryside. When he and his friends came to an orchard wall that seemed too high and difficult to climb, they took their hats and tossed them over the wall. Now they had no choice but to climb over the wall.

Kennedy ended his speech by saying, “This nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow it. Whatever the difficulties, they will be overcome . . . we will climb this wall . . . and we shall then explore the wonders on the other side.”

This was Kennedy’s final public speech. He was assassinated the next day in Dallas.

And, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong left his footprints on the moon.

(text copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)  (image: http://www.brightnetwork.co.uk/blog)

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