Archive for September, 2014

Story of the Day for Tuesday September 30, 2014

Don’t Sell Them a Lantern

Jesus sent messengers on ahead to go into a Samaritan village to prepare for his stay. But the Samaritans would not welcome him because his destination was Jerusalem.

Luke 9:52-53

In the late 1800s, a young William C. Coleman got a job selling typewriters. He left his home in Kansas on a sales trip to Alabama, and noticed a stunningly bright lamp shining in a store window. He discovered that, while lanterns used kerosene for fuel, a company from Memphis, Tennessee used gasoline instead.

Coleman quit selling typewriters and began selling gas lanterns. The lantern company owner offered Coleman both their patent and franchise, so he quickly scrambled together enough money to buy the company.

In 1900, he took his business west and set up shop in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. But he was crushed to discover that no one wanted to buy his lanterns. Another company had already been in the area selling an inefficient brand of gas lantern. Repeatedly, he heard the same story: “Don’t try to sell me one of those. Already bought one. They don’t work; they won’t be lit.” Everyone had gone back to their dim, but reliable, kerosene lamps.

https://i0.wp.com/www.uncadeaudesidees.fr/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/idee_cadeau_lanterne.jpgC. A. Roberts, in his book, A Life Worth Living, relates how the discouraged young salesman returned to his dark hotel room. He could see people in the store across the street, which was dimly lit by three kerosene lamps.

Then the insight hit him: “I’ll stop selling lamps and start selling light!”

He raced across the street to see the store owner, who reminded him he wasn’t interested in his gas lanterns. But Coleman told him he wasn’t selling lanterns; he was selling light. “You pay me to light your store. If the lamps don’t work, that’s my problem.” He didn’t ask the store owner to pay for the lantern – only the light.

Customers loved the idea, and soon he was servicing customers as far away as San Diego. William soon became wealthy as the founder of the Coleman Lantern Company.

You can hardly imagine hatred more intense than that between the Israelites and the Samaritans. Galileans traveling south to Jerusalem would cross the Jordan River and make a loop around Samaria, rather than travel through it.

Jesus, however, loved Samaritans. He offered an immoral Samaritan woman the water of life. We still speak today of being a “Good Samaritan” based on the story Jesus told to a Jewish lawyer.

As he began his final journey to Jerusalem, Jesus ignored the circuitous road and traveled straight south from Galilee to Jerusalem. When Samaritans learned he was heading for Jerusalem, however, they refused to show him any hospitality.

Jesus didn’t get angry. He understood. The Samaritans, like many you know, have been deeply hurt and mistreated by others in the name of religion.

Usually, the first thing they need is not a sermon, but a listening ear. And don’t try to sell them a lantern. Let them see, instead, the brightness of the Light.

(text copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://www.uncadeaudesidees.fr/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/idee_cadeau_lanterne.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Monday September 29, 2014


Not Just “Pie in the Sky”



Hope that is seen is not hope, because if he sees it, why does he still hope for it? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it patiently.

Romans 8:24

One of the marks of our secular age is the loss of hope. If we believe that the future will not fulfill our longings, then the result is despair. Hopelessness means not only that the future will be bleak, but the very realization means that our present lives will be marked by gloom.

John Maxwell talks of a small town in Maine that stood in the way of a proposed hydroelectric dam. All the residents were told that their town would be submerged by the dam and they would have to relocate.

As construction began on the dam, the town changed. No one painted their house. Roads and sidewalks were not repaired. Long before the dam was finished, the town looked shabby and abandoned. One resident noted, “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.”

When modern man abandons God, he abandons hope. Sigmund Freud was honest enough to admit, “My courage fails me, therefore, at the thought of rising up as a prophet before my fellowmen. I bow to their reproach that I have no consolation to offer them.”

Many ridicule our Christian hope. They see it as a illusory dream which lulls us into inactivity in the present world. “Pie in the sky by and by.” But that is not how hope works. It does not weaken our daily actions but invigorates them.

To break the back of the South and end the Civil War, General William T. Sherman marched through the heart of the South. As Sherman’s army pushed toward Atlanta, his adversary, General Hood circled north and began attacking his supply line. Hood’s men tore up nine miles of the railroad that supplied Sherman’s huge army. Then the Confederates moved toward the Union’s main supply post at Altoona, which held over a million and a half rations for Sherman’s army.

The Union army had less than 2000 men under Brigadier General John M. Corse to defend Altoona Pass from an advancing Confederate division of over 3000. After furious fighting, Corse had lost a third of his men and was forced to retreat to another position further up the pass. How much longer could Corse hold out?

But then, General Sherman, on the top of Kenesaw Mountain twelve miles away sent a signal-flag message to Corse to “hold fast; we are coming.” Corse’s men let out a cheer. Although the fighting was fierce, Corse’s outnumbered men stubbornly refused to surrender or retreat. They fought valiantly because they knew that help was on the way. It was that hope that enabled them to hold the pass and save the Union supply depot.

The Bible says, “We rejoice in the hope of God’s glory.” But this hope is not just “pie in the sky.” Hope gives us power to persist through all adversity. And that is why Scripture continues, “Not only that, but we also rejoice in our trials, because we know that trials produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us. . . “

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

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Story of the Day for Friday September 26, 2014

Learn To Listen Intently



I waited for you to speak. I listened to your thoughts as you searched for words. I gave you my full attention.

Job 32:11-12

William Osler (pronounced “OH – sler”) is one of the most influential physicians in history, but few – apart from the medical community – know him.

He is called the “Father of modern medicine,” and for good reason. He was one of the “Big Four” founding professors at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He created the first residency program. In England he was knighted for his medical achievements.

Osler was obsessed with paying careful attention to the little things. When he served as medical professor at Oxford University, he lectured his students – stressing the vital importance of paying attention to details. Careful observation, he told them, was the key to accurate diagnosis of a patient’s ailment.

A diabetic’s urine, Osler pointed out, often had sugar in it. The professor then displayed a bottle of urine, dipped his finger into the bottle, and brought his hand to his mouth to taste the urine. Passing the bottle around the room, he asked the students to do what he had just done.

The students dutifully participated in the unpleasant task – knowing that if they paid careful attention, they might taste the sugar in the urine. After the student’s had finished their exercise, Osler said, “Now you will understand what I mean when I speak about details, because had you really been watching, you would have seen that I put my index finger into the urine . . . but my middle finger into my mouth.”

Today, any licensed doctor must first serve a residency under a supervising physician. But Sir William Osler was the first physician to establish the practice. He was adamant about the need for academic study, but even more passionate about spending time with the patient, and listening patiently to them.

“He who studies medicine without books,” he said, “sails an uncharted sea. But he who studies medicine without patients does not go to sea at all.” Osler was the first to drag his students out of the lecture hall for bedside clinical training.

The only epitaph Osler wanted on his tombstone was that he took his students to be with patients at their bedside.

Osler originally wanted to become a pastor, but I’m glad that God led him into medicine. Yet, oddly enough, he brings us a spiritual message. First, you learn to pay attention to your teacher (and note which finger he sticks in the urine bottle!), and then you learn to listen intently to those you seek to serve.

I was taught to learn theology, and then to give the world a canned speech. William Osler has reminded me that – yes – I should begin by learning, by paying attention to my Teacher. But, then, it’s better to take time to listen carefully to those who are hurting. The more I learn to listen; the more I’ll have something worth saying.

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

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Story of the Day for Wednesday September 24, 2014

Will It Take You 21 Days?



Jesus told them, “I feel as if I could die from sadness. Stay here and keep awake with me.”

Matthew 26:38

When God created the heavens and the earth, he pronounced everything “good.” The first time the Lord says something was “not good” was not after Adam and Eve sinned, but while all the fruit still hung on The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. As God observed his good creation, he declared it was “not good” that the Man should be alone.

Hunger is not a sin – it simply means we lack the food we need to sustain our bodies. Similarly, loneliness is not a sin because God created us to live in community with others, and he made sure Adam would not be lonely. Even Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, wanted his closest friends to be near him in his struggle. He didn’t need a sermon; he just wanted them to stay awake with him. To be there.

Loneliness is not caused by a lack of people around us, but by a lack of relationship. This is felt most acutely by empty-nesters, the loss of a spouse, or a move into a strange city. The elderly, because they experience severed relationships, often suffer from loneliness. Yet, oddly enough, Dr. Joseph Hartog, an expert in the study of loneliness, says the loneliest age group of all is high school youth. Kids are surrounded by others, but relationships can be precarious and heartbreaking.

Yet, while loneliness is a lack of a God-given need, we can sometimes create the conditions that deepen our aloneness. Many attempts to relieve loneliness only make matters worse.

If you meet a lonely person, what do they do? They talk your ear off, right? They jabber so incessantly that you struggle to wedge a single sentence into the conversation. Yet, ironically, those who dominate the conversation will always remain lonely.

The cure for loneliness isn’t simply finding a victim to be a listening ear, because we still haven’t established a relationship. A relationship involves talking AND listening. Receiving AND giving.

The story is told that the famous psychologist, Alfred Adler, once claimed he could cure anyone of emotional difficulties in two weeks – if they followed his prescription.

A desperately lonely woman came to Adler’s office. She was doubtful Adler could cure her loneliness, but asked, “What do you want me to do?”

“If you will do something for someone else every day for fourteen days,” Adler replied, “at the end of the time, your loneliness will be gone.”

The woman objected, “Why should I do anything for someone else? No one ever does anything for me.”

Adler is said to have responded, “Well, maybe it will take you twenty-one days.”

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

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Story of the Day for Tuesday September 23, 2014

You’re Kidding, Right?

“Behold, I’m sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.”

Matthew 10:16

St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, has a football coach whose methods are . . . different.

John Gagliardi (pronounced gah-LAR-dee) does virtually no recruiting. No player is offered a scholarship. And there are no tryouts. If you want to play, you’re on the team.

Gagliardi doesn’t use a whistle in practice. He never raises his voice. And you’re not allowed to call Coach Gagliardi “coach.” He insists you call him, and all the other coaches, by their first names. His players call him “John.”

https://m1.behance.net/rendition/modules/3251821/disp/bcfb080c2bdf11a5ef968a2df4ad7f09.jpgThe team has no spring practice sessions. There is no compulsory weight lifting. During practice, they run no wind sprints. They run no laps. Matter of fact, they don’t even do calisthenics. (I take that back: they do a couple of workout exercises. One is called “Ear Lobe Stretches” which is followed by the “Nice Day” drill. Players lie flat on their backs to stretch, then lean over and say to a teammate, “Nice day, isn’t it?”).

It gets worse: the team doesn’t have a playbook, and players don’t watch game film. During practice, they use no blocking sleds or tackling dummies. In fact, tackling is NEVER allowed in practice.

You think I’m making this up, don’t you? Well, I’m not. The St. John’s Johnnies are an NCAA Division III school in a highly competitive conference.

The next question is: has this goof of a coach ever won a football game?

Matter of fact, John Gagliardi has won over 470 games – more than any other college football coach in history. His team holds the college record for the most offensive points scored, on average, throughout a season (61 points per game). He has won 27 conference titles, four national championships and is in the NCAA’s College Football Hall of Fame.

When Jesus sends us into the world, his methods are a little . . . different. He doesn’t want us to be fierce lions. It’s almost embarrassing, but he wants us to be a sheep.

Sheep have no offensive strengths. They can’t claw, trample, or bite you to death. Sheep have no defensive power. They can’t outrun savage wolves. They don’t know how to hide. They’re sheep.

Is this Jesus’ method for conquering the world? Going out into a hostile world like a harmless bag of wool?

I’m afraid so.

And yet, Jesus’ sheep have done what mighty armies could not. They have won the hearts of men by the power of God’s love.

Jesus’ method boggles the imagination. That’s why I appreciate John Gagliardi so much. He reminds me that, sometimes, doing the impossible works best.

(text copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image:  https://m1.behance.net/rendition/modules/3251821/disp/bcfb080c2bdf11a5ef968a2df4ad7f09.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Monday September 22. 2014

Coming to Know Him

May grace and peace be multiplied to you by the knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:2

Can you know things beyond what you can comprehend with your conscious intellect? Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, Blink, cites a gambling experiment at the University of Iowa where you are given four decks of cards – two red and two blue. Your task is to turn over cards in any deck you choose to maximize your winnings. What you don’t know is that the red cards are rigged so that you can win a lot at times, but can never win in the end.

After about 80 cards, most players can understand intellectually why the red decks are a bad choice. But, after 50 cards, most people develop a hunch and start choosing the proper deck, but have no idea why.

https://i0.wp.com/d33j98hbdjbafw.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/1.-Mother-Teresa-ball-1024x818.jpgBut it gets even more intriguing. The players were hooked up to machines that measured sweat glands in the palms as well as temperature. Stress and nervousness can be measured this way. After only 10 cards were played, the Iowa scientists could detect stress when players chose a red card – 40 cards before they had a “hunch” and 70 cards before they intellectually figured out the game.

Peter is telling us that the source of the grace and peace we receive is found in the knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus Christ. But what does it mean to know God? Is it just an intellectual comprehension of facts about God? I don’t think so.

A newborn baby immediately cuddles with its mother. That little infant finds comfort from its mother long before it is old enough to intellectually grasp the concept, “You are my mommy.” Just as in the experiment with the four decks of cards, there is a kind of knowing that extends beyond our conscious, intellectual recognition.

When we know someone, we know them in a deeper way than what documented facts can provide. Let me give you an example.

The FBI caught a ring of forgers in San Diego. They were selling thousands of fake autographs and fraudulent historical documents. How did the FBI discover this ring of counterfeiters? Among other things, the curiosity of the federal officials was no doubt aroused when they attempted to sell baseballs autographed by . . . Mother Theresa!

Before the feds could document whether Mother Theresa was hawking autographed baseballs, we have an intuitive hunch that Mother Theresa is not like that. We feel that we know her enough to doubt she would autograph baseballs before we can prove it intellectually.

As we grow in our faith, we are not just learning facts about God; we are coming to know him. What you will find at the end is a shower of grace and peace.

(text copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://d33j98hbdjbafw.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/1.-Mother-Teresa-ball-1024×818.jpg?991697)

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Story of the Day for Friday September 19, 2013

Being the “Rightest”

https://i2.wp.com/media.point2.com/p2a/htmltext/47b6/fc41/4060/5894e06ba15e008797e4/original.jpgYou rescue the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.

2 Samuel 22:28

After God has delivered his opinion on haughtiness, it is amazing how many of his followers vie with each other to be the haughtiest.

Christians have split up into countless denominations and every one of them believes the same thing: we’re righter than anyone else about doctrine, and we feel pretty smug about it. When was the last time you heard a denomination admit: “We want to follow Jesus, but, frankly, we’re not sure our doctrine is perfect”?

Don’t get me wrong: it’s important to be right about stuff. But it’s even more important to be humble. None of us knows God so well that we have eliminated all the fuzziness in our understanding of him.

Yet, how often do we admit that we’ve bumped up against Bible passages that don’t want to agree with our present understanding? We Christians – and especially we Bible teachers – are not eager to talk about the many passages in Scripture that still have us puzzled.

In September of 1864, London’s Soho district was ravaged by a cholera epidemic. 143 residents in the Broad Street area died within a single day.

Dr. John Snow believed the cholera outbreak was caused by contaminated water from the public Broad Street pump. But everyone else – including the Medical Committee and a local curate, Rev. Henry Whitehead, believed Snow was wrong.

Dr. Snow wrote up his observations, On the Mode of Communication of Cholera, but Whitehead and the Medical Committee overseeing the epidemic disagreed with his conclusions. In opposition to Dr. Snow, Whitehead wrote an opposing account, The Cholera in Berwick Street.

In an effort to prove Snow wrong, Rev. Whitehead began a personal investigation. He went door to door – asking residents about sanitation and their use of the Broad Street water pump.

When he finished his investigation he realized his data supported Dr. Snow’s position. Whitehead did what few have the humility to do: he publicly renounced his former position and urged the Medical Committee to listen to Snow.

We now know that Snow’s view about cholera has been validated. But for a decade after Snow presented his evidence, the medical community continued to call his position unsound. Whitehead, alone, was humble enough to admit that his original opposition to Snow had been wrong.

If you want to feel superior to others, don’t gloat that you’re the “rightest”; strive to be the humblest. Then you can take pride in being . . . hey, wait a minute – I think I just goofed up somewhere.

(text copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://media.point2.com/p2a/htmltext/47b6/fc41/4060/5894e06ba15e008797e4/original.jpg)

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