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Archive for January, 2015


Story of the Day for Friday January 30, 2015

God Is Going to Blow It Up

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”No one puts new wine into old wine skins. If he does, the wine will tear the skins and both the wine and the wine skins will be lost. Put new wine into new wine skins.”

Mark 2:22

In 1908, Henry Ford developed the Model T. It was the only car the Ford Motor Company made and it sold like hotcakes. In just a few years, half of all the cars on the road were Model Ts.

But it only came in one color. In 1909, Henry Ford said, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

Ford’s ace production man, William Knudsen, foresaw that the company needed to improve to keep pace with the competition. So, when Ford took his family on a trip to Europe in 1912, Knudsen prepared a new sleek prototype with four doors and shiny red lacquer-work.

When Ford was shown the prototype, he walked around the car three or four times with his hands in his pockets, and then he grabbed the driver’s side door and ripped it off! He proceeded to pop out the windshield and destroy the car. The message was clear: don’t mess with my “baby.”

Ford fired Knudsen, who went to General Motors.

But, General Motors kept improving their cars. They had more power, electric starters, and, of course, a choice of colors. But Henry stuck to his Model T. Not until 1927 did Henry, grudgingly, decide to develop a new car: the Model A.

But it was too late. The Ford Motor Company dipped from 50 percent market share to only 28 percent by 1931. For the rest of his life, Henry Ford would have to be content with second place in the auto industry.

As wine ferments, it expands. The ancient Jews could not put new wine in clay jars because the growing pressure would shatter them. So, they preferred using the skins of young goats. They would sew up all the holes and pour the new wine into them. As the wine fermented the wine skins would expand like a balloon, but not break.

The wine skins became useless for holding fermenting wine, however, once they became hardened and rigid. If you poured wine into them, they were no longer flexible enough to expand; they would simply crack and now you’ve lost both your wineskin and your wine.

When we become rigid in our methods, when we insist that our way is the only way, stand back, because God is going to blow it up. Truth doesn’t change, but the power of the Good News is always expanding. You can’t keep a lid on it.

Jesus’ New Wine is like exploration. Thomas Jefferson made thorough and extensive plans for Lewis and Clark’s expedition. But once their journey rounded the first unexplored bend in the river, rigid plans could only hurt them. From that point on, they needed only to know their goal, and how to be flexible enough to deal with each new adventure they encountered.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Thursday January 29, 2015

A Garden Full of Rutabagas

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Is everybody an apostle? Is everyone a prophet? Is everyone a teacher? Does everyone perform miracles? Does everyone have the gift of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

1 Corinthians 12:29-30

All my ancestors come from Finland. The Finns are noted for their determination, which they call “sisu.” (Non-Finns, like my wife, often mistakenly call this “bullheaded stubbornness”.) Finns take funny hot baths, called sauna, and drink more coffee per capita than any nation on earth.

In all these areas, I have proudly represented my heritage.

But the Finns are also known for their painful shyness, and I have grown up with this dubious distinction.

When you’re shy you are uncomfortable in public. You look at your shoes a lot when you talk to people. If you have to stand up in front of a crowd to give a speech, you feel like your fly is open.

You shouldn’t think shy people are generally fearful. I lead trips into remote wilderness areas in Montana. We often encounter fresh grizzly bear sign. A grizzly leaves a pile of poop which is roughly the size of Rhode Island. And, believe me, extroverts get just as nervous as introverts when they come across a fresh pile on the trail.

I had a pastor who was charismatic and outgoing. He once told us in Bible study that shyness was a sin. All Christians, he claimed, should be extroverts.

For many years I lugged around a vague sense of guilt. Gradually, it dawned on me that I was just as judgmental as my former pastor (who really was a wonderful shepherd). I would look at extroverts and wonder why they were such excitable loudmouths. Why couldn’t they be more . . . you know, quiet? Contemplative. Like me.

We all have a tendency to judge a person according to temperament, rather than character. We’ve always recognized that people have different personalities. Four centuries before Christ, the Greek physician, Hippocrates, had classified everyone as either choleric (hot-tempered), sanguine (cheerful), phlegmatic (sluggish), or melancholy (sad). We have refined his classifications over the years, but have never refuted the notion that people have distinctly different temperaments.

We are not only distinct in personality, but the Bible tells us, God has given us all a variety of different gifts. At times, we’ve all wanted to pound square pegs into round holes; we have wanted people to change their temperament.

But God gives us a variety of personalities and gifts – for the same reason you don’t plant your entire garden with rutabagas.

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

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Story of the Day for Wednesday January 28, 2015

Very Cheerfully

Jesus said to the disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.” His disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews are trying to stone you to death, and you want to go back there?”

John 11:7-8

https://i0.wp.com/www.mbmg.mtech.edu/gmr/lewis_clark/graphics/lc-3forks-panorama.jpg

http://www.mbmg.mtech.edu/gmr/lewis_clark/graphics/lc-3forks-panorama.jpg

Lewis and Clark faced a dilemma. As the Corps of Discovery headed up the Missouri River, they came to a fork. The expedition was way behind schedule. If they took the wrong fork, they would not be able to cross the mountains before winter and the expedition would be forced to turn back.

The men unanimously agreed the muddy northern river was the correct fork to take. Up to this point, after all, the Missouri River had the same muddy color. But Lewis and Clark disagreed. They reasoned that the Missouri should eventually be getting clear if it flowed from the mountains. Meriwether Lewis tried to convince the men that the south fork was the true Missouri, but still the entire party, to a man, disagreed.

Lewis and Clark held firm and announced they were going to take the south fork.

Despite the crew’s disagreement, they all said they were ready to “very cheerfully” follow wherever their leaders chose to take them. After the co-captains announced their decision, the men passed the evening in dancing and singing. Lewis recorded in his journal that the men were “extremely cheerful.”

Oh, and, by the way, Lewis and Clark were right. The south fork was the Missouri.

Why do people follow a leader? Some leaders force others to follow against their will. The Corps of Discovery, however, could easily have mutinied had they felt they were being forcibly led to their own destruction.

People will willingly follow a good leader. Some choose to follow a leader because they are convinced the leader knows the best way to go. Yet, the Corps of Discovery clearly believed their leaders did not know the proper way to go.

The greatest leaders are those you will follow – even when you don’t agree with their decisions. You follow – not because you understand your leader, but because you trust him.

When word came to Jesus that his friend, Lazarus, was dying, he told his disciples they were going to Judea. His disciples helpfully pointed out that the Jews in Judea were trying to murder him. Jesus, however, ignored the threat and invited his disciples to go with him. Thomas then said to the rest, “Let’s go too, that we may die with him.”

Jesus’ disciples followed him – not because he forced them against his will, and not because he convinced them it was a good idea. They didn’t understand him; they simply trusted him, and were willing to follow him anywhere.

Jesus will not force you to follow him. And, sometimes, you will be convinced that doing things his way is not the best way to go. The day will inevitably come when you will be called to follow him simply because you have learned to trust him.

And to follow “very cheerfully.”

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

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Story of the Day for Monday January 26, 2015

 Past the Thumb Sucking Stage

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                 The end of a matter is better than its beginning.

Ecclesiastes 7:8

If you want to become a master chef, the first lesson you must learn is how to stand on a chair and turn off the smoke alarm. If you want to master the violin, you must imagine the sound of a cat being swung by its tail and do your best to imitate it.

Beginnings aren’t impressive. When Abraham Lincoln was old enough to write his name, he wasn’t being hounded for his autograph, and there was no sign near Sinking Springs Farm proclaiming:

WELCOME TO HARDIN COUNTY, KENTUCKY

BIRTHPLACE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Autographs 5 cents

On August 13, 2010, Scottie Pippen was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. But who would’ve guessed it from his unpromising beginning?

Scottie’s family of eleven brothers and sisters was dogged by poverty. He played basketball, but just for fun. It wasn’t until he yearned for a job as a factory manager that he got serious about basketball – because a scholarship was the only way he could afford a college education.

But Scottie couldn’t land a scholarship. His high school coach finally found him a chance to play for the University of Central Arkansas on a work-study arrangement. He worked summers as a welder to pay for school, and he worked as the team manager in order to play ball.

Not a great start, but if he wasn’t willing to begin by passing out towels in the locker room, he never would have ended in the Hall of Fame with multi-million dollar contracts.

When the Gospel message reached the seaport city of Corinth, in southern Greece, the newborn believers began by doing what all newborns do: crying, drinking milk and soiling their diapers. But that’s a good thing, because life has begun.

When Paul writes to these young believers, he’s a little distressed because they should be past the thumb-sucking stage, but he is so excited about what God has begun in this bawdy sailor-town. Paul could write to them, “. . . you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have great confidence in you. I take great pride in you.”

Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Start by doing what is necessary. Then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

The point, however, is to start. . . even if it only  means taking the battery out of the smoke alarm.

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

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Story of the Day for Tuesday January 19, 2015

Really Clap for Him

Strengthen the trembling hands, steady the knees that give out. Tell those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, don’t be afraid. Your God will come.”

Isaiah 35:3-4

The fear among the Nigerians is as dry as tinder right now, and the smallest spark sets off an inferno. Last month, two boys returning from work on a farm got into an argument about the money. They began fighting. Those near the scuffle were terrified, thinking another religious war had broken out. The villagers stampeded and two children were trampled to death.

In the U.S., a couple of confirmed cases of Ebola caused national alarm. Imagine living in Nigeria where thousands are dying and you can never know who may be spreading the deadly disease?

A brave woman (I’ll call Rachel) has chosen to live in Nigeria. Recently, her friend was driving her to the Plateau region when an oncoming car signaled for them to turn around. They made a lurching U-turn and pulled off the road. They were told robbers were stopping traffic up ahead. Only after traffic resumed twenty minutes later did they know the robbers had fled.

https://i0.wp.com/adventurous-life.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/P1170331_thumb.jpgDespite the dangers, Rachel works for Wycliffe Bible Translators and is passionate about translating God’s Word into a Nigerian tribe’s native tongue.

Last September, the terrorist group, Boko Haram, took over a town on a Sunday morning. Two Bible translators from the town snatched their laptops and ran. The townspeople crossed the river to find safety. The two translators waded across, the water came to their chin but they held their laptops on their heads and made it to safety.

Many in town were killed and those trapped in the mountains were starving, unable to slip through the Boko Haram net. The translator team later found their home burned to the ground. They lost everything they owned — except for their laptops with their precious translation work.

When Rachel finally reunited with her co-workers, they were surprisingly cheerful.

“It’s much harder for people who weren’t ready,” her co-worker said.

“Ready how?” Rachel asked.

“Boko Haram burned my house and everything in it,” he replied, “but I was ready. I have always told people that God gave it to me, and if He takes it away one day, that is up to Him.”

Why don’t Rachel and her fellow translators leave such a dangerous place and come home? Perhaps it’s because they’ve seen the joy.

Last Christmas, they had just finished translating Luke 2 into the Tugbiri language. A young man stood up and read the Christmas story, and the people heard it for the first time in their own language. The congregation erupted with applause. But the pastor stood up and said, “I don’t think that was good enough. Really clap for him!” The people thundered their approval and then crowded around him at the front of the church and began stuffing his pockets with money, as if he was the bride at a wedding dance.

“Fear not,” the angel at Bethlehem says, “for I bring you good news of great joy.”

Slowly, I am beginning to learn there is a joy far greater than fear.

(copyright 2015 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://adventurous-life.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/P1170331_thumb.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Monday January 19, 2015

The Earthy People

Accept each other, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Romans 15:7

You’ve heard of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. Have you also heard of the Am ha aretz? The Pharisee’s need to feel loved meant they had to be better than others. But, for them to be superior, somebody had to be inferior. And so, they called the “common” people, who were not as religious as they were, the Am ha Aretz, which literally means “the earthy people.”

A pious Pharisee would not invite “common people” to dinner, would not converse with them in the street, and did their best to keep their shadow from touching them. The Pharisees were very religious, very moral – because they felt they must, somehow, earn God’s love and approval.

But their pathetic need for approval turned cruel. They viewed those who were physically sick or deformed as cursed by God for their sin. Thus, they banned them from entrance to the temple. If you were blind or lame, for example, you could not go to the temple to pray or worship or offer a sacrifice. You were classed as one rejected by God.

Is it any surprise that the Pharisees were outraged at Jesus’ behavior? He gravitated to the sick, the weak, the sinful, and showed them compassion. He touched lepers and other people considered “unclean.” He ate with tax collectors and whores. Jesus said that it was not the healthy who needed a doctor, but the sick. And, like a caring physician, he had come to help those who are weak and helpless.

Jesus came with this simple, clear message: you don’t have to earn God’s love or approval. You don’t have to think of yourself as superior to others in order to meet God’s standard. You are loved. You are accepted, and there is nothing you have to prove.

https://38.media.tumblr.com/88a90c960ffda5de99006de55414485b/tumblr_ndfdvogdeh1sfhh4oo1_400.jpgSteve May tells the story of a young woman who was nervous because she was dining with her boyfriend’s parents for the first time. Would they like her? Would she be acceptable? She took one last look at herself before heading out her door. She noticed her shoe had a dirt spot so she used a paper towel to wipe the dirt off. It was the same paper towel that she used to blot her bacon grease at breakfast that morning.

When she arrived at her boyfriend’s house, his parent’s poodle immediately smelled the bacon grease, and followed her wherever she went. At the end of the evening, as she was leaving the boyfriend’s parents said, “Cleo really likes you, dear, and she is an excellent judge of character. We are delighted to welcome you into our little family.”

Our acceptance is not about us. It does not depend whether we are good or bad. It is all about the Lord. His love for us is not based on who we are, but who he is. He is the God of love and mercy.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: https://38.media.tumblr.com/88a90c960ffda5de99006de55414485b/tumblr_ndfdvogdeh1sfhh4oo1_400.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Friday January 16, 2015

The Race Everyone Wins

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Let everyone test his own work. Then he can take pride in what he does – without comparing himself with others.

Galatians 6:4

A little town in Wisconsin, lying on the southern shore of Lake Superior, used to hold an annual sled dog race for children.

One cold January day, a group of kids lined up to race a one mile course – marked by staking fir trees in the ice. The contestants ranged from older boys with several dogs and professional sleds to one little kid, who didn’t look more than five years old. He had a crude sled and one little dog to pull him.

When the race began the little boy and his dog were soon left behind. Halfway through the race, the boy in second place tried to pass the leader. But, while passing, he got too close and the dogs from each team started fighting. As each team approached, they joined in the melee – leaving everyone in a hopeless tangle.

Not a single team finished the race . . . except for a little boy in an old sled with a single dog pulling him.

Since ancient times, we have told Tortoise-and-Hare stories. The moral is: “Slow and steady wins the race.”

The truth, however, is that slow and steady rarely wins the race. “Fast and Steady” almost always trumps “Slow and Steady.” I like to race in a cross-country ski marathon in northern Wisconsin, called the Birkebeiner. I am a tortoise — slow, but steady. Except for a few stops at the food stations, lasting less than a minute each, I never stop to rest. But every year, the world-class athletes go screaming across the finish line while I am still slugging it out halfway through the course.

“Slow and steady wins the race” is trying to teach us to pace ourselves, and not be discouraged when others — who don’t pace themselves — jump out to a quick lead. Good advice. But, the problem with these wise maxims is that they are focused on winning. The tortoise, and the boy with a one-dog sled, will occasionally win. But rarely. Very rarely. If you view life as a competition against others, you will almost always lose the race.

The Bible talks about a better way. We should focus on doing our best, and forget about how it compares with anyone else. We can find great satisfaction in life once we quit comparing our efforts with others.

Few ski the Birkebeiner to win the race; virtually everyone skis it to do their best. They sometimes call the Birkebeiner “The Race Everyone Wins.” They’ve got it right.

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

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