Archive for February, 2015

Story of the Day for Friday February 27, 2015

He Did Know


                   O God, search me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Psalm 139:23

 A small town prosecuting attorney called an elderly woman as his first witness. He approached her on the witness stand and said, “Mrs. Jones, do you know me?”

“Why, yes, I do know you, Mr. Williams,” she said. “I’ve known you since you were a young boy, and frankly, you’re a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat, you manipulate people. You think you’re such a hotshot, but you’re never going to amount to anything but a two-bit ambulance chaser. Yes, I know you!”

The lawyer was stunned. As he tried to collect himself he pointed across the courtroom to the other attorney and stammered, “Do you know him?”

“Why, yes, I certainly do. I’ve known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster too. I used to babysit him when he was little. And he’s a big disappointment to me as well. He’s lazy, bigoted, and drinks too much. The man can’t build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the shoddiest affairs I’ve ever seen. Yes, I know him well!”

At that moment the judge rapped his gavel and called both attorneys to approach the bench. In a low voice the judge warned them, “If either of you asks this woman if she knows me . . . I’m going to jail you for contempt!”

As a young boy, Ted Koppel quickly learned that showing weakness invited bullying. So, he developed an air of confident self-control.

Later in life, as a former anchor for ABC’s Nightline, Koppel has won every major broadcasting award you can name — including 37 Emmys. He is known for his air of confidence in reporting the news.

He candidly admits, however, “No one is that confident in reality, but ours is a business of appearances, and it’s terribly important to be self-confident. The moment you give evidence of doubt, people are going to eat you alive.”

Yet, no matter how confident we appear, no matter what persona we present to others, there is still the nagging fear that someone is going to find us out. They’ll see our doubts and fears, our weakness and wobbly faith.

In one sense, we have good reason to hide behind a mask. If we blurted out all our insecurities to the world, some would use our faults as a weapon to harm us.

King David’s prayer in Psalm 139 is shocking because he invites God to scrounge around in the dark corners of his heart and to discover all his anxieties. David could only ask God to search his heart if he knew God could see him for who he really was — and still accept him.

When Jesus met a woman at a well, he offered her “living water.” He didn’t love her because he mistakenly assumed she was a good woman. He loved her because he did know her sin, and wanted her to find forgiveness.  When the woman ran back to her village, she shouted, “Come! See a man who told me everything I ever did! Could this be the Messiah?”

(text copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://midliferocksblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/unknown-man.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Wednesday February 25, 2015

According to Their Pace



                He will tend his flock like a shepherd. He will gather the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart. He will gently lead the ewes that have young. 

Isaiah 40:11

My friend, Stan Holder, is a really great guy, and I would never want to embarrass him. So, to protect his identity, I’m going to refer to him, throughout this article, as Buford A. Tiddschnickle.

Sta—I mean, Buford, is not a hiker; he is a Hiking Machine. When his wife, Mrs. Tiddschnickle, managed a U.S. Forest Service district in California, Buford and his wife hiked every trail in the district – to the astonishment of everyone who knew how many miles this entailed.

But Buford’s slide into infamy began with “The Mount Ksanka Incident.” Ksanka rises majestically to the east of Eureka, Montana. On Bufe’s recommendation, I decided to climb it.

“How long does it take to get to the top?” I asked.

“Oh,” Buford replied, “forty-five minutes?”

After several long hours of desperate scrambling up the western face, no jury in the land would have convicted me had I enacted my plot to short-sheet his bed and put a dead toad in his stew pot.

This is a cautionary tale: never ask a hiker with enormous calves how long it takes to go anywhere. They will tell you sincerely, but they calculate according to their own pace.

The thought of following Jesus used to intimidate me. How can I keep up with the Son of God? His life is one of perfect beauty. He forgives the very ones whose hammer blows nailed his body to a tree, while I’m pathetically harboring dark thoughts about toads in stew pots.  How could I have the audacity to consider myself his follower?

But, then, one day, this verse from Isaiah stripped away my fears and excuses. Jesus will lead us like a shepherd. He doesn’t out-hike the flock and disappear over the horizon. Shepherds lead at the pace the sheep are able to walk.

And what if you can’t walk very fast? Isaiah says this Shepherd will go at a gentler pace. And what if you’re only a lamb and can’t keep up at all? Then He’ll pick you up and carry you close to his heart.

For years, Buford A. Tiddschnickle has invited me to hike with him, but I’ve always concocted inventive excuses.

This last year, however, I’ve learned a secret about Bufe. He loves to hike with friends and family. He loves to hike with kids. But he always hikes at their pace — not his own.

I think I’m going to hike with him, and deliberately walk slow – just to bug him (since I’m still a little peeved about this Ksanka thing.)

But my conscience has convicted me about the dead toad in the stew pot.

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

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Story of the Day for Monday February 23, 2015

Beautiful Things Through Them

I can do all things through the One who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13

George Dantzig greatest achievement came about because he was late for class.

While taking a graduate-level statistics class at the University of California, Berkeley, he got to class late, but managed to copy down the homework assignment on the board.
George worked on his homework assignment, but found it tough going. But he finally completed the assignment, and handed it in to his professor, Jerzy Neyman.

Six weeks later, George was awakened one morning with a knock on the door. “It was Neyman,” Dantzig recalled, “He rushed in with papers in hand, all excited.” Professor Neyman wanted to immediately send Dantzig’s work for publication. Dantzig had no idea what his professor was talking about. The problems on the blackboard that he had solved, Neyman told him, were in fact two famous unsolved problems in statistics.”

Now, how was Dantzig able to solve these two baffling problems? He was certainly intelligent, but so were all the other scientists, professors, and students who were stymied by these problems. But, George Dantzig had one advantage over the others: no one told him that it couldn’t be done.

Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”

Now, obviously, Mr. Ford’s statement is not a universal truth. If you believe you can snort my Ford pickup up your nose, that doesn’t mean you can. Conversely, if I don’t believe I’ll see an elk while hunting tomorrow, that doesn’t mean I won’t.

We Christians are often leery about talking of faith in what we can do, and rightly so. Anything that fosters the notion that, if we believe in ourselves, we can work our way into God’s good favor is an abomination. For starters, we can’t. And, secondly, the mistaken notion that we might be able to earn God’s love destroys the truth that you can never earn God’s love. God’s already loves us despite our most miserable failures.

All that said, a little shepherd boy did what no soldier in Israel’s army dared: he believed he could defeat Goliath, and offered to do so. But, he had practiced hard to achieve mastery with his slingshot. Yet, he chose five smooth stones because he knew the first one might not find its mark.

Did this little squirt have confidence in his abilities? I think so. But, ultimately, David’s faith was not in himself, but in what God could do through him. Yes, God could’ve worked unilaterally and conked Goliath on the head with a thunderbolt – without David’s assistance. David, however, believed that God would utilize his rock lobbing talents to win this victory. And God would get the glory.

God is at work in this world. But he delights in working through his children . . . children who believe in a God who can do beautiful things through them.

(copyright 2011 by climbing higher.org and by Marty Kaarre)He


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Story of the Day for Friday February 20, 2015 

Sharing a Mutual Love for Potato Chips

The head priests and the Bible scholars saw the wonders Jesus did and the children shouting in the temple, saying, ”Hosanna to the Son of David!” And they were indignant.
Matthew 21:15

Alina, one of my wife’s former students is now grown up, married, and has two little girls. Last week, her daughter said a bedtime prayer for her Mommy and Daddy, sister, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends. And then she added, “And God, please be with all the potatoes because I know you and me just LOVE potato chips!”

I’d like to casually toss out the fact that I’m a Bible scholar. If you’re confused about the soteriological implications of proleptic eschatology, I’m your man. And, excuse me while I politely cough, but I also (ahem) . . . read the New Testament in the Greek! Yes.

We Bible scholars tend to wince at the prayers and praises of children. They don’t know what they’re talking about. When we scholars compose a prayer, it’s carefully sculpted to reflect a theologically precise view of God. The grammar is impeccable and nuanced. You will never – and I repeat myself for emphasis – you will never find us composing prayers which go romping on about our delight with potato chips.

Yet, ironically, the Bible scholars of Jesus’ day, for all their knowledge of Scripture, couldn’t recognize God if he was standing right in front of them. They knew a lot about God, but they didn’t know him.
The kids, on the other hand, shattered the solemnity with their boisterous praise to the Son of David. When the theologians objected to this, Jesus defended the kids and pointed to the Psalm which said, “From the mouths of children and nursing infants I have prepared praise.” Jesus liked their worship.

The beauty of a child’s understanding of God is that it is a relationship.
Yes, it’s important to have correct theology, but not at the expense of knowing God personally. I can easily find myself viewing the Trinity, say, more as a complex mathematical formula than the God who protects me, and loves me, and gives me strength.

Once, when our daughter, Erika, was little she asked for something and we told her we couldn’t buy it because we couldn’t afford it. Later that evening, she came into my office and gave me a dollar to bail us out of our fiscal crisis.
I wasn’t offended at my little daughter’s unsophisticated view of finances nor did I hand the dollar back to her in disgust at her ignorance. Instead, I was deeply touched by her thoughtfulness and generosity.
I have a little box on my dresser. And, every now and then, I open it and look at the dollar she gave me.

In the end, it’s all about relationship . . . like sharing a mutual love for potato chips.
(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Thursday February 19, 2015

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 would 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 tootleoo 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) 


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Story of the Day for Tuesday February 17, 2014

Newfangled Quartz Movement Contraptions



                 “The time is coming,” the Lord declares, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the old covenant.”

Jeremiah 31:31-32

When Jesus reached in his pocket and pulled out a new contract from God, the people who had the hardest time accepting it were those who were legal experts on the original contract.

In 1968, Switzerland dominated the world of watch making – owning over eighty percent of the market share in profits.

The Swiss were proud of their watches – and for good reason: they made watches of exceptional craftsmanship.

Yet, in a little over a decade, Switzerland was devastated. Their profit share plummeted to less than twenty percent. By 1988, employment in the watch industry in Switzerland sank from 90,000 to 28,000.

What happened?

The quartz movement watch captured the world’s attention. It was not only cheaper than a mechanical watch, but far more accurate.

The devastation of the Swiss dominance in watch making, however, is not so much tragic, as ironic. After World War II, the Swiss invented a quartz clock. In 1962, a laboratory was established in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, to develop the quartz movement watch. The world’s first prototype quartz wristwatches were displayed in 1967. That year, their laboratory in Neuchâtel entered their quartz movement watches in time trials and won the first ten places for wristwatch accuracy. Two years later, their Beta 21 was available for commercial production.

But the Swiss watchmakers couldn’t adjust to such a radical change.  They focused, instead, on their proud history. They had a well-deserved legacy for making fine mechanical watches. They weren’t about to change their way of life for some newfangled quartz movement contraptions.

Switzerland was well-positioned to dominate the world in quartz movement watches, just as they had for so many generations with their mechanical watches. But they refused to invest in the new technology because they had mastered the old so well.

God’s first covenant stipulated that we would be blessed if we were obedient. Since no one was obedient, God announced his new covenant: he would forgive all who looked to him for mercy.

This new covenant, like the quartz movement watch, was definitely a change for the better.  The only ones who have ignored it are the self-satisfied: those who are (falsely) proud of their religious accomplishments.

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

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Story of the Day for Monday February 16, 2015

“Not a Single One!”

                   Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant.

Matthew 20:26

Who was the greatest quarterback who ever lived? Who was the greatest singer of all time?  When questions like this are raised, the debate often becomes spirited.

Yet, when we disagree with others about greatness, we’re only splitting hairs — we really don’t disagree at all. We all believes that greatness is defined as superiority over others; when we disagree, we’re only niggling over the fine points.

That is why Jesus’ view of greatness packs such a jolt. In God’s eyes, greatness is not defined by how many others we’re superior to, but by how many others we serve. And the Son of God showed the way by becoming the servant to everyone who ever lived.

Dale Galloway, in his book Rebuild Your Life, tells the story of a little boy named Chad.

One day in late January Chad came home from school and told his mom he wanted to make a valentine for everyone in his class.

Her heart sank. Chad’s mom watched as the kids walked home from school. They laughed and clumped together as they made their way home from school.  But Chad was never included. He always walked alone behind the others. She knew how Valentine’s Day worked, and that Chad would probably not get many valentines from his classmates.

Harvey Kids, Valentine's Making 146But, she sighed, if her son wanted to make valentines then she would do what she could to help. She bought paper, glue, and other materials. For three weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made 35 valentines.

On the morning of Valentine’s Day, Chad could hardly contain his excitement as he bolted out the door. His mom knew how crushed he would be to find that he had given far more valentines than he received, so she baked his favorite cookies to try to cheer him up when he got home.

By mid-afternoon she had cookies and milk waiting for him on the table. When she heard the sound of children she looked out the window. As usual, the kids were walking and babbling in little groups while Chad walked by himself.

Chad walked a little faster than usual, and his mom noticed he carried no bag of valentines like the one he carried out of the house. Knowing that he might well burst into sobbing as soon as he walked in the door, she worked to choke back her own tears.

As soon as he walked through the door she greeted him and said, “I have some warm cookies and milk for you,” but Chad didn’t seem to hear.

“Not a one . . . not a one.”

Her heart sank.

But Chad looked up to his mom and his face glowed, “I didn’t forget a one, not a single one!”

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

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Story of the Day for Monday February 2, 2015

The Closest Little Kid

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/54/c6/c3/54c6c37d7d5fb585614834a2a49447ed.jpg“. . . Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Then Jesus called a little child, stood him in their midst and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:1-3

Have you noticed how children aren’t all that concerned about differences in other children? They don’t care what race you are, your social or economic status, or whether you have physical imperfections.

Sadly, those years of acceptance don’t last. As we grow older, our attitude toward differences in others turns ugly. It is not that we now notice differences in others – a three-year-old notices different skin colors, or a limp. No, we change by assigning value to those differences. We accept those who are like us, and mock and shun those who are different.

You know the pain that comes from being different, don’t you?

So, why do little children blithely ignore differences in race, wealth, or appearance, while those older use differences as a weapon?

Well, think about it: little children feel loved just because they are there. They have no notion that you earn acceptance. Once you believe you must make yourself worthy of being loved, it means you must grub around for other people to be superior to.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see where this leads. If you are poor, or a racial minority, or have physical blemishes, you are going to get hurt.

Have you heard of the “Quasimodo Complex”? In the British Journal of Plastic Surgery, two physicians made a disturbing discovery. They found that 20.2 percent of the adult population had facial deformities (protruding ears, bent noses, acne scars – that sort of thing). Then they examined 11,000 prison inmates who were doing time for serious crimes. They found that 60 percent of these criminals had these minor facial deformities!

What do you make of this? It’s obvious, isn’t it, that the cruelty and rejection necessary to find others “inferior” is profoundly destructive to them.

When Jesus’ disciples got into arguments over who was greater (as they often did), Jesus loved to grab the closest little kid to plop in front of his disciples. Jesus used them as visual aids to show his disciples that you don’t need to be superior to anyone else. God’s care for you cannot be earned. We must learn to be like a little child, and simply accept God’s love without the slightest notion we are worthy of it.

Do you find yourself preoccupied with complaining about other people and their faults? I’m not saying there aren’t times to criticize, but if you find that it is coupled with a feeling of superiority to them, take it as a warning sign that you probably still feel a need to earn your sense of worth. Don’t fall into this trap. You can’t raise yourself up by putting others down.

There’s a better way. Go to a playground and watch the little kids. Ask yourself what those little beaners had to accomplish before their parents would love them. When you find the answer, you will know how your heavenly Father loves you.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/54/c6/c3/54c6c37d7d5fb585614834a2a49447ed.jpg)

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