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Archive for December, 2015


Story of the Day for Tuesday December 15, 2015

Include the Humble Folk

Be of the same mind toward each other. Don’t be arrogant in your thinking, but make accommodation for the humble folk.

Romans 12:16

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Imagine a committee of ten members. Everyone has a degree in political science – except one man, who is a vacuum cleaner repairman. A political think tank wants to fly the committee to Washington immediately to help solve an urgent problem. The plane, however, can only seat nine passengers. One member of the committee must stay back. Who do you choose to leave behind?

The vacuum cleaner repairman, right?

Well no. Actually, the vacuum cleaner repairman should be considered the one indispensable member of the committee.

The notion that the repairman is vital to the group comes from the Bible. Well, maybe not that specifically, but that’s where the principle first arose.

Researchers are confirming what we have long suspected: “stupid” people make a group smarter.

Have you ever been in a meeting when some lowly novice makes a comment so outlandish that the room erupts in laughter? And then someone says, “Hey, wait a minute – I think he might have a point here.”

When groups of experts get together, they support each other’s views. Their respect for each other’s expertise actually makes them more stupid.

Scott E. Page, a professor at the University of Michigan, posed problems for groups to solve. Some groups were all experts. Other groups included experts and not-so-smart members. Now, get this: the mixed group with the lower average intelligence was always better at solving problems than the group consisting solely of experts.

Cool. So, what’s the point?

Groups tend to exclude (or at least, look down on) the person who isn’t on the same wavelength as everyone else. The world thinks the quality of the group will improve when they get rid of the “misfits.”

The Bible says we must take pains to include the “humble folk.” Paul is talking about us as Christians, and about the need to work as a group – to share a common attitude and mindset. But he makes the observation that wouldn’t be “discovered” for a couple thousand years. Paul warns us against haughtiness. We must renounce an attitude of superiority and show special attention to the “humble folk.”

Why? Because all people are important. And, besides, without them, we’d be pretty stupid.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) (image:http://images.sodahead.com/polls/003729765/5615234073_humble_kneeling_prayer_answer_2_xlarge.jpeg)

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Story of the Day for Monday December 14, 2015

No Bellybutton?

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Don’t conform to this age, but be transformed in the renewal of your mindset.

Romans 12:2

What if you didn’t have a bellybutton? You’d feel pretty stupid, right? It’s not as if our navel serves any vital purpose, but we still want one so we will be like everyone else.

Yeah, yeah – I realize some of you still insist you’re nonconformists, and don’t care if you have a bellybutton – or what anyone thinks about it.

Okay, then, let’s imagine you have three eyes: one in the middle of your forehead, and one over each ear. This, now, increases your peripheral vision. Yet, even with your physical advantage over others, you would still rather have two eyes . . . simply because everyone else does.

The fact is, we all have a deep desire to fit in with others. This desire to conform is not a sin – far from it, it’s the way God has wired us. We are created to live in community. We need to conform to certain values and behaviors in order to exist as a society.

All that said, conformity sometimes gets us into trouble. It’s one thing to want a bellybutton or to wear clothes like other people wear. But, many times we do harmful things simply because “everyone else is doing it.”

Three years ago, our family drove to the Midwest. We hit road construction in western North Dakota. Two construction crew trucks with flashing yellow lights, occupied both lanes, and slowly led us down the freeway.

Some drivers, however, kept weaving from one lane to the other to pass. They would find the smallest opening and squeeze ahead of the car in front of them – even though everyone had to follow the construction vehicles.

When we came to the town of Ray, the construction ended and the two pace trucks pulled off into a parking lot. Surprisingly, the cars that had spent the last half hour weaving to the front followed the pace trucks. They followed each other, and filled the parking lot so no one could move. Now, apparently, they would have to wait until the mile-long line of cars passed before they could even back up.

We shouldn’t find pleasure at the misfortune of others. But as I sped down the freeway east of Ray, I laughed so hard I could hardly see to drive.

When we’re immersed in a culture, it’s extremely difficult to recognize how our behavior mimics those around us – just as a fish may have a difficult time recognizing that it’s wet.

The Lord doesn’t want us to conform to behavior that doesn’t lead us closer to him. Instead, he tells us to be transformed by his way of seeing life.

To refuse to conform to a non-Christian culture, and to be transformed by God’s ways is fairly easy to explain. But it takes a lifetime to learn.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/11/15/article-2233297-0C14A755000005DC-14_634x420.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Tuesday December 8, 2015

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 hug 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. . . “

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image: http://www.syossetgospelchurch.com/web_images/pie.bmp)

 

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Story of the Day for Monday December 7, 2015

We Shall Stand Victorious

Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.

Psalm 31:24

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http://www.kcbi.org/share-hope/

Scientists performed an experiment where they placed a rat in a tub of water. In about an hour the rat would drown. Then the scientists would place another rat in a tub of water, but would pluck it up out of the water every few minutes. The researchers found that the rats who were periodically picked up out of the water would swim in the water for over 24 hours.

What made the difference? No, it was not the rest that the second group of rats received from being picked up. The difference was that the first group of rats were given no hope of rescue while the second group had the hope that they would be eventually rescued.

Hope is an act of faith. When the future looks bleak, hope acts in the conviction that we will still find what we long for. We will act as if our longings will take place in the future despite how dismal things may be at present. Those who cling to their hope are far more resistant to the setbacks in life.

During World War II, 25,000 American soldiers were imprisoned by the Japanese. Living under inhumane conditions, it was no surprise that many soldiers died. But, the soldiers themselves noticed a difference between those most likely to die and those who survived. They realized that once a soldier lost all hope of getting out of prison camp alive, he would simply choose to die. The soldiers who survived acted with the confidence that, someday, they would be released. Robin Reader, in his work, Holding On To Hope, says these soldiers, “talked about the kind of homes they would have, the jobs they would choose, and even described the kind of person they would marry. . . Some even found ways to study subjects related to the kind of career they wanted to pursue. The doctors taken captive even formed medical societies.”

Hope provides an astonishing strength to our physical health as well. In 1997 the American Heart Association cited the work of Susan Everson who found that people with a high level of despair were 20 percent more likely to have hardening of the arteries than optimistic people. Everson noted, “This is the same magnitude of increased risk that one sees in comparing a pack-a-day smoker to a non-smoker.”

But just because you hope for something, does that mean your hopes will come true? No. The apostle Paul would often close his letters to various congregations by saying that he hoped to visit them soon in person. There was no guarantee that this would really happen.

But the Bible also speaks of a hope that is not based on our human longings, but on the promise of God. The Bible tells us repeatedly that we can rise up with confidence and courage when our hope is based on God’s word; that, when the dust settles, we shall stand victorious in his mercy.

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

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Story of the Day for Thursday December 3, 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

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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) (image: http://www.ournationalparks.us/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/bigsouthfork4.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Wednesday December 2, 2013

Speaking Clearly Without Saying a Word

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And Joseph got up from his dream and did what the angel of the Lord told him.

Matthew 1:24

When we read the Christmas story and hear about Mary and Joseph, does it come as a surprise to you that, in the Bible, Joseph never speaks a single word?

Why does this seem so odd? Maybe it’s because Joseph “speaks” so powerfully by his life.

After Joseph was engaged to Mary, he discovers she is pregnant. At this time, he doesn’t know what’s going on. But he does know that Mary isn’t pregnant because of him.

In the Old Testament, if a woman is betrothed and another man sleeps with her, both are to be executed. Not only that, but in the culture of the day, Joseph is expected to stand up and defend his innocence by publicly denouncing Mary.

But Joseph didn’t do this. Instead, he planned to divorce her quietly. Engagements could only be legally dissolved by divorce, but he could do so without making a big stink about it.

Do you see what Joseph’s plan meant? Mary, he thought, had been unfaithful to him. As heartbreaking as this was, Joseph didn’t plan to retaliate by harming her. But think about it: if he divorced Mary quietly, who would everyone assume got her pregnant? Joseph! Yet, Joseph was willing to bear the public shame in order to protect Mary. And, not only that, by divorcing her quietly, he also loses the dowry he paid for her.

Joseph had no idea Mary was pregnant because of the Holy Spirit. Only later, in a dream, does the angel of the Lord tell Joseph what is happening and that he must take Mary as his wife. And he does.

In the 19th century, one of the most well-known preachers in America was Charles Spurgeon. On the side, Spurgeon and his wife raised chickens and sold the eggs. Some of Spurgeon’s close friends and relatives expected a discount on the price of his eggs. Spurgeon refused. He insisted that everyone pay the full price.

Needless to say, Spurgeon earned a reputation for being a cheapskate. It wasn’t until after Spurgeon’s wife died that the public learned all of the money the Spurgeons raised from the sale of his eggs went to support two poor widows.

Charles Spurgeon was willing to let gossips attack his character rather than reveal the true motive for his egg prices. Joseph was willing to bear dishonor and humiliation rather than to expose Mary to public disgrace.

Are you willing to do the same?

Joseph’s displayed a higher kind of righteousness; he showed mercy. And, in the years to come, Joseph’s son would proclaim that God longs – not to give us what we deserve, but to show us mercy. And Jesus would invite us to both accept and adopt this higher law.

That is why Joseph speaks so clearly without saying a word.

(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
(image:  http://img0105.psstatic.com/160643747_-made-in-italy-holy-family-nativity-scene-mary-joseph-.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Tuesday December 1, 2015

Rescue From the Bog

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http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manufacturing/text/bog_iron.htm

“The grace of God . . . instructs us. . . to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age.”

Titus 2:11-12

When kids go to summer camp one of their responsibilities is to plot mischief. You just know that someone is going to get a frog in their bed or the guys are going to raid the girl’s cabins and pull some sort of prank.

Let’s try to imagine this: as the kids wave good-bye to their parents and assemble in the cafeteria, the camp director spells out the rules. One of them is that must never leave the fenced camp boundary. “There are quicksand bogs on the adjoining property,” he warns them, “and it’s very dangerous.”

Off limits? Dangerous? For kids, this is an irresistible enticement. So, in the middle of the night a few boys sneak out of their cabin and climb the fence. Sure enough, there is quicksand out there. And they are stuck. Their struggling only mires them deeper. As they sink to their waists they finally cry out for help.

Eventually they see a flashlight bobbing their way and their sleepy-eyed counselor inspecting the damage. With a big sigh he says, “Didn’t we clearly warn you to stay on the camp property?”

“Yes.”

And didn’t we tell you there were quicksand bogs out here?”

“Yes, we’re sorry.” By this time they are up to their chests in the quicksand.

“Well, I want you to know something,” the counselor says, “I forgive you.” And then he wishes them a good night and goes back to bed.

Can I ask you something? Do you think those boys would be satisfied with the response of their counselor? “Dude! Did you hear that? He forgives us! He’s not mad at us for breaking the rules. Awesome!”

This is not how the story ought to end, is it? But don’t you see that this is exactly how some believers view forgiveness? They think, “I like to sin, and God likes to forgive me and say it’s okay.”

When God forgives us it means that our sins have been taken care of. He’s not holding them against us. But (and here is the point, so listen up) God’s forgiveness means that he also wants to pull us out of the quicksand.

And isn’t that what we want? God’s forgiveness is not a free pass to jump the fence. But when we do jump the fence and get stuck in the bog, know this: Jesus not only will come to tell you he forgives you; he will also reach out his hand because he wants to rescue you from the bog.

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

 

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