Archive for January, 2016

Story of the Day for Friday January 29, 2016

A Joy Greater than Fear

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 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.

    Despite 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 2016 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) (image: http://aa.com.tr/uploads/Contents/2015/08/18/thumbs_b_c_264c8bfeecb6276dde2c13ca7adc6823.jpg)


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Story of the Day for Thursday January 28, 2016

What Will Be

Enlarge your tent, widen your tent curtains. Don’t hold back; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.

Isaiah 54:2

    Art Linkletter’s friend once took him for a drive through barren land in southern California. A few horses, some orange groves, and run-down shacks.

    Linkletter’s friend said he was going to build a theme park, but didn’t have the money to invest in the land around it. He wanted his friend, Art, to get in on it.  The nearly worthless land, his friend claimed, would become a city. It wouldn’t merely double or triple in price, but land values would increase more than a hundredfold.

    https://i1.wp.com/thesimpleparent.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Visting-the-Walt-Disney-Family-Museum-Disneyland.jpgArt was dubious. Who in the world is going to drive out in the middle of nowhere to attend an entertainment park?

    His friend was persistent. He urged Art to buy the big hotel he planned to build next to his theme park. Linkletter balked.

    A few years later, Art Linkletter served as the emcee for the opening day of his friend, Walt Disney’s theme park, Disneyland. In the years to follow, Linkletter would walk around Disneyland and sigh, “And there’s another million I missed out on.”

    Walt Disney wanted Linkletter to act, not on what he saw, but on what would be in the future.  Not an easy thing to do.

    We often say, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” But God often asks us to believe it so that we may see it.  When Isaiah was prophet, God’s people were experiencing tough times. They had been invaded by the Assyrians. The Babylonians were coming next. Yet, in the midst of their hopelessness, God tells them to enlarge their tents and pound their stakes in deeper, because the Lord was going to bring abundance to those who trusted in him.

    Jesus convinced Peter to let down his nets one more time, even though fishing had proved fruitless.  God convinced Abraham to found a land for his descendants, even though his wife was barren. He invites all of us who suffer shame for his name to rejoice and leap for joy. Not because of what is, but because of what will be.

    Dignitaries from around the world gathered on September 5, 1883, for the cornerstone laying of the new state capitol building in Bismarck, North Dakota.

    The feature that stunned the Europeans present was the location.  “It was not in the city,” wrote Britain’s Lord James Bryce. “Nor even on the skirts of the city. It was nearly a mile off, on the top of a hill in the brown and dusty prairie.”

    “Why here?” we asked. “Is it because you mean to include the building in a public park?”

    “By no means,” was the response. “The capitol is intended to be in the center of the city. It is in this direction that the city is to grow.”

    Afterward, Bryce observed, “They see the country — not merely as it is, but as it will be.”

(copyright 2016 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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Story of the Day for Tuesday January 26, 2016

Offer a Hand

We all make mistakes in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he’s a perfect man.

James 3:2

My sister handed me a glossy brochure she had recently received in the mail from a local bar and restaurant. Without commenting on it, she asked me to read it.

“Oops, they goofed up,” I noted. “We grind and cut are meat daily.” It should say, “our meat.”

“And their New York Strips are spelled STIRPS.”

“Oh, and look at this,” I grinned. “It says, WHILE SURPLIES LAST.”

I read through the entire brochure and pointed out more mistakes. “Too bad they didn’t take more time to do some simple spell checking.”

My sister said, “Did you read the last line?”

The fine print on the bottom said, “NOT RESPOSIBLE FOR TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS.”

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/88/af/4f/88af4f0d394bdd65c41be55e49ac575d.jpgThose stinkers! They put the errors in on purpose in order to get us to read their entire brochure. They knew people delighted in finding errors so they used it to their advantage.

What is it about us that we focus so much on other people’s faults?

You can probably guess where this discussion is headed. I point out how quick we are to find fault with others, and then I scowl, and conclude we need to stop it.

But I don’t think it’s that simple. We are adept at seeing faults and mistakes, and I don’t see that as a problem. Could we survive without doing it?

When you board a flight, do you want the mechanic inspecting the plane to focus only on what is good about the jet engine? Or do you want him to have an eagle eye to detect the slightest stress fracture?

When we drive in slippery road conditions, we don’t focus on the many times we have turned a corner without problems. We focus on that one time we failed to slow down enough and slid into the ditch.

If we lack the capacity for spotting even the slightest errors, in ourselves or others, I don’t believe our stay on this earth will be a lengthy one.

I don’t think we can help detecting faults in others. But judging others for their faults while we are tone deaf to our own is a constant spiritual hazard.

During the Civil War, Confederate general, Braxton Bragg tended to find fault with everyone. Once, he served as both quartermaster and company commander. As quartermaster, he would send a requisition for supplies. But when he received the request as company commander, he refused to grant the requisition. The post commandant took a look at the correspondence and threw up his hands. “My God, Mr. Bragg, you have quarreled with every officer in the army, and now you are quarreling with yourself!”

Theirs nothing wrong with noticing when others stumble. We reflect the the grace of God, however, when, instead of scoffing, we offer a hand to help them up.

(copyright 2016 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
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Story of the Day for Monday January 25, 2016

My Shiny Armored Man

And Jesus said, “How long am I going to put up with you?”

Mark 9:19

  https://i1.wp.com/www.shrink4men.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/knight-in-shining-armor.jpg  My wife is the sweetest thing on earth, and I love her dearly.  And that is why it pains me to publicly expose one of her shortcomings. But the truth of the matter is that my wife invariably bungles clichés.

    She says things like, “We’ve got to make sure we’ve got all our Ps and Qs in a row.”  She told a friend, “Here’s my opinion, and you can take it for what you’re worth.”

    Darla means well, and she’s definitely not dull-witted. She teaches English and serves as Academic Director for a private school. But no matter how hard she tries, her clichés have an exotic oddness about them.

    “We’ve got to make hay while the rain shines,” she will say. Or, “He who hesitates, loses.”

    In 1978, a British family was on vacation in Bordeaux, France. Their car had broken down, but being a foreign vehicle, they could find no spare parts in the area.

    They were desperate. They spoke no French. They had no way to get to Boulogne for their boat ride home, and the father needed to be back at work in Sheffield the next morning.

    That was when they were blessed to meet a fellow Brit, Mr. Hugh Pike. Not only did he have a working knowledge of French, he assured them, but he also had a vehicle and offered to give them a ride.

    Pike raced to Paris to the Gare du Nord, ran to the ticket desk with seconds to spare, asked an attendant for the train to Boulogne, led the family to platform six, and got the family from Sheffield on the train — just as it was pulling out.

    The stranded family’s eyes were filled with tears as they thanked him profusely while waving good-bye.

    As Mr. Pike was walking back down the platform, however, he realized he had mistakenly put them on the train to Bologna, Italy.

    Jesus’ disciples meant well, but they were continually goofing up. They wanted Jesus to stay in a village when it was time to go. They wanted to build permanent shelters on the mountain when Jesus wanted to go back down where the people were. They wanted to get the children out of the way when Jesus wanted to meet with them and give them hugs.

    The Lord once sighed and said, “How long am I going to put up with you?” Thankfully, we know the answer; he will put up with us as long as he needs to. Through all our flubs and failures, Jesus will never give up on us.

    Despite my wife’s inability to correctly articulate a cliché, I think I’m going to overlook her shortcoming and keep her anyway. I think she feels the same way about me. As she once told a friend about me, “He’s my shiny armored man.”

copyright 2016 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre 
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Story of the Day for Tuesday January 19, 2016

What’s Going to Happen Next?

If serving the Lord isn’t desirable to you, then choose right now whom you will serve . . .

Joshua 24:15

https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/sites/default/files/legacy/Health/donatelife/images/donate.jpgResearchers Daniel Goldstein and Eric J. Johnson noticed that several European countries had nearly 100 percent of its citizens voluntarily participating in an organ donor program. Other countries had very few signed up to donate their organs.

Why would some countries have such a high percentage of organ donors while other countries had so few? What do you think?

Most people would conclude that the disparity between the percentage of organ donors is due to culture. If most citizens of a country felt that organ donation was unnatural or banned by one’s religion, that would explain the difference.

But that’s not the reason. Countries sharing similar cultures show a marked contrast. For example, in Sweden 86% signed up for the organ donor program; in Denmark next door, only 4% have done the same. Germany has only 12%, while Austria has almost 100% participation. The Netherlands (after writing to every household in the nation pleading with them to join the organ donor program) has 28%. Belgium, which borders the Netherlands, has 98% of its citizens signed up in an organ donor program.

The stark contrast by nation in organ donor participation can be explained by the Department of Motor Vehicles. When citizens from Denmark, Germany, or the Netherlands renew their drivers licenses, they are asked to check a box if they want to become an organ donor. In Sweden, Austria, and Belgium, drivers are asked to check a box if they DON’T want to become an organ donor.

Both groups tend not to check the box.

The more important an issue becomes, the more we become reluctant to make a decision.

We don’t make decisions to believe. We either believe in the Easter Bunny or we don’t. We either believe or don’t believe that grass grows or that God exists.

But once we believe anything, we must daily make decisions based on what we believe to be true — whether it’s hiding our own Easter eggs, mowing the lawn, or praying.

When God’s people were returning to the Promised Land, Joshua gathered the people at Shechem, and he told them the story of what God had done for them. Joshua reminded them of how the Lord led their forefathers, how God worked with power to liberate them from their slavery in Egypt.

After Joshua convinced the people of the steadfast care of the God of Israel, he called for them to decide: “Choose this day whom you will serve.”

Faith comes first; then decision. You must first believe that diet contributes to good health before you decide to cut down on the lardburgers and fries.

Once you believe in the beauty of the life that Jesus lays before you, you must decide what’s going to happen next.

(text copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
image: (https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/sites/default/files/legacy/Health/donatelife/images/donate.jpg)

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Story of the Day for Wednesday January 13, 2016

Not a One-Size-Fits-All Sort of Deal



One person judges a day more special than others; another person considers each day no different than the other. Each one should be convinced in his own mind.

Romans 14:5

I have a message that will be fascinating to some of you, and meaningless to others, but I need your help.

Pick a number between 1 and 10, (and don’t tell me what it is.)

Multiply your number by 9.

If your new number has two digits, add the two digits together.

Take your new number and subtract 5.

Now, we want your number to correspond to a letter of the alphabet. So, A = 1, B = 2, C= 3, and so on. Convert your number into a letter.

Think of a country in Europe that begins with your letter.

Whatever your letter is, select the next letter in the alphabet, and think of an animal, let’s say, from Africa.

As we attempt to live out our faith, one of the biggest temptations we face is thinking that everyone should be like we are.

Have you ever heard the story of the two pack mules? The first mule carried a heavy load of salt. In the heat of the day, he decided to cool off, and waded into a pond. All the salt dissolved, and he walked up on shore with a greatly lightened load.

Excitedly he told another mule about it. “You’ve got to wade into this pool. You walk in with your heavy load, and when you come out, the weight is gone!”

The other mule replied, “But why should I wade into the pool to lighten my load? My load isn’t heavy to begin with.”

The first pack mule, however, urged the second one to try it. The mule waded into the pool . . . and drowned. He was carrying a load of sponges.

Christian living is not a one-size-fits-all sort of deal.

The truths of God on things like prayer and worship do not change. They’re just true. But each one of us can express our faith in strikingly different ways. The notion that what’s good for me may not be good for you, grates against my religious sensibilities. But the fact remains that the Lord leads people in different ways.

Some believers in the early church thought the “brethren” who ate meat were compromisers. Didn’t they know that meat is dedicated to pagan gods? Not to be outdone, the meat-eaters scoffed at the vegetarians for not seeing the higher truth that all food belongs to the true God.

God leads us in different ways. If you’re still finding this notion hard to accept, sit down with the 14th chapter of Romans, and wrestle with it for a while.

Oh, and before I forget, the message that is meaningful to some of you and not to others is this: “There are no elephants in Denmark.”

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

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Story of the Day for Tuesday January 12, 2016

The Shibboleth Test

The men of Gilead would ask, “Are you from Ephraim?” If he replied, “No,” they responded, “All right, then, say ‘Shibboleth’.”

Judges 12:5-6



In the 1930s, F. C. Brown found an English translation of traffic instructions in a Japanese police station. Among other things, it warned:

“When a passenger of the foot hove in view, tootle the horn; trumpet at him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage tootle him with vigor.”

“Beware of the wandering hourse that he shall not take fright as you pass him by. Do not explode the exhause box at him.”

“Go soothingly on the grease road as there lurks the skid demon.”

These traffic instructions have an eloquent charm about them, but we immediately recognize it as the work of someone who learned English as a second language.

We can spot foreigners by how they speak, but also by how they think and act. When U.S. pilots were shot down in France during World War II, German soldiers were trained to spot them by looking for men who whistled and walked with their hands in their pockets. Americans didn’t see that these traits made them stand out as foreigners.

The Onion is billed as “America’s Finest News Source,” and appears to be a legitimate on-line news agency. But as soon as you scan their news stories you realize they’re all spoofs.

In May of 2002, the Onion ran a story about Congress threatening to move out of Washington D.C. unless they got a new capitol. Instead of a “drafty old building” they proposed a new building with a retractable dome and were prepared to move to Memphis or Charlotte, North Carolina, unless their demands were met.

China’s Beijing Evening News, which reaches an audience of a million people, picked up the story and reported it as serious news.

In the Bible, the tribe of Ephraim got into a squabble with Jephthah and the men of Gilead. As Ephraimites crossed the ford of the Jordan River, they were approached by men from Gilead. How could the men of Gilead know whether they were enemy soldiers? They had a simple test: “Say ‘Shibboleth’.” The Ephraimites couldn’t pronounce the first syllable like a native, and would say “sibboleth.”

Jesus warned that the flock of believers would be infiltrated by wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. Since then, there has been no end of hucksters and false teachers posing as true Christians.

How do you tell the difference? Look for the foreign accent: the sappy, phony grin, the self-serving prophecies, behavior that doesn’t reflect a message drenched with grace.

We shouldn’t be surprised if outsiders to the faith can’t distinguish sincere believers from counterfeits. They lump us all in the same pile. We’re all foreigners to them.

But we shouldn’t make the same mistake. The Good News is our “Shibboleth Test.”

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

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Story of the Day for Thursday Janurary 7, 2015

Great Fires and Small Flames



Look how great a forest is set on fire by a small flame.

James 3:5

Boston has named its major league baseball team after a certain color of stocking, but that wasn’t always the case. Back in the 19th century, Boston’s baseball team used to have a silly name. They were called the Boston Beaneaters.

The Beaneaters had, arguably, the best stadium in baseball. The South End Grounds included the Grand Pavilion, a two-story grandstand, which featured ornate spires and turrets.

On May 15, 1894, the Baltimore Orioles were playing the Beaneaters in the South End Grounds in Boston. In the third inning, a man lit a cigarette in the right field stands and the match fell below the bleachers, starting a small fire.

But, at that very moment, a fierce fight broke out between Boston’s Tommy Tucker and Baltimore’s John McGraw. Soon both teams emptied their dugouts and ran onto the field. The fans were riveted on the brawl. Spectators began throwing food and beer bottles onto the field. Fights erupted in the stands.

All this while, the fire grew and spread. Soon the bleachers were engulfed in flames. The fire not only destroyed the ballpark, but spread through the city. Before the fire was brought under control, 170 buildings were destroyed and hundreds were left homeless.

When a brawl erupts during a baseball game, a little flame doesn’t captivate our attention. But, after it becomes a devastating fire, and hundreds have lost their homes and all their belongings, a fight at a ballgame doesn’t seem all that important.

The apostle James warns us about the dangers of little things. Great fires are started by small flames. And bitter feuds – even wars – can be started by minor slights or insults. Yet, we’re often unconcerned about the minor rifts we create because, like a small flame, it’s so minor.

But little things, when ignored, become big things. The longest peacetime border in the world lays between the United States and Canada, but that peace was threatened by the death of a pig.

On June 15, 1859, Lyman Cutler shot a neighbor’s pig that got into his garden. His now pigless neighbor threatened to defend his case in British Columbia, but Cutler refused, claiming the island on which they resided was American territory.

Tensions grew as sixty U.S. soldiers, led by Captain George Pickett (who would later lead the ill-fated charge at Gettysburg) claimed the island as U.S. territory. The Canadians brought an equal number of soldiers – claiming the island for Canada.

“The Pig War of 1859,” as it is called, involved a military standoff that lasted twelve years. It was finally settled without loss of life . . . except for one pig.

Extinguishing a flame early is a lot less costly than trying to put out a raging forest fire.

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

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Story of the Day for Tuesday January 5, 2015

What’s New?


Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away.

Revelation 21:1

Ever notice how we have a compulsion to point out the first robin of the year?

Why is that?

An armchair psychologist might suggest that the reason we get excited about seeing the first robin or crocus is that we have an unconscious urge for summer to come so we can mow our lawn at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning to avenge our neighbor for blowing his snow into our driveway.

Psychologists come up with cool explanations for things.

Yet, while we may be excited about spring because we’re looking forward to summer, that doesn’t fully answer our robin question. Yes, kids get “spring fever” and can’t wait for summer vacation. But they’re also excited about the first day of school, and buying new pencils and clothes.

If you think about it, we get excited about new things – even if they’re things we dread. Parents can’t wait to wake their kids up to see the first snowfall of the season – even if they hate winter. We point out the first dandelion we see in the yard – even if we moan about all the dandelions in the yard by the end of June.

But imagine it’s mid-summer and you’re driving a car full of people – with me in the back seat. Suddenly I shout, “Whoa! Stop! Did you see that?”

Everyone immediately stares out the window, as if they might get their first glimpse of a brontosaurus, or something.

“Over there! Do you see that maple tree out there in the field?”

Everyone says, “Yes?” (still hoping there might be a brontosaurus behind it.)

“Can’t you see it? That maple tree has leaves on it!”

Now, I always point out the first leaves of the year, but if I still got ecstatic about seeing leaves on a tree in mid-July, I would have to roam the hallways of nursing homes and hand out free denture cream in order to find a friend.

Robins and leaves are always lovely, but by summer they’re no longer news. “News” is exciting because it is new.

A pastor once told me to imagine a sparrow flying to a granite mountain once a year to sharpen its beak. The time it takes the sparrow to wear down the mountain . . .that’s how long eternity is.

He might be right, but thinking of heaven in terms of duration unnerves me. I think of the Riverside Baptist choir standing on a cloud and singing “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” for the nineteen billionth time . . . and the sparrow can’t get them to shut up!

When God showed John a revelation of heaven, he didn’t show him something that was long, he showed him something that was new.

Heaven, I believe, will always be new.

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