Led to the Truth

Story of the Day for Tuesday May 31, 2011

Led to the Truth

 

                   Jesus said, “Come, follow me.”  And they left their nets and followed him. 

                                                                         Matthew 4:20

 

Secretary of State, William Seward, negotiated with Russian officials. At four in the morning in March of 1867, he hammered out a treaty.  Russia agreed to sell some of their territory for about 2 pennies an acre.

Many critics were furious.  Horace Greeley, the famous journalist of the day, called the agreement “a dark deed done in the night.”  Soon the purchase was popularly dubbed “Seward’s Folly.”

Seward had just negotiated the purchase of over a half million square miles called Alaska.  The timber had no value – there were abundant forests much closer.  There were few profitable resources in fish and fur.  But Seward had the foresight to see the importance of Alaska from a diplomatic standpoint.  Relations between Russia and Great Britain were tense.  Seward bought Alaska, in part,  to ease international relations.

But here is the point: while Seward had good reasons to buy Alaska, he was totally ignorant of the best reasons: the gold and oil.  Today, Alaska has more natural resources than any other state in the Union, but Seward didn’t know that at the time.

 

When Peter and Andrew left their fishing trade to follow Jesus, they had no idea that his purpose was to be tortured to death as the sacrifice for our sins, and then rise from the dead, so we might have eternal life.   They had been following Jesus for quite some time before Jesus ever explained his true mission, and when he did, the disciples were either confused or upset!  Peter was shocked.  “This shall never happen to you, Lord!”

Wait a minute – if the disciples did not understand that Jesus would die and rise for our salvation until after the resurrection, then why did they follow him?

The disciples did not drop their fishing nets and follow a man they had never seen.  People so crowded the shore to hear this man that Jesus had to commandeer Peter’s boat and push off from shore to teach the multitudes.  Before Peter and the other disciples left everything to follow Jesus, they had already seen his compassion for the sick.  They had already witnessed his mercy to sinners.

 

Just as Seward made a sound decision, but ended up getting far more than he could imagine, so the disciples followed Jesus because he was changing their lives, but found out later that he would save their souls.

God doesn’t dump the whole truckload of Truth on us the minute we believe.

Jesus did not immediately reveal the whole truth of the Gospel to his own disciples.  Gradually and patiently, he led them to that truth.  If you feel guilty because you don’t immediately blurt out the plan of salvation when you first meet a new face, maybe your feelings of guilt are not coming from God.   Maybe, like Jesus, we can begin by demonstrating the compassion and mercy of the kingdom life. . . so that they may long for, and find, its source.

                                                                (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarr)

“Quasimodo Complex”

Story of the Day for Monday May 30, 2011

 

“Quasimodo Complex”

 

                  “. . . 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 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The One We Want to be Like

Story of the Day for Saturday May 28, 2011

Climbinghigher.org apologizes for the absence of the stories for the day for the last two days…we were in the midst of an outdoor education adventure retreat with 6th graders and their adult chaperons.  We neglected to organize the posting beforehand and so it didn’t get done.  Sorry again for their absence.  Enjoy today’s story!

The One We Want to be Like

 

                Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. 

                                                                 Ephesians 5:1

 

Michael Hodgin writes of a missionary served in West Africa where his two young kids grew up.  When it came time for them to return home, their mother did not want them to look conspicuous, so she ordered “western” clothing for them to wear.

The first leg of their flight home took them to Paris.  As the family walked along, the parents realized that everyone was staring at them.  When they turned around they discovered why.  Their children were carrying their suitcases on their heads.

What could be more natural?  Children learn by imitation.  That is why play is so vital for them.  By pretending to be a fireman or a mom they are learning to grow up.

 

This principle, however, is not only true for children, but adults as well. We become what we pretend to be. If that’s a hard concept to swallow, ask a professional actor.

In the 1930s, Lee Strasberg recruited 30 actors and formed an acting school.  Actors were taught how to “pretend” they were in different emotional states.  That is what actors do.  But Strasberg was so good, that a co-founder of the acting school, Stella Adler said about Lee, “He would push people into spaces that they should not go without a licensed therapist present.”  Strasberg himself would often tell his actors that they should get therapy.

Why?  When good actors play a character who is, say, psychologically disturbed, it   can cause actual psychological problems for them.

 

There is a simpler way to convince skeptics that even adults become what they pretend to be.  A team of German researchers had a group look at a cartoon and say how funny it was.  Half had to hold a pen between their lips, which forced them to frown.  The other half were told to hold a pen between their teeth, which forced them to smile.  Guess which group said the cartoon was funnier?  (If you have no idea, try the experiment yourself on your friends.)

 

All of us are “pretending” to be like the person we want to become.  The crucial question is: who do you want to be?

Our heavenly Father thinks we should imitate him. That almost sounds blasphemous, doesn’t it?  But he obviously doesn’t mean we should imitate His attributes of being all-powerful or the omnipresent.

The Bible is clear: “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children.”  How do we do that?  Simple – we read the next verse, “and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as an offering and sacrifice to God.”

We are God’s children.  And like children, we are to imitate our heavenly Father, by choosing him as the One we want to be like.   And He is Love.

                                    (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Walk on Water and Doubt

Story of the Day for Wednesday May 25, 2011

Walk on Water and Doubt 

                    Live such good lives among the pagans that. . . they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.  

                                                                                  1 Peter 2:12

Paul Mason is writing a book on losing weight.  He has lost some pounds of late and is eager to share his insights with others.  Yet, what makes us admire his chutzpah is that, at 686 pounds, Paul Mason is still considered the heaviest man in the world. He grew so enormous that, to get him to a hospital, firemen had to knock down a wall of his house and lift him out with a forklift.

We wish him well – both on his book and his diet.  (One witty journalist thinks his book will be a “vest-sweller”). But you do have to wonder, don’t you — who would buy a diet book from the fattest man on earth?

The apostle Peter talks about our lives being a creditable reflection of our faith.  He believes that our behavior serves as a witness to unbelievers and helps lead them to the God of grace.

So, do you wince when annoying busybodies like me talk about being a witness for Christ?  More often than not, this topic dredges up painful memories.  We recall some of our spectacular failures to live a Christ-like life, and know, sometimes, we’re not a good witness at all.

If you’re feeling pretty cruddy about how you’ve behaved lately, maybe you need to remember Peter.  He pledged his loyalty to his Lord and declared he was willing to die rather than disown Jesus. Hours later, he vehemently denied any knowledge or allegiance to Jesus.  Not once, but three times.

Peter knows what it is like to fail the Lord.  And, unlike your failures or mine, Peter’s sin got stuck in the Bible for the whole world to see.

Are you embarrassed because you have fallen flat on your face?  Well, this is not the time to talk about being a witness.   We first must go to the one who covers our shame.  Jesus didn’t come into the world to pat good people on the head; he came as a doctor to care for our spiritual sickness.  Only Jesus’ forgiveness can get us back on our feet again.

Look at Peter’s life.  He tried to walk on water and doubted.  Jesus grabs his hand and lifts him up.  Peter gave the misguided advice that Jesus would never need to suffer and die.  Jesus called him Satan. But he kept him as his disciple.  And, around a campfire on the shore of Galilee, the risen Lord confronted Peter after his denial, and restored him to a place of leadership.

We are not fooling unbelievers when we try to deny our failures and hypocrisy.  Our witness to the world will sometimes be the wonder of Christ’s mercy when we fail.

But the real goal is still that the world would observe us rising from the ashes and — even though fuzzy at the edges — they would see a reflection of the goodness of our Lord. It’s never too late to be a positive witness for Christ.  Just ask Peter.
                                                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

A Misuse of the Imagination

Story of the Day for Tuesday May 24, 2011

A  Misuse of the Imagination

         “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow can worry about itself.  Each day has enough troubles of its own.” 

                                                                                   Matthew 6:34

Michael Hodgin tells the story about a woman who was so worried she had an incurable liver condition that she went to see her doctor about it.

The doctor assured her she was okay. “You wouldn’t know if you had this condition,” he explained, “because it causes no discomfort of any kind.”

The woman gasped. “Those are my symptoms exactly!”

There’s a road sign outside my hometown which says, “WORRY IS A MISUSE OF THE IMAGINATION.” We can imagine positive things we can accomplish in the world, or we can imagine all kinds of horrible tragedies that might rain down upon us.

Are you are in the habit of imagining all the things that could possibly go wrong in the future?  If your list of possible nightmares ever reaches an end, it only signifies a lack of creativity of your part – there’s no end to the list of bad things that could conceivably happen to us.

When you find yourself knotted up with anxiety about the future, I think there are some things you need to know. The first is that Jesus doesn’t tell you not to worry because he won’t let bad things happen to you. Bad things will happen to you.

Jesus wants you to know that he’s walking with you through those times, and he’ll give you everything you need. But the things you need can only be found by faith. Worry is a thief. It robs you of the security which is only found in trust.

Worry is a spectacular waste of time. It’s like a rocking chair: there’s a lot of movement, but we don’t go anywhere. Jesus put it this way, “Who of you by worrying can add a single cubit to his height?”

Don’t waste your days imagining what might happen tomorrow. God never lets us live a “tomorrow”; we only get to live “today.”

Sir Wilfred Grenfell is honored with a feast day in the Episcopal Church (October 9) because of his compassionate missionary work among the poor in Labrador, Canada.

In April, 1908, he was rushing on his dogsled to perform surgery for a boy.  Taking a shortcut over an ocean bay, he broke through the ice.  He managed to crawl onto an ice flow, which was heading toward open waters.  Alone along a desolate shoreline, he faced the concerns of the present moment – drying his soaking clothing, unraveling rope to make insulation for his boots, and making a signal flag.

Three days later, he was rescued. His observation captured the wisdom of Jesus’ teaching, “There was nothing to fear. I had done all I could; the rest lay in God’s hands.”

                                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Because of Who He Is

Story of the Day for Monday May 22, 2011


Because of Who He Is

                    No one would hardly give their life for a righteous man, although, for a good man someone might possibly dare to die for them.   But God demonstrates his love for us by this: while we were still sinners, Christ gave his life for us. 

                                                                                Romans 5:7-8

When I was a student at a teacher’s college, I worked as the editor of a small newspaper.  My office was deep in the bowels of the administration building and the basement doors were heavy – as if built to repel an army of invading Cossacks.

Terry (as I’ll call him) had just passed through when he noticed me going toward the door with my arms filled with a load of books and papers.  He outraced me to the door so he could open it for me.

Terry was like that: he responded with remarkable quickness to the needs of others.  I didn’t know it until later, but Terry would volunteer his time each week and go into the inter-city of Chicago to be a Big Brother to kids who had no dad.

One stormy evening I waited on the third floor of the admin building.  We had a student meeting and I was waiting for Terry because I wanted to talk with him.

No Terry.

Later that evening, the Dean of Students walked into the room.  He was visibly shaken and he spoke slowly.  The storm that afternoon, he told us, was so fierce that  twenty foot waves from Lake Michigan hammered the shore, and were even spraying water on the freeway, Lake Shore Drive.

Terry was in the city with his “kids,” who were fascinated by the storm, so Terry decided to walk down to the lake to get a closer look.

Near the shore, they watched a man walk out on a pier.  But a fierce wave rolled in and swept him into the lake.  Warning the boys to stay put he raced onto the pier and took off his coat and held it out – hoping the man could grasp it.

He never got the chance. Another wave crashed over the pier and washed Terry into the waters, while the two boys watched their Big Brother sink beneath the waves and disappear.

As the Dean told us about Terry, we cried, but no one was surprised.  We all knew it was just like Terry to do something like that.

I am White.  Terry was Black. The stranger he tried to save was Hispanic.  Terry never took the time to assess a person’s worth before offering his assistance.  He cared for people because of who he was – not because of who they were.

When God demonstrated his love for us; when Jesus gave his life up for us, he did not first calculate the caliber of our goodness. He died for us – not because of who we are, but because of who he is.

                                                   (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Turned into Excellence and Joy

Story of the Day for Saturday May 21, 2011

Turned into Excellence and Joy

                  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart – as if you are doing it for the Lord and not for men.

                                                                                           Colossians 3:23

During World War I, Albert Schweitzer and his wife were interned at Garaison.

Shortly after they arrived, a handful of prisoners were brought in from another camp.  They grumbled at the poor food preparation.

The prison cooks, however, were professionals from the first-class hotels and restaurants in Paris.

The complaining about the poor food came to the attention of the Governor.  He asked the grumblers which of them were cooks.  None were.  The leader was a shoemaker, and the others were tailors, hatmakers, basketweavers, and brushmakers.  They told the Governor that they served as cooks in their previous camp and knew how to prepare food in large quantities.

The Governor put them in charge of the kitchen for two weeks.  If they could prepare better food than the Parisian chefs, then they would keep their job.  If not, they would be placed under lock and key as disturbers of the peace.

Their first meal consisted only of potatoes and cabbages, but everyone declared the meal delicious.  The prisoners proclaimed every succeeding meal a triumph.

The Governor installed them as the new cooks.

Dr. Schweitzer asked the shoemaker the secret of his success.  He replied: “One must know all sorts of things, but the most important is to do the cooking with love and care.”

Reflecting on that response, Schweitzer observed that he no longer gets upset when someone is appointed to a government position over which they know nothing.  Instead, he hopes that they have the passion and care for their position that a shoemaker had for his cooking.

Want to know a secret?  Most people think that the greatest satisfaction is found in high-status, high-paying jobs.  I can’t find the research at the moment, but that isn’t going to stop me from claiming that studies show little correlation between salary and job satisfaction.

The key is our heart.  When we seek to do a job well, we find the task to be extremely satisfying.

The Bible tells us to tackle any task by doing it with all our heart. By doing so, we can find fulfillment in anything we do.  Excellence is rewarding.

But what if you chose to do every task as an act of worship?  What if undertook every task, no matter how lowly, as if the Lord had asked you to do if for him?

The Lord does ask that you perform every task for him.  And when you transform it into an act of worship, the passion, the heart you put into it will turn it into excellence.  And joy.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Hidden From View by a Shoe and a Smelly Sock

Story of the Day for Friday May 20, 2011

Hidden From View by a Shoe and a Smelly Sock

                        “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’  And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” 

                                                                      1 Corinthians 12:21-22

 When you crouch down to lift a heavy object (a hay bale, let’s say) what is the most important muscle group you use?  I’ll give you a hint: it’s not any muscles in your legs.  No, it’s not in your back either.  Or your arms.

I have a friend who is a university choir director.  Though I was skeptical at first, Hank (that’s Dr. Alviani to you) convinced me that the most important muscles necessary to lifting a heavy weight are your vocal chords.

When you lift things, he explained, your body must hold air pressure in your chest cavity, or else it would collapse.   That is why you always take a deep breath and hold it before you lift.  Your vocal chords are holding the air in your chest. (The grunts you make while lifting is from tiny bits of air escaping.)  Yet, without those tiny muscles in your throat, you would be unable to lift my daughter’s rock collection off the floor.

While God has given all of us our gifts and talents, it takes effort to view them from a proper perspective.  All of us are tempted to make one of two mistakes.  The first mistake is to feel that our gifts are superior to those of others.   The second is to think that our gifts are not nearly as important as others.   We wish we had gifts that others have.

Both of these attitudes are profoundly unhelpful.

God tells us that one part of the body should not look down on another part and consider it unnecessary.

Dizzy Dean was one of the greatest pitchers of all time.  He led the National League in strikeouts his rookie year.   In five years he won 120 games.

While pitching in the All-Star game in 1937, a grounder glanced off his toe.  Rather than waiting for his toe to heal, he simply re-adjusted his pitching motion. Adjusting his delivery eased the pain, but overextended his arm.  As a result, he ruined his arm, and no batter would ever see his blazing fastball again.

At the peak of his glory, many people could say, “Wow! What an arm that guy has!”  Nobody would have praised his toe.   But without his toe working right, his arm was ruined.

We all need each other.  “Those parts of the body that seem weaker, are indispensible.” The secret is to thank the Lord for the gifts he has given you.  And, if you feel your gift is like Dizzy Dean’s toe — hidden from view by a shoe and a smelly sock, don’t let that keep you from using it.  The body of Christ will have a really sore arm without you.

                                                               (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Wildness of Love

Story of the Day for Thursday May 19, 2011

Wildness of Love

                In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accord with the riches of His grace that he showered on us with all wisdom and understanding. 

                                                       Ephesians 1:7-8

In The Christian Reader, a woman wrote about her brother and his bride on their honeymoon.  Late at night they finally got to their fancy hotel’s bridal suite.  The room had only a sofa, a table, and chairs.

Then, discovering the sofa pulled out into a bed, they spent an uncomfortable night on a lumpy mattress with saggy springs.  In the morning, they gave the hotel clerk at the front desk an earful.

The clerk asked, “Did you open the door in your room?”

The door?

He thought it was a closet.  He went back to his room, opened the door, and found a gorgeous bedroom, complete with fruit baskets and chocolates.

He had spent the night with his bride in the entryway!

I really want to laugh at him for being so silly. Unfortunately, I can’t, because I do the same thing.

The apostle Paul describes the riches of grace that God showers down on us.  It is as if God has filled the bridal suite with the wealth of the world. . . and, sometimes, where am I? Making the best of it in the entryway.

God’s love for us is not a limited commodity that he, reluctantly, parcels out in meager doses. Grace is an unending waterfall.  The question is whether we will stand under it or not.

The problem for many of us is that we are half right.  As we honestly take stock of our lives we know that we are guilty of living contrary to the way God wants us to.  And, because we are guilty, we realize we are unworthy of receiving any good gift from the Lord.

So far so good.

But here is where we tend to wander off track: if we are unworthy, then it would seem that God should give us just enough to get by.  Why would God heap truckloads of blessing on people who have been so unfaithful to Him?

But that is exactly what He does!

God is reckless in lavishing his love on undeserving people. You will have learned the wildness of his love when you let him rain it down on you.

                                    (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Lots and Lots of Practice

Story of the Day for Wednesday May 18, 2011

Lots and Lots of Practice 

                 I want you to insist on these things so that those who trust in God will be intent on devoting themselves to good works.  

                                                             Titus 3:8

I once watched the Rose Bowl with a foreign exchange student – who had never seen an American football game before. He looked confused, and, after a while asked what was happening. Trying to describe what he was seeing, he said, “They line up against each other, and then they all jump into a pile, and then they line up and do it again.” I was seeing pulling guards and counters and play-actions.

Do you think American football fans just have a genetic gift for understanding football? Yeah, right. It has nothing to do with talent.

Since the early 1990s, scientists have learned how to scan our brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to see how various stimuli activate different parts of our brain.

One day, a scientist said, “Hey, I wonder if we can discover whether musicians are naturally gifted?” So, they played music for both musicians and non-musicians. Sure enough, when they looked at the MRIs, the musician’s brains were lighting up all over the place compared to the non-musical participants.

But, a music professor from the University of Arkansas, Dr. Elizabeth Margulis, was unsure about the test. She wondered: What if the musician’s brains were responding more to music – not because they had an inborn gift, but because they had learned to listen and respond to music through years of practice?

Dr. Margulis collaborated with Patrick C. M. Wong and colleagues from Northwestern University. They used the functional MRI, but they changed the study. They took two groups of highly trained classical musicians, flute and violin players. Then they would play familiar pieces by J.S. Bach.

Both groups of musicians listened to the classical flute music, and then listened to the same kind of music played on violin. When Margulis looked at the fMRIs she discovered that flute players brains lit up more on the flute pieces, and the violin players did the same thing on the violin pieces. Even the parts of the brain that controlled the muscles used to play the piece were lighting up – but only for the group that played that instrument.

If those who are musically gifted are genetically hardwired that way, the two groups should have had a similar response to both types of music. But they didn’t. Margulis and her colleagues concluded that, while musicians may be naturally gifted, they learn to respond to music through practice. Lots and lots of practice.

Once we have been inundated with the Lord’s mercy to us, the Bible teaches us to devote ourselves to doing good. How to you get to Carnegie Hall? The same way you get to a life of love and kindness.

                                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)