Can You Keep a Secret?

Story of the Day for Wednesday October 19, 2011

Can You Keep A Secret?

                  A gossip exposes hidden things, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. 

                                                                      Proverbs 11:13

William White, in his book, Stories for the Journey, relates an old Jewish story that goes like something like this:

The Teacher took one of his students along to visit a wealthy man. They were seeking financial help for a man who had suffered a heart attack.

The rich man listened quietly as the Teacher explained the desperate need for help to aid the ailing man. “We are asking for a generous gift,” the Teacher concluded.

“Who is the sick man?” the wealthy man asked.

“I’m sorry, but we cannot reveal names. In this case, it would be awkward for the public to know that he needs charity.”

“If I am going to help this man,” the rich man replied, “I need to know his identity. I am willing to donate one thousand dollars – on the condition that you tell me who it is.  I promise his name will be kept in strict confidence.”

The Teacher sadly shook his head, “I will not reveal his name.”

“Then, let me double the offer. Two thousand dollars.”

The student looked at his Teacher in disbelief as he again refused.

Taking a deep breath, the rich man said, “Ten thousand dollars.”

The student could stand it no longer. “Teacher, ten thousand dollars will pay for all his hospital bill. He is an honorable man, and his secret will be safe between us.”

“A man’s honor is not open to negotiation,” the Teacher replied, as he made his way to the door.

As the Teacher turned to leave, the wealthy man blurted out, “Please, wait. May I speak with you alone for a moment.”

While the student stood outside, the rich man broke into tears and said, “Teacher, I have lost all my fortune. I cannot even make my next payment on the mortgage. I have wanted to ask for help, but I am ashamed to let everyone know of my failure.”

“Ah, now I understand,” the Teacher replied. “You were testing me to see if I could be trusted to keep your secret.” The Teacher assured the man that the matter would be kept in confidence, and that he would also raise money to help him as well.

After the two left, the student could stand it no longer. “I know he offered you a great amount of money so that you would tell him the name of the sick man. How much did he give you?”

The Teacher smiled and winked at the student, “Shame on you! You know these things are a secret.”

 

Why are we so eager to gossip?  Why do we find pleasure in spreading the secret faults of others?

I don’t know. But I do know this: there is One who covers all my shame.  And, whatever sick pleasure I may find in spreading gossip, he teaches me a far greater joy in keeping a confidence.

                                                             (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

A Group of Bumblers Who Slowly Learn

Story of the Day for Tuesday October 18, 2011

A Group of Bumblers Who Slowly Learn

                    “How long am I going to put up with you?”

                                                                         Mark 9:19

 Jesus wants to teach us an important truth – one that many Fortune 500 companies have recently discovered.

 

Sergio Zyman (pronounced ZEE-man) worked on the top secret Project Kansas in 1984. This marketing project introduced New Coke and announced that the “Old Coke” would be discontinued.

Fortune magazine called it “the most disastrous product launch since the Edsel.” Zyman, to no one’s surprise, was fired by Coca-Cola.

 

In 1993, Zyman was hired by (who would ever guess?) Coca-Cola – this time with a higher position: he became the chief global marketer for the company.

Coca-Cola’s CEO, Roberto Goizueta explained, “We became uncompetitive by not being tolerant of mistakes. The moment you let avoiding failure become your motivator, you’re down the path of inactivity. You can stumble only if you’re moving.”

 

The potato product company, Ore-Ida shoots off a cannon to celebrate a “perfect failure.” Esso Resources of Canada rewards failure with the Order of the Duck – a duck’s head mounted on a toilet plunger. More and more, successful companies have come to realize that only by trying, and failing, can we ever grow.

 

Jesus sent his twelve disciples on a mission trip. He gave them authority to preach, heal, and drive out demons. They returned as seasoned veterans.

But, a while later,  when Jesus came down from a mountain with Peter, James, and John, he found the rest of his disciples surrounded by a large crowd in animated discussion. A man stepped forward and explained that he asked Jesus’ disciples to heal his demon-possessed son . . . but they couldn’t do it.

 

Jesus asked (no doubt with a big sigh) “How long am I going to put up with you?” but we know the answer. He is going to put up with them as long as it takes.

The Bible does not paint a picture of twelve, saintly guys who invariably get things right on the first try.  Instead, we’re shown a group of bumblers who slowly learn what the life of faith is all about.

 

But here’s the point: Jesus never gave up on them.

And he never gives up on you.

                                                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Most Contagious Disease

 

Story of the Day for Monday October 17, 2011

 

The Most Contagious Disease

 

         Then the people from the area discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from continuing to build. . 

 

                                                                  Ezra 4:4

 

 

One of the most contagious diseases known to man is discouragement.

 

All great achievements have come about because people persevered in the face of seemingly impossible odds. In 1915, Ernest Shackleton gathered a group of adventurous men and set out to be the first ones to traverse the entire continent of Antarctica. But they never reached the mainland before ice flows trapped their ship, and crushed it.

Alone on an ice flow, with no one to call for help, they embarked on a desperate attempt for survival. The odds were grim.

 

If you were their leader, what would you determine was the greatest need for your men?  Food? Warmth? Shelter? All these are vital for survival.  But great leaders realize that, in times of crises, morale is vital. One man’s skepticism could demoralize the entire crew. Optimism would not guarantee their survival, but without it, failure was certain.

So, what did Shackleton do? Alfred Lansing, in his book, Endurance, describes how Shackleton made sure Frank Hurley attended the high-level meetings. Hurley was not an officer, nor did he have any previous Antarctic experience. Shackleton included him because he knew that Hurley needed to feel important and did not want him spreading discontent to the others. When Shackleton made tent assignments, he put Hudson, James, and Hurley in his tent. Why? Because these were the men most likely to discourage the rest of the crew.

 

After surviving the Antarctic winter the crew climbed into lifeboats and made their way through the ice flows to Elephant Island. With his crew very weak, but on dry land, Shackleton needed to leave immediately in a row boat and travel almost a thousand miles to find help. He chose Worsley because he was the best navigator, and McCarthy, because he was built like a bull. But the others, Crean, McNeish, and Vincent were chosen to accompany him because they were the ones who were the most pessimistic at the time. After a year and a half of struggle, Shackleton and all his crew were rescued.

 

When God’s people began rebuilding the temple, their enemies didn’t force them to quit. Instead, they tried to discourage them so that the people would decide to quit.

 

Pessimists like to point out what great achievers already know: that the odds their venture will fail is high. And, once any group is convinced it will fail, its downfall is ensured.

Those who refuse to give in to discouragement – who persevere through innumerable obstacles, are the ones who are most likely to attain success.

Has the Lord called you to a high goal?  Don’t give in to discouragement.

 

                                                                   (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


 

 

The War is Over

Story of the Day for Saturday October 15, 2011

The War is Over

                     “If, when we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to him by the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved through his life.”  

                                                                           Romans 5:10

 What? Enemies of God?  It makes perfect sense once you think about it.  Ask yourself: Who has opposed God’s plan to create a beautiful world without sin and evil?  Who has marred this perfect world He wanted and filled it with sin?  Who has abused and polluted it?  Who has become the obstacle to God’s desire for this world?

We’re all guilty, aren’t we?  We are the ones defeating God’s good plans for this world.

The beauty of this passage for today is that we have been reconciled to God.  To “be reconciled” means to become friends again. Once Jesus offered up His life for our sins, that sacrifice brought an end to the war.

In 1944, a Japanese man, Shoichi Yokoi, began living in a jungle cave on the island of Guam.  For 28 years he lived on rats, frogs, snails, nuts, and mangoes.   Do you know why he lived like this?  He was a Japanese soldier and he didn’t know that World War II was over!

All those long years he was running and hiding from an enemy that didn’t exist.  The United States and Japan were at peace.   Even when he did hear the war had ended, he said he was afraid to surrender.  He feared execution.

Not many people openly defy God and think that this is a battle they can win.  But there are throngs of people who are running from God.  They are afraid.  If God ever finds them, they think, they are in deep, dark trouble.

Are you running from God?

If you’re running from God because you think he’s out to get you, then you’ll find it’s very hard to pray (how can you talk to someone you fear?)  Reading the Bible is like pulling teeth.  You won’t read long before you have to face Him.

It really stinks to eat rats and frogs to survive, simply because you are at war.  But when the war is over, and you don’t realize it, such a lifestyle is just tragic.

Jesus has negotiated a permanent truce.  God is on our side – or, better yet, we are now on His side.

Harry Houdini was one of the greatest magicians of all time.  On one of his European tours he boasted that he could be handcuffed and locked in any prison cell, and free himself.   Amazingly, he always managed to do so.

But, one day, as he was locked up in a jail in Scotland, things went wrong.  He hid lock picks in his belt and even under his scalp.  It took no time at all to get out of his handcuffs.  But, though he was a master at picking locks, he simply could not unlock his prison cell door.  Frantically, he worked the lock for two hours.  Finally, he admitted defeat and collapsed against the cell door.

The door swung open.  The reason he could not unlock it is because it was not locked in the first place!  The jail keeper had forgotten to lock him in.

If you feel like God’s prisoner – trapped and confined – maybe it’s time to try to prison door.  You will find that, all this time, it was never locked at all.

The war is over.

                                                                (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Is it a Dirge or a Flute He is Playing?

Story of the Day for Friday October 14, 2011

Is it a Dirge or a Flute He is Playing?

                     What can I compare this generation to?  They are like children sitting in the marketplace who called to each other, saying, “We played the flute for you and you didn’t dance.  We sang a mourning song and you did not mourn.” 

                                                                Matthew 11:17

 Deion Sanders is one of the greatest athletes of all time.  He is the only athlete to hit a Major League home run and score a touchdown in the NFL in the same week.  He is the only player to play in the World Series in baseball and the Super Bowl in football.

 

We Christians sometimes think God has given us the task of rooting out sin wherever we find it (as long as it’s in other people).  I never liked Deion’s cocky attitude on the field, and there are many who would be shocked that I am going to use him as an example for us to follow. Oh well. How many people were shocked when Jesus used a devious business manager as an example of shrewdness?

My view of Deion Sanders has softened since I read about his upbringing.  He was born and raised in a poor section of Fort Myers, Florida.  The “heroes” of his neighborhood were the corner drug dealers.  They wore flashy jewelry and drove expensive cars.  Sanders, in an interview with Sports Illustrated, said, “in my hometown, [drug dealing] was the community job.”

Deion began playing football in the Pop Warner youth league since he was eight.  He played basketball.  He played baseball. He worked hard.

 

When Sanders worked hard, and became successful, many were turned off by his gaudy jewelry and “showiness” of wealth.  But he says he was trying to show the kids from his culture that you can have the trappings of wealth without becoming a drug dealer.  “I’m showing them something else,” he said, “I’m proving you can do it on the right side.”

 

In an interview with Esquire magazine, Deion says the world’s best athletes are standing on street corners, selling drugs.  He calls them “I’das.”  He explained how they say, “If I’da done this, I’d be here today,” or “If I’da practiced a little harder. . . I’d be a superstar.”  Deion admits that some of them were as fast as he was as a kid.  But instead of working hard and disciplining themselves, they chose the easy option of selling drugs.

 

Do you have any “I’das”?  If I would have written all my “I’das” down, I would have a handsome, three volume set by now.  If only I’da . . .

“I’das” look backward.  They can only bring regret.  But God calls us to change our focus.  To listen to his call for today.  When he plays a dirge, it’s time to repent.  When he plays the flute, he’s inviting us to dance.

Like Deion Sanders, the Lord wants us to go for it.

                                                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

God’s Thorough Inspection

Story of the Day for Thursday October 13, 2011

God’s Thorough Inspection

                    Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts.

                   See if there is any displeasing way in me. And lead me in the everlasting way. 

                                                                Psalm 139:23-24

When I was in high school, my best friend’s older brother used to buy old, rusty tractors – the kind that had been sitting in the rain behind the barn for ages.  He loved to take them apart, and carefully clean and fix each part and then get the engine running again. Once he got those old tractors running he would remove the rust and re-paint them. The satisfaction he found in restoration tractors was obvious.

 

For some reason, we seldom find that same kind of satisfaction in doing repairs on our souls. We’re reluctant to look under the hood because we’re afraid of what we might find. But, even worse, do you ever feel uneasy about what God would think if he lifted the hood and noticed we’re not running on all cylinders?

 

What is it, then, that King David invites God to take a look at what is going on in his heart?  Even though his mind is a jumble of anxious thoughts, he wants God to see them.  He wants God to do an inspection and find out if anything in him is displeasing to the Lord.  And, if so, he asks for help in fixing it.

 

Our natural impulse is to want to hide our faults and vices – from God, from others, and even from ourselves.  But the only way we can have David’s boldness to invite God to examine the depths of our lives is if we know he’s not going to hurt us.  David knew a holy God, a God who hates evil, yet does not want to destroy evildoers.  Instead, he wants to remove the sin from our lives and restore us.

You can’t know the boldness of asking God to examine your life until you first know that he wants to do a repair job on you – not tow you to the junkyard.

Why don’t you try it?  Ask God to do a thorough inspection of your life: your thoughts, your motives, your behavior, your priorities.  He will show you why you’re overheating, or why you’re losing power on the steep hills.  But don’t ever forget: he is there to get you back in good running order.

                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Spring to Life and Kick Their Can

Story of the Day for Wednesday October 12, 2011

Spring to Life and Kick Their Can

 

                    When the Israelites saw the man, everyone ran away in great fear.

                                                                 1 Samuel 17:24

  We consider some people brave by the very nature of their occupations: smoke jumpers, police officers, firefighters, babysitters.

And, standing atop this list are soldiers.

So, for an entire army to spot a single combatant, and scatter in a panic seems a little peculiar. But that is exactly what the army of Israel did when Goliath strutted out and challenged them to a duel – winner take all.

 

A shepherd boy with five smooth stones and a slingshot stepped forward to challenge the giant. And we all know the story from the standpoint of what David did to Goliath. But do you remember what David did to the army of Israel that day?

 

The soldiers of Israel watched as David marched up to this fearsome warrior, and opposed him “in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

When David stood triumphant over Goliath, the soldiers of Israel sprang to life.  They let out a roar and surged after the frightened Philistine army. The army of Israel chased the Philistines and kicked their can all along the Shaaraim road from Judah to Gath.

 

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, devastating our naval fleet in the Pacific, they had a twofold objective. They not only wanted to cripple our naval power but also to crush the American resolve to wage war.

The Japanese high command, however, was completely unaware that we had a secret weapon.

The “secret weapon” was an artist from a small town in Vermont. Norman Rockwell painted pictures of patriotism and bravery. He painted pictures of “Four Freedoms” – those liberties that are the hallmark of our nation. He painted the American spirit.

Fueled by the vision Rockwell portrayed for us, Americans responded. “Remember Pearl Harbor” was not a discouraging reminder of a humiliating defeat. Instead, it became an echo of an earlier cry, “Remember the Alamo!” when a few brave Americans stood bravely against overwhelming odds.

The power of an artist to inspire a nation was the one weapon for which the Japanese military had no defense.

 

Your brothers and sisters in Christ may be impressed by your talents, but they are not inspired by them. They are inspired by your courage.

Make no mistake about this: when you face your Goliaths in the name and power of the Lord, the greatest victory will not be yours; it will be the victories of all those who have found courage from your example.

                                       (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Getting Into the Water

Story of the Day for Thursday October 6, 2011

Getting Into the Water

                     There is profit in all hard work, but more talk leads only to poverty. 

                                                           Proverbs 14:23

 John W. Holt describes an exercise used by Outward Bound in their program on Hurricane Island, Maine. Twenty people are told to squeeze into a cave that is only wide enough for one person to walk through. The group comes to a dead end. The only way out is to climb up to a crack above them and climb out to the other side. The group is lined up alternating a tall person with a shorter one. The instructors tell them they must climb up and exit the cave in this order within twenty minutes.

Want to know what typically happens?  They argue for 19 minutes about how to solve the problem. The instructor warns them they have one minute left. They stop planning, and by brute force, they climb up through the crack. The point of the exercise is that talking and planning can go on and on. At some point you have to stop talking and just do it.

 

That’s the hard part: gettin’ ‘er done.  It’s so much easier to talk about what we want to do rather than starting the hard work necessary to accomplish our dreams.

Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese’s, says, “The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now.  Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today.” Bushnell then concludes, “The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.”

We would do well to apply Bushnell’s words to our life of faith. John Michael Talbot, in Changes: A Spiritual Journal, does just that. He says, “I am wearied by a fellowship of many words. I grow tired of talking about the worship. I would much rather simply worship. I grow tired of talking about music. I would much rather simply make music. I grow tied of talking about humility and love. I would rather simply serve in humility and love.”

 

Obviously, you always precede work with talk. With ideas. With discussion of ideas. And a plan. But the focal point is not the talking; it is the work to be accomplished.

When I was in college I took a course in evangelism at a local congregation. The class was great, but the pastor confided to me his disappointment. He told me that the members love the evangelism class. But they don’t want to go out and share their faith.  Instead, they want me to start another class so they can keep on studying about evangelism.

 

For eight years, Kim Linehan once held the world record for the women’s 1500 meter freestyle.  When she was 18 years old, her coach called her the leading amateur woman distance swimmer in the world. It took a lot of hard work for her to accomplish such a feat.  Do you know the hardest part of her training?  Kim says it’s, “Getting into the water.”

                                       (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Only God Could Pull It Off

Story of the Day for Wednesday October 5, 2011

Only God Could Pull It Off

                   Sarah was listening at the tent entrance . . .and Sarah laughed . . . 

                                                                              Genesis 18:10, 12

 In August 1975, three men attempted to rob the Royal Bank of Scotland at Rothesay, but, trying to push the revolving doors the wrong way, got stuck. The bank staff kindly extricated them, and, after mumbling their thanks, the robbers sheepishly left.

They returned shortly afterward to announce they were robbing the bank, and demanded five thousand pounds. The staff, still tickled by the revolving door incident, thought the robbers were pulling another practical joke, so they started laughing.

Disheartened by their laughter, the gang leader reduced his demand to five hundred pounds – and this brought a fresh roar of laughter. Nervous and confused, he reduced the demand to fifty pounds, and by this time the cashier was laughing hysterically.

Apparently to demonstrate the seriousness of their demand, one of them jumped over the counter, but fell and hurt his ankle. The other two panicked and ran . . . and got stuck in the revolving doors again.

It took a moment for the bank tellers to realize that the robbery was real.

 

At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the British occupied Boston. On January 8, 1776, officers and their ladies packed Faneuil Hall to watch a musical farce entitled The Blockade.  The comedy mocked the ragtag American army. An actor, impersonating George Washington, stumbled onto the stage with an oversized wig and rusty sword.

As the comedy got off to a rollicking start, Major Thomas Knowlton and his Connecticut soldiers launched a surprise attack. Everyone in the theater, however, thought the roar of the cannon barrage outside was part of the play.

A farmer ran on stage to announce that the rebels were attacking, and the audience roared and clapped their approval. The moment became confused as it slowly dawned on everyone that the announcement of the surprise attack was genuine and not part of the farce.

 

Whenever God shatters our assumptions, our reactions follow a predictable process. We laugh at the incongruity of it all. Then everything grows fuzzy and confused. And finally we begin to realize God is up to something.

 

When God’s messengers told Abraham that Sarah was going to have a baby, she laughed. At the age of ninety, this news was way too funny. But skepticism gave way to confusion, which gave way to a growing tummy with something kicking in there.

They named the child Isaac, which means “Laughter.”

 

When skeptics laugh at you and mock your faith, take it as a reassuring compliment. They are acknowledging you believe something so wild, so unthinkable, that only God could pull it off.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)