Stoned to Death With Popcorn

Story of the Day for Friday November 18, 2011

Stoned To Death With Popcorn

                 He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will find mercy. 

                                                                                Proverbs 28:13

 A church in our neighborhood had a dirt parking lot.  One summer they paved it and it looked so much nicer.  No members tromping into church through mud puddles.

But a year later, the pavement was broken up in many places.  It looked awful.  Know why?  They paved over lots of weeds.  And when they started to grow, the pavement looked like it had suffered a heavy mortar attack.

Ever since the Garden, where Adam and Eve grabbed fig leaves and decided that hiding from God was a good plan, we have been trying to cover up our sins.  Maybe we like our sin far too much to let go of it.  Maybe we are ashamed of it and are afraid of the consequences if we are exposed.  Whatever the reason, from time to time we all get the dopey notion that we can hide things from God.

This is a just a friendly reminder: YOU CAN’T HIDE ANYTHING FROM GOD.  What were you thinking!

 

I am a master at the art of self-deception.  Here is the trick I use.  I throw God some “confession scraps” and see if He goes for them.  It’s really quite simple.  You confess in generalities.  Tell God you’re a sinner and you haven’t always been the person you should be.  (The implication to God is that, yeah, I’m not perfect – but, then again, neither is anybody else.)  If you confess to other people, don’t even call your behavior a sin.  Tell them you made a “mistake,” or an “error in judgment.”

A Roman Catholic priest once said that hearing confession from nuns is like “being stoned to death with popcorn.”  That’s what I try to do with God sometimes.  Throw out the small stuff and see if it works.

Well, it doesn’t work.

 

This proverb is trying to teach us that hiding our sins and paving them over is a boneheaded idea.  It’s like trying to deny you stole a beach ball by hiding it underwater.  it’s not easy and you must exercise constant effort to keep it down there.

The second half of this proverb is crucial: if you tell God your sins – all of them, and especially the ones that hurt a lot to admit – He will show you mercy.

This is the wonder of God.  Even when we know in our bones that he ought to destroy us, or at least make us suffer, He wants to give us mercy.  God is merciful, but we receive His mercy when we uncover ourselves to Him.   When we hide stuff, it’s like having something rotting in a dark, dank cellar.  Confession is telling God what smells so bad and letting Christ clean up the mess, and open the windows to let in the fresh air.

 

It’s a whole lot better than lurking behind trees with a handful of fig leaves.

                                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


 

No Need to Slow Down

Story of the Day for Thursday November 17, 2011

No Need to Slow Down

                    Let the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and the endurance of Christ. 

                                                             2 Thessalonians 3:5

Jim Marshall was a member of the Minnesota Vikings’ feared “Purple People Eaters” – one of the most intimidating defensive lines in the history of the NFL.

Defensive linemen average less than five years in the NFL. Yet, Jim Marshall started every game for the Vikings for an eleven year span – a total of 270 games, and retired at the age of 42.

Marshall has earned the right to speak about success. He has played in two Pro Bowls, has 127 quarterback sacks, and holds the NFL record with 30 recovered fumbles.

 

Jim Marshall has earned respect both on and off the field. He retired from football to become a licensed stock broker, a real estate agent, a life insurance agent, a licensed securities agent, the owner of a limo service, and a CBS sports commentator – to name a few of his business ventures.

In addition, Jim has volunteered countless hours working with civic and charitable groups. He helped create “Christmas for Kids,” establish a transportation company for the handicapped and elderly, and has helped with scholarship funds to send inner city kids to college. He has done volunteer work with the Special Olympics, The Ronald McDonald House, and The Children’s Miracle Network.

Jim Marshall is in demand as a motivating speaker for 3M, IBM, Chevron, Standard Oil, Pillsbury, United Way, Boy Scouts of America, among others.

 

In light of Jim Marshall’s enormous success in so many aspects of life, his message is ironic. He urges his audiences to find a direction and dedicate themselves to it.

Yet, Marshall is ruefully aware that the most embarrassing play of his football career happened when he followed his own advice.

In 1964, a running back for the San Francisco 49ers fumbled and Jim Marshall scooped up the ball. He sprinted for the end zone – he had found his direction and sprinted with all his might. Unfortunately, he ran the wrong direction. His 66-yard safety still stands in the record books as the longest play for negative yardage in NFL history.

When the season was over, he was scheduled to fly to Dallas to receive the “Bonehead of the Year” award, but missed his flight and ended up in Chicago. (He did, in the end, succeed in flying to Dallas to receive his coveted award.)

 

Finding a direction and dedicating yourself to it is a fine thing, I suppose, as long as we temper it with Ashley Brilliant’s perspective: “Maybe I’m lucky to be going so slowly, because I may be going in the wrong direction.”

When we let the Lord direct our hearts, he will lead us into his love and give us the endurance of Christ as our encouragement.

And, if we’re really heading in that direction, there’s no need to slow down.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


 

 

One Order That Will Never be Rescinded

Story of the Day for Wenesday November 16, 2011

One Order That Will Never be Rescinded

                    This is God’s command: that we believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love each other – just as he commanded us. 

                                                                    1 John 3:23

 When the Japanese Emperor surrendered to the U.S. in 1945, World War II was over for just about everyone except Lt. Hiroo Onoda (HEAR-oo OWN-ah-dah).  He was sent to the island of Lubang as an intelligence officer with orders to conduct guerilla warfare and note enemy movements. Onoda’s orders clearly stated that, under no circumstances, was he to surrender or commit suicide.

Onoda took his orders seriously. Along with three other soldiers, they conducted such disruptive operations that they became known the “the mountain devils.”

 

After the war, search parties of 13,000 men (at a cost of a half million dollars) combed the jungles to root them out, but could never find them.

The Japanese then took to the jungles with foghorns, telling them the war was over, but they considered it an enemy trick. The Japanese dropped leaflets from airplanes telling them the war was over but Onoda considered it a ruse of the enemy.

Over time, Onoda’s three comrades surrendered or died, but no one could convince Onoda to surrender. They sent his brother, Toshio, but Hiroo considered him an impersonator. They sent another brother, Tadao, and his sister, Chie. He finally believed they were truly his siblings, but refused to disobey his orders.

 

In February, 1974, almost thirty years after World War II ended, a Japanese college dropout, Norio Suzuki, set out to search for Lieutenant Onoda, a panda, and the Abominable Snowman – in that order. Suzuki did locate Onoda, and they became friends. But he still refused to surrender, saying he was under orders from his commanding officer.

Suzuki returned to Japan with photographic proof of Onoda’s identity, and the government sent Onoda’s former commanding officer, Major Taniguchi, to Lubang.  Taniguchi met his faithful officer in the jungle and officially rescinded his order.

 

Hiroo Onoda’s tenacious loyalty to the Imperial Emperor teaches us an insightful lesson about obedience. No one can be obedient for long when motivated merely by a sense of obligation. Obedience works best when it’s the response to a passionate belief.

 

Christians view talk about obedience with suspicion – fearful of giving the false impression that we can earn our way to heaven by obeying a moral code. Nevertheless, despite the fear of being misunderstood, we must encourage an unyielding obedience to God’s commands. His orders are simple: trust in the mercy of Jesus, and love each other.

Onoda reminds us that obedience to orders may call for great sacrifice. But God’s command to faith and love is one order that will never be rescinded.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Worth the Sweat


Story of the Day for Tuesday November 15, 2011

 

Worth the Sweat

 

                     If you call out for insight and cry out for understanding, and if you seek it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 

 

                                                                               Proverbs 2:3-5

 

 

 

Jefferson Davis had a great idea.  Serving as Secretary of War under President Pierce, he pushed hard for importing camels to transport military supplies in the arid southwest.  Water between forts was scarce, and camels could lumber on for eight days without water in the summer, and eight weeks in the winter.  Not only that, they could carry 500 pounds, while horses and mules could carry less than half that amount.

In 1856, Davis imported 79 camels from Arabia.  And, since no one knew how to operate a camel, several Arabs were employed to care for them.

The camels showcased their virtues in June that next year.  They carried water and supplies from Fort Defiance, New Mexico, to Fort Tyron, California.  In this arid region, they proved themselves superior to horses and mules.

But matters took a turn for the worse.  The Arab handlers spoke no English, and no one in the military spoke Arabic.

This is when the fun began.

While quartered in Camp Verde, Texas, the men were given a daily ration of beer.  The Arabs, who don’t drink, poured out their beer in one of the camel’s water pails.  The Army soldiers assumed that beer must be a necessary part of the camel’s diet, so they provided them generous amounts of beer, and discovered the camels were quite fond of their new drink.

Now, camels, at the best of times, are an ornery lot, and their surly nature was not improved by keeping them snockered.  The camels staggered around and largely ignored the responsibilities of their vocation.

In the end, the Great Camel Experiment fizzled.

 

The American soldiers clearly saw the “facts” – namely, that the Arabs poured their beer into the camel’s pails.  What they lacked, unfortunately, was the understanding of what those facts meant.

They had information but not understanding.

 

How many of our boneheaded decisions in life have been the result of misunderstandings about life?  About God?

Wisdom doesn’t always come easy.  Sometimes it’s like digging for hidden treasure.  But don’t stop digging.  The treasures of God’s wisdom are worth the sweat.

 

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

 

 

 

Bean Counters and Dreamers

Story of the Day for Monday November 14, 2011

Bean Counters and Dreamers

                       In Christ we, who are many, form one body, and each part belongs to all the others. 

                                                                          Romans 12:5

 Someone once said there are only three kinds of people in this world: those who are good at math and those who aren’t.

I’m not good at math.

Numbers are confusing, abstract things. I have a difficult time remembering people’s ages – including my own. My wife can recall phone numbers and zip codes from places where we lived over 20 years ago. I struggle, at times, to remember my current zip code. To me, numbers are not all that important.

 

People who are good with numbers feel quite differently.  They actually show compassion through numbering things. A pastor once asked me how many members were in my congregation. I didn’t know. This pained him. “How can you care about your flock if you don’t know how many there are?”

He didn’t understand that I couldn’t number my flock even if I wanted to (which I don’t).  Do you include the Pozanskis – who regularly attend worship, but have never  officially become members?  And what about Jason, whom I’ve never met?  He’s in the military, and moves every few years, but wants his membership to remain here. When I try to number people, I always bog down, and end up with a muddled sum.

 

Some people love numbers and attention to detail. Those of us who are bold visionaries refer to them as “bean counters.” Bean counters, however, can dish it back.  They view us visionaries as impractical, and call us “dreamers.”

So, how do people who approach life in such different ways get along with each other?  The solution is surprisingly simple.  We just round up all the “bean counters” and lure them onto cargo ships with offers of free calculators.  Then we ship them off to a remote jungle in the Amazon basin, and provide them with spreadsheets and those plastic pen protectors you wear in your shirt pocket, and let them lead a happy life.

 

That’s the easy way.  But God has the better way.

God wants us to realize how desperately we need each other’s gifts — as much as the heart needs the lungs and the lungs need the heart.

In the body of Christ, we have people who are brilliant at organizing things.  As strange as it sounds to us Big Picture types, they love working out the details and keeping the trains running on time. Without them, bold visions never become a reality.   Administrator types also need those gifted in leadership.

When we learn to appreciate and value each others gift, good things happen.  Only then will we see the body of Christ being built up.

I can’t locate the exact Bible passage at the moment, but I think there’s a verse that says you should find a brother or sister who has the opposite gift from you, and buy them pizza, and tell them you appreciate them. Or something like that.

                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Not a Matter of a Cost-Benefit Analysis

Story of the Day for Saturday November 12, 2011

Not a Matter of a Cost-Benefit Analysis

      Those who suffer according to God’s will should commit their lives to their faithful Creator, and continue to do good.

                                                                  1 Peter 4:19

 Jim Elliot was the class vice-president in high school.   He won the lead role in theatrical plays. In college he lettered in sports and graduated in 1949 with honors.  Popular, handsome, intelligent, and a gifted speaker, Jim’s prospects for the future were bright.  Just a matter of time before he could afford a two-car garage and an electric potato peeler.

But Jim Elliot did not care about money or status or success.  He took a boat to Ecuador and prepared for mission work. In college, he wrote in his journal, “God, I pray thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee.”

 

Jim and four friends decided they would bring the Good News of Jesus to the primitive Auca Indians.  The Aucas were known to be fierce, and no missionary had been able to established friendly contact among them.

After depositing gifts for the Aucas, Jim and his fellow missionaries made friendly contact with a few of the natives.  Encouraged by this, the five missionaries flew again into the jungle to further their contact with the Aucas.

But they never returned.  The Aucas murdered them all.

 

Hah.  See?  That just shows you, doesn’t it?  It’s fine to be committed to the Lord, and all fired up to serve him – but you don’t have to be so fanatical about it.  Look where Jim Elliot’s burning zeal got him, eh?

You’re right — Jim Elliot’s passion to reach the Aucas got him killed.

 

But, commitment to the Lord is not a matter of scribbling out a cost-benefit analysis.  Jim and his friends were fully aware of the risk they were taking.  And they would never see any fruit from their brave attempts to build a friendship with the Aucas.

Jim would never see his widowed wife, Elizabeth, boldly venture into the jungle to continue his mission and establish contact with the Aucas.  He could not have known that Elizabeth (and wives of the other missionaries) would eventually live among these natives. Who could have known that the forgiveness these young widows showed after the Aucas killed their husbands would be exactly the demonstration the Aucas needed to understand the sacrificial love of Christ?  Through this powerful demonstration of forgiveness, many became converts to Christ.

 

We are called to commit our lives to the Lord.  We can seldom see the effect that our commitment will have on others.  The beautiful thing is. . .we don’t need to.  All we need to see is God’s promise to be faithful, and that the results of our dedication to his will are in his hands.

He’ll take it from there.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Attitude is Transformed by Understanding

Story of the Day for Friday November 11, 2011

Attitude is Transformed by Understanding

                      My God transforms my darkness into light. 

                                                         Psalm 18:28

 Mark Mayfield, in the book Humor Me, talks of a time he stopped at the dry cleaners on the way to the airport. He needed his shirts, but when he picked them up, one shirt still had a stain and the other was ironed poorly.

Mark began yelling at the owner – claiming his shirts were unacceptable and challenged the owner to tell him what he was going to do about it.

The owner calmly replied, “You’re absolutely right. We’re 100% at fault here.” Then he added, “I know the lady who cleaned these shirts and there is only one thing we can do. We’ll shoot her. It’s my mom and I’m gonna miss her, but we gotta do it.”

The owner’s response was so zany that Mark wasn’t able to stay mad at him. After they laughed about the incident, somehow, Mark’s world didn’t seem quite as dark as it did when he walked into the dry cleaners.

 

Our disposition is entirely affected by our understanding of what is happening.

For example, if we believe we exist in a random universe – without meaning or purpose – despair is the proper reaction. If life holds no hope, we ought to be depressed.

But, if we believe that God, in some incomprehensible way, is undoing the mess we’ve made of life and is drawing us back into his love, then everything changes. The gloomy darkness fades away.

Jesus was not called light of the world for nothing.

 

Our attitude to life depends on what we believe is happening.

I read a story, and although I can’t verify its accuracy, it, nevertheless, illustrates my point:

On a non-stop flight from Seattle to Atlanta, the captain announced that there was a medical emergency on board and that they would be making an emergency stop in Denver. As soon as the plane landed, the medical crew came on board. An elderly man was taken off the plane.  The incident took an hour and a half, and the pilot announced that passengers would be missing connecting flights from Atlanta.

Passengers groaned.

Then the captain came back on the intercom: “Ladies and gentlemen, I thought you might be interested to know that the elderly gentleman who was taken off the plane was a Marine in World War II, and was awarded the Medal of Honor.” The pilot continued,  “I realize we’ve all been inconvenienced today. However, this gentleman was a war hero and inconvenienced for four years in order that we might experience the freedoms we enjoy today. I thought you all should know that.”

Immediately, the airplane burst into applause.

 

Why did the applause drown out the groans at the announcement of the flight delay? Perspective. Attitude is transformed by understanding.

                                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Doing the Right Things the Right Way

Story of the Day for Thursday November 10, 2011

Doing the Right Things the Right Way

                     Don’t deceive yourselves by merely listening to God’s Word – put it into practice. 

                                                                        James 1:22

 Don’t get me wrong: I’m a firm believer in reading and learning the Bible. Nevertheless, there is a hidden danger in regularly studying the Bible. Over time we easily view our practice of knowing Scripture as virtuous, rather than putting what we have learned into practice.

Life shouldn’t be this way, but it is: those who are the most devout, those who want to establish a daily time for reading the Bible, are the ones who are most prone to this deception. We begin by wanting God’s wisdom to transform our life, but, subtly, we can discover that we have been training ourselves to simply know facts.

This morning I read a portion from Colossians. I shut my Greek New Testament, thinking, “There, I did it. Read my Scripture reading for the day.” But if you would ask, “So, Marty, what do you intend to do today based on what you read this morning?” I wouldn’t know how to answer you.

 

The more disciplined we are, the more likely we are to train for the wrong thing. David Grossman, in his book On Combat, writes of a law enforcement officer who trained himself to snatch a weapon from an assailant’s hand. With a partner pointing a revolver at him, the law enforcement officer practiced relentlessly. As soon as he successfully disarmed his partner he would hand the gun back to him and practice his technique again.

One day the officer was able to put his technique into practice. An assailant pulled a gun on him and the officer deftly snatched the weapon from the assailant’s hand. And then, just as he had practiced for hours . . . he handed the handgun back to the assailant! (Fortunately, the officer’s partner was present to shoot and disarm the assailant).

 

After just reporting the disappointing results of my morning Bible reading, I’m hardly the one who should be offering advice. So, I won’t tell you what you should do. But, here’s what I intend to change: I’m going to try turning my Bible reading time into a prayer. Before I close my Bible, I want to take a moment to ask God what I should do with this knowledge, and then ask him for the strength to do it.

 

Learning to practice the right thing is crucial. I’ve seen video footage of NFL quarterbacks in practice throwing to receivers. The receiver catches the ball, turns his shoulders downfield, and then lopes back to the line of scrimmage.

Yesterday, however, I watched a video clip of a quarterback in his red jersey flipping a short five-yard pass. The receiver didn’t just make the catch and trot back to the line for the next play. He caught the ball and shot off like a rocket all the way down the field to the end zone. No surprise that this team has the highest “yards after catch” in the NFL.

More important than doing the right things is doing the right things the right way.

                                                               (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Even When We’re Right, We Can Be Wrong

Story of the Day for Wednesday November 9, 2011

Even When We’re Right, We Can Be Wrong

                                       “This man absolutely was with Jesus because he’s . . . a Galilean.” 

                                                                                 Luke 22:59

 Sometimes we’re wrong when we’re right.

As a group warmed themselves around a fire on a cold evening in Jerusalem, a servant girl recognized Peter as one of the followers of that man who had just been arrested and was under arraignment. Peter denied it, but another man concluded that Peter had to be a crony. Why? Because he had a Galilean accent.

The man’s prejudicial assumption was that anyone with a redneck Galilean accent must be a follower of that guy from Nazareth. Although he was right; he was wrong.

 

Sean Tuohy is a successful guy. At Ole Miss he was a basketball star – elected to the university’s Hall of Fame and still holding the SEC record for assists. The New Jersey Nets drafted him but he turned them down.

Sean now lives in Memphis where he, with his wife Leigh Anne, own over 85 franchise restaurants. Sean and Leigh Anne have co-authored a book. And, somehow, he also manages to find time to serve as a national broadcaster for the Memphis Grizzlies.

 

On a cold day near Thanksgiving, the Tuohy family drove passed a black teen wearing only a T-shirt and shorts.

If you hold prejudices against blacks, this teen was capable of confirming them. He was shiftless and poor. His grade point average in school was 0.76, and his social skills were virtually non-existent.

The Tuohy’s, however, chose not to judge this young man, Michael, but to take him into their home. Gradually, they learned his story. He was one of 13 siblings – growing up in the poorest section of Memphis. He never knew his father, who was murdered while in prison. His mom was a crack addict, and so, from the age of seven, Michael fended for himself.  He attended eleven schools in nine years and lived in foster homes, with friends, or wandered homeless.

No one ever told Michael, “I love you,” until he was eighteen years old.

The Tuohy’s legally adopted Michael and gave him the opportunity to thrive. He raised his GPA to 2.52. He went on to attend college and managed to make the honor roll twice while playing football for Ole Miss.

And Michael Oher was also chosen in the first round of the NFL draft to play offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.

Michael, given the chance, has blossomed. But so have the Tuohy’s. Their Christian faith has changed their judgmentalism to compassion. Leigh Anne grew up in at atmosphere of racial bigotry, but now she cries for the less fortunate. And, as for her husband, Leigh Anne says she married a man who doesn’t even know what color he is.

 

When we judge, even when we’re right; we’re wrong. We do a better day’s work when we simply take the time to care.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The True Danger of Spiritual Pretending

Story of the Day for Tuesday November 8, 2011

The True Danger of Spiritual Pretending

                       A man by the name of Ananias, along with his wife Sapphira, sold some property.  But, with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back part of the money for himself, and brought the rest and laid it at the apostle’s feet.  

                                                    Acts 5:1-2

I have never liked this story.  It seems grossly unfair that, because they didn’t give all their money to the church, God killed them both.  Shouldn’t Peter have said, “Why, thank you so much!  What are generous offering.  God will bless you for this”?  Instead, they both wind up dead as a doornail.

If we listen carefully, however, we discover that the problem is not about giving money at all.  Peter tells them they didn’t have to sell the property, and after they did, they could do what they wanted with the money.

The problem was that they pretended to give all of the money from the sale of their property to the church (but secretly held some back for themselves).  They were lying to the church.

Hypocrisy is lying. We want to impress others and make them think we are more godly than we really are.  We love the admiration we get from this.  But deep down there is the fear that, someday, we will be exposed and the world will know that we are frauds.

Spiritual posturing is a dangerous cancer.  It’s also contagious.  If I pretend I’m holier than I really am, it puts pressure on those around me to pretend they are holier than they really are.  As long as the pretense works – we become insufferably self-righteous.  When we are exposed as frauds, then our hypocrisy becomes a stumbling block to others.

Tony Campolo, in his book, The Kingdom of God Is a Party, tells the story of a young man who turned his back on the church.  His little sister suffered much from cancer before she died.  His dad, a pastor, said there is no sorrow because she is in heaven.  So,  the whole family wore plastered smiles to show the world their great faith.

The night after the funeral, this young man went to the church and sat up in the balcony.   His father was unaware of his son’s presence. His dad walked to the front of the church and began to cry.  The crying turned to uncontrolled wailing.  Then his father looked up at the picture of Christ on the wall, shook his fist, and screamed, “DAMN YOU!”

When the son returned home that evening, there was his dad and family – all wearing their forced, artificial smiles.

I still don’t like the story about Ananias and Sapphira very much.  God’s punishment seems pretty severe.  But maybe that is how forcefully God had to act to impress on me the true danger of spiritual pretending.

                                                                             (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)