His Grace Will Tune You Up

Story of the Day for Saturday December 31, 2011

His Grace Will Tune Us Up

            God’s grace teaches us to renounce godlessness and worldly desires, and to live wisely, justly, and godly in this present time.                                                                                               Titus 2:11-12

 I like New Year’s Day, for the obvious reason that there’s a lot of football games on TV. But, in a deeper sense, a new year is refreshing because it’s the closest that Time comes to picturing the grace of God.

 

When we begin a new year, the slate is wiped clean.

And what happens when we put the past behind us? Inevitably, we look forward. We’re optimistic, and make resolutions to lose weight or to clean the broom closet. When we don’t have to lug last year into the future, we feel light and cheery. We don’t want to be slugs (for more than a day). We want to live.

 

Some think that, when Jesus forgives your sins, it makes you want to sin more. If you assure a criminal, for example, that, if he robs a bank, he will be immune from prosecution, wouldn’t that motivate him to rob more banks?

It would seem so. But let me ask you this: does the arrival of a New Year make you want to fail in your new resolution to lose fifteen pounds by summer? No, whenever we put the past behind us, we’re fired up to do better.

 

When I was an adolescent, we visited my grandma in Upper Michigan. I sat down at the piano, and, not knowing how to play, sounded awful.

Then my sister, Lois, who was a child prodigy at piano, sat down to play. Not to brag or anything, but she has gone on to play piano for the Detroit Metropolitan Opera. A vocalist demanded that she be flown to London as her accompanist. She has even performed at Carnegie Hall.

From memory, my sister played an intricate piano piece. And you know what? It sounded awful too!  If Beethoven played this piano it would have hurt your ears, because grandma’s piano hadn’t been tuned since sometime before the French Revolution.

 

In the end, the New Year can evoke God’s grace, but cannot replace it. If we resolve to play a better song with our lives this coming year, but our piano is still out of tune, then we’ll produce nothing of beauty.

That’s why we need to confide in the Lord and to confess that our life is out of tune. His grace will tune us up.

I can hardly wait to start hammering away at “Chopsticks.”

                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

He’s Going to Give You a Nickname

Story of the Day for Friday December 30, 2011

He’s Going to Give You a Nickname

            To the one who is victorious. . . I will give a white stone with a new name written on it – known only to the one who receives it.                                                                                         Revelation 2:17-18

 “Hello.  Am I speaking to. . . Martin?”

Whenever someone addresses me by my legal name, they don’t know me.  My friends and family call me Marty, or Mart, or . . . well, never mind.

When I got in trouble as a kid, my mom would reel off my full, formal name – as if she was reading it off my birth certificate. But this is a parent’s way of saying that bad behavior has injected an icy chill in the parentchild relationship.

 

Do you have a nickname?  If not, you’ve at least noticed how people who don’t know you will address you by a title – Mr., Mrs., or Ms. – and then call you by your last name.

We express relationships by how we name each other.  My daughter has a friend, Katherine. Because I know her, I call her Katie.  But because my daughter is a close friend, she calls her Kate.  I would feel silly calling her Kate, because I don’t know her that well.  We use nicknames to express a relationship.  Rich Mullins, the Christian musician, sounds better than Richard Mullins, doesn’t it? His nickname makes him more approachable. But Rich had a secret name, a private name that only his family and very closest friends called him. His “inner circle” called him Wayne.

 

You find an even deeper level of naming in intimate relationships. I call my wife “hon” (or “pumpkin gut” when she was pregnant.) She calls me “dear” (or “you massive hunk of masculinity” when she wants me to take out the garbage.)  These are names we only share with each other.

 

In Pergamum, a hill rose 1000 feet above the city.  At its summit stood one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World,” an enormous temple dedicated to the mightiest of the pagan gods, Zeus.  In the book of Revelation, the Lord commends his brave followers in that city, saying, “I know where you live – where the throne of Satan is.  Yet you have remained true to my name.”

Because of their loyalty to the name of Jesus, he gives them an encouraging promise, “I will give a white stone with a new name on it, known only to the one who receives it.”

 

Heaven is described in the Bible as a numberless throng.  That’s an inspiring image.  But you can also feel insignificant and unnoticed in crowds.  The promise for the faithful at Pergamum is also meant for you.  Jesus will give you a new name , a secret one – shared only between you and him.

We identify prisoners by a number. We address strangers by title or formal name.  But, Jesus promises you the warm comfort of a close relationship with him. He’s going to give you a nickname.

                                                                 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Wear Sweat On Your Brow

Story of the Day for Thursday December 29, 2011

Wear Sweat On Your Brow

                     Do good and don’t get discouraged, for at the proper time we’ll have a harvest – if we don’t give up. 

                                                                     Galatians 6:9

 Michael J. Pellowski, in his book, Not-So-Great Moments in Sports, tells the story about golf pro, Ray Floyd, who was trying to qualify for the Tournament Players Championship in March,1982. After shooting a couple mediocre rounds, he admitted defeat, packed his bags and left Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida for his home in Miami.

As he was weeding his garden the next morning, his wife rushed out at 11:30 to tell him his score was good enough to qualify for the tournament.  His scheduled tee time was 12:36!  Floyd grabbed his gear, reserved a Lear jet, and raced to the airport.  The jet landed at an airport 15 minutes from the course, where Floyd had reserved a helicopter to fly him to the tournament course.  He landed, jumped into a golf cart and made it to his tee thirty seconds before disqualification.  A couple quick practice swings and last year’s defending champion was in the tournament.

 

Our story, however, does not end there. Later, that same year, Floyd played in the LaJet Golf Classic in Abilene, Texas.  His second round was dismal, so he knew he missed the cut and would be ineligible to play the final two rounds.  So he flew home to Miami.

Yes!  Ray Floyd did it again.  High winds that day hurt the other golfers as well, and Floyd qualified for the tournament.  This time, he made no attempt to fly back to Texas in time for his scheduled tee off.

The New York Times reported his response, “Well, I did it again, didn’t I?”  If Floyd had not given up, he would almost certainly have won the money winning title for the year.  Floyd ruefully observed, “I guess I’ll never learn.”

 

Why do we give up?  We throw in the towel – not because we don’t believe in what we’re doing, but because we don’t believe it will succeed.  We don’t believe it will work.  We don’t believe it will make a difference.

But the Bible encourages us to never give up. Wait, and the harvest will come.

 

During the Vietnam War, the billionaire Ross Perot decided to buy a Christmas present for every American prisoner of war.  Perot took thousands of packages, chartered a fleet of Boeing 707s, and flew them to Hanoi.  The Hanoi government, however, said they would not provide charity to prisoners while American bombers were destroying villages.  Perot offered to send construction companies to rebuild the villages.  Still they refused.  As Christmas drew closer, Perot took off with his chartered fleet, and flew to Moscow.  His aides mailed the packages, one at a time.  Stamped by the Moscow post office, every package got delivered.

Life doesn’t always plop blessings onto our laps. Sometimes God invites us to know the joy of moving mountains by refusing to give up.

Those who live by faith wear sweat on their brow.

                                                           (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

His Face Betrayed His Secret

Story of the Day for Wednesday December 28, 2011

His Face Betrayed His Secret

                  Those who look to the Lord are radiant; their faces will never be covered with shame.

                                                                 Psalm 34:5

On February 4, 1863, six men left the mining camp of Bannock (later renamed “Bannack” after a clerical error in Washington D.C.).  These prospectors went looking for gold by the Yellowstone River, but, by intruding on Indian land, they were captured by Crow warriors and held captive in a large Indian camp.

They escaped, but were pursued relentlessly by the Crow. The prospectors were hungry and frequently lost.

On May 26, they were camped at a little lake in the Gravelly Mountain range. Two of the men, Bill Fairweather and Barney Hughes, climbed to a nearby summit which they named “Old Baldy.”

It was a good day. Their overview of the area gave them confidence they were no longer pursued by Indians. They identified a landmark which told them they were only four days from Bannock. They had the leisure to shoot elk and bighorn sheep to replenish their nearly exhausted food supplies. They had time to rest their horses.

But best of all, at a little creek, they discovered gold. Lots of it.

 

They christened the stream, Alder Creek, and headed into town. They all agreed not to breathe a word about their discovery to a soul. They would go to Bannock to resupply and then return to Alder Creek to continue panning.

But, after they restocked their supplies and headed back to their gold find, they were shocked to discover half the town of Bannock following them.

Alright, who squealed?

No one. The miners from town said their beaming faces gave them away.

 

In his psalm, David says that those who look to the Lord are radiant.

The moon emits no light of its own. It shines because it reflects the light it receives from the sun. When our hearts are exposed to the blazing brilliance of God’s love, we simply reflect it.

Sour-faced Christians, on the other hand, advertise a God who prefers to scowl.

 

When we talk about reflecting the joy of the Lord by our radiant faces, however, we are walking into a dangerous place. Simply put: it encourages hypocrisy. Have you ever seen believers who wear phony, manufactured happiness? Their plastered smiles don’t look like a reflection of God’s grace. They look artificial – as if they feel a need to impress others with their glowing “radiance.”

Instead, they look kind of creepy.

 

Jesus radiated light. He was the light of the world. He didn’t have to put on an act. Sometimes he was sad and wept; sometimes he was angry. But I don’t think he had to tell you he lived in harmony with the Father. His face betrayed his secret.

                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Feed Your Soul on Failed Speech

Story of the Day for Tuesday December 27, 2011

Feed Your Soul on Failed Speech

                 Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” 

                                                          John 6:67

 There is this politician I know and I want to share something that happened to him. Off the record, of course.

Quite a few years ago, he was asked, as an afterthought, to speak at a special gathering. The committee told him he shouldn’t try to be funny or to talk too long. You have to admire any politician who would agree to those stipulations, but he did.

Then, just as he was getting reading to leave, his son got sick. Normally, this wouldn’t be overly traumatic, but their older son had just died the year before, and now his wife was in hysterics about him leaving. He felt, however, that he had to fulfill his obligation, and sadly, walked out the door on his sick son and angry wife.

And, then, on his way to give his speech, he got sick himself. He still hadn’t written his speech. Dog tired, he tried to put some thoughts together.

Fifteen thousand people attended the gathering. A singing group from Baltimore performed a song, and then he was on.

 

If you’re a preacher, public speaker, or even a student in a high school speech class, you know what it feels like to bomb. You’re embarrassed and humiliated.

He gave his speech. When he finished, there was an awkward silence, followed by tepid, scattered applause. He bombed.

When he slumped into his seat on the podium, he told his friend sitting next to him that his speech failed, and, as if to confirm this, pointed out the disappointment of the crowd.

But a tepid response from the crowd was nothing compared to some in the media. The Chicago Times jumped all over him, calling his speech “silly, flat, and dishwatery.” The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania paper chose to ignore his “silly remarks” in order to spare their readers from such an awful speech.

 

I’ve kept quiet about this politician’s name, but I guess there’s no harm in sharing it with you now. His name was Abraham Lincoln (I didn’t say I knew him personally). And the speech he gave was for the dedication of a seventeen-acre military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

 

When Jesus was at the height of his popularity, he gave a speech and the crowds disliked it. So many people quit following him that he had to ask his own disciples if they intended to leave him as well.

People may reject or ridicule what you have to say – not because it isn’t true, but because they’re not ready to hear it.

Want to know what you should do? Speak the truth anyway. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address took time to become the most well-loved speech in American history.

And two thousand years later, we still feed our souls on Jesus’ “failed” speech.

                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Biblical View of Sledding

Story of the Day for Monday December 26, 2011

The Biblical View of Sledding

                  So David took the spear and water jug from next to Saul’s head, and they left.

                                                            1 Samuel 26:12

When Tim and Irene Martin invited our church youth group to a sledding party, we thought it would be fun. But we soon learned the important distinction between fun and crazy.

The Martins lived at Star Meadows, high up in the mountains of Montana, and after we parked our cars along the roadside, our adventure began by sledding uphill.

Tim tied a heavy rope to the back of his four-wheel drive. We would sit on our sleds, hang onto the rope, and he would gun his rig – taking us on a wild ride up his long driveway. As we rounded a bend, the centrifugal force threw Lauren off her sled and I ran over her, but we found her still breathing, so the party was successful so far.

Once we got to the top things got interesting. Tim expected us to go sledding down the mountain back to the road. We pointed out to him that there were a lot of big trees on his very steep mountainside, but he failed to comprehend the significance of this.

While we tried to think of a Bible verse that talked about prudence, Tim’s dad came out of the house. He was a retired medical doctor, so everyone still called him Doc.

“Hey, Doc,” one of the kids said, “you come out to watch us?”

Doc looked hurt. “No,” he said, “I came to go sledding!”

I hasten to point out that Doc Martin was 83 years old at the time, so we laughed at his joke. But, it turned out that Doc wasn’t joking. He sat on his sled and we listened to him whooping it up as he disappeared down the mountain.

When Saul was king of Israel, he was intent on killing the young warrior, David. When men reported David’s whereabouts to Saul, the king gathered 3000 chosen men to pursue him.

David’s scouts reported that Saul was after him, so he went out to investigate and saw where Saul was camped for the night.

Somehow, David got it into his head that he wanted to sneak into Saul’s camp and asked which of his leaders wanted to join him. Abishai, who couldn’t think of a Bible verse about prudence, agreed to join him.

That night, David and Abishai snuck past 3000 of Saul’s best soldiers, and stole Saul’s spear and water jug that was lying beside the king’s head.

You can’t deny that David and Abishai were daring, but what’s the point? Why attempt something so foolhardy? It’s not as if David had to do this.

David did this because he was David. He didn’t have an onoff switch to regulate his courage.

Careening down a mountainside on a sled doesn’t sound like an overly biblical thing to do. But it’s practice – practice for the day when the Lord will call on us to suppress our fears to do something valiant in his name. And, since only Luke broke a bone, it wasn’t nearly as bad as we originally thought it would be.

No one has ever accused the Martin family of being sane. But, no matter – they have taught us the glory of stealing spears and water jugs.

And the importance of memorizing Bible verses about prudence.

                                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Best Medicine

Story of the Day for Saturday December 24, 2011

The Best Medicine

                    When Jesus got ashore, he saw a great crowd, and was moved with compassion for them. 

                                              Mark 6:34

 Karl Menninger built the internationally renowned Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas.  He built a career around providing psychiatric care for troubled patients.

Once, Menninger gave a lecture on mental health and answered questions from the audience.  One person lobbed him a softball, “What would you advise a person to do,” they asked, “if they felt a nervous breakdown coming on?”

Well, duh!  Everyone already knew his answer before he said it: see a psychiatrist.

Dr. Menninger caught everyone off guard with his response.  What should they do if they felt a nervous breakdown coming on?  His answer was, “Lock up your house, go across the railway tracks, find someone in need, and then do something to help that person.”

 

I like this guy.  He’s my favorite person from Topeka, and I’m not saying that just because he’s the only person I know from Topeka – he really sounds like a man of extraordinary common sense.

People who focus on the needs of others are coming down with mental health at an alarming rate.  You’ve already noticed this, haven’t you?  If you are unaware that compassionate people have fewer struggles with depression and anxiety, then maybe you’re just not paying attention.

Physical or emotional pain tends to drive me inward.  When I have a toothache, it’s harder for me that think about your problems.  Yet, as odd as it sounds, the best thing I could do when I’m hurting is to focus on helping other people.

 

Duffy Daughtery, the legendary football coach at Michigan State, aptly observed, “Football isn’t a contact sport, it’s a collision sport.  Dancing is a contact sport.”

I loved high school football.  A game consisted of an evening a planned collisions.  Great fun.  Those of you played football know that it isn’t until the game is over that you realize your arm is bleeding and your knee is swollen.  You were too focused on the game.

But imagine if you were standing in a living room during a cocktail party, and someone took a five yard head start and tackled you?  Without an external focus, it would really, really hurt.

 

When Jesus learned his friend, John the Baptist, was executed, who could blame him for wanting to get away. He tried. But the crowds noticed him and ran after him.  I’m still amazed that Jesus wasn’t annoyed by this.  The Bible says that, when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them.  He spent the rest of the day teaching them and giving them fish and bread.

  Please – I’m not trying to minimize your pain. But tending to the hurts of others may be the best medicine you’ll ever find.
                                                      (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

What Do You Mean ‘We’?

Story of the Day for Friday December 23, 2011

What Do You Mean ‘We’?

 . . .to prepare God’s people for works of ministry, so that the body of Christ might be built up, until we all reach unity in the faith. . .

                                           Ephesians 4:12-13

 The apostle Paul is teaching us something that is hard to put into practice. He talks about all the different kinds of people God puts in the church, and then he starts talking about the unity, the oneness, he wants us to share. Being different and one at the same time is no mean feat.

You see, sometimes we don’t look for unity; we look for uniformity. We assume everyone should have the same gifts. Try to imagine an orchestra where everyone plays the tuba. That’s uniformity.

Unity is much better. When woodwinds, strings, brass, and timpani all play different parts of the score, a beautiful sound arises.

 

Leaders in the church are often viewed as “hired hands.” We pay them so that they can do the work of ministry in the church. It seems like a sensible arrangement – until we take a second look at what Paul is saying.

Paul explains that church leaders are not supposed to do the work of ministry for the people, but rather to train the congregation so that they can engage in ministry. Church leaders are like band directors. They have a role to play, but so does everyone else.

 

Even the very word “ministry” sounds churchy – like something only preachers are supposed to do. But the word “ministry” is really an earthy, down-home word. It is the word the Bible uses to describe what Peter’s mother-in-law did when she served Jesus and his disciples. It is the word the Bible uses for angels feeding Jesus after his time of testing in the desert, and for servants who wait on tables.

 

When we serve, we’ll all working toward the same goal – reaching unity in the body of Christ. And everyone’s service is needed.

Once, an old man at a country church in Minnesota showed me the old pipe organ. Though it now pumps air with a motor, he told me that, years ago, he had the job of sitting behind it and pumping the bellows with his feet.

It reminded me of a story of a well-known organist many years ago who gave a recital on a pipe organ. During the performance the boy pumping the bellows looked around the organ and said, “We’re doing pretty good, aren’t we?”

“What do you mean ‘we’?” the organist scoffed.

A few minutes later, in the middle of a dazzling piece, the sound slowly started to fade out until it stopped. The young boy popped his head around the corner again. “We’re not doing so good now, are we?”

                                                 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

When It Doesn’t Add Up

Story of the Day for Thursday December 22, 2011

When It Doesn’t Add Up

                          You rescue the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.

                                              2 Samuel 22:28

Are you pretty good at adding numbers in your head? Without using a pencil or calculator, can you add these numbers and tell me the sum?

 

1000

40

1000

30

1000

20

1000

10

 

That didn’t take much time, did it? It was a simple problem, but, unfortunately, your answer is wrong. Do you want to try adding the numbers again?

Now, obviously, I don’t know that you got the wrong answer. But I do know that if your answer was “5000,” it’s wrong. And I also know that 95% of those who try this test give “5000” as their answer.

Those who admit they’re not good at addition are more likely to come up with the correct answer. Do you know why?

When I tell you your answer is wrong and invite you to try again, those who are humble are more likely to try it a second time, and discover their first answer was incorrect.

Those who take pride in their ability to add numbers in their head, however, are annoyed that I told them they got the wrong answer. When I ask them to try adding the numbers a second time, they are more likely to decline my gracious invitation.

 

Joel Barker, in his book, Paradigms, spoke in Deerborn, Michigan, with a leadership group of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He asked the group how good they were at adding and subtracting. They thought that was funny.

Then he gave them the addition problem I just gave you. After showing it on an overhead projector, he covered the problem up. When he asked them for the correct answer, they all shouted “5000!”

He asked them how sure they were of their answer and asked those who were confident they had the correct answer to raise their hand. All 280 of them raised their hand.

 

When we become overconfident in our standing before God, we also become slower to see our sin. The quicker you are to admit you’re wrong, the quicker you will find what the Lord wants to give us – his mercy, wisdom, and comfort.

                                 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Hang in There, Be Brave, and Keep Moving

Story of the Day for Wednesday December 21, 2011

Hang in There, Be Brave, and Keep Moving

                                                           . . . Let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us.

                                                                                                       Hebrews 12:1

The marathon is the most grueling race in the Olympics.  But there is a race in Australia called the toughest race in the world.  The Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon is a race of 544 miles. If it helps, just think of it as more than twenty back-to-back marathons.

 

In 1983, the world’s toughest athletes gathered for the race.  Promoter John Toleman put up $10,000 for the winner. Toleman’s friend, George Perdon was the world’s best long-distance runner, and Toleman wanted to recognize his amazing ability.

The start of the race that year will be remembered for the amusement it provided. Of all things, a 61-year-old farmer, Cliff Young, registered for the race and put on bib number 64.  Cliff looked especially comical wearing his farm overalls, with big galoshes over his work boots (he thought it might start raining).

The starting gun went off, and 150 runners exploded from the starting line. Without minutes, Cliff was left behind. To say he “runs” may be a stretch – it’s more of a loping shuffle.

 

Among the world’s best runners, a marathon is over in a couple hours.  But these world-class ultra-marathon runners race an unbelievable 18 hours a day. And, they continue this punishing pace for a week.

Runners of this caliber are sponsored by the top athletic companies.  They have coaches, trainers, and a support crew to provide food and medical care along the course.

And then we have old Cliff Young, who had no coach and whose “support crew” was his 81-year-old mother.

 

Okay, so Cliff Young is a shuffling old guy among the world’s best runners.  Still, don’t you admire the guy fore even entering a race like this?

Actually, you can admire him for more than starting the race.  After 18 hours, when the other racers got a mere six hours of sleep before hitting the course again, Cliff just kept on running.  He got two hours of sleep.  Later, he would run around the clock.

By running through the night, Cliff not only caught up to the frontrunners, he won the race! He finished in 5 days, 15 hours, and 4 minutes . . . and trimmed almost two days off the previous record.

Only five other runners finished the race.  Young took the $10,000 prize money (intended for George Perdon, who finished second) and gave each of the other finishers $2000 – keeping none for himself.

 

Your life is like a long-distance race.  The Lord has a course marked out for you.  But, he’s not looking for speed.  Instead, he encourages you to run with perseverance.  Just hang in there, be brave, and keep moving.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)