Bear Any Sacrifice

Story of the Day for Wednesday March 7, 2012

Bear Any Sacrifice

                          Jesus said, “Why do you nullify the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” 

                                                     Matthew 15:3

 While many in the American colonies considered the Indians to be savage sub-humans, William Penn always treated them with kindness and respect. He learned their language so he could talk to them without an interpreter.

Even though he bought land from King Charles II of England, and named it “Penn’s forest,” or “Pennsylvania,” he realized the land was inhabited by the Delaware tribes, and bought the land a second time from the Indians. Penn purchased land west and north of Philadelphia “as far as a man can go in a day and a half.” Both Penn and the Delaware tribe were satisfied with this purchase.

After Penn’s death, however, the provincial secretary James Logan, used the wording of the treaty to establish the infamous Walking Treaty of 1737. He had a path cleared in the forest in a straight line. Then he hired the three fastest runners in the colony to run as far as they could in a day and a half.

On September 19, 1737, Edward Marshall outdistanced his companions and ran a full 70 miles — creating an area of 1,200,000 acres (which is roughly equivalent to the size of Rhode Island).

Not surprisingly, the Delaware tribes were outraged. Nevertheless, the Delaware chiefs consented to the agreement, and were forced to move west of their tribal homelands.

Did James Logan honor the treaty that Penn made with the Delaware tribes? In a strict sense he could claim that he obeyed the law. But in his heart he knew this was robbery.

 

In 1147, Pope Eugene III traveled to Paris. He arrived on Friday, which was inconvenient because Friday was a day of fasting. So, in order to allow the citizens of Paris the opportunity to celebrate his coming, he decreed that Friday was Thursday.

 

We learn how to wiggle out of agreements from a young age. When I was a kid, you could break a promise if you crossed your fingers behind your back when you made it.

 

The religious leaders from Jerusalem knew that God commanded children to take care of their parents in their old age. But they wiggled out of the law by claiming that, if someone dedicated their possessions to God, they didn’t have to support their parents.

Jesus wasn’t buying it.

 

The Bible repeatedly tells us to fulfill our promises. It makes sense: God doesn’t want us to cheat other people.

But I think there’s even more to it. As we learn that keeping a promise takes a sacrifice, we better understand that Jesus made a promise to rescue us . . . and he would bear any sacrifice to fulfill it.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

The Right Direction

Story of the Day for Tuesday March 6, 2012

The Right Direction

                                  It’s fine to be zealous, as long as the purpose is good.

                                                               Galatians 4:18

Is “ambition” a virtue?  How about “zeal”?  I’ve never heard anyone claim that ambition can be a vice.  But, if ambition is a positive quality, then we must also realize it can be used in destructive ways.

If you want to go to Toledo, Ohio, you will be concerned about two things: speed and direction.  You’ll probably choose to drive a car over riding a donkey. But speed is a completely useless quality if we take the wrong highway and are headed to Omaha.

Ambition is speed.

 

Jesus acknowledged that the Scribes and Pharisees were ambitious.  He said to them, “You travel over land and sea to win a single convert.”  But Jesus continues by saying their ambition is destructive: “. . . and when you win a convert, he becomes twice the son of hell you are!”

When Paul writes to the church in Galatia, he warns them about Jewish legalists trying to infiltrate their congregation. These infiltrators want to persuade the church to abandon the freedom of the Gospel in order to submit to the regulations of the Old Covenant.  Paul admits these legalists are go-getters. But speed must be coupled with direction. “It’s fine to be zealous (speed),” Paul says, “as long as the purpose is good (direction).”

 

During World War II, the Germans had a ball bearing factory in the city of Schweinfurt.  The Americans reasoned that, if they could destroy the plant and stop the production of ball bearings, the production of war machinery would come to a halt and the Germans would have no choice but to surrender.

In two bombing raids to destroy the ball bearing plant, Americans lost 98 bombers and badly damaged another 138.  Yet, despite the enormous losses, the Army Air Force leader, General “Hap” Arnold was ecstatic, “Now we have got Schweinfurt!”

After the war, the Army Air Force wanted to know which of their bombing targets were most effective.  The Germans acknowledged the great damage done by bombing oil refineries, railroad yards, and bridges.  But the Nazi chief of productions, Albert Speer, said the bombing of the ball bearing factory at Schweinfurt did not harm the German cause.  They already had ample stockpiles of ball bearings.  Beside, they were able to import all they wanted from Sweden and Switzerland. Not only that, the bombings destroyed the buildings, but not the machines that made the ball bearings.  Focusing all that attention on the ball bearing factories at Schweinfurt did virtually no harm.  We were zealous in destroying the target.  But we chose the wrong one.

 

It doesn’t matter how fast you’re going until you’re headed in the right direction.

                                                     (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

They Can See Right Through Us

Story of the Day for Monday March 5, 2012

They Can See Right Through Us

                  When you fast, don’t be like the gloomy-looking hypocrites. They contort their faces so it becomes obvious to everyone that they’re fasting.

                                         Matthew 6:16

 Have you ever noticed that people who are trying to look cool don’t really look cool; they look like they’re trying to look cool?

 

When I order sub sandwiches they have a tip jar at the end of the counter. I like to tip workers, but sometimes they’re attention is turned elsewhere and they don’t see me giving my generous tip. So, I like to wait until they see me – but here’s the trick: I try to make it look like I’m furtively sneaking a tip in their jar yet hoping they’ll notice. That way, they’ll see me as both humble and generous at the same time.

 

Jesus thinks I’m a poser when I do that, and, of course, he’s right. Posing is a big deal to him because our vanity destroys the most critical attitude of a believer: humility. Only humble hearts receive undeserved gifts. And that’s what Jesus came to give us.

Becoming proud of our humility is an oxymoron. It doesn’t impress God, and, if you must know the dismal truth, it doesn’t impress other people.

 

Daniel M. Oppenheimer is a cognitive psychologist at Princeton. He published a study about the benefit of using simple language, and entitled it: “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity.”  (I found his title a little ironic until I realized this was meant to be humorous; his subtitle says: “Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly”)

Oppenheimer wanted to know if people think we’re more intelligent when we use complicated language rather than using simple words. He found that 86 percent of university students admitted that they deliberately use complicated words in their essays to make their papers sound more valid or intelligent.

 

His study revealed that, contrary to prevailing wisdom, people do not think you’re more intelligent when you write obscurely – they think you’re less intelligent. In other words, whenever we try to impress others with our intelligence, our attempts backfire.  They can see right through us.

 

Jesus watched the “religious” people as they prayed and gave alms to the poor, and fasted. All of those things are good. But he observed that these people wanted other people to notice and admire their spirituality. Yet, craving attention is not spiritual, so he called it for what it was and warned us not to imitate that kind of hypocrisy.

 

But, if you still insist on trying to impress people with your spirituality, let me give you a tip: the key is subtlety. And, if you need any help, come with me some day and watch me pay for a sub sandwich.

                                                 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


Sounds Kind of Gross

Story of the Day for Saturday March 3, 2012

Sounds Kind of Gross

                            As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.

                               Proverbs 26:11

 On October 26, 1991, the passengers in the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 jetliner stumbled in the inky darkness to the emergency exits. But their real troubles didn’t begin until they exited the plane. As they jumped down the emergency slides, 28 people were injured.

The jetliner didn’t crash but was sitting quietly in a darkened airport hangar in Long Beach, California. The FAA requires all new aircraft to satisfy government safety requirements — including the requirement that they must be able to evacuate all passengers within 90 seconds. McDonnell Douglas failed the test — taking 132 seconds.

As the sound of the ambulances rushing victims to the hospital died away, the airline engineers and FAA officials had time to assess the debacle.

Back to the drawing board, right? Experts would need time to determine what went wrong and find a way to fix the problem.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Instead, hours later, they conducted the identical test a second time. Not surprisingly, they failed the evacuation time requirement again, but far more tragically, scores of people were again injured as they tried to bail out of the jet. One woman was permanently paralyzed from the neck down.

None of the participants in the second test were allegedly told that 28 people were injured during the first test. At the end of the day, around 50 people were injured.

 

Ever since we are toddlers we are warned against doing harmful things. We’re taught to look both ways before crossing the street and not to touch a hot burner.

God does the same thing. He tells us not to cross certain lines — not because he hates to see people having a good time — but because he knows that certain behaviors are harmful and can cripple joy.

One way to avoid unnecessary pain in our lives is to listen to what God says. A second way to avoid unnecessary pain in our lives is to ignore what God says, and learn from bitter experience that sin really isn’t worth the effort.

But the greatest tragedy is when we fail to learn from either God’s wisdom or bitter experience.

I’m just guessing here, but it seems that guilt leads us to repeat sinful behavior — even though we recognize the misery it causes. Guilt makes us feel we deserve to hurt.

But God has a better way. He doesn’t want us to live in guilt. Instead, he forgives and cleanses. And even more, the Bible says that God’s kindness empowers us to change our ways.

 

In Proverbs it says that deliberately returning to the sin that was so repugnant is like a dog that eats something really rotten, throws up, and then later goes back to eat its vomit.

Sounds kind of gross, but I think that’s the point.

                                                       (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

What’s Going to Happen Next?

Story of the Day for Friday March 2, 2012

What’s Going to Happen Next?

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

                                                      Joshua 24:15

Researchers Daniel Goldstein and Eric J. Johnson noticed that several European countries had nearly 100 percent of its citizens voluntarily participating in an organ donor program. Other countries had very few signed up to donate their organs.

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

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

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

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

Both groups tend not to check the box.

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

                                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

“Schmedsel, Pretzel…What?”

Story of the Day for Thursday March 1, 2012

“Schmedsel, Pretzel….What?”

                Without consultation, plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.

                                            Proverbs 15:22

In the 1950s, the Ford Motor Company had high hopes for the new model car they developed.

They hired the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Marianne Moore to suggest a name for the car. She created a dazzling list that included: “The Intelligent Whale,” “The Mongoose Civique,” the “Andante con Moto,” “The Pastelogram,” and “The Utopian Turtletop.” In the end, however, Ernest Breech, chairing a meeting in the absence of the company president, Henry Ford II, decided to name the car after his boss’s father.

Unfortunately, Henry Ford II’s dad was Edsel, which sounded funny to the public. Later, when Ford’s David Wallace sent market analysts to ask people on the street what “immediate associations” they made with “Edsel,” they responded with: “Schmedsel,” “Pretzel,” “Weasel,” – and most disturbing of all, 40% responded with: “What?”

Ford insiders, who knew and admired Edsel Ford, thought the name was perfect. PR director, C. Gayle Warnock, however, disagreed. When he learned of the name of the new car he left a one-sentence memo on his boss’s desk: “We have just lost 200,000 sales.”

The ad campaign, costing $250 million (in the 1950s), raised consumer expectations to a high pitch with their “car of the decade.” In October, 1957, CBS replaced The Ed Sullivan Show with a live broadcast of The Edsel Show. Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Louie Armstrong, Rosemary Clooney, and Bob Hope were among the guest stars. During rehearsal, when Rosemary Clooney practiced walking up to her purple Edsel and opening the door, the door handle fell off.

When the car was unveiled to the public, they hated it. “Edsel” sounded like a silly name for a car. Ford’s marketing campaign called their new car unusually graceful, but the public though it was ugly. One man described the garish “horse collar” grill as looking “like a Mercury sucking on a lemon.”

The U.S. was in a recession and the public wanted smaller, fuel-efficient cars. The Edsel was more expensive than comparable cars and, among gas guzzlers, was exceptionally thirsty.

 

High confidence and success are almost always attended by a disinterest in listening to the opinions of others. To be attentive to the spiritual counsel of others doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with their advice. It simply means we consider the viewpoints of everyone seriously, because everyone has something to teach us.

In the end, it’s more important for us to grow wise from the counsel of others, than to think we’re brilliant in our own eyes.

 

If you ever find yourself struggling with this concept, ask the makers of the Edsel for their reflections.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)