All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

Story of the Day for Thursday July 12, 2012

 

All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

 

                   I’ve come down to rescue them . . . and to take them out of that land to a good and spacious land – a land that flows with milk and honey. 

                                                               Exodus 3:8

When James Marshall discovered a small gold nugget at John Sutter’s mill near San Francisco, the word leaked out. Soon, about 400,000 men stampeded to California to search for their fortune.

The amount of gold and the ease in collecting it became more exaggerated by the day. One miner, on his way to California, was doubtful of the wild reports and said, “If I don’t pick up more than a hatful of gold a day, I shall be perfectly satisfied.”

 

There was so much money rumored to be made “in the diggings” that it was difficult to hire anyone to work in a store or shop in California. When a ship arrived at San Francisco, the crew would often abandon their duties to search for gold. Five hundred sailing ships were abandoned at San Francisco and left to rot in the harbor. Boat captains were so desperate for crewmen that they had to pay a lowly cook twice the amount of the captain’s salary.

The military was on hand to keep order among the hundreds of thousands of miners who deluged the area. But over half of the military men deserted their posts to join the miners in their search for riches.

The miners discovered that the journey itself to the gold fields was long and hazardous. Once they arrived, they were forced to provide their own shelter. Prices on all food and goods were astronomical. Disease was widespread. And prospecting was hard, hard work.

Although a few made a fortune, most of the miners didn’t find enough gold to survive, and straggled home with nothing to show for their efforts.

 

I think we all know where this is going, don’t we? I launch into a reproachful warning on the evils of materialism, and we all frown and wonder how some people can be so greedy.

Not so fast.

When God promised to take his people to a land of milk and honey, he, apparently didn’t think it was wrong to offer it, nor a sin for his people to desire it.  And God heightened their interest by appealing to the land’s wealth: “a place where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper from the hills.”

 

True, the gold rush brought out the worst in many greedy miners. But it also brought out the best in those for whom the gold was not the real purpose. It was the dream, the adventure. Though most of the miners returned home with little or nothing, yet the majority glowed about their experience. They viewed it as a challenge, an adventure. They would wax nostalgic in recalling one of the most gratifying times in their lives.

All that is gold does not glitter.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Portrait of an Aide-de-Camp

Story of the Day for Wednesday July 11, 2012 

 

Portrait of an Aide-de-Camp

 

 

                                            Some present were indignant and grumbled among each other. “Why this waste of costly perfume? It could’ve been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her harshly.

                                                                                                                     Mark 14:4-5

 

 

No one could prove anything, but Hercules Mulligan’s loyalties looked questionable. When the American colonies declared independence from Great Britain, many colonists remained loyal to the Crown. Some Loyalists joined the British army while others operated as spies.

The highest concentration of Loyalists lived in New York, and there, on Queen Street in lower Manhatten, Mulligan worked as a tailor. His customers included a high number of wealthy British businessmen and British military officers. In addition to this, Mulligan was the son-in-law of a British naval officer. Not only that, but he billeted Redcoat soldiers in his own home during the war.

And if Mulligan was a Patriot why didn’t he publicly support the revolution?

 

When the Colonists won the War of Independence in 1783, about twenty percent of the Loyalists fled the country to escape reprisals. Those who remained often had their houses burned and possessions confiscated. Others were whipped or tarred and feathered.

The accusations and public outcry against Hercules Mulligan was growing. And then his fate was sealed when a distinguished gentlemen knocked on his door.

The man publicly revealed Mulligan as a spy.

 

One day, Jesus was in Bethany reclining at dinner when a woman took a very expensive jar of perfume and poured it on his head. Jesus’ disciples gaped in astonishment. The perfume was worth a full year’s wages! They berated the woman for her lavish squandering of wealth.

Jesus intervened, because he saw what none of his disciples understood at the time. “She poured perfume on me,” Jesus told them, “to prepare my body for burial.”

What others scorned, Jesus considered an act of sacrificial worship and faithfulness. She understood what even Jesus’ disciples failed to comprehend: that Jesus was about to sacrifice his life.

Faithfulness to the Lord is much easier when we hear applause in the background; passionate allegiance is much harder when you’re bitterly criticized for it.

 

The man who named Hercules a spy explained that Mr. Mulligan was a Patriot spy. Twice his reports of British plans saved the life of the commander-in-chief, George Washington. At night, he and fellow Patriots toppled the statue of King George that stood in a New York park and gave the lead to the Continental army to make bullets.

Not only that, but years earlier he housed a young Tory college student. Mulligan’s passionate arguments for independence converted the young man to the Patriot cause, and he went on to become General Washington’s trusted aide-de-camp.

Today, a portrait of that aide-de-camp is printed on every ten dollar bill. And a portrait of the man who knocked on Mulligan’s door to thank him for his service to his country can be found on a one dollar bill.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Step Out on Our Own

Story of the Day for Tuesday July 10, 2012 

 

Step Out on Our Own

 

                              Each one should examine his own work. Then he can take pride in himself without comparing himself to someone else. 

                                                                         Galatians 6:4

 

 Roger McGuinn was bowled over the first time he heard the Beatles. McGuinn, trained on folk guitar and banjo, was a songwriter for Bobby Darin. His job was to listen to the latest hit recordings, learn them, and try to mimic the sound. When the first Beatles hits topped the charts, McGuinn noticed they used folk-style passing chords with a rock & roll backbeat.

He loved the unique combination and employed it in his performances in Greenwich Village — so much so that one owner billed his gigs as “Beatle Imitations.”

McGuinn moved to California and helped form the Byrds. But the new band so adored the Beatles that their earliest recordings sounded eerily similar to the sound of their idols. When they watched the movie, “A Hard Day’s Night,” McGuinn noticed George Harrison playing a Rickenbacker 12-string, and immediately bought the same guitar.

The Byrd’s manager, Jim Dickson, however, was troubled by the band’s desire to be like the Beatles, and pushed them to create their own style. So, McGuinn began experimenting with a brighter tone and longer sustain on his Rickenbacker, and developed a simultaneous flatpicking and banjo-style fingerpicking technique to create his famous “jingle-jangle” sound.

 

The Byrds’ first English tour, hyped as “America’s Answer to the Beatles,” was a disaster. The critics dashed off scathing reviews.

But one night, two musicians attended a Byrds concert. Afterward, they went backstage and introduced themselves as John Lennon and George Harrison. They were fascinated with the Byrds unique sound and creative harmonies. They invited the Byrds to their homes and shared musical ideas.

The harsh reviews of the Byrds were tempered when the Beatles publicly announced that the Byrds were their favorite band.

Soon after their visit, George Harrison sent press officer, Derek Taylor, to California to hand deliver to McGuinn a recording of his latest song, “If I Needed Someone.” Harrison, in tribute to McGuinn, had imitated Roger’s guitar work from “Bells of Rhymney.”

The Beatles, whom the Byrds originally sought to emulate, turned out to be the ones who encouraged the Byrds to continue exploiting their own unique style.

 

We learn by imitation. The great comic writer, S. J. Perlman said, “You must learn by imitation,” and adds he “could have been arrested for imitating Lardner” in his early writing style.  Just as all great artists begin by copying the styles of others, one of the best ways to grow in our Christian faith is through role models.

While we may learn by imitating others, however, eventually we must step out on our own. The Byrds began by trying to emulate someone else, but found their greatest strength was to discover their own creative potential.

Roger McGuinn acknowledges his debt to the influence and encouragement of the Beatles. On his solo CD, “Limited Edition,” his opening song is George Harrison’s “If I Needed Someone.” But McGuinn has also learned to step out on his own, not only by finding his own musical style, but also, in 1977, by finding Christ.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
 

Distilling the Truth

Story of the Day for Saturday July 7, 2012

Distilling the Truth

                    . . .Our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.”. . . However many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.

                                                            2 Corinthians 1:18, 20

 

At church, I often park next to a red pickup, with a sticker that says: DRIVE IT LIKE YOU STOLE IT.  “Well,” I think to myself, “what kind of a Christian truck is that?”  But when I learned that the truck’s owner is a grandmother, her sheer spunkiness was inspiring. You go, grandma!

 

Let’s talk about bumper stickers.  Now, I didn’t choose this Bible verse from 2 Corinthians because I have the slightest intention of explaining what Paul means by it, but because it summarized the fulfillment of all God’s promises by one word: “YES.”  In Jesus, everything God promises is “YES.” That’s as pithy as it gets.

 

Bumper stickers have to be like that. You can’t blab. If your kid is an honor roll student at Westwood High, or if you visited Carlsbad Caverns, you have to get to the point.

 

Bumper stickers can also be used as a witness to Jesus – which is why I never use them – I’m not that good a driver. But, in addition to that, I’m a bit snooty about the  whole thing.  Bumper stickers are a little too simplistic for my refined sophistication. How can you fit the depth of God’s wisdom on a bumper sticker?  I have scoffed at the shallowness of it all.

But I have repented.

Yes, the wisdom of God is deeper than anything that will fit on a bumper sticker.  Nevertheless, I’ve discovered that, when you can state your goal or belief in a phrase short enough to fit on a bumper sticker, it is more helpful than complex formulations of faith.  When I am lazy and want to veg out, “Carpe Diem” (“Seize the Day”) gets me going.  On cold, gray mornings, when I don’t want to put snowshoes on and run the dogs up the mountainside, it helps to say “Just Do It.”  When confronted with repeated failure, a friend taught me to say what Peter said to Jesus: “. . . nevertheless, at your word, I will let down the nets.”  When I want to judge a fallen brother, I am aided by the phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

 

Jesus habitually pushed the envelope by shocking and surprising people to get them to think about the kingdom of God.  In my bumbling way, I want to do the same.  But maybe finding spiritual edification in bumper stickers is going too far.

Maybe.

But think about it: if the biblical truth you want to ingrain in your life can be put in one phrase, it becomes a practical motivator.  Something you can apply.

Listen to God’s Word.  Then distill the truth down until you can . . . fit it on a bumper sticker.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
 

The Sins You Never Committed

Story of the Day for Friday July 6, 2012 

The Sins You Never Committed

Then the Lord said to Moses . . . “Choose some towns to be your cities of refuge.” 

                                       Numbers 35:11

Chuck Swindoll tells the story about a Texas law firm. Every Thanksgiving the boss would set turkeys on the walnut table in the board room. Every attorney in the law firm stood around the table, and in turn, would pick up a turkey, say how grateful they were to work at the law firm, and how grateful they were for the turkey this Thanksgiving season.

But Swindoll explains how one young attorney has no use for a turkey. Besides having no idea how to cook one, he was single and didn’t need a whole turkey.

His co-workers understood this, so one year they replaced his turkey with one made out of paper mâché and weighted to make it feel like a real turkey.

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the young attorney picked up his bird, announced how grateful he was to work at the firm, how thankful he was for his turkey, and went home.

He caught a bus and, with the large turkey on his lap, wondered what he was going to do with it. Just then a discouraged-looking man boarded the bus and sat next to him. The attorney learned the man had a large family but was out of work. He had spent the day job-hunting with no success.

The attorney saw his opportunity to do a good deed; he would give the man his turkey. But he didn’t want the man to feel like a beggar, so he asked him, “How much money do you have?”

He had less than three dollars.

The attorney said, “I’d like to sell you this turkey.”

The man was moved — thrilled that he could bring home a turkey for Thanksgiving. When the man got off the bus he waved to the attorney. “God bless you! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I’ll never forget you.”

Can you picture the man bursting through the front door? “Kids, you’ll never believe what a nice man I met today! Come here, look what I have.”

On Monday morning, the young attorney’s co-workers were dying to find out about his turkey.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? And it feels awful.

When we do something wrong, it’s often easier to find forgiveness than when we hurt someone unintentionally and have no way to apologize. How do you find forgiveness for something you don’t really believe was wrong?

In the days of Moses, God told him to set up refuge cities for accidental sins. If you killed someone unintentionally, you could flee to a refuge city and be ensured safety until justice was done.

Those refuge cities are a small picture of who God is for us. “O Lord,” Isaiah says, “. . . you have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress.”

When we’re feeling bad, God’s refuge is a safe place to be. He can provide healing — even for the sins you never committed.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

A Spinoff on the Definition of Love

Story of the Day for Thursday July 5, 2012

A  Spinoff on the Definition of Love

                  . . . and whatever other commandment God may give is summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

                                               Romans 13:9

 

In Joliet, Illinois, it’s illegal to mispronounce the name of the city. You can be fined five dollars for saying “jolly-ETTE.”

Some people grumble that lawmakers and bureaucrats pass regulations with the sole purpose of being obnoxious and aggravating the general public. I disagree. More often than not, people draft regulations because they want to improve conditions, ensure our safety, and assist the handicapped.

Rules, however, even when well-intentioned, don’t always achieve their purpose.

The Amish, as part of their religious practice, reject much of modern society. They don’t use electricity or drive cars.

In 2003, the state of New York mandated new building codes requiring all new houses to have electricity and indoor plumbing. Further, all new buildings must meet new codes and be certified by an architect or engineer. The old code for window size was four foot square. The new code mandated bedroom windows be 7.7 foot square.

Bedroom window size isn’t a big deal — unless your Amish. The Old Order Amish of Chautauqua, New York, believe that keeping the ways of the 19th century is vital to their religion — including the design of their houses. The bedroom windows of their houses falls an inch-and-a-half shy of the new code. The state argued it was necessary in order to escape if the house caught on fire.

The Amish think the new code is senseless; they can climb through their old windows just fine. And the local fire department claims they would have no trouble climbing into their windows. But the Amish don’t believe in telephones. Their houses almost always burn down before the fire department can be notified.

The local town board sympathized with the Amish and approved their new homes. But the New York Department of State charged the community of Chautauqua with being in violation of state law.

I don’t know how the issue was resolved. I do know that when bureaucrats have power to make regulations, they often make people’s lives worse rather than better.

I’d hate to live in Joliet and have a lisp.

Have you ever thought of God as a bureaucrat — making laws designed to burden you and make you unhappy? Well, he’s not like that at all. Every command that God gives is a spinoff on the definition of love. God only forbids behavior that doesn’t promote love.

If you want to help others, God won’t force you to rehang your windows first. When you want to love your neighbor, you don’t even have to ask for permission.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

A Ragtag Militia

Story of the Day for Wednesday July 4, 2012

A Ragtag Militia  

 

                    David’s troops fled from the Philistines at the barley field. But they took their stand in the middle of the filed and defended it . . . and the Lord rescued them with a great victory. 

                                                   1 Chronicles 11:13-14    

 

 

Imagine that terrorists attacked Washington D.C. and destroyed the White House, the capitol, the Library of Congress – all of our most important government buildings.  

Did you know that it once happened?  

In 1812, Great Britain was the most powerful army in the world. They had just defeated Napoleon and were well-trained and battle-tested. The United States had virtually no army at all.  

When the British invaded our shores, they marched on Washington and burned all the government buildings (except the post office). After the devastation, President Madison showed no signs of panic. He convened his cabinet in the post office and Congress met in a hotel.  

These were dark days for our country.  

Many voices called for surrender. How could we withstand such a might force? The President, however, refused to back down. He installed new officers in the military who were willing to stand up to the British.  

 

The British army’s next target was Baltimore. Major George Armistead was chosen to defend the small fort at the mouth of the harbor. Before British ships could destroy Baltimore that had to get past Fort McHenry.  

Armistead convinced the local merchants to line up their ships across the mouth of the harbor . . . and sink them – thus forming a blockade. He installed sixty cannons in the fort and said, “We are ready, except that we have no suitable ensign to display over the fort. And it is my desire to have a flag so large that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance.”  

Working day and night, Mary Pinkersguild oversaw the making of an American flag that measured 30 feet by 42 feet.  

 

The British navy arrived on September 11th, 1814. They unloaded 50 ships full of infantry to attack the city of Baltimore, while the warships unleashed a furious barrage on Fort McHenry. 190 pound cannonballs hit with such force they rattled houses in Baltimore over three miles away.  

All night long the sky was lit up as the British bombarded the fort. The navy launched 700 rockets and over 1500 cannonballs.  

At dawn, the Americans would raise their flag or a white flag of surrender. An American lawyer, captured by the British, watched the bombardment and saw, by the dawn’s early light, those broad stripes and bright stars . . . 

The British infantry retreated and the navy sailed away. Who could have predicted that a ragtag militia could stand up to the power of the British forces? But they did.  

 

When the time comes for you to stand your ground, don’t calculate the power of the forces arrayed against you; think only of that for which you would give your all.  

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

 

Faith Trumps Daydreams

Story of the Day for Tuesday July 3, 2012

 

Faith Trumps Daydreams

                   We remember the words of our Lord Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” 

                                                    Acts 20:35

 

 What would it take for you to be happy and fulfilled?

If I were a betting man, I would guess it has something to do with money. (And the very fact I refer to betting suggests my focus is on gaining money.)

 

In 1913, Marion was born into a dream. She was raised in a Hungarian castle — attended by maids, butlers, governesses, and chauffeurs. When her family traveled, they brought their own linen, because using the bed sheets of the common people was below their dignity.

In Vienna, Marion met the movie director Otto Preminger, and soon they were married. They moved to southern California where Preminger’s career took off, and the couple basked in fame. Marion ascended the social ranks as a prominent Hollywood glamour queen with the wealth to feed her obsession for high living and the latest fashions.

When I imagine happiness, it harmonizes with Marion Preminger’s life: butlers serving hors d’oeuvres in my castle, or movie stars bidding for my attention.

 

But Marion wasn’t happy. She began to drown under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and the numerous affairs between her and her husband shattered their marriage. Depressed and desperate, Marion became suicidal.

Preminger fled from her broken life and returned to Europe — hoping to rise as a Parisian socialite.

 

As a little girl, she had heard stories of Albert Schweitzer, a world-renowned theologian and organist who retreated to Africa to serve the poor.  One day, she learned that Schweitzer was making a return visit to Europe and would be in Gunsbach in northeastern France. Preminger sought out Dr. Schweitzer and found him playing the organ in the village church.

After dinner at his house, Schweitzer invited Marion to come to Lambarene and join in the work at the African hospital.

The girl who had been raised in a castle, who had been pampered and spoiled, now found herself bathing babies, changing bedpans, and feeding lepers. In her autobiography, All I Want Is Everything, Marion says of Schweitzer: “I thank God he allowed me to become a helper, and in helping, I found everything.”

 

My daydreams and my faith don’t always get along. I blissfully dream of how happy I’d be with a bigger house and season tickets to Packers games. I never fantasize about finding fulfillment by changing bedpans.

But faith trumps daydreams. Life isn’t about how much we get but how much we give. Jesus had it right: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

How It Should End

Story of the Day for Monday July 2, 2012 

How It Should End

 

                   Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, do you now want to reach your goal through human effort? 

                                                                   Galatians 3:3

Why is it that, whenever we try to be more religious than other people, we end up becoming worse?

The Puritans felt the Reformation didn’t go far enough. Seeking greater purity, some separatist groups removed themselves from other Christians.

Alice Morse Earle, who liked rummaging through old documents, discovered some juicy news from these groups. John Lewis and Sarah Chapman, she found, were accused and tried for sitting together under an apple tree on the Lord’s Day. A soldier from Dunstable was fined forty shillings for wetting a piece of an old hat and stuffing it in his shoe on the Sabbath. In 1656, Captain Kemble from Boston was put in the public stocks for his “lewd and unseemly behavior” of kissing his wife at the doorstep of his house. (This was the first time Kemble had seen his wife since a three year voyage).

 

Why have so many people done things in the name of Jesus that Jesus himself would deplore? Could it be that, whenever we seek to become superior to others, we’re moving in the wrong direction? The prime virtue of a Christian should be humility. When we discover we’re covered in muck — just like everyone else — we can honestly report the grim news to God, and know he’ll forgive us. Humility is what faith is about.

Seeking to be better than others, however, neglects humility in favor of pride, judgmentalism, false piety, self-righteousness, minimizing personal faults, fear of those on the “outside” (which breeds slander) and group conformity for fear of expulsion.

 

“Well, Bartholomew, I thank God we aren’t like the heathen.” (pride)

“Me, too.” (conformity based on fear of expulsion from the group)

“The heathen probably lurk in dark alleys and torture cats.” (fear of those outside the group, which leads to slander)

“Yup.” (conformity based on fear of expulsion from the group)

“But, praise God, on the Judgment Day, the Most High will reward us for the fruit of our labors.” (self-righteousness)

“Yup.” (conformity based on fear of expulsion from the group)

“Hey, are you eating that without praying first?” (judgmentalism)

“It’s, ah . . . it’s just a stalk of celery.” (minimizing personal faults)

“So? I thank the Almighty for every morsel that touches my lips.” (false piety)

“I thanked the Lord, but I said it in my head.” (lying to cover own sins)

“You should’ve at least bowed your head in reverence.” (false piety)

“I’m going to do that from now on.” (conformity based on fear of expulsion from the group)

 

We begin the new life by relying on the grace of Jesus, and that’s how it should end.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)