Foot In the Door

Story of the Day for Friday August 17, 2012

Foot In the Door

 

                 Don’t let the devil get his foot in the door. 

                                                        Ephesians 4:27

 

 Dale Hays once wrote in Leadership magazine about a trip he made to Haiti.  While there, he heard a Haitian pastor tell the people a parable, which went like this:

A man put his house up for sale.  He found a potential buyer, but the man was so poor he could not afford the full asking price.  After a lot of haggling, the owner agreed to sell the house for half price, with one stipulation: he would retain ownership of one nail sticking out above the front door.

After a few years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new owner was unwilling to sell.  So, the original owner found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from the single nail he still owned.  Soon the stench made the house unlivable, and the man was forced to sell his house to the former owner.

The Haitian pastor was trying to teach his people, that, if we leave the Devil with one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it.

 

We all tend to judge things by size.  Big things are important; little things much less significant.  That is why the devil’s “foot-in-the-door” strategy is especially dangerous.  “It’s just a foot, after all,” we reason, “how harmful could that be?”

But, deep inside, we know better.  The small, daily choices we make are far more significant than the few “major decisions” in the arc of our lives.

When I’m on a diet, I never decide to pig out on an entire bag of potato chips.  I just tell myself, “How bad could one measly handful of chips be?”  After the first handful I say, “Okay, but that was a small handful.  Just one more . . .” When the feeding frenzy is over, there’s nothing left but an empty bag.

 

We cannot completely avoid the presence of temptation.  But we can control the “foot in the door.”  In other words, no matter how holy you are, you are still going to bump into lots of bags of potato chips.  The crucial moment of temptation comes earlier than we usually suppose.  The best time to resist temptation is not after eating “just one handful”; the best time to exercise self-control is before we shove our hand into the bag.

 

Starlings are a major nuisance in many parts of our country.  Unlike many other birds, they roost together.  They can completely carpet an area with their whitewash, and emit a stink that could kill a cow at a hundred paces.

Did you know these pests are not native to North America?  Starlings first came to America when Eugene Schieffelin fashioned the noble dream of introducing to America every bird found in Shakespeare’s works.  If you’re working with our theme at all, you already know my point: someone should have murdered Shakespeare before he started writing about birds! (I’m kidding, okay? I love Shakespeare.)

I am certain, however, that if Eugene the Goofball had foreseen the consequences, he never would have opened the door.

                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

A Continual Feast

Story of the Day for Thursday August 16, 2012 

A Continual Feast

 

                 All the days of the afflicted are miserable, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast. 

                                                    Proverbs 15:15

 

 

At the Olympics, two athletes reach the podium. Who will be happier: The athlete who won the bronze medal or the athlete who took silver?

Not too difficult to answer, is it? The athlete who won the silver medal did better than the athlete who won the bronze, so obviously he or she is happier.

But Richard Wiseman, professor at the University of Herfordshire, UK, suggests otherwise. He believes that those who win a bronze medal are happier about their achievement. Why? The silver medalists looks to the top of the podium, and tends to think, “If only I had done a little better, I could have won the gold. But I fell short.”

Bronze medal winners tends to look in the other direction. They see that, if they hadn’t outperformed the other competitors, they wouldn’t have made it to the podium at all. The difference in attitude between silver and bronze medalists is not accomplishment, but perspective.

 

We are not victims of happiness or misery. Our disposition is not determined by outside forces beyond our control, but by our attitude. A Hollywood celebrity can become furious because the chateaubriand was served medium rather than medium rare, while a starving man may burst with joy at finding a moldy piece of bread.

 

Prof. Wiseman, has written a book called The Luck Factor, where he seeks to discover the differences between people who are considered lucky and unlucky. (Wiseman rejects the notion of luck as a magical, superstitious power. When he talks about “luck” he simply means “fortunate.”) He asked the participants in his study to imagine they were waiting in line at a bank. Suddenly, an armed robber enters the bank, fires a shot, and the bullet hits them in the arm. Wiseman asks them, “Would you consider yourself lucky or unlucky?”

Those who defined themselves as unlucky people said this shooting would be very unlucky.  Just their luck to be in the bank when a robbery takes place.  But those in the study who considered themselves lucky were far more likely to consider themselves fortunate. “You could have been shot in the head,” they would say.  Some thought about how you could sell your story to the newspapers and make some money.

Wiseman concluded that much of the good and bad fortune we encounter in life is a result of our thoughts and behavior. In other words, it’s about our attitude.

An old saying goes: “The same sun that melts the ice, hardens the clay.”  Identical circumstances in life may make some people bitter, and other people better.

 

God teaches us in this proverb that cheerfulness is an attitude. It comes from the heart. But let’s never forget that the Lord provides the ultimate basis for cheerfulness over misery. All our most vital battles will end in victory because of Jesus.

And thinking about that is a continual feast

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

How to Make Hubert Humphrey Invisible

Story of the Day for Wednesday August 15, 2012 

 

 How to Make Hubert Humphrey Invisible

 

 

                The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they don’t see the light of the glorious good news of Christ . . . 

                                         2 Corinthians 4:4   (mck)

 

 

Hubert Humphrey is the patron saint of politicians to Minnesotans.  As an influential senator, and former vice-president, he was wildly popular in his home state.

Once, while travelling with a friend, Humphrey stopped at a gas station to use the rest room.  Humphrey’s friend gazed at a tour bus as it pulled into the gas station.  Immediately, he hatched a brilliant and devious plan.

He walked onto the tour bus and asked where they were from.  After a little chit-chat, he said, “Can I ask a small favor of you?  I have a friend who has a weekend pass from the mental institute.  His problem is that he thinks he’s Hubert Humphrey!  Matter of fact, he does look a bit like Humphrey.  But, he’s harmless, and I was wondering if I could bring him on the bus, and you could pretend he really is Hubert Humphrey.”

The people on the tour bus agreed to the plan.

When Humphrey returned to the car, his friend said, “Hey, Hube!  As you were going inside, this tour bus pulled up, and they recognized you.  They’re asking me if they can meet you.  Would you mind going on the tour bus and greeting them?”

No problem.  Humphrey hopped into the tour bus and went down the aisle, shaking hands and introducing himself.

When he got back in the car, his friend asked him how it went.  Humphrey had a puzzled look on his face.  “It was the oddest thing,” he said, “every time I shook their hand and told them my name, they giggled.”

 

The people on the tour bus shook hands with one of the most famous citizens of their state.  They saw him, but they didn’t see him.

 

Jesus encountered the same thing.  Who was this man?  To the religious leaders, who saw him as a threat to their authority, he was demon possessed. Herod Antipas was haunted by a guilty conscience after he executed a holy man, John the Baptist.  When he heard of Jesus, he said, “John the Baptist, whose head I cut off, has come back from the dead.”  Others thought they were seeing a lunatic, a prophet, an imposter.

Everyone could see Jesus, but not everyone  could see him.

 

“Yeah, but how do we know we’re not the ones who are deceived?”

Good question.

When skeptics objected to Jesus’ true identity, he pointed them to the truth.  When the religious authorities confronted him about his identity, he pointed them to the Scriptures.  When his compassion was questioned by an untouchable leper, he touched him (and healed him).  Jesus does not shrink from honest questions; he invites them.

We are bombarded by lies and deception.  Jesus cuts through the fog, and sets before us the light of truth.  Don’t be afraid to follow the evidence to see where it leads.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

Does God Invite Ants to Your Picnic?

Story of the Day for Tuesday August 14, 2012 

 

Does God Invite Ants to Your Picnic?

 

                          Job replied, “. . . Shall we accept good from God, but not trouble?”

                                                                                Job 2:10

 

 

On June 13, 1883, the little town of Mystic, Connecticut, was flooded with reporters from the biggest newspapers in New England: the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the New London Daily, Providence Journal, New York Herald, and many others.

The estimates of the crowd ranged from 5,000 to 12,000. They had come to Mystic to witness the unveiling of a statue honoring those who had fought in the Civil War.

 

The festivities got off to a slow start because the train from New London – which carried the governor and other dignitaries, was late.

Then the grandstands, which had been erected to accommodate the crowds for the occasion, collapsed.

When the granite statue was to be unveiled, cannons stood ready to deliver a 38-gun salute (in tribute to the 39 states in the Union).  But when those manning the cannon battery noticed the state governor approaching, they abruptly changed plans and decided to deliver their 38-gun salute to him instead.

The cannons were loaded with blanks, but the timing could hardly have been more unfortunate. Civil War veterans were marching down the street to the monument. As the cannons roared their approval of the governor, the first three ranks of soldiers were mowed down. Burning powder lacerated their faces and scorched their uniforms. One officer was severely injured and another soldier’s leg badly bruised.

 

The former Civil War general, Joseph R. Hawley delivered a stirring speech which rattled on for forty minutes, and then the famished crowds were treated to a lavish meal served up by the ladies of Mystic. But a sudden downpour scattered the crowds, and the joyous day came to a fitting conclusion.

 

Have you ever had a day like this?

I knew a man who claimed that, if you really trust God, you won’t experience bad things. He boasted that, since he began a certain spiritual discipline, he had never had a flat tire. I had been practicing the same discipline for years, and I had flat tires.

 

Maybe I didn’t have enough faith. But, then again, maybe he was wrong.

When we live the way God invites us to, we, obviously, avoid many unnecessary troubles.  But, once we get it into our heads that God’s mission is to keep the ants away at our picnics, we are priming ourselves for disappointment.

This darkened planet is not a luxury resort but a battleground. The Lord is looking for faith, but faith in something far bigger than whether or not our tires go flat.

I hope that guy with good tires enjoys his share of flats. Keep in mind that I say this – not out of meanness, but in the interests of theology.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
 

Let Prisoners Run Wild

Story of the Day for Monday August 13, 2012 

 

Let Prisoners Run Wild

 

                    They will rebuild the ancient ruins. They will restore what had once been devastated.

                                                              Isaiah 61:4

 

 

In 1852, on Vancouver Island, British settlers founded the village of Victoria. The town was built by with beauty and Old World charm. Flowers were imported from England: hollyhocks, wallflower, and mignonette.  Every home boasted a lovely garden in the front yard.

The peaceful village of Victoria was truly idyllic.

 

But all this changed in a day. On April 25, 1848, most of the 450 residents were returning home from worship when an American boat, the Commodore, pulled into harbor with 450 passengers. Instantly, the size of the town had doubled.

Gold had been discovered. James Douglas, the governor of the area, had 636 pounds of gold dust. The colony had collected so much gold that he decided to send 800 ounces to the gold mint in San Francisco.

Once the secret was out, Americans poured into Victoria, the only port in the area, to get in on the action. Soon, the Sierra Nevada unloaded another 1900 miners. This was quickly followed by other passenger ships: the Orizaba and the Cortez.

The new residents stripped the surrounding hills of timber and quickly erected a rowdy shantytown. The cost of property exploded. A fifty dollar city lot now sold for three thousand dollars.

Within four months the beautiful village of Victoria exploded from 450 residents to 30,000.

 

The city of Victoria, once so charming, was overrun by those greedy for fortune, but who cared nothing for beauty.

But the city fought back, and their main weapon was the flower.  The city chose to reclaim their original British heritage. Their government buildings and hotels were constructed with an Old World design. Residents played cricket. But, more than anything else, they planted flowers.

Today, you would be hard-pressed to find a city of more abundant and beautiful flowers. The Butchart Gardens alone overflows with 55 acres of flowers – not to mention Finnerty Gardens, Abkhazi Gardens, and countless others.

Today, the various municipalities of the city hold annual contests to determine who has the most flowers. It is a friendly competition to be named the “Bloomingest Community.”

A Canadian survey wanted to know how much residents loved the city in which they lived. The residents of Victoria ranked number one. Conde Nast Traveller magazine ranked Victoria one of the best cities in the world, and number one in ambience.

 

Jesus’ first recorded sermon was in his hometown of Nazareth, and based on the words of Isaiah 61. He said he was the one God had sent to bring restoration. He came to restore broken hearts and let prisoners run wild. He was coming to give the mourning a crown of beauty, and to rebuild what was torn down.

As we survey the wreckage of our lives, don’t lose sight of the One whose goal is to rebuild.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Impossible Beginnings

Story of the Day for Saturday August 11, 2012 

Impossible Beginnings

 

 

      And in those days, Peter got up in the midst of the brothers – a group numbering about a hundred and twenty. 

                                             Acts 1:15

 

 

Have you ever seen a tree that is six feet in diameter? I’ve seen only a handful of trees that large in my lifetime.

That is why I was impressed when I read, that in January 2006, in California, a branch fell off a tree that measured more than six feet in diameter! A branch.

Whoa.

The branch came from a Great Sequoia, named “General Sherman.” This tree towers 275 feet high and measures over 100 feet around at the base.  Its bark is about three feet thick. And – get this – the tree was already 3,327 years old when Columbus reached the new world.

Want to know something else about this tree? The General Sherman once started as a seed. A really, really tiny seed, in fact.  3000 sequoia seeds weigh only one ounce!

 

After Jesus ascended to heaven, he entrusted the work of God’s kingdom on this earth to a small handful of followers. After their first head count, they only number one hundred and twenty believers.

Jesus’ followers faced immediate opposition from the Jewish leaders.  But, beyond that, the mighty Roman Empire loomed over this meager bunch of disciples, and its emperors would soon dedicate themselves to eradicating all followers of Jesus from the earth.

Things didn’t look promising, to put it mildly. But, look around today at what God has accomplished from this small beginning.

 

So, what’s the point?  I’m not entirely sure I should tell you. (Have you ever noticed how often Jesus told parables and made puzzling comments, and then let us wrestle with his words?)

But, surely you’ve heard the old slogan, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Well, yeah, that’s true. But, sometimes the first step seems so insignificant, that I’m tempted to cancel the trip and watch a football game instead.

 

If you’re ever discouraged by beginnings, maybe this will help. The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago had an exhibit. A checkerboard had one grain of wheat on the first square. Two grains on the second square. Four on the next square.

By doubling a single grain of wheat each square, how many grains will you have by the final 64th square? Enough to cover the entire subcontinent of India fifty feet deep!

All big things start as small things.  When the Lord sets a dream before you, don’t be afraid to start. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is like a seed . . . “

                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Thy Will Be Done

Story of the Day for Friday August 10. 2012

 

Thy Will Be Done

                   I want you to know, brothers, that those things that happened against me have advanced the good news. .

                                                                        Philippians 1:12

 

In his book, The Wild Blue, Stephen Ambrose tells the story of a bombing raid during World War II. George McGovern was flying the Dakota Queen over Amstetten, Austria. McGovern’s bombardier, Cooper, tried to drop the bombs, but they got stuck. Cooper worked to free the bombs, but by the time they fell, they had flown over the river and missed their target. When the men returned to base, they were told at the debriefing that their bombs had dropped on an allied prisoner of war camp.

McGovern and Cooper were devastated.

 

Life doesn’t work out the way we want it to. The Lord’s Prayer is one of the most difficult prayers to pray because we plead with our heavenly Father that His will would be done – when what we really want is for life to turn out the way we want it to.

Why does the Lord let so many bad things happen to us? Why does the Lord let so many bad things happen through us?

Good question.

 

Steve Brown was invited to speak at a missions conference for young people. Just before he spoke, the leader told him there were a lot of kids who weren’t Christians, and asked if he could present the gospel to them.

Without time to prepare, Steve presented God’s plan of salvation. No response. In his book, If Jesus Has Come, Steve says he left the auditorium that night in shame.

Steve tried to reassure himself that these things happen. No big deal. But it was a big deal. Every time he heard the name of the town where he had botched his presentation, he winced.

Five years later, a young man approached him. “Mr. Brown, you don’t know me, but a few years ago I was at a missions conference where you spoke.” Steve groaned inwardly. “The night you spoke I received Christ, and now I’m a student in seminary and I’m going to be a pastor, and I just wanted to thank you.” He told Steve he had a recording of his presentation and shares it with others. “I can’t tell you how God has used your words.”

 

Paul was thrown into prison, but wrote that God was even using his incarceration to advance the gospel. Even when things don’t work the way we’d like them to, God is still at work.

And, before I forget, after Cooper had botched the bombing run, he was haunted by the memory of it. After the war he enrolled at Texas A&M and met an Army Air Forces officer. It turned out the man was a POW at the camp that Cooper accidentally bombed. The former prisoner explained that one of the bombs hit the fence, and in the confusion, several of the Americans managed to escape to freedom.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

A Time to Agree

Story of the Day for Thursday August 9, 2012 

A Time to Agree

 

                    I beg of you . . . that all of you agree with each other so that there might be no more divisions among you. 

                                                                 1 Corinthians 1:10

 

How many hours is it before the next sunrise? That, obviously, depends on where you live because the sunrise will vary by 24 hours – depending on your longitude.

In the 1800s, communities in England had the instruments to accurately calculate high noon. Keeping accurate time in your hometown created no big problem until the railway system increased its speed. On an east to west railroad, every town will reach high noon at a different time. Even the city of London’s time differed by two minutes from one end of the city to the other.

In the United States, the situation was no better. Each railroad company decided to set a standard time – no matter where it went. But the railroad companies couldn’t agree on what time should be used. So, each railroad operated by a different time. The train station in Pittsburg had six clocks – each one set to a different time – depending on which train you wanted to ride on. In 1883, W. F. Allen found that there were about fifty different “official” times in use throughout the country.

During World War I, the U.S. established Daylight Savings Time in order to conserve fuel. When the war was over, some localities continued using Daylight Savings Time and others refused. In one 35-mile stretch of highway from West Virginia to Ohio, the local time would change no less than seven times.

When communities acted in their own self-interest to determine the time, no one really knew what time it was. Everyone was frustrated and confused.

 

We often assume it’s in our own self-interest to act in our own self-interest, but this isn’t always the case. John Allen Paulos, in his book, Innumeracy, cites an experiment demonstrating how self-interest works against us.

He asks us to imagine twenty casual acquaintances brought together by an eccentric philanthropist. No one is allowed to communicate with each other. The philanthropist then explains to the group that, if everyone refrains from pressing a button in front of them, they will each receive $10,000. If, however, some in the group do press the button, they will receive $3,000, and those who refrained from touching the button will receive nothing.

It is in everyone’s self-interest to avoid touching the button and receiving $10,000 a piece. But, without the ability to talk and cooperate with other, how likely is it that everyone in the group would act to bring the greatest benefit to themselves (and everyone else)?

Not likely.

 

The saddest thing about insisting on what we want is that we won’t get what we want. God has created us so that we gain the greatest good by sacrificing our own best interests for the sake of the needs of others.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

A Robe Dipped in Blood

Story of the Day for Wednesday August 8, 2012 

 

A Robe Dipped in Blood

 

 

                Pride goes before destruction, and an arrogant attitude before a fall.

                                                  Proverbs 16:18

 

 

England did her best when they sent General Edward Braddock to the Colonies during the French and Indian War of 1754 – 1763.

He arrived in his shiny brass buttons as commander-in-chief of North America, and led two brigades through the Pennsylvania wilderness to recapture Fort Duquesne (where Pittsburgh sits today).

Benjamin Franklin met with Braddock beforehand and warned him against Indian ambushes, but the general sniffed at the suggestion that savages could intimidate his highly trained British soldiers. Franklin observed later that Braddock “had too much self-confidence” and too low an opinion of the Indians.

A Virginia militia volunteered to fight with the British, and their young, 23-year-old leader, suggested that his rangers lead the expedition, since they understood Indian tactics and were familiar with the terrain. The 60-year-old Braddock was offended: “What! An American buskin teach a British general how to fight!”

The Virginians were sent to the rear.

 

The British march was a display of pomp and military precision. One observer said, “General Braddock marched through this wilderness as if he had been in a review in St. James Park.” The general sacrificed speed for ceremony, and, as a result, the Indians easily monitored his every move.

 

As they neared Fort Duquesne, the Indian ambush caught the British off balance. The young Virginian leader urged Braddock to disperse his troops and hide behind trees — as the Indians fought. Instead, Braddock stubbornly concentrated his men in tight platoons which were decimated as quickly as they were formed.

As Braddock tried vainly to rally his disorganized troops he was shot in the chest. Later, realizing he was mortally wounded, he gave his ceremonial sash to the Virginian officer whose advice he had ignored.

That young Virginian, George Washington, reportedly wore Braddock’s blood-stained sash for the rest of his career as commander of the Colonial Army. After becoming the first president of the United States, Washington continued to wear the sash.  He would never forget that the greatest enemy to victory is pride.

 

Just as pride blinded General Braddock to the strength of his adversary, so pride blinds us to the power of sin. This is not a battle we can win on our own.  It is not even a battle we must fight.

Jesus has conquered the Enemy. He rides a white horse with a robe dipped in blood. And only the notion that you don’t need his help can keep him from bringing you the victory you long for.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Seeing What You’re Looking For

Story of the Day for Tuesday August 7, 2012

Seeing What You’re Looking For

                      Jesus spoke to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the desert to see?” 

                                                    Matthew 11:7

The people flocked to John the Baptist when he preached at the Jordan River. Jesus asked them what they went out there to see. It’s a good question because we almost always see the thing we’re looking for.

Focus, for example, on the color blue, and you will see it everywhere.

Jacques Plante is, perhaps, the greatest goalie who ever played hockey. He led the Canadiens to six Stanley Cups and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978.

Plante was an innovative genius. He was the first goaltender to play the puck outside the crease, the first to skate behind the net to stop the puck for defensemen, the first to raise his arms to signal an icing call to his teammates, the first to regularly wear a face mask – which enabled him to throw his body to stop a shot.

Yet, Plante realized that the fans noticed his occasional mistakes far more than his brilliant play in goal. He once asked, “How would you like a job where, if you make a mistake, a big red light goes on and eighteen thousand people boo?”

We tend to look for mistakes.

Sometimes, when teaching a class, I would take my black marker and make one small dot in the middle of the whiteboard.

“What do you see?” I’d ask.

“A black dot.”

“Anything else?”

“No.”

Then I’d explain that what they were seeing was a large expanse of white, yet we become so focused on the little black dot that the whiteness of the board “disappears.”

When we focus on other people’s faults, we will see them.  There’s nothing wrong, of course, with wanting to help people with their shortcomings, but a critical spirit is harmful because it distorts reality. We no longer see the good characteristics of others when what we want to see are other people’s faults.

When Philip Yancey moved to Colorado, he learned about noxious weeds which were threatening the survival of native plants. In his book, Prayer, he writes about buying a weed-puller and walking up the hill behind his house to look for noxious weeds. He would spot oxeye daisy, Russian thistle, and toadflax.

One day, Yancey’s wife accompanied him and pointed out more than twenty species of wildflowers. Philip said, “I had been so intent on finding the weeds that my eyes had skipped right past the wildflowers adorning the hills – the very flowers my weed-pulling endeavored to protect!”

Consider carefully what you’re looking for in life, because you will invariably see it.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)