Category Archives: daily devotion

Who Is Taking the Risk?

Story of the Day for Wed. September 19, 2012

Who Is Taking the Risk?

 

                 The kingdom of heaven is like . . . a man leaving on a trip. He called his servants and gave them his possessions.                                                              Matthew 25:14

 

 

When the Confederate Navy built the first steel-plated warship, Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, nearly went hysterical. What could the North do to counter it? The destiny of the Union Navy rested in the brainchild of a zany inventor, John Ericsson. It’s hardly a surprise that, when Ericsson presented his ironclad ship design, no one was listening. The Monitor looked like “a cheese box on a raft.” The naval board didn’t believe the ship, if built, would even float. Other than the turret, it was mostly underwater.  The odd-looking vessel was only a third the length of a schooner. It had no sails, but ran on steam. And, as to firepower?  Two guns.

Could the Naval Department afford to take such a risk?

 

There’s no question that stepping out in faith is risky. Tim McMahon put it well when he said, “Yes risk-taking is inherently failure-prone. Otherwise, it would be called sure-thing taking.”

Have you ever burned with a dream? You want to use your talents or possessions in a venture for God’s kingdom.

But you never did it. You were afraid you might fail.

 

Jesus told a parable about a wealthy man who handed over his money to his servants.   The servants were to do the best they could with the amount entrusted to them. But whose money was at risk? If the servants tried, and lost the money, they weren’t out a penny.

 

Would it help you to know you really can’t fail?

In our finer moments, we acknowledge that everything we have belongs to God. Not only our salvation, but everything – our time, talents, and money, is His. But, do we realize what we’re saying when we claim this? When we step out in faith, whose possessions are at risk?

 

Many historical accounts portray the Naval Department as taking an enormous risk in commissioning the construction of the U.S.S. Monitor.  Actually, they took no risk at all. They commissioned Ericsson to build his weird-looking boat – but on the condition that, if it didn’t perform as the inventor claimed, Ericsson would have to personally pay for all construction costs.

Ericsson took the risk.

 

Don’t be afraid to try something for God’s kingdom. God is willing to take the risk.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 
 

Are You Primed For This?

Story of the Day for Friday September 14, 2012

Are You Primed For This?

 

                  Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is virtuous or praiseworthy – dwell on such things.

                                                                                                                             Philippians 4:8

 

 

When I finish watching a movie with British actors, I fell like talking in a British accent. I don’t think it’s an especially good idea, but I naturally do it until the effect of the movie wears off or my family tells me I’m driving them crazy.

 

We’ve always known it, but recently researchers have demonstrated that much of our behavior is influenced – not by what we choose, but by what we’re exposed to.

Yale professor, Dr. John A. Bargh, has devised a scrambled-sentence test. The task is to take the following five-word lists and make an intelligible four-word sentence from each line.  Why don’t you give it a try?

 

him was worried she always

from are Florida oranges temperature

ball the throw toss silently

shoes give replace old the

he observes occasionally people watches

he will sweat lonely they

sky the seamless gray is

should now withdraw forgetful we

us bingo sing play let

sunlight makes temperature wrinkle raisins

 

The subjects who take this test assume the goal is to unscramble a sentence as quickly as possible, but it’s not. Dr. Bargh is actually timing the participants to see how fast they walk. Those who take this test walk out of the building slower than when they came in.

Do you know why? Scattered in the sentences are a few words that suggest old age: “Florida,” “old,” “lonely,” “gray,” “forgetful,” “bingo,” and “wrinkles.” Believe it or not, these innocuous suggestions of old age cause the subjects to walk slower afterward.

This priming (as it’s called) has been used to influence a person’s patience or rudeness, and – get this – they never realize their attitudes have been influenced.

 

We like to think our actions are influenced solely by our values and beliefs, but they’re not; our behavior is also influenced by what we’re exposed to.

That is why the apostle Paul tells us to focus our thoughts on noble things. And keep in mind that Paul is writing this from prison. You don’t have to be in a good place to center your thoughts on what is good.

If you’re still dubious about all this, you can research Dr. Bargh’s work for yourself. But maybe it would just be easier to watch a movie with British actors.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

“It’s Not Fair!”

Story of the Day for Tuesday September 11, 2012

 

“It’s Not Fair!”

 

                                 Mercy triumphs over judgment.  

                                                                              James 2:13

 

 

Many complain that mercy is unfair, and, of course, they’re absolutely right: it is unfair. Is it ever right to bend the rules for a higher cause than fairness?

 

In 2002, Jake Porter attended Northwest High School in McDermott, Ohio – even though he couldn’t read. Jake had Fragile X Syndrome – the most common form of genetic mental retardation.

Yet, Jake was unfailingly cheerful and loved by his classmates. The Homecoming Queen, at the big dance, chose Jake as her escort. Doug Montavon, the school’s all-time rushing leader, doted on Jake and helped him along during football practice.

 

The last football game of the season saw Northwest take a thumping from Waverly High. With five seconds left, Waverly was leading 42-0 when Northwest coach, Dave Frantz called a time out and met with Waverly’s coach, Derek Dewitt.

Coach Frantz told Dewitt that he wanted to send in Jake Porter, who would be handed the ball and would simply take a knee. But Dewitt was having none of it. He returned to the sidelines and told his defense that when the ball was handed to number 54, they were not to touch him, but make sure he scored.

When the quarterback handed Jake the ball, he ran to the line, stopped, and, confused, started running the wrong way. But the referee and players from both teams pointed him toward the goal line.

Jake sliced through the line and galloped for daylight. When he crossed the goal line everyone went wild. Players from both teams were hugging each other. Players from both teams hoisted Jake on their shoulders. Jake’s mom, Liz, said there were no longer two teams out there. “Everybody was on the same team.”

 

Jake’s touchdown run was, of course, unfair – and, with the ref’s assistance, illegal. The sportswriter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette whined that if mentally challenged kids want to compete, let them do it in the Special Olympics. “Leave high school football alone, and for heaven’s sake, don’t put the fix in.” Other voices joined him.

No one argues that Jake’s touchdown was fair. It was clearly compassionate. But afterward, people became friendlier. Coach Dewitt, the first black coach in the history of the conference, found racial slurs replaced by people approaching him in grocery stores to shake his hand. He was no longer a black man; he was a man. Dewitt said he caught the school bully patiently teaching a couple of special-needs students how to shoot a basketball. Coach Frantz even got a phone call from Steve Mariucci, the head coach of the 49ers, because his NFL players were so touched by Jake’s touchdown.

 

It’s not fair that any of us should be reunited with God. But I hope you won’t mind if Jesus bends the rules of fairness so that, in the end, mercy will triumph.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

A Reminder of the Truest of All Stories

Story of the Day for Saturday September 8, 2012 

 

A Reminder of the Truest of All Stories

 

                On the tree, Jesus himself bore our sins in his body . . . by his wounds you’ve been healed. .

                                                                                   1 Peter 2:24

 

 

Albert Schweitzer’s two volume masterpiece on the life of J.S. Bach has pride of place on my living room bookshelf. But I do not admire him most as an author.

Schweitzer was a performing musician – packing concert halls throughout the world with his organ recitals. But I don’t admire him primarily as a musician.

At the height of his fame, Schweitzer left the cathedrals and concert halls to study theology. Even though he became world-renowned as a brilliant theologian, I don’t admire him most as a theologian.

When the academic world stood in awe of his theological insights, he resigned his professorship at the university to study medicine.

 

He went to med school, and, as soon as he was certified as a medical doctor, he got lost in the jungles of equatorial Africa and built a makeshift hospital to serve the poorest of the poor.

Albert Schweitzer’s interpretation of Bach helped me understand the majesty of God. His theology, unfortunately, didn’t help me understand much – other than to expose the tired dogmatisms of some of his contemporaries. But, I admire Schweitzer most for helping me to see that God would sacrifice himself to make me well again.

 

Schweitzer treated many diseases among the African natives, but he had no medicine to treat yellow fever. Then he heard that Professor Ernest Bueding had come from the U.S. to the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Along with fellow researchers, Bueding was experimenting with a vaccine for yellow fever.

One day, the Institute got a telephone call, inquiring about the vaccine. They informed him that the vaccine appeared to be successful, but that it had not yet been tested for side effects.

The phone caller appeared the next day and requested the vaccine. When told they couldn’t give him the vaccine until tests proved it was safe, the man replied that he intended to administer the vaccine only to himself – to personally verify its safety.

Dr. Bueding correctly suspected the anonymous caller was Dr. Schweitzer, and told the good doctor it would be foolish to try the vaccine in its experimental stage. But Schweitzer countered that he would not give his African patients anything he would not take himself.

Bueding finally caved in and injected Schweitzer with the experimental drug. After two days of observation at the Pasteur Hospital, Schweitzer was declared fit to travel back to his hospital in Africa – with a desperately-needed antidote for yellow fever.

 

At the organ bench and podium, Schweitzer dazzles us with his genius and virtuosity. But it’s his willingness to sacrifice himself for the sick in a remote African village that captures our highest admiration, for he reminds us of the truest of all stories.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and Marty Kaarre)

Shatter the Darkness With Your Song

Story of the Day for Thursday September 6, 2012 

 

 Shatter the Darkness With Your Song

 

                After a severe whipping, they threw them into prison – commanding the jailer to guard them carefully. Having received his orders, he threw them into an inner cell and secured their feet in the stocks.   Around midnight, Paul and Silas prayed and began to sing hymns to God. 

                                            Acts 16:23-25

 

 

When Paul and Silas were arrested, unjustly, and severely beaten, we can understand why they might shout curses and ask God why he would reward their faithfulness with such agony.

But, instead, around midnight the prison echoes with the sound of singing.

 

Ben Robertson, an American journalist, describes in his book, I Saw England, the time he was sent to England to cover the bombing of London during World War II. He flew into London on Saturday night and was met with one of the worst air raids of the war.

The bombing continued through the night, and fires erupted throughout the city. As he looked around him, Robertson observed a huge circle of fire for ten miles all around London.

The all-clear alarm sounded at one in the morning. Robertson went to his hotel room, nervous and exhausted. He threw himself on his bed and cried, “Oh, God, I don’t want to live another day. I can’t go through another night of hell and horror like this.”

 

Ben fell asleep with the window open. He was awakened on Sunday morning by music. Curious, he got up and went outside looking for the source of the music.

Across the street, he saw a Christian church that had been reduced to rubble by the bombing raid. The roof was gone and only portions of the walls remained.

But there, standing amidst the ruins, was the choir, the rector, and the little congregation – gathered for worship on Sunday morning.

The congregation was not only singing – they were singing triumphantly.

 

The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord

She is his new creation, by Spirit and the Word

From heav’n he came and sought her to be his holy bride

With his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.

 

Robertson was overwhelmed by these valiant believers. “Suddenly,” he said, “I saw in the world something that was unshatterable . . . something that was indestructible – the spirit and power of Jesus Christ within his church.”

Falling on his knees, Ben Robertson prayed, “Oh, God, now I gather strength and courage to live another day. I will go on . . .”

 

Prisons walls and misfortunes were never meant to muzzle the sound of a good tenor.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Greater Accomplishment

Story of the Day for Wednesday September 5, 2012

The Greater Accomplishment

 

                    How you have fallen from the sky, O morning star, the son of the dawn!  You, who once brought down other nations, have been thrown down to the earth. 

                                                                                                        Isaiah 14:12

 

Ellis played fiddle for barn dances and found his horse stolen afterward. He did such a brilliant job of discovering the thief that he was asked to find other people’s stolen horses. Ellis Parker’s skill was so uncanny that, in 1892, he became the Chief of Detectives for Burlington County, New Jersey – despite being only twenty-one and lacking a high school education.

Without access to modern forensic technology, Parker relied on his wits. And he could notice incongruities and odd details like no one else. Soon, he became known as a real-life Sherlock Holmes.

In his forty year career, Parker took on 236 murder cases, and solved all but ten of them. Ellis boasted that he never used an ounce of force on any suspect, yet, in over half of his cases, he talked the guilty party into signing a confession of guilt before the trial.

 

During World War I, federal agents had been unable to find a wireless station that would interfere with public broadcasts. The Department of Justice hired Parker, who not only deduced that the wireless was operated from a car running up and down the coast, but actually located the car itself.

 

Yet, none of his fame went to his head. He turned down many high-profile cases and better paying positions to stay in his sleepy town of Mt. Holly – where everyone called him by his first name. Instead of cashing in on his fame, he allowed writers free access to his files.

 

But, late in his career, something changed in him. Charles Lindbergh’s toddler was kidnapped, and it immediately became known as The Crime of the Century. The detective who solved this case would be world famous and covered in glory. Yet, even though the kidnapping took place only miles from Parker’s hometown, no one invited him to help solve the crime.

Something seemed to snap. Ellis Parker became obsessed with the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, and, even though he had no access to police records, tried to find the killer based on details reported in the newspaper.

Convinced the police had arrested the wrong suspect, Parker became a criminal himself. He had another suspect kidnapped in order to extort a confession.

Ellis Parker Sr., who will always be known as America’s greatest detective, was tried and convicted for kidnapping. He died in federal prison.

 

The admiration of others is fine . . . until we crave it. We so easily dream of great achievement and fame, but the greater accomplishment is maintaining a humble heart.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Got Any Steeples?

Story of the Day for Friday August 31, 2012

Got Any Steeples?

 

                 If I don’t understand what someone is saying, I’m a foreigner to the speaker, and he’s a foreigner to me.

                                                                     1 Corinthians 14:11

 

“Got any steeples?”

“Um,” I said, “got any what?”

“Got any steeples?”

Even though I was confident I didn’t have any steeples, I hedged by saying, “I don’t think so.”

Robert, who was fixing my fence, looked puzzled. “I left some here last fall.”

When you don’t understand something, and others think you should, there’s no point in blurting out your ignorance. Those who learn from me resort, instead, to sly subterfuge.

“So,” I asked, “what do you want steeples for?”

Robert looked at me as if I was a duck that had been whacked over the head with a shovel.

“To nile the bob whar.”

To . . . nail the barbed wire! “You want some staples!”

Robert didn’t answer, but gave me a strange look – as if uncertain whether it was worth his time to engage in conversation with a dazed duck.

 

Robert, to put it mildly, was not awed by my intellectual prowess. But, in my defense, you should know that Robert grew up in Oklahoma – which can stunt anyone’s linguistic clarity.

 

Once, this guy was walking down the street when he noticed a man struggling by himself with a washing machine at the doorway of his house.

“Can I help?”

The man smiled, and between heaving breaths, replied, “Yeah, thanks!”

With one man on each end they lifted and grunted, and pushed, but nothing happened.

“Sorry,” the Good Samaritan told the man, “I don’t think the two of us can get this washing machine inside by ourselves.”

“Inside? I’m trying to get it out of my house.”

 

Ask a non-Christian what we believe, and most will say our faith is about trying to be good enough to get to heaven, and condemning everyone else who isn’t as holy as we are. Have you ever wondered whether all of them reject the mercy of Jesus, or whether, sometimes, they simply don’t know what we’re trying to say?

 

This evening, I asked my wife if she was awed by my intellectual prowess.

From the blank look she gave me you’d think I came from Oklahoma, or something.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, Join the Crowd

Story of the Day for Wednesday August 29, 2012 

Well, Join the Crowd

 

                    Strive to enter through the narrow doorway. 

                                                               Luke 13:24

George Evans served as the press agent for a young singer whose career had not yet ignited. But, after spending sixty dollars, Evans catapulted Frank Sinatra into stardom in one night.

In 1942, Sinatra was booked to sing at the Paramount Theatre in New York. In order to generate enthusiasm for Sinatra, Evans hired a dozen teenage girls and paid them five bucks a piece to follow his instructions.

The girls were paid to sit in the front row at the concert and swoon. They rehearsed in the basement of the Paramount. Some of them practiced fainting in the aisles when Sinatra sang his slow songs, and others rehearsed jumping up and screaming, “Oh, Daddy!” when Frank sang Embraceable You. Evans then made sure the concert hall was packed by passing out free tickets.

That night, a dozen girls earned their five dollars. About twenty girls, who weren’t paid to faint, also passed out. The crowd went hysterical. The next time Sinatra performed at the Paramount, a promoter recalled, “They went nuts. Absolutely nuts!”

Frank Sinatra became an overnight sensation, and soon was the most popular singer of his day.

 

George Evan’s stunt may be ethically dubious, but I admire his genius in understanding how easily people are swayed by the behavior of the crowd. None of us likes to admit that we tend to conform our behavior to those around us, but we do.

 

The Asch Paradigm, developed in the 1950s, was pivotal in our understanding of conformity.  Solomon Asch of Swarthmore College developed a simple experiment. He gave students a “vision test.” Participants were shown a vertical line, and then a group of three lines of various lengths. They simply had to identify which of the three lines matched the length of the first line. When subjects were given the test privately, only one of out 35 ever gave an incorrect answer.

But things got interesting when Asch gave the same test to a group. The first several participants were confederates. They were told, in advance, the answer Asch wanted them to give. The last student asked didn’t know this.

At first, the confederates would give the correct answer. Then, they were cued to deliberately give the wrong answer – to say a vertical line matched the first line, when it, obviously, did not. What would the unwitting student say when the rest of the group gave the wrong answer?  Seventy-five percent would conform their answer to that of the group.

 

Jesus wants us to be thoughtful about life and not be swayed by the opinions of others. Have you ever felt as if you were being manipulated to conform to the decisions of a group? Well, join the crowd. No, wait – that’s not what I meant . . .

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

 

It’s Time to Cut Anchor

Story of the Day for Monday August 27, 2012 

It’s Time to Cut Anchor

 

 

                I have been in danger from rivers…danger from robbers… In danger…danger…danger… 

                                                            2 Corinthians 11:26

 

No one ever accused me of being prudent, which is slightly disappointing, because it is, after all, a virtue. Prudence is just a starchy term for common sense.

Prudence used to mean, for example, that, if you go for a hike in the wilderness, you should take a sharp knife, dry matches, and a good crossword puzzle (in case you get lost for a few days.) Today, we view prudence as never daring to lace up our hiking boots.  Might get lost.  Might sprain an ankle.  Might become grizzly bear poop. Better to be prudent, make a frig run, and plop in front of the TV.

 

There is a huge difference between common sense: avoiding senseless danger, and timidity: fearing all possibility of danger. Have you noticed how we, as a culture, have developed a heightened concern for safety? Nothing wrong with that, in itself, I guess.  But something is wrong.  We are becoming so fearful of danger that we are afraid to live.

Where is a ship the safest? In port. But, John A. Shedd put it well, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for.” God never advises us to be foolhardy, but he doesn’t want us to spend our lives docked to the pier.  We are meant to sail into open waters, and both enjoy the gentle breezes . . . and brave the raging storms.

The apostle Paul was prudent.  In Damascus, he knew when it was time to get out of Dodge and slip over the city wall at night. But, Paul also had the careless habit of preaching about Jesus and starting riots. He knew the danger, but took risks anyway.

 

A young shepherd boy, armed only with a slingshot, once marched up to the fearsome warrior, Goliath. Suddenly, the young boy’s mother rushed frantically onto the battlefield, screaming, “David!  David! What are you doing! How many times have I told you not to fight giants without your safety helmet!”

Look, I’m not opposed to safety helmets. But haven’t you noticed that past ages possessed a valiant spirit that is lacking in our present day?

The patriarchs left the security of home – without itinerary, GPS, or even life insurance. Moses, Elijah, Esther, Jeremiah. Can you name anyone who did great things in God’s name, but chose personal security over danger?

 

Jesus told a story about a man who gave out various amounts of money, then left town. Apparently, those who put the money to work took some risks, because the one who did not later admitted to his master, “I was afraid, so I hid your money in the ground.  See, here it is.”  And there it was, safe and sound. But the point Jesus makes is that God does not entrust us life or talents so that we can “play it safe.”   I don’t think Jesus wants us simply to exist. To just survive.

Don’t be afraid of dying — you have to die to go to heaven.  Be afraid, instead, of not living. God calls us to live with the wind in our face – to cut anchor and sail for the horizon.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Rhino Tracks

Story of the Day for Saturday August 25, 2012 

 

Rhino Tracks

 

                  For false Messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

                                                                                                            Matthew 24:24

 

 

Hugh Troy was an illustrator for children’s books, but his work as an artist failed to exhaust his creativity.  This excess of imagination led him to the slightly deviant habit of inventing practical jokes.

Once, Troy and an accomplice, dressed in workman’s clothes and carrying ladders, strode into the elegant lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Calmly and efficiently, they removed every light bulb and then left. No one questioned them or tried to stop them.

Serving as a captain in Army Intelligence during World War II, he became bored with the endless paperwork so he began submitting a Daily Flypaper Report to the Pentagon. Using official report forms, Troy filed detailed reports on the number of flies stuck to the flypaper in the mess hall each day. Troy carefully analyzed the wind direction, proximity of the kitchen, and the nearness of the flypaper to windows, and slipped his report in with his other required paperwork. Other officers began asking him how to fill out a form on flies because the Pentagon was hounding them for not submitting their Flypaper Report.

 

Although some question its accuracy, Hugh Troy’s most legendary prank took place when he was a student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Troy found a hideous wastebasket with an actual rhinoceros foot as its base. He tied thirty feet of clothesline to both sides and filled the wastebasket with weights. Late one winter night, he and a friend suspended the wastebasket between them and carried it across the snow – dropping it every few feet to make a rhinoceros footprint, but keeping their own footprints away from the rhino track.

The next morning, someone excitedly summoned learned professors, and pointed out the rhinoceros tracks. The trail led them onto ice-covered Beebe Lake, where the tracks ended by a large hole in the ice.

The school’s drinking water came from the lake, and afterward, some stopped drinking the tap water. A handful of imaginative paranoids even claimed the water tasted like rhinoceros.

 

The Devil doesn’t mind at all if you believe in Jesus – just so long as the Jesus you believe in doesn’t exist. The Devil hopes you are entranced with reports of miracles – just so long as you believe the false signs and wonders he is able to concoct. The Devil wants you to be open to the spiritual world – just so long as you are open to the messages of false prophets.

If the truth of God is  . . . true, then it can stand up to questioning and investigation. Jesus doesn’t scold us for lacking faith when we work to discern the truth from a hoax. He’s the one who told us to do it.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)