Category Archives: Faith Journey

Two Swords Among Them

Story of the Day for Saturday Sept. 15, 2012 

                Two Swords Among Them

 

                 So on the day of battle none of the people, except Saul and Jonathan, had a sword or spear in his hand. 

                                                                                              1 Samuel 13:22

 

Adolf Hitler was furious.

As the Third Reich trampled over the nations of Europe, Hitler offered Great Britain terms of peace, in exchange for surrender. When they refused to capitulate, Hitler ordered his military commanders to prepare for the invasion of England. In a top-secret letter, Hitler wrote, “Since England, despite its militarily hopeless situation, still has not shown any signs of being prepared to negotiate, I have decided to prepare a landing operation against England.”

Hitler was almost right about England’s “hopeless situation.” How, exactly, did the British intend to defend their homeland against the juggernaut of the German army? In those early days, when the Nazis prepared to pound the Brits into submission, English citizens stood on the eastern coast, armed only with hunting rifles, pitchforks, and, in some cases, golf clubs.

 

The Philistines, the perennial enemies of Israel, had developed a super-weapon: iron. The Philistines guarded their new technology so tightly that the Bible says there wasn’t a single blacksmith in all of Israel. “Otherwise,” the Philistines reasoned, “the Hebrews will make swords or spears.”

When the Philistines prepared to march into Israel, they were armed – not only with swords and spears, but with 30,000 chariots and 6000 horsemen, and foot soldiers “like the sand on the seashore.”  The Israelites managed to cobble together a militia of 600 men – with two swords among them.

 

So, what do you do when your days seem so dark and your situation hopeless?  Many simply cave in to depression and despair. They give up.

But the Lord reminds us that “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.”  When times seem bleak, we place our lives in God’s hands, suck up our courage, and refuse to give in to fear.

 

During the war, Winston Churchill spoke to the students at Harrow School. He recalled the Battle of Britain, and how “we were quite alone, desperately alone . . .” And then he reminded them that “We were poorly armed.”

“You cannot tell from appearances how things will go,” Churchill told them. “But for everyone, surely . . . this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing great or small, large or petty – never give in . . .”

 

German bombers pulverized the city of London, but the British refused to surrender, and, in the end, the plucky Englishmen hung their pitchforks back in their sheds and slammed their nine irons back into their golf bags.

 

The Philistine army was routed, and that small band of unsophisticated Hebrews stood victorious on the field of battle.

Do you believe that, in seemingly hopeless situations, the Lord is still at work? Then never give up. Never, never, never, never.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

Holler Warnings and Encouragement

Story of the Day for Monday September 10, 2012 

Holler Warnings and Encouragement

 

 

                   If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall in a pit.

                                                                                       Matthew 15:14

 

 

Leaders are the nucleus of any organization. “Nucleus” is the Latin word for “nut.”  So, if you want to be a leader, it means you have to be . . .

You know something? This isn’t exactly the direction I had hoped this conversation would take. But, since we’re here, we might as well stir things up a little.

 

The Leadership Movement has been a major theme in recent years – both in the corporate world and in the church. We have learned that leaders must “have a vision” and must confidently guide the masses through “paradigm shifts” into the future.

I’m all for this. Yet, it misses the central core of true leadership.

 

Stuart Briscoe tells of the time a military veteran died. Some of his fellow vets wanted to have a part in the service at the funeral home, so they asked the pastor to lead them down the aisle to the casket for a solemn moment of remembrance, and then lead them out through the side door at the front.

The service went well until the pastor led them away from the casket. Instead of leading them out the side door, he marched them all into a broom closet – in full view of all the mourners.

 

What is a leader? Someone who inspires others? Someone who communicates clear goals and motivates others to follow him? Is a great leader someone who can rally the masses around a central vision?

If this is what makes a magnetic leader, then one of the greatest leaders in history is Adolf Hitler. He galvanized a nation, yet, tragically, led them into the darkest days of their history.

 

The primary requirement of a leader has nothing to do with charisma or “casting vision.” The foremost quality of a leader is that he knows where he’s going.

Jesus warns us that, whenever we follow someone who doesn’t know where they’re going, we’ll all wind up in the broom closet.

We shouldn’t follow leaders who are blind, because, sooner or later, we’ll all stumble into a pit. But the responsibility of avoiding pits and broom closets doesn’t rest with the leader; it rests with us. Jesus doesn’t want leaders to be blind, but he doesn’t want followers to be blind either. It’s up to us to see where the Lord wants us to go, and then find the leader who is willing walk at the front of the line and holler warnings of potential hazards and encouragement until we reach the next watering hole.

 

To follow a leader who isn’t doing this for us is . . . nuts.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

Past the Thumb Sucking Stage

Story of the Day for Saturday September 1, 2012 

Past the Thumb Sucking Stage

 

                 The end of a matter is better than its beginning. 

                                                                        Ecclesiastes 7:8

 

 

If you want to become a master chef, the first lesson you must learn is how to stand on a chair and turn off the smoke alarm. If you want to master the violin, you must imagine the sound of a cat being swung by its tail and do your best to imitate it.

 

Beginnings aren’t impressive. When Abraham Lincoln was old enough to write his name, he wasn’t being hounded for his autograph, and there was no sign near Sinking Springs Farm proclaiming:

 

WELCOME TO HARDIN COUNTY, KENTUCKY

BIRTHPLACE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Autographs 5 cents

 

On August 13, 2010, Scottie Pippen was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. But who would’ve guessed it from his unpromising beginning?

Scottie’s family of eleven brothers and sisters was dogged by poverty. He played basketball, but just for fun. It wasn’t until he yearned for a job as a factory manager that he got serious about basketball – because a scholarship was the only way he could afford a college education.

But Scottie couldn’t land a scholarship. His high school coach finally found him a chance to play for the University of Central Arkansas on a work-study arrangement. He worked summers as a welder to pay for school, and he worked as the team manager in order to play ball.

Not a great start, but if he wasn’t willing to begin by passing out towels in the locker room, he never would have ended in the Hall of Fame with multi-million dollar contracts.

 

When the Gospel message reached the seaport city of Corinth, in southern Greece, the newborn believers began by doing what all newborns do: crying, drinking milk and soiling their diapers. But that’s a good thing, because life has begun.

When Paul writes to these young believers, he’s a little distressed because they should be past the thumb-sucking stage, but he is so excited about what God has begun in this bawdy sailor-town. Paul could write to them, “. . . you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have great confidence in you. I take great pride in you.”

 

Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Start by doing what is necessary. Then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

The point, however, is to start. . . even if it only  means taking the battery out of the smoke alarm.

(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) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Truth Poses No Threat

Story of the Day for Thursday August 30, 2012 

Truth Poses No Threat

 

                 . . .that we might no longer be infants, tossed by the waves, and blown around by every wind of teaching and by the craftiness and cunning of men in their deceitful scheming.  

                                                                             Ephesians 4:14

 

 Do you know what conqueror created the largest contiguous Empire in history? I’ll give you a clue: his empire stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Adriatic Sea, and included China, Baghdad, and Moscow.

His name was Genghis Khan, and in the 13th century, his Mongol army was unstoppable.

 

He didn’t rely simply on brute force and superior numbers. His army was well-trained, but Genghis Khan was a master of deception.

In 1241, the Hungarians seemed to be strong and willing to fight to the death. Since Ghengis Khan didn’t have the strength to stage a frontal assault, he surrounded the enemy. The Hungarians, however, noticed that they failed to completely surround them. There was a gap in the lines through which they could escape. As soldiers broke ranks to escape from their attackers, they had no idea they were running into the trap. The Mongols created an “escape hatch” so that, once in the open, they could be funneled into a trap where they would be overwhelmed.

In 1258, the Mongols invaded Szechuan with 40,000 but spread rumors that they had 100,000 soldiers. Genghis Khan set up camp and ordered every soldier to light five campfires to create the illusion that they he had an overwhelming opposing army. On the horizon, the Mongols would tie branches to the tails of their horses to stir up dust in order to make it appear to their adversary that a large army of enemy reinforcements was arriving.

When near the Dneiper River, the Mongols were far outnumbered by 80,000 warriors led by Prince Mstitslav of Kiev. The Mongols sent a token force on horseback to attack, but then they turned and retreated. The prince’s cavalry realized the Mongols were few in numbers, and left their defensive position to pursue them. The Mongols retreated to the Kalka River, with their enemy strung out in pursuit. Then, the bulk of the Mongol army waited to ambush the attackers from both sides. The retreating Mongols suddenly spun around and attacked from the front – destroying their adversary.

 

Truth poses no threat to the believer. The Christian community has always welcomed debate with atheists, evolutionists, pro-abortionists – you name it.

But, the Bible urges us to grow up in our faith. Spiritual maturity doesn’t make us more loved by God, but it does make us wiser to the many deceptions and false claims that intimidate those young in the faith.

Genghis Khan could never have accomplished what he did without the cunning to deceive his enemies.

The only way deception can hurt you is to believe it.

(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)

Bean Counters and Dreamers

Story of the Day for Friday August 24, 2012

Bean Counters and Dreamers

                      In Christ we, who are many, form one body, and each part belongs to all the others. 

                                                                                           Romans 12:5    

Someone once said there are only three kinds of people in this world: those who are good at math and those who aren’t.

I’m not good at math.

Numbers are confusing, abstract things. I have a difficult time remembering people’s ages – including my own. My wife can recall phone numbers and zip codes from places where we lived over 20 years ago. I struggle, at times, to remember my current zip code. To me, numbers are not all that important.

People who are good with numbers feel quite differently.  They actually show compassion through numbering things. A pastor once asked me how many members were in my congregation. I didn’t know. This pained him. “How can you care about your flock if you don’t know how many there are?”

He didn’t understand that I couldn’t number my flock even if I wanted to (which I don’t).  Do you include the Pozanskis – who regularly attend worship, but have never  officially become members?  And what about Jason, whom I’ve never met?  He’s in the military, and moves every few years, but wants his membership to remain here. When I try to number people, I always bog down, and end up with a muddled sum.

Some people love numbers and attention to detail. Those of us who are bold visionaries refer to them as “bean counters.” Bean counters, however, can dish it back.  They view us visionaries as impractical, and call us “dreamers.”

So, how do people who approach life in such different ways get along with each other?  The solution is surprisingly simple.  We just round up all the “bean counters” and lure them onto cargo ships with offers of free calculators.  Then we ship them off to a remote jungle in the Amazon basin, and provide them with spreadsheets and those plastic pen protectors you wear in your shirt pocket, and let them lead a happy life.

That’s the easy way.  But God has the better way.

God wants us to realize how desperately we need each other’s gifts — as much as the heart needs the lungs and the lungs need the heart.

In the body of Christ, we have people who are brilliant at organizing things.  As strange as it sounds to us Big Picture types, they love working out the details and keeping the trains running on time. Without them, bold visions never become a reality.   Administrator types also need those gifted in leadership.

When we learn to appreciate and value each others gift, good things happen.  Only then will we see the body of Christ being built up.

I can’t locate the exact Bible passage at the moment, but I think there’s a verse that says you should find a brother or sister who has the opposite gift from you, and buy them pizza, and tell them you appreciate them. Or something like that.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

How Dare You Judge Us!

Story of the Day for Wednesday August 22, 2012 

How Dare You Judge Us!

 

                    He was despised and forsaken by the people. A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. 

                                             Isaiah 53:3

 

On the great Judgment Day, when all stand before God, some in the teeming crowd began to raise their voices. They weren’t weeping with cries of shame or remorse. They were angry.

One of them shouted to those around him, “How can God judge us?”

“Yeah,” shouted a woman, “what does God know about the kind of life and suffering we had to go through?” The woman lifted her arm to reveal the brand of a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp.

“Our persecution was unimaginable. We endured beatings, torture, and death!”

A black man stepped forward. “What about this?” He lowered his collar to show an ugly rope burn around his neck.

“Lynched!  For the crime of having dark skin.” He spoke bitterly of the injustice he and his people had suffered: betrayed by Head Hunters, forced into slave ships, separated from family, and forced to live without recourse to justice.

 

Soon everyone had their story to tell. They spoke of the shame of being born an illegitimate child. Lepers painfully recounted what it was like to be an “untouchable” and to live isolated and lonely.  A businessman told his story of financial success – only to be betrayed and defrauded by his friend and business partner, and to die broke.

A movie star edged closer to the center of the complaints. The crowd sneered at her as one who didn’t know what it was like to suffer misfortune at the hands of God.

But the movie star won them over. Through tears, she recounted her life of celebrity. Everybody wanted to know her, but she could trust no one. Wherever she went, she was hounded by crowds pleading for autographs, paparazzi chasing her every move and selling every unflattering photo to the scandal magazines, who created false or misleading headlines of her personal life.

“How would you like it,” she asked, “if, whenever you try to sneak away for a short vacation, you are swarmed by those who could care less about invading your privacy?”

The crowd murmured their approval, and included her in the group.

 

The indignant crowd chose leaders to approach God’s throne and present their grievances. They chose a Jew, a leper, a black, and an untouchable from India. On behalf of the others they presented their case before God.

“How dare you judge us! You sit here removed from the temptations and sufferings we endured on earth, and now you have the gall to judge us for our anger and failure and retaliation against those who hurt us?” Another added, “You don’t know what it’s like to endure what we have on earth.”

There was silence while the leaders awaited God’s response. Then someone stood up before the throne. He stretched before them his nail-pierced hands.

And, in that moment, they realized that God had already served his sentence.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

The Dfeniton of Lvoe

Story of the Day for Tuesday Augus 21, 2012 

 

The Dfeniton of Lvoe

 

 

                             Love is the fulfillment of God’s law.

                                                            Romans 13:10

 

After my wife, Darla, graduated with her teaching degree, she went on to get a masters degree in the teaching of reading.

When we were first married, I would listen to people moan about children’s inability to read well. “The problem today,” they told me, “is that we don’t teach enough phonics.”

I was hooked on their argument, and felt it in the best interests of my wife’s career to inform her of this. “The problem today, honey,” I told her, “is that we don’t teach enough phonics.”

You will be shocked to learn that Darla thought I was talking outside my area of expertise. She believes that, while teaching phonics is important, the key to reading better is rooted in the concept called “Whole Language.”

“When we read,” she explains, “we see more than individual phonetic sounds. To read well, we must learn to see the whole: the entire word, the context.”

I don’t argue with her anymore. When our first child, Nikki, took a standardized reading exam in second grade, she was already reading at the college level.

You decide if Darla is right. Can you read the following paragraph?

 

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch stduy at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in what oredr the ltteers  in a wrod are. The olny  iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer is in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. This is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe.

 

The problem with some people who try to be religious is that they see the details but not the context.

God told his people to rest on the Sabbath Day. What a cool deal. God not only thinks it’s important to work, but also important to relax.

The Jewish theologians, unfortunately, saw the commandment, but failed to see the reason for it. As a result, they created dozens and dozens of nitpicky rules. You couldn’t check your clothes for fleas, light a lamp to read, or put a false tooth back in your mouth. You couldn’t chew your fingernails. You could tie a knot – as long as it wasn’t a camel driver’s knot or a sailor’s knot. A midwife may not help deliver a baby on the Sabbath.

By the time the Bible experts finished their rules for the Sabbath, it was no longer a time of rest and relaxation – it was a hardship.

 

Have you ever thought of God’s commandments as a burden? As something that keeps you from enjoying life?  Sometimes our problem is that we focus so closely on the rule that we fail to see the reason for it.

Wehn you setp bcak and veiw the wohle cnotxet, yul’ol dscvoer taht ervey cmmonad of God is smilpy the dfeniiton of lvoe.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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)