Category Archives: Faith Journey

October 7-9 Stories

Story of the Day for Saturday October 9, 2010

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.

 

 

Story of the Day for Friday October 8, 2010
 

 

Clarence Jordan’s Failure

How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you don’t listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you don’t come to the rescue?

Habakkuk 1:2

When they blow up your buildings and strafe your house with machine guns, you begin to get the feeling that some people really don’t like you.

Clarence Jordan became a Baptist minister with a Ph.D in New Testament Greek. In 1942, Clarence, and his wife, Florence, went to Sumter County, Georgia, because they wanted to live out the teachings of Jesus.

They started a farm, called Koinonia (the Greek word for “Community”). Their goal was to bring both blacks and whites together, to share their goods with each other, and to help those poorer than themselves.

In those days of racial segregation, many objected to Koinonia Farm. The Baptists kicked Jordan out of their church. Vandals cut their fences, stole crops from the field, dumped garbage on their property, put sugar in their gas tanks to ruin their truck engines, chopped down nearly 300 pecan trees.

The community boycotted the farm. They refused to sell seed, fertilizer, or fuel to them. They refused to buy their goods – forcing them to wastefully slaughter thousands of chickens that couldn’t be sold.

It got more serious than that. The farm’s roadside store was burned down. Gasoline pumps were punctured. Crosses were burned at night on the lawns of the black residents. Fires were set on the property. The smokehouse was dynamited. Residents were beaten, and even the children were sprayed with gunfire while out playing.

After that incident, Clarence wrote: “. . . neither property nor lives were ours but God’s. They never had really been ours in any sense of the word. We hadn’t even ‘given them back to Him’ – they were His all along. And if this was the way He wanted to spend His property and His people in order to accomplish His purpose, why should we pitch a tantrum?”

On October 21, 1968, the year before Clarence died, he wrote: “. . . Koinonia stands at the end of an era or perhaps its existence.” Only two families were left.

Clarence and Florence Jordan’s dreams never materialized. Or did they? That last year of his life, a young couple, Millard and Linda Fuller visited the farm and ended up staying. Jordan and Fuller conceived a dream of providing housing for the needy.

You may have heard of their dream. They called it Habitat for Humanity. Its headquarters is not far from the farm at Koinonia . . . in the Clarence Jordan Center.

Jordan put it well when he observed that the Lord doesn’t call us to be successful, but to be faithful. He just let the Lord do what He wanted with His own property.

Story of the Day for Thursday October 7, 2010

The Candle Problem

They watched Jesus closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath – in order that they might condemn him. . . And Jesus asked them, “Is it legal to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath?”

Mark 3:2-3

Here’s a problem for you to solve. You are led into the front of a church, and stand behind a table. A little kid walks up and sets three objects on the table before you: a Bible, a prayer book, and a hymnal. Your assignment, in ten seconds, is to pick up the object which represents the most religious activity you could do at that moment.

What would you pick up?

How ‘bout if I give you a clue to (what I believe) is the correct answer.

In 1945, Karl Duncker first conducted The Candle Problem. On a table, he set a candle, a box of tacks, and a book of matches. The assignment was to attach the candle to the wall so that the wax wouldn’t drip on the table.

Most people will begin by trying to tack the candle to the wall, but the candle is too large in diameter to do that.  The second most popular solution is to light a match, melt some candle wax, and attempt to “glue” the candle to the wall. The candle, unfortunately, is too heavy, and this doesn’t work either.

It usually takes several minutes before the participant solves the puzzle. The answer is to take the box of tacks and thumbtack it to the wall. Then you can melt wax in the bottom of it and set the candle in the box.

Most people see the box only as the means to hold the tacks; not as the solution itself.

One Sabbath, Jesus was in the synagogue surrounded by religious people — and a man with a withered hand. They knew Jesus could heal miraculously, so they watched closely to see if he would heal the man. The Sabbath was a day of rest, and healing was . . . you know, like, work. If Jesus healed on the Sabbath, it proved he was not a religious man, and that he defied the law of God.

Jesus, on the other hand, thought the most important religious act he could at that moment was to help a handicapped man on the holy day of rest.

So, back to your puzzle. The little kid sets a Bible, a prayer book, and a hymnal on the table in front of you. What should you pick up as the most religious act you could do at that moment?  Okay, here we go. Ten seconds.

Tick-tock.

Times up. The answer is to . . . pick up the little kid. Thank him for bringing you books that are very special to you. Give him a great big hug. Then get down on one knee – so you’re at his eye level — and ask why he has that bandage on his finger.

I know I’m going to catch a lot of grief from today’s story. And, I would love to debate this issue with you, but right now I’m busy. Reading my Bible.

(But only after the little kid has left to go out and play.)

You’re Kidding, Right?

You’re Kidding, Right?


“Behold, I’m sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.”

Matthew 10:16

St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, has a football coach whose methods are . . . different.

John Gagliardi (pronounced gah-LAR-dee) does virtually no recruiting. No player is offered a scholarship. And there are no tryouts. If you want to play, you’re on the team.

Gagliardi doesn’t use a whistle in practice. He never raises his voice. And you’re not allowed to call Coach Gagliardi “coach.” He insists you call him, and all the other coaches, by their first names. His players call him “John.”

The team has no spring practice sessions. There is no compulsory weight lifting. During practice, they run no wind sprints. They run no laps. Matter of fact, they don’t even do calisthenics. (I take that back: they do a couple of workout exercises. One is called “Ear Lobe Stretches” which is followed by the “Nice Day” drill. Players lie flat on their backs to stretch, then lean over and say to a teammate, “Nice day, isn’t it?”).

It gets worse: the team doesn’t have a playbook, and players don’t watch game film. During practice, they use no blocking sleds or tackling dummies. In fact, tackling is NEVER allowed in practice.

You think I’m making this up, don’t you? Well, I’m not. The St. John’s Johnnies are an NCAA Division III school in a highly competitive conference.

The next question is: has this goof of a coach ever won a football game?

Matter of fact, John Gagliardi has won over 470 games – more than any other college football coach in history. His team holds the college record for the most offensive points scored, on average, throughout a season (61 points per game). He has won 27 conference titles, four national championships and is in the NCAA’s College Football Hall of Fame.

When Jesus sends us into the world, his methods are a little . . . different. He doesn’t want us to be fierce lions. It’s almost embarrassing, but he wants us to be a sheep.

Sheep have no offensive strengths. They can’t claw, trample, or bite you to death. Sheep have no defensive power. They can’t outrun savage wolves. They don’t know how to hide. They’re sheep.

Is this Jesus’ method for conquering the world? Going out into a hostile world like a harmless bag of wool?

I’m afraid so.

And yet, Jesus’ sheep have done what mighty armies could not. They have won the hearts of men by the power of God’s love.

Jesus’ method boggles the imagination.  That’s why I appreciate John Gagliardi so much. He reminds me that, sometimes, doing the impossible works best.

The Lightning Rod that Created a Storm

The Lightning Rod that Created a Storm

The disciples, James and John, said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven and destroy them?” Turning around, Jesus scolded them, and they traveled on to the next village.

Luke 9:54-55

Where would we be without Benjamin Franklin? For starters, we wouldn’t have any Ben Franklin department stores. And, without him, that oval in the middle of a fifty dollar bill would’ve been blank.

Seriously, though, Franklin was a genius. For starters, he invented the Franklin stove and bifocals. But, perhaps his most important invention was the lightning rod.

Unfortunately, Franklin’s lightning rod was not greeted with gratitude by theologians. Many devout churchmen believed lightning was God’s way of sending His wrath on a wicked world. Using a lightning rod, therefore, defied the will of God.

Franklin introduced the lightning rod in 1752. Three years later, an earthquake rocked Massachusetts – causing some preachers to shout that this was God’s punishment for the “Franklin rods” installed on some buildings in their state. Soon, Bible scholars in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain united in denouncing Franklin’s invention as heresy.

James and John were two of Jesus’ closest disciples. He renamed them the “Sons of Thunder.” Hmm, I wonder why?

As Jesus headed toward Jerusalem, he sent messengers into a Samarian village to get things ready for him. When the Samaritans, who hated the Jews, found out Jesus was going to Jerusalem, they refused to welcome him to their town.

What to do? The Sons of Thunder, eager to help, suggested they pray to God to rain down fire from heaven. That would teach them a lesson.

Jesus, however, did not scold the Samaritans; instead, he scolded his disciples for their snotty attitude.

Throughout the ages, some have thundered the message of God’s judgment so loud, the world can barely hear the words of God’s tender mercy. Unbelievers get the feeling God wants to destroy people.  If James and John would’ve called down fire and destroyed that Samaritan village, how many religious people would have nodded in approval?

The church in San Nazaro in the Republic of Venice, was designed with huge vaults. The military saw the vaults as the ideal place to store a hundred ton of gunpowder.

In 1767, the church was struck by lightning. Not only the church, but much of the city was obliterated, and more than 3000 people were killed.

Suddenly, theologians made a startling discovery – “Franklin’s rods” did not defy the will of God after all.  From that time on, cathedrals and churches installed lightning rods on their buildings.

James and John, the Thunder Brothers, wanted to pray for God’s wrath. They had yet to understand that Jesus, with all due respect to Benjamin Franklin, made the first lightning rod. He was the first lightning rod.