Jan.3-Jan.8, 2011 Story of the Day

Story of the Day for Saturday January 8, 2011

Joy In Our Suffering

                 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face any kind of trial, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

James 1:2-3 

When we suffer – and we cannot avoid suffering – there is one thing we need. Good guess, but no, it’s not an aspirin. 

Think of it this way: football is a violent game that involves intense pain.  Yet, with all the suffering involved, most players do not want to stand on the sidelines, where there is little suffering, they want to be on the field.  They love the game. 

Now, try this sometime (but don’t tell anyone I told you to do it).  Find a tough NFL football player, and wait until his day off when he is out walking his dog.  Run up behind him and tackle him.  When you smack him down to the sidewalk, the trick is to get up and run really, really fast.  If you can’t run fast, then tell your loved ones what kind of flowers you would like at your funeral. 

This football player is not going to take kindly to your flying tackle on the sidewalk.  But why not?  He takes harder hits than you can give every time he runs onto a football field.  The difference is that, when he is playing football, he clearly understands the purpose of his suffering. 

Suffering, in other words, is transformed by meaning.  It is not pain that distresses us, but our perception of the pain we are going through.

Now, if a football player can be so absorbed by a game that he doesn’t care about the pain, what if we could see all of life in a way that transforms our suffering? 

That is the message James is trying to show us.  Just as Super Bowl champions can be jubilant, even after their bodies have taken a severe battering, so we are invited by God to find joy in our suffering. 

Some day, the only thing of value we will possess is faith — faith that God would rather die than live without us.  Faith that God did send his Son to die rather than live without us.   Putting our faith to the test, through trials, makes us stronger.  It develops perseverance.   James continues his thought by saying, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

If you think that the trials of this life have no higher purpose, then you may want to keep that aspirin bottle close at hand.   But it won’t help much, will it?  What we all must learn is that faith is like a muscle.  When you lift weights your muscles will cry out in pain.  You will push them to work until they are completely exhausted.  But, two things will happen.  You will walk away from your exercise with a sense of satisfaction.  And, you will become stronger. 

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Friday January 7, 2011

An Exercise in Futility?

                When Jesus had again entered Capernaum, the people heard he was in a house.  And so many people gathered there that there was no room, even at the door.

Mark 2:1-2  

Does this experiment sound like an exercise in futility?   A heavy steel bar is suspended by a chain from a high ceiling.  Next to it, hanging on a silk thread, is a cork weighing only four grams. The experimenter pulls the cork back and lets it hit the heavy steel bar.  Guess what happens?  Okay, time’s up – nothing happens.

When we see the results of our actions, we can keep going.  But what happens when you keep trying and nothing happens?  When you keep praying and nothing happens? 

The experimenter I just mentioned was made of sterner stuff than most of us.  He pulled the cork back, let it swing and hit the steel bar.  Nothing happened.  He did it again.  Nothing.  He repeated this process for an hour.  And then he noticed that the steel bar appeared to be “vibrating.”  As he continued to rhythmically hit the steel bar with the cork, the steel bar eventually began to swing in the same pendulum motion as the cork.

If you attempt to accomplish anything worthwhile, you will find obstacles blocking your path.   The sensible thing to do, of course, is to quit.  But Peter Lowe, who has extensively studied people who are at the top of their profession says, “The most common trait I have found in all successful people is that they have conquered the temptation to give up.”  God calls us to persevere in our life with him.  Perseverance is a combination of patience, tenacity, and faith. 

I’m not saying that, if you persevere, you will always bask in the fulfillment of your dreams.  But I am saying that if you quit, you will certainly fail to fulfill your goals. 

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, the house where he stayed was packed.   A paralyzed man desperately wanted to get inside.   You couldn’t even get to the door.   So, what do you do now?  What else can you do?  You call it a day and go home. 

But those who are stubbornly determined do not give up so easily.  The Bible says that four men carried the paralyzed man up on the roof of the house.  Then they made a hole in the roof and lowered the paralyzed man down.

I think Jesus should have lectured them for destroying private property.  But Jesus seldom does what I think he should do.  Instead, Jesus “saw their faith” and rewarded the creative determination of these men.  He said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”   Through outrageous perseverance, this man found spiritual healing from Jesus, and a moment later he would stand up, take his mat, and walk home.  

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Story of the Day for Thursday January 6, 2011

Dancing and Pipe Organs

                From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.

                                                                                      Psalm 8:2

            How many senses do we have?  Five, right?  Sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. 

          So why do we claim to have five senses?

          “Ahh . . .Marty? Hello?  Maybe because we have five senses?”

          Nope.  The reason we say we have five senses is because the ancient philosopher, Aristotle, told us we have five senses.  (And Aristotle, I might add, was smarter than you and me.)

          But Aristotle was wrong.  The fact is, we have more than five senses, and you are keenly aware of them.  We have a sense of balance.  We can sense when we are in an earthquake even if it’s dark and can’t see the ceiling lamp swaying.  We have a sense of hot and cold that has nothing to do with touching something hot or cold. Close your eyes and move your arm, and you can sense where your arm is in relation to the rest of your body.  Some neurologists claim we have as many as 21 different senses. 

          Ask anyone with a B.A. in Education and they will flood you with more information than you ever wanted to know on how individuals learn and express themselves through different senses.  

          If you scan the Scriptures with an eye (I’m a visual learner) for how believers worship, you may be startled at the variety of it all.  For some, aesthetics played a part in worship (and God directed that the tabernacle would include a sense of beauty and awe).  King David worshiped before the presence of God by dancing.  Psalm 47 calls us to clap our hands in praise.  For some body posture is used: they bow their heads, others kneel – still others raise their hands.  Sometimes they sing.  Sometimes they weep.  Sometimes they use instruments, such as trumpets and cymbals and drums and pipe organs (okay, I couldn’t locate the exact passage where they used pipe organs).  Sometimes they use rituals and religious symbolism.  Sometimes they don’t. 

          So, how do you commune with God?  How do you worship him?  The Eastern Orthodox, like the Old Testament priests, use incense, to incorporate their sense of smell in worship.  Like David, who danced before the Ark of the Covenant, some Christians use liturgical dance.  Experts on J.S. Bach claim he worshiped by composing coded patterns to his instrumental music.  For some, worship is solely cognitive.  For others, it involves the emotions. 

          When the children were shouting praise to Jesus in the temple, the chief priests and scribes were indignant.  But Jesus said, “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”  He was quoting from Psalm 8.

          How do infants praise God?  I have no idea.  But I do know this: it is not displeasing to God simply because it is different from how I praise him.    

          Worship is wrong when we “honor God with our lips but our hearts are far from him.” But worship is not wrong because you employ senses that I do not.


Story of the Day for Wednesday January 5, 2011

It’s Not Over Until It’s Over 

               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.  


Story of the Day for Tuesday January 4, 2011

The Real Goal:  To Reach the Bottom

                “On the next day, as they came down from the mountain . . .

Luke 9:37   

We’re used to watching athletes celebrate when they win a football game or golf tournament. But what is the only sport where athletes do most of their celebrating at the halfway-point of their event?

The answer is mountain climbing. Climbers are triumphant when they reach the peak. They celebrate and take photos and plant flags on the summit. 

But, the most difficult part of the climb is still facing them. Mountain climbers tend to see their goal as reaching the top of the mountain. Their real goal, however, must be to reach the bottom.

Most of us are gritty and passionate about climbing the mountains in our life, but we often take some nasty tumbles on the way back down.

Parents often focus their dreams on raising children. When parents have fulfilled their calling and the last kid moves out of the house, a common response for “empty nesters” is depression.

Employees spend their lives working their way up the company ladder. But, once they hand in their keys to the office, the life change becomes more than they’re able to negotiate. They once felt the thrill of making important decisions. Now they are haunted by feelings of uselessness.

Those who make it into professional football have achieved a childhood dream. They have conquered the mountain. But what about climbing down? After the first two years of retirement from the NFL, seventy-eight percent of former players are unemployed, bankrupt, or divorced. The suicide rate for retired NFL players is six times higher than the national average.

Have you achieved an important goal in your life? Great! Pump your fists, plant your flag, and take a photo. But do you know how to turn your back on the summit and climb safely down?

God told Abraham to take his son, Isaac, whom he dearly loved, and sacrifice him on a mountain top at Moriah. That mountainside was surely the hardest climb Abraham ever made. He reached that summit – not to celebrate his accomplishment, but to faithfully obey the word of the Lord. But once the Lord saw that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, He substituted a ram on the altar meant for Isaac. 

How well do you think Abraham did descending the mountain?

Abraham’s joy on coming down that mountain was linked to his reason for climbing it. He didn’t climb Moriah for self-glory; he ascended the peak as an act of faith – willing to lay his life – his son’s life – in the hands of God.    

How well you do descending your mountain depends entirely on why you wanted to reach the peak in the first place.

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 Story of the Day for Monday January 3, 2011

Close Every Gate Through Which You Pass 

              “I will forgive their iniquity and will remember their sins no more.” 

Jeremiah 31:34   

A London journalist had the special opportunity to go for a walk with the former prime minister of Great Britain, Mr. David Lloyd George.  As they walked through fields where cattle were grazing, the journalist became so eager to record every word of Mr. Lloyd George that he left a gate open.  When Mr. Lloyd George noticed it, he walked back and closed the gate.   

As they continued their walk, Mr. Lloyd George reminisced about an old doctor who passed away.  “When he lay dying,” he said, “he called his sons and daughters to his bedside and urged them, as they went through life, to close every gate through which they passed.”  Mr. Lloyd George told the journalist that he benefitted greatly from that advice.  

Just as the cattle in the field had no business straying through the gate into another field, so there are things in our past which should not wander with us into the next field.  We need to shut the gate behind us.   

We have all gone through many painful times.  But we can continue to carry the guilt, the regret, the trauma, and the loss with us.  The past, however, is gone, and we need to move on.   

Are you closing the gates behind you?  If not, the Lord wants to speak to you.  Do you know what the Almighty God sees when he looks upon your past?  Nothing.  He erased it.  “I will remember their sins no more.”   

God doesn’t care where you’ve been; he cares about where you are now, and where you’re going.   

Shutting the gate behind us means we can enter each field and make a new start.  That’s what “Easy Eddie” Eddie did.  He was a lawyer who worked for Al Capone.  Through this, and other mob activities, he became a wealthy man.   

But “Easy Eddie” had a son, “Butch,” who wanted to enroll in the Naval Academy.  It was time to come clean for the sake of his son.  “Easy Eddie” informed to Frank Wilson, a federal investigator, and helped send Capone to Alcatraz.  “Easy Eddie” was later gunned down in west Chicago.  

His son, Butch, became a flyboy and the first aviator to be awarded the Medal of Honor.   

You remember Butch O’Hare because the busiest airport in America has been named after him.  But you should also remember that he became what he did because his dad decided to close the gate behind him, and start a new day. 

(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)




(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)


(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

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