Stories for Nov. 29-Dec. 4, 2010

 

Story of the Day for Saturday December 4, 2010

God Only Forgives People Who Are Wrong

 

If I should say, “My foot has slipped,” your merciful love, O Lord, will hold me up.

Psalm 94:18

 

 

I hate to admit I’m wrong.

But, over the years, to my good fortune, I have noticed that I seldom am wrong – about anything.

 

Don’t get me wrong – being right all the time does have its burdens. Once I discovered that I was always right, I shrewdly realized that “other people” must be the ones who are screwing things up. I bemoan the faults and idiocy of Democrats, tree huggers, and Presbyterians, it dawned on me that being irked by the faults of others took up a good part of my day.

One day I discovered that the joy of always being right is not a joy. I had become a thief . . . and I was robbing from myself.

 

Zig Ziglar tells the story of Emmanuel Nenger.  In 1887, Nenger walked into the local grocery store to buy turnip greens. He gave the clerk a twenty dollar bill, but as she put the money in the cash drawer, she noticed ink from the bill had stained her hands, which were damp from handling the turnip greens.

The clerk has known Mr. Nenger for years.  He can’t be a counterfeiter!  But, finally, she goes to report the incident to the police, who confirm that the twenty dollar bill is a counterfeit.

With a search warrant in hand, the police search Mr. Nenger’s home.  In the attic  they find the room where he is counterfeiting money.  Emmanuel Nenger is a master artist and he was reproducing money with paint and brush.

The police also found three portraits that Nenger had painted and confiscated them. These later sold at auction for $16,000 (in 1887 currency).  The irony is that Nenger spent as much time counterfeiting a twenty dollar bill as it took to paint a portrait that would sell for over $5000.

Emmanuel Nenger was a thief, but the person he stole from was himself.

 

I’m a slow learner, but I have begun to realize that, when I refuse to admit my faults, I am robbing myself.  I’m robbing myself of the grace of God.  God can’t show mercy to people who are always right.  He can only forgive people who are wrong.

When my foot would slip, I used to claim that I was just practicing a dance step like Fred Astaire did in Singing in the Rain.  But I’m starting to learn that when I admit that my foot slipped, the merciful love of the Lord will be there to support me.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Story of the Day for Friday December 3, 2010

 

 

Not a One Size Fits All Deal

One person judges a day more special than others; another person considers each day no different than the other.  Each one should be convinced in his own mind.

Romans 14:5

I have a message that will be fascinating to some of you, and meaningless to others, but I need your help.

Pick a number between 1 and 10, (and don’t tell me what it is.)

Multiply your number by 9.

If your new number has two digits, add the two digits together.

Take your new number and subtract 5.

Now, we want your number to correspond to a letter of the alphabet.  So, A = 1, B = 2, C= 3, and so on.  Convert your number into a letter.

Think of a country in Europe that begins with your letter.

Whatever your letter is, select the next letter in the alphabet, and think of an animal, let’s say, from Africa.

As we attempt to live out our faith, one of the biggest temptations we face is thinking that everyone should be like we are.

Have you ever heard the story of the two pack mules?  The first mule carried a heavy load of salt. In the heat of the day, he decided to cool off, and waded into a pond.  All the salt dissolved, and he walked up on shore with a greatly lightened load.

Excitedly he told another mule about it.  “You’ve got to wade into this pool.  You walk in with your heavy load, and when you come out, the weight is gone!”

The other mule replied, “But why should I wade into the pool to lighten my load?  My load isn’t heavy to begin with.”

The first pack mule, however, urged the second one to try it.  The mule waded into the pool . . . and drowned. He was carrying a load of sponges.

Christian living is not a one-size-fits-all sort of deal.

The truths of God on things like prayer and worship do not change.  They’re just true.  But each one of us can express our faith in strikingly different ways. The notion that what’s good for me may not be good for you, grates against my religious sensibilities.  But the fact remains that the Lord leads people in different ways.

Some believers in the early church thought the “brethren” who ate meat were compromisers.  Didn’t they know that meat is dedicated to pagan gods?  Not to be outdone, the meat-eaters scoffed at the vegetarians for not seeing the higher truth that all food belongs to the true God.

God leads us in different ways.  If you’re still finding this notion hard to accept, sit down with the 14th chapter of Romans, and wrestle with it for a while.

Oh, and before I forget, the message that is meaningful to some of you and not to others is this: “There are no elephants in Denmark.”

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

Story of the Day for Thursday December 2, 2010


Getting Into the Water

 

 

There is profit in all hard work, but more talk leads only to poverty.

Proverbs 14:23

 

 

John W. Holt describes an exercise used by Outward Bound in their program on Hurricane Island, Maine. Twenty people are told to squeeze into a cave that is only wide enough for one person to walk through. The group comes to a dead end. The only way out is to climb up to a crack above them and climb out to the other side. The group is lined up alternating a tall person with a shorter one. The instructors tell them they must climb up and exit the cave in this order within twenty minutes.

Want to know what typically happens?  They argue for 19 minutes about how to solve the problem. The instructor warns them they have one minute left. They stop planning, and by brute force, they climb up through the crack. The point of the exercise is that talking and planning can go on and on. At some point you have to stop talking and just do it.

 

That’s the hard part: gettin’ ‘er done.  It’s so much easier to talk about what we want to do rather than starting the hard work necessary to accomplish our dreams.

Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese’s, says, “The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now.  Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today.” Bushnell then concludes, “The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.”

We would do well to apply Bushnell’s words to our life of faith. John Michael Talbot, in Changes: A Spiritual Journal, does just that. He says, “I am wearied by a fellowship of many words. I grow tired of talking about the worship. I would much rather simply worship. I grow tired of talking about music. I would much rather simply make music. I grow tied of talking about humility and love. I would rather simply serve in humility and love.”

 

Obviously, you always precede work with talk. With ideas. With discussion of ideas. And a plan. But the focal point is not the talking; it is the work to be accomplished.

When I was in college I took a course in evangelism at a local congregation. The class was great, but the pastor confided to me his disappointment. He told me that the members love the evangelism class. But they don’t want to go out and share their faith.  Instead, they want me to start another class so they can keep on studying about evangelism.

 

For eight years, Kim Linehan held the world record for the women’s 1500 meter freestyle.  When she was 18 years old, her coach called her the leading amateur woman distance swimmer in the world. It took a lot of hard work for her to accomplish such a feat.  Do you know the hardest part of her training?  Kim says it’s, “Getting into the water.”

 

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

 

 

 

Story of the Day for Wednesday December 1, 2010

 

A Test of Strength

 

. . .so that we might know his exceedingly great power for us who believe. . .which he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead.

Ephesians 1:19

 

Although he didn’t intend to, a Massachusetts farmer brought us a picture of the resurrected life. Brilliance is often seeing the obvious. A farmer realized what we already know: that germinating seeds and growing plants have an almost miraculous power.

For example, what is stronger: a dandelion or a concrete slab? Pave a sidewalk over a dandelion seed and you’ll find out. The dandelion can exert a force that will crack the sidewalk.

Rutherford Hayes Platt, in his book, The Great American Forest, describes a farmer who wanted to measure this force, so he cobbled together a device with a counterweight and dial to measure pressure. He strapped various fruits and vegetables to his device . . . and could hardly believe what he was seeing.

Imagine the entire offensive line of the Dallas Cowboys standing together on a plank. One of the farmer’s vegetables was capable – not only of raising up the entire offensive line, but of lifting three times their weight!

Not altogether surprising, nobody believed him. So, Rutherford began setting up exhibits and crowds flocked by the thousands to see for themselves. They were dumbfounded.

In one sense, growing things are so weak: whack a melon with a rolling pin and you have a smushy mess on your hands. But there is an almost unbelievable power within them exerted because they are alive.

God exerted power when he brought his dead Son to life. But what he wants us to know is that this same resurrection power is active within us.

I’m not entirely sure I understand how God takes such weak things as us and makes us powerful, but he does. And I can tell you that, starting with a handful of unassuming disciples from Galilee, God would transform the world through the power working in them.

The Dallas Cowboys in a test of strength against an acorn squash? Doesn’t sound like a fair fight, does it?  But a Massachusetts farmer has demonstrated who the real winner will be.


 

 

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

 

 

 

Story of the Day for Tuesday November 30, 2010

 

 

Fit it on a Bumper Sticker

 

. . .Our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.”. . . However many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:18, 20

 

 

At church, I often park next to a red pickup, with a sticker that says: DRIVE IT LIKE YOU STOLE IT.  “Well,” I think to myself, “what kind of a Christian truck is that?”  But when I learned that the truck’s owner is a grandmother, her sheer spunkiness was inspiring. You go, grandma!

 

Let’s talk about bumper stickers.  Now, I didn’t choose this Bible verse from 2 Corinthians because I have the slightest intention of explaining what Paul means by it, but because it summarized the fulfillment of all God’s promises by one word: “YES.”  In Jesus, everything God promises is “YES.” That’s as pithy as it gets.

 

Bumper stickers have to be like that. You can’t blab. If your kid is an honor roll student at Westwood High, or if you visited Carlsbad Caverns, you have to get to the point.

 

Bumper stickers can also be used as a witness to Jesus – which is why I never use them – I’m not that good a driver. But, in addition to that, I’m a bit snooty about the  whole thing.  Bumper stickers are a little too simplistic for my refined sophistication. How can you fit the depth of God’s wisdom on a bumper sticker?  I have scoffed at the shallowness of it all.

But I have repented.

Yes, the wisdom of God is deeper than anything that will fit on a bumper sticker.  Nevertheless, I’ve discovered that, when you can state your goal or belief in a phrase short enough to fit on a bumper sticker, it is more helpful than complex formulations of faith.  When I am lazy and want to veg out, “Carpe Diem” (“Seize the Day”) gets me going.  On cold, gray mornings, when I don’t want to put snowshoes on and run the dogs up the mountainside, it helps to say “Just Do It.”  When confronted with repeated failure, a friend taught me to say what Peter said to Jesus: “. . . nevertheless, at your word, I will let down the nets.”  When I want to judge a fallen brother, I am aided by the phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

 

Jesus habitually pushed the envelope by shocking and surprising people to get them to think about the kingdom of God.  In my bumbling way, I want to do the same.  But maybe finding spiritual edification in bumper stickers is going too far.

Maybe.

But think about it: if the biblical truth you want to ingrain in your life can be put in one phrase, it becomes a practical motivator.  Something you can apply.

Listen to God’s Word.  Then distill the truth down until you can . . . fit it on a bumper sticker.

 

 

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

Story of the Day for Monday November 29, 2010

 

 

How Hard is it for You to Give Up Sugar?

 

 

Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but you don’t see the log in your own eye?

Matthew 7:3

 

 

What annoys you the most when you are driving?  Researchers did of study of this and found the most common pet peeve of drivers is other drivers who talk on a cell phone while driving. But here is what made this study especially intriguing: the majority of drivers who listed this as their main annoyance admitted that they, too, talk on a cell phone when they drive!

Do you think the things that most annoy us in others are the things we are guilty of ourselves?  Just asking.

 

Hugo McCord writes of a military inspection at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.  The inspection was conducted one time by a full colonel.   As the colonel reviewed the line of soldiers he stopped and snapped, “Button that pocket, trooper!”

The flustered soldier stammered, “Right now, sir?”

“Of course, right now!”

The soldier, then, very carefully reached forward and buttoned the flap of the colonel’s shirt pocket.

You have to admit – we notice the faults of others much easier than we notice our own.  Jesus comments on this inconsistency – only he isn’t diplomatic, like me.  He just calls it hypocrisy.  “Hypocrites!” Jesus says, “first, take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck from your brother’s eye.”

 

We learn from an early age that we don’t feel nearly as guilty if we focus on the guilt of someone else.

“Marty, did you just hit your brother?”

“He hit me first.”

If I am embarrassed because my feet stink, what have I accomplished if I go around complaining about other people whom, I claim, have stinkier feet?  Nothing.  They are annoyed by my criticism . . . and I still have stinky feet.

To relieve my guilt, I can make a vain attempt to accuse other people of having stinky feet.  Or, I could ask Jesus for some soap and water. Once we have dealt with our own problem, we can be kind and understanding in helping others.

 

There is an old legend about a mother in India who went to the local wise man for guidance.

“My son has horrible eating habits.  Please,” she said, “come and tell him to stop eating so much sugar.  He will listen to you.”

The teacher listened sympathetically, then said, “Come back next week and talk with me.”

The mother returned next week, and lamented, “Please come and speak with my son.  He won’t eat vegetables or fruit; he just eats sugar.”

“Come back and see me next week,” the wise man said again.

The next week she returned and the wise man agreed to go with her and talk to her son.

“I am grateful that you will take the time to speak with my son,” she said, “but why did you wait so long?”

“Because,” he replied, “I didn’t realize how hard it would be for me to give up sugar.”

 

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

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