Story of the Day for Saturday November 13, 2010
Too Busy To Listen
Shouting in a loud voice and covering their ears, they rushed together at him and dragging him out of the city they stoned him.
We were up on Still Peak above our house when my brother-in-law hushed us and said, “Do you hear that?”
We are stopped jabbering and listened.
“I don’t hear anything.”
“Exactly,” said Sean, “you can’t hear a single thing.”
He was right. No cars or machinery. No dogs. No wind.
Silence is odd to us because we seldom experience it. We live in a noisy world. All the same, we rarely make much of an effort to get away from the racket.
Do you find it a struggle to take time for quiet reflection? Why is that? Yeah, you’re really busy. But do you think there might be a deeper reason?
I ask because I’ve discovered you can drown out the voice of God by noise. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit speaks in a still, small voice. And our conscience is an avid talker, but only speaks in a whisper. TVs and radios can easily overpower that voice we need to hear.
When Stephen was arraigned before the Jewish high court on charges of blasphemy, he gave a lengthy recitation of God’s coming to their forefathers, and their rejection of the Lord’s graciousness to them.
Things got tense when Stephen came to his point: “You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears!” He told them, in other words, that they were not listening to God, but were resisting the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit, in fact, was speaking to the high council at that very moment – through the words of Stephen. And how did they respond? They drowned out his voice by shouting him down and covering their ears.
My friend, Ruth, was riding with a woman who chauffeured a van load of kids. Ruth noticed the transmission was making a funny noise. She asked, “You think you ought to get that fixed?”
The woman grinned at Ruth and said, “This is how I fix it,” and immediately turned on the radio until you could no longer hear the noise from the transmission.
Are you taking time for quiet? When we are silent before the Lord, we may realize that some things need to be fixed. But that’s a good thing. Whether we need to make changes, or find forgiveness, or comfort, or inspiration, God will speak a good word to us when we are quiet enough to listen.
Learning To Be Angry
Be angry, but do not sin.
God wants to teach us how to be angry.
Does that sound odd to you? How can God teach us to do something sinful?
The first thing we must realize is that anger is like a knife. A knife can be used to murder, but it can also be used in the hand of a surgeon to save a life. Anger is like that. You can find truckloads of references in the Bible where God is angry. Jesus becomes angry. And Paul is quoting Psalm 4 when he says, “Be angry, but do not sin.” Apparently, it is possible to become angry without sinning.
So, when is anger a godly emotion? I have often heard people defend their behavior to others as “righteous anger,” but in almost every case it is not righteous at all. They assume that, if they were right in their grievance, then they were justified in retaliating with vengeance. But that is definitely not righteous anger.
God wants our anger to be an expression of our love for others. Imagine that you are walking down a sidewalk and spot a one-year-old child standing there smiling at you. Suddenly, a big, burly man strides past you and hollers to the child, “Get out of my way!” and deliberately kicks the child in the face. Would you become angry? Of course you would! But your outrage would arise from your compassion for this child.
Godly anger is meant to motivate us. It moves us to act bravely to do the right thing. It centers our focus. Martin Luther said, “I never write better than when I am inspired by anger. When I am angry I can write, pray, and preach well; for then my whole temperament is quickened, my understanding challenged, and all worldly temptations and annoyances go away.”
In Jesus’ day, God’s people had to offer sacrifices in the temple. But God told the poor, who couldn’t afford the animal sacrifices, that they could offer a dove instead.
But then the chief priests seized the market. They mandated that only doves bought in the temple could be offered for sacrifice. And then they spiked up the price of a dove from about one dollar to about one hundred dollars.
Not only that, but God specified in Isaiah that there must always be a place in the temple where the “unchurched” Gentiles could come in order to pray and draw closer to God. But the priests had commandeered the Court of the Gentiles in order to set up their market.
When Jesus saw this he got angry. But his anger motivated him to boldly march into the temple and clear away those extorting the poor and to restore a place for the Gentiles to pray. This is what godly anger does. It motivates us to oppose injustice and help the needy.
Godly anger is not about being “right” in our grievances and getting even. It is about being focused and on fire to promote truth, justice, and help for others.
Are You a Poser?
“Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
When it comes to mechanical things, I am a certified nincompoop. But when I’m in the market for a used car, I see no need to advertise this fact to the seller. In order to skillfully negotiate the price, I carry myself with an air of self-confidence and authority. Privately, I know my only leverage in negotiating price is the frown. I ask the one selling the car to pop the hood. I stare at the engine and have no idea what I should be inspecting. So I just frown.
Sometimes the seller will think I have spotted the car’s weakness, and confess, “Yeah, well, the co-axial crankcase activator valve needs a new gasket, but . . .”
If he only knew! I’m just a poser. And who knows why I do it? I couldn’t barter down the price of a “pre-owned” lollipop.
Hypocrisy is often misunderstood. Non-Christians accuse Christians of being hypocrites when they fail to live up to the moral standard set by Jesus. That is not necessarily hypocrisy – that’s just failure to live up to the moral standard set by Jesus. We are called to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is the standard we strive for, but we will never attain it in this life. A Christian is no more a hypocrite for failing to be perfect than a basketball player is a hypocrite for failing to score on every shot.
Hypocrisy is pretending to be more righteous than we really are. We seek to impress others, but God is not impressed. He knows it’s an act.
Jesus warned his disciples about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, because it is highly contagious. It is like yeast, which is so seemingly insignificant, yet quickly affects the entire lump of dough.
The hypocrisy virus primarily spreads within Christian circles. One person wants to “share” a recent miraculous answer to prayer. Then another just wants to bless the Lord for the unbelievable miracle they experienced last week. And then another shares. And another. You have to be really strong, once the virus starts spreading, to say something like, “Well, I haven’t experienced any miracles lately. I’m really wrestling in prayer with lustful thoughts, and I don’t feel like I’ve made any progress this week.”
Hey – don’t hesitate to share wonderful answers to prayer – as long as your motive is to encourage others. The key is not to pretend or show off.
On the other hand, it doesn’t mean you need to blurt to the world all your inner secrets and struggles. As Fran Lebowitz said, “Spilling your guts is just exactly as charming as it sounds.”
Jesus is concerned that we grow in faith, but that we do so humbly and honestly. We can’t fool him. But the really beautiful thing is that we don’t have to. We can show him the wreckage in the complete trust that he longs to clean up the mess, renew us, and change us from posers into the real thing.
Story of the Day for Wednesday November 10, 2010
“Long Suffering” is Not Only Long, It’s…
Walk worthy of your calling, with complete humility and gentleness. Be patient – bearing with each other in love.
“Patience” is more than the ability to wait. Fishermen are patient and can stare at a bobber for boundless stretches of time. They are relaxed, comfortable, content.
The biblical virtue of patience, however, involves pain. The King James Version often translated the word for “patience” as “long-suffering” – suffering for a long time.
By the way, what do we call a person who suffers health problems requiring hospitalization?
Here in Ephesians, Paul speaks of patience in the context of our relationships with each other. Love means that we willingly put up with the annoying behavior of others (and hope they will put up with our faults as well.) This kind of patience is more than simply waiting. We are choosing to allow love to transform our attitude toward other people.
John used to be a missionary in western Africa. He needed to fly to the country’s capitol, but the country was so poor, and at war, that they did not have commercial flights available. His only option was to fly in a military transport plane.
The plane had been gutted. All the seats had been removed so they could cram more soldiers into it. As John boarded the plane he saw it was filled with wounded soldiers who were moaning in pain. Finding a place to sit, he leaned up against the wall of the plane.
In the sizzling tropical heat, John was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. However, once the plane gained in altitude he began to shiver from the cold. The sweat from his back froze and nailed him to the wall of the plane.
John was acquainted with flying and knew the pilot did not need to fly at such a high altitude. Upset, he demanded that someone come and bring him an explanation.
Soon, a doctor returned.
“This is my fault,” he said. “Many of these soldiers are badly wounded and I have no more medicine to ease their pain. I asked the pilot to increase the altitude of the plane, so that the cold might numb their agony just a little.”
The doctor was apologetic. “I’m sorry for any discomfort this is causing you.”
Well. That changed everything. For the rest of the flight John gladly offered up his suffering for the sake of the injured soldiers.
The cold did not change. But John’s heart did.
“So, How’s My Little Miss America?”
Let us consider how we can spur each other on in love and good works – not neglecting to meet together, as some are in the habit, but encouraging each other. . .
One of the greatest moments in a grade school teacher’s career happened by mistake.
In his first year of teaching, Jaime Escalante had two students who shared the same first name, Johnny. But they were so different. One was an excellent student – happy and well-behaved. The other was a goof-off and did not take his studies seriously.
At the first PTA meeting of the year, a parent asked how her son was doing. The teacher raved about her son Johnny and what a delight he was to have in the classroom. But he was mistaken. He was actually talking to “bad” Johnny’s mom.
The next day, the problem child approached the teacher. “My mom told me what you said about me last night. I haven’t ever had a teacher who wanted me in his class.”
From that day on “Problem Johnny” completed his assignments and became a model student.
Even though the teacher’s praise was unintentional, it demonstrates how powerful our encouragement of others can be. People are capable of doing so much if we can make them believe they can.
Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, in their best-selling book, In Search of Excellence, describe a psychological experiment where every adult is given the same ten puzzles to solve. Half of the exam takers were told they did well, getting seven out of ten correct. The other half was informed they did poorly, getting seven out of ten problems wrong.
But, in fact, the psychologists made the test scores up. And when they gave each group another round of puzzles, they discovered that those who were told they did well the first round did better on the second, while those who were told they did poorly did worse on the second test.
Encouragement is urging others to believe – to believe in what the Lord has done for them, to believe in what God has made them capable of, to believe they are loved.
But here is the important point: encouragement is what we do for another person. We need each other. That is why the Bible urges us to get together – not only for the purpose of corporate worship – but to encourage each other in love and good deeds.
Encouraging others is not always our first impulse. We are avid fans of employing criticism to improve behavior. And don’t get me wrong – criticism has its place. There are times when we must point out someone else’s faults. Yet, if we are not sensitive in our criticism, we can decrease rather than improve another person’s behavior. The test takers who were told they did poorly are proof of that.
There is more power in encouragement than we often imagine. Every since Cheryl Pruitt was four or five she would hang around her dad’s country stores. Every day the milkman would arrive to stock the store. And every day he would greet little Cheryl and say, “So, how’s my little Miss America?”
In 1980, guess who became the new Miss America?
(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)
Who Cares About the Back of Her Head?
There is nothing better a man can do than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God.
Have you ever seen a picture of the Statue of Liberty taken from above her? Her coiffure is as beautifully sculpted as the rest of the statue.
“Yeah?” you might ask, “What’s so odd about that?”
What is “so odd about that” is that, when Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, completed the Statue of Liberty in 1886 – the only people capable of seeing that part of the statue would have been someone who attempted to soar above her in a hot air balloon. Bartholdi had no way of predicting the invention of helicopters and air planes so others could observe the quality of his work. Whether others could see his artistry made no difference to the pride he took in his workmanship.
Supposedly, there is a tag on every vehicle which also identifies the day it was built. A friend told me never to buy a car built on a Monday. “On Mondays,” he explained, “assembly line workers are hung over or tired from the weekend. They are usually crabby about returning to the drudgery of their job, and they are apathetic about the quality of their work.” I have even talked to auto workers who confessed they would never buy a car from the company they work for because they know how shoddily they are built.
I’m not mad at auto workers for doing shoddy work; I’m sad that they work at jobs with no purpose other than a paycheck. Work is a tough slog when we can’t take pride in the quality of what we do.
A while back, I had been unemployed, so I was delighted to find minimum-wage work doing landscaping. The work was hard – mostly raking and hauling endless wheelbarrow loads of rock and dirt. The contractor who was building the house was passionate about quality; he wanted everything to be beautiful. He never talked about the money he was making or how long it was until quitting time. But he kept repeating, “I can’t wait to see the look on the Davis’s faces when they see. . .”
His enthusiasm was so infectious that I, too, wanted to create the most beautiful lawn for them that I could. I discovered that the harder I worked, the more pleasure I experienced. I couldn’t wait to see the look on the Davis’s faces when. . .
My wife doesn’t cook meals for our family; she creates delight for others to enjoy. She sprinkles little green things on the potatoes – not so much because you can notice the flavor but because it adds color and balance to the plate. She finds great satisfaction in serving others.
God has made us to find meaning in our work, because we are meant to create and serve others. We are, after all, made in the image of Him who creates and gives His Son to serve us and bring us salvation.
(Copyright 2010 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)