Tag Archives: Body of Christ

The Gift You’re Given

Story of the Day for Monday August 20, 2012

 

The Gift You’re Given

                     The eye isn’t able to say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” 

                                                           1 Corinthians12:21

 

 

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces staged the largest-ever amphibious assault and established a foothold on European soil.

Nazi commanders, however, knew the invasion was coming. Once a beachhead was established, their strategy was to advance their formidable tank divisions and destroy the Allied forces – who were backed up by the sea and had no means of escape.

 

Germany’s fearsome  2nd SS Panzer Division was ordered to advance. The division’s new Tigers were the best tanks yet produced. Yet, because of its formidable size (sixty-three tons), the Tiger was a gas-guzzler – getting only a half mile to the gallon. In addition, the steel tracks wore out quickly on highway travel. The Germans had to move the tank division into position by railroad.

 

To prevent air attacks, the rail cars were carefully camoflauged at village railway sidings in the area of Montabuban.  These transport cars were unguarded.

In his book, D-Day, Stephen Ambrose narrates the actions of a sixteen-year-old girl named Tetty. Joined by her boyfriend and fourteen-year-old sister, Tetty would slip out in the dark on bicycle and siphon off the axle oil from the railroad cars and replace it with an abrasive powder.

 

When the Allied invasion hit the shores of Normandy, the Germans loaded their Tigers onto the railroad cars and prepared their counterattack. But every railroad car soon seized up and the damage to the axles was so extensive they couldn’t be repaired. The German division was stuck in southern France and couldn’t find replacement railroad cars for a week.

By the time they were able to move, the French Resistance was in place to harass any movement by rail.

 

Instead of arriving while the Allies were pinned down on the  beaches, the German division didn’t reach the front until seventeen days later—when the Allied forces had already been able to organize, advance, and disperse.

 

So, did a French teenager prevent the annihilation of the Allies’ precarious foothold on the continent?  Did her brave action tip the balance, which enabled us to eventually win the war?

I don’t know. But I do know that she did what she could.

 

Whatever your calling in life, don’t bemoan the things you’re unable to do. The Lord asks of you only one thing: to do what you’re able with the gift you’re given.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

What’s Wrong With You People of Nebraska?

Story of the Day for Monday July 30, 2012

What’s Wrong With You People of Nebraska?

 

                    Above all, be of one mind. Be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  

                                                                   1 Peter 3:8

 

Herman and Donna Ostry bought a farm a half mile outside of Bruno, Nebraska. Because the barn was near a creek, the floor was always muddy and wet.

One year, when the creek flooded – leaving 29 inches of water in his barn, Herman decided something had to be done. He contacted a building moving company, but the bid was unaffordable.

At supper, Herman joked to his family, “I’ll bet if we had enough people we could pick up that barn and carry it to higher ground.”

Herman’s son, Mike, however, took the idea seriously. He counted the boards and timber and estimated the barn’s weight at 16,640 pounds. Then he began welding a grid of steel tubing – bringing the total weight to almost ten tons. Mike’s system provided a handhold for 344 people, which meant that each person would be lifting about 55 pounds.

 

The little town of Bruno was planning its centennial that summer and the planning committee decided to make the moving of Ostry’s barn a part of the official celebration.

On July 30, 1988, local TV cameramen were on hand, along with 4000 spectators.

The 344 volunteers lifted in unison. The crowd then applauded as they moved the barn 115 feet to higher ground in three minutes.

 

So, what is wrong with you people out there in Nebraska? Don’t you know how groups, such as business organizations and congregations, are supposed to operate? When you announce you want to move a barn, you need a majority to rise up and claim it can’t be done. When you estimate the weight of the barn, isn’t anyone questioning your figures and asking if you have fully accounted for the weight of the nails? A steel pipe grid? Where is the splinter group arguing loudly for an alternate plan of using tractors with frontend loaders? And 344 volunteers – I can’t believe it! If just one of them ends up with a sore back they’ll sue you from one end of the county to the other. And even if you can manage to lift the barn, how can you expect everybody to move in the same direction?  If a third of them insist on moving north, a third south, and the rest away from the creek, that barn is not going very far.

 

Herman Ostry’s barn got moved because I heard about it too late to warn him that it wouldn’t work.

It’s just as well. I once lived about a half hour from Bruno and I know Nebraskans.  If one person is in need, everyone else will show up in a heartbeat to help out. They don’t argue, they don’t complain. They cheerfully get the job done and then they have a beer and gather at someone’s house to play a few rounds of sheepshead.

Sometimes, Nebraskan farmers look more like the church than the church does.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

If Honey Bees Can Do It

Story of the Day for Tuesday April 24, 2012

If Honey Bees Can Do It

                   After a lot of debating . . .
Acts 15:7

When the church was young and began spreading the good news beyond the borders of Israel, a dispute arose. Some believers insisted the gentiles had to be circumcised to be saved, while other believers vigorously opposed this — claiming that we are saved only because of God’s mercy to us in Christ.

How does a group resolve an issue when its members are butting heads? Well, if we can glean any wisdom from honey bees, butting heads is part of the process.

Thomas Seeley, a biology professor at Cornell, found that the ideal bee hive is at least ten gallons in volume, fifteen feet off the ground, and has a narrow entrance.

Seeley found an island off the coast of Maine with no honey bees — nor trees to make a hive. Along with his co-workers, Seeley built several mediocre bee houses but made one honey bee dream home. Then he brought a hive of 6000 bees to the island.

Scouts would fly out from the hive in all directions — looking for a place to relocate. When a scout discovered a possible new home, she would return to the hive and report her findings (all scouts are female) by doing a dance.

Other scouts would then fly out to investigate each report. But with scouts returning from several locations, how does the hive know which new home to choose?

First, the hive looks for enthusiasm. The better the new potential home site the scout has discovered, the wilder its dance when it returns to the hive.

The other vital aspect to a scout’s report is modesty. They don’t behave as if their discovery is the best one. They listen to each other; no one is stubborn.

Once all the scouts have reported in on potential home sites, the head-butting begins. A dancing scout for one location will head-butt a dancing scout reporting on another site, and both stop dancing. When about fifteen bees are all dancing for the same location, scouts start head-butting bees from their own “team.” A quorum has been reached.

The hive has now decided on the best new location. In Dr. Seeley’s experiments, he found the honey bees choose the best option about 90 percent of the time.

The first major dispute in the church was beautifully resolved. Everyone offered an opinion. They butted heads in spirited debate. They recited facts and quoted Scripture.

In the end, the council concluded all people are saved by the grace of Jesus.

To argue a position with both passion and modesty is a difficult balance to achieve. To dance with enthusiasm for your position but then later head-butt your supporters to respectfully consider another viewpoint, is the perfect combination of fervor and humility.

But if honey bees can do it . . .
           (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

What Do You Mean ‘We’?

Story of the Day for Friday December 23, 2011

What Do You Mean ‘We’?

 . . .to prepare God’s people for works of ministry, so that the body of Christ might be built up, until we all reach unity in the faith. . .

                                           Ephesians 4:12-13

 The apostle Paul is teaching us something that is hard to put into practice. He talks about all the different kinds of people God puts in the church, and then he starts talking about the unity, the oneness, he wants us to share. Being different and one at the same time is no mean feat.

You see, sometimes we don’t look for unity; we look for uniformity. We assume everyone should have the same gifts. Try to imagine an orchestra where everyone plays the tuba. That’s uniformity.

Unity is much better. When woodwinds, strings, brass, and timpani all play different parts of the score, a beautiful sound arises.

 

Leaders in the church are often viewed as “hired hands.” We pay them so that they can do the work of ministry in the church. It seems like a sensible arrangement – until we take a second look at what Paul is saying.

Paul explains that church leaders are not supposed to do the work of ministry for the people, but rather to train the congregation so that they can engage in ministry. Church leaders are like band directors. They have a role to play, but so does everyone else.

 

Even the very word “ministry” sounds churchy – like something only preachers are supposed to do. But the word “ministry” is really an earthy, down-home word. It is the word the Bible uses to describe what Peter’s mother-in-law did when she served Jesus and his disciples. It is the word the Bible uses for angels feeding Jesus after his time of testing in the desert, and for servants who wait on tables.

 

When we serve, we’ll all working toward the same goal – reaching unity in the body of Christ. And everyone’s service is needed.

Once, an old man at a country church in Minnesota showed me the old pipe organ. Though it now pumps air with a motor, he told me that, years ago, he had the job of sitting behind it and pumping the bellows with his feet.

It reminded me of a story of a well-known organist many years ago who gave a recital on a pipe organ. During the performance the boy pumping the bellows looked around the organ and said, “We’re doing pretty good, aren’t we?”

“What do you mean ‘we’?” the organist scoffed.

A few minutes later, in the middle of a dazzling piece, the sound slowly started to fade out until it stopped. The young boy popped his head around the corner again. “We’re not doing so good now, are we?”

                                                 (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Starting to Jell as a Team

Story of the Day for Wednesday December 7, 2011

Starting to Jell as a Team

                 As Jesus walked along the shore he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax collecting booth. So he says to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.  

                                                                 Mark 2:14

I belong to a private club called “The Pinkham Creek Society of People Who Catch Trout.” We’re a small club – just three of us – which is the only discernible reason I’ve been elected secretary. My ten-year-old daughter, Elly, won her bid for the presidency, and the remaining member, our dog, Mona, has been elected The Royal Pain in the Butt.

My colleagues and I all have various responsibilities. I find the deep holes along Pinkham Creek and bait the hook. Elly casts the line into the creek and waits for a bite. And Mona jumps into the creek and scares all the fish away. She then reports on the creek’s water temperature by shaking herself vigorously in front of us.

So far, our club has not met the goals of our “Mission Statement,” but you can be sure Mona will receive stinging innuendos when I type up the minutes for the next meeting.

 

Have you noticed Jesus’ strategy in forming a group? As Jesus walked along the lakeshore near Capernaum, he saw four fishermen, Simon, Andrew, James, and John, and called them to follow him.

So, what do we have here? Four fishermen who, obviously, know each other well. This is a team that can work together.

How do you like Jesus’ wisdom in putting together a group?

 

Not long after that, they return to the lakeshore at Capernaum, and meet . . . him – the most hated man in town. Levi was a tax collector and, as such, was an outcast from society. He would’ve been excommunicated from the synagogue. By collecting taxes for the Roman government, he was branded a traitor.

But it gets worse. Where was Levi working? On the lakeshore. Odd place to have a tax booth – until you realize that some tax collectors collected poll taxes. Levi had his tax booth on the lakeshore because he taxed the fishermen’s daily catch of fish.

 

Can you imagine the scene?  Jesus says to his four fishermen disciples, “Guess who I just invited to join our group? Levi. You’ve all met Levi, haven’t you?”

Now how do you like Jesus’ wisdom in putting together a group?

When Jesus chooses followers he pulls people together from diverse backgrounds.  He doesn’t want to create a club of people held together by similar prejudices or mindsets. He wants to create a miracle by transforming us into the body of Christ.

 

At our last meeting, Mona has been elected chairman of The Committee to Guard the Fish. We tie her to a tree, and when we catch some brookies, we have Mona stand guard over them – just in case they try any funny stuff.

Our club membership attracts diverse personalities, but I think we’re starting to jell as a team.

                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Bean Counters and Dreamers

Story of the Day for Monday November 14, 2011

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)

 

We All Win Together

Story of the Day for Saturday October 29, 2011

We All Win Together

                 Do nothing from selfish ambition or vanity.  Instead, in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Look out – not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 

                                                     Philippians 2:2-4

Jesus lived in a “high status” culture.  People were quite competitive about their ranking in society.   Even where you sat at a meal indicated your rank.

Have you noticed how often Jesus’ disciples argue about rank?  The gospels portray them as quite competitive.  Jesus reveals for the first time that he is the Messiah, and that he will sacrifice his life for others.   The disciples don’t get it.  Soon Jesus catches them arguing about who is the greatest.  When the kingdom comes in glory, James and John ask if they can have the highest seats of honor next to Jesus.  Even at the Last Supper, Luke tells us the disciples were arguing about who is greatest.

 

In the end, however, Jesus transformed a handful of vain and self-centered followers into a body where no one was obsessed with outdoing the others. Just as all the parts of a body work for the good of the whole, so we are to be “one in spirit and purpose.”   That is why Paul urges us that “each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also the interests of others.”

 

Don’t get me wrong: competition is not always bad. High school sports are a form of competition.  So is business.  Even though these forms of competition can easily get out of hand, they are not inherently bad.

All the same, Jesus has made it clear that our purpose in the body of Christ is not to compete for the highest status, but to lower ourselves to serve. Those who kneel to wash the feet of others are the “greatest” in the kingdom.

 

Some Christian missionaries lived among the Agta Negritto people in the Philippines.  They introduced them to the game of croquet.  They gave everyone a mallet and a ball and showed them, not only how to hit the ball through the wickets, but how to knock someone else’s ball out of the way.

The Negrittos didn’t understand.  “Why would I want to knock his ball out of the way?”

“So you can win!” the missionaries explained.

The Negritto people survive by working together as a community, so they did not understand this kind of competition.

The Negrittos ended up ignoring the missionaries’ advice.  They shouted encouragement to each other until the last person completed the course and then they shouted, “We won!  We won!”

That is how we live in the body of Christ.  We all win together.

                                                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

 

 

 

The Gift You’re Given

Story of the Day for Thursday September 1, 2011

The Gift You’re Given

                      “The eye isn’t able to say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” 

                                                     1 Corinthians12:21

 On June 6, 1944, Allied forces staged the largest-ever amphibious assault and established a foothold on European soil.

Nazi commanders, however, knew the invasion was coming. Once a beachhead was established, their strategy was to advance their formidable tank divisions and destroy the Allied forces – who were backed up by the sea and had no means of escape.

 

Germany’s fearsome  2nd SS Panzer Division was ordered to advance. The division’s new Tigers were the best tanks yet produced. Yet, because of its formidable size (sixty-three tons), the Tiger was a gas-guzzler – getting only a half mile to the gallon. In addition, the steel tracks wore out quickly on highway travel. The Germans had to move the tank division into position by railroad.

 

To prevent air attacks, the rail cars were carefully camoflauged at village railway sidings in the area of Montabuban.  These transport cars were unguarded.

In his book, D-Day, Stephen Ambrose narrates the actions of a sixteen-year-old girl named Tetty. Joined by her boyfriend and fourteen-year-old sister, Tetty would slip out in the dark on bicycle and siphon off the axle oil from the railroad cars and replace it with an abrasive powder.

 

When the Allied invasion hit the shores of Normandy, the Germans loaded their Tigers onto the railroad cars and prepared their counterattack. But every railroad car soon seized up and the damage to the axles was so extensive they couldn’t be repaired. The German division was stuck in southern France and couldn’t find replacement railroad cars for a week.

By the time they were able to move, the French Resistance was in place to harass any movement by rail.

 

Instead of arriving while the Allies were pinned down on the  beaches, the German division didn’t reach the front until seventeen days later—when the Allied forces had already been able to organize, advance, and disperse.

 

So, did a French teenager prevent the annihilation of the Allies’ precarious foothold on the continent?  Did her brave action tip the balance, which enabled us to eventually win the war?

I don’t know. But I do know that she did what she could.

 

Whatever your calling in life, don’t bemoan the things you’re unable to do. The Lord asks of you only one thing: to do what you’re able with the gift you’re given.

                                                   (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

What’s Wrong With You People of Nebraska?

Story of the Day for Wednesday July 20, 2011

 

What’s Wrong With You People of Nebraska?

 

                    Above all, be of one mind. Be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  

                                                                                 1 Peter 3:8

 Herman and Donna Ostry bought a farm a half mile outside of Bruno, Nebraska. Because the barn was near a creek, the floor was always muddy and wet.

One year, when the creek flooded – leaving 29 inches of water in his barn, Herman decided something had to be done. He contacted a building moving company, but the bid was unaffordable.

At supper, Herman joked to his family, “I’ll bet if we had enough people we could pick up that barn and carry it to higher ground.”

Herman’s son, Mike, however, took the idea seriously. He counted the boards and timber and estimated the barn’s weight at 16,640 pounds. Then he began welding a grid of steel tubing – bringing the total weight to almost ten tons. Mike’s system provided a handhold for 344 people, which meant that each person would be lifting about 55 pounds.

 

The little town of Bruno was planning its centennial that summer and the planning committee decided to make the moving of Ostry’s barn a part of the official celebration.

On July 30, 1988, local TV cameramen were on hand, along with 4000 spectators.

The 344 volunteers lifted in unison. The crowd then applauded as they moved the barn 115 feet to higher ground in three minutes.

 

So, what is wrong with you people out there in Nebraska? Don’t you know how groups, such as business organizations and congregations, are supposed to operate? When you announce you want to move a barn, you need a majority to rise up and claim it can’t be done. When you estimate the weight of the barn, isn’t anyone questioning your figures and asking if you have fully accounted for the weight of the nails? A steel pipe grid? Where is the splinter group arguing loudly for an alternate plan of using tractors with frontend loaders? And 344 volunteers – I can’t believe it! If just one of them ends up with a sore back they’ll sue you from one end of the county to the other. And even if you can manage to lift the barn, how can you expect everybody to move in the same direction?  If a third of them insist on moving north, a third south, and the rest away from the creek, that barn is not going very far.

 

Herman Ostry’s barn got moved because I heard about it too late to warn him that it wouldn’t work.

It’s just as well. I once lived about a half hour from Bruno and I know Nebraskans.  If one person is in need, everyone else will show up in a heartbeat to help out. They don’t argue, they don’t complain. They cheerfully get the job done and then they have a beer and gather at someone’s house to play a few rounds of sheepshead.

Sometimes, Nebraskan farmers look more like the church than the church does.

                                                         (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Hidden From View by a Shoe and a Smelly Sock

Story of the Day for Friday May 20, 2011

Hidden From View by a Shoe and a Smelly Sock

                        “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’  And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” 

                                                                      1 Corinthians 12:21-22

 When you crouch down to lift a heavy object (a hay bale, let’s say) what is the most important muscle group you use?  I’ll give you a hint: it’s not any muscles in your legs.  No, it’s not in your back either.  Or your arms.

I have a friend who is a university choir director.  Though I was skeptical at first, Hank (that’s Dr. Alviani to you) convinced me that the most important muscles necessary to lifting a heavy weight are your vocal chords.

When you lift things, he explained, your body must hold air pressure in your chest cavity, or else it would collapse.   That is why you always take a deep breath and hold it before you lift.  Your vocal chords are holding the air in your chest. (The grunts you make while lifting is from tiny bits of air escaping.)  Yet, without those tiny muscles in your throat, you would be unable to lift my daughter’s rock collection off the floor.

While God has given all of us our gifts and talents, it takes effort to view them from a proper perspective.  All of us are tempted to make one of two mistakes.  The first mistake is to feel that our gifts are superior to those of others.   The second is to think that our gifts are not nearly as important as others.   We wish we had gifts that others have.

Both of these attitudes are profoundly unhelpful.

God tells us that one part of the body should not look down on another part and consider it unnecessary.

Dizzy Dean was one of the greatest pitchers of all time.  He led the National League in strikeouts his rookie year.   In five years he won 120 games.

While pitching in the All-Star game in 1937, a grounder glanced off his toe.  Rather than waiting for his toe to heal, he simply re-adjusted his pitching motion. Adjusting his delivery eased the pain, but overextended his arm.  As a result, he ruined his arm, and no batter would ever see his blazing fastball again.

At the peak of his glory, many people could say, “Wow! What an arm that guy has!”  Nobody would have praised his toe.   But without his toe working right, his arm was ruined.

We all need each other.  “Those parts of the body that seem weaker, are indispensible.” The secret is to thank the Lord for the gifts he has given you.  And, if you feel your gift is like Dizzy Dean’s toe — hidden from view by a shoe and a smelly sock, don’t let that keep you from using it.  The body of Christ will have a really sore arm without you.

                                                               (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)