Tag Archives: grace

Knowing Where Belly Rubs Come From

Story of the Day for Wed. September 26, 2012

Knowing Where Belly Rubs Come From

A woman who had lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was dining at the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume and stood weeping behind Jesus’ feet. Her tears wet Jesus’ feet, and she wiped them with her hair. Then she kissed his feet and put the perfume on them.

Luke 7:37-38

We used to have two puppies, Garibaldi and Ivan the Terrible. After they were housebroken, one of them started to backslide and returned to a life of sin.

One day, we found the evidence of wrongdoing in my son’s bedroom. The situation needed to be addressed, but unless you catch them in the act, how do you know which puppy to admonish?

I stood outside Randy’s bedroom and called the dogs. Garibaldi bounded toward me in a wiggling mass of puppy joy. Ivan the Terrible hung his head, and, taking the coward’s way out, started slinking off to a remote corner of the house.

I caught Ivan by the scruff and escorted him to the scene of the crime. We gazed at the evidence before us, and then Ivan and I had a private moment together.

It’s possible, and maybe sometimes desirable, to use fear to correct the behavior of dogs. And people. But fear and the threat of punishment has little value if your primary desire is a relationship. You can’t frighten a puppy into wagging its tail and licking your face.

Have you noticed how those with sinful reputations flocked to Jesus? You would expect that, in the presence of a holy man, they would avoid him and slink into the dark shadows.

Instead, they’re drawn to him like a magnet. A woman with a sinful past comes up behind Jesus as he reclines at a meal. Women in Jesus’ day always wore their hair up in public (except on their wedding day). If a woman let her hair down in public, it meant she was a whore. This woman wets Jesus’ feet with her hot tears, and, with her hair let down, wipes his feet.

We get it.

This woman cried and kissed his feet and poured out her expensive perfume – not because she was hoping, pleading, for mercy – but because she had found mercy.

Jesus attracted people with broken lives, because they knew he loved them a lot. They knew he would forgive them, and give them a new start.

If the world isn’t breaking down church doors to get in, it’s not because they’ve lost interest in being loved by God. It’s because they fear we’re going to sniff out their sin, grab them by the scruff, and rub their noses in it. Trust me on this: they’ve been burned already.

Thirteen years later, I carried Ivan the Terrible up on a hillside and buried him. He was an awesome dog – always glad to see me. He knew where belly rubs came from.

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Their Stronghold

Story of the Day for Thursday April 12, 2012

Their Stronghold

                   Return to the stronghold, O prisoners of hope.
Zechariah 9:12

August Cyparis was a troublemaker. In his mid-twenties, Cyparis lived in St. Pierre on the French Caribbean island of Martinique. He was arrested for brawling and forced to do hard labor. But, near the end of his sentence, he escaped from his laboring job to spend the night dancing. Even though he turned himself in to authorities the next morning, they were not amused and threw him in solitary confinement — a windowless dungeon that used to be a bomb-proof ammunition storage room.

St. Pierre, a beautiful city of 28,000, was called “The Paris of the West.” It was nestled on the ocean at the base of a dormant volcano, Mt. Pelée.

But in January of 1902, Pelée started grumbling. Fumerole activity began to increase, and by April, earth tremors could be felt. The sulfurous gas and ash drove snakes and insects off the volcano and around fifty people died of snakebites while livestock was tormented by biting red ants.

Governor Mouttet, however, convinced the editor of the daily newspaper to downplay the danger. He sent a handful of civic leaders to the summit of the volcano to inspect the situation. Though the only scientist among them was a high school teacher, they reported, “The safety of St. Pierre is completely assured.”

Not all the residents believed the reports. Yet, those who fled for safety were rounded up by troops and returned to St. Pierre — on the Governor’s order.

Governor Mouttet didn’t want a mass exodus from the city because he was up for re-election in one week, and wanted no instability among the voters.

The election never took place. On May 8, Mt. Pelée erupted. The city was leveled by searing hot gas (around 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit) that blew an estimated 400 miles an hour. A three ton statue was blown sixteen feet off its mount. Three foot masonry walls were demolished.

Within three minutes, all 28,000 residents were killed.

All except for two people. And one of those two survivors was a prisoner sitting in solitary confinement. There in the massive walls of the dungeon, August Cyparis was protected.

Cyparis survived, but not because he was a good man. He survived because of the massive stronghold that protected him.

On the day of Judgment, it is not the good, the strong, who will survive. Those saved will be all those who look to the God of mercy to be their stronghold.
(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)  

The War is Over

Story of the Day for Saturday October 15, 2011

The War is Over

                     “If, when we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to him by the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved through his life.”  

                                                                           Romans 5:10

 What? Enemies of God?  It makes perfect sense once you think about it.  Ask yourself: Who has opposed God’s plan to create a beautiful world without sin and evil?  Who has marred this perfect world He wanted and filled it with sin?  Who has abused and polluted it?  Who has become the obstacle to God’s desire for this world?

We’re all guilty, aren’t we?  We are the ones defeating God’s good plans for this world.

The beauty of this passage for today is that we have been reconciled to God.  To “be reconciled” means to become friends again. Once Jesus offered up His life for our sins, that sacrifice brought an end to the war.

In 1944, a Japanese man, Shoichi Yokoi, began living in a jungle cave on the island of Guam.  For 28 years he lived on rats, frogs, snails, nuts, and mangoes.   Do you know why he lived like this?  He was a Japanese soldier and he didn’t know that World War II was over!

All those long years he was running and hiding from an enemy that didn’t exist.  The United States and Japan were at peace.   Even when he did hear the war had ended, he said he was afraid to surrender.  He feared execution.

Not many people openly defy God and think that this is a battle they can win.  But there are throngs of people who are running from God.  They are afraid.  If God ever finds them, they think, they are in deep, dark trouble.

Are you running from God?

If you’re running from God because you think he’s out to get you, then you’ll find it’s very hard to pray (how can you talk to someone you fear?)  Reading the Bible is like pulling teeth.  You won’t read long before you have to face Him.

It really stinks to eat rats and frogs to survive, simply because you are at war.  But when the war is over, and you don’t realize it, such a lifestyle is just tragic.

Jesus has negotiated a permanent truce.  God is on our side – or, better yet, we are now on His side.

Harry Houdini was one of the greatest magicians of all time.  On one of his European tours he boasted that he could be handcuffed and locked in any prison cell, and free himself.   Amazingly, he always managed to do so.

But, one day, as he was locked up in a jail in Scotland, things went wrong.  He hid lock picks in his belt and even under his scalp.  It took no time at all to get out of his handcuffs.  But, though he was a master at picking locks, he simply could not unlock his prison cell door.  Frantically, he worked the lock for two hours.  Finally, he admitted defeat and collapsed against the cell door.

The door swung open.  The reason he could not unlock it is because it was not locked in the first place!  The jail keeper had forgotten to lock him in.

If you feel like God’s prisoner – trapped and confined – maybe it’s time to try to prison door.  You will find that, all this time, it was never locked at all.

The war is over.

                                                                (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Walk on Water and Doubt

Story of the Day for Wednesday May 25, 2011

Walk on Water and Doubt 

                    Live such good lives among the pagans that. . . they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.  

                                                                                  1 Peter 2:12

Paul Mason is writing a book on losing weight.  He has lost some pounds of late and is eager to share his insights with others.  Yet, what makes us admire his chutzpah is that, at 686 pounds, Paul Mason is still considered the heaviest man in the world. He grew so enormous that, to get him to a hospital, firemen had to knock down a wall of his house and lift him out with a forklift.

We wish him well – both on his book and his diet.  (One witty journalist thinks his book will be a “vest-sweller”). But you do have to wonder, don’t you — who would buy a diet book from the fattest man on earth?

The apostle Peter talks about our lives being a creditable reflection of our faith.  He believes that our behavior serves as a witness to unbelievers and helps lead them to the God of grace.

So, do you wince when annoying busybodies like me talk about being a witness for Christ?  More often than not, this topic dredges up painful memories.  We recall some of our spectacular failures to live a Christ-like life, and know, sometimes, we’re not a good witness at all.

If you’re feeling pretty cruddy about how you’ve behaved lately, maybe you need to remember Peter.  He pledged his loyalty to his Lord and declared he was willing to die rather than disown Jesus. Hours later, he vehemently denied any knowledge or allegiance to Jesus.  Not once, but three times.

Peter knows what it is like to fail the Lord.  And, unlike your failures or mine, Peter’s sin got stuck in the Bible for the whole world to see.

Are you embarrassed because you have fallen flat on your face?  Well, this is not the time to talk about being a witness.   We first must go to the one who covers our shame.  Jesus didn’t come into the world to pat good people on the head; he came as a doctor to care for our spiritual sickness.  Only Jesus’ forgiveness can get us back on our feet again.

Look at Peter’s life.  He tried to walk on water and doubted.  Jesus grabs his hand and lifts him up.  Peter gave the misguided advice that Jesus would never need to suffer and die.  Jesus called him Satan. But he kept him as his disciple.  And, around a campfire on the shore of Galilee, the risen Lord confronted Peter after his denial, and restored him to a place of leadership.

We are not fooling unbelievers when we try to deny our failures and hypocrisy.  Our witness to the world will sometimes be the wonder of Christ’s mercy when we fail.

But the real goal is still that the world would observe us rising from the ashes and — even though fuzzy at the edges — they would see a reflection of the goodness of our Lord. It’s never too late to be a positive witness for Christ.  Just ask Peter.
                                                          (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

Wildness of Love

Story of the Day for Thursday May 19, 2011

Wildness of Love

                In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accord with the riches of His grace that he showered on us with all wisdom and understanding. 

                                                       Ephesians 1:7-8

In The Christian Reader, a woman wrote about her brother and his bride on their honeymoon.  Late at night they finally got to their fancy hotel’s bridal suite.  The room had only a sofa, a table, and chairs.

Then, discovering the sofa pulled out into a bed, they spent an uncomfortable night on a lumpy mattress with saggy springs.  In the morning, they gave the hotel clerk at the front desk an earful.

The clerk asked, “Did you open the door in your room?”

The door?

He thought it was a closet.  He went back to his room, opened the door, and found a gorgeous bedroom, complete with fruit baskets and chocolates.

He had spent the night with his bride in the entryway!

I really want to laugh at him for being so silly. Unfortunately, I can’t, because I do the same thing.

The apostle Paul describes the riches of grace that God showers down on us.  It is as if God has filled the bridal suite with the wealth of the world. . . and, sometimes, where am I? Making the best of it in the entryway.

God’s love for us is not a limited commodity that he, reluctantly, parcels out in meager doses. Grace is an unending waterfall.  The question is whether we will stand under it or not.

The problem for many of us is that we are half right.  As we honestly take stock of our lives we know that we are guilty of living contrary to the way God wants us to.  And, because we are guilty, we realize we are unworthy of receiving any good gift from the Lord.

So far so good.

But here is where we tend to wander off track: if we are unworthy, then it would seem that God should give us just enough to get by.  Why would God heap truckloads of blessing on people who have been so unfaithful to Him?

But that is exactly what He does!

God is reckless in lavishing his love on undeserving people. You will have learned the wildness of his love when you let him rain it down on you.

                                    (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)