We who preach and write, do so in a manner different from which the Scriptures have been written. We write while we make progress. We learn something new every day. We speak as we still knock for understanding...If anyone criticizes me when I have said what is right, he does me an injustice. But I would be more angry with the one who praises me and takes what I have written for Gospel truth than I would be with the one who criticizes me unfairly. -Augustine

Permission or Presumption, Part 2

Yesterday we discussed how an answer to prayer led an entire family to catastrophic ruin. In the book of Judges, chapter 1, Judah receives total victory in answer to prayer. In chapter 20, however, twenty-two thousand die in catastrophic defeat after receiving the green light from God. Why would God deliberately lead them to defeat?

A hideous sin has just occurred. A woman has just been murdered and cut up into 12 pieces. As one unified body, the tribes rise to eradicate this evil from their midst. Receiving another green light from God to go and fight, they are again devastated with the catastrophic loss of another eighteen thousand soldiers.

So the question again is, why? First, as I look back in chapter 1, I read that the children of Israel prayed to Yahweh–their covenant-keeping God. In chapter 20 they direct their initial prayer to Elohim–the mighty God. From chapters 1 to 20 Israel has lost their closeness with their personal God. As we learn in chapter 2, a whole generation has grown up without knowing the LORD (Yahweh) as everyone is doing that which is right in his own eyes. In chapter 20, they are still praying–but praying without a relationship–and the results are dismal to say the least.

Furthermore, God’s people are no longer fighting the enemy as they were in chapter one; now they are fighting each other. Believing themselves to be God’s instrument of judgment upon their wicked relatives, they instead became the recipients of God’s wrath.

The lesson from the book of Judges speaks loud and clear.When the sins of others stir our hearts to judge and avenge, let us be mindful to judge ourselves first, lest we be judged.

Parenting resources for today:
• A Case for Marriage: [not carried by Lamplighter]

Published in: on July 20, 2012 at 1:32 pm  Comments (8)  

Innocent Pleasures

Are you attracted to violence?

In the book, The Education of a Child, Francois Fenelon of the 17th century writes that “health and innocence are the true sources of enjoyment; but those who have had the misfortune to accustom themselves to violent pleasures lose all taste for those of a more moderate nature. They proceed to fatigue themselves in a restless pursuit, seeking after excessive gratifications.” (If you are interested in a seminar based on this book, check out the CD or MP3).

If we allow our children to delight in things that do not delight the heart of God–whether violent television shows or mindless video games–we set them up for future failure. Character is what’s needed, and with character comes the enjoyment of what is pure, peaceable, noble and good.

Recently I brought a young man whom I was mentoring on a rock climb to the celebrated Shawangunk mountains. We would climb the rock scramble up through the famous lemon squeeze and there experience one of the most majestic vistas on earth. After about thirty minutes of experiencing this breath-taking beauty, we would then climb to the stone tower on the top of the mountain which allows you to view the world renowned castle like edifice, the Mohonk Mountain House (which, incidentally, is the location for the Lamplighter Guild for Creative Disciplines!)

It truly is my favorite place on earth! It’s my Garden of Eden.

I have been guiding my friends on this climb for the past thirty-three years and each time I see the same awestruck expression. But not this time. Thomas was texting his girlfriend. Throughout the walk he was texting and at one point where we sat to rest, I saw him playing a game on his iphone. To me this was unthinkable. I gently shared what he could be experiencing if he was willing to shut his phone down. He placed his phone in his pocket but after receiving another text message, he was once again absorbed, blinded to the extraordinary beauty that surrounded him.

Oh that we would be like David and say, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).

Resources for today:
• Sir Malcolm and the Missing Prince: “I give orders, not take them. I am the Prince. I am the King’s son!” But now Prince Hubert, who had always said and done too little, finds himself in an unfamiliar place where he is simply known as Hugh, a peasant boy. His silks and satins are replaced with rough work clothes, which he learns during his time spent with the widow of the forest.

Summer Reading Challenge:
Have the boredoms of summer doldrums hit already? Transform your summer into an unforgettable voyage into the land of imaginative stories from the Lamplighter collection! Join Lamplighter’s Summer Reading Challenge today! Lamplighter’s Summer Reading Challenge is distinct because it focuses on quality literature, character building, and service. For more information, click here.

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Published in: on July 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm  Comments (1)  

Big People–Small God!

Have you ever avoided serving the Lord because you were afraid of what a certain family member might say? Or have you served the Lord in secrecy because of what friends might say?

Thirty years ago I brought a friend to church. He was twenty years old, and it was his first time in a Bible church setting. He was very moved by the gospel, and we were rejoicing that God had opened his heart. But later that night I received a phone call from his dad–a very angry dad. He yelled and threatened me never to get near his son again. I never saw this young man again, but recently I heard from him. Can you imagine, after all these years? The first thing he told me was that he was never the same after that day in church, but he also never been able to share what he experienced or live it out because of the fear of his family.

In Judges 6 we see a similar story. After God reminds Gideon that He will be him, he gives him an assignment to destroy his father’s false gods. The text reads: “So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the LORD had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night.”

If you are struggling with the fear of man, there is a book that will help you to overcome this road block. The title is When People are Big and God is Small. It’s time to stop believing the lying whispers of the enemy, because “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8).

Fish Hooks, Nostrils, and a Humble Prayer

One of the wickedest kings in all of Israel, if not the most wicked, was Manasseh, son of Hezekiah (2nd Chronicles 33). What I find puzzling about the life of Manasseh is why God records so much of his dirty laundry. But before we look closely at God’s judgment, it should be mentioned that one of the reasons for Manasseh’s wicked life was his absent “godly” father, Hezekiah. Hezekiah was so focused on his career that he had little time to prepare his son for the responsibilities of kingship. Manasseh was 12 years old when he began to reign.

God’s judgment of Manasseh begins with him being fish hooked through his nostrils and led to Babylon as a slave. He had been explicitly warned by God to repent but he refused. The text in 2 Chronicles 33:11 says he was captured with “hooks.” I heard Dr. Colin Smith lecture once that this referred to a fish-like pronged hook that was yanked up through the nostrils, attached to a line. It sounds pretty nasty, but Manasseh reaped what he sowed.

But then something unexpected occurs–this low-life king is blessed by God. But why? In 2nd Chronicles the Scriptures records that Manasseh’s prayer turned God’s heart favorably toward him. Can a prayer have that much influence upon the heart of God?

“And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God” (2 Chronicles 33:12-13).

What an amazing turn around; what a merciful God. He will hear our prayers and act favorably toward us, if we will humble ourselves . . . no, if we greatly humble ourselves, and pray. Deliverance for anyone–at any time–is only one prayer away.

Recommended Resource:

Dialogues of Fenelon

Published in: on July 2, 2012 at 1:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Too Close for Comfort, Part 1

Once a woman called and asked if there was something she could do to help her husband stop being so dependent upon her. She said that they have a great marriage, love each other, rarely argue, but he wants to be with her all of the time. She continued by saying that she feels a little suffocated and frustrated that he doesn’t seem to be able to have any individual identity apart from her.

The imbalance of being disconnected or overly-connected with our family surrounds the basic needs of the human heart. Each of us has a need to be separate (identity, contribution), and a need to be close (to be accepted, love and be loved).

To be separate in a positive sense is to define self. But self-revelation depends upon one’s knowledge of God. We understand ourselves and our responsibilities as a parent and spouse in terms of our understanding of God and His relationship to His Son.

An inability to define oneself pushes one to become dictatorial, detached, enmeshed or indulgent; one’s family then becomes the measurement of their self-worth and identity.

To be close in a positive sense is to understand that we have been commissioned by God to provide a service to those he has entrusted in our care.

In the book How Your Church Family Works, Peter Steinke writes: “Separateness and Closeness also produce anxiety. The more intense our anxiety becomes, the more extreme our positions will be. Either we become too remote or too entangled. If we are too anxious about being close, we disengage. We exaggerate separateness. We say things like: ‘I can only count on myself.’ ‘I’m 100% right.’ In the same manner, if we are overanxious about being separate, we enmesh. We are stuck together in an exaggerated way. ‘I can’t live without you.’ ‘I’ll give you what you want for my own peace of mind, at the expense of my own soul.'”

The Scriptures teach that we are to be eager to maintain unity (closeness) in the bond of peace. But in order for unity to be governed by peace, each of us must first speak the truth in love and grow, using our unique God-given gifts (separateness) in order to build one another up in love.

Recommended Resource:

Lamplighter Theatre’s newest audio drama, The White Gypsy, exposes problematic family relationships through an intriguing and captivating story.

The Paradox of Freedom

Soon after my dad went to be with the Lord I knew I needed to spend more time caring for my mom. So I decided that I would learn to fly an airplane to turn a three and one-half hour drive into a fifty-minute flight. After eight weeks of grueling training, studying, and testing, I am now a licensed pilot. It’s kind of ironic because I am afraid of heights–actually, more afraid of falling!

I was more nervous than you can imagine–my knees shook so much it was difficult to keep my feet on the rudder pedals. Maybe that’s why I veered right off the runway on my first attempt!

And then the day came for my solo flight. Could I really do this? My hands were sweating, knees shaking, but I was confident in my training. At sixty knots down the runway I pulled back and I was flying–by myself! The experience has been one of the most challenging and one of the most rewarding of my life.

True freedom and enjoyment in our work comes from sacrifice, diligence, and hard work. It comes with self-discipline. In his book, The Company of the Committed, Elton Trueblood writes, “We have not advanced very far in our spiritual lives if we have not encountered the basic paradox of freedom . . . that we are most free when we are bound. Failure to train rigorously denies our freedom. Discipline is the price of freedom.” Solomon writes, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”

Recommended Reading:

Mary Jones and Her Bible

Published in: on June 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Cursed Fig Tree

Did you ever wonder why Jesus cursed the fig tree that had no fruit, especially since it wasn’t the time of year for figs? On the surface, Jesus is hungry, the tree has no fruit, and as a result, the tree gets dusted! (pun intended)

At first glance it appears that the tree did nothing to deserve its demise. But there’s a clue. The text in Matthew 21 states the tree bore only leaves.

To understand the cursing of the fig tree you need to know that in the springtime there is a certain kind of fig tree that bears figs first and then leaves. When Jesus arrives upon the scene it is early spring and fig trees should not be in full foliage at this time of year.

This fruitless fig tree looked good on the outside, full of leaves, but inside it was barren. This makes even more sense when you connect the cursed fig tree with the previous scene–the cleansing of the temple. Jesus just threw out the money changers, crying out, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.”

The cursing of the fig tree was an illustration to help the disciples to see what had just taken place in the temple. Jesus was teaching them not to live in hypocrisy–looking good on the outside. He was teaching them that if they wanted to have answers to prayer, then they needed to have a fruitful life.

In John 15 we read: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

Recommended Reading:

The Children of Cloverley

Published in: on June 27, 2012 at 11:44 am  Comments (28)  

Storytelling – Missional Art!

Guild teacher Todd Busteed gives us a glimpse at the missional, world-changing art of storytelling!

Published in: on June 23, 2012 at 5:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Anger and Humility

When our children have committed an offense, how do we respond? The natural tendency of our flesh is to protect ourselves and our image, allowing anger to escalate and tempers to flare in order to avoid the real heart issue. In self-preservation we insist on having the last word rather than seeking to understand. Too often self-love hinders our ability to reach the hearts of our children. But God’s Word tells us that a soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger. We must break down the barriers that squelch communication, and once again bring about an environment in which we can look beyond the offense and into the heart. No matter how wrong our children may be, we must be controlled by the Spirit of God-not by our own selfish hearts.

When the prophet Nathan confronted King David with his sin, he didn’t become irate. Rather, he approached David with a story and concluded with the simple statement: “You are the man.” A simple story and a simple statement was all it took to break the heart of the king.Words of wisdom will have a much greater influence upon our children than words of wrath.

If anger consistently controls your life and rears its ugly head whenever you are confronted with a challenge, perhaps now is the time to seek help from a godly pastor, counselor, or wise older couple. It is never too late to change but change always requires the first step of humility. It is only when we humble ourselves that God can lift us up (James 4:10).

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11).

Recommended Reading:
• For Parents: Education of a Child
• For Parents: Families Where Grace is in Place
• For Children: Helen’s Temper
• For Children: The Lamplighter

Use promo code MOMENTS to receive free shipping on your order! Offer does not apply to international or distributor orders.

Published in: on June 23, 2012 at 3:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jesus is God

Recently a Christian young man asked me to help him understand the deity of Jesus. In Philippians 2 Paul states that Jesus did not regard his equality with God a thing to be grasped–to be held onto. While on this earth, Jesus was known to be someone much more than a man, or a prophet, or an angel; Jesus had the power to heal, to give sight, to calm the sea, to raise the dead, and to forgive sins. Only God can give life and only God can forgive sins.

With open eyes, an open heart, and a desire to find, you will soon discover that the Scriptures are filled with abundant proof that . . .

. . . Jesus was indeed God in the flesh. In John 1 we read: “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

. . . Jesus was God before the world existed. In Colossians we read: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth . . . all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Colossians 1).
. . . Jesus is equal with God. In John 5 we read that “the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He . . . also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18).

Furthermore, the prophet Isaiah is emphatic that God will not share or give his glory to another (Isaiah 42:8). Since God, who cannot lie and did give His glory to His Son on the mount of Transfiguration, it can only be concluded that they are one and the same, yet distinct. The beauty about the unexplainable distinct cooperation of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Spirit), is that if God could be explained, He would no longer be God.

Lastly, Jesus angered His opponents quite severely when he said that “before Abraham was, “I AM.”” The “I AM” of the OT was none other than God Himself and everyone who was standing there, knew exactly what Jesus was communicating. But that only stands to reason, that if you are the creator, then you must also be the God of the OT.

Recommended Reading:
Titus: A Comrade of the Cross If you want to read a book that will forever change the way you view the cross and the miraculous events that surrounded it, this is a book you will not be able to put down from beginning to end. Learn about the identity of the two thieves on the cross and what made one thief change his mind about who Christ was and what he deserved…”truly the most inspiring story I’ve ever read!”

Published in: on June 22, 2012 at 11:25 pm  Comments (8)