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)  

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  

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  

An Antidote to Laziness

Is there a remedy to the sluggishness which too often characterizes our nation’s youth? J.C. Ryle, author of The Duties of Parents, offers unique insights on how the divine mandate of work can protect the imagination:

“Train [your children] to a habit of always redeeming the time. Idleness is the devil’s best friend. It is the surest way to give him an opportunity of doing us harm. An idle mind is like an open door, and if Sat4an does not enter in himself by it, it is certain he will throw in something to raise bad thoughts in our souls.

No created being was meant to be idle. Service and work is the appointed portion of every creature of God . . . Work attached to purpose excites the soul and drives the spirit in its creative powers . . .We must have our hands filled, and our minds occupied with something, or else our imaginations will soon ferment and breed mischief” (p. 30-31).

What wisdom Ryle has to offer! And 17th century Fenelon gives us more insight as he writes:

“Suffer then a child to play, mixing instruction with delight: let wisdom appear to him at intervals, and always with a smiling face. Be careful not to fatigue him by an indiscreet exactness . . . it is necessary to find out every means of making those things pleasing to the child which are expected of him; and should you have any thing distressing or difficult to propose, forget not to comfort him with the assurance that a little trouble will be followed by unspeakable satisfaction. But above all things, do not let it appear to the child that you demand from him unnecessary submissions . . .” (The Education of a Child).

It is a wise parent who can make work fun as children learn to bake cookies, start a garden, feed their fish, build a fort, visit a widow, feed the hungry, wash the car, start a business, share the gospel, or raise rabbits, chickens, a goat, or maybe even a calf!

A king who understood the great joy of productive work wrote, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”(Ecclesiastes 2:24, 25)

Recommended Reading:
The Education of a Child
The Duties of Parents (not currently available from Lamplighter)

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

Studying the Word…For a year

Recently, a mother wrote to me and asked me for my opinion on an idea she had; her idea was to have her kids study the Word of God for a whole here…as their schoolwork. Here is what I wrote to her:

I recommend using the video series, That the World May Know by Ray Vander Laan. I would also include the history of each time period…for example, I would recommend studying the Bronze and Iron ages in connection with the book of Joshua and Judges. [ Note: the iron age started in Judges.] I would spend a significant amount of time there. I would also have them study Hebrew and later Greek during this year of study. Oh, and I would encourage you to go to Israel and tour the land with a good group (talk about an awesome field trip!) I might be taking a group in April, Lord willing.

Basically, studying the history, archaeology, and context of Scripture will provide a wonderful accompaniment to your studies as you use Scripture as your main text.


Published in: on June 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Dear Dad, Part 2

In our last Lamplighter Moment, I shared some advice for a father whose daughter was making some poor choices. Today, I’d like to address another question–how can this same father make sense of his daughter’s frustrating mood swings and give her the guidance she needs to rise above her moods? Here’s my response to this father:

During the teenage years, your child’s mood swings are normal! The infusion of new hormones is generating more impulses than General Electric! At the same time, your daughter needs to learn that these mood swings are a God-given opportunity for her to become self-disciplined. When she is able to discipline herself and master her moods, then you should treat her as an adult. Give her a vision for understanding the difficulties of this life as God’s curriculum for her character development.

You mentioned that her behavior is making you angry. There are two parenting principles in the New Testament.

• #1: Don’t provoke your children (Ephesians 6:4).
• #2: Don’t provoke your children (Colossians 3:21).

It sounds like you are provoking your daughter. Show her that you are on her side; remember to exercise mercy. This doesn’t mean that you don’t discipline, but discipline without anger or harshness. Keep in mind that the boundaries you set for yourself will be the boundaries she will most likely follow. If you get angry and have a short fuse, then her mood swings will most likely remain untamed.

We as dads are often blind to our own actions and the root motivations of our hearts. Your daughter needs her father’s love and unconditional acceptance. A father holds the heart of his daughter in his hands…be gentle.

“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” (Psalm 103:8).
“He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10).
“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD has compassion upon them that fear him” (Psalm 103:13).

Recommended Material:
Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp

Published in: on June 9, 2012 at 10:49 am  Comments (9)