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


Praying in Jesus’ Name

What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name? The third chapter of Colossians sheds some light on what often becomes a cliché phrase thoughtlessly tacked on to the end of a prayer. To pray in Jesus’ name simply means that you are requesting to represent Jesus, just as an ambassador meets with leaders from other countries in the name of his leader and country. In the Old Testament, a message would be delivered with the words: “I come in the name of the king,” meaning “I come as a representative for the king.”

Colossians 3:17 reminds us: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (English Standard Version)

Or in the New Living Translation:

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”

To pray in Jesus’ name is to say that you desire to represent Jesus. If you are praying for a restored marriage, you are asking God to give you the strength to represent Jesus as you pursue reconciliation. If you are praying for the changed heart of a teen, you are asking God to help you represent Christ in your outreach to him or her.

It’s time to drop the rehearsed ending and move it to the front. When we come to the throne of grace requesting the privilege of representing our Lord from the onset, it may shift our emphasis from our needs to His desires.

A Soft Answer

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 issues. 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 turneth 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 they may be, we are now controlled by the Spirit of God–not by our own selfish heart–and are in a position to provide guidance.

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 were all it took to break the heart of the king. Just as Nathan used wisdom when dealing with David, we too can help our children through words that convey wisdom and truth.

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. Take off your mask and allow yourself to be helped. If we want to be like Christ, then we must be willing to humble ourselves, pray, and seek His help.

It is now time that we confess our faults one to another, and allow God to fill us with His love, joy, peace, longsuffering, and gentleness. It is never too late to change. There is no situation in life that is beyond the life-changing power of our awesome God!

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The Screwdriver

I’ll never forget the day my oldest son called me on his cell phone and asked me to bring him a screwdriver! Can you imagine? What I gave him was a piece of my mind. Then my wife asked who was on the phone. When I told her who it was and what he wanted, she told me that she would bring the screwdriver to our son! “No you won’t!!” I replied.

Supper was ruined and everyone was upset over a ridiculous screwdriver; all of this was caused by my lazy son! Well, that’s what I thought was the problem.

Later that week, I shared what happened with a friend of mine and he agreed with me that my wife should “Absolutely not!” have brought our son the screwdriver. I was relieved and vindicated. It is not often that I am in the right when I share a family conflict with him.

But my vindication only lasted for a moment. As I was departing he said, “You should have gotten it!” “WHAT?!” “That’s right” he said. “You should have gotten the screwdriver because that is the only way that you’re going to break the cycle of self-centeredness. He learned it from you. All those years, he has heard his father say, ‘get this and help me with that, and when you’re done I need you to do this and that.’ Your son needs to see you serve; then–and only then–will he learn to serve as well.”

It’s now fifteen years later. I’m happy to say that my friend’s counsel was a turning point in our lives. My son turned out to be one of the most selfless people I know. Me? I’m not what I used to be and by the grace of God I’m getting closer to who I should be.

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3).

Daddy, Come Push Me!

“Daddy, come and push me!” When my daughter was about 8 years old she would often call for me to push her on the rope swing. She could stretch the rope all the way to the porch and jump off–swinging high into the air–and then hit the tree with her feet, spinning like a top.

It wasn’t often that I could push her, as I was in seminary full time and also raising 70 sheep and 22 horses. Trying to give my children the perfect childhood and at the same time accomplish my career goals with my Type A personality took a toll on my health. Anger started to surface and as my health started to deteriorate, I found myself demanding more from my family to help with the chores and demands of the farm. I ended up with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, ulcerative bleeding colitis, and severe depression. God was slowly removing my ability to control anything so that I would learn to be totally dependent upon Him. I knew in my head that unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain who build it, but this truth hadn’t reached my heart yet.

My health continued to deteriorate, and I finally reached a point where I could hardly get out of bed. I will never forget the calls of her childhood–“Daddy, please come and push me.” I didn’t have the energy–I would give her a quick push and that’s all I could muster. It took thirteen years for me to learn that His grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in our weakness. When I finally gave God back the reigns of my life, my health was restored. On Jennifer’s 16th birthday, I built a rope swing in her bedroom. It’s still up today and serves as a reminder that it’s “. . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD . . . .”

Help! I caught my child cheating!

Have you ever found your child cheating on his schoolwork? While you need to see this behavior as a red flag, I would encourage you to look at what might be the underlying cause of your child’s actions.

Cheating is a form of dishonesty. Two reasons for cheating are a fear of consequences and low self-esteem.

Have you placed undue pressure on your child to get good grades? Then perhaps fear is motivating his actions. If fear is the reason for cheating, then not only does the child need help, but his parents do as well. Parents who place undue pressure upon their children cause unnecessary fear and insecurity. As the level of fear increases, the level of reasoning and risk-taking decreases.

If your child isn’t acting out of fear, perhaps the problem is low self-esteem. In this case, the best action you can take is to focus on helping your child succeed in at least one area of his life. Make a big deal out of small accomplishments. Inspiring role models abound in the plethora of books from YWAM, Vision Forum, Lamplighter Publishing, and many Christian publishers today.

The greatest role model is Jesus. Take a moment to observe the trusting relationship the Father has with His son. The Father encourages his son in the presence of others. He says, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” He gives His son a sense of identity and affirmation.

Children need their parents to affirm that they are special and that they are unconditionally loved. We need to build our children up in front of others, just as the Father did with His Son.

1 John 4:18 reminds us that: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

Recommended Resources:
*Receive FREE shipping promo code MOMENTS with your order.

For Parents:
The Education of a Child, by Francois Fenelon
The Education of Child Parenting Seminar, by Mark Hamby
Families Where Grace is in Place by VanVonderen

For Children:
Basil ; Or, Honesty and Industry (ages 6 to 11)
Jack the Conqueror (ages 6-11)
Hand on the Bridle (ages 10-16)
Falsely Accused in the High Sierras (ages 12 and up)

A Hardened Heart and Music Lessons

I once received a letter from a desperate mother who was dealing with an 11-year old son who she described as hardened and rebellious.

The mother wrote to me and mentioned one particular incident involving her son’s decision in wanting to learn violin. She was able to find a violin teacher who was able to start the lessons the very next morning. Feeling unprepared to start so soon, the child, in a fit of unrestrained anger, yelled at his mother, telling her to cancel the meeting. After cancelling the meeting, she then calmly talked with him about his need to earn the privilege of learning violin.

Here’s what I shared with this mom:

The way you handled everything was perfect. Continue to be consistent in your disciplining attitude while at the same time not allowing your leverage to turn into a hammer over his head. Your hand of chastisement must also be a loving one, turning his heart toward God’s design for living in grace and truth.

Once he starts the lessons, you will want to make sure that you no longer use his lessons as a punishment. He now needs to be responsible to his teacher. However, make sure that he and his teacher understand that in the future, if he responds in the same way concerning his lessons, you will have to cancel violin permanently. If there is a cost incurred in the last cancellation, have him pay for the teacher’s loss of time.

Try to communicate both the rewards and consequences with a loving spirit so he knows that you would not want to do this unless absolutely necessary. Lastly, remember that mercy is the best tool to soften a hardened heart. It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance.

May I Ask a Favor? Part 2

Previously, we talked about what happens when you ask a Persian king for a favor. You can count on either being tied down in the hot sun with honey poured over your face or being cut in half.

Not only was it improper to ask a Persian king for a favor, but you couldn’t even be in his presence with a sad countenance; either approach would result in a cruel and painful death.

This background is helpful because it sheds light on the stressful decision Nehemiah has to make as he approaches a Persian king for a favor. Knowing the high probability that he could face an agonizing death, Nehemiah comes up with the strategic plan of the century.

The strategy? To pray–for four months! For four months he waits on God to open the door. And then, God does something unexpected.

Noticing the sad countenance of Nehemiah, the king confronts him. Now that we know the background of what happens when you come before a king with a sad countenance, this raises the stakes.

“. . . the king said to me (Nehemiah), ‘Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.’ Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king . . .”

What Nehemiah says to the king is pure genius! Rather than asking for a favor, Nehemiah explains the situation back home–just facts. In response to the information, the king asks him “What are you requesting?” Do you see the strategy? God has allowed Nehemiah to ask for a favor without losing his life! And Nehemiah continues with his next strategic move–the Scriptures record, “So I prayed to the God of heaven.”

Looking for a favor? Our King invites us all to come boldly to his throne of favor that we may obtain mercy, to find favor to help in our time of need. In the Greek, this phrase means, “in the nick of time.” Prayer really works. All it takes is practice!

Published in: on April 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tunnel Vision, Part 3

Recently I learned something about my relationship to my dad that rocked my world. Everyone who knows me knows that I love to work. Whether I’m gardening, reading, writing, landscaping, speaking, studying, digging, or chopping wood, I just enjoy being productive. But I wasn’t always this way.

As I shared in part 1 and part 2 of this Lamplighter Moment, my love for work was connected to my dad’s assignment to dig a tunnel under our patio. As I wrote earlier, breaking through to the other side was a monumental moment for me. But until recently, I didn’t understand that it wasn’t the actual breakthrough and accomplishment of a difficult task that birthed this spirit of motivation in me; it was something else. Something so powerful that I have passed it on to my children without even realizing it.

Before I tell you about this powerful catalyst–a catalyst that can turn even a lazy child into a hard worker–let me share briefly about my three adult children. Jonathan, my oldest, is a successful commercial broker in California and possesses the Hamby work ethic. My daughter Jennifer is the part time art director at Lamplighter, teaches art to children and adults, is the founder of Jache Art Studios, and has a pet portrait business. My youngest son, David, recently graduated from college, works as a manager for Apple, and refurbishes and resells classic motorcycles.

Each of my children possesses a phenomenal work ethic. I am very proud of this area of their lives and have spent a significant amount of time encouraging and preparing them in this. I passed down to my children what my dad passed down to me. You see, when I broke through that wall of dirt, the first thing I heard on the other side was my dad cheering for me. His cheering and favor upon me during that moment changed the course of my life. It wasn’t the breakthrough of the dirt; it was the breakthrough of my father’s pleasure and affirmation.

There isn’t a lot of recorded dialogue between Jesus and his Father, but what we do have speaks volumes. Listen in: “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” God the Father speaks these words at his Son’s baptism and again speaks these same words at the Mount of Transfiguration. These words speak of identity (This is my . . . son), of loving affirmation (my beloved son), and pleasure (in whom I am well pleased). The second time the Father speaks he also adds “Hear ye him,” which speaks of calling.

When my dad cheered for me it sparked a motivation that has now been passed on to the next generation. His cheers represented the pleasure he enjoyed because of my triumph, and his words conveyed his loving affirmation. Though this was enough to spark a motivational chain of productive work that has reached three generations, it is not enough to prepare our children for life. Our children need their identity confirmed, our love expressed, our pleasure for them affirmed, and their future calling validated. If we give our children what the Father gave His Son, we’ll see children who will more aptly discern the will of God, be willing to endure adversity, yield to authority, and follow convictions with confidence as they walk humbly with their God.

Tunnel Vision, Part 1

As I reflect back on my childhood, there is one thing I remember vividly–WORK! My mother had me vacuuming floors as early as I can remember and doing those dreaded socks was cruel and unusual punishment. As I grew older, my father always had something planned for the weekend . . . landscaping, mixing concrete, digging holes for new trees, or loading rocks for the drainage ditch.

There was something else that I remembered growing up and that is that I hated to WORK! Can one really grow to love work? Isn’t work part of the curse? Absolutely not! Work is not only for enjoyment but is a gift of God according to the Preacher in Ecclesiastes. (2:24-26; 5:19) If this is true, then why do so many see work as a curse, just waiting for Friday to come?

I can still remember the day when work turned from drudgery to joy. I was twelve years old, and we needed a new sewer line for our house. Rather than digging up our newly paved driveway, my father decided that a tunnel could be dug under our thirty-foot-long concrete patio, thus redirecting the sewer line.

My dad was an iron worker, and since this was his busiest time of year, he asked me to dig the tunnel before he came home the following week. With a smile, he assured me that it could be done, “one shovelful at a time.” Immediately I began to plan how this could best be accomplished, or rather, how I could do the job with the least amount of work. I remember thinking that there must be a machine that could burrow under this patio, and with the press of a button–presto–it would be done.

After digging into solid clay, I realized immediately that this was an impossible task. Once dad saw the clay he would surely come to his senses. Well, dad came home that Friday and what happened next would change my work ethic and life until this very day . . . find out what happened in our next Daily Moment!

Industry

“The man Jeroboam was very able, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious he gave him charge over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph.” (I Kings 11:28)

Where can I find industrious young men today? I find it difficult to find someone to simply mow my lawn during the weeks that I am traveling. Many who were once extremely hard working and industrious have become apathetic.

As a young boy, I remember going door to door throughout the neighborhood to find work in order to make some extra money. During the winter I shoveled sidewalks and driveways, and when spring arrived I washed dirty windows and cleaned out basements. During the summer I weeded and cut grass, and in the fall there were plenty of leaves to rake.

When I wasn’t doing odd jobs, the rest of my day was spent outside. My friends and I never tired of playing a game of basketball, baseball, or football (nothing organized–we did just fine organizing games ourselves), and during those scorching summer days, I could be found fishing down by the river or catching crayfish in a nearby stream.

Nowadays it’s hard to find young people outdoors or taking initiative to do something productive. Have the amusements of our culture taken our children captive? If you do happen to see an industrious young person taking initiative, please reward them generously and encourage them to continue in their efforts. Jeroboam was noticed by Solomon and as a result of his industrious pursuits, he was promoted as the director of forced labor. Little did he know that this position would also serve as the preparation for him to become the next King of Israel.

“Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings . . .” Or perhaps he may become a king!

* The book that inspired Ronald Reagan to become President of the US was That Printer of Udell’s. For younger children I recommend reading Basil: Honesty and Industry.

Published in: on April 13, 2012 at 2:23 pm  Leave a Comment