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

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).

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.

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)  

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.

Blinded by Love

Those who know me know that one of my favorite Bible verses is found in Romans 5, which states that “suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame . . . .” But I realized that I’ve often omitted the last sentence, which states, “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ” What does this mean?

I think I have an illustration that might help. You see, hope is the barometer of our spiritual condition. Little hope…little character…little endurance. It is only when we are willing to endure difficulty that hope is realized. I’m talking about a confident hope that motivates and empowers you to endure the most difficult of storms. How? By love…the love of God that is poured out–or, rather–gushed out in your hearts when you endure.

Here’s the illustration. When I was about three years old we were visiting family who lived on a farm. All that I remember about that trip was when I fell down a steep hill that was filled with briers, chickens, and goats. Before I stopped rolling, I felt my dad pick me up, holding me safely in his arms. I don’t know if this was in my imagination but I also remember him kicking a goat that was coming toward us with his horns in the butting position.

You see, my dad didn’t hesitate to consider the danger or the difficulty of rescuing me. His love for me was greater than the suffering he would have to endure. The measurement of our character and hope can be found in the endurance of difficult relationships and circumstances. If we’re complaining about the thorns and briers of life, then it is an indication that our love for ourselves is greater than our love for others and our love for God. Jesus was willing to be injured by the thorns to be able to reach us with His love. It’s our turn now to do the same for others.

Recommended Reading:
The Lost Clue
The White Dove

Cleaning Fish

“The slothful man roasts not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious” (Proverbs 12:27).

I love fishing, but I hate cleaning the fish afterwards! Many times I have brought my stringer-full home only to carve up the first few and then convince myself that the reward was not worth the work. Cleaning fish takes a long time, and I am usually left frustrated, with an unappetizing pile of guts, scales, and bones. Once the guts and scales are discarded, then you have to flour and fry them and clean up another mess of an oily kitchen!

Recently I went ice fishing with friends and together we caught seventy-five fish! The thought of cleaning them almost put me over the edge–but my friend Charlie was with us. With his razor-sharp knife, he cut quickly and skillfully, resulting in a perfect filet–with no bones, no scales, no guts, and no mess!

Within moments the tender filets were floured, sizzling in the frying pan. The substance of our catch was indeed precious!

In Proverbs, Solomon describes the slothful person who neglects to roast that which he hunted; as a result he does not enjoy the fruit of his labors. In contrast, the hunt of the diligent person is indeed a thrill, and to eat the fruit of his labors brings total satisfaction. He never just hangs his trophy in a tree only to come back the next day to realize the meat is spoiled. The diligent person applies his skill from the beginning to the end; he catches, cleans, and cooks his game and finds that his “substance” is precious.

Many of life’s goals can be fulfilled if we work diligently to sharpen our skills. The sharper the skill, the greater the joy and fulfillment.

-Mark Hamby

Recommended Reading:

Boys of Grit series
Ishmael and Self-Raised

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

The Cure for Irritability

How do you respond when you’re around irritable people?

Such people often sap me of energy and can ruin at least part of the day. Having walked with Christ for now over 32 years, I think I’m beginning to understand something–these people are often placed in my path by divine design. My response and reaction to their miserable attitude is a reflection of my inner life–my true character. What I despise in others is often what I possess myself.

Granville Walker once said, “Love is the only cure for irritability; for irritability is only another manifestation of self-centeredness. And love that takes a man outside himself and centers the focus of his attention on the well-being of others is its only cure.”

One of my mentors, Francois Fenelon of the 17th century, wrote :

“The Great Physician who sees in you what you cannot see, knows exactly where to place the knife; He cuts swift and deep into your innermost being exposing you for who you really are; but pain is only felt where there is life and where there is life is just the place where death is needed most. Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die it abides alone but if it dies it brings forth much fruit.”

The next time you’re around a miserable person, follow the path that the Apostle Paul outlined for us in Romans 12:

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Recommended Reading:

Let Go, by Fenelon

Published in: on June 15, 2012 at 10:20 am  Comments (2)  

The Law of Jealousy

One of the most bizarre passages of Scripture is found in Numbers chapter 5, where God presents the law of jealousy. If “the spirit of jealousy” came upon a man, he was to take his wife to the priest, where she would undergo an emotionally draining interrogation that required her to either admit her guilt of adultery or maintain her innocence. If she admitted sin, then she and her lover were stoned according to the law. If she pleaded innocent, but was actually guilty, then she would face a most unusual trial. She was to drink a mixture of dust that was swept from the floor and mixed with ink that was washed from a written parchment. This mysterious concoction somehow would cause her belly to swell and her thigh to rot if she was guilty. If you ask me, that’s quite a mouthful!

This punishment served to deter sexual sin in this new and impressionable community. It also served as protection from an obsessively jealous husband. We must remember that sexual sin was not uncommon, given the Egyptian lifestyle. In order to reshape the thinking of the community, God imposed a strict standard so that the people might fear.

This ordeal was psychologically and emotionally tormenting. I’m sure the death of Nadab and Abihu was still fresh in the community’s mind. If this woman was guilty, she would also die of God’s judgment. If innocent, then her husband would bear the shame of bringing before the community a false accusation. His jealousy would be looked upon as a blight; he would now shoulder the pressure of community disdain for his immature, jealous response. That is, of course, if his wife gave no reason for him to distrust her.

We are to give no occasion to prompt the suspicion of an immoral relationship. We need to raise the standard and abstain from all appearance of evil. It is time to raise the standard–a little community pressure might be what’s needed.

Recommended Reading:

How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong

When People Are Big and God is Small

TrueFaced, by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch (not available from Lamplighter)

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

A Modern Day Good Samaritan

Are you familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan, found in the 10th chapter of Luke’s gospel? Imagine how the story might be told in our modern times . . .

A traveler is attacked and robbed, and then left for dead along the road. No one stops to help except for a Samaritan.

But when this would-be rescuer tried calling 9-1-1, he learned that recent budget cuts had left police, paramedic, and fire rescue services with no available units to send. Private ambulance services were available–but only with a substantial cash deposit prior to transport of the patient.

Nearby hospitals and medical clinics were also unable to help since the injured man’s wallet was stolen and therefore lacked any proof of health insurance coverage.

Frustrated, the Samaritan ran several miles to the nearest town, searching for a drugstore where he might buy first aid supplies. But because he lacked the right credit card or another form of identification, his out-of-town check was refused–no matter how urgent the circumstances.

As a last resort, the Samaritan located a church that might help–perhaps by loaning him their van for the rescue attempt. But as the smiling pastor patiently explained, there was simply too much liability risk for them to get involved.

A friend of mine always said, “Serving others is never convenient!” But it is always rewarding. I have found that one of the best ways to overcome a dull and depressing life is to take our minds off ourselves and begin caring for the needs of others.

“. . . give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).

Recommended Reading:

True to the Last

Published in: on June 13, 2012 at 12:07 pm  Comments (1)  

Pounding Nails

Fifteen-year old Kevin was helping us with the construction of our house–and doing a great job! But one day, I found Kevin pounding a dozen nails into a 2 by 12 truss system that didn’t really need any extra support. When I asked him why he was pounding the nails, his response astonished me. When he finished all of his work for the day he went to his dad and asked what he should do when he was finished with all of his work. His dad said, “Go pound nails and be productive!”–and Kevin did exactly that! I have never forgotten that moment.

Now, a little over a decade later, I see a contrast. I see government spending itself into oblivion without being productive. A society that consumes more than it produces cannot long remain great. It is such a simple concept. We must start being productive. It is time to restore and invigorate the cultural standard of excellence and hard work.

I was talking with a very successful businessman who is now in his mid-seventies. I asked him what formed the foundation of his success and he told me: he is still working 14 hours per day, six days a week. There are no short cuts!

How much more can we consume before we ourselves are consumed? Other nations are not our biggest threat–we are. It is time to heed Solomon’s proverbial wisdom: “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house” (Proverbs 24:27).

There are too many today trying to build their homes and their futures without the preparation and perseverance of a solid framework of biblical values. It’s time to start doing something, even if it’s pounding nails into a board. Maybe someone will see you and open a door to future work–that’s what happened for Kevin! He became my most valued employee and continues to be one of the most admirable workers I’ve ever known.

Recommended Reading:

Stick to the Raft

Basil; Or, Honesty and Industry

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