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

Dear Dad, Part 1

Recently, a dad wrote to me, expressing his concern and frustrations about his teen daughter’s poor choices and irritating mood swings. Here’s what I wrote to him:

Dear Dad: First, choose your battles wisely. She is a young lady now and needs to be making some of her own decisions, even if they seem to be poor choices. While she is living at home (instead of alone or with peers), this is a safe time for her to learn from poor choices. Often our control of others is evidence of our lack of trust in God. Those we love the most become the idols of our heart, as shown in our inability to relinquish control.

Your daughter is God’s possession, and you are a caretaker. Often parents desire perfect children so their own images will be exalted. Your daughter is not going to be perfect. You need to celebrate her strengths and praise her as much as possible.

In Psalm 103 we learn that God does not deal with us according to our sins. Try to maintain an imbalance of mercy and judgment–God is extremely imbalanced in this regard…1000 to 4! His mercy is to a thousand generations and his judgment to the third and fourth generations.

Remember also that God’s compassions are new every morning. Make sure yours are likewise. If your daughter doesn’t experience her dad’s compassions and affirmation, she will continue to look to others for what she desperately needs.

In our next Lamplighter moment, I’ll share how this same father can help his daughter deal with the mood swings she’s experiencing!

Recommended Materials:

The Return of The Prodigal Son by Henry Nouwen (not available from Lamplighter)

Spit in Your Face, Part 2

Yesterday we talked about “extremes” that God would go to in order to teach his children about holiness. Please understand that “extremes” must be governed within the framework of mercy and grace, and only used for those children or adults who purposely disobey after much guidance and correction have been given. Within this framework of parenting, we must never forget that God’s mercy is a thousand times greater than his judgment. A good example of “extreme parenting” is given to us by a woman named Sarah Edwards, the wife of the great preacher, Jonathan Edwards.

In Elisabeth Dodds’ book, Marriage to a Difficult Man, she writes, “Sarah knew how to make her children regard and obey her cheerfully, without loud angry words, much less heavy blows. She seldom punished them, and in speaking to them, used gentle and pleasant words. If any correction was necessary, she did not administer it in passion; when she had occasion to reprove and rebuke she would do it in few words, without noise; she had need to speak but once; she was cheerfully obeyed because she convinced her children of the reasonableness of her request; murmuring and answering again were not known among them.

The kind and gentle treatment they received from their mother, while she strictly and punctiliously maintained her parental authority, seemed naturally to . . . promote a filial respect and affection, and to lead them to a mild, tender treatment of each other. Quarreling and contention, which too frequently take place among children, were in her family unknown.

She carefully observed the first appearance of resentment and ill will in her young children . . . showed her displeasure and suppressed it to the uttermost; yet not by angry, wrathful words, which often provoke children to wrath . . . Her system of discipline was begun at a very early age and it was her rule to resist the first, as well as every subsequent exhibition of temper or disobedience in the child . . . wisely reflecting that until a child will obey his parents he can never be brought to obey God.”

Parenting books are a dime a dozen…they come and go with the winds of culture. But there are three books that remain as the most insightful and life-changing of all the parenting books I’ve read over the last twenty years–
• The Education of a Child by Fenelon
• Families Where Grace is in Place by VanVonderen (for the controlling dominant and out of control parent)
• The short but powerful insights by J.C. Ryle of the 19th century, Duties of Parents.

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Spit in Your Face!

What would you do you if you saw a parent spitting in their child’s face?

In the Old Testament, if you got hit by spit, you would be considered unclean. In fact, according to Leviticus 15:8, if someone unclean spit on you, you would have to wash your clothes and bathe and be unclean until the evening. Deuteronomy 25:9 says that if a brother refused to marry his dead brother’s wife, she was to remove his sandal from his foot and then spit in his face. Both the spitting and loss of a shoe represented disdain and humiliation which made a man think twice before he decided to turn his back on his family responsibilities.

In Numbers 12, Miriam and Aaron are severely chastised by God for speaking against Moses behind his back. The penalty for Miriam is an immediate break out of leprosy and intense humiliation. Though her punishment didn’t last long, I’m sure she never spoke rashly against those in authority again.

Note what God says about Miriam’s behavior after he administers this unusual short term punishment. He says, “if her father had but spit in her face, should she should not be ashamed seven days?” It would appear that Mariam needed to have her mouth washed out with soap when she was a child. God seems to be indicating that her father didn’t do his job as a parent and as a result, Mariam now as an adult is still using her mouth for harm.

Now, please, understand that I am NOT, I repeat, not ever saying you should spit in your children’s face or wash their mouth with soap…though my mom did that to me when I spoke mouthy as a child…and I thought twice before I ever spoke that way again. But there’s more that we can draw from this unusual section of Scripture. God as our father sees sin as serious, and will go to great lengths to teach us the value of holiness. It is time that we as parents do the same.

Recommended Reading: Families Where Grace is In Place

The Work Should Be Done!

A mother once wrote to me and shared the following:

“I had to run to the store, so I told my 11-year old son to make sure he stayed focused on his math. As I was leaving the house, I shouted out a follow-up and said, ‘The work should be done by the time I get back.’ Apparently my tone and body language threatened him with negative consequences if it was not done. When I returned, I found a totally stressed out, sobbing child. In my wisdom I immediately thought, ‘He’s been goofing off and he’s trying to play me to get me to help him.’

After I reviewed the reality of higher math with him, explained that it gets harder, told him things wouldn’t always be easy for him, and so forth, my son looked at me and said, “Mom, I’m not afraid of the math. I was afraid of getting into trouble with you. The only thing that was going through my head was that it needed to be done before you got back.” Then it dawned on me; my son is a pleaser and all he wants to do is please me. How could I be so blind? I totally stressed him out! We talked; I asked for forgiveness and we hugged.”

Recently, I heard a practical thought that can help us overcome our tendency to overreact and govern others with power and pride. “Suspend judgment and be kind.” Lately, I have been saying this to myself over and over again-“Suspend judgment and be kind.” I think this is what Paul was communicating in Ephesians 4 when he wrote:

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Questions? Comments? Join the discussion on Facebook today!

Recommended Reading:

The Education of a Child by Fenelon (Every parent should read The Education of a Child. I found this 17th century wisdom on parenting to be the best I have ever read.

Let Go & The Dialogues of Fenelon (If you are looking for something that will take you deeper in your walk with Christ, these two devotional books from the 17th century are among my prized possessions.)

Challenge at Runaway Brook – for children ages 6 to 10, this is a great book that deals with almost every family conflict and their resolve. Sibling rivalry? If so, this is a great book for the whole family.

Jack the Conqueror – The title says it all…it is also Lamplighter’s book of the year!

Use Coupon Code: MOMENTS and receive free shipping for orders placed online or by phone. Free shipping offer does not apply to international or distributor orders.

Consider Your Ways

This morning I was reading in the book of Haggai and found something that piqued my interest. In Haggai chapter 1, the prophet writes: “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.’ Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, ‘Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways.'”

You see, as the people focused on their own material wealth, they neglected God’s priority–the rebuilding of his house. Throughout the text you continue to hear the phrase “Consider your ways!” In the New Living Translation it says, “Look at what’s happening to you.”

Too often we find ourselves trying to protect our own investments, when, if we could just learn to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all things really would be added to us. I think we live in a day similar to that of Haggai.

However, in Haggai’s day the people responded and repented after carefully considering their selfishness and greed. They considered their ways. They considered the words of the prophet–that their wages were put into pockets with holes. What a picture! Pockets with holes! I can imagine that there are many who can identify, especially in light of our economy.

You see, in order to get their attention, God ruined everything they worked so hard to get. But upon hearing the words of God, the people responded. Within a month the Lord turned this curse into a blessing.

It was only when they considered their ways and turned their attention to what was most important–the things of God–that God was able to turn the curse into a blessing. Oh if we could consider our ways today. The losses that have occurred in our economy should be enough of a reminder. It is time to rebuild the house of God. It is time to be holy, for we are the house of God.

Small Defeats

In the book of Joshua, God challenges His people repeatedly to “be strong and very courageous” (Joshua 1:7). Along with this challenge, God seeks to bolster their courage by affirming that “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life . . . I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5).

For a while, everything goes well for the children of Israel. Following God’s commands at Jericho, they watch the strongholds of their enemies fall. Faith and obedience are rewarded. Scripture reasserts what has already been evident: “So the LORD was with Joshua . . . .” (Joshua 6:27a).

But then suddenly in chapter 7 everything starts to unravel. A handful of the men are killed in battle. After such a glorious and decisive victory over Jericho, Joshua is perplexed. So Joshua and the elders of Israel fell on their faces before the Lord.

“Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the accursed things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings . . . I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the accursed things from among you. Get up! Consecrate the people’ . . . for thus says the LORD, God of Israel, ‘There are accursed things in your midst . . . You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed things from among you'” (Joshua 7:10-13).

As I ponder this story I am reminded that small defeats are often big reminders of sin in our lives. It would behoove us to begin a self-evaluation to see if there are any accursed things in our midst that are restricting the blessing of God. An accursed thing can take many forms–but it is always that which provides temporary satisfaction for an eternal, God-shaped void.

Two Way Conversation

Gene Edward Veith, author of the book Reading Between the Lines, weighs in on the subject of communication by saying:

“We can never know anyone intimately by simply being in that person’s presence. We need to have a conversation in order to share our thoughts and our personalities. By the same token, we need a conversation with God–two-way conversation through language–in order to know Him on a personal basis.

Just as human beings address God by means of language through prayer, God addresses human beings by means of language in the pages of Scripture. Prayer and Bible reading are central to a personal relationship with God. Christians have to be, in some sense, readers” (Reading Between the Lines, p. 18).

Joshua understood this well when he penned his thoughts on the pages of Scripture:

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8).

Psalm 119 is a beautiful depiction of the love that God’s children should have for His word. This Psalm makes it clear that reading and meditating on God’s Word has joyous results! Despite any trials you are facing, make certain to be a Word-centered person, taking delight from the Word of God. Then you will be able to say with David,

“If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life” (Psalm 119:92-93).

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Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones–But God Can Kill You! Part 2

Yesterday we talked about God’s intolerance to the Sabbath stick gatherer from Numbers 15. What appeared to be an innocent stroll to pick up a few sticks turned out to be a mob-enticed crowd of stone throwers and one victim–quite dead. I had raised some doubt as to God’s apparent inconsistent and unreliable sense of justice. Not wanting to be a target for a divine lighting bolt, I think it is the better part of wisdom to get right to the point here.

First of all, in God there is no darkness at all. Genesis 18:25 states, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Without a sense of God’s goodness toward mankind, it is impossible to trust God when He appears unjust or too severe.

As I studied the stoning of the stick gatherer, I was reminded of the importance of letting Scripture interpret Scripture. If I were to read the account of the stick gatherer only, I would conclude that God seems to be unjust. But when I read the sentences just prior, I read these words: “But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is a native or a sojourner, reviles the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he despised the word of the LORD and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.”

As I take the context into consideration, it would appear that this stick gatherer had an axe to grind with God and wasn’t willing to let anyone tell him what to do. Furthermore, Numbers 15 is about God’s mercy toward unintentional sins. The stick gatherer appears to be intentionally breaking the rules. God is a merciful God to those who humble themselves, but for the one who thinks he can live life with a “high hand” according to his own rules, “calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken without remedy” (Proverbs 6).

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Friends of the Family, Part 3

For the past two days, I’ve told you about some very special friends. If you missed those Moments, I’d encourage you to check out part 1 and part 2.

Our family has been significantly changed by daily visits from these friends. And just when I thought we had met the entire family, one night, just before bed, we heard a gentle knock on the door. Who could it be at this late hour?
I opened the door. There stood a very aged-but distinguished looking-gentleman. He had a hand-carved cane made of mahogany and sported an English cap and dark wool cloak. If I had to guess, I would say he was easily in his 90’s or maybe even 100. But when he spoke, he seemed ageless. Sure enough, when he introduced himself, he was none other than the father of this unique family-and his name was LOVE.

It didn’t take long to learn, from his countless stories that we listened to every night, that Love’s influence seem to turn evil into good each and every time. He would end each of his stories by swirling his cloak over our heads and saying something about him covering a multitude of something. I could never understand what he was talking about but it had something to do with his cloak being used as a covering. Our children loved listening to his stories each night, but I think I enjoyed them the most. They usually brought tears to my eyes as I began to learn from this meek and gentle man that he truly never fails.

In conclusion, remember that “By mercy and truth, iniquity is purged . . .” (Proverbs 16:6) and “Whoever covers an offense seeks love . . .” (Proverbs 17:9).

Friends of the Family, Part 2

Yesterday I told you about our family friends, Grace, Mercy, and Compassion. We loved having these ladies over each night and morning. Their influence was transforming our home. But then, just as things started to change for the better, the doorbell rang. Each of the women looked at each other with concern. Lo and behold it was their younger brother, TRUTH.

Truth seemed to think that it was his right to speak his mind…about everything! I wasn’t enjoying his company like his sisters. Grace and Mercy were very quiet while Truth spoke his mind. There were several times when I wanted to boot him out of my home. I wasn’t enjoying his brutal insights about my failures. Then one time when I was about to tell him off I realized that he was absolutely right…about everything. Then I realized something that had gone unnoticed. Each time I was about to boot him out of the house, Mercy would say something to me that encouraged me to swallow my pride. Mercy later shared with me that her brother means well but sometimes he can be a little bit black and white. That’s why she makes sure that wherever he goes she stays close behind (see Psalm 85:10).

Just when I was getting to enjoy the insights that brother Truth had for me and my family, the doorbell rang again. Truth looked at his watch and said that he would return but needed to go. With an exchange of pleasantries, Truth tipped his hat to another close relative, his aunt Hope. What a delight to have her. I felt this strange sensation; all the shame that Truth had dug up in my life was disappearing. And each time that Truth came over and seemed to shake me upside down and inside out, Hope would be at the door knocking. She was there to put me back together.

In our next moment, we will meet one more dear friend!