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

A Flattered Economy

In Aesop’s fable of the raven and fox, a raven sits high in a tree enjoying a piece of cheese. A fox approaches the tree and begins to compliment the raven on his fine feathers. The fox then begs the raven to sing to him. Flattered, the raven begins squawking to show off his voice, dropping the cheese. The crafty fox quickly snatches it up and runs off. This story illustrates flattery.

Everyone enjoys a compliment. But it’s easy to think too highly of ourselves when someone flatters us. I think the effects of flattery and self-exalting thoughts parallel what sometimes happens economically. Flattery leads to temporary inflation, which leads to a depressed state of productivity. Desiring to maintain our artificial elevation over others, we breathe in the words of vain praise until we are so filled with ourselves that we become like the Emperor and his new invisible clothes; walking through the streets naked–and yet with a sense of noble pride–we are viewed by others only with contempt.

In Proverbs 27:2 Solomon writes, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” He continues this thought in verses 19-21 as he writes, “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man. Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man. The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.”

Whatever talents we possess and accomplishments we’ve made, it is entirely because God has enabled us. God’s gifts are His investments to us–and He expects a profitable return! Don’t be easily distracted and flattered like the raven; instead, remember “Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name” (I Chronicles 29:12,13).

Recommended Reading: John Ploughman’s Talk, by Charles Spurgeon. (Use promo code MOMENTS to receive free shipping on your order!)

The Lamplighter Guild

This summer, from July 15th-20th, Lamplighter Ministries plans to host its second Lamplighter Guild for Creative Disciplines, a catalyst for collaboration, innovation, and compelling instruction between master teachers and apprentices. Students will choose to study either Dramatic or Visual Arts during this time, and each student will be challenged to cultivate a high level of excellence in order to uniquely reflect the image of God in his work and life. This event will be hosted at the world-renowned Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY.

Dramatic Arts students will learn script writing, sound design, music composition, directing, producing, and stage and voice acting from the creative minds and talents behind acclaimed radio theatre productions such as Adventures in Odyssey, Chronicles of Narnia, Les Miserables, and Left Behind.

Visual Arts students will interact with Mohonk’s spectacular mountaintop in an unforgettable week of visual exploration and creative expression through plein air oil painting.

To learn more, visit www.lamplighterguild.com or watch a brief promo video for the event:

You're Invited to the Lamplighter Guild

Published in: on April 5, 2012 at 2:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lawn Chair Larry

On July 2nd, 1982, Larry Walter’s dream came true, as he did what some consider the dumbest and funniest thing ever done. You see, Larry dreamed of being a pilot, but because of his poor eyesight he was denied an opportunity to fly in the US Air Force. Then one day–20 years later–Larry wondered what would happen if he attached helium weather balloons to his lawn chair. Considering his idea a stroke of genius, Larry purchased 45 weather balloons and filled his lawn chair with all of the necessities: sandwiches, a CB radio, beer, and a pellet gun, just in case he needed to shoot a few balloons to lower himself to the ground.

The moment for launch had arrived. Without any further delay Larry’s friends untied the tether from the Jeep and lift off began. But something went wrong. After rising above his initial goal of 30 feet, Larry quickly rose to a height of 15,000 feet! Yes, you heard correctly….15,000 feet! As Larry floated over Los Angeles International airspace, several planes spotted something unusual and reported that “. . . some guy is up here with in a lawn chair with a gun in one hand and a beer in the other!”

Larry did finally get back to earth unharmed. He was invited on the Tonight Show and Late Night with Letterman; he tried his hand at motivational speaking and later worked as a security guard. And as funny as this story is, the ending is sad. At 44 years of age, Larry committed suicide.

It is important to follow our dreams. But it’s more important to follow dreams that are connected to a God who will make known unto us the path of life, in whose presence is fullness of joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:11).

Don’t Go to The Philistines!

“Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, ‘Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears.’ But every one of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, or his sickle, and the charge was two-thirds of a shekel…”

Because the Philistines possessed the knowledge of the new iron age technology, the Israelites were dependent upon Philistines to sharpen their farming tools. And not only was Israel subject to their enemies, they were also subject to their price gouging. Does this sound familiar? As gas prices rise, I think I understand how an ancient Israelite must have felt.

Thankfully Israel didn’t stay in this state of mediocrity and enslavement. They cried out to God for deliverance and God raised up Ehud the Benjamite, a left-handed man. Now if you know anything about Benjamin, you would know that they were right-handed. In fact the word Ben-jamin means “son of my right hand.” So then, how did he become left handed? According to Dr. Colin Smith, parents, tired of their young boys getting slaughtered in battle because the enemy knew that Benjamin boys were right-handed, began tying their young boy’s right hand behind their back…several hours daily! Soon after, the tribe of Benjamin became the most skillful and fiercest fighters in all of Israel.

It doesn’t take much to see that America is sinking quickly into dependence upon foreign nations. It’s time to do something about it. It’s time to put away the childish amusements of our day and start preparing our children to become statesmen, inventors, discoverers, philosophers, musicians, scientists, teachers, doctors, farmers, and deliverers. If you want to inspire your children to become creative and productive, read the true stories about the boys who grew up to change the world…the title is Boys of Grit Who Changed the World.

Costly Career Goals, Part 2

Recently we talked about building the foundation of our family first before pursuing costly career goals. Today I would like to challenge us all with the opposite thought. You see, sometimes we use our family as a crutch not to move forward by faith. There are times when God calls us to do something that may not appear to be in the best interest of our family.

In Numbers 14, the children of Israel faced what many young couples face today–relocation. God was moving Israel from their secure life in Egypt (though enslaved!), to the wilderness. Note their first line of defense, and reason why they shouldn’t have to relocate –“Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” The enticement of security is a cancer to faith and often we as men will use our family as an excuse not to follow the promptings of God.

Is God calling you to relocate? Is God calling you to do something meaningful for His Kingdom but you’re just not sure if it will be best for your family? How is one to know?

If you read further in Numbers 14 as well as Deuteronomy 1, you will find the answer–“But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.” To know God’s will is to know God! To follow Him fully…to pursue Him passionately.

Do you have a different spirit–as did Caleb? Do not be afraid of the wilderness. You may not be able to enjoy the leeks of Egypt on the journey, but while others draw back, thinking they are protecting their family, you will reap an everlasting inheritance for generations to come.

Giving Thought to a Matter

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Curiosity killed the cat!” Though curiosity is sometimes derided, this unique characteristic leads to the development of exciting new ideas, which are often implemented for the betterment of society. Robert Fulton, inventor of the first steamboat, possessed childlike curiosity and inventiveness, which preceded his fame.

As I leafed through the book, Boys of Grit Who Changed the World, I came across an inspiring story about Robert Fulton’s childhood. His friend, Christopher Gumpf, often invited Fulton to join his father and him on fishing and rowing trips. Still a child, Fulton found the rowing difficult, so he “invented a set of paddles to work at the side of the boat to be operated by a double crank. Two pieces of lumber were fastened together at right angles with a wide paddle at each end. The crank was attached to the boat near the stern, with the paddle operating on the pivot as a rudder.” (Boys of Grit, p. 40)

Needless to say, Mr. Gumpf was excited about Fulton’s work. The fishing outings had become special events as young Fulton’s common sense and curiosity brought a new perspective to boating, culminating in the invention of the steamboat.

If you lived in Albany, NY or New York City during this time, you would gladly have paid twenty-five cents (and later one dollar) for a ride to work. Fulton’s steamboats were the talk of the towns along the Hudson River, which made travel convenient for workers and opened a myriad of opportunities for new businesses to develop. Robert Fulton’s curiosity and creativity had been unleashed, breaking through the status quo and paving the way for continued progress and innovation.

Do you have a Robert Fulton in your midst? Is he or she given the opportunity to take his or her curiosities to new heights? When God created man in His image, He created him with the capacity to question, to think, to create, and to problem-solve. The first commandment we received was to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion . . .” (Genesis 1:28) It is time for a new generation of Robert Fulton’s to come forth.

The Potter’s Apprenticeship, Part 2

In our previous Lamplighter Moment we talked about Ange, a highly skilled potter, who was given the opportunity of a lifetime–to learn from one of the most accomplished potters in the world.[1]

Ange was excited to learn from the master, but when given her first assignment, she was taken by surprise. The master said to her, “The way you do the most insignificant activity in your daily life will reflect in your work.”[2] After speaking these words, he sent her to the rice fields to dig for clay. Throughout her six-month apprenticeship, never once did she throw the clay on the wheel or work side by side with the master. Once in a while she caught a glimpse of the master at work, but she was never given the opportunity to demonstrate her skill or learn from his expertise.

As she was about to return home, feeling humbled and defeated, the master’s wife approached her. “When you came to us,” she said, “you were like a fully grown tree with big branches. We have to cut those branches for something new to be able to grow.”[3]

Ange came to realize that, though she never worked side by side with the master, she had learned more about pottery than if she had been shaping the clay day and night for years. For when she returned to home, something new and beautiful began to emerge. The old had been stripped away, and a new work had been borne.

The story of Ange presents the essence of what the Apostle Peter learned during his apprenticeship.

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you . . .” (1 Peter 5:5-6).

Not enjoying your current assignment? Yield to the pruning, patiently endure, do more than is expected, and expect great things from God.


[1] Ange Sabin Peter, “A Japan Story,” Ceramics Technical 23 (2006): 95-97.

[2] Ann Spangler, Lois Tverberg, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2009, 52.

[3] Ibid., 52.

Published in: on January 3, 2012 at 1:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Josiah Wedgewood

I’ve often daydreamed of being a master potter. There’s something unique and romantic about shaping beautiful vessels out of formless clay. One of my favorite potters is Josiah Wedgewood. He has made some of the most beautiful pottery in the world. One of the things I love about Wedgewood is his insistence upon excellence, beauty, and sacrifice. He writes, “Beautiful forms and compositions are not made by chance, nor can they ever, in any material, be made at small expense. A composition for cheapness and not excellence of workmanship is the most frequent and certain cause of the rapid decay and entire destruction of arts and manufacturers.”

What an amazing understanding of the heart of business and how it is so intricately related to one’s values and integrity. Today, too many create solely for a profit rather than producing for the pleasure of the work itself.

John Ruskin wrote, “When men are rightly occupied, their amusement grows out of their work; when they are faithfully helpful and compassionate, all their emotions are steady, deep, perpetual, and vivifying to the soul as is the natural pulse to the body.”

Walter Lippmann once said, “You don’t have to preach honesty to men with a creative purpose. Let a human being throw the energies of his soul into the making of something, and the instinct of workmanship will take care of his honesty. A genuine craftsman will not adulterate his product. The reason isn’t because duty says he shouldn’t, but because passion says he couldn’t.”

The truths that these men lived to write about reminds me of Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians: “Bondservants, obey your earthly masterswith fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free” (Ephesians 6:5-8).

Published in: on January 2, 2012 at 1:15 pm  Comments (4)  

The Potter’s Apprenticeship, Part 1

The Potter’s Apprenticeship, Part 1

Often I hear men complain that they don’t like their jobs. Some complain that they work hard but aren’t recognized for their contribution, while others complain that the only good thing about work will be the day they retire. If this is you, you’ll want to take this “Lamplighter Moment” to heart.

From the book, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, I learned about an accomplished potter named Ange who was about to serve a six-month apprenticeship with a world-renowned Japanese potter. To Ange, this was a dream come true. In her imagination she visualized herself throwing the clay on the wheel, under the wise guidance of the aged craftsman, and basking in well-deserved affirmation as he witnessed her skill.

But the opportunity never came. Ange was never asked to demonstrate her ability. You see, Ange did not understand the tradition of the Japanese apprentice, known as uchi deshi. Typically, an uchi deshi was a teenager adopted into the master’s home. There he participated in every aspect of family life, including housework. He was influenced by the master’s character, particularly his work ethic. He learned that life and work cannot be separated. The apprentice looked forward to the day when, after years of meticulous care and attention to detail, he would be given his first opportunity to throw the clay on the wheel.

Ange believed that in light of her advanced skills, a short tutorial with the master would be sufficient. And so it is with many today. We desire success but want to forego the necessary steps required to become true masters. We want to start at the top. In Proverbs 24:27 we read, “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” To be successful, we must labor diligently in preparation. To advance we must do more than is required. But we must be patient and continue to humbly learn from others. And we must approach each job we’re given-no matter how menial-as if it was the most important job in the world.

Lastly, we must, as Ange did, learn the lesson of the “preparation tree.” Once you learn this lesson, your work and your life will never be the same. Find out more in the next Lamplighter Moment!

Barn Raising

Have you ever witnessed a barn raising before? It happened back in 1988 and what happened then, can happen again…no, not the raising of a barn to higher ground, but the raising of a new generation that can change this world for Jesus Christ. With team work and collaboration, we are about to embark on a journey with the Lamplighter Guild that will have significant consequences for decades to come…in the arts, in the family, in government, in culture, in the church, in our careers, and in our understanding and relationship with a unfathomable God.
A Real Barn Raising!
Herman Ostry bought a piece of land with a barn near a creek in Bruno, Nebraska. A flood put 29″ of water into the barn, and he wanted to move it to higher ground. One if his sons estimated the barn weighed 19,000 lbs (9 ½ tons). Figured it would take (344) people with each person lifting 55 lbs. to move barn. They made a grid of steel tubing with handles attached to the barn so each could lift. The town of Bruno, Nebraska planned this move as a part of their centennial celebration July 29-31, 1988. Local television cameras and 4,000 people from eleven states watched. The project took 20 minutes as 344 people moved the barn 50 yards. This shows the power of teamwork. What one could not do alone, many working together did.
You can view the actual moving of the barn, but the recommended videos that come on afterward are immoral and not worth the temptation to view this unique demonstration of ingenuity and teamwork. Thought you should know.
Published in: on November 14, 2011 at 3:47 am  Leave a Comment