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

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

The other day, a friend asked me to explain the meaning behind the Christmas hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. I have always loved this beautiful song, with its haunting melodies and deep sense of longing. May a look at the meaning behind the first verse of this hymn bless you this Christmas season.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

The opening lines of this hymn plead for the coming of the Emmanuel, the “God with us.” Scripture’s promise of the Emmanuel is first recorded in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” The prophecy is explained in Matthew 1, as Joseph is informed in a dream that Mary’s child, this Jesus who shall save His people from their sins, shall be the Emmanuel.

But there’s a problem with this prophecy, which states that the child’s name shall be Emmanuel. They named him Jesus, not Emmanuel! Why the discrepancy? If you read the text closely, you will notice that “they shall call his name Emmanuel,” but “he,” meaning Joseph, called his name Jesus. “They,” the people, did not name him “Jesus,” but truly recognized him as “God with us”–the Emmanuel. When we recognize who Jesus really is and why he came, then the song makes perfect sense, as you will read in the refrain.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Published in: on December 23, 2011 at 4:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Do You Believe?

Many lives were radically altered prior to the birth of Christ. The angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in his old age, announcing the coming birth of John. Then there was the miraculous pregnancy of two women–one past childbearing and barren and the other a young virgin. Each character faced challenging circumstances that would alter their lives forever.

The angel’s words of consolation to Zechariah reveal that he was a praying man. His elderly wife even bears a child because of his prayers! Regrettably, however, his prayer life was stronger than his faith. Learning that his prayers had been answered, he questions the angel by saying, “How shall I know this?” We are not given much information concerning Elizabeth’s response to the news of her pregnancy.

Mary’s response seems, in English, the same as Zechariah’s. She says to the angel Gabriel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Note the responses:

Zechariah – “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

Mary – “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

Though the responses seem similar, the Greek words for “how” are completely different. Zechariah’s “how” is a combination of two Greek words which frequently denotes opposition or intensity. Zechariah skeptically asks the angel, “How can I be sure?” The angel Gabriel restricts Zechariah from speaking until his son is born, because he “did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”

In contrast, the word “how” that Mary uses expresses exclamation as “how much” or “in what way” will this be accomplished. Zechariah answers the angel from a heart of disbelief; Mary embraces the word of the angel by faith. What a rebuke for Zechariah as he heard these words fall from the lips of his wife: “. . . blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Trusting in the promises of God is no easy task when faced with seemingly impossible circumstances. But nothing is impossible with God.

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  

Sponge bob

CHICAGO — The cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants is in hot water from a study suggesting that watching just nine minutes of that program can cause short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year-olds.

The problems were seen in a study of 60 children randomly assigned to either watch “SpongeBob,” or the slower-paced PBS cartoon “Caillou” or assigned to draw pictures. Immediately after these nine-minute assignments, the kids took mental function tests; those who had watched “SpongeBob” did measurably worse than the others.

Previous research has linked TV-watching with long-term attention problems in children, but the new study suggests more immediate problems can occur after very little exposure – results that parents of young kids should be alert to, the study authors said.

Kids’ cartoon shows typically feature about 22 minutes of action, so watching a full program “could be more detrimental,” the researchers speculated, But they said more evidence is needed to confirm that.

The results should be interpreted cautiously because of the study’s small size, but the data seem robust and bolster the idea that media exposure is a public health issue, said Dr. Dimitri Christakis. He is a child development specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital who wrote an editorial accompanying the study published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Christakis said parents need to realize that fast-paced programming may not be appropriate for very young children. “What kids watch matters, it’s not just how much they watch,” he said.

University of Virginia psychology professor Angeline Lillard, the lead author, said Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob” shouldn’t be singled out. She found similar problems in kids who watched other fast-paced cartoon programming.

She said parents should realize that young children are compromised in their ability to learn and use self-control immediately after watching such shows. “I wouldn’t advise watching such shows on the way to school or any time they’re expected to pay attention and learn,” she said.

Nickelodeon spokesman David Bittler disputed the findings and said “SpongeBob SquarePants” is aimed at kids aged 6-11, not 4-year-olds.

“Having 60 non-diverse kids, who are not part of the show’s targeted (audience), watch nine minutes of programming is questionable methodology and could not possibly provide the basis for any valid findings that parents could trust,” he said.

Lillard said 4-year-olds were chosen because that age “is the heart of the period during which you see the most development” in certain self-control abilities. Whether children of other ages would be similarly affected can’t be determined from this study

Most kids were white and from middle-class or wealthy families. They were given common mental function tests after watching cartoons or drawing. The SpongeBob kids scored on average 12 points lower than the other two groups, whose scores were nearly identical.

In another test, measuring self-control and impulsiveness, kids were rated on how long they could wait before eating snacks presented when the researcher left the room. “SpongeBob” kids waited about 2 1/2 minutes on average, versus at least four minutes for the other two groups.

The study has several limitations. For one thing, the kids weren’t tested before they watched TV. But Lillard said none of the children had diagnosed attention problems and all got similar scores on parent evaluations of their behavior.

Published in: on October 9, 2011 at 2:03 pm  Comments (1)  

Vulgar Lyrics

Two weeks ago I posted a video that I shared so parents and students could catch a glimpse of excellence and creativity. It was beautifully crafted. Then someone sent me a note about the lyrics. I had listened to is several times and couldn’t understand all of the words…the first red flag that I missed. The lyrics horrified me. They were vulgar and I do apologize for not being more vigilant.  I am truly and humbly sorry for sharing this video. It was a lesson that will not easily be forgotten.  I Peter 5:8

Published in: on September 25, 2011 at 2:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Old Testament Picnic

Did you ever consider how difficult it was to travel long distances in Old Testament times? They didn’t have watering and feed stations every few miles as we do. To travel long distances required a lot of preparation.  Often they would have to take their flocks with them, using them for food and sacrifices. Today we travel with our dog or cat or we catch a flight or drive to our destination with countless food choices and espressos on every corner. This truly is a day of abundance and ease.

But with all of our comforts and ease, we’re missing something very important-community.  In I Chronicles 12 we read that mighty men-men skilled in warfare with their weapons of war-from the 12 tribes of Israel, came to anoint David king. At first glance this doesn’t seem to be problematic, but who’s going to feed these 350,000 hungry men who are traveling miles to this inaugural event?

Going to war required much more than moving military equipment. Going to war required families and extended families and friends to support the effort. 1st Chronicles 12:39 reports that these 350,000 soldiers were feasting with David for three days. Feasting on what?The text continues, “for their brothers had made preparation for them. And also their relatives . . . came bringing food on donkeys and on camels and on mules and on oxen, abundant provisions of flour, cakes of figs, clusters of raisins, and wine and oil, oxen and sheep, for there was joy in Israel.”

Wow! Can you imagine bringing all of this to your next family reunion? Perhaps there’s something here that God would teach us. Many of Christ’s soldiers are battling the enemy on the front lines. They are short on provisions. Is God calling you with your abundance to come alongside and support the troops?

Published in: on July 29, 2011 at 6:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

How To Inspire the Next Generation

Aspiring artists, sound designers, music composers, voice actors, and script writers from around the world are standing by, ready to use their talents to advance God’s kingdom and battle the deceptive forces which wage war against our souls.

But they lack the resources to receive essential training.

This summer, many students will attend The Lamplighter Guild and learn to reflect God’s image with excellence in the dramatic and visual arts.

Many more would love to attend, but are unable to because of a few dollars that stand between them and a week of life-changing influence and inspiration.

Will you help us provide training for the next generation of God’s image-bearers?

Please consider sponsoring a student at The Lamplighter Guild. (Visit http://bit.ly/fQLbyQ to do so.)

Even the smallest gift–$5 or $10 or $25–could change the course of history by inspiring, influencing, and instructing students to cultivate their God-given gifts with skill and faithfulness.

Find out more about this week of training by visiting www.lamplighterguild.com

Contact us at mail@lamplighterguild.com with any questions.

Exciting Announcement!

We are excited to announce that students can now earn college credit for attending the Lamplighter Guild for Creative Disciplines.

Baptist Bible College in Clarks Summit, PA is the first to offer credit, and we’ll be updating you weekly on other schools that choose to do the same. For updates, visit http://bit.ly/esIqTN.

Image is Everything

We were created in the image of God–but do we reflect his image in grace and excellence?

Scripture tells us that Lucifer was once the reflection of the glory of God. In fact, his name literally means “light-bearer”; in Ezekial 28 we read that Lucifer was the sight and sound of God’s glory–he was the Cherub that covered the throne of God with the brilliance that was created in him. When he fell, he was cast down to the earth, and since that time has been distorting the image of God–through sight and sound.

Many have fallen prey to the wiles of the devil, addicted to both mediocrity and the temporary unfulfilling pleasures of our day. Like the proverbial frog we are being amused to death (amuse – def’ – not thinking).

But there is hope.

In the beginning of time, God vested the treasure of His image to humanity, charging Adam and Eve to bear His image by taking dominion, being fruitful, multiplying, and filling the earth. God tasked mankind with the vocation of re-creation.

It is our calling to bear His image with honor and excellence as we reflect His glory in our work and relationships. In 2nd Peter 1 we read that His divine power has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.

If you have ever longed to reach the highest level of excellence in your God-giftedness, there is an unprecedented opportunity that awaits you. This summer you will have an  opportunity to work and study side by side with godly mentors who have excelled in their God-given skills, reaching the highest level of mastery.

During the week of July 17-22, the team behind the creative genius and excellence of audio dramas such as Chronicles of Narnia, Les Miserables, Left Behind, Adventures in Odyssey, and their most recent creation, Lamplighter Theatre has decided to use their collective experiences and talents to pass down to the next generation! During this once in a lifetime opportunity, you can participate in an entrepreneurial-apprenticeship type platform to be inspired, instructed, and mentored by some of the most talented professionals in the fields of Dramatic and Visual Arts.

Find out more by visiting www.lamplighterguild.com or contact us at mail@lamplighterguild.com with any questions.

Lamplighter–making ready a people prepared for the Lord, by building Christ-like character one story at a time.


Looking forward,

Mark Hamby

Stress Never Takes a Vacation

No matter what time of year it is, the stressors of life never seem to be on vacation. The holidays often bring more worry than cheer as we try to negotiate family relationships, plan the perfect Thanksgiving meal, and somehow buy the perfect gifts for everyone on the list. Springtime brings with it taxes and allergies. And then summer comes along–and even our vacations often stress us out! What can be done to bring real and lasting peace into our lives?

Francois Fenelon weighed in on this question when he wrote,

“Real peace in this life must be attained with a full view of one’s own imperfections, neither slurred over nor tolerated, but, on the contrary, condemned to the full extent. Then one bears the humiliation of one’s frailty in peace, because there is no more clinging to self. We are troubled by our own faults more than those of other people, not because they are our own, but because it is our duty to correct, to conquer, to renounce, to humble ourselves, in order to accomplish the will of God, even through the sacrifice of ourselves. The disposition which you need to cultivate is faithful attention to the light thrown upon your imperfections.

Try not to vex yourself by forestalling the future, any more than by fretting over the past. Resign yourself to God, and do with simplicity the best you can, according to the light of the present moment.”

Fenelon understood what Paul was trying to communicate in Philippians 4 when he wrote:

“. . . do not be anxious about anything,but in everything by prayer and earnest entreaty, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Published in: on March 8, 2011 at 1:48 pm  Leave a Comment