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 Modern Day Good Samaritan?

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).

Published in: on October 31, 2010 at 10:15 pm  Comments (10)  

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 fr iend. It is the surest way to give him an opportunity of doing us harm. An idle mind is like an open door, and if Satan does not enter in himself by it, it is certain he will thro w 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)

Published in: on October 30, 2010 at 2:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Blocked Vision, Part 4

n this last installment of Balaam’s Blocked Vision, I would like to suggest that Numbers chapters 22-24 does not present enough evidence to pass a guilty verdict upon Mr. Balaam. As a juror, I vote “NOT GUILTY!” He committed a few minor infractions, but nothing worthy of maligning him on the pages of Scripture for the next three thousand years. To think that the NT writers would accuse him as the cause of sexual perversion among God’s people! It’s simply inconceivable!

Right to the end, Mr. Balaam maintains that he will speak only the words that God gives him and will do nothing more (Numbers 14:13). But as soon as king Balak announces that all of the promises of financial rewards are now forfeited, Balaam devises an incredible master plan of deception. He appears squeaky clean on the outside, but you are about to see the true colors of the world’s best wolves in sheep’s clothing.

His plan is simple. Seeing the potential loss of his 401-K, he comes up with a master-mind plan. Since he can’t curse God’s people, he gives the king some inside information, with a future look into history. Moab will indeed be destroyed by Israel, but not right away. This inside information prompts the king to seize an opportunity. He will mix the multitude by enticing Israel with Moabite woman. In Numbers 25:1-2 we read: “The people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods.” Balaam is a scoundrel and was in it for himself all along.

In Revelation 2:14 we read: “But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.”

The teaching of Balaam continues to be prevalent today. In many ways we have become a mixed multitude, as the practice of sexual immorality takes place before our very eyes-and even the eyes of our children! The enemy has seduced us and minimized that which was meant to be sacred to that which is now common. It is time to rise and break this unholy union with Hollywood. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit has to say . . . and He says it with one simple word–repent.

Published in: on October 29, 2010 at 3:16 am  Leave a Comment  

Training in Wisdom

Recently we discussed the necessity of raising children who pursue excellence in their area of their giftedness. As parents and teachers we need to provide a broad spectrum of activities and choices in order to narrow the preferred “skill” that a young person needs to develop.

I once hired a young man who was basically self-taught. Although his English and spelling needed improvement, his mastery skill of working with the computer enabled him to be a successful employee. He acquired skills that made his services in demand by several companies in our area. He developed our web site, worked with the design and layout of our catalogs, newsletters, and brochures, and occasionally accompanied me to conferences. In exchange for his time and talents, I paid him well, provided him with state-of-the-art computer technology and opportunities to advance his skills. There was an investment on my part and an investment on his, and the trade-off was worth it for us both.

As I write this, I am reminded of king Solomon’s insights when he said: “Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.” We have too many young people who are trying to build their house before plowing their fields. There are fields of opportunities waiting to be plowed. On a Literal level, plowing infuses the soil with oxygen, mixing nutrients, which stimulates growth. Figuratively, when our children start plowing the fields of career opportunities through their studies and work experiences, they will soon see the seeds of their sowing break forth into a fruitful life.

The following link provides excellent insight on how to prepare your children for life, not just college: http://the99percent.com/articles/6932/experience-trumps-theory-reviving-the-apprenticeship-model.

Published in: on October 28, 2010 at 10:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Blocked Vision, Part 3

Balaam part 3

Numbers 22; 2nd Peter; Jude

We talked yesterday how Balaam the prophet was told by God to go to Moab, but after he went God was angry. At first glance it would appear that God is guilty of double-mindedness. But knowing that God is true and every man a liar, taking a closer look would be the better part of wisdom. Note God’s specific words to Balaam, as well as Balaam’s response:

“And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call you, rise up, and go with them; but only the word which I shall say to you, shall you do.

And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab.

And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his donkey, and his two servants were with him.”

Do you see the infractions?

1. He rose in the morning without being called by the men.

2. He saddled his donkey without being told by God.

3. He took servants with him, without instruction from God.

Balaam is revealing his greedy nature by his actions. He’s in it only for the money, thus the reason for the saddled donkey and the servants-he’s planning on making a haul!

In 2 Peter we read that, “some have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness…”

In Jude we read: “Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward.”

If Balaam had looked a few chapters into the future, he would seen one of the greatest warnings in all of the Bible: “Be sure, your sins will find you out” (Numbers 32).

Published in: on October 28, 2010 at 10:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Blocked Vision, Part 2

Yesterday we looked at the talking donkey of Numbers 22 and the prophet Balaam who was unable to see and hear from God nor speak for God. Before we go further it would help if we had a little more background. In Numbers 22, it is the king of Moab who summons Balaam after he sees a great hoard of people coming toward his kingdom. Fearing the worst, he calls the prophet Balaam to come and curse this multitude. But God tells Balaam not to curse but to bless. The king doesn’t give up; he promises the prophet great riches if he will curse the multitude. So Balaam petitions the Lord again and finally gets the green light–with one exception. He is to go only if they ask him to do so, and he must follow God’s instructions exactly.

At first glance, there seems to be a paradox. In verse 21 God tells Balaam that he can go and in verse 22 Balaam rises and goes. All seems to be going according to plan, except for one minor glitch-God is angry that he went! It appears as if God can’t make up His mind, but we know better than that. So what’s up?

The first problem is that Balaam didn’t do exactly what the Lord told him. He went with the king’s men without being summoned. Not only did he violate God’s explicit command to remain unless he was called, but he took 2 of his servants with him–again, without God’s permission. Balaam is going to travel with some pomp and circumstance of his own. He too has servants under him as he proudly joins the elite company of the king. On the surface this may not seem like an infraction of God’s command, but it reveals more than meets the eye. In fact, that’s the problem. Balaam is the prophet and is supposed to see. Instead, the donkey sees what Balaam cannot. What appears to be zeal to do God’s work is in reality a selfish ambition for reward. Balaam’s vision is blocked not only by pride, which we looked at yesterday, but by greed.

Are there roadblocks in your life today? Are you facing obstacles of frustration and walls of constraint? I have seen many in this life who have been emotionally, mentally, and spiritually shipwrecked because, while thinking they were acting on behalf of God’s authority, they were blinded by the real motive of greed.

Published in: on October 27, 2010 at 10:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Blocked Vision

What a bizarre portion of Scripture we find in Numbers 22:29! What does it all mean? Scripture tells us that not only did a donkey speak, but the prophet Balaam actually talked back to it! This biblical account compels me to ask, “What is the intended meaning of this story?”

Do you ever find yourself talking to your pet? I have. I remember how, as a child, I would talk to my dog, especially when I was feeling low. We would often walk into the woods together, and I would sit on a ledge and share all my troubles with my faithful companion. But if my dog had talked back to me, I think I would have toppled over in disbelief!

Here we see Balaam carrying on a conversation with his donkey as if it had been a common occurrence. So what is the purpose of this bizarre scene? As a prophet, Balaam is supposed to see. That is his gift from God. But instead, it is the donkey that sees. Balaam, as prophet, is supposed to hear and speak on behalf of God, but it is the donkey that hears and speaks, warning of impending danger and judgment. What a strange twist!

“And Balaam said to the donkey, ‘Because you made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.'” Because of his pride and fear of looking like a fool, Balaam is unable to see the impending dander before him.

This unique incident teaches that God communicates when we least expect it. But if pride prevents us from hearing and seeing, we will be unable to receive or proclaim God’s truth. Balaam’s primary concern was that he looked like a fool. God’s primary goal was to convince him that he was.

Published in: on October 26, 2010 at 10:10 pm  Comments (2)  

Kingly Preparation, Part 3

PART 3

My son David has had a fascination with car design since he was five. For years I tried to dissuade him from this interest until finally one day I woke up! Discerning that this passion was God given, I began to see that my son’s natural bent was very different than my own. So I decided to follow and see where the Lord would lead.

When David was 12 I took him to a car show in New York City. He was almost in tears as he was able to see concepts of future cars and some of his all time favorites. When we returned home his passions were so piqued that he began drawing with more vigor than ever. I began to think that a career in car design was possible.

Next, the Lord providentially enabled David to meet with one of Ford’s most celebrated designers, who designed the Ford Mustang. That day David learned from one of his hero’s that to be a successful car designer you needed to cling to three foundational principles:

1. Be honest and above reproach.

2. Work hard and reach the highest level of excellence in your field.

3. Be committed to your family.

I had been trying to teach David these principles all his life and now he was hearing them from one of his hero’s and it was lodging in his heart in a matter of minutes!

When David was 16 we visited the Pasadena Art College of Design where students learned from some of the most gifted auto designers in the world. This experience caused a detour however. David’s future was being shaped and stretched. Seeing the actual classes of car design students made him rethink his future direction. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to invest that much of his life for such a singular focus.

So where do we go from here as parents? Which way does he go? Training our children in the “way” they should go can be full of roadblocks and detours. But when we follow their bent, this training will open the door of opportunity. The word “way” in “Train up a child in the way he should go…” (Proverbs 22:6) comes from the primitive root word DRK which carries the idea to bend a bow. Once the wood has been bowed into shape, it can now be used to provide food for the table, enabling one to be self-sufficient. Training our children in the “way” they should go is one of our highest callings and most stretching endeavors-a stretch that will lead to a life-time of fulfillment.

Published in: on October 24, 2010 at 10:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Kingly Preparation, Part 2

Yesterday we talked about how David’s childhood obedience and submission prepared him to become king. While David was submitting to his father’s decision to do the “dirty work” of the family, God was preparing a boy to be a king!

Solomon sheds further light on this subject in chapter Proverbs 4 saying, “Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many.I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths…Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.”

The idea of taking fast hold of “instruction” refers to one who is willing to “obstinately & courageously seize” and submit to correction, warnings, reproof, or rebuke. In other words, he’s obstinate and determined to submit to the reproofs and rebukes of the authorities in his life. He realizes that God has placed others in his life to teach him and he seizes each correction as preparation for his future.

The greatest men and women I know today all have one thing in common-they are willing to acknowledge mistakes, while humbly and quickly, accepting correction. It is time our children learn that being obstinate can be a good thing as long as it’s being obstinate to “take fast hold of instruction.”

If you would like to read a powerful story that dramatically teaches this principle, I encourage you to read as a family or individually, Hand on the Bridle. I only wish I had read this book when I was in Jr. and Sr. High; it would have saved me years of wasted time and prepared me sooner to do what God had designed for me to do.

Published in: on October 23, 2010 at 10:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Kingly Preparation, Part 1

Have you ever wondered what sort of childhood preparation allowed David to be one of the greatest kings ever?

While David’s older brothers were protecting the land from the Philistines, David, the youngest of seven brothers, was protecting his father’s sheep. They were soldiers-he was just a shepherd boy. Certainly there was nothing glamorous about watching sheep.

Oftentimes, it was the youngest child who watched his father’s sheep. The lowliest job was usually passed down to the youngest. Alone, David endured the elements and faced the fear of predators such as bears and lions. But what else was David doing while tending the flock? What would your children do if they were stuck with the lowliest chore?

While David was submitting to his father’s decision to shepherd the sheep, God was preparing a boy to be a king! During those lonely days and nights, David learned to use his time wisely. During his wilderness experience, an obedient and yielded son became:

An accurate marksman
A skillful musician
A courageous protector
A gentle leader

In Proverbs chapter one, David’s son Solomon instructs his readers to know wisdom and instruction. One of the words for wisdom in Hebrew is the word “skill,” while the word for instruction carries the idea of “discipline.” Wisdom or skill, is obtained through a disciplined life of hard work and the wise use of one’s time. It is also obtained through a yielded spirit that is willing to do the dirty jobs while everyone else seems to be enjoying a better lot.

One of my favorite stories that depicts the truths shared in this moment is found in the book Stick to the Raft. This would be a great family read that will inspire a life that is zealous for wisdom and instruction. There’s more to come on this wise preparation for our children’s future in tomorrow’s Lamplighter Moment.

Published in: on October 22, 2010 at 10:07 pm  Leave a Comment