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 Youthful Yoke, Part 3

Yesterday we discussed the importance of allowing young adults to experience the consequences of their actions. In fact, we posited that Scripture teaches that suffering is a necessary part of the normal maturing process.

But during times of intense suffering, teens often build emotional walls, thus delaying the lessons they could be learning. Hosea hits the nail on the head when it comes to the reason that adolescents (and adults) fail to experience the transition from despair to hope. He writes,

“And they do not cry to Me from their heart when they wail upon their beds.” (Hosea 7:14)

God desires for us to cry out to Him, to take off our masks, and pour our heart out to Him. He will hear and He will act. God bruises that He might heal. He injures in order to restore.

In his darkest hour, Jeremiah has hope. Being convinced of God’s goodness, he pens these immortal words:

“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

The LORD is my portion, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.”

(Lamentations 3:22-25)

God allows Jeremiah to feel pain so that he can experience Him as the One who can meet his deepest needs. Only in the midst of his pain can Jeremiah experience the resurrection power of God’s restorative compassion and grace. He has experienced it before and can count on it again for his present difficulties–for His mercies never fail, and neither does His love!

Young people–and adults–need to learn, especially in this unraveling economy, that there is one thing that you can bank on–God’s love never fails. Maybe it is time to consider opening an account today.

Published in: on February 25, 2011 at 7:28 pm  Comments (1)  

A Youthful Yoke, Part 2

Yesterday we discussed how Jeremiah’s attempt to blame God for his unfulfilled longings was evidence of his lack of maturity. Today let’s continue to look at the importance of bearing the yoke in one’s youth.

We live in a day when youth are protected from bearing their “yoke.” Well-meaning parents often shield their teens from making wrong decisions, but a wise parent understands that allowing their child to suffer the consequences of wrong choices can be a beneficial learning experience.

God knows that Jeremiah’s turmoil will help him more than hurt him. In the midst of his pain the prophet cries, “I vividly remember my sufferings and because of this, I have hope!” Can you imagine? How can he say that he has hope as he remembers how much he has suffered?

Jeremiah learns what is essential for life–that God allows suffering to mature us and to teach us that He can be trusted. As Jeremiah looks back, he sees that God has delivered him in small and unusual ways. He experiences how God delivers him from the pit of despair and fills him with hope. Hope can be found–but not apart from this very important step. Listen to the words of Hosea:

“Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up” (Hosea 6:1).

Suffering, particularly emotional suffering, is an important process in adolescent development. If the adolescent receives the necessary support during this time, he or she will learn that the sun will indeed rise again another day.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss some temptations that teens face during times of suffering, and we’ll see that the Bible, sufficient for all of life, provides a remedy to this problem as well!

Published in: on February 24, 2011 at 7:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Youthful Yoke, Part 1

During my course of study on adolescent conflict and restoration, I came across an interesting truth in the book of Lamentations. As I began digging I knew I had struck gold!

“It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth” (Lamentations 3:27).

Jeremiah pours out his heart as he endures the unbearable rejection of his peers. He feels unloved and devalued, and spends a significant amount of time blaming God for his deepest hurts and unmet longings. He literally blames God for using him as target practice! Listen to what he says:

“He bent His bow, and set me as a target for His arrows” (Lamentations 3:12).

Half of Lamentations 3 is devoted to blaming God for this seemingly incurable despair. When you consider the accusations Jeremiah levels against God, it’s hard to square these things with God’s character. How do we reconcile these charges against God by a man who suffered terribly as a result of following God’s instructions to deliver His message?

What we know about God is that He is love, and in Him is no darkness at all. He loves us so much that He who knew no sin became sin for us, so that we might possess the righteousness of God. But in his despair, Jeremiah blames God. He is blinded by his sorrow.

Though God was not the cause of Jeremiah’s unmet longings, He was the cause of Jeremiah’s difficult circumstances (Lamentations 3:32)–and for good reason. Jeremiah’s complaint follows the pattern of what most adolescents experience when they feel unloved and devalued. These feelings of despair and inner turmoil, though unpleasant, are a necessary step in the maturing process. To protect our adolescents from this process is to delay their transition into adulthood.

Today, we have many twenty-, thirty-, and forty-year-olds who are stuck in an adolescent mindset. They simply have not grown up. Apart from interacting with God, it is impossible to reach genuine maturity.

Tomorrow we’ll continue to discuss the importance of bearing the yoke in one’s youth.

Published in: on February 23, 2011 at 7:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Youthful Yoke, Part 1

During my course of study on adolescent conflict and restoration, I came across an interesting truth in the book of Lamentations. As I began digging I knew I had struck gold!

“It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth” (Lamentations 3:27).

Jeremiah pours out his heart as he endures the unbearable rejection of his peers. He feels unloved and devalued, and spends a significant amount of time blaming God for his deepest hurts and unmet longings. He literally blames God for using him as target practice! Listen to what he says:

“He bent His bow, and set me as a target for His arrows” (Lamentations 3:12).

Half of Lamentations 3 is devoted to blaming God for this seemingly incurable despair. When you consider the accusations Jeremiah levels against God, it’s hard to square these things with God’s character. How do we reconcile these charges against God by a man who suffered terribly as a result of following God’s instructions to deliver His message?

What we know about God is that He is love, and in Him is no darkness at all. He loves us so much that He who knew no sin became sin for us, so that we might possess the righteousness of God. But in his despair, Jeremiah blames God. He is blinded by his sorrow.

Though God was not the cause of Jeremiah’s unmet longings, He was the cause of Jeremiah’s difficult circumstances (Lamentations 3:32)–and for good reason. Jeremiah’s complaint follows the pattern of what most adolescents experience when they feel unloved and devalued. These feelings of despair and inner turmoil, though unpleasant, are a necessary step in the maturing process. To protect our adolescents from this process is to delay their transition into adulthood.

Today, we have many twenty-, thirty-, and forty-year-olds who are stuck in an adolescent mindset. They simply have not grown up. Apart from interacting with God, it is impossible to reach genuine maturity.

Tomorrow we’ll continue to discuss the importance of bearing the yoke in one’s youth.

Published in: on February 23, 2011 at 2:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Stick Crafter

What would you do if you returned home from war wounded, orphaned, and unsure how you could earn a living? I recently read of a man who faced just this situation–and “his wounds rendered all severe labor impossible.” (The Little Lamb, p. 115) What was he to do?

In Christoph von Schmid’s short story, The Redbreast (included in The Little Lamb), we are told that this soldier determined the following solution to his dilemma:

“One day, in the neighboring forest, he remarked that the old stumps and roots of the maple-trees that had been cut down presented some very beautiful pieces of streaked and variegated wood, but were little esteemed and rotting on the ground. He immediately set to work to make walking sticks and gift boxes out of this wood, and soon brought them to extraordinary perfection; the walking sticks . . . were especially admired, and met with a rapid sale” (p. 116).

What an incredible testimony to this man’s work ethic and creativity that he would take sticks which would ordinarily be left to rot and turn them into walking sticks for “gentlemen of high station!” (p. 116)

We live in an economy where many are struggling. Perhaps we should begin to prayerfully consider how we can exercise skills that God has given us as gifts. Truly, “in all labor there is profit” (Proverbs 14:23b) and “whoever gathers little by little will increase it” (Proverbs 13:11b).

In closing, I believe the stick-crafter’s words will end this moment on an encouraging note: “He who is not wanting in industry . . . will never want for bread. Even the most insignificant craft can support a man. Do your duty faithfully, and trust in God, and God will do His part, and will not permit you to lack His aid, which is so necessary” (p. 117-118).

Published in: on February 22, 2011 at 7:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Stick Crafter

The Stick Crafter

What would you do if you returned home from war wounded, orphaned, and unsure how you could earn a living? I recently read of a man who faced just this situation–and “his wounds rendered all severe labor impossible.” (The Little Lamb, p. 115) What was he to do?

In Christoph von Schmid’s short story, The Redbreast (included in The Little Lamb), we are told that this soldier determined the following solution to his dilemma:

“One day, in the neighboring forest, he remarked that the old stumps and roots of the maple-trees that had been cut down presented some very beautiful pieces of streaked and variegated wood, but were little esteemed and rotting on the ground. He immediately set to work to make walking sticks and gift boxes out of this wood, and soon brought them to extraordinary perfection; the walking sticks . . . were especially admired, and met with a rapid sale” (p. 116).

What an incredible testimony to this man’s work ethic and creativity that he would take sticks which would ordinarily be left to rot and turn them into walking sticks for “gentlemen of high station!” (p. 116)

We live in an economy where many are struggling. Perhaps we should begin to prayerfully consider how we can exercise skills that God has given us as gifts. Truly, “in all labor there is profit” (Proverbs 14:23b) and “whoever gathers little by little will increase it” (Proverbs 13:11b).

In closing, I believe the stick-crafter’s words will end this moment on an encouraging note: “He who is not wanting in industry . . . will never want for bread. Even the most insignificant craft can support a man. Do your duty faithfully, and trust in God, and God will do His part, and will not permit you to lack His aid, which is so necessary” (p. 117-118).

Published in: on February 22, 2011 at 6:07 pm  Comments (1)  

Bound in the Bundle of Life

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Bound in the bundle of life?”

I discovered this phrase in the Old Testament book of 1st Samuel, chapter 25. The text reads, “If men rise up to purse you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound up in the bundle of life in the care of the Lord Your God.”

To be bound in the bundle of life is to know that you are protected and cared for deeply. When valuable items were transported during biblical times, they were wrapped in cloth, cotton and other soft materials for protection. They were then wrapped again and again to ensure safe arrival.

These words “bound in the bundle of life” came from a wise woman named Abigail who was trying to protect David from ruining his future. David was about to kill Nabal for insulting him, but Abigail’s reminder of God’s value and protection over him gave him the inner strength to leave the matter in God’s hands.

David faced many difficult days ahead, but it was all was part of God’s plan to prepare a king. As I look back on my own life I see difficult circumstances and relationships as a part of God’s sovereign plan to prepare me for what I am doing today. If I had resisted or taken matters into my own hands, I would never have been granted the privilege of starting Lamplighter Publishing, Lamplighter Theatre Lamplighter Moments, and now, Lamplighter Guild. I have learned–and hopefully will continue to learn–that my life has been “bound up in the bundle of life in the care of the Lord my God.” Consider these wise words of Abigail today, and ask yourself, is a bitter and vengeful spirit forcing God’s plans for you to be postponed?

Published in: on February 20, 2011 at 4:11 am  Leave a Comment  

A Prayer for a Firefighter

Have you ever felt God’s prompting to pray for someone?

For many years, Paul Grams has worked as a firefighter in Rockford, Illinois. It’s a dangerous profession and he’s come close to death many times in the line of duty.But he’ll never forget one early morning fire that nearly claimed his life and that of two firemen buddies.

“The apartment was filled with dense smoke, so thick you couldn’t see the beam from your own flashlight unless you held it right in front of your face,” Paul recalls.Unfortunately, all three firefighters became disoriented and couldn’t find an exit. And their oxygen tanks were likely to run out of air at any moment.

Meanwhile, across town, a family friend named Sherry awoke at 1:00 am, sensing that she was supposed to pray for someone in trouble. During her prayer, she thought of three people in a dark room who were frantically searching for something. This frightening thought only convinced her to pray more earnestly.

Paul Grams is so thankful she did. “I know Sherry was prompted by God that night to enable her to pray for us in the midst of a very desperate situation,” he says. Thanks to her prayers, none of us panicked. By the grace of God, I am alive to tell the story.”

Oh that God’s servants would learn to pray

That others might learn to see their way,

For then there would be more battles won

As God’s servants hear and quickly run

To join the battle, lives to shield,

Appealing to God, His power to wield.

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous person can accomplish much” (James 5:16b).

Published in: on February 19, 2011 at 4:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Delegation or Disintegration?

Whenever I hear the word delegation I am reminded of the notable example found in the Old Testament. Moses’ father-in-law encourages him to enlist others in order to relieve his burden. Later in the book of Numbers, Moses again becomes overloaded with pressure and cries out to God for help. So God directs Moses to gather seventy men and to meet Him at the tent of meeting. The LORD then tells Moses that He is going to take some of the Spirit that is on him (Moses) and put it on the seventy.

I have often wondered if Moses felt a dwindling of power when this occurred. I wonder too, if he wished he had never complained. I also wonder if delegation is indeed the best course of action in many cases.

If we look closely at the text we will find that after Moses experiences this depletion of the Spirit, it is, for the most part, all down hill. Jealousy overcomes Joshua as the young men prophesy. God’s judgment kills many with a great plague. Miriam and Aaron speak against Moses, only to incur God’s swift judgment of leprosy. The stubborn army of Israel goes to battle, against Moses’ authority, ending in utter defeat. Ten of the twelve spies report that it is impossible to enter the God-given land since giants dwell therein. This in turn creates a domino effect of mass grumbling and complaining, which causes rebellion to spiral out of control.

Was it wise for Moses to delegate? I would propose that perhaps it is sometimes the better part of wisdom to consider why we want to bring others on board to help us with our load. Let us first come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in the time of need. We may miss God’s deliverance and blessing if we pass off our responsibility too soon.

Published in: on February 18, 2011 at 4:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Funeral Home Chairs

Eighteen years ago, when we hardly had any furniture, we were going to have company. I scoured the paper looking for used furniture sales and then asked my daughter Jen if she would like to come with her dad. Everything was too expensive and we were running out of time. I parked the car and looked at the paper again, but Jen said, “Daddy, let’s pray and ask the Lord if he would help us find the chairs we need.” I looked at my little girl and smiled and knew that we were going to find our chairs.

After we prayed, I looked at the newspaper one more time and noticed that there was a funeral home selling their chairs. I smiled at Jen and said, “I think we received our answer!” She just smiled.

About twenty minutes later I pulled into the funeral home and a man was walking out. Lowering my window I said, “Sir, do you have some chairs for sale?” “I do but we’re closed,” he replied. I looked over at Jen, and I could see her closing her eyes to say a prayer. So I looked at the man and said, “Sir, we have company coming tonight and we need chairs and we just prayed and believe that these are the chairs we are supposed to buy.” He smiled. “Follow me.”

We purchased seven wooden folding chairs that evening and we made it back home just before the company arrived. Eighteen years later I still have one of those chairs sitting in my office. In fact, it still has the funeral home label on the back! It serves as a reminder of God’s faithfulness. Sometimes, it takes a child to teach a dad that God really does answer prayer.

Remember Christ’s promise:

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you . . . . ” (Matthew 7:7)

Published in: on February 17, 2011 at 4:05 am  Leave a Comment