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

The Shepherd and His Sheep: Lost and Found Part 3

Back to yesterday’s story of the lost lambs. I still hadn’t found my lambs, so I put up a “Lost Sheep” sign at the local post office. Yes, the sign created quite the discussion piece in our inquisitive little town.

Well, the very next day I received a phone call from the post office–they knew where my lambs were. I was ecstatic–until the postmaster apologized, saying that though she knew where they were, she was unable to reveal the information. I proceeded to tell her that kidnapping was a federal offense, as well as being an accomplice–especially for postal workers! After a hearty laugh, she told me her reason for withholding the information.

On Easter morning, the eight-year-old daughter of a single mom had discovered in her backyard a most wonderful surprise–two lost lambs. The little girl believed that they were God’s gift to her! She ran into the house shouting for her mom to come quickly! God filled the heart of a lonely child with great joy that day!

But the next day, this same mom had gone to the post office to pick up her mail. She saw the “Lost Sheep” sign I had posted, and hesitated, seemingly deep in thought. She must have been disappointed, knowing she would have to tell her daughter that she must give up her lambs. After a few moments she decided to ignore the sign and keep the lambs. The postmaster had been watching her interesting expression as she read the sign, and realized that she might have the lost sheep. That’s when she called me. I assured her that I wouldn’t dream of taking the lambs away from this child.

Through this experience I have had a wonderful opportunity to build new friendships and to minister to hurting hearts. My loss became a child’s treasure and gift from God–and an open door to “Feed My lambs.”

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: To visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

Published in: on October 23, 2011 at 5:42 am  Leave a Comment  

The Shepherd and His Sheep: Safe and Secure Part 2

Yesterday I told you of my lambs who scaled a five-foot wall to make their escape. After searching through the night, I still had not found them. The next morning the search continued, but they were nowhere in sight. They were afraid, and had not yet put their trust in the shepherd.

When we are afraid, we too run away from the safety and security of the Good Shepherd because we haven’t learned to trust Him. Though He demonstrated the greatest evidence of sacrificial love, for some reason we run from His protection. But our Shepherd will not leave us alone–He will leave the ninety-nine and seek that one which is lost.

Has the Good Shepherd placed you in a new environment? Are you facing new and unfamiliar experiences? Do these changes bring fear? Remember, perfect love casts out fear! God loves us with a perfect love, and always has our best interests in mind. He knows us and loves us with an everlasting love! And no matter how far we run, or where we hide, we should be mindful that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8).

When we are filled with fear, let us consider the words of our Good Shepherd before we run: “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11). Or, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Published in: on October 22, 2011 at 5:41 am  Leave a Comment  

The Shepherd and His Sheep: Acclimation, Part 1

During the spring of 1994 I had decided to add another breed of sheep to our flock. The Cheviot was a breed that I did not particularly care for, but I knew that cross breeding with my Dorset ram would give me smaller lambs that would grow into a healthy breeding flock. So I purchased two Cheviot lambs from a neighboring shepherd, and with great delight brought them to their new home.

Realizing the adjustment to a new home would take time, I prepared one of the horse stalls for the transition. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed it! The two lambs scaled a five-foot wall and made their escape. I called to Jonathan, Jennifer, and David and we began the chase. Just when we thought we had them cornered, they eluded our grasp. As they escaped into the woods, I pursued them on foot until sunset. At night I scoured the woods with a flashlight and gentle wooing, but to no avail. I was reminded of how David risked his life when he fought the lion and the bear. I was responsible now to care for these sheep–I had purchased them, and they were mine. But they had not yet spent sufficient time with me; they were not yet acclimated to my voice. As a result, they did not feel secure in my care.

In the same way, in order to rest in the presence of the Good Shepherd, to discern His voice and to trust His care, we must spend time with Him. The more time we spend with the Shepherd, the more easily we are able to hear His voice. In John 10, Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

Published in: on October 21, 2011 at 5:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Pounding Nails

Fifteen year old Kevin was helping us with the construction of our house–and doing a great job! But one day, I found Kevin pounding a dozen nails into a 2 by 12 truss system that didn’t really need any extra support. When I asked him why he was pounding the nails, his response astonished me. When he finished all of his work for the day he went to his dad and asked what he should do when he was finished with all of his work. His dad said, “Go pound nails and be productive!”–and Kevin did exactly that! I have never forgotten that moment.

Ten years later I see a contrast. I see government spending itself into oblivion without being productive. A society that consumes more than it produces cannot long remain great. It is such a simple concept. We must start being productive. It is time to restore and invigorate the cultural standard of excellence and hard work. I was talking with a very successful businessman who is now in his mid-seventies. I asked him what formed the foundation of his success and he told me: he is still working 14 hours per day, six days a week. There are no short cuts!

How much more can we consume before we ourselves are consumed? Other nations are not our biggest threat–we are. It is time to heed Solomon’s proverbial wisdom: “Prepare your work outside; make it fit for yourself in the field, and after that build your house” (Proverbs 24:27).

There are too many today trying to build their homes and their futures without the preparation and perseverance of a solid framework of biblical values. It’s time to start doing something, even if its pounding nails into a board. Maybe someone will see you who can open a door to future work–that’s what happened for Kevin! He became my most valued employee and now ten years later continues to be one of the most admirable workers I’ve ever known.

Published in: on October 20, 2011 at 5:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Golden Words

Would you believe it if I told you that children whose parents are professionals are exposed, on average, to 1500 more spoken words per hour than children in welfare homes? This means that children who are raised by parents who are professionals hear 2,153 words per hour in contrast to children from welfare homes who hear only 616 words per hour.

A study by Raikes also found that in “Mother-child bookreading in low-income families,” children whose parents read to them three to six times per week had greater vocabulary gains than children who were read to only once or twice a week. Children who were read to every day scored even better. And children who were read to as early as 14 months had particularly beneficial gains.

A study conducted by Hart and Risley reveals that a four year old child in a professional family will have received 560,000 more instances of encouraging feedback than discouraging feedback. An average 4-year-old child in a working-class family would have accumulated only 100,000 more encouragements than discouragements, and the average 4-year-old child in a welfare family would have accumulated a shocking 125,000 more instances of discouraging words than encouraging words.

Statistics are helpful in giving us the big picture, but they often fail to explain the heart of the problem. For example, it is important not to equate welfare with income. Children who were raised by parents who were slaves were often raised with higher morals and ethics than the children of the slave owners. So it’s not a matter of income, it’s more a matter of morals and values. And whether we find ourselves presently with the blessing of a professional career or temporarily on welfare, let’s keep in mind that our words are our greatest resource and more powerful in the raising of our children than money. Solomon, the richest man ever, reminds us that “Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).

Published in: on October 19, 2011 at 5:37 am  Leave a Comment  

The Horse Thief

I stood before the judge and placed my hand on the Bible. It was exactly as I had seen in the movies. There was no reason for me to be nervous; I was in the right and she was guilty.

Life on the farm had recently come to an end. I sold my sheep and fifteen of our twenty-two horses. I kept the seven best horses to sell at a later date. But where do you find a home for seven horses? Amazingly, one of the buyers for one of our quarter horses said that she would be willing to board them as long as I paid for the feed and gave her 10% of the sale of the horses. What a deal! But I didn’t listen to my dad’s advice; he’d always told me, “If it’s too good to be true it’s probably not!” Four weeks went by and I decided to check on my horses.

It was too good to be true. The horses were gone! Come to find out, this woman had a history of scams and thievery. So I took her to court and was about to hear the verdict. My palms were sweating; the judge read the verdict…three counts against her and a mandate to pay me $27,000! Justice had been served.

Eighteen years later I have not receive a penny, nor do I believe that I will. But I have grown in wisdom since then and since wisdom is worth more than gold, I am satisfied with the results. Solomon in Proverbs 14 writes, “The simple believes everything but the prudent gives thought to his steps. One who is wise is cautious and fears God, and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.” I’m a little bit more cautious these days before believing things that appear too good to be true.

Published in: on October 18, 2011 at 5:36 am  Leave a Comment  

An A+ in Calculus!

When you are young, it’s hard to imagine what career path you will take. But I’ve learned several basic principles that can lead to a life of direction and fulfillment.

First, do the next thing, and do it well. Sometimes, this means doing the unexpected. With only 12 credit hours standing between me and college graduation, for example, I switched my major one last time–this was the 7th time! I had just given my life to Jesus Christ and without question I knew that I was supposed to switch from a business major to an education major. Though I would have to take courses for another two years, I was excited to move forward regardless of the cost.

Speaking of cost, sometimes we need to work extra hard for a time in order to avoid being enslaved down the road. There is a psychological weight one has to carry when work becomes a means to pay off school loans rather than doing what you love and loving what you do.

Finally, strive for excellence in every moment, even if you aren’t enjoying a particular assignment. I still remember the advice my college calculus professor gave on the first day of class: those who studied 1 hour a night, he said, would likely receive a C or D, 2 hours of studying would in all probability receive a B, and those who studied three hours a day or more would likely earn an A. Could it be that simple? There’s nothing simple about calculus, especially since I failed it in high school. So I followed my professor’s advice and, to my utter surprise, landed my first A! Do I use calculus today? Absolutely not…but I do use the principles of discipline and perseverance.

In 2nd Peter 1 we read, “Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge.” The word “add” in the Greek carries the idea of adding at one’s own expense. If you’re willing to pay a price, you can be sure there will be a reward in the end.

Published in: on October 11, 2011 at 5:32 am  Leave a Comment  

Marshmallow Test follow up

I’m sure you’ve seen the Marshmallow test video before, but if you haven’t you can view it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EjJsPylEOY

Twenty or so years later there was a follow up study done with these same students and come to find out, those children who deferred their gratification and waited for a second marshmallow, scored 200 points higher on an average on their SAT exams.  It would seem that self-discipline and deferred gratification are essential building blocks for intelligence. In the book, The Genius in All of Us, the author shares new evidence how our lifestyle today can effect the genetic makeup for the next four generations. hmm…four generations…where I have heard that number before? – Gen 15:16; Ex 20:5; 34:7; Deut 5:9; 2 Kings 10:30; 2 Kings 15:12

Published in: on October 9, 2011 at 11:57 pm  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)  

Jephthah’s Daughter

Do you remember Jephthah? He fought for Israel as a judge, as God’s deliverer. However, while he was an effective leader of the nation, he made some grave mistakes in his leadership at home. You see, Jephthah was a dictatorial parent. Before battling the Ammonites, Jephthah prayed in Judges 11, “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” What in the world does he think is going to come out of his house, the pet dog? Dictatorial parents often say things in an exaggerated way . . . “You’re grounded for two years!”

And that’s exactly what Jephthah does. He wants so badly to win that he’s willing to sacrifice whatever it takes–even his own family. Let’s look at the rest of the narrator’s comments: “Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet himwith tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter. And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD,and I cannot take back my vow'” (Judges 11:34-35).

Do you hear what I heard? He’s blaming her for his stupidity and his rash vow. But his timing is perfect. Dictatorial parents and spouses are always blaming others for their own failures. Ultimately, they disregard the lives of those that God has placed in their care, and become fixated on the emotions of the moment. In the midst of life’s battles, we can trust in a God who demonstrated his love for us by allowing his own Son to die . . . otherwise, we will sacrifice our own children on the altar of selfish pursuits.

Published in: on October 8, 2011 at 5:23 am  Leave a Comment