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


Reading Aloud

Did you ever see a movie based on a 19th century setting where the host has one of the daughters read a chapter from a book? What has happened to this family and social activity of reading aloud?

Children who have many opportunities to listen and read tend to become skilled thinkers, speakers and writers. The New York Times published an article by Verlyn Klinkenborg (May 16, 2009), on the lost art of reading aloud, saying, “… listening aloud, valuable as it is, isn’t the same as reading aloud. Both require a great deal of attention. But one of the most basic tests of comprehension is to ask someone to read aloud from a book. It reveals far more than whether the reader understands the words. It reveals how far into the words–and the pattern of the words–the reader really sees.

Reading aloud recaptures the physicality of words. To read with your lungs and diaphragm, with your tongue and lips, is very different than reading with your eyes alone. The language becomes a part of the body, which is why there is always a curious tenderness, almost a sensational quality, in those 18th- and 19th-century literary scenes where a book is being read aloud in mixed company. The words are not mere words. They are the breath and mind, perhaps even the soul, of the person who is reading.”

As I ponder this connection between reading aloud and a child’s intellectual development, I am convinced that reading and hearing the Word of God is the foundation for one’s spiritual development.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). I think I can now see the connection when Jesus read the words of Isaiah aloud when he visited the temple. Perhaps reading the Scriptures and other great books aloud in our homes and churches should have a rebirth–it may lead to a rebirth and awakening of our souls.

Published in: on November 22, 2011 at 4:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Discipline without Direction is Drudgery

In his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney states that “Discipline without direction is drudgery.”

Elton Trueblood once said, “We have not advanced very far in our spiritual lives if we have not encountered the basic paradox of freedom . . . that we are most free when we are bound. But not just any way of being bound will suffice; what matters is the character of our binding. The one who would be an athlete, but who is unwilling to discipline his body by regular exercise and abstinence, is not free to excel. His failure to train rigorously denies him the freedom to run with the desired speed and endurance.” The giants of faith have one thing in common. With one concerted voice, their lives ring out the truth that “Discipline is the price of freedom.”

While Trueblood is right in calling discipline “the price” of freedom, let us not forget that freedom is “the final reward of discipline.” Children who discipline themselves to practice an instrument will some day be “free” to play a difficult arrangement. Similarly, those who have exercised self-discipline in memorizing God’s Word experience a skillful “freedom” to share Scripture with the lost as well as enjoy the vast treasures that water their soul daily.

We live in a culture that has lost its drive for self-discipline. Our economy, our homes, our businesses, our communities, and our churches are a mirror image of individual self discipline. In 2nd Peter 1, the apostle teaches us that the reward for diligent self-discipline in the practice of godliness is a life that will never fall. Now that’s a reward worth pursuing.

Published in: on November 21, 2011 at 4:13 am  Comments (2)  

Lending to the Lord

One of my spiritual mentors, Dr. John MacArthur, once told the story of a churchyard in England where a tombstone stands with this inscription: “Here lies a miser who lived for himself, and cared for nothing but gathering wealth; now where he is or how he fares, nobody knows and nobody cares.”

In contrast, Dr. MacArthur shares, there is a plain tombstone at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London with an inscription that reads, “Sacred to the memory of General Charles George Gordon, who at all times and everywhere gave his strength to the weak, his substance to the poor, his sympathy to the suffering, his heart to God.”

What a contrast! If you think about those who have changed the world for the better, you will find their story similar to the latter–they gave for the good of others. They understood the principle that Jesus taught: “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall men put into your bosom. For with the same measure you mete, it will be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38).

Solomon understood this truth well when he wrote, in Proverbs 19, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.”

Did you catch that? When we give to the poor, we actually are lending to the Lord! Now that’s a truth worth banking on.

Published in: on November 18, 2011 at 9:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lending to The Lord

One of my spiritual mentors, Dr. John MacArthur, once told the story of a churchyard in England where a tombstone stands with this inscription: “Here lies a miser who lived for himself, and cared for nothing but gathering wealth; now where he is or how he fares, nobody knows and nobody cares.”

In contrast, Dr. MacArthur shares, there is a plain tombstone at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London with an inscription that reads, “Sacred to the memory of General Charles George Gordon, who at all times and everywhere gave his strength to the weak, his substance to the poor, his sympathy to the suffering, his heart to God.”

What a contrast! If you think about those who have changed the world for the better, you will find their story similar to the latter–they gave for the good of others. They understood the principle that Jesus taught: “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall men put into your bosom. For with the same measure you mete, it will be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38).

Solomon understood this truth well when he wrote, in Proverbs 19, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.”

Did you catch that? When we give to the poor, we actually are lending to the Lord! Now that’s a truth worth banking on.

Published in: on November 18, 2011 at 4:10 am  Leave a Comment  

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  

The Missing Ring, Part 1

Recently I received the following true story from a mom who had learned a very valuable lesson:

After doing some housecleaning, I went to retrieve my wedding ring. (I routinely remove my ring to avoid damaging it.) But today it was missing.

Suspecting that my daughter must have tried it on, I called:

“Debbie, do you know where my ring is?”

“No.”

I searched everywhere and questioned Debbie repeatedly. The ring should have been easy to find. I reminded Debbie how special the ring was, lecturing her about honesty and how much more important our relationship was than any possession.

My plea for help had quickly turned into an interrogation. My daughter continued to deny any knowledge of the missing ring. I tried to act as if she was innocent, but I had already mentally tried and convicted her.

At bedtime my daughter prayed that I would find my ring. “Let me check your bed,” she continued.

I curtly replied, “It’s bedtime–check tomorrow.”

Later that evening, I pulled back the covers and, to my shock and surprise, discovered my ring! I was furious, sure that my daughter had planted my ring there and had been lying to me.

The next morning, I continued to question Debbie while hiding the fact that I had found my ring. When she persisted in avowing her innocence, I finally decided that I had to let the situation go. I was convinced that she was responsible for the whole charade, but I was also distraught that she continued lying. Yet I had no proof, and Debbie obviously had no intention of confessing. I put my ring back on my finger and assumed that we would never speak of it again . . . until . . . until we hear the rest of the story tomorrow!

Published in: on November 13, 2011 at 5:34 am  Leave a Comment  

Train Up a Child!

I have a test for you today. Take a few seconds to read the following lists. Try to spend the same amount of time on each one–focus…ready, set, go!

A B

ocean/breeze bread/b_tter

leaf/tree music/l_rics

sweet/sour sh_e/sock

move/actress phone/b_ok

gasoline/engine chi­_s/salsa

high school/college pen_il/paper

turkey/stuffing river/b-at

fruit/vegetable s­_lt/pepper

computer/chip television/rad_o

chair/couch l_nch/dinner

Now, close your eyes and try to remember as many pairs or single words as you can.

From which column did you recall the most? In all probability you remembered more words or pairs of words from column B. Correct? Research demonstrates that you’ll remember three times as many from the column that contained fragments. Why? Because the fragments required you, in those few seconds, to concentrate. The blank space required you to exercise a minimal amount of focused effort that resulted in sharpened memory retention.

Education today, for the most part, involves passive learning. What you just experienced was active learning that required focused attention. In Proverbs 22:6 we have that so oft quoted Bible verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go . . . .” Actually, the word “train” is insufficient to understand the full significance of this word. The Hebrew word חנך-or its expanded English form “Hanukkah”- carries the idea of “dedication,” which describes the feast of Hanukkah or the feast of dedication. Perhaps this means that we as parents are to “dedicate” our children to the Lord (whether they pursue a career as a carpenter or a theologian) and when they are old, they will not depart from it. But even this definition falls short.

The root word for “train, instruct, initiate” (חנך) also carries the idea in Arabic of “palate,” referring to “rubbing the palate of a child.” The Hebrews and Egyptians rubbed the palate of a newborn child with dates or figs. It is not known exactly why, but it would appear that they were creating a sucking reflex for the child so that he would begin nursing.

“Training” our children requires much more than providing an education. It requires the creation of appetizing learning environments and experiences so that our children will passionately pursue worthy goals that are based on truths not easily forgotten-like the words that were etched in your memory because you gave a little more effort and focus. It’s time to turn passivity into passion by initiating experiences that cultivate our children’s tastes for what is great and glorious.

Published in: on November 12, 2011 at 4:06 am  Leave a Comment  

James 1: The Perfect Life

The Perfect Life

What if you could choose every day to be filled with happiness and pleasures? You could enjoy mountain top experiences at the blink of an eye. No valleys. A perfect life would be yours.

But would it be perfect? Perfection requires, according to James, a hopeful endurance during times of testing.

It’s never easy to be hopeful during the dark times of testing. I remember thirteen of the darkest years of my life. I was a young Christian with a young family and a new position in ministry that required an intense amount of work with loads of responsibility. Being young and lacking the depth of character needed for that level of responsibility, I kept everything in motion at great personal loss.

It didn’t take long for the pressures of ministry and family to begin to take a toll on my health. First came ulcerative bleeding colitis, then symptoms of depression. Soon after, fibromyalgia. Finally I was chronically fatigued…all the time…even after a good night’s sleep.

But I will never forget my relationship with Christ during this time. I knew beyond any shadow of doubt that God was doing a work deep within that could only be accomplished through suffering. I clung to the Psalms, particularly Psalm 119. I would memorize David’s thoughts, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” Not once did I stray from the confidence that God was doing a necessary–though painful–work for my good. And as a result of that confidence, I had hope . . . a hopeful endurance that led to a perfect work.

Oh, please don’t misunderstand…I’m far from perfect. But the work that was done in me was God’s perfect work to prepare me for what I’m doing today. Are you going through a dark trial? Don’t lose hope…But let endurance have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.

Published in: on November 11, 2011 at 12:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Perfect Life

What if you could choose every day to be filled with happiness and pleasures? You could enjoy mountain top experiences at the blink of an eye. No valleys. A perfect life would be yours.

But would it be perfect? Perfection requires, according to James, a hopeful endurance during times of testing.

It’s never easy to be hopeful during the dark times of testing. I remember thirteen of the darkest years of my life. I was a young Christian with a young family and a new position in ministry that required an intense amount of work with loads of responsibility. Being young and lacking the depth of character needed for that level of responsibility, I kept everything in motion at great personal loss.

It didn’t take long for the pressures of ministry and family to begin to take a toll on my health. First came ulcerative bleeding colitis, then symptoms of depression. Soon after, fibromyalgia. Finally I was chronically fatigued…all the time…even after a good night’s sleep.

But I will never forget my relationship with Christ during this time. I knew beyond any shadow of doubt that God was doing a work deep within that could only be accomplished through suffering. I clung to the Psalms, particularly Psalm 119. I would memorize David’s thoughts, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” Not once did I stray from the confidence that God was doing a necessary–though painful–work for my good. And as a result of that confidence, I had hope . . . a hopeful endurance that led to a perfect work.

Oh, please don’t misunderstand…I’m far from perfect. But the work that was done in me was God’s perfect work to prepare me for what I’m doing today. Are you going through a dark trial? Don’t lose hope…But let endurance have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.

Published in: on November 11, 2011 at 4:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Train Up

I have a test for you today. Take a few seconds to read the following lists. Try to spend the same amount of time on each one—focus…ready, set, go!

A B
ocean/breeze bread/b_tter
leaf/tree music/l_rics
sweet/sour sh_e/sock
move/actress phone/b_ok
gasoline/engine chi_s/salsa
high school/college pen_il/paper
turkey/stuffing river/b-at
fruit/vegetable s_lt/pepper
computer/chip television/rad_o
chair/couch l_nch/dinner

Now, close your eyes and try to remember as many pairs or single words as you can.

From which column did you recall the most? In all probability you remembered more words or pairs of words from column B. Correct? Research demonstrates that you’ll remember three times as many from the column that contained fragments. Why? Because the fragments required you, in those few seconds, to concentrate. The blank space required you to exercise a minimal amount of focused effort that resulted in sharpened memory retention.

Education today, for the most part, involves passive learning. What you just experienced was active learning that required focused attention. In Proverbs 22:6 we have that so oft quoted Bible verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go . . . .” Actually, the word “train” is insufficient to understand the full significance of this word. The Hebrew word חנך—or its expanded English form “Hanukkah”— carries the idea of “dedication,” which describes the feast of Hanukkah or the feast of dedication. Perhaps this means that we as parents are to “dedicate” our children to the Lord (whether they pursue a career as a carpenter or a theologian) and when they are old, they will not depart from it. But even this definition falls short.

The root word for “train, instruct, initiate” (חנך) also carries the idea in Arabic of “palate,” referring to “rubbing the palate of a child.” The Hebrews and Egyptians rubbed the palate of a newborn child with dates or figs. It is not known exactly why, but it would appear that they were creating a sucking reflex for the child so that he would begin nursing.

“Training” our children requires much more than providing an education. It requires the creation of appetizing learning environments and experiences so that our children will passionately pursue worthy goals that are based on truths not easily forgotten—like the words that were etched in your memory because you gave a little more effort and focus. It’s time to turn passivity into passion by initiating experiences that cultivate our children’s tastes for what is great and glorious.

Published in: on November 11, 2011 at 1:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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