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


Lamplighter Theatre-Please Pray!

I hope all is going well and you’re growing in grace…if you are, that would mean you’ve had some struggles lately….”come boldly to the throne of grace, that you may obtain mercy, to find grace, to help in the time of need.” The phrase, “in the time of need” means, “in the nick of time!”

Also, I wanted to give you an update on a few things. In the past couple of months, I learned that a missionary family is using Lamplighter Theatre as an evangelism and discipleship tool in Pakistan, and our dramas are being heard now in Singapore, and just last week we learned about this tiny island, Samoa, in the South Pacific is listening to Lamplighter Theatre.

Visit Lamplighter Theatre to see a map and all of the locations of Lamplighter Theatre; you will see that it looks like a military map. We’re now closing in on Japan and China. My goal is to take over the world! Yes, I have always had trouble keeping my goals within normal range. I guess I played the game Risk too much as a child. So this is very exciting to see what God is doing.

The bad news is what I received today. Our board is putting the breaks on, for Season 4 until we raise at least 50% of the money to record the next dramas. As you know, we are scheduled to record The White Gypsy and Jessica’s Journey, the end of January or early February. We also would like to do The Lost Ruby. And then we would like to immediately begin the script writing for the powerhouse Titus: A Comrade of the Cross and then Ishmael or A Lost Pearle. We need your prayers and if God so leads for you to share this need with others. This will be the first time the board has put the breaks on like this but they see that though we are growing, we continue to get farther in debt to produce the dramas. The long term growth looks great but it takes 3 to 5 years to begin making a profit on the initial investments. But without forward motion, the radio stations will see that as a stall and we could lose some stations.

When I left that meeting, I was talking to the Lord and then I thought of you. I want each of you to know how much I appreciate you and all the prayer and support that you have given this year. I am so thankful to be a part of this great movement to awaken a sleeping culture to the beauty and redemption of Christ. Let’s pray and watch our great God once again, do the impossible!

Published in: on December 17, 2011 at 8:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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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!

Overpopulation, Part 2

In my last article, I shared about global decline in population rates. We saw how fertility rates have been plummeting around the world. For example, Japan has a fertility rate of only 1.39, Russia’s fertility rate is only 1.1 and Greece’s fertility rate is 1.5. As stated previously, a nation needs 2.13 children per family in order to sustain its population. In this follow-up article, we’ll look at the imminent consequences of global decline in fertility. This is a crisis of replacement–quite simply, people are not having enough children to replace themselves.

According to estimates by the European Union, “if present low birthrates persist, there will be a continent-wide shortfall of 20 million workers by 2030.” In addition, due to advances in medicine, people are living longer, but no longer have a younger generation to care for them.

The demographers interviewed in the documentary Demographic Winter predicted the United States financial crash of 2009. They were able to do this by identifying the trends in population. You need growth in population to grow an economy and if you have population decrease, the economy becomes weakened. As we look at the financial troubles of the United States and Europe, we must understand that economies depend on population stability or growth.

If fertility rates around the world continue to decline, the consequences will be dire. In addition to economic meltdowns in specific nations, the global economy itself will collapse!

In conclusion, it is apparent that the economic troubles facing the world are largely related to the decline in fertility rates. And low fertility rates are directly related to one’s embrace or rejection of God’s plan for mankind: “And God blessed them and said unto them, ‘be fruitful and multiply . . .'” (Genesis 1:28).

There are two main assaults on God’s design for mankind today and interestingly, they are the first of his directives:

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth . . .”
“. . . a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife . . .”

The assault on marriage and the biblical family has always been at the heart of Satan’s schemes. Hopefully this moment will open our eyes, for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Published in: on December 14, 2011 at 1:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Overpopulation, Part 1

In 1798, The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus wrote a book that would alter the course of humanity forever. This book, An Essay on the Principal of Population, theorized that Europe was becoming overpopulated. Malthus theorized that if the population continued to grow, there would be a huge food shortage which would lead to famine and starvation.

Now, in the 21st century, we see how governments and organizations like the United Nations have used Malthus’s theory to scare the world into a state of underpopulation. According to the research from the world’s leading scholars on demography, worldwide birth rates have declined by more than 50% in the past 30 years. Current research by the United Nations population division reveals that the entire world could lack replacement fertility rates by 2030…but their prediction falls short, because as can be seen in the present worldwide economic unrest, the underpopulation crisis is already upon us.

Without a younger workforce, economic growth is not sustainable, particularly as an older workforce moves toward retirement, removing their investments as well as investing less, and becoming more dependent upon government programs. In 2009 the United States experienced this same economic shift as baby boomers reached retirement age and not enough youth to replace them.

In order to repopulate a nation, families must bear slightly more on average than 2.13 children per family. In some countries, such as China, the majority of couples are only allowed to have one child. In India the number of couples opting to have one child has doubled in just one decade. To further compound this problem, the United Nations has instituted mandatory birth control and sterilization programs in many third world countries.

Of all the European nations, NONE have fertility rates high enough to replace the existing population. Italy’s fertility rate is 1.2. Spain’s fertility rate is 1.1, Japan’s is 1.37, and Russia’s is 1.54. These are just several examples. While some will point out that the world population is larger now than ever before, the sobering truth is that this is caused by people living longer (in their old age) and NOT by a rapid growth in population caused by the birth of more children!

In Genesis 1:28, God gives Adam and Eve the mandate to “be fruitful and multiply.” In modern times, we are learning that God gave us this command for a reason!

Published in: on December 13, 2011 at 1:59 pm  Comments (3)  

John 12: Anointing Oil

I always knew when my great aunt had come for a visit–her perfume seemed to linger in our house for days! In fact, before she was ten feet from the door, I knew she was coming. It was so strong that even a bloodhound would be overwhelmed! As they say in the south, “bless her heart!”

Would you believe it if I told you that my aunt’s perfuming ritual is found in the Bible? When the prophet Samuel anointed David, and when Solomon was anointed king, the oil used in each of these ceremonies was significant because the powerful fragrance was symbolic of an important event or person.

Centuries later, another King would be anointed with oil–His name is Jesus. He was anointed, not by a prophet, but by a woman who poured very costly and fragrant oil upon him. In fact, in John 12 we read: “The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.” Directly afterwards, Jesus rode on a donkey as the people shouted, “Hosanna: Blessed be the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

You see, the fragrant anointing oil celebrated the presence of an important person and event about to take place. The lingering fragrance would have been an invisible reminder of his royalty and his majestic character. That is why, in the first book of Corinthians, we read, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”

Brothers and sisters, today we are the anointing oil. We need to be the lingering fragrance of the knowledge of Christ so that when people interact with us, they are left with a sweet and powerful reminder that they have just encountered a heavenly royalty delivered through an earthen vessel–a fragrance that will last long after we’ve departed.

Published in: on December 7, 2011 at 5:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Missing Person, Part 2

Missing Person, Part 2

If you recall from yesterday, we were searching for the mysterious missing person in the family tree of Jesus. If you followed the clues from Jeremiah 22 and 52, you would have found that the missing person was Jechoniah. But how is this possible? Jeconiah was cursed by God never to have children. Then how in the world does he show up in the family history of Jesus in Matthew chapter 1?

If you study the life of Jechoniah you will find that something miraculous happens at the end of his life. In the last few verses of the book of Jeremiah, we learn that Jechoniah, after 37 years of imprisonment, is suddenly freed. And he’s not only freed; he is also seated above all the kings of the land and receives an allowance from the king of Babylon, a change of royal clothing, and a seat at the king’s table for dining. Now this is extremely strange. Why? The Old Testament doesn’t say.

But the New Testament unravels the mystery. In Matthew chapter 1 Jechoniah is mentioned twice–before Babylon and after Babylon. Before Babylon he is considered as a dead man in the eyes of God–cursed, never to have children. But after Babylon, he is given a new life and has a son whom he names, Shealtiel. The name Shealtiel is significant because it unlocks the mystery of Jechoniah’s miraculous deliverance from prison and the miraculous birth of a son–for Shealtiel means, “I ASKED GOD!”

No matter how bleak one’s life has become, deliverance is just three words away.

Published in: on December 5, 2011 at 2:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Missing Person, Part 1

Missing Person, Part 1

Do you enjoy a good mystery? Did you know that the New Testament begins with a mystery? Leading up to the birth of Jesus, Matthew records the family line of Jesus in three sets of fourteen generations. Well, one day I decided to count them, and lo and behold, there were only thirteen generations in the last set! Count it if you must but you will only find thirteen names.

Now maybe there is a reason for this missing person–a deep dark family secret perhaps? If I had descendants who were prostitutes, guilty of incest, murderers, and liars, I don’t think that I would record their names in a book for everyone to see. Matthew seems to hold nothing back however. He reveals that in Jesus’ family line there is treachery, sexual perversion, and severe self-centeredness, without any attempt to whisper or cover-up.

But if there is no attempt for a cover-up, then why the missing person? Before I explain why there is a missing person, I would like you to spend a little time in Matthew one and count the names for yourself. You may be able to figure out the mystery on your own. If you do, you will be blessed immeasurably! I will even give you a clue to help you find the missing person. If you read Jeremiah chapter 22:24-30, and the last chapter in Jeremiah (52), particularly the last four verses, you should be able to find the missing person. One more clue–take a look at the last word in Jeremiah in several different Bibles, including the NIV and the KJV. Once you see the difference, you may be shocked, but you’ll be well on your way to finding the missing person. If you can’t figure it out, tomorrow we will learn the identity of the missing person and why he has been left out of the family tree. May the search begin!

Published in: on December 4, 2011 at 6:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fish Hooks, Nostrils, and a Humble Prayer

Fish Hooks, Nostrils, and a Humble Prayer

One of the wickedest kings in all of Israel, if not the most wicked, was Manasseh, son of Hezekiah (2nd Chronicles 33). What I find puzzling about the life of Manasseh is why God records so much of his dirty laundry. But before we look closely at God’s judgment, it should be mentioned that one of the reasons for Manasseh’s wicked life was his absent “godly” father, Hezekiah. Hezekiah was so focused on his career that he had little time to prepare his son for the responsibilities of kingship. Manasseh was 12 years old when he began to reign.

God’s judgment of Manasseh begins with him being fish hooked through his nostrils and led to Babylon as a slave. He had been explicitly warned by God to repent but he refused. The text in 2 Chronicles 33:11 says he was captured with “hooks.” I heard Dr. Colin Smith lecture once that this referred to a fish-like pronged hook that was yanked up through the nostrils, attached to a line. It sounds pretty nasty, but Manasseh reaped what he sowed.

But then something unexpected occurs–this low-life king is blessed by God. But why? In 2nd Chronicles the Scriptures records that Manasseh’s prayer turned God’s heart favorably toward him. Can a prayer have that much influence upon the heart of God?

“And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God” (2 Chronicles 33:12-13).

What an amazing turn around; what a merciful God. He will hear our prayers and act favorably toward us, if we will humble ourselves . . . no, if we greatly humble ourselves, and pray. Deliverance for anyone–at any time–is only one prayer away.

Published in: on December 3, 2011 at 1:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Becoming Great

Chrysostom once wrote, “If you want to make your child rich, teach him this: He is truly rich who does not desire great possessions . . . and thinks lightly of this life’s passing glories.”

This truth that was highlighted for me last week in a way I will never forget. Each month our Lamplighter Guild students have the opportunity to listen in on a conference call with a master teacher. This month, I interview celebrated European actor Peter Moreton. When I asked how a young person can become a great actor like himself, his reply took my breath away.

He said, “First, you need to give up all desires of becoming a great actor. You need to devote yourself to your craft–not to desires to become great. Then, when opportunities present themselves, your primary goal is to lift up the actors around you. Your job as an actor is to accentuate the character of others–they are to increase while you decrease. If I play a servant, for example, and I’m in the presence of a king, my role is to communicate to the audience the character of the king by my humble attitudes and actions. The king will be known through me.” (If you’d like to listen to the rest of this interview, you may do so here).

When I heard these words I thought of Philippians 2: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him . . .”

If you’re looking for a new role to play–one that will make you eternally rich and presently rewarded–practice the art of serving those around you so that they might increase as you decrease. And, as it is in all good stories, you may be surprised when God unexpectedly changes your role from humble servant to royal knight of the King!

Published in: on December 2, 2011 at 4:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Day of Adversity, Part 2

The Day of Adversity, Part 2

Yesterday’s Lamplighter moment discussed various adversities that we often face–as well as the way that God gives grace to the humble during these times. A reader wrote to me with some follow up questions, and I wanted to share her question and my answers below.

Our reader wrote: “Dear Mark, I am experiencing many of the same physical symptoms that you listed in your daily moment. For years I have felt ill and I continue to worsen, leaving me with little strength to be the mother and wife I need to be. I am often so tired, I only wish to be in bed. I feel like a slave to the washer machine and stove and when my husband comes home, I only want to lie down and rest. What did you do to overcome these illnesses?”

Here is my reply: “Dear Sister, for me it was a serious dose of humility and brokenness. When I relinquished control of my life to Christ and my family, I gave them back their own identity and their own self-worth. I became a servant rather than the ruler of their lives–and I began to heal. Whenever I go back to my controlling nature, those symptoms begin to rise again but I quickly return to the state of servant and so far, all is well with my health. In fact, I am feeling better as a 56 year old than I did when I was 25.

Illness comes for a variety of reasons, but often I believe there is a sin issue that lies beneath the surface. However, not all illness is because of sin. Jesus said that the man’s blindness was not because of his sin but for the glory of God. But in James we learn to call the elders to anoint with oil so that our sins might be forgiven. So there are times when there is a connection between our health and sin.

I also think that many Christians suffer with chronic illnesses because they have never sought help from those wiser than themselves. My wife and I saw a biblical counselor for 6 1/2 years; I believe this also was a major factor in my healing. Even 20 years later, I still visit with a Christian counselor when I feel stuck in a logjam with my wife or one of my kids or someone at work. I see the wisdom of God’s people as a gift to the church. When we expose ourselves to light we can be truly helped. I have said this many times–and I’m often a slow learner of my own counsel–when we entrust ourselves with God and others, we find help and healing and restoration.

Lastly, one of the most important factors in my complete healing was Psalm 119. “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” Or, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.” Psalm 119 is filled with healing truths. I hope this helps…it truly has helped me.

Published in: on December 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm  Leave a Comment