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

Ignorance is Bliss

Who is this God who strikes someone dead for doing something good? And if we have good intentions, should we not receive some kind of warning before we pay the ultimate price with our lives?

Well, you’re probably wondering what in the world I’m talking about. But in 1st Chronicles 13, Uzzah, a servant of David, does a good thing in a wrong way and gets killed by God in the process.As the Ark of the Covenant was about to tip over from the stumbling oxen, Uzzah reached out his hand to keep it from falling and lost his life as a result.But did Uzzah do anything wrong?Indeed he did. God had forbidden anyone except for the Levites to carry the ark–and even then, they were not allowed to touch it.

Had David fulfilled his first responsibility as king and written down all of the Words of God and read them every day of his life according to Deuteronomy 17, he would have known this prohibition.Not knowing a rule doesn’t exempt one from consequences. We see this in every area of life. For example, in sports, you can’t tell the referee that you didn’t know the rule. There are rewards for living within the rules and consequences when we live outside of them . . . whether we know them or not.

I have often heard it said that ignorance is bliss. I have also heard many say and live by the principle of “ask for forgiveness rather than permission.”If our desire is to enjoy the presence of God, then it’s essential that we know his rules. In Psalm 19 David writes, “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes . . . .”

When your eyes are open to the rules of God, you’ll be able to avoid lightening strikes.

Published in: on January 31, 2012 at 2:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Blueberry Bush Marriages, Part 2

In our last Lamplighter Moment, we discussed the parallels between a healthy marriage and a healthy blueberry bush. The first year you plant a blueberry bush, it’s necessary to cut back most of the new growth in order for the plant to take root. In Deuteronomy chapter 24, God gives first-year married couples the same sound advice–of cutting back–actually, it’s more than advice; it’s a commandment! In the first year of marriage, the husband should not go to war or be involved in any business. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife. I call this the blueberry principle of marriage! If you want your marriage to be firmly rooted and not easily dried up during times of drought, then it’s essential that first-year married couples spend as much time together as possible, without any outside entanglements.

I know this sounds unrealistic, but with hard work, dedication, and planning, it can be done. We live in a day when young people are spending too much time prior to marriage in a fun and frolicking state of play. The months and years prior to marriage are foundational years. Men need to be industrious so that they have enough money to be out from under financial pressures. If there’s one thing that will take the joy out of a marriage, it’s money pressures.

And the first year is the most important because it lays the foundation for the rest of married life. Today, young couples both work and become involved in many worthwhile activities, except the one that God sees as important–spending time with each other in order to cultivate an intimate love relationship.

I believe that one of the reasons divorce is so prevalent among Christians is because of the violation of this principle. In fact, if you look closely at Deuteronomy 24:5 you will notice that God gives this instruction directly after his instructions about divorce. It would appear that God is giving us a Surgeon General’s Warning on how to stop the cancer of divorce–and be happily married ever after.

Blueberry Bush Marriages, Part 1

One of my favorite activities of the summer is blueberry picking. The farm where we pick is just idyllic. Thirteen acres of blueberry bush after blueberry bush. Of course when you first start picking, quite a few end up in your mouth rather than the bucket…a price that you pay for later, if you know what I mean.

But during my recent blueberry excursion, I learned something important about life…something I wished I had learned thirty-five years ago before I was married. Each time I go blueberry picking, I purchase one or two small bushes to be planted on my property when I get home. It has become a tradition. I now have fourteen fairly healthy, fruit-bearing bushes.

I usually pick about two gallons of berries, purchase two bushes, and conclude my blueberry excursion for the season.But this time I asked the experienced blueberry growers for some guidance. I was surprised by their instructions. They said that I should cut most of next year’s growth–as well as several of the mature branches–off during late fall or early winter. This surprised me because the bushes I was buying already had a substantial number of berries on them. Why, if the bushes are already bearing fruit, would I want to go a year with very little fruit to enjoy?

The answer was simple. Doing so would allow the energy of the bush to be directed to the root system rather than the fruit.During this first year, it is critical that the bush becomes established, laying the foundation for years of fruit bearing.

This reminds me of what is needed for a healthy marriage–especially in the first year. Still wondering what blueberry bushes and marriage have in common? Read Deuteronomy chapter 24–and tomorrow we’ll learn the rest of the story.

Published in: on January 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

An Old Testament Picnic

Did you ever consider how difficult it was to travel long distances in Old Testament times? They didn’t have watering and feed stations every few miles as we do. To travel long distances required a lot of preparation. Often they would have to take their flocks with them, using them for food and sacrifices. Today we travel with our dog or cat or we catch a flight or drive to our destination with countless food choices and espressos on every corner. This truly is a day of abundance and ease.

But with all of our comforts and ease, we’re missing something very important–community. In I Chronicles 12 we read that mighty men-men skilled in warfare with their weapons of war–from the 12 tribes of Israel–came to anoint David king. At first glance this doesn’t seem to be problematic, but who’s going to feed these 350,000 hungry men who are traveling miles to this inaugural event?

Going to war required much more than moving military equipment. Going to war required families and extended families and friends to support the effort. I Chronicles 12:39 reports that these 350,000 soldiers were feasting with David for three days. Feasting on what? The text continues, “for their brothers had made preparation for them. And also their relatives . . . came bringing food on donkeys and on camels and on mules and on oxen, abundant provisions of flour, cakes of figs, clusters of raisins, and wine and oil, oxen and sheep, for there was joy in Israel.”

Wow! Can you imagine bringing all of this to your next family reunion? Perhaps there’s something here that God would teach us. Many of Christ’s soldiers are battling the enemy on the front lines. They are short on provisions. Is God calling you with your abundance to come alongside and support the troops?

Published in: on January 24, 2012 at 2:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

David & The Lion

“And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him” (1 Samuel 17:34-35).

The other day, I was reading in 1st Samuel and I came across this passage. However, knowing that the exciting story of David and Goliath was coming up, I quickly skimmed across these verses, paying little attention to their meaning.

Then, a few days later, I was reading over a chapter in The Shepherd of Bethlehem, part of Lamplighter’s Heroes of Faith Series. This book tells the story of an injured minister who gives lectures, from his sickbed, on the life of David. In his first lecture, Mr. Eardley gives this explanation of the passage above:

“My friends, the devoted shepherd who risked his life to save that of a lamb, is a type, a picture of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who not only risked, but gave His life for the sheep! David’s fight with the lion and the bear is like a shadow of the awful struggle of the Son of God against Satan and sin” (p. 59-60).

Imagine my surprise upon reading this passage! A picture of Christ appears to have been hidden in the Old Testament. I wonder if Jesus shared this story with the disciples on the road to Emmaus as he expounded the Scriptures and opened their hearts about all the things concerning Himself. And since all of the Scriptures point to Christ in some way, can you imagine the treasures still waiting to be found?

The name of the book that pointed me to this treasure is The Shepherd of Bethlehem–one volume of Lamplighter’s Heroes of Faith Series. This four part series is what some claim to be the best in the Lamplighter Collection! When our editor read the last volume she said, “This one took my breath away!” Now through Monday, January 23rd, receive free shipping AND save $11 on this series.

Published in: on January 20, 2012 at 4:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

1 Kings 14:13: The Death of a Child

Recently I received a devastating phone call. A six-month-old baby girl had just died. She was their first child. And though she lived for just a short time, she brought incredible joy and meaning to her parents’ lives. The young couple will be forever changed by this experience, and–as they are a part of our family–we too will be forever changed.

To make matters worse, we later learned that the babysitter was responsible for the death of this beautiful, fun-loving child. The death was ruled a homicide, adding sorrow and creating even deeper wounds. The young couple is overwhelmed with a myriad of unanswered questions.

If I were the parent, the first question I’d ask is, “Why, God? You are all-powerful and all-knowing. Why didn’t You stop this angry woman from shaking my baby?”

When a child dies we grope for answers. In desperation we question God’s goodness. We wonder if our child is in Heaven.

Thankfully, God has not left us in the dark. In the NT we know that Jesus blessed the little children saying “. . . for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” In the Old Testament there is an obscure but insightful text on the death of a child.

In I Kings 14:13 we read:

“And all Israel shall mourn for him and bury him, for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found something pleasing to the LORD, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.” (You may wish to read 1 Kings 14:1-13 for the context of this story.)

God does indeed call some children home early. Why? Certainly we don’t have all the answers. But we see that in this case He finds something in the child that pleases Him, and that He desires for him to come home. I know that the death of a child is a devastating loss for us all, but it appears to be both the child’s and heaven’s gain.

Published in: on January 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Liar, Liar, Your Pants Are on Fire! Part 2

Do you remember the phrase “Liar, liar, your pants are on fire?” I remember it, but not for good reasons. I was a born liar. I guess that makes the Bible completely accurate when it says that even a baby that comes forth from the womb speaks lies (Psalm 58:3). No one had to teach me how to lie. It came as easy as eating pie, but when I was caught, it didn’t taste very good–my mom would wash my mouth out with soap!

As I consider what to do with children who lie, I must say that I am not an advocate for the soap-in-mouth method. And while children need to understand that there are consequences for lying, we as parents must respond with wisdom rather than wrath.

The approach we use to correct lying can determine whether we exacerbate the problem or help bring victory. When lying occurs, we must not respond with an emotional or angry response. If we do, then perhaps we are really more concerned with our own image. Sometimes parents desire perfect children so that their own image is exalted. Righteous discipline never acts to condemn but offer help.

Strictness and threats might suppress a lying spirit, but will not change the heart. Children who lie habitually need consistent loving discipline, not our condemnation.

If your children are struggling with a lying spirit, there are three books that powerfully illustrate the natural consequences of lying, the rewards for truthfulness, and the parental wisdom that is necessary to help children overcome this formidable, sinful behavior. I only wish that I had read these books when I was a child: Tom Watkins Mistake, Helen’s Temper, and a book titled Rising to the Top.

Liar, Liar, Your Pants Are on Fire! Part 1

Have you ever lied about something? Have you ever thought about why people lie? The Bible says “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3). But as we grow older, most people continue to lie for two main reasons:

1. Insecurity

2. Fear of consequences

As we are about to see, lying isn’t just a childhood fault. In fact, lying has occurred and still does among some of the godliest adults.
• Abraham, for example, lied to Pharaoh concerning Sarah’s true identity. The cause? Insecurity.
• Moses lied after killing the Egyptian. The cause? Fear.
• Jacob lied about his identity to his father. The cause? Insecurity.
• David lied to the priest while fleeing from Saul. The cause? Fear.
• Peter lied about his relationship with Jesus. The cause? Insecurity and fear.
Though five of our most esteemed Bible characters had a problem with lying, God did not respond with a wrathful exhibition of washing their mouth out with soap. In fact, God allowed natural consequences to be their teacher. Abraham’s lie resulted in embarrassment as he was rebuked by Pharaoh. Moses’s lie caused him to lose the trust of the children of Israel. Jacob’s lie created a rift between his father and brother that, by the way, has lasted even to this day. Jacob’s lie also caused his exile from home for over twenty years–he never saw his mother again (Genesis 25-32). David’s lie resulted in the death of an entire family of priests (1 Samuel 22). And Peter shamefully ran away when reminded of his lie by a crowing rooster and a loving glance from the Savior (Luke 22:61).

If you or you or a young adult are struggling with a lying spirit, there are three books I highly recommend: The Basket of Flowers; The Crew of the Dolphin and The Hedge of Thorns.

Published in: on January 17, 2012 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Christian Hedonism

Have you ever heard of Christian Hedonism before? Christian Hedonism was first introduced to me through author and Bible teacher John Piper. When I first read about Christian Hedonism in his book, Desiring God, I read that particular chapter over and over again.

You see, that chapter sparked something in me that has remained with me years later. In fact, there is rarely a morning when I wake up that my first thoughts are not influenced by Christian Hedonism. Christian Hedonism has so influenced my life that I am happier than I have ever been. But enough delay–the word “hedonism” refers to one who lives for pleasure. Christian Hedonism is simply living for the pleasure of God.

In his Desiring God, John Piper first quotes the old Westminster Confession, which reads, “The chief end of man is to glorify God AND enjoy him forever.” But John changed one word in the Confession and changed my life and those of countless others who are also now Christian Hedonists. John Piper’s alternate Westminster Confession now reads, “The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever.” Yes, it is that simple–God wants us to enjoy him and he desires to enjoy us. Thinking this way can change your entire outlook on life. Everything you do can now be done with the thought that you are living life in partnership with God–He receives enjoyment or glory as you live your life creatively, or kindly, mercifully, or humbly. At the same time, you receive enjoyment in how God lives his life through you.

Galatians 2:20 reminds me that “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Let’s stop living our own lives and start enjoying the life that God is giving us through Himself!

Published in: on January 16, 2012 at 8:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Borrowed” Truth

There I was, sitting in church, when I suddenly felt like I was experiencing a deja vu moment–a moment that had occurred just a few days prior. Each word out of the preacher’s mouth was coming to my mind prior to him speaking the words. I began mouthing the words to myself before he spoke them, and sure enough, they were exactly the same.

This moment was quite surreal to say the least. I sat up and began to feel like I was experiencing a supernatural phenomenon. Or was I? The next sentence that the preacher spoke came to my mind like a lightening bolt! Ah ha! I knew that I had heard this message before. I heard it on the radio on Thursday . . . Chuck Swindoll had just preached that message and this preacher was–well, I guess you could say that he was borrowing it!

In Jeremiah 23 we read, “. . . let him who has my word speak my word faithfully . . . Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal my words from one another.”

We live in a day when a lot of borrowing is going on–and there’s not a lot of diligent study to show ourselves approved unto God. There’s nothing wrong with learning from others, but there is something unexplainably thrilling about receiving fresh insight from the Holy Spirit Himself when you study diligently. If preachers and teachers were digging for gold in their studies, the pulpits would become burning bushes each time the service began–a time when we felt like we were standing on holy ground.

Published in: on January 15, 2012 at 5:00 am  Leave a Comment