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


Wedgewood Wisdom

Beautiful forms and compositions are not made by chance, nor can they ever, in any material, be made at small expense. A composition for cheapness and not excellence of workmanship is the most frequent and certain cause of the rapid decay and entire destruction of arts and manufacturers.” –
Josiah Wedgwood

Published in: on January 15, 2012 at 3:51 am  Leave a Comment  

The Power of the Word

The Power of the Word

In our last Lamplighter Moment, we talked about the inherent power of the Word of God. As Isaiah wrote,

“. . . so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

I was reminded of this truth during a conversation with a man named Tom. I met him twenty years ago while playing racquetball with my father-in-law. Tom was an unbeliever and wasn’t interested in the ways of God. But for some reason, after racquetball, my father-in-law was prompted to visit him at his home. So with Bible in hand he stopped at his house and asked if he could share a few verses from the Scriptures. That was a night Tom will never forget. He politely listened and then my father-in-law graciously thanked him for listening and left.

Twenty years later, Tom told me that the only thing he remembered was that as soon as my father-in-law left, he said to his wife, “Get me a beer!” Now picture this. Tom’s son was lying on the couch in the other room listening while my father-in-law was reading the gospel from the book of Romans. Several years passed, but there was no apparent influence from that visit. That is, until I heard the rest of the story this week.

Both Tom and his wife came to know the Savior, as did their son. Today, Tom is an elder and pillar in the church and his son–who was sitting in the other room listening to the Words of God–well, he is the pastor of the church!

When you take God’s Word in–and give it out–you can expect great things to follow. The Word truly is the power of God.

Published in: on January 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Overcome Evil with Good

Overcome Evil with Good

In Romans 12, Paul writes, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Overcoming evil with good is easy to say but not easy to practice.

It was 1 a.m., and after flying for 9 hours, we missed the last leg of our connection. Now we had to spend an extra night away, only to get up at 5 a.m. to catch the next flight home. To make matters worse, the baggage claim wouldn’t give us our luggage! So there we were, exhausted, bewildered, and with no clean clothes for the next day. At least we had a free voucher for the hotel.

When we arrived at the hotel, the receptionist said that she needed my credit card. I told her that this was a free voucher and that I didn’t have a credit card to give her. She then said that we couldn’t have the room without a credit card. The hotel was dirty and there was no way they were going to get my credit card. So I spoke in a demanding and belittling tone. I let her know what kind of night we just had and that all we wanted was to go to bed.

The receptionist unexpectedly apologized, displayed genuine concern, and gave us the room key. When we opened the door we realized she gave us a deluxe room. And that’s not all–there was a knock on the door, and it was the same receptionist. She held in her hand a bag of toiletries and told me that if I needed anything else just to call. You can imagine how I felt at this point. God used this receptionist to help me to see how I was supposed to act, and it was a lesson I will not soon forget.

Published in: on January 12, 2012 at 2:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

God Enjoys Barbeques!

God Enjoys Barbeques!

One day, while I was visiting my mom, she asked me why God had required so many burnt offerings and what they represented. I looked at her with a smile and said that of all the difficult things to understand in the Bible, this was one that she should understand easily. With a puzzled look she said that she didn’t have a clue. So I asked her what one thing she enjoyed more than anything else. She thought and then said, “cooking!” “And what else?” I prodded. “Eating and sharing with others what I’ve cooked,” she said with a smile. I smiled back and said, “exactly!”

You see, God enjoys and delights in the fragrant aroma of food. That is one of the reasons why it was important that the fat be burned with the offering; the more fat, the more fragrant the offering. Have you ever cooked corn with the husk on the grill? What a fragrant aroma! And just as we delight in fragrant aromas, so does God. But it’s not just that God delights in the fragrant aroma of grilled meat and grain. He delights in a life that is a sweet aroma–a life that brings enjoyment to others.

The writer of Hebrews brings further insights into these offerings. Not only did the offerings represent Jesus–who could only please the Father with the totally acceptable sacrifice of himself–but now, even the words of our mouth and the way we serve others are sacrificial offerings to the Lord.

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16)

Published in: on January 11, 2012 at 4:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Forward Faith

Have you ever come up against an insurmountable obstacle? That is what Moses and the children of Israel faced in Exodus 14.

Picture yourself during the time of the Exodus. Gradually, over a 400-year period, you have adopted the culture of the Egyptians. Though you are a slave, you enjoy a higher standard of living than the greatest chieftain of the Bedouins.

So in order for God to pry you loose from the “adoption” of this godless culture, it is necessary to take you into a wilderness–a wilderness requiring total trust in the provisions of an all wise and faithful God. The journey will not be an easy one, but it is a necessary one.

Here’s an inside look at Exodus 14:

“But the Egyptians pursued after them . . .”

“And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD. And they said unto Moses, ‘Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.’ And Moses said unto the people, ‘Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The LORD shall fight for you . . .'”

What I love about this scene is the drama–and my childhood memory of Charlton Heston standing upon the rock with his rod! But Hollywood got it all wrong. It wasn’t Moses lifting his rod that parted the sea. Note the rest of the text:

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward . . .” (Exodus 14:15).

Sometimes, it is not until we are willing to move forward and get wet that the wall of water will part. Too often we’re waiting for God to remove the obstacle while He’s waiting for us to take the first step–of faith.

Published in: on January 4, 2012 at 2:00 pm  Comments (1)  

Grandma’s angry at the bank!

Shown below, is an actual letter that was sent to a bank by an 86 year old woman. The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in the New York Times.

Dear Sir:

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three nano seconds must have elapsed between his presenting the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it.

I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire pension, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only eight years. You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account $30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank.

My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways.
I noticed that whereas I personally answer your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become.

From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person.

My mortgage and loan repayments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.
Be aware that it is an OFFENSE under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope. Please find attached an Application Contact which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative.

Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Notary Public, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.

In due course, at MY convenience, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Let me level the playing field even further. When you call me, press buttons as follows: IMMEDIATELY AFTER DIALING, PRESS THE STAR (*) BUTTON FOR ENGLISH.
#1. To make an appointment to see me.

#2. To query a missing payment.

#3. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.

#4 To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.

#5. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.

#6. To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.

#7. To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated to you at a later date to that Authorized Contact mentioned earlier.

#8. To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 7.

#9. To make a general complaint or inquiry. The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service.

#10. This is a second reminder to press * for English.
While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.
Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement. May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous New Year?
Your Humble Client
And remember: Don’t make old people mad. We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to make us mad!

Published in: on January 3, 2012 at 6:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Potter’s Apprenticeship, Part 2

In our previous Lamplighter Moment we talked about Ange, a highly skilled potter, who was given the opportunity of a lifetime–to learn from one of the most accomplished potters in the world.[1]

Ange was excited to learn from the master, but when given her first assignment, she was taken by surprise. The master said to her, “The way you do the most insignificant activity in your daily life will reflect in your work.”[2] After speaking these words, he sent her to the rice fields to dig for clay. Throughout her six-month apprenticeship, never once did she throw the clay on the wheel or work side by side with the master. Once in a while she caught a glimpse of the master at work, but she was never given the opportunity to demonstrate her skill or learn from his expertise.

As she was about to return home, feeling humbled and defeated, the master’s wife approached her. “When you came to us,” she said, “you were like a fully grown tree with big branches. We have to cut those branches for something new to be able to grow.”[3]

Ange came to realize that, though she never worked side by side with the master, she had learned more about pottery than if she had been shaping the clay day and night for years. For when she returned to home, something new and beautiful began to emerge. The old had been stripped away, and a new work had been borne.

The story of Ange presents the essence of what the Apostle Peter learned during his apprenticeship.

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you . . .” (1 Peter 5:5-6).

Not enjoying your current assignment? Yield to the pruning, patiently endure, do more than is expected, and expect great things from God.

Footnotes

[1] Ange Sabin Peter, “A Japan Story,” Ceramics Technical 23 (2006): 95-97.

[2] Ann Spangler, Lois Tverberg, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2009, 52.

[3] Ibid., 52.

Published in: on January 3, 2012 at 1:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Josiah Wedgewood

I’ve often daydreamed of being a master potter. There’s something unique and romantic about shaping beautiful vessels out of formless clay. One of my favorite potters is Josiah Wedgewood. He has made some of the most beautiful pottery in the world. One of the things I love about Wedgewood is his insistence upon excellence, beauty, and sacrifice. He writes, “Beautiful forms and compositions are not made by chance, nor can they ever, in any material, be made at small expense. A composition for cheapness and not excellence of workmanship is the most frequent and certain cause of the rapid decay and entire destruction of arts and manufacturers.”

What an amazing understanding of the heart of business and how it is so intricately related to one’s values and integrity. Today, too many create solely for a profit rather than producing for the pleasure of the work itself.

John Ruskin wrote, “When men are rightly occupied, their amusement grows out of their work; when they are faithfully helpful and compassionate, all their emotions are steady, deep, perpetual, and vivifying to the soul as is the natural pulse to the body.”

Walter Lippmann once said, “You don’t have to preach honesty to men with a creative purpose. Let a human being throw the energies of his soul into the making of something, and the instinct of workmanship will take care of his honesty. A genuine craftsman will not adulterate his product. The reason isn’t because duty says he shouldn’t, but because passion says he couldn’t.”

The truths that these men lived to write about reminds me of Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians: “Bondservants, obey your earthly masterswith fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free” (Ephesians 6:5-8).

Published in: on January 2, 2012 at 1:15 pm  Comments (4)