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


Nehemiah 3: Another Brick, Please!

I don’t know about you but when I come across lists of names in the Bible I tend to speed read. Nehemiah chapter 3 is one of those chapter lists. Could anything significant come from a list of builders and redundant record of repairs?

But I learned a lesson long ago. In those mundane lists, there is often a treasury of pure gold waiting to be found. In fact, the list of repairs in Nehemiah 3 may hold the answers to a nation’s economic recovery as well as our guide to spiritual revival.

First, you have recorded that the rich and poor are working together; fathers and daughters, leaders and servants, skilled and unskilled, all working toward one goal–to repair and restore the glory of God. You also have one negative report. The wealthy Tekoites felt that common labor was beneath them. The record states that “they would not stoop to serve their Lord.”

In contrast there’s the record of Baruch. He’s my favorite among the builders. Scripture records that he earnestly repaired another section. The word “earnestly” means to glow, blaze or to be zealous. Baruch worked with a zealous tenacity. Can you just see him? I love watching those who possess this kind of zeal for the Lord.And then the text says that he repaired another. This word “another” means double, second, or again.When Baruch finished his section, he just kept on working. Having finished his own portion, Baruch comes to the rescue at the southeast corner, where the rubbish is the deepest and the work the hardest.In tribute to his zeal for the Lord, he receives the mark of distinction in God’s list of honor.

Just as it was I the days of Nehemiah and Baruch so it is today. We have before us a great opportunity to walk by faith and rebuild and restore the glory of God…for the hand of our God is upon us for good. What more do we need?

May I Ask a Favor? Part 2

Previously, we talked about what happens when you ask a Persian king for a favor. You can count on either being tied down in the hot sun with honey poured over your face or being cut in half.

Not only was it improper to ask a Persian king for a favor, but you couldn’t even be in his presence with a sad countenance; either approach would result in a cruel and painful death.

This background is helpful because it sheds light on the stressful decision Nehemiah has to make as he approaches a Persian king for a favor. Knowing the high probability that he could face an agonizing death, Nehemiah comes up with the strategic plan of the century.

The strategy? To pray–for four months! For four months he waits on God to open the door. And then, God does something unexpected.

Noticing the sad countenance of Nehemiah, the king confronts him. Now that we know the background of what happens when you come before a king with a sad countenance, this raises the stakes.

“. . . the king said to me (Nehemiah), ‘Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.’ Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king . . .”

What Nehemiah says to the king is pure genius! Rather than asking for a favor, Nehemiah explains the situation back home–just facts. In response to the information, the king asks him “What are you requesting?” Do you see the strategy? God has allowed Nehemiah to ask for a favor without losing his life! And Nehemiah continues with his next strategic move–the Scriptures record, “So I prayed to the God of heaven.”

Looking for a favor? Our King invites us all to come boldly to his throne of favor that we may obtain mercy, to find favor to help in our time of need. In the Greek, this phrase means, “in the nick of time.” Prayer really works. All it takes is practice!

Published in: on April 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Nehemiah 1 & 2: May I Ask a Favor? Part 1

Would you ask a favor from the only person who could help you out of a serious dilemma if you knew that person also might just kill you if you asked? That’s the dilemma that Nehemiah faces with Artaxerxes, king of Persia.

You may be familiar with the story from the Bible. Nehemiah, the king’s cup bearer, holds one of the highest positions in Persia. He has just received word that Jerusalem is in shambles. The social, economic, political, and religious condition is deplorable, and he is the only family member in a position to help–but doing so may cost him his life.

Nehemiah, which means the LORD of consolation, responds to the bad news with one of the most incredible plans in all of history. And he needed an incredible plan because the last person who asked the king for a favor found himself tied down in the hot sun with honey poured over his face. Or consider the elderly father who gave king Xerxes a large sum of money plus five of his six sons to fight in the king’s war. When he asked that his sixth son remain at home, the enraged king ordered the son cut in half. He then forced his army to march through the severed body as a lesson for what happens when you ask a Persian king for a favor.

Imagine for a moment that you are Nehemiah. How would you approach a situation that you know is probably not going to turn out in your favor? Nehemiah’s tactic is brilliant, but even he didn’t expect what he was about to get…and we’ll get the rest of the story in the next Lamplighter Moment!

Tunnel Vision, Part 3

Recently I learned something about my relationship to my dad that rocked my world. Everyone who knows me knows that I love to work. Whether I’m gardening, reading, writing, landscaping, speaking, studying, digging, or chopping wood, I just enjoy being productive. But I wasn’t always this way.

As I shared in part 1 and part 2 of this Lamplighter Moment, my love for work was connected to my dad’s assignment to dig a tunnel under our patio. As I wrote earlier, breaking through to the other side was a monumental moment for me. But until recently, I didn’t understand that it wasn’t the actual breakthrough and accomplishment of a difficult task that birthed this spirit of motivation in me; it was something else. Something so powerful that I have passed it on to my children without even realizing it.

Before I tell you about this powerful catalyst–a catalyst that can turn even a lazy child into a hard worker–let me share briefly about my three adult children. Jonathan, my oldest, is a successful commercial broker in California and possesses the Hamby work ethic. My daughter Jennifer is the part time art director at Lamplighter, teaches art to children and adults, is the founder of Jache Art Studios, and has a pet portrait business. My youngest son, David, recently graduated from college, works as a manager for Apple, and refurbishes and resells classic motorcycles.

Each of my children possesses a phenomenal work ethic. I am very proud of this area of their lives and have spent a significant amount of time encouraging and preparing them in this. I passed down to my children what my dad passed down to me. You see, when I broke through that wall of dirt, the first thing I heard on the other side was my dad cheering for me. His cheering and favor upon me during that moment changed the course of my life. It wasn’t the breakthrough of the dirt; it was the breakthrough of my father’s pleasure and affirmation.

There isn’t a lot of recorded dialogue between Jesus and his Father, but what we do have speaks volumes. Listen in: “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” God the Father speaks these words at his Son’s baptism and again speaks these same words at the Mount of Transfiguration. These words speak of identity (This is my . . . son), of loving affirmation (my beloved son), and pleasure (in whom I am well pleased). The second time the Father speaks he also adds “Hear ye him,” which speaks of calling.

When my dad cheered for me it sparked a motivation that has now been passed on to the next generation. His cheers represented the pleasure he enjoyed because of my triumph, and his words conveyed his loving affirmation. Though this was enough to spark a motivational chain of productive work that has reached three generations, it is not enough to prepare our children for life. Our children need their identity confirmed, our love expressed, our pleasure for them affirmed, and their future calling validated. If we give our children what the Father gave His Son, we’ll see children who will more aptly discern the will of God, be willing to endure adversity, yield to authority, and follow convictions with confidence as they walk humbly with their God.

Tunnel Vision, Part 3

Recently I realized something about my relationship to my dad that rocked my world. Everyone who knows me knows that I love to work. But I wasn’t always like this.

As I shared in parts 1 and 2 of this moment, my love for work was connected with my dad’s assignment to dig a tunnel under our patio.

Breaking through to the other side of the patio was a monumental moment for me. But until recently, I didn’t understand that it wasn’t actually the accomplishment of a difficult task that birthed this spirit of motivation in me; it was something else…something so powerful that I have passed it on to my children unintentionally.

Let me share briefly about my three adult children. Jonathan, my oldest, is a successful commercial broker in California and possesses an amazing work ethic. My daughter Jennifer is the part time art director at Lamplighter, teaches art to children and adults, is the founder of Jache Art Studios, has a pet portrait business and also loves to rock climb. My youngest son David recently graduated from college, works for Apple as a manager and refurbishes and resells classic motorcycles.

Each of my children them has a solid work ethic. It is one of the areas that I have been most proud of and spent the most time encouraging and preparing them for. I passed down to my children what my dad passed down to me. This powerful catalyst can even turn a lazy child into a hard worker. You see, when I broke through that wall of dirt, the first thing I heard on the other side was my dad cheering for me. His cheering and favor upon me during that moment changed the course of my life. It wasn’t the breakthrough of the dirt; it was the breakthrough of my father’s pleasure and affirmation.

We don’t have a lot of recorded dialogue between Jesus and his Father, but what we do have speaks volumes. Listen in: “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” God the Father speaks these words at his Son’s baptism and again speaks these same words at the Mount of Transfiguration. These words speak of identity (This is my son), of relationship (my beloved son), and pleasure (in whom I’m well pleased). When my dad cheered for me it sparked a motivation that I’ve now passed on to the next generation. Can you imagine what could happen if we’d all begin to connect like this with our children?

Tunnel Vision, Part 2

Yesterday I explained how my dad had asked me to dig a trench under the patio in order to lay a new sewer line. With one week to complete the project, I spent most of my time devising an easy way to complete this insurmountable assignment. With just two days left, I still hadn’t found a solution to my dilemma.

After digging down one foot I knew this was impossible. Surely Dad would understand. Well, he didn’t! As soon as he came home, he went out to inspect my work. Without saying a word, he began digging.

“What’s wrong with him?” I thought. “Go ahead and dig–you’ll see!” But the dirt was flying and Dad was digging. He had worked hard all week. All I had done was work hard to figure out how to get out of work. After about twenty minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore. I took the shovel out of his hand and began digging.

From 7:00 until 11:00 pm, I worked vigorously. I was more than halfway under the patio, now digging with a coffee can. At 1:00 am, my head poked through to the other side–I did it!

As soon as my head poked through, I noticed a light from above. It was my dad shining his flashlight down on me. He was watching the entire time from the bedroom window, and when he saw me break through, he proudly applauded!

That experience changed me. Part of my character was forged, which has been an essential component of my life ever since.

“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:3, 4).

Work truly is a gift of God–and for those who endure, there is light at the end of the tunnel!

Tunnel Vision, Part 1

As I reflect back on my childhood, there is one thing I remember vividly–WORK! My mother had me vacuuming floors as early as I can remember and doing those dreaded socks was cruel and unusual punishment. As I grew older, my father always had something planned for the weekend . . . landscaping, mixing concrete, digging holes for new trees, or loading rocks for the drainage ditch.

There was something else that I remembered growing up and that is that I hated to WORK! Can one really grow to love work? Isn’t work part of the curse? Absolutely not! Work is not only for enjoyment but is a gift of God according to the Preacher in Ecclesiastes. (2:24-26; 5:19) If this is true, then why do so many see work as a curse, just waiting for Friday to come?

I can still remember the day when work turned from drudgery to joy. I was twelve years old, and we needed a new sewer line for our house. Rather than digging up our newly paved driveway, my father decided that a tunnel could be dug under our thirty-foot-long concrete patio, thus redirecting the sewer line.

My dad was an iron worker, and since this was his busiest time of year, he asked me to dig the tunnel before he came home the following week. With a smile, he assured me that it could be done, “one shovelful at a time.” Immediately I began to plan how this could best be accomplished, or rather, how I could do the job with the least amount of work. I remember thinking that there must be a machine that could burrow under this patio, and with the press of a button–presto–it would be done.

After digging into solid clay, I realized immediately that this was an impossible task. Once dad saw the clay he would surely come to his senses. Well, dad came home that Friday and what happened next would change my work ethic and life until this very day . . . find out what happened in our next Daily Moment!

An Age Change is Coming!

“Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel . . . But every one of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, or his sickle, and the charge was two-thirds of a shekel . . .”

In this passage, we see the children of Israel subservient to their enemies and subject to price gouging tactics. Why? The time period is the beginning of the Iron Age. As the result of a famine and wars, the tin trade was disrupted, resulting in a shift from the Bronze Age (you need tin to make Bronze) to the Iron Age. Because complacent Israel did not foresee this inevitable shift, they lacked the technological training to compete on a global scale and were therefore left behind.For decades they were subject to foreign powers because of their complacency.

Not only were the Israelites subservient to their enemies, but the Philistines took full advantage of their technological superiority, exercising price gouging tactics when it came time to sharpen their plows and axes. Does this sound vaguely similar to our current gas prices? Perhaps the Apostle Paul had this in mind when he challenged the Thessalonians with the following plea:

“But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12).

I believe that we are observing a similar crisis today. We must look beyond our dependence of computer technology and amusements, and sharpen our skills agriculturally, biologically, medicinally, horticulturally, and any other -ally that can be cultivated to represent the image of God on earth.

If our enemies one day disabled our satellites, paralyzing our computer networks, would you have sufficient skills to be productive and independent? Israel didn’t see the Iron Age coming; and they served Eglon king of Moab for the next eighteen years.

Published in: on April 23, 2012 at 12:36 pm  Comments (1)  

Not A Joking Matter

Not a Joking Matter

Once, I received a humorous email from a friend that made me laugh so hard that it brought me to tears. So I sent the story to my brother-in-law and my two adult boys.

My youngest son replied, “What’s this?” Deep inside, there was a still small voice telling me that something was wrong. You see, the humorous story had one crude remark. The story was quite harmless, but my youngest son was letting me know that he had higher expectations for me.

But I drowned out the voice of conviction. After all, most of my family had been prodding me for years to lighten up. But then I received an email from my sister-in-law who had read the story before her husband. She wrote simply, “Great story, pastor Hamby.” Seeing the title “pastor” in the address I could tell that she did not approve. Still, I wasn’t willing to let her rule my conscience . . . the story was no big deal, and besides, her husband would get a good laugh.

Then I received another letter–not an email–from a man named Paul. He was writing to a group of believers who had not understood the cancerous effects of crude joking. This is what he wrote: “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:4). God had convicted me and I realized that he was calling me to repentance and holiness.

The world desperately wants us to join in on superficial fun that robs us of eternal joy. That joy can only come to the pure in heart, for it is the pure in heart who see God, as well as the incredible life He’s planned for us!

Wealth with Wings Like Eagles

What Bible verse do you think of when you hear the phrase, “wings like eagles?”

Proverbs 23:4-5 come to mind for me:

“Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.”

I can imagine that many wished they had learned this truth before the economy started to decline. If only more Christians would see that their future is not secure in investments, 401 K’s, or even in silver and gold, but in storing up treasures in heaven.

A couple of years again I spoke at a conference in one of the more affluent areas of our nation. Yet even in this wealthy community I saw fear and insecurity. I learned that one multimillionaire had lost millions of dollars and had only eight million remaining. Thinking he had no hope, he took his life. My heart goes out to his family, but can you see how his reality had become distorted? He viewed his money as his god, and when his god began to dwindle, so also did his hope. That is why the Scriptures teach us to “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy . . .” (1 Timothy 6:17).

It is certain that we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out–except for people. Let us invest our lives in our families, in endeavors that influence others to store up treasures in heaven.