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


Praying in Jesus’ Name

What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name? The third chapter of Colossians sheds some light on what often becomes a cliché phrase thoughtlessly tacked on to the end of a prayer. To pray in Jesus’ name simply means that you are requesting to represent Jesus, just as an ambassador meets with leaders from other countries in the name of his leader and country. In the Old Testament, a message would be delivered with the words: “I come in the name of the king,” meaning “I come as a representative for the king.”

Colossians 3:17 reminds us: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (English Standard Version)

Or in the New Living Translation:

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”

To pray in Jesus’ name is to say that you desire to represent Jesus. If you are praying for a restored marriage, you are asking God to give you the strength to represent Jesus as you pursue reconciliation. If you are praying for the changed heart of a teen, you are asking God to help you represent Christ in your outreach to him or her.

It’s time to drop the rehearsed ending and move it to the front. When we come to the throne of grace requesting the privilege of representing our Lord from the onset, it may shift our emphasis from our needs to His desires.

A Soft Answer

When our children have committed an offense, how do we respond? The natural tendency of our flesh is to protect ourselves and our image, allowing anger to escalate and tempers to flare in order to avoid the real heart issues. In self-preservation we insist on having the last word rather than seeking to understand. Too often self-love hinders our ability to reach the hearts of our children. But God’s Word tells us that “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”

We must break down the barriers that squelch communication, and once again bring about an environment in which we can look beyond the offense and into the heart. No matter how wrong they may be, we are now controlled by the Spirit of God–not by our own selfish heart–and are in a position to provide guidance.

When the prophet Nathan confronted King David with his sin, he didn’t become irate. Rather, he approached David with a story and concluded with the simple statement: “You are the man.” A simple story and a simple statement were all it took to break the heart of the king. Just as Nathan used wisdom when dealing with David, we too can help our children through words that convey wisdom and truth.

If anger consistently controls your life and rears its ugly head whenever you are confronted with a challenge, perhaps now is the time to seek help from a godly pastor, counselor, or wise older couple. Take off your mask and allow yourself to be helped. If we want to be like Christ, then we must be willing to humble ourselves, pray, and seek His help.

It is now time that we confess our faults one to another, and allow God to fill us with His love, joy, peace, longsuffering, and gentleness. It is never too late to change. There is no situation in life that is beyond the life-changing power of our awesome God!

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The Screwdriver

I’ll never forget the day my oldest son called me on his cell phone and asked me to bring him a screwdriver! Can you imagine? What I gave him was a piece of my mind. Then my wife asked who was on the phone. When I told her who it was and what he wanted, she told me that she would bring the screwdriver to our son! “No you won’t!!” I replied.

Supper was ruined and everyone was upset over a ridiculous screwdriver; all of this was caused by my lazy son! Well, that’s what I thought was the problem.

Later that week, I shared what happened with a friend of mine and he agreed with me that my wife should “Absolutely not!” have brought our son the screwdriver. I was relieved and vindicated. It is not often that I am in the right when I share a family conflict with him.

But my vindication only lasted for a moment. As I was departing he said, “You should have gotten it!” “WHAT?!” “That’s right” he said. “You should have gotten the screwdriver because that is the only way that you’re going to break the cycle of self-centeredness. He learned it from you. All those years, he has heard his father say, ‘get this and help me with that, and when you’re done I need you to do this and that.’ Your son needs to see you serve; then–and only then–will he learn to serve as well.”

It’s now fifteen years later. I’m happy to say that my friend’s counsel was a turning point in our lives. My son turned out to be one of the most selfless people I know. Me? I’m not what I used to be and by the grace of God I’m getting closer to who I should be.

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3).

Daddy, Come Push Me!

“Daddy, come and push me!” When my daughter was about 8 years old she would often call for me to push her on the rope swing. She could stretch the rope all the way to the porch and jump off–swinging high into the air–and then hit the tree with her feet, spinning like a top.

It wasn’t often that I could push her, as I was in seminary full time and also raising 70 sheep and 22 horses. Trying to give my children the perfect childhood and at the same time accomplish my career goals with my Type A personality took a toll on my health. Anger started to surface and as my health started to deteriorate, I found myself demanding more from my family to help with the chores and demands of the farm. I ended up with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, ulcerative bleeding colitis, and severe depression. God was slowly removing my ability to control anything so that I would learn to be totally dependent upon Him. I knew in my head that unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain who build it, but this truth hadn’t reached my heart yet.

My health continued to deteriorate, and I finally reached a point where I could hardly get out of bed. I will never forget the calls of her childhood–“Daddy, please come and push me.” I didn’t have the energy–I would give her a quick push and that’s all I could muster. It took thirteen years for me to learn that His grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in our weakness. When I finally gave God back the reigns of my life, my health was restored. On Jennifer’s 16th birthday, I built a rope swing in her bedroom. It’s still up today and serves as a reminder that it’s “. . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD . . . .”

Help! I caught my child cheating!

Have you ever found your child cheating on his schoolwork? While you need to see this behavior as a red flag, I would encourage you to look at what might be the underlying cause of your child’s actions.

Cheating is a form of dishonesty. Two reasons for cheating are a fear of consequences and low self-esteem.

Have you placed undue pressure on your child to get good grades? Then perhaps fear is motivating his actions. If fear is the reason for cheating, then not only does the child need help, but his parents do as well. Parents who place undue pressure upon their children cause unnecessary fear and insecurity. As the level of fear increases, the level of reasoning and risk-taking decreases.

If your child isn’t acting out of fear, perhaps the problem is low self-esteem. In this case, the best action you can take is to focus on helping your child succeed in at least one area of his life. Make a big deal out of small accomplishments. Inspiring role models abound in the plethora of books from YWAM, Vision Forum, Lamplighter Publishing, and many Christian publishers today.

The greatest role model is Jesus. Take a moment to observe the trusting relationship the Father has with His son. The Father encourages his son in the presence of others. He says, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” He gives His son a sense of identity and affirmation.

Children need their parents to affirm that they are special and that they are unconditionally loved. We need to build our children up in front of others, just as the Father did with His Son.

1 John 4:18 reminds us that: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

Recommended Resources:
*Receive FREE shipping promo code MOMENTS with your order.

For Parents:
The Education of a Child, by Francois Fenelon
The Education of Child Parenting Seminar, by Mark Hamby
Families Where Grace is in Place by VanVonderen

For Children:
Basil ; Or, Honesty and Industry (ages 6 to 11)
Jack the Conqueror (ages 6-11)
Hand on the Bridle (ages 10-16)
Falsely Accused in the High Sierras (ages 12 and up)

A Hardened Heart and Music Lessons

I once received a letter from a desperate mother who was dealing with an 11-year old son who she described as hardened and rebellious.

The mother wrote to me and mentioned one particular incident involving her son’s decision in wanting to learn violin. She was able to find a violin teacher who was able to start the lessons the very next morning. Feeling unprepared to start so soon, the child, in a fit of unrestrained anger, yelled at his mother, telling her to cancel the meeting. After cancelling the meeting, she then calmly talked with him about his need to earn the privilege of learning violin.

Here’s what I shared with this mom:

The way you handled everything was perfect. Continue to be consistent in your disciplining attitude while at the same time not allowing your leverage to turn into a hammer over his head. Your hand of chastisement must also be a loving one, turning his heart toward God’s design for living in grace and truth.

Once he starts the lessons, you will want to make sure that you no longer use his lessons as a punishment. He now needs to be responsible to his teacher. However, make sure that he and his teacher understand that in the future, if he responds in the same way concerning his lessons, you will have to cancel violin permanently. If there is a cost incurred in the last cancellation, have him pay for the teacher’s loss of time.

Try to communicate both the rewards and consequences with a loving spirit so he knows that you would not want to do this unless absolutely necessary. Lastly, remember that mercy is the best tool to soften a hardened heart. It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance.

Climbing Mountains

I was traveling with a group of students once when a conversation sparked a very dramatic moment that led four of the five ninth grade boys to repent and receive Jesus as their Savior. Words cannot describe this experience.

Immediately, the boys started to spontaneously quote Scripture that they had memorized when they were children. Then suddenly one of the boys yelled out, “Stop the car!” I thought I had run someone over. I pulled the car off the side of the expressway while the other cars and vans pulled off behind me. Then one of the boys shouted, “Up there! We’re going to the top!”

There was a mountain top that they desired to climb. So there we were–about fifteen ninth graders and teachers on the side of an expressway–climbing up a steep hill. But when we reached the top we were speechless. The sun was starting to set. Below, magenta-colored ripples reflected in the lake. Then, one of the boys climbed a huge rock, and, with his hands outstretched, began to cry out to God, asking for forgiveness and thanking Him for His goodness.

Now remember, these are 9th grade boys…in front of their peers! The next day the 9th graders had the day off of school, but there they were…all of them. Before I could start teaching Bible class one of the boys asked if he could share what God had done in his life. As he began to share with our student body, it wasn’t long before 83 students walked forward to receive Christ as Savior or rededicate their lives to the Lord…but this didn’t happen until 10 teachers and a janitor walked forward first.

I love mountain top experiences, but real and lasting change occurs when we lead the way with humility down below. After all, that’s just what Christ did:

“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

Relentless

The following Lamplighter Moment was written by Anthony Barr, a 2011 Lamplighter Guild alumnus who interned with Lamplighter and is now on staff. Enjoy!

I was recently asked to contact a church to find out the name of a ministry that the church sponsored. I emailed the church, but time passed and I didn’t hear back from them. I then sent a follow-up message online. Still, I did not hear from the church.

Finally, I received an email from Mark; here is an excerpt from that email:

“Anthony I need that information about the ministry…Have you found this info yet? So far whenever I have asked for any kind of information you have been extremely relentless in your pursuit so I’m a little confused as to why you haven’t been able to obtain this info…

In the future, here’s what I need from you…you can approach obtaining information like this in a number of ways. First, never depend on emails to obtain information; always call and talk to someone.

Next, read A Message to Garcia.* Next, go to the source and ask them yourself…if you can’t drive or fly, then walk or hitchhike . . . Though this might sound sarcastic, it is not. And I realize that given your age, I wouldn’t really expect you to hitchhike (that’s against the law), but I need you to see that every assignment has an urgency attached to it.”

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

This passage from Ephesians reminds us that we should live wisely and make the most of every opportunity, for the days are evil. Sometimes opportunities are easily spotted, but often opportunities are hidden in mundane, routine, everyday assignments.

We must be relentless in our pursuit, making the most of every opportunity!

Bound in the Bundle of Life

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Bound in the bundle of life?”

I discovered this phrase in the Old Testament book of 1st Samuel, chapter 25. The text reads, “Yet a man is risen to pursue thee, and to seek thy soul: but the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the LORD thy God . . .”

To be bound in the bundle of life is to know that you are protected and cared for deeply. When valuable items were transported during biblical times, they were wrapped in cloth, cotton and other soft materials for protection. They were then wrapped again and again to ensure safe arrival.

These words “bound in the bundle of life” came from a wise woman named Abigail who was trying to protect David from ruining his future. David was about to kill Nabal for insulting him, but Abigail’s reminder of God’s value and protection over him gave him the inner strength to leave the matter in God’s hands.

David faced many difficult days ahead, but it was all was part of God’s plan to prepare a king. As I look back on my own life I see difficult circumstances and relationships as a part of God’s sovereign plan to prepare me for what I am doing today. If I had resisted or taken matters into my own hands, I would never have been granted the privilege of starting Lamplighter Publishing, Lamplighter Theatre Lamplighter Moments, and now, the Lamplighter Guild. I have learned–and hopefully will continue to learn–that my life has been “bound in the bundle of life with the Lord [my] God.” Consider these wise words of Abigail today, and ask yourself, is a bitter and vengeful spirit forcing God’s plans for you to be postponed?

Bewitched

Did you ever watch the television series Bewitched back in the 60’s? There was Samantha with her powerful twitching–but charming–nose, Darren the bumbling husband, and Endora, the mother-in-law who would have loved to turn her son-in-law into a toad. I loved watching this program as a child. It was very ‘innocent’ and if there was ever a program where witches could be viewed as beautiful and charming, it was found in this humorous series .

I know . . . some of you can’t believe what you are reading. You’re right. And as a child, I was unable to discern what I was watching. This series–produced for family enjoyment–was an area where Satan was at work. He even placed his stamp of mockery on the Christian community as they sat in their homes enjoying what appeared on the outside to be innocent fun.

The stamp? The name of the mother-in-law: Endora. The writer and producer of Bewitched knew exactly what they were conveying. The word Endora comes from the book of I Samuel 28, where Saul disobediently consults with the witch of Endor.
God made it clear that witches were an abomination. In fact, in Exodus 22, we read ”
You shall not permit a sorceress to live.” Witches were not to be found among the children of Israel. Three thousand years later, they were brought into our homes and written into our books as God’s children began to enjoy them.

Our culture is saturated with powerful Endoras and beautiful Samanthas that disable our powers of discernment. Why? Like Saul, we fail to know God’s Word and warnings. In Hebrews 5 we read: “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”