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

Too Close for Comfort, Part 1

Once a woman called and asked if there was something she could do to help her husband stop being so dependent upon her. She said that they have a great marriage, love each other, rarely argue, but he wants to be with her all of the time. She continued by saying that she feels a little suffocated and frustrated that he doesn’t seem to be able to have any individual identity apart from her.

The imbalance of being disconnected or overly-connected with our family surrounds the basic needs of the human heart. Each of us has a need to be separate (identity, contribution), and a need to be close (to be accepted, love and be loved).

To be separate in a positive sense is to define self. But self-revelation depends upon one’s knowledge of God. We understand ourselves and our responsibilities as a parent and spouse in terms of our understanding of God and His relationship to His Son.

An inability to define oneself pushes one to become dictatorial, detached, enmeshed or indulgent; one’s family then becomes the measurement of their self-worth and identity.

To be close in a positive sense is to understand that we have been commissioned by God to provide a service to those he has entrusted in our care.

In the book How Your Church Family Works, Peter Steinke writes: “Separateness and Closeness also produce anxiety. The more intense our anxiety becomes, the more extreme our positions will be. Either we become too remote or too entangled. If we are too anxious about being close, we disengage. We exaggerate separateness. We say things like: ‘I can only count on myself.’ ‘I’m 100% right.’ In the same manner, if we are overanxious about being separate, we enmesh. We are stuck together in an exaggerated way. ‘I can’t live without you.’ ‘I’ll give you what you want for my own peace of mind, at the expense of my own soul.'”

The Scriptures teach that we are to be eager to maintain unity (closeness) in the bond of peace. But in order for unity to be governed by peace, each of us must first speak the truth in love and grow, using our unique God-given gifts (separateness) in order to build one another up in love.

Recommended Resource:

Lamplighter Theatre’s newest audio drama, The White Gypsy, exposes problematic family relationships through an intriguing and captivating story.

The Paradox of Freedom

Soon after my dad went to be with the Lord I knew I needed to spend more time caring for my mom. So I decided that I would learn to fly an airplane to turn a three and one-half hour drive into a fifty-minute flight. After eight weeks of grueling training, studying, and testing, I am now a licensed pilot. It’s kind of ironic because I am afraid of heights–actually, more afraid of falling!

I was more nervous than you can imagine–my knees shook so much it was difficult to keep my feet on the rudder pedals. Maybe that’s why I veered right off the runway on my first attempt!

And then the day came for my solo flight. Could I really do this? My hands were sweating, knees shaking, but I was confident in my training. At sixty knots down the runway I pulled back and I was flying–by myself! The experience has been one of the most challenging and one of the most rewarding of my life.

True freedom and enjoyment in our work comes from sacrifice, diligence, and hard work. It comes with self-discipline. In his book, The Company of the Committed, Elton Trueblood writes, “We have not advanced very far in our spiritual lives if we have not encountered the basic paradox of freedom . . . that we are most free when we are bound. Failure to train rigorously denies our freedom. Discipline is the price of freedom.” Solomon writes, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”

Recommended Reading:

Mary Jones and Her Bible

Published in: on June 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Cursed Fig Tree

Did you ever wonder why Jesus cursed the fig tree that had no fruit, especially since it wasn’t the time of year for figs? On the surface, Jesus is hungry, the tree has no fruit, and as a result, the tree gets dusted! (pun intended)

At first glance it appears that the tree did nothing to deserve its demise. But there’s a clue. The text in Matthew 21 states the tree bore only leaves.

To understand the cursing of the fig tree you need to know that in the springtime there is a certain kind of fig tree that bears figs first and then leaves. When Jesus arrives upon the scene it is early spring and fig trees should not be in full foliage at this time of year.

This fruitless fig tree looked good on the outside, full of leaves, but inside it was barren. This makes even more sense when you connect the cursed fig tree with the previous scene–the cleansing of the temple. Jesus just threw out the money changers, crying out, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.”

The cursing of the fig tree was an illustration to help the disciples to see what had just taken place in the temple. Jesus was teaching them not to live in hypocrisy–looking good on the outside. He was teaching them that if they wanted to have answers to prayer, then they needed to have a fruitful life.

In John 15 we read: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

Recommended Reading:

The Children of Cloverley

Published in: on June 27, 2012 at 11:44 am  Comments (28)  

Storytelling – Missional Art!

Guild teacher Todd Busteed gives us a glimpse at the missional, world-changing art of storytelling!

Published in: on June 23, 2012 at 5:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Anger and Humility

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 issue. 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 turns 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 our children may be, we must be controlled by the Spirit of God-not by our own selfish hearts.

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 was all it took to break the heart of the king.Words of wisdom will have a much greater influence upon our children than words of wrath.

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. It is never too late to change but change always requires the first step of humility. It is only when we humble ourselves that God can lift us up (James 4:10).

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11).

Recommended Reading:
• For Parents: Education of a Child
• For Parents: Families Where Grace is in Place
• For Children: Helen’s Temper
• For Children: The Lamplighter

Use promo code MOMENTS to receive free shipping on your order! Offer does not apply to international or distributor orders.

Published in: on June 23, 2012 at 3:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jesus is God

Recently a Christian young man asked me to help him understand the deity of Jesus. In Philippians 2 Paul states that Jesus did not regard his equality with God a thing to be grasped–to be held onto. While on this earth, Jesus was known to be someone much more than a man, or a prophet, or an angel; Jesus had the power to heal, to give sight, to calm the sea, to raise the dead, and to forgive sins. Only God can give life and only God can forgive sins.

With open eyes, an open heart, and a desire to find, you will soon discover that the Scriptures are filled with abundant proof that . . .

. . . Jesus was indeed God in the flesh. In John 1 we read: “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

. . . Jesus was God before the world existed. In Colossians we read: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth . . . all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Colossians 1).
. . . Jesus is equal with God. In John 5 we read that “the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He . . . also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18).

Furthermore, the prophet Isaiah is emphatic that God will not share or give his glory to another (Isaiah 42:8). Since God, who cannot lie and did give His glory to His Son on the mount of Transfiguration, it can only be concluded that they are one and the same, yet distinct. The beauty about the unexplainable distinct cooperation of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Spirit), is that if God could be explained, He would no longer be God.

Lastly, Jesus angered His opponents quite severely when he said that “before Abraham was, “I AM.”” The “I AM” of the OT was none other than God Himself and everyone who was standing there, knew exactly what Jesus was communicating. But that only stands to reason, that if you are the creator, then you must also be the God of the OT.

Recommended Reading:
Titus: A Comrade of the Cross If you want to read a book that will forever change the way you view the cross and the miraculous events that surrounded it, this is a book you will not be able to put down from beginning to end. Learn about the identity of the two thieves on the cross and what made one thief change his mind about who Christ was and what he deserved…”truly the most inspiring story I’ve ever read!”

Published in: on June 22, 2012 at 11:25 pm  Comments (6)  

An Antidote to Laziness

Is there a remedy to the sluggishness which too often characterizes our nation’s youth? J.C. Ryle, author of The Duties of Parents, offers unique insights on how the divine mandate of work can protect the imagination:

“Train [your children] to a habit of always redeeming the time. Idleness is the devil’s best friend. It is the surest way to give him an opportunity of doing us harm. An idle mind is like an open door, and if Sat4an does not enter in himself by it, it is certain he will throw in something to raise bad thoughts in our souls.

No created being was meant to be idle. Service and work is the appointed portion of every creature of God . . . Work attached to purpose excites the soul and drives the spirit in its creative powers . . .We must have our hands filled, and our minds occupied with something, or else our imaginations will soon ferment and breed mischief” (p. 30-31).

What wisdom Ryle has to offer! And 17th century Fenelon gives us more insight as he writes:

“Suffer then a child to play, mixing instruction with delight: let wisdom appear to him at intervals, and always with a smiling face. Be careful not to fatigue him by an indiscreet exactness . . . it is necessary to find out every means of making those things pleasing to the child which are expected of him; and should you have any thing distressing or difficult to propose, forget not to comfort him with the assurance that a little trouble will be followed by unspeakable satisfaction. But above all things, do not let it appear to the child that you demand from him unnecessary submissions . . .” (The Education of a Child).

It is a wise parent who can make work fun as children learn to bake cookies, start a garden, feed their fish, build a fort, visit a widow, feed the hungry, wash the car, start a business, share the gospel, or raise rabbits, chickens, a goat, or maybe even a calf!

A king who understood the great joy of productive work wrote, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”(Ecclesiastes 2:24, 25)

Recommended Reading:
The Education of a Child
The Duties of Parents (not currently available from Lamplighter)

Use promo code MOMENTS to receive free shipping on your order! Offer does not apply to international or distributor orders.

Blinded by Love

Those who know me know that one of my favorite Bible verses is found in Romans 5, which states that “suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame . . . .” But I realized that I’ve often omitted the last sentence, which states, “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ” What does this mean?

I think I have an illustration that might help. You see, hope is the barometer of our spiritual condition. Little hope…little character…little endurance. It is only when we are willing to endure difficulty that hope is realized. I’m talking about a confident hope that motivates and empowers you to endure the most difficult of storms. How? By love…the love of God that is poured out–or, rather–gushed out in your hearts when you endure.

Here’s the illustration. When I was about three years old we were visiting family who lived on a farm. All that I remember about that trip was when I fell down a steep hill that was filled with briers, chickens, and goats. Before I stopped rolling, I felt my dad pick me up, holding me safely in his arms. I don’t know if this was in my imagination but I also remember him kicking a goat that was coming toward us with his horns in the butting position.

You see, my dad didn’t hesitate to consider the danger or the difficulty of rescuing me. His love for me was greater than the suffering he would have to endure. The measurement of our character and hope can be found in the endurance of difficult relationships and circumstances. If we’re complaining about the thorns and briers of life, then it is an indication that our love for ourselves is greater than our love for others and our love for God. Jesus was willing to be injured by the thorns to be able to reach us with His love. It’s our turn now to do the same for others.

Recommended Reading:
The Lost Clue
The White Dove

Cleaning Fish

“The slothful man roasts not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious” (Proverbs 12:27).

I love fishing, but I hate cleaning the fish afterwards! Many times I have brought my stringer-full home only to carve up the first few and then convince myself that the reward was not worth the work. Cleaning fish takes a long time, and I am usually left frustrated, with an unappetizing pile of guts, scales, and bones. Once the guts and scales are discarded, then you have to flour and fry them and clean up another mess of an oily kitchen!

Recently I went ice fishing with friends and together we caught seventy-five fish! The thought of cleaning them almost put me over the edge–but my friend Charlie was with us. With his razor-sharp knife, he cut quickly and skillfully, resulting in a perfect filet–with no bones, no scales, no guts, and no mess!

Within moments the tender filets were floured, sizzling in the frying pan. The substance of our catch was indeed precious!

In Proverbs, Solomon describes the slothful person who neglects to roast that which he hunted; as a result he does not enjoy the fruit of his labors. In contrast, the hunt of the diligent person is indeed a thrill, and to eat the fruit of his labors brings total satisfaction. He never just hangs his trophy in a tree only to come back the next day to realize the meat is spoiled. The diligent person applies his skill from the beginning to the end; he catches, cleans, and cooks his game and finds that his “substance” is precious.

Many of life’s goals can be fulfilled if we work diligently to sharpen our skills. The sharper the skill, the greater the joy and fulfillment.

-Mark Hamby

Recommended Reading:

Boys of Grit series
Ishmael and Self-Raised

Use promo code MOMENTS to receive free shipping on your order! Offer does not apply to international or distributor orders.

The Cure for Irritability

How do you respond when you’re around irritable people?

Such people often sap me of energy and can ruin at least part of the day. Having walked with Christ for now over 32 years, I think I’m beginning to understand something–these people are often placed in my path by divine design. My response and reaction to their miserable attitude is a reflection of my inner life–my true character. What I despise in others is often what I possess myself.

Granville Walker once said, “Love is the only cure for irritability; for irritability is only another manifestation of self-centeredness. And love that takes a man outside himself and centers the focus of his attention on the well-being of others is its only cure.”

One of my mentors, Francois Fenelon of the 17th century, wrote :

“The Great Physician who sees in you what you cannot see, knows exactly where to place the knife; He cuts swift and deep into your innermost being exposing you for who you really are; but pain is only felt where there is life and where there is life is just the place where death is needed most. Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die it abides alone but if it dies it brings forth much fruit.”

The next time you’re around a miserable person, follow the path that the Apostle Paul outlined for us in Romans 12:

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Recommended Reading:

Let Go, by Fenelon

Published in: on June 15, 2012 at 10:20 am  Comments (2)