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

The Law of Jealousy

One of the most bizarre passages of Scripture is found in Numbers chapter 5, where God presents the law of jealousy. If “the spirit of jealousy” came upon a man, he was to take his wife to the priest, where she would undergo an emotionally draining interrogation that required her to either admit her guilt of adultery or maintain her innocence. If she admitted sin, then she and her lover were stoned according to the law. If she pleaded innocent, but was actually guilty, then she would face a most unusual trial. She was to drink a mixture of dust that was swept from the floor and mixed with ink that was washed from a written parchment. This mysterious concoction somehow would cause her belly to swell and her thigh to rot if she was guilty. If you ask me, that’s quite a mouthful!

This punishment served to deter sexual sin in this new and impressionable community. It also served as protection from an obsessively jealous husband. We must remember that sexual sin was not uncommon, given the Egyptian lifestyle. In order to reshape the thinking of the community, God imposed a strict standard so that the people might fear.

This ordeal was psychologically and emotionally tormenting. I’m sure the death of Nadab and Abihu was still fresh in the community’s mind. If this woman was guilty, she would also die of God’s judgment. If innocent, then her husband would bear the shame of bringing before the community a false accusation. His jealousy would be looked upon as a blight; he would now shoulder the pressure of community disdain for his immature, jealous response. That is, of course, if his wife gave no reason for him to distrust her.

We are to give no occasion to prompt the suspicion of an immoral relationship. We need to raise the standard and abstain from all appearance of evil. It is time to raise the standard–a little community pressure might be what’s needed.

Recommended Reading:

How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong

When People Are Big and God is Small

TrueFaced, by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch (not available from Lamplighter)

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A Modern Day Good Samaritan

Are you familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan, found in the 10th chapter of Luke’s gospel? Imagine how the story might be told in our modern times . . .

A traveler is attacked and robbed, and then left for dead along the road. No one stops to help except for a Samaritan.

But when this would-be rescuer tried calling 9-1-1, he learned that recent budget cuts had left police, paramedic, and fire rescue services with no available units to send. Private ambulance services were available–but only with a substantial cash deposit prior to transport of the patient.

Nearby hospitals and medical clinics were also unable to help since the injured man’s wallet was stolen and therefore lacked any proof of health insurance coverage.

Frustrated, the Samaritan ran several miles to the nearest town, searching for a drugstore where he might buy first aid supplies. But because he lacked the right credit card or another form of identification, his out-of-town check was refused–no matter how urgent the circumstances.

As a last resort, the Samaritan located a church that might help–perhaps by loaning him their van for the rescue attempt. But as the smiling pastor patiently explained, there was simply too much liability risk for them to get involved.

A friend of mine always said, “Serving others is never convenient!” But it is always rewarding. I have found that one of the best ways to overcome a dull and depressing life is to take our minds off ourselves and begin caring for the needs of others.

“. . . give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).

Recommended Reading:

True to the Last

Published in: on June 13, 2012 at 12:07 pm  Comments (1)  

Pounding Nails

Fifteen-year old Kevin was helping us with the construction of our house–and doing a great job! But one day, I found Kevin pounding a dozen nails into a 2 by 12 truss system that didn’t really need any extra support. When I asked him why he was pounding the nails, his response astonished me. When he finished all of his work for the day he went to his dad and asked what he should do when he was finished with all of his work. His dad said, “Go pound nails and be productive!”–and Kevin did exactly that! I have never forgotten that moment.

Now, a little over a decade later, I see a contrast. I see government spending itself into oblivion without being productive. A society that consumes more than it produces cannot long remain great. It is such a simple concept. We must start being productive. It is time to restore and invigorate the cultural standard of excellence and hard work.

I was talking with a very successful businessman who is now in his mid-seventies. I asked him what formed the foundation of his success and he told me: he is still working 14 hours per day, six days a week. There are no short cuts!

How much more can we consume before we ourselves are consumed? Other nations are not our biggest threat–we are. It is time to heed Solomon’s proverbial wisdom: “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house” (Proverbs 24:27).

There are too many today trying to build their homes and their futures without the preparation and perseverance of a solid framework of biblical values. It’s time to start doing something, even if it’s pounding nails into a board. Maybe someone will see you and open a door to future work–that’s what happened for Kevin! He became my most valued employee and continues to be one of the most admirable workers I’ve ever known.

Recommended Reading:

Stick to the Raft

Basil; Or, Honesty and Industry

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Studying the Word…For a year

Recently, a mother wrote to me and asked me for my opinion on an idea she had; her idea was to have her kids study the Word of God for a whole here…as their schoolwork. Here is what I wrote to her:

I recommend using the video series, That the World May Know by Ray Vander Laan. I would also include the history of each time period…for example, I would recommend studying the Bronze and Iron ages in connection with the book of Joshua and Judges. [ Note: the iron age started in Judges.] I would spend a significant amount of time there. I would also have them study Hebrew and later Greek during this year of study. Oh, and I would encourage you to go to Israel and tour the land with a good group (talk about an awesome field trip!) I might be taking a group in April, Lord willing.

Basically, studying the history, archaeology, and context of Scripture will provide a wonderful accompaniment to your studies as you use Scripture as your main text.


Published in: on June 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lightning Bugs

Lightning bugs–they’re every child’s summer pastime at one point or another!

What you might not realize is that the lightning bugs that light up the sky at night are the males. Would you like to know what the females are doing? They’re down in the ground, hiding under bushes, and sending up little flickers of light to attract the males. When the male sees this, he zooms down to the female. Can you guess what the female does next? No–she eats him!

The lightning bug has a chemical inside of it called luciferen. This chemical was untapped by mankind until just a few years ago. This chemical is what creates the lightning bug’s light.

Luciferen is also the Latin word for Lucifer–meaning “light bringer.” Lucifer, the most beautiful of all God’s angelic realm, was created as an angel of light. In Ezekiel 28 the Scripture tells us that he was once extremely beautiful. In Ezekiel 28 & Isaiah 14, we are told that created in Lucifer’s body are precious gems and musical instruments. God created Lucifer to be the cherubim that covered the throne of God. He was the reflection of God’s glory. But Lucifer turned his back and no longer wished to reflect the glory of God.

Today we have a distorted view of Lucifer–we view him as a demon with a pointed tail and horns on his head. But don’t be fooled. He offers sights and sounds and experiences that are extremely beautiful and pleasureable. In fact, according to the Bible, sin is pleasurable. All around us Lucifer uses alluring sights and sounds to attract the unsuspecting so that they might be taken captive at his will, or, like the lightning bug, be devoured.

Dear Dad, Part 2

In our last Lamplighter Moment, I shared some advice for a father whose daughter was making some poor choices. Today, I’d like to address another question–how can this same father make sense of his daughter’s frustrating mood swings and give her the guidance she needs to rise above her moods? Here’s my response to this father:

During the teenage years, your child’s mood swings are normal! The infusion of new hormones is generating more impulses than General Electric! At the same time, your daughter needs to learn that these mood swings are a God-given opportunity for her to become self-disciplined. When she is able to discipline herself and master her moods, then you should treat her as an adult. Give her a vision for understanding the difficulties of this life as God’s curriculum for her character development.

You mentioned that her behavior is making you angry. There are two parenting principles in the New Testament.

• #1: Don’t provoke your children (Ephesians 6:4).
• #2: Don’t provoke your children (Colossians 3:21).

It sounds like you are provoking your daughter. Show her that you are on her side; remember to exercise mercy. This doesn’t mean that you don’t discipline, but discipline without anger or harshness. Keep in mind that the boundaries you set for yourself will be the boundaries she will most likely follow. If you get angry and have a short fuse, then her mood swings will most likely remain untamed.

We as dads are often blind to our own actions and the root motivations of our hearts. Your daughter needs her father’s love and unconditional acceptance. A father holds the heart of his daughter in his hands…be gentle.

“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” (Psalm 103:8).
“He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10).
“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD has compassion upon them that fear him” (Psalm 103:13).

Recommended Material:
Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp

Published in: on June 9, 2012 at 10:49 am  Comments (9)  

Dear Dad, Part 1

Recently, a dad wrote to me, expressing his concern and frustrations about his teen daughter’s poor choices and irritating mood swings. Here’s what I wrote to him:

Dear Dad: First, choose your battles wisely. She is a young lady now and needs to be making some of her own decisions, even if they seem to be poor choices. While she is living at home (instead of alone or with peers), this is a safe time for her to learn from poor choices. Often our control of others is evidence of our lack of trust in God. Those we love the most become the idols of our heart, as shown in our inability to relinquish control.

Your daughter is God’s possession, and you are a caretaker. Often parents desire perfect children so their own images will be exalted. Your daughter is not going to be perfect. You need to celebrate her strengths and praise her as much as possible.

In Psalm 103 we learn that God does not deal with us according to our sins. Try to maintain an imbalance of mercy and judgment–God is extremely imbalanced in this regard…1000 to 4! His mercy is to a thousand generations and his judgment to the third and fourth generations.

Remember also that God’s compassions are new every morning. Make sure yours are likewise. If your daughter doesn’t experience her dad’s compassions and affirmation, she will continue to look to others for what she desperately needs.

In our next Lamplighter moment, I’ll share how this same father can help his daughter deal with the mood swings she’s experiencing!

Recommended Materials:

The Return of The Prodigal Son by Henry Nouwen (not available from Lamplighter)

Spit in Your Face, Part 2

Yesterday we talked about “extremes” that God would go to in order to teach his children about holiness. Please understand that “extremes” must be governed within the framework of mercy and grace, and only used for those children or adults who purposely disobey after much guidance and correction have been given. Within this framework of parenting, we must never forget that God’s mercy is a thousand times greater than his judgment. A good example of “extreme parenting” is given to us by a woman named Sarah Edwards, the wife of the great preacher, Jonathan Edwards.

In Elisabeth Dodds’ book, Marriage to a Difficult Man, she writes, “Sarah knew how to make her children regard and obey her cheerfully, without loud angry words, much less heavy blows. She seldom punished them, and in speaking to them, used gentle and pleasant words. If any correction was necessary, she did not administer it in passion; when she had occasion to reprove and rebuke she would do it in few words, without noise; she had need to speak but once; she was cheerfully obeyed because she convinced her children of the reasonableness of her request; murmuring and answering again were not known among them.

The kind and gentle treatment they received from their mother, while she strictly and punctiliously maintained her parental authority, seemed naturally to . . . promote a filial respect and affection, and to lead them to a mild, tender treatment of each other. Quarreling and contention, which too frequently take place among children, were in her family unknown.

She carefully observed the first appearance of resentment and ill will in her young children . . . showed her displeasure and suppressed it to the uttermost; yet not by angry, wrathful words, which often provoke children to wrath . . . Her system of discipline was begun at a very early age and it was her rule to resist the first, as well as every subsequent exhibition of temper or disobedience in the child . . . wisely reflecting that until a child will obey his parents he can never be brought to obey God.”

Parenting books are a dime a dozen…they come and go with the winds of culture. But there are three books that remain as the most insightful and life-changing of all the parenting books I’ve read over the last twenty years–
• The Education of a Child by Fenelon
• Families Where Grace is in Place by VanVonderen (for the controlling dominant and out of control parent)
• The short but powerful insights by J.C. Ryle of the 19th century, Duties of Parents.

Questions? Comments? Join the discussion on Facebook today!

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Spit in Your Face!

What would you do you if you saw a parent spitting in their child’s face?

In the Old Testament, if you got hit by spit, you would be considered unclean. In fact, according to Leviticus 15:8, if someone unclean spit on you, you would have to wash your clothes and bathe and be unclean until the evening. Deuteronomy 25:9 says that if a brother refused to marry his dead brother’s wife, she was to remove his sandal from his foot and then spit in his face. Both the spitting and loss of a shoe represented disdain and humiliation which made a man think twice before he decided to turn his back on his family responsibilities.

In Numbers 12, Miriam and Aaron are severely chastised by God for speaking against Moses behind his back. The penalty for Miriam is an immediate break out of leprosy and intense humiliation. Though her punishment didn’t last long, I’m sure she never spoke rashly against those in authority again.

Note what God says about Miriam’s behavior after he administers this unusual short term punishment. He says, “if her father had but spit in her face, should she should not be ashamed seven days?” It would appear that Mariam needed to have her mouth washed out with soap when she was a child. God seems to be indicating that her father didn’t do his job as a parent and as a result, Mariam now as an adult is still using her mouth for harm.

Now, please, understand that I am NOT, I repeat, not ever saying you should spit in your children’s face or wash their mouth with soap…though my mom did that to me when I spoke mouthy as a child…and I thought twice before I ever spoke that way again. But there’s more that we can draw from this unusual section of Scripture. God as our father sees sin as serious, and will go to great lengths to teach us the value of holiness. It is time that we as parents do the same.

Recommended Reading: Families Where Grace is In Place

The Work Should Be Done!

A mother once wrote to me and shared the following:

“I had to run to the store, so I told my 11-year old son to make sure he stayed focused on his math. As I was leaving the house, I shouted out a follow-up and said, ‘The work should be done by the time I get back.’ Apparently my tone and body language threatened him with negative consequences if it was not done. When I returned, I found a totally stressed out, sobbing child. In my wisdom I immediately thought, ‘He’s been goofing off and he’s trying to play me to get me to help him.’

After I reviewed the reality of higher math with him, explained that it gets harder, told him things wouldn’t always be easy for him, and so forth, my son looked at me and said, “Mom, I’m not afraid of the math. I was afraid of getting into trouble with you. The only thing that was going through my head was that it needed to be done before you got back.” Then it dawned on me; my son is a pleaser and all he wants to do is please me. How could I be so blind? I totally stressed him out! We talked; I asked for forgiveness and we hugged.”

Recently, I heard a practical thought that can help us overcome our tendency to overreact and govern others with power and pride. “Suspend judgment and be kind.” Lately, I have been saying this to myself over and over again-“Suspend judgment and be kind.” I think this is what Paul was communicating in Ephesians 4 when he wrote:

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Questions? Comments? Join the discussion on Facebook today!

Recommended Reading:

The Education of a Child by Fenelon (Every parent should read The Education of a Child. I found this 17th century wisdom on parenting to be the best I have ever read.

Let Go & The Dialogues of Fenelon (If you are looking for something that will take you deeper in your walk with Christ, these two devotional books from the 17th century are among my prized possessions.)

Challenge at Runaway Brook – for children ages 6 to 10, this is a great book that deals with almost every family conflict and their resolve. Sibling rivalry? If so, this is a great book for the whole family.

Jack the Conqueror – The title says it all…it is also Lamplighter’s book of the year!

Use Coupon Code: MOMENTS and receive free shipping for orders placed online or by phone. Free shipping offer does not apply to international or distributor orders.