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


Permission or Presumption, Part 2

Yesterday we discussed how an answer to prayer led an entire family to catastrophic ruin. In the book of Judges, chapter 1, Judah receives total victory in answer to prayer. In chapter 20, however, twenty-two thousand die in catastrophic defeat after receiving the green light from God. Why would God deliberately lead them to defeat?

A hideous sin has just occurred. A woman has just been murdered and cut up into 12 pieces. As one unified body, the tribes rise to eradicate this evil from their midst. Receiving another green light from God to go and fight, they are again devastated with the catastrophic loss of another eighteen thousand soldiers.

So the question again is, why? First, as I look back in chapter 1, I read that the children of Israel prayed to Yahweh–their covenant-keeping God. In chapter 20 they direct their initial prayer to Elohim–the mighty God. From chapters 1 to 20 Israel has lost their closeness with their personal God. As we learn in chapter 2, a whole generation has grown up without knowing the LORD (Yahweh) as everyone is doing that which is right in his own eyes. In chapter 20, they are still praying–but praying without a relationship–and the results are dismal to say the least.

Furthermore, God’s people are no longer fighting the enemy as they were in chapter one; now they are fighting each other. Believing themselves to be God’s instrument of judgment upon their wicked relatives, they instead became the recipients of God’s wrath.

The lesson from the book of Judges speaks loud and clear.When the sins of others stir our hearts to judge and avenge, let us be mindful to judge ourselves first, lest we be judged.

Parenting resources for today:
• A Case for Marriage: [not carried by Lamplighter]

Published in: on July 20, 2012 at 1:32 pm  Comments (2)  

Innocent Pleasures

Are you attracted to violence?

In the book, The Education of a Child, Francois Fenelon of the 17th century writes that “health and innocence are the true sources of enjoyment; but those who have had the misfortune to accustom themselves to violent pleasures lose all taste for those of a more moderate nature. They proceed to fatigue themselves in a restless pursuit, seeking after excessive gratifications.” (If you are interested in a seminar based on this book, check out the CD or MP3).

If we allow our children to delight in things that do not delight the heart of God–whether violent television shows or mindless video games–we set them up for future failure. Character is what’s needed, and with character comes the enjoyment of what is pure, peaceable, noble and good.

Recently I brought a young man whom I was mentoring on a rock climb to the celebrated Shawangunk mountains. We would climb the rock scramble up through the famous lemon squeeze and there experience one of the most majestic vistas on earth. After about thirty minutes of experiencing this breath-taking beauty, we would then climb to the stone tower on the top of the mountain which allows you to view the world renowned castle like edifice, the Mohonk Mountain House (which, incidentally, is the location for the Lamplighter Guild for Creative Disciplines!)

It truly is my favorite place on earth! It’s my Garden of Eden.

I have been guiding my friends on this climb for the past thirty-three years and each time I see the same awestruck expression. But not this time. Thomas was texting his girlfriend. Throughout the walk he was texting and at one point where we sat to rest, I saw him playing a game on his iphone. To me this was unthinkable. I gently shared what he could be experiencing if he was willing to shut his phone down. He placed his phone in his pocket but after receiving another text message, he was once again absorbed, blinded to the extraordinary beauty that surrounded him.

Oh that we would be like David and say, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).

Resources for today:
• Sir Malcolm and the Missing Prince: “I give orders, not take them. I am the Prince. I am the King’s son!” But now Prince Hubert, who had always said and done too little, finds himself in an unfamiliar place where he is simply known as Hugh, a peasant boy. His silks and satins are replaced with rough work clothes, which he learns during his time spent with the widow of the forest.

Summer Reading Challenge:
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Published in: on July 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm  Comments (1)  

Big People–Small God!

Have you ever avoided serving the Lord because you were afraid of what a certain family member might say? Or have you served the Lord in secrecy because of what friends might say?

Thirty years ago I brought a friend to church. He was twenty years old, and it was his first time in a Bible church setting. He was very moved by the gospel, and we were rejoicing that God had opened his heart. But later that night I received a phone call from his dad–a very angry dad. He yelled and threatened me never to get near his son again. I never saw this young man again, but recently I heard from him. Can you imagine, after all these years? The first thing he told me was that he was never the same after that day in church, but he also never been able to share what he experienced or live it out because of the fear of his family.

In Judges 6 we see a similar story. After God reminds Gideon that He will be him, he gives him an assignment to destroy his father’s false gods. The text reads: “So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the LORD had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night.”

If you are struggling with the fear of man, there is a book that will help you to overcome this road block. The title is When People are Big and God is Small. It’s time to stop believing the lying whispers of the enemy, because “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8).

Fish Hooks, Nostrils, and a Humble Prayer

One of the wickedest kings in all of Israel, if not the most wicked, was Manasseh, son of Hezekiah (2nd Chronicles 33). What I find puzzling about the life of Manasseh is why God records so much of his dirty laundry. But before we look closely at God’s judgment, it should be mentioned that one of the reasons for Manasseh’s wicked life was his absent “godly” father, Hezekiah. Hezekiah was so focused on his career that he had little time to prepare his son for the responsibilities of kingship. Manasseh was 12 years old when he began to reign.

God’s judgment of Manasseh begins with him being fish hooked through his nostrils and led to Babylon as a slave. He had been explicitly warned by God to repent but he refused. The text in 2 Chronicles 33:11 says he was captured with “hooks.” I heard Dr. Colin Smith lecture once that this referred to a fish-like pronged hook that was yanked up through the nostrils, attached to a line. It sounds pretty nasty, but Manasseh reaped what he sowed.

But then something unexpected occurs–this low-life king is blessed by God. But why? In 2nd Chronicles the Scriptures records that Manasseh’s prayer turned God’s heart favorably toward him. Can a prayer have that much influence upon the heart of God?

“And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God” (2 Chronicles 33:12-13).

What an amazing turn around; what a merciful God. He will hear our prayers and act favorably toward us, if we will humble ourselves . . . no, if we greatly humble ourselves, and pray. Deliverance for anyone–at any time–is only one prayer away.

Recommended Resource:

Dialogues of Fenelon

Published in: on July 2, 2012 at 1:58 pm  Leave a Comment