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

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)

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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

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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)  

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

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

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)