Category Archives: Lamplighter Moments
In the book of Exodus, the children of Israel tested the Lord because they could not find water. In chapter 17 we read, “Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ And Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?’ But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’”
Note the three points of testing:
1. personal testing (fear of being killed)
2. family testing (fear for our children’s safety)
3. livelihood testing (fear of losing our job)
It was here that “. . . he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’” (The word Massah means “testing”; Meribah is translated “quarreling.”)
Moses saw that the root of the problem was the fact the children of Israel did not understand or believe that the LORD was with them–“Is the LORD among us or not?” If a believer is not convinced that God is with them in every difficult circumstance, then quarreling and complaining are sure to follow. God uses difficult circumstances to test us so that we might know the needs of our hearts as well as the power of His redemption–especially when we are tested in these three areas.
When it seems as though we will die of thirst, we must avoid the illusion of the satisfying drink that comes from the wells of this world; these wells keep us as slaves to our empty water buckets and bring fatigue, frustration, and fear. The satisfying water that never runs dry is available for the asking (John 4:10). And the Source is indeed present among us.
In the beginning, God commanded Adam to tend the garden and to name the animals (Gen. 21:15, 19). Why were these the first two tasks given to Adam?
As I contemplated Adam naming the animals and tending the garden, I began to realize that creation itself is a master teacher. Every aspect of creation speaks clearly of the character of God. From the simplicity of the sparrow to the unfolding of the petals on a rose, all of creation reveals God in His beauty, goodness, and magnificence.
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20).
Seeking the revelation of God through creation is a life-long pursuit. But searching for treasure is exciting and rewarding–especially when you find it! And God promises that we will: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart,” he says in Jeremiah 29:13.
I can think of no other pursuit in life that is of more value than the pursuit of God. Enjoying God requires knowing Him intimately. But if we desire to know someone intimately, we must spend time with them. I think this is what God had in mind when he gave Adam the assignment to name the animals and tend the garden–certainly a time consuming task.
This is an important lesson for us as parents. Our children need to spend time among the splendor of God’s unfathomable creation so they can know Him more intimately. We all need time to observe, interacting with, and enjoy the infinite treasures that surround us. Perhaps it’s time to turn off the hypnotic, non-productive media screens and return to the garden.
When reading Matthew 24 recently, I thought I was reading the headlines in the newspaper. Jesus is speaking to his disciplines saying, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these things are but the beginnings of the birth pangs . . . and because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.”
There have always been wars and earthquakes; are these really the end times? I have two observations: The increased earthquake activity and magnitude is noteworthy. Secondly, lawlessness. Seeing the insaneness of people believing that they can keep spending when they are already billions and trillions of dollars in debt is just incomprehensible. Yet tens of thousands of people will protest in order to keep on spending. It’s like people are literally marching over a cliff with their eyes wide open and even while they are falling they continue to be in a state of self-denial.
In the end times lawlessness will be increased and the love of many will grow cold. People will lose heart . . . there will be no more fight left in them because they will see that the lawless continue to prosper and there’s no way to stop them.
Well, take heart . . . because until Jesus returns, greater is he who is in us than he that is in the world. Jesus said that greater works shall we do than even he did! Why? Because the Spirit of God resides in us! People of God, do not lose heart . . . let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Have you ever wondered what sort of childhood preparation allowed David to be one of the greatest kings ever?
While David’s older brothers were protecting the land from the Philistines, David, the youngest of seven brothers, was protecting his father’s sheep. They were soldiers-he was just a shepherd boy. Certainly there was nothing glamorous about watching sheep.
Oftentimes, it was the youngest child who watched his father’s sheep. The lowliest job was usually passed down to the youngest. Alone, David endured the elements and faced the fear of predators such as bears and lions. But what else was David doing while tending the flock? What would your children do if they were stuck with the lowliest chore?
While David was submitting to his father’s decision to shepherd the sheep, God was preparing a boy to be a king! During those lonely days and nights, David learned to use his time wisely. During his wilderness experience, an obedient and yielded son became:
An accurate marksman
A skillful musician
A courageous protector
A gentle leader
In Proverbs chapter one, David’s son Solomon instructs his readers to know wisdom and instruction. One of the words for wisdom in Hebrew is the word “skill,” while the word for instruction carries the idea of “discipline.” Wisdom or skill, is obtained through a disciplined life of hard work and the wise use of one’s time. It is also obtained through a yielded spirit that is willing to do the dirty jobs while everyone else seems to be enjoying a better lot.
One of my favorite stories that depicts the truths shared in this moment is found in the book Stick to the Raft. This would be a great family read that will inspire a life that is zealous for wisdom and instruction. There’s more to come on this wise preparation for our children’s future in tomorrow’s Lamplighter Moment.
Back to yesterday’s story of the lost lambs. I still hadn’t found my lambs, so I put up a “Lost Sheep” sign at the local post office. Yes, the sign created quite the discussion piece in our inquisitive little town.
Well, the very next day I received a phone call from the post office–they knew where my lambs were. I was ecstatic–until the postmaster apologized, saying that though she knew where they were, she was unable to reveal the information. I proceeded to tell her that kidnapping was a federal offense, as well as being an accomplice–especially for postal workers! After a hearty laugh, she told me her reason for withholding the information.
On Easter morning, the eight-year-old daughter of a single mom had discovered in her backyard a most wonderful surprise–two lost lambs. The little girl believed that they were God’s gift to her! She ran into the house shouting for her mom to come quickly! God filled the heart of a lonely child with great joy that day!
But the next day, this same mom had gone to the post office to pick up her mail. She saw the “Lost Sheep” sign I had posted, and hesitated, seemingly deep in thought. She must have been disappointed, knowing she would have to tell her daughter that she must give up her lambs. After a few moments she decided to ignore the sign and keep the lambs. The postmaster had been watching her interesting expression as she read the sign, and realized that she might have the lost sheep. That’s when she called me. I assured her that I wouldn’t dream of taking the lambs away from this child.
Through this experience I have had a wonderful opportunity to build new friendships and to minister to hurting hearts. My loss became a child’s treasure and gift from God–and an open door to “Feed My lambs.”
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: To visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
Yesterday I told you of my lambs who scaled a five-foot wall to make their escape. After searching through the night, I still had not found them. The next morning the search continued, but they were nowhere in sight. They were afraid, and had not yet put their trust in the shepherd.
When we are afraid, we too run away from the safety and security of the Good Shepherd because we haven’t learned to trust Him. Though He demonstrated the greatest evidence of sacrificial love, for some reason we run from His protection. But our Shepherd will not leave us alone–He will leave the ninety-nine and seek that one which is lost.
Has the Good Shepherd placed you in a new environment? Are you facing new and unfamiliar experiences? Do these changes bring fear? Remember, perfect love casts out fear! God loves us with a perfect love, and always has our best interests in mind. He knows us and loves us with an everlasting love! And no matter how far we run, or where we hide, we should be mindful that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8).
When we are filled with fear, let us consider the words of our Good Shepherd before we run: “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11). Or, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
During the spring of 1994 I had decided to add another breed of sheep to our flock. The Cheviot was a breed that I did not particularly care for, but I knew that cross breeding with my Dorset ram would give me smaller lambs that would grow into a healthy breeding flock. So I purchased two Cheviot lambs from a neighboring shepherd, and with great delight brought them to their new home.
Realizing the adjustment to a new home would take time, I prepared one of the horse stalls for the transition. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed it! The two lambs scaled a five-foot wall and made their escape. I called to Jonathan, Jennifer, and David and we began the chase. Just when we thought we had them cornered, they eluded our grasp. As they escaped into the woods, I pursued them on foot until sunset. At night I scoured the woods with a flashlight and gentle wooing, but to no avail. I was reminded of how David risked his life when he fought the lion and the bear. I was responsible now to care for these sheep–I had purchased them, and they were mine. But they had not yet spent sufficient time with me; they were not yet acclimated to my voice. As a result, they did not feel secure in my care.
In the same way, in order to rest in the presence of the Good Shepherd, to discern His voice and to trust His care, we must spend time with Him. The more time we spend with the Shepherd, the more easily we are able to hear His voice. In John 10, Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
We live in an unprecedented time in which technology and accessible information, intended to advance our lives, have actually overtaxed our capacity to rest and be productive. In The Externally Focused Church, Rusaw and Swanson give an appropriate solution to this phenomenon: “To move ahead, we must determine what we will leave behind.”
Jim Collins, author of the best-selling book Good to Great, illustrates this concept as he tells about his desire to read more and the steps he took to reach that goal. To set up his reading room he bought the perfect chair, a wonderful reading lamp, and all the books he wanted to plow through. However, when he came home from work, he would flop on the couch, flip on the television, and catch up on the news or the first quarter of Monday night football. He was glued to the TV, and the books remained stacked on the chair in his reading room. When Jim finally got rid of the TV, his reading accomplishments were realized. He learned that it’s not what you add to your life; it’s what you abandon that will make the difference.
To live productively in today’s busy culture requires that we abandon something. What is keeping you from enjoying a creative, productive life? Consider the words of the apostle Paul: But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ . . . (Philippians 3:7,8).
There is unspeakable gain when we choose to leave behind the rubbish!
In the book, A Tale of Three Kings, Gene Edwards tells the story of David and the spear-throwing King Saul. What I love about the story is how the author crafts a parallel from David’s continual threat of being speared by King Saul to our lives today. Spear-throwing and spear-fleeing seem be a rite of passage for those whom God is preparing for leadership positions. If you are leading anyone, then this preparation awaits you.
I can testify to this spear-throwing apprenticeship program. As I look back on 33 years of ministry, I can see why I was continually dodging spears. Thankfully, I had read A Tale of Three Kings early enough to recognize that these spears were divine projectiles, preparing me for leadership.
If you find yourself under attack, resist the natural urge to pick up the spear and throw it back. Just as they prepared David to be the next king, these spears are preparing you. Besides, those who engage in spear-throwing always turn the color of bitter.
Are you feeling like target practice these days? Rather than taking up the art of spear throwing, take up the shield of faith, which will be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one. Picture an Old Testament shield made of leather and soaked in oil. When a burning arrow pierced that shield, it was immediately quenched. We must be soaked–or drenched–in faith, in God’s love, in God’s truth, and in God’s forgiveness–our shield of faith. Then the daily onslaught of fiery darts shall be extinguished, and we will be better equipped to wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
We will be ineffective at wielding the sword of the Spirit until we first take up the shield of faith! (Ephesians 6)
Have you ever eaten crow? I have, many times, and it tastes terrible! No not the bird, but the humiliation you bring on yourself when you hold firm to your pride and stubbornness.
The phrase, “eat crow” was birthed during the War of 1812 when a British officer gained control of the musket of an American hunter. He made the hunter eat the crow he had just shot. After taking a few bites, the hunter regained control of his musket and then made the soldier eat the remainder of the crow.
The concept of eating or not eating crow really goes back to the time of Jesus. He said, “Agree with your adversary quickly.” This is never easy, but it is God’s prescribed way to end conflicts, which opens the door of your heart to be free again. To be shackled in conflict is a burden that is avoidable if we would just follow this simple step: “Agree with your adversary quickly.” Listen to the whole text from Matthew 5:25:
“Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are with him in the way, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.”
You don’t have to have full-blown legal action against you (or even a full blown marital conflict) to respond quickly with your adversary. And this principle of agreeing with your adversary quickly not only applies in marriage, but also in resolving conflicts with children, at work, with your neighbors, and at church. Agreeing quickly will help you avoid the bitter taste of crow, and allow you to enjoy the savory taste of God’s grace. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.