Yesterday we talked about the damaging effects of an aliterate culture—where people can read, but don’t. Lured by an image-saturated and lust-craving media, without realizing it, Christians are amusing themselves to death. Not only is reading at an all-time low, but Bible knowledge among youth has decreased from 72% in the 1970s to just 4% in the late 1990s. The early founders of our nation understood the weight of their responsibility in regard to training their children to be studiers of the Word. In 1647, Massachusetts passed a law which they called The Old Deluder Satan act. Portions of it read as follows,
“It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures . . . It is therefore ordered that every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to fifty households shall forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read.”
The founders took the threat of illiteracy seriously. One can only shudder to consider what their reaction would have been to aliteracy. As a remnant people in a land of darkness and despair, now more than ever, we must take heed to the words of Joshua, who commanded, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)
It is said that George Mueller read the Bible from cover to cover over 200 times between the ages 71 to 92. I believe that he understood that before he could feed others, he needed first to be filled himself.
Mark Twain once famously quipped, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.” Twain concisely describes perhaps one of the greatest endemics of our time—aliteracy.
Heralded as one of the marks of a primitive culture, illiteracy still may not be as grave a threat as its counterpart, aliteracy. One who is alliterate is able to read; he simply does not.
Today, we live in a culture where reading has, in many instances, fallen by the wayside. One telling statistic claims that only 5% of the North American continent reads non-fiction. And yet, perhaps never before have we been presented with so many options to read. Newspapers, magazines, eBooks, Kindles, iPhones, Facebook, and the nano-second “tweets” all vie for us to read. While the myriad of reading venues has steadily increased, the worthiness of our reading is decreasing.
Not too many centuries ago, the printing press revolutionized the world by handing knowledge to begging souls. Facilitating even the great reformation itself, this providential gift from God was a blessing of immeasurable consequence.
But today, we have forgotten the legacy of the past—we have forgotten that “leaders are readers.” But such words are no mere epithet for an emptied and hollow self-sufficiency that can be derived from self-exertion and an unexamined pursuit of reading. Rather, Scripture itself commands that leaders read; in the book of Deuteronomy Moses writes:
“And [the king] sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law…. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children…”
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-16
”But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you be not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5
One of mysteries in the animal kingdom is the extinction of the saber tooth tiger. Among scientist, there is little agreement on this animal. Some don’t think it was related to the tiger at all, but more bear like in appearance except for it saber like teeth. The majority place its extinction around 1000 years ago. But still there is no record that explains how this amazing creature disappeared into oblivion! There must be some record somewhere! But there’s not; well not exactly. I think I may have found the answer and this isn’t a script from Raiders of the Lost Ark. A missionary once told me that he had evidence that the saber tooth tiger became extinct from biting and devouring one another. He said that there was proof that the some saber tooth tigers had been dug up showing their skeletal position in a deadlock grip of one another. The conjecture was that neither of the combatants was willing to let go and as a result they literally bit and devoured one another into extinction. Are you experiencing a combatant relationship with someone today? Is it your wife, your husband, your boss, your child, your neighbor? Remember, a soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger. Don’t allow your flesh to rule your spirit but enable your spirit to rule your flesh. How? By choosing to speak softly God will do the rest.
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).