Category Archives: Lamplighter Moments

Responsibility Over Relationship

Responsibility is a necessary part of life, and all children must learn to do their part. However, we parents sometimes give our children too much responsibility, and for the wrong reasons. Parents who have obsessive, controlling, perfectionist tendencies often use their children for their own selfish purposes.

When my children were growing up, I gave them assignment after assignment and responsibility after responsibility. At one point, we had twenty-two horses and seventy sheep, while I was a caretaker, and attending seminary full time. I thought I was giving my family an experience of a life-time. What I gave them was enough work for ten adults, all in the name of my little-house-on-the-prairie unrealistic dream. As the years went by, the tensions grew, as well as a wedge between me and my oldest son.

Not only was I placing my own life goals ahead of my family, but I was placing responsibility above relationship, which led to frustration. Giving our children assignments and chores is important, but tempering this work with mercy, love, and kindness is the higher responsibility.

The boundaries we set for our children must first be set for ourselves. When we live inside the boundaries of kindness, grace, and mercy, then we can expect our children to live inside our balanced expectations. I think Paul’s words in I Corinthians are a fitting description of God’s call for parents: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (I Corinthians 9:27). Living within the boundaries that we set for ourselves will be a greater influence then harsh demands and scoldings.

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Resurrection: Celebration or Another Crucifixion

It was a year ago, the day before Easter when I drove to western NY to visit my mom. When I arrived, I knew immediately that something wasn’t right. I had never seen my mom so sick. She wasn’t even able to carry on a conversation, though she came downstairs to sit at the kitchen table with me.

Excusing herself, she said that she needed to go to bed and would hopefully feel better in the morning. If you knew my mom, you would know that she would need to be on death’s doorstep to not be cooking when her children and grandchildren are home. So I waited. Mom slept through the night. But the next morning she was worse.

It was Easter and the choices for medical help were minimal, so off to the hospital we went. After the initial examination and a CT scan, the doctor came to me with a sense of urgency and said that they were life-flighting my mom to a major hospital. The scan revealed a catastrophic brain hemorrhage that was seriously life threatening. It was doubtful that mom would survive the day, or the flight. I so wanted to see her one last time, to tell her how much I loved her.

All day, not a doctor came to her room. Mom was sleeping or in a coma. The only comfort I had was that mom was going to see Jesus on Resurrection Day and would also see dad. It would appear that today would be goodbye until I would see her again on the other side.

To complicate matters, I was supposed to fly out the next day to speak at a large homeschool conference that started on Tuesday. Seeing that mom may remain in a coma for some time, I wondered whether I should fly out and speak and then return the following day. I shared this with my family and unanimously, this was not looked upon favorably. Was I placing ministry above family again? My oldest son looked at me and said, “Dad, unless there’s a miracle, we need you here.” I smiled and agreed.

The doctor never showed up that evening so we decided to stay with mom through the night. The next day I missed my flight and mom was still sleeping; it would be the first speaking engagement I would miss in thirty-five years. It wasn’t until 9pm when the doctor final stepped into the room. We all stood around mom’s bedside listening intently to the brain surgeon. What he would say next would take our breath away. He looked at each of us solemnly and said, “Your mom has experienced what we call in medical terms, a miraculous intervention!” We were in shock. He continued, “We will be releasing your mom and though she will be very tired for some time, she should recover completely.”

I am writing this moment one year later. As I sit here writing, I can hear mom’s voice in the background as she stands cooking at the stove. Chicken soup for this evening and stuffed chicken for tomorrow, all in the making. Grandchildren, children and loved ones will be enjoying another Resurrection Day at Nonny’s house. Yes, my mom experienced a genuine miracle.

Oh, the homeschool conference? I received a phone call from the airline telling me that my Monday flight had been canceled and they were rebooking my flight for
6 am the next morning. I arrived at the conference 15 minutes before I was to speak. The miracle had arrived-just in time. But it wasn’t time for a celebration. It was time for a greater dedication to Christ.

Resurrections aren’t as much about celebrations as they are about a greater commitment to Christ. When Peter met Jesus after his resurrection, there wasn’t any celebration. In fact, I don’t see any celebration mentioned in the Bible after the resurrection. You would have thought that they would have been having celebrations everywhere.

The resurrection of Jesus was more about recommitment. It was about dealing with sin and issues of the heart. In fact, when Jesus sees Peter after the resurrection, he questioned if he really loved him…not just once, but three times. Once Jesus knows that Peter’s commitment gives no further room for denial, he then tells him how he is going to die. In John 21 Jesus tells Peter that others are going to lead him and stretch his arms. This appears to be a reference to Peter’s eventual crucifixion. Peter, then asks Jesus about John’s future. Jesus responds by saying, “If he lives until I return, what is that to you? You follow me.” Post resurrection Jesus is dealing with heart issues and not speaking in parables. He is approaching his children like a surgeon. He wants us to understand that there is a cost to following him.

Traditionally we read that Peter was crucified upside down. He felt that he wasn’t worthy to be crucified the same as his Savior. But before he was crucified, Clemens writes that he first had to witness his wife’s crucifixion.[1] I am thankful for the resurrection, but it is not a time for celebration as much as it is a time for self-evaluation and rededication to our commitment to follow Christ, no matter what the cost.

[1] Barnes, Albert. “Commentary on John 21”. “Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament”.

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Twaddle

Are you reading “twaddle” to your children?

In her book, For the Children’s Sake, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay helps us to understand that “twaddle” is the “useless” and “inferior” use of words “produced or written for children by adults.” She saw that it “devalued their minds” (p. 15).

Macaulay further contends that children “would be depressed by twaddle” (p. 31). Of the literature of our day, she writes, “We have never been so rich in books. But there has never been a generation when there is so much twaddle in print for children, much of it in schools” (p. 31).

So what kind of stories can we read to our children that cultivate a taste for rich, “twaddleless” literature? In just a few days, we will make available one such story. Entitled The Little Dauphin, this story tells of the suffering and fortitude of the nine year old son of King Louis XVI during the French Revolution. The perils of this little volume will capture your child’s heart with the remarkable paradigm of Romans 5: that we can rejoice in our suffering because suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint.

At the end of his life, the young character in this story has suffered incomparably, but still maintains a steadfast hope. The story tells how the “hard school of adversity developed all the purity and nobility of the boy’s nature.” On his deathbed, as he finally succumbed to years of torture, the boy dismissed his pain with these simple words,
“Never mind . . . I shall not always suffer.”

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Overcome Evil with Good

In Romans 12, Paul writes, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Overcoming evil with good is easy to say but not easy to practice.

It was 1 a.m., and after flying for 9 hours, we missed the last leg of our connection. Now we had to spend an extra night away, only to get up at 5 a.m. to catch the next flight home. To make matters worse, the baggage claim wouldn’t give us our luggage! So there we were, exhausted, bewildered, and with no clean clothes for the next day. At least we had a free voucher for the hotel.

When we arrived at the hotel, the receptionist said that she needed my credit card. I told her that this was a free voucher and that I didn’t have a credit card to give her. She then said that we couldn’t have the room without a credit card. The hotel was dirty and there was no way they were going to get my credit card. So I spoke in a demanding and belittling tone. I let her know what kind of night we just had and that all we wanted was to go to bed.

The receptionist unexpectedly apologized, displayed genuine concern, and gave us the room key. When we opened the door we realized she gave us a deluxe room. And that’s not all–there was a knock on the door, and it was the same receptionist. She held in her hand a bag of toiletries and told me that if I needed anything else just to call. You can imagine how I felt at this point. God used this receptionist to help me to see how I was supposed to act, and it was a lesson I will not soon forget.

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Biblically Ashamed

In our culture, shame is rarely thought of as a desirable feeling or quality. Even in the church, the word is associated primarily with sin and guilt. Author Neil Postman, however, uses the much-maligned term in a very different way. In his eyes, shame plays a vital role in preserving the innocence of childhood and the civility of our society.

In his book The Disappearance of Childhood, Postman teaches that shame derives its power “from the mystery and awe that surround various acts.” In other words, human impulses such as sexuality or violence must be treated with the highest caution and respect. Just as we shelter our children from these harsh realities, so we must be careful to control them in ourselves. Postman further argues, “Civilization cannot exist without the control of impulses; particularly, the impulse toward aggression and immediate gratification. We are in constant danger of being possessed by barbarism, of being overrun by violence, promiscuity, self gratification and pleasure centered self-centeredness. Shame is the mechanism by which barbarism is held at bay.”

As Christians, we have special insight into the problems Postman observed in our culture. Proverbs 25 teaches us, “It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to seek one’s own glory. Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” Postman knew the dangers; the Bible knows the solution. Only by cultivating an appropriate attitude of shame towards the sin of human nature and controlling our own impulses can we reform the excesses of our modern culture.

As children of God, we have responsibilities. One of them is to study the Word to show ourselves approved unto God. Another is to read books like Disappearance of Childhood. Though written in the 1960’s, you will think it was written today.

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Spirit 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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Procrastination

The other day one of my kitchen cabinet doors fell off. I was quite taken by surprise but as I did some investigating, sure enough, it was because of that scoundrel! Ten years ago, I hired one of the finest craftsmen in the area to make and install our kitchen cabinets. He was a master craftsman, but he had one huge problem: he was a procrastinator. I did reference checks before I hired him and everyone said, “If you can keep him on the job, he’s the best. And I did keep him on the job but not before I had to pay his electric bill, his gas bill, and his car insurance so he could keep coming to work! All in all it took one entire year to complete the kitchen. It was a grueling experience, but today we love the beauty of our kitchen cabinets. This may have been the first job he ever completed! At least that’s what I thought until the hinges started to break. Sure enough, our crafty cabinet-maker never screwed in the backside of the hinges! To save time, he left the crews out of the backside of every hinge in the kitchen! Proverbs 18:9 says, “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” Procrastination can have a devastating ripple effect. If you’d like to see what really can happen, I would highly recommend reading the book http://www.lamplighterpublishing.com/prodinfo.asp?number=RCT”>TomorrowThere’s a surprise at the end—if you actually finish the book!

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Humiliation – Beards Trimmed and Clothes Cut

How do you respond when someone humiliates you? Do you retaliate? In 1st Chronicles 19, David’s men are humiliated while delivering gifts to the new king of the Ammonites. His men are shaved (beards were important in those days) and their clothes cut so that they were half naked.

Paranoid and insecure, the new king’s advisor thought that David was sending his men to spy out the land for an offensive–an offensive that didn’t exist. Responding out of fear, he shamed David’s servants.

When he realized his error, the king chose to launch an offensive attack rather than humble himself. Isn’t that what we often do when we face conflict? Our pride takes us down a destructive path until the end is worse than the beginning. Oh, that we would learn that shaming others for our own self-protection reveals our insecurity and the depth of our weakness.

Knowing that Israel was too strong, the king of the Ammonites hired the Syrians to help attack Israel. Now that’s a modern-day parallel, as the fearful and offensive need to enlist others to strengthen their position.

Attacking from the front and rear, the Syrians and the Ammonites far outnumbered Israel. But Israelite commander Joab, seeing his plight, rallies his troops by saying: “Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly for our people, and for the cities of our God: and let the LORD do that which is good in his sight.”

So how does a king and commander handle humiliation? They didn’t respond in order to protect their honor. They only responded to defend and protect the honor of God and others.

If you were to continue reading 1 Chronicles 19, you would read: “And when the servants of the Syrians saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they made peace with David and became subject to him. So the Syrians were not willing to save the Ammonites any more.” Can you catch the practical implications for us today? When we humble ourselves and behave valiantly on behalf of God and others, the enemy of pride will be bumbled into submission.

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Mountain Top Forgetfulness

Recently I experienced the best week of my life.Now those who know me well know that I have many best things in my life….I have about 100 best books I’ve ever read, best restaurants, best foods, and best experiences, but our recent Lamplighter Guild exceeds them all! Why? Words cannot describe what all 100 of our staff, teachers, and students experienced…the only possible way to describe this event is to say that we experienced the presence of God.

But while reading the Word of God this morning, I was reminded that mountain top experiences are often followed by the valleys of trials and testings. In fact, the day after we concluded the Lamplighter Guild for Creative Disciplines, my daughter-in-law was in a serious para-gliding accident, my sister was diagnosed with cancer, I was stung in the eye with a mud bee, and my mom had just fallen and fractured her pelvis! Now that’s what you call coming down quickly!

In I Chronicles chapters 12 and 13, David experienced something similar. In chapter 12 he is crowned as the new king for all of Israel and Judah. And with a pure heart but not a clear mind, his first decision as king was to bring the ark of God that carried the presence of God to a new location.I say “not with a clear mind” because though David consulted with his new legion of commanders and was confirmed by the multitude of the people, he did not consult with God.

The danger of mountain top experiences is that we don’t maintain the same fervency in prayer. We live in a day when doing great things for God requires praying without ceasing. And simply stated, oftentimes we have not because we ask not…maybe at this very moment, it’s time to turn the radio off and spend time talking with a Father who desires to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ask or think.

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Hand Me Another Brick Please: Nehemiah 3

I don’t know about you but when I come across lists of names in the Bible I tend to speed read. Nehemiah chapter 3 is one of those chapter lists. Could anything significant come from a list of builders and redundant record of repairs?

But I learned a lesson long ago. In those mundane lists, there is often a treasury of pure gold waiting to be found. In fact, the list of repairs in Nehemiah 3 may hold the answers to a nation’s economic recovery as well as our guide to spiritual revival.

First, you have recorded that the rich and poor are working together; fathers and daughters, leaders and servants, skilled and unskilled, all working toward one goal–to repair and restore the glory of God. You also have one negative report. The wealthy Tekoites felt that common labor was beneath them. The record states that “they would not stoop to serve their Lord.”

In contrast there’s the record of Baruch. He’s my favorite among the builders. Scripture records that he earnestly repaired another section. The word “earnestly” means to glow, blaze or to be zealous. Baruch worked with a zealous tenacity. Can you just see him? I love watching those who possess this kind of zeal for the Lord.And then the text says that he repaired another. This word “another” means double, second, or again.When Baruch finished his section, he just kept on working. Having finished his own portion, Baruch comes to the rescue at the southeast corner, where the rubbish is the deepest and the work the hardest.In tribute to his zeal for the Lord, he receives the mark of distinction in God’s list of honor.

Just as it was I the days of Nehemiah and Baruch so it is today. We have before us a great opportunity to walk by faith and rebuild and restore the glory of God…for the hand of our God is upon us for good. What more do we need?

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