Category Archives: Lamplighter Moments
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.
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.
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. 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.
 Barnes, Albert. “Commentary on John 21”. “Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament”.
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.”
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.
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.