Category Archives: Lamplighter Moments
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.
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.
TrueFaced, by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch (not available from Lamplighter)
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!
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.
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.
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?
The book of Leviticus is a rich treasure that guides believers to properly approach the presence of God. But the ending of the book is a mystery. At first glance chapter 27 seems to be disconnected from the rest of the book. The first 26 chapters talk about mandatory offerings, but the last chapter suddenly makes a switch to voluntary offerings.
Let me walk you through. God knew that when the people encountered His presence and blessing, there would be an extravagant response. People would promise to serve Him. People would promise to sacrifice. People would promise to give their favorite cow or sheep, houses, or lands.
If a special blessing occurred while they were beseeching God, they might vow to give themselves to the service of the tabernacle. If they were going through hard times and besought God for His intervention, and a special deliverance occurred, then they might vow to give their son to the service of the Lord, as did Hannah with Samuel.
Vows were a powerful force in that day, but sadly they are no longer. There was a time when one’s word was one’s bond. The last chapter of Leviticus teaches us exactly what the Preacher in Ecclesiastes was conveying:
“When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it, for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin, and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands?” (Ecclesiastes
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Curiosity killed the cat!” Though curiosity is sometimes derided, this unique characteristic leads to the development of exciting new ideas, which are often implemented for the betterment of society. Robert Fulton, inventor of the first steamboat, possessed childlike curiosity and inventiveness, which preceded his fame.
As I leafed through the book, Boys of Grit Who Changed the World, I came across an inspiring story about Robert Fulton’s childhood. His friend, Christopher Gumpf, often invited Fulton to join his father and him on fishing and rowing trips. Still a child, Fulton found the rowing difficult, so he “invented a set of paddles to work at the side of the boat to be operated by a double crank. Two pieces of lumber were fastened together at right angles with a wide paddle at each end. The crank was attached to the boat near the stern, with the paddle operating on the pivot as a rudder.” (Boys of Grit, p. 40)
Needless to say, Mr. Gumpf was excited about Fulton’s work. The fishing outings had become special events as young Fulton’s common sense and curiosity brought a new perspective to boating, culminating in the invention of the steamboat.
If you lived in Albany, NY or New York City during this time, you would gladly have paid twenty-five cents (and later one dollar) for a ride to work. Fulton’s steamboats were the talk of the towns along the Hudson River, which made travel convenient for workers and opened a myriad of opportunities for new businesses to develop. Robert Fulton’s curiosity and creativity had been unleashed, breaking through the status quo and paving the way for continued progress and innovation.
Do you have a Robert Fulton in your midst? Is he or she given the opportunity to take his or her curiosities to new heights? When God created man in His image, He created him with the capacity to question, to think, to create, and to problem-solve. The first commandment we received was to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion . . .” (Genesis 1:28) It is time for a new generation of Robert Fulton’s to come forth.
I don’t know about you, but when I was in school, test time was panic time. I would rather drink castor oil. If a surprise test was sprung on the class, you’d be sure to hear my grumbling objections. The only type of test that lowered my anxiety was an open-book exam.
In many ways I was like the children of Israel when taking tests. Note what God says about their testing in Deuteronomy 8: “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.”
There were three objectives to giving the test:
1. To humble them
2. To know what was in their heart
3. To see if they really learned the lesson
There is so much we can learn from this. As students, we will learn far more if we approach our studies and tests with humility. Teachers will often go out of their way for students who possess a humble disposition.
When I was younger, I was more concerned about my grade than learning the material, causing me to be filled with fearful anxiety. Fearful anxiety prior to and during tests may be a symptom of pride (or of being unprepared!). God tests us in order to teach us a very valuable lesson, which unfolds as He continues to speak in Deut. 8: “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
Humility is the foundational lesson from which all other lessons are learned. As one studies and knows the content of this Book, the level of fear and anxiety will dramatically decrease. Why? Because the Teacher has given us all the answers–and the exam is open-Book!