Category Archives: Lamplighter Moments
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!
King David gained important skills and character as a boy, even though he was given what was seemingly the least important job. Because David used his extra time wisely and practiced diligently, he became an accurate marksman, a skillful musician, and a courageous protector.
Children will generally use their time wisely if parents arrange meaningful experiences and provide worthwhile resources–not the latest video game! Parents who allow their children to indulge in excessive time wasters not only suppress their children’s creativity, but stunt their children’s potential to excel in their God-given gifting.
So, how do we teach our children to make the most of our time here and now? The key is to cultivate a heavenly-mindedness by filling our children’s imaginations with thoughts of God’s character, the largeness of eternity, and the exigency of our earthly battle. C.S. Lewis notes:
“If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English evangelicals who abolished the slave trade, all left their mark on earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”
The Preacher in Ecclesiastes give this admonition: “Whatever thy hand finds to do, do it with all thy might . . .” Why? Because, as John Luhmann writes, “Everyday you are becoming who you will be forever.”
If you are a parent, you need to read this article. Especially interesting is the follow up response of the author’s 18 year old daughter, revealing a child’s perspective on this style of Tiger Mom parenting.
You haven’t heard of Tiger Mom Parenting? Well, before you press on the link, I need to give a word of caution. What you are about to read is not for the faint of heart. If you are concerned with your children’s esteem, you probably will not like this article. And as much as I speak and write on grace-full parenting, this Tiger Mom has something for every parent to consider. Read with caution.
I have a test for you today. Take a few seconds to read the following lists. Try to spend the same amount of time on each one–focus…ready, set, go!
high school/college pen_il/paper
Now, close your eyes and try to remember as many pairs or single words as you can.
From which column did you recall the most? In all probability you remembered more words or pairs of words from column B. Correct? Research demonstrates that you’ll remember three times as many from the column that contained fragments. Why? Because the fragments required you, in those few seconds, to concentrate. The blank space required you to exercise a minimal amount of focused effort that resulted in sharpened memory retention.
Education today, for the most part, involves passive learning. What you just experienced was active learning that required focused attention. In Proverbs 22:6 we have that so oft quoted Bible verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go . . . .” Actually, the word “train” is insufficient to understand the full significance of this word. The Hebrew word חנך-or its expanded English form “Hanukkah”- carries the idea of “dedication,” which describes the feast of Hanukkah or the feast of dedication. Perhaps this means that we as parents are to “dedicate” our children to the Lord (whether they pursue a career as a carpenter or a theologian) and when they are old, they will not depart from it. But even this definition falls short.
The root word for “train, instruct, initiate” (חנך) also carries the idea in Arabic of “palate,” referring to “rubbing the palate of a child.” The Hebrews and Egyptians rubbed the palate of a newborn child with dates or figs. It is not known exactly why, but it would appear that they were creating a sucking reflex for the child so that he would begin nursing.
“Training” our children requires much more than providing an education. It requires the creation of appetizing learning environments and experiences so that our children will passionately pursue worthy goals that are based on truths not easily forgotten-like the words that were etched in your memory because you gave a little more effort and focus. It’s time to turn passivity into passion by initiating experiences that cultivate our children’s tastes for what is great and glorious.
Do you remember Jephthah? He fought for Israel as a judge, as God’s deliverer. However, while he was an effective leader of the nation, he made some grave mistakes in his leadership at home. You see, Jephthah was a dictatorial parent. Before battling the Ammonites, Jephthah prayed in Judges 11, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” What in the world does he think is going to come out of his house, the pet dog? Dictatorial parents often say things in an exaggerated way . . . “You’re grounded for two years!”
And that’s exactly what Jephthah does. He wants so badly to win that he’s willing to sacrifice whatever it takes–even his own family. Let’s look at the rest of the narrator’s comments: “Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter. And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow’” (Judges 11:34-35).
Do you hear what I heard? He’s blaming her for his stupidity and his rash vow. But his timing is perfect. Dictatorial parents and spouses are always blaming others for their own failures. Ultimately, they disregard the lives of those that God has placed in their care, and become fixated on the emotions of the moment. In the midst of life’s battles, we can trust in a God who demonstrated his love for us by allowing his own Son to die . . . otherwise, we will sacrifice our own children on the altar of selfish pursuits.
The ancient Spartans had a secret that allowed them to be the fiercest of warriors. They understood that to win wars they needed to raise children who embraced self-sacrifice more than any pleasures which might be enjoyed. Known for their fearlessness, their strategic warfare, and their red cloaks which masked any loss of blood, the Spartans intimidated their enemies long before the battle began. Even the great Persian army which outnumbered the Spartans 100 to 1 was defeated for seven days.
Chrysostom, one of the deep thinkers of Christianity who was influenced by Greek thought wrote, “If a child learns a trade or is highly educated for a lucrative profession, all of that is nothing compared to developing the art of detachment from riches. If you want to make your child rich, teach him this: He is truly rich who does not desire great possessions . . . Don’t worry about giving him an influential reputation, but ponder deeply how you can teach him to think lightly of this life’s passing glories. Don’t strive to make him a clever orator, but teach him to love true wisdom. He will not suffer if he lacks clever words, but if he lacks wisdom, all the rhetoric in the world can’t help him. A pattern of life is what is needed–not empty speeches; character, not cleverness; deeds, not words. These things will secure the kingdom of God and bestow God’s blessings.”
The greatest blessing and legacy we can leave to our children is not found in our bank accounts or lands or houses but in our example of self-sacrifice, endurance, character, and hope. In Romans 5 the Apostle Paul, who understood the meaning of leaving a legacy of self-sacrifice, wrote, “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope keeps us from being ashamed.”
Recently I visited an old friend of mine who is now a pastor. He has three children and a successful ministry. But within a few minutes of being in his home, I realized that something wasn’t right. One of the children was in her room playing a computer game, while another was in the den playing another computer game. The third child, sitting next to me, was texting away, without even acknowledging my presence. My friend was totally oblivious to this apparent breakdown in social skills and common courtesy. It seems to me that these children are growing up in a virtual unreality that is crippling their ability to think and carry on a meaningful conversation.
In the must-read book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, author Neil Postman warns parents that media keeps families in a trance-like state-literally brainwashing our children. It is interesting that the word “amuse” comes from a root word meaning “to muse.” To muse means “to think.” When you put the negative prefix “a-” on a word, it negates the original meaning. Thus, to “amuse” means “not to think.” Our technology and media have become amusements that sedate us into a hypnotic state.
One of the most powerful books I have ever read–Sir Knight of the Splendid Way–will arouse both teens and adults to action. When I first read this book, I couldn’t put it down. Sir Knight is on a quest to see the king, but in order to do so he must travel the treacherous road and keep his armor on at all costs. Only those with a pure heart can wear the armor, and only those who wear the armor can have a pure heart. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Recently a mother wrote: “My nine-year-old son said something disrespectful to me, so I got out that belt and I started chasing him! He ran down to the basement, but as soon as I got down the stairs, I began to hesitate. I realized something: he was running from me.” If you’re about to discipline your children and they’re running from you, something’s wrong.
When a dictatorial parent faces a resistant child, they often take their behavior as a personal offense. They fight fire with fire, verbally and emotionally beating that child into submission. Yes, discipline is important, but there is also a time for compassion and mercy. After all, that’s how God deals with us! Lamentations 3:22 teaches us, “Because of the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
So she put down the belt and continued to share that: “He was underneath the pool table, sitting there in a little ball. I ducked under the pool table and said, ‘You’re having a bad day, aren’t you? You know, I can understand what you’re going through. Can I pray for you?’” She prayed for her son and she told him, “I love you.” He crawled over to her, and putting his head on her shoulder, he hugged his mom. “You know what was really amazing? In that tense moment, we were underneath the pool table together, and he was hugging me, and he’s never run from me since, nor have I since chased him with a belt . . . I now pursue him with mercy . . . and it’s working.”
We must lead our children out of their rebellion, not push them farther in. We will make many mistakes as parents, but if we are going to err, let’s make sure that we err on the side of mercy.