Saddled His Ass

Numbers 22:21-22 (KJV)

21 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.

22 And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.

In Numbers 22, Balaam was known by the king of Moab as a man who spoke God’s word with accurate results; blessings for blessings and curses for curses. Afraid of being attacked by the Israelites, King Balak conspired a plan to convince Balaam to curse the nation he feared. So, Balak sent a group of important leaders to do his bidding.

After meeting with the king’s elders, Balaam did what a prophet should do; he heard from God and delivered His message to the leaders. It was not, however, the news they or Balak wanted to hear. The king counter offered by sending more important leaders to convince the prophet to curse Israel on his behalf. Balaam re-iterated the previous refusal: Israel had been blessed and a prophet was powerless against the will of God. But….Balaam was tempted to accept the bribe offered by the king’s men. Even though he refused with words, his actions spoke what was hidden in his heart: he allowed the leaders to stay one more night to see if, perhaps, God would change His mind.

As I re-read this story, verse 20 perplexed me. At first glance, it seemed as if God had changed His mind:

Numbers 22:20 (NLT)

20 That night God came to Balaam and told him, “Since these men have come for you, get up and go with them. But do only what I tell you to do.”

He didn’t.

God cannot be coerced. He doesn’t negotiate His will for our lives. His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. He is the creator and sustainer of all things. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He is our Heavenly Father. We are His children. Our response to His infinite love is to obey Him.

I wonder….

IMG_5239How many times have I asked God a question that He answers clearly in His Word, during prayer, or through others? How many times has my mouth declared; “Yes. Amen! I will trust and obey you, Lord,” but rebellion still lies hidden in my soul? How many times have I asked the same question again, hoping to change His mind? How many times have the treasures of a king tempted me? How many times have I feared important leaders instead of fearing God? How many times have I saddled my ass – eh, hem- donkey and pursued my own path?

But God does not force me to submit to His perfect plan. Instead, He graciously allows me to ask the same question a second time. He allows me to get up the next morning, saddle my donkey and follow the more important leaders. But He’ll send an angel to block my way, not once, not twice, but sometimes three times!!!! And if that doesn’t get my attention, He’ll speak through the one I’ve ignored and beaten down in our rebellion.

He did the same for Balaam. And He’ll do the same for you.

Our God is a jealous God. His anger towards our rebellion is just. But let us never forget that He loved us soooooo much that while we were still sinners, His Son died for us.

Our Father will never reject those who humble themselves before Him and repent. So, turn that donkey around and go on home!

IF your gift is…

Romans 12:3-9

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.[b] Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.

A dozen years ago, I was fired from serving— at church. Technically, I was told to take a mandatory sabbatical from my volunteer position in children’s ministry, but it felt like I was fired.

In the weeks and months that followed I became an offended, angry and bitter woman who acted more like a child than a leader of children. I began gossiping about the staff members who dismissed me. I pointed out every weakness in them in order to convince myself (& others) of my superiority and subsequent righteousness over them. And when I prayed (ranted) to God, I believed that the blame rested entirely on their shoulders- and that they should be punished.

But, as the months turned into a year, my heart began to soften and I was finally able to listen to God.

I forgave.

I repented.

And I realized that I needed to be fired.

The truth is, my motivation for serving was completely wrong. Sure, I was doing what church leaders told me to do:

“Don’t be a consumer Christian- SERVE”

“Find a ministry that has a need and fill it!”

“Its not about you, its about doing for others.”

I was using the talents God gave me to lead children’s worship. I was faithful to show up for meetings and practices. I trained other volunteers. I served almost every weekend…. during all 4 services. I enthusiastically sang and danced right up to my 40th week of pregnancy- and I only took a few weeks off after giving birth!

But I wasn’t worshipping God.

I was worshipping service.

IMG_4321I was offering “sacrifices” on the altar of ministry, but I didn’t love the One who sacrificed everything for me.

I read the bible occasionally.

I prayed even less.

I was neglecting areas of my relationships with my husband and our children.

I wasn’t submitted to other parts of the body of Christ.

So God allowed me to be fired to re-order my life:

  • Love God.
  • Love others (as I love myself).
  • Make disciples.

My fellow disciple, let this be a warning to you: don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourself.

Are you loving God?

(If not, take a mandatory sabbatical and begin worshipping Him alone)

Are you really loving others?

Then use the gifts He has graciously given you:

(out of your fear of God– not man)

IF your gift is serving others- do it!

IF it’s prophesying, deliver it!

IF it’s teaching – preach it!

IF it’s encouraging, speak it!

IF it’s finances – give it!

IF it’s leading – do it!

IF it’s kindness – release it!

IF…..

2 Chronicles 7:12-16

12 Then one night the Lord appeared to Solomon and said,

“I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. 13 At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. 14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. 15 My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. 16 For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.

Some time after Solomon dedicated the Temple to God, the Lord revealed a contingent promise to him: IF God’s people humbled themselves, prayed, sought His face, and turned from sin, He WOULD hear them, forgive them and restore them.

After Jesus’s death and resurrection, God echoed the same contingency to His people:

Romans 10:9

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

IF we confess Jesus as Lord & believe God raised Him from the grave, He WILL save us from eternal punishment. But we don’t have to offer sacrifices of 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats as Solomon did for the dedication of the Temple. Jesus, the Lamb of God, willingly spilled His blood for our sin.

How then, should we respond to such a magnificent, selfless, sacrifice?

We are to dedicate our temple to Him so that His name will be honored forever.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

How do we do that? (verse 14) IMG_1850

We humble ourselves, every morning.

We pray, every morning.

We seek His face, every morning.

We repent for our sins, every morning.

We accept His forgiveness, every morning.

We praise Him, every morning, for being faithful to restore the areas of our soul that the enemy sought to steal, kill and destroy.

Lamentations 3:22-23

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
 for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;
 great is your faithfulness

And then…He gives us another promise (verse 16):

He will watch over us, for we are dear to His heart. Did you get that? WE are dear to HIS heart!

What a loving, giving, sacrificial God He is….

John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

It is Stupid

Proverbs 12:1

To learn, you must love discipline;
 it is stupid to hate correction.

During my journey as a disciple of Jesus Christ I haven’t always loved discipline. Alright…let’s be honest: at times, I’ve actually hated correction because I’ve trusted that what I was thinking, feeling, believing and doing was absolutely “right.” To make matters worse, I’ve even cited Gods blessings in my life as tangible evidence that I must be practically perfect in every way- and completely beyond reproach!!!

Enter pride: stage “right.”

IMG_4461Each time the Lord brings correction through His Word, prayer or others, my ego takes a huge slap to the face. If I choose to react to the pain and become angry and blame others (as Adam & Eve did in the garden), shame will consume me like a heavy cloak…. and I will remain a fool. But if I am able to lay down my offense and ask the Lord to penetrate the darkness with His light to reveal the Truth, I will see that I have once again rebelled against Him. And in His mercy, He will once again give me the opportunity to confess, repent, be forgiven & clothed in His righteousness.

It is stupid for me to hate correction, for I know the Father’s discipline is always, ALWAYS motivated by love. Even if a rebuke is delivered through someone who doesn’t articulate it with the most gentle, thoughtful and kind words, I can still receive it in love, because I know it comes from the One whom delights in me!

Proverbs 3:12

For the Lord corrects those he loves,
 just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.

If you want to know God, you must learn about Him.

If you want to learn about Him, you must love discipline.

If you want to love discipline, you must accept correction.

If you want to accept correction, you must be wise.

If you want to be wise, you must be willing to listen to others.

Proverbs 12:15

Fools think their own way is right,
 but the wise listen to others.

Proverbs 12:15

Fools think their own way is right,
 but the wise listen to others.

When you see Me

John 12:44-46

44 Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. 45 For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.

As a child, did you ever awaken in the middle of the night after a bad dream and cry out “daddy…daddy I NEED you!?”

Why do we choose to remain alone in the dark when we become adults? Why do we stop crying out to our Father for help?

We refuse to humble ourselves and pray.

2 Chronicles 7:14

14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

Despite the fact that I realize prayer can eclipse the darkness around- and in me, it’s still not always my first weapon of choice. Instead, I often rely on my superior intellect and abilities to light my candle so that I can find the fastest, easiest way out of the dark.

Case in point:

IMG_0218As our family boarded an Airbus A321 during the wee morning hours last Saturday to travel to our vacation destination, I was once again consumed with worry. “What if there’s another terrorist attack? What if the pilot has mental illness and crashes the plane? What if we hit unexpected turbulence and fall from the sky? What will I do? How will I comfort our children?”

As I tried to rationalize these fears with statistics (you know the one about being more likely to die in a car accident that on an airplane?) I heard the Holy Spirit whisper “I am with you….”

Would I trust Him, or myself?

Thankfully, I chose Him.

But just to make sure that He was on that plane, this daughter cried out “daddy, daddy…I NEED you- please show me where you are!” When I looked towards the center aisle I saw Him (not physically, but in the Spirit) sitting on the floor, with the biggest grin, shouting “this is gonna be FuuuuUN!” I chuckled after I noticed the fighter pilot glasses He was wearing and control yoke He was holding to fly the plane (He looked a bit like Snoopy, aboard his red doghouse!!!).

IMG_0226As we flew south like birds for winter, the light of the sun began to rise and penetrate the darkness inside the aircraft. Simultaneously, the light of the Son began to rise and penetrate the darkness inside my soul. And once again, I was able to know that HE is God, that HE is in control, that HE holds the keys to death and the grave…. and when its time for me to die physically, HE will be with me- and then, then I will spend all of eternity praising the One who sent Him!

My Friends

John 15:9-17

I have loved you just as My Father has loved Me. Stay in My love. 10 If you obey My teaching, you will live in My love. In this way, I have obeyed My Father’s teaching and live in His love. 11 I have told you these things so My joy may be in you and your joy may be full.

12 “This is what I tell you to do: Love each other just as I have loved you. 13 No one can have greater love than to give his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I tell you. 15 I do not call you servants that I own anymore. A servant does not know what his owner is doing. I call you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from My Father. 16 You have not chosen Me, I have chosen you. I have set you apart for the work of bringing in fruit. Your fruit should last. And whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give it to you.

17 “This is what I tell you to do: Love each other.

IMG_7297Ever since I was a little girl I have been very selective when choosing my friends. I had many acquaintances as a child and knew lots of kids in our small town, but I only had a handful of people I considered true friends. Decades later, I have become even more choosy. Sure, I have hundreds of Facebook “friends,” Pinterest “friends,” Twitter & blog followers, but again, only a handful of those virtual voyeurs are my real life friends.

For nearly twenty years my most intimate friend has been my husband. I keep nothing hidden from him- we share every joy and every deep, dark secret of our souls with one another. But, he is imperfect and so am I. And, as you know, sinners inevitably hurt and disappoint one another- which we’ve done thousands of times throughout our marriage. Thankfully, though, our BEST friend has loved and forgiven us and enabled us to love and forgive one another so that our relationship could be rebuilt, redeemed and restored into oneness.

My BEST friend, however, is absolutely perfect! He willingly laid down His life for mine thousands of years ago. Because of His love for me, when by body dies, I am destined to spent eternity worshipping our Father in heaven. But until that day comes, I get to remain in His love EVERY moment of EVERY day on this earth!

How?

By obeying His commands.

How do I do that?

By reading His life story so that I can get to know Him.

By talking and listening to His voice – without ceasing.

By submitting my will to His in every single detail of my life.

Only then can I produce lasting fruit that will glorify our Father in Heaven. Only then can I love my friends, as He has commanded me to do. Only then can I be confident that Jesus will call me His friend.

“Friendship is rare on earth. It means identity in thought and heart and spirit. The whole discipline of life is to enable us to enter into this closest relationship with Jesus Christ. We receive His blessings and know His word, but do we know Him?”

–Oswald Chambers