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!

Way of Escape

1 Corinthians 10:12-13

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

IMG_4402During a recent flight into Charlotte Douglas International Airport, I peered out the window as our Airbus A 320 was hovering over the tarmac, preparing to land. Moments later, however, my husband and I, along with the one hundred and forty eight other passengers were thrust back into our seats as the pilot revved the engines and ascended back into the sky. A few thousand feet later, a voice came over the intercom: “ladies and gentlemen, we’re sorry for the delay. We were forced to abort the landing because another aircraft was taking its time getting off the runway. We’ll be on the ground shortly.”

After thanking God for holding us and that plane in the palm of His hand, I began recalling all the times I’ve hovered over sin, not consciously knowing that if I chose to land in it, death would be imminent. Maybe not a physical death mind you, but perhaps an emotional death and most certainly, a spiritual one.

The temptations in my life are no different than what others have experienced….so why is it that my ability to stand sometimes seems much more difficult?

Just as we are all uniquely and wonderfully made by our Creator, we are born into unique and wonderful families that receive His blessings for thousands of generations and, as a result of sin, curses for several generations.

Exodus 20:5-6

New Living Translation (NLT)

You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those[a] who love me and obey my commands.

Although God’s punishment of our ancestors sin may seem unjust and unfair- the Lord in His unfailing love and mercy always offers a life saving solution. When we choose to humble ourselves before His throne and confess ours and yes, even our families sin and repent for our disobedience, He is faithful to forgive.

1 John 1:9

New Living Translation (NLT)

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

When the wickedness is gone, we are better able to endure hovering over the tarmac of temptation. By depending on the powerful engine of the Holy Spirit, we can avoid landing on the thief’s runway, depriving him of the opportunity to steal, kill and destroy us. Instead, we can rest safely in our first class seat, knowing that our Savior promises to give us a way of escape….. and a satisfying flight.

John 10:7-10

New Living Translation (NLT)

so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me[a] were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved.[b] They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Boast in This Alone

Jeremiah 9:23-24

23 This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
   or the powerful boast in their power,
   or the rich boast in their riches.

24 But those who wish to boast
   should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
    who demonstrates unfailing love
    and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!

Being used by our great God to lead others in Spirit and in Truth to the throne of His grace is an awesome privilege. It can also become a dangerous trap if we continually receive the praises of men, more power to influence, and earthly riches as a result of our efforts.

DSC_0746

To boast in any way about ourselves, or what God has done through us is pride. Boasting inflates our ego like a balloon. Left unchecked by ourselves, or those who should be holding us accountable, that hot air will eventually fill the latex to its breaking point. When the pressure to perform becomes too great, an explosion is imminent. And oh, what a terrible devastation occurs in our life and the lives of those we lead.

Luke 12:48

48 But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

The sad reality is, most of us are completely deceived in believing we never fall into this type of pride. Sure, its easy to point the finger at the man who preaches every Sunday morning, or the woman who ministers all over the world in Jesus’ name. But let us not be fooled, dear friend. Until we breathe our last breath and stand before the throne of our Savior, we will battle this destructive sin. The pressure to cave to our selfish desires is only compounded when we lead others.

Matthew 20:24-28

24 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

“Some of us always want to be illuminated saints with golden halos and the flush of inspiration, and to have the saints of God dealing with us all the time. A gilt-edged saint is no good, he is abnormal, unfit for daily life, and altogether unlike God.” –Oswald Chambers

Father,

I repent for my pride; of wanting to be acknowledged for the gifts that YOU have given me to advance YOUR Kingdom. YOU are the one who gives me what is needed to lead Your people to Yourself. YOU alone deserve all the glory and honor and praise on this earth and in heaven.

Amen

Honor God with your Body

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Since the creation of man & woman, the enemy has lied to God’s children and their doubt of the Almighty’s goodness has resulted in their choosing to sin against Him. Sin is sin, there is no “ranking”  in God’s word about which is the worst. But, there are several warnings listed about the severity of sexual sin and how it affects the individual and the ones in whom he/she is in relationship.

I know this all too well, for I did not heed the warnings. Not only did I believe in my mind that I had the “right” to do such things, my emotions confirmed the deceit that doing what felt good in the moment would fill the void of love, acceptance and worthiness that I so desperately craved. Decision after decision to disobey God’s commands drowned out the whisper of the Holy Spirit to RUN FROM ALL SEXUAL SIN until eventually, I no longer heard Him speak. My mind and emotions had convinced my will to surrender to the wooing of the enemy.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

12 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. 13 You say, “Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.” (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. 14 And God will raise us from the dead by his power, just as he raised our Lord from the dead.

15 Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never! 16 And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, “The two are united into one.”[d]17 But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.

18 Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 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.

For years I allowed my flesh to be the lord of my life and slowly my experiences plunged me into a deep dark depression which tempted me to just run away from it all- permanently.

I was robbed of the joy of living and everything I held dear had either been stolen, killed or almost completely destroyed. Not only was my relationship with my Heavenly Father broken, but so was my relationship with my spouse. Oneness had always eluded us.

Fed up & desperate for change, I finally surrendered to the only One who could rescue me from the pit.

Psalm 103:1-5

Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—

who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The first choice I had to make towards being made right with God was to call on the name of the Lord and ask the Holy Spirit for help. Then I had to be willing to acknowledging all the deep dark secrets that had been locked away from myself and others for so many years. Only then was I able to force my will to confess & repent to God, confess and repent to my husband and confess to others who helped me through the process of cleansing.

1 John 1:9

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

As a daughter in the Kingdom of God who has received a rich inheritance I can tell you that there is only ONE WAY to obtain the love, acceptance and worthiness your soul was made to crave. Don’t be fooled by the lies of the enemy to engage in sexual sin. Jesus is the ONLY way, the ONLY Truth and the ONLY life. And He is the ONLY One who can truly set you free from the bondage of sexual sin so that you may once again honor God with your body.

John 8:36

36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.

Many Parts

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles,[a] some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.[b]

14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. 28 Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:

first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who have the gift of leadership,
those who speak in unknown languages.

29 Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? 30 Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not! 31 So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts.

But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.

I have had the privilege of being a part of several local bodies of Christ since I became a follower. Some bodies functioned very effectively Advancing His Kingdom. Some, unfortunately, decapitated the head and as a result, every other part began to die due to the lack of blood flow.

With these experiences in mind, when Doug and I started a ministry that was designed to support many local churches, I hoped to remain humbly submitted to the head and never say to an eye or a foot “I don’t need you.” Years later, I wish I could emphatically state that that’s always been the case, but I can’t. I am still a sinner, saved by grace…and I am still learning what it means to be a loving part of the body of Christ.

In my very short journey of being a disciple and “ministry leader”, I’ve realized that one of the most difficult aspects of being seen and heard is that hidden parts sometimes mistakenly think that I am more important. Given enough praise and acknowledgement for my function, I may be tempted to think that I can operate the entire body on my own. As that pride seeps further down into my soul, I might even begin to believe (albeit subconsciously) that I am the head and that my gifts, skills and leadership abilities are the sole reason for any advancement. Eventually, though, the less honorable parts will grow tired of my pompous attitude and of being ignored and they will cut themselves off from me- and perhaps even the entire body. As a result of my unexamined sin, serious injuries can occur, and if not dealt with quickly, the body will bleed out…

Fortunately, I’ve also realized that when those self-gratifying thoughts begin to rummage through my mind I can call 911 and the Holy Spirit will rush me to the ER. There, as I lay myself out on a gurney before the Great Physician He is able to show me an x-ray of my heart….and I am moved to repent. Then, as He submerges me in His healing antiseptic grace, I am once again able to know that His Son is the only rightful head of the church and ALL His children are crucial parts of His body.

Great Wealth

1 Timothy 6:2-10

Teach these things, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them. Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy.

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

I grew up in a stereotypical affluent city in Southern California. Many of the kids I went to school with came from wealthy families who lived in huge houses (they were mansions to me), drove top of the line cars and wore every name brand item that hung on the rack. Unbeknownst to me, my dad made pretty good money back in those days, but like many kids in America, I felt neglected because my parents refused to give me everything my little greedy heart desired. Still, I always had enough food and plenty of clothing…

25 years later, Doug & I are now the parents who are trying to train our children (Proverbs 22:6) to be content.  Fortunately, God’s Word provides all the answers we need. Unfortunately, however, there is much division among biblical teachers & preachers in regards to how God’s truth is to be applied. According to some, we, God’s children are heirs in His Kingdom; therefore, we should have faith for wealth, health and prosperity (just to name a few). Because, after all, God loves His children and wants to bless us…right?

According to Matthew 7:7-11, God DOES love us and wants to give us good gifts, but these gifts are of His Spirit, not treasures that are temporal (Matthew 6:19-21).

So what if all this great wealth is a test for His children, instead of a platform for an inspirational teaching about the accrual of treasure?

Imagine if we, His heirs chose to worship Him by giving 10% to the church to Advance His Kingdom in our communities, nation and throughout the world. Imagine if we also gave above the tithe to others whom God has prompted us to serve. Imagine if we were good stewards and spent less than the numbers on our paycheck each month.  Imagine if we saved for the future. Imagine if we paid cash for big purchases instead of accruing a larger balance on our credit cards. Imagine if we stopped comparing our lives to the Jones’ (whoever they are) in the Kingdom and in the world and choose to be content with what God has given us!

How could those few things change the world for Christ? I can only speak from personal experience and say that it has radically changed my husband’s life and mine. When Doug and I were DINKS (Dual Income No Kids), we made good money, but squandered most of it. When I became a stay-at-home unpaid mom, we were somehow able to live on less money with more people to support. We were able to tithe 10% of our gross income to our local church. We were able to give to others out of an overflow. We were able to sacrifice our wants to get out of credit card debt. We were able to pay cash for unexpected emergencies. And we were able to afford to have a little fun, too.

How were we able? By loving Jesus.

John 14:15-21

15 “If you love me, obey[a] my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,[b] who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.[c] 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

I wish I could say that I am no longer tempted by great wealth. I am. Comparison to the Jones’ can do that to you…but thankfully, as I continue to pursue an attitude of gratitude towards Our Provider by daily surrendering to His will through Worship, Prayer & His Word, I have been able to avoid all kinds of evil.

Father, would you help me know your truth about wealth and how that applies to my life? Thank you for blessing me with the gifts of your Spirit- and for the abundance of food, clothing and material objects we possess. May your Spirit always keep my heart content, whether our bank account dwindles or expands.

Amen