We who preach and write, do so in a manner different from which the Scriptures have been written. We write while we make progress. We learn something new every day. We speak as we still knock for understanding...If anyone criticizes me when I have said what is right, he does me an injustice. But I would be more angry with the one who praises me and takes what I have written for Gospel truth than I would be with the one who criticizes me unfairly. -Augustine


Blocked Vision, Part 2

Yesterday we looked at the talking donkey of Numbers 22 and the prophet Balaam who was unable to see and hear from God or speak for God. Before we go further it would help if we had a little more background. In Numbers 22, it is the king of Moab who summons Balaam after he sees a great hoard of people coming toward his kingdom. Fearing the worst, he calls the prophet Balaam to come and curse this multitude. But God tells Balaam not to curse but to bless. The king doesn’t give up; he promises the prophet great riches if he will curse the multitude. So Balaam petitions the Lord again and finally gets the green light–with one exception. He is to go only if they ask him to do so, and he must follow God’s instructions exactly.

At first glance, there seems to be a paradox. In verse 21 God tells Balaam that he can go and in verse 22 Balaam rises and goes. All seems to be going according to plan, except for one minor glitch–God is angry that he went! It appears as if God can’t make up His mind, but we know better than that. So what’s up?

The first problem is that Balaam didn’t do exactly what the Lord told him. He went with the king’s men without being summoned. Not only did he violate God’s explicit command to remain unless he was called, but he took 2 of his servants with him–again, without God’s permission. Balaam is going to travel with some pomp and circumstance of his own. He too has servants under him as he proudly joins the elite company of the king. On the surface this may not seem like an infraction of God’s command, but it reveals more than meets the eye. In fact, that’s the problem. Balaam is the prophet and is supposed to see. Instead, the donkey sees what Balaam cannot. What appears to be zeal to do God’s work is in reality a selfish ambition for reward. Balaam’s vision is blocked not only by pride, which we looked at yesterday, but by greed.

Are there roadblocks in your life today? Are you facing obstacles of frustration and walls of constraint? I have seen many in this life who have been emotionally, mentally, and spiritually shipwrecked because, while thinking they were acting on behalf of God’s authority, they were blinded by the real motive of greed.

Published in: on September 19, 2011 at 4:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Blocked Vision, Part 1

What a bizarre portion of Scripture we find in Numbers 22:29! What does it all mean? Scripture tells us that not only did a donkey speak, but the prophet Balaam actually talked back to it! This biblical account compels me to ask, “What is the intended meaning of this story?”

Do you ever find yourself talking to your pet? I have. I remember how, as a child, I would talk to my dog, especially when I was feeling low. We would often walk into the woods together, and I would sit on a ledge and share all my troubles with my faithful companion. But if my dog had talked back to me, I think I would have toppled over in disbelief!

Here we see Balaam carrying on a conversation with his donkey as if it was a common occurrence. So what is the purpose of this bizarre scene? As a prophet, Balaam is supposed to see. That is his gift from God. But instead, it is the donkey that sees. Balaam, as prophet, is supposed to hear and speak on behalf of God, but it is the donkey that hears and speaks, warning of impending danger and judgment. What a strange twist!

“And Balaam said to the donkey, ‘Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.'” Because of his pride and fear of looking like a fool, Balaam is unable to see the impending danger before him.

This unique incident teaches that God communicates when we least expect it. But if pride prevents us from hearing and seeing, we will be unable to receive or proclaim God’s truth. Balaam’s primary concern was that he looked like a fool. God’s primary goal was to convince him that he was.

Published in: on September 18, 2011 at 4:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Unexplainable God

I live in the Northeast, and during the summer of 2009, it rained 50 out of 58 days! That’s more consecutive days than Noah had! But certainly not the same amount of water. Did you know that during the Flood, both the underground water supply and the atmospheric reservoirs were released? Atmospheric reservoirs, you ask? Yes, according to the book of Genesis a canopy of water enveloped the earth, providing a kind of terrarium effect. This allowed plants and animals and man to live in a perfect environment.

Did you know that when God created the heavens and the earth, He created light before the sun? Not possible, you say. But that what makes Him God–for with God, nothing is impossible!

Life on planet earth is dependent upon God and God alone. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, writes in the book of Ecclesiastes: “then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out” (Ecclesiastes 8:17).

Life on planet earth is not dependent upon the function of the sun, nor can it be explained away by theories of man. The simple truth is that there is a God.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Published in: on September 17, 2011 at 4:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Quit Ye Like Men

I find it ironic today, that while audiences long for reality in their media that is filled with aggressive & violent behavior, their own lives are becoming less real and more complacent. Now this may surprise you, but I don’t think this propensity toward violence is entirely bad. Let me explain: Men are warriors are heart. That is why they love their football teams, they love to watch the ball hit out of the park, or that diving save at the goal. Men in the 21st century have been tamed and reduced to mere spectators.

I love what John Eldredge wrote in his book, Wild at Heart, a must read for every man:

“A man must have a battle to fight, a great mission to his life that involves and yet transcends even home and family. He must have a cause to which he is devoted even unto death, for this is written into the fabric of his being. That is why God created you–to be his intimate ally, to join him in the Great Battle.”

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 16, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” It is noteworthy to mention that this quote comes from a Philistine out of the book of 1st Samuel who is challenging his comrades to step up and act like men so they don’t become enslaved to others. In the NT the Apostle Paul quotes this same truth but the meaning of the words change in the Greek. To “quit ye like men” implies the gathering of moral conviction with the exercise of manly valor.

It is time for us to join the King of kings and Lord of lords in this Great Battle that requires our complete devotion–it is time to quit ye like men!

Published in: on September 16, 2011 at 4:25 am  Leave a Comment  

My Dad and Huram-abi

How would you like to possess skills that would allow you to do almost anything? My dad was like that! He was an iron worker by trade and had the mind of an engineer, architect, designer, carpenter, furniture maker, and more! He also was a master knot maker; he could take a rope and make a knot for almost anything, including a self-lifting ladder. At work, whenever his company had a difficult and dangerous job to complete they would call my dad. He had to travel around the country to oversee projects that needed the highest level of skill, like setting nuclear reactors in place with several cranes and elaborate rigging.

In many ways, my dad, whose name was A.J. Hamby, reminds me Huram-abi from the scriptures…maybe he is distant relative. You may never have heard of him, but in 2nd Chronicles 2 we read: “Now I have sent a skilled man, who has understanding, Huram-abi . . . He is trained to work in gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone, and wood, and in purple, blue, and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and to do all sorts of engraving and execute any design that may be assigned to him . . .”

Did you hear his list of expertise? How did he learn all of these trades? I wonder if his childhood was like my dad’s? Oh, my dad’s mother died when he was 12, and his father was put in prison for bootlegging when he was 14 and then he lived with different relatives who used him as a servant on their farms. When he was 15, he got his first job with the iron workers and began from the bottom up. He realized early on that life was a gift and he didn’t want to squander it. My dad was a life long learner, and through his influence it is my desire to be one too.

Published in: on September 15, 2011 at 4:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Relief from a Tyrant

How do you handle things when you’ve been wronged? When I was young I had a difficult boss.He rarely smiled and every Friday he met with me to go over my weaknesses. I just loved Fridays!

Those early years were God’s training time for me but I so much resisted these weekly exercises.I can remember times when I would share my plight with another colleague, both of us agreeing that we were being unjustly wronged by a roughshod boss who cared only for himself. Enough was enough…I wasn’t going to take this anymore. So I confronted him and told him that if he continued to treat me like a dog, I was going to quit.

I will never forget his response. “You’re not here to serve me, you’re here to serve God and if you’re going to quit here, you’ll quit every time the going gets tough.”This wasn’t the change of heart I was looking for and the next few years didn’t get any better . . . until . . . until I read I Samuel 24, which tells the story of God giving Saul into the hands of David in the cave, while defenseless King Saul was relieving himself.

Poor David (that’s how I felt about me) has been fleeing from the hand of Saul for a couple of years now. God has already made it known that David will be the next king so now is a perfect opportunity to rid himself of this godless tyrant.

But David said something that struck my heart. He said, “God forbid that I should do this thing to the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” Twice David points out that the man who is making his life miserable is indeed God’s anointed. David’s understood that his difficult boss was God’s preparation for kingship. The day I understood this truth was the day that I was able to move forward in my preparation for leadership. Until we learn to follow we will never be able to lead.

To read more about David’s preparation for kingship, check out A Tale of Three Kings.

Published in: on September 14, 2011 at 5:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson Weigh In on our Government today

“Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
– George Washington
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroy ourselves.”
– Abraham Lincoln
When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe
-Thomas Jefferson
The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
-Thomas Jefferson
It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.
-Thomas Jefferson
I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
-Thomas Jefferson
My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.
-Thomas Jefferson

Published in: on September 14, 2011 at 3:26 am  Comments (2)  
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9/11 Intesity of Borrowed Time

This is a must see video:
http://www.changedbythegospel.com/2011/09/remembering-911-in-my-seat.html

Published in: on September 14, 2011 at 1:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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Face to Face Relationships

In his book, Missional Church, author Darrell L. Guder writes, “Complex, modern society is a reality for everyone in North America. No one has escaped being shaped by its pervasive influence. It has become the very air that we breathe.”

Perhaps most indicative of the heart of our North American culture is Guder’s assertion that we are surrounded by “multiple tasks and responsibilities that fragment time and space.” This fragmented life results in radical forms of individualism, often manifesting itself in isolation and aloneness.

Fragmentation of time and space may contribute to our modern climate, in which organic relationships have fallen by the wayside of rampant individualism. Life’s demands often make it difficult to build meaningful and trusting relationships–friends are now only a click away.

According to a recent study conducted by a neuroscience group at the University of Southern California, social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook do not provide the necessary room to feel compassion or admiration. Our needs have become sterilized and our hearts desensitized to the reality of a fallen world. While we may not be able to turn back the hands of time, we can make a concerted effort to engage in a more personal way with family and friends-face to face and heart to heart.

In a culture that is fast fragmenting time and space, relationships and love, let us be ever more appreciative of those precious relationships that are becoming a rare commodity. May we once again enjoy face-to-face encouragement and value personal accountability! Let us find creative ways to model Christ’s love by nurturing friendships in more tangible and meaningful ways.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:1-4).

Published in: on September 13, 2011 at 4:22 am  Leave a Comment  

Swallowing Pride

One evening I shared something with my wife that had been bothering me. As she responded defensively, my first reaction was to defend my position with a gentle rebuke. My rebuke, however, added more fuel to the fire, and it was evident that we would not be going to dinner as planned.

My mind raced for a contingency plan. I had two choices: I could hold on and not cave in, taking a stand that what I had said was in the right spirit and that she needed to hear it, or I could seek first to understand before being understood. As I look back on my marriage, I realize that if I had sought to understand before being understood, I would have prevented years of conflict. Unfortunately, I was too proud to admit wrong. Proverbs 13:10 states that “Only by pride comes contentions . . . .” Conflicts are the result of pride.

As I decided which approach to take, my heart was open enough to seek first to understand. Even though I believed that I was not at fault, I calmly asked if my words were offensive and how I could have approached this differently. Almost immediately, reconciliation was taking root. Deb’s account of what I had said and how I had said it was very different from my perspective. She explained how I could have handled this situation in a more gentler, non-threatening manner.

At this stage there was only one thing left to do. Admit wrong, tenderly apologize for the hurt that I caused, and cautiously ask if she still would like to go to dinner!

Seeking first to understand and then being understood is a vital link to restored relationships. The results are definitely worth the price of swallowing pride. Oh, by the way, we had a wonderful evening–I ordered a salmon salad and Deb had broiled haddock!

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

Published in: on September 12, 2011 at 5:15 am  Leave a Comment