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 3

We talked yesterday how Balaam the prophet was told by God to go to Moab, but after he went God was angry. At first glance it would appear that God is guilty of double-mindedness. But knowing that God is true and every man a liar, taking a closer look would be the better part of wisdom. Note God’s specific words to Balaam, as well as Balaam’s response:

“And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, ‘If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but only do what I tell you.’
So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.

But God’s anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him” (Numbers 22:20-22).

Do you see the infractions?

1. He rose in the morning without being called by the men.
2. He saddled his donkey without being told by God.
3. He took servants with him, without instruction from God.

Balaam is revealing his greedy nature by his actions. He’s in it only for the money, thus the reason for the saddled donkey and the servants–he’s planning on making a haul!

In 2 Peter we read that some “have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness . . . .”

In Jude we read: “Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error . . . .”

If Balaam had looked a few chapters into the future, he would seen one of the greatest warnings in all of the Bible: “. . . be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23b).

Lamplighter Theatre Testimony from Generations of Virtue

Generations of Virtue is a ministry that equips parents to empower their children for purity in our world today. The founder of our ministry, Julie Hiramine, has spoken to thousands of parents and young people all around the world, giving them practical tools to train their children in purity starting from a young age and continuing on into the teen years. One thing we have learned after years of ministry is that without the Godly character to back up a commitment to purity, it is almost impossible to make wise choices in this area.

The Lamplighter audio dramas are ideal to pass along to parents who want to teach their children about virtuous character and making good choices. They make learning about the character qualities that produce good fruit in a person’s life approachable and fun. Parents can use these dramas to open doors to deeper communication about many spiritual truths. Most recently Generations of Virtue has ministered a significant amount in southeast Asia, and the Lamplighter audio dramas are perfect for families who want to teach their children about virtuous character, but don’t always have the same access we do in the U.S. to quality literature. Not only do their children get to learn about different cultures, they are also learning lessons about character that positively influence their lives.

Published in: on March 16, 2012 at 3:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Blocked Vision, Part 2

In our last Moment, we looked at the talking donkey of Numbers 22 and the prophet Balaam who was unable to see and hear from God nor 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 the 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.

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 had been 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 dander 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.

Costly Career Goals, Part 2

Recently we talked about building the foundation of our family first before pursuing costly career goals. Today I would like to challenge us all with the opposite thought. You see, sometimes we use our family as a crutch not to move forward by faith. There are times when God calls us to do something that may not appear to be in the best interest of our family.

In Numbers 14, the children of Israel faced what many young couples face today–relocation. God was moving Israel from their secure life in Egypt (though enslaved!), to the wilderness. Note their first line of defense, and reason why they shouldn’t have to relocate –“Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” The enticement of security is a cancer to faith and often we as men will use our family as an excuse not to follow the promptings of God.

Is God calling you to relocate? Is God calling you to do something meaningful for His Kingdom but you’re just not sure if it will be best for your family? How is one to know?

If you read further in Numbers 14 as well as Deuteronomy 1, you will find the answer–“But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.” To know God’s will is to know God! To follow Him fully…to pursue Him passionately.

Do you have a different spirit–as did Caleb? Do not be afraid of the wilderness. You may not be able to enjoy the leeks of Egypt on the journey, but while others draw back, thinking they are protecting their family, you will reap an everlasting inheritance for generations to come.

Costly Career Goals

In I Kings 17:34 there is an obscure Scripture that beckons our attention. Out of the blue, the following verse appears: “In his days, Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the Word of the LORD, which he spoke by Joshua the son of nun.” Now what are we to make of that?

This is why I love the Scriptures. There is always hidden treasure for those who are willing to seek…for they will find! So let’s have a closer examination of this verse. First we find that Hiel pursued a career opportunity that cost him the lives of his oldest and youngest sons.

We also learn that Hiel’s two sons die as a result of something spoken by Joshua. The natural next step is to then go to the book of Joshua and see if we can find anything that relates to this passage. Sure enough, in Joshua chapter 6, verses 26 & 27 we find an oath that forbids anyone from rebuilding Jericho or its gates. And whoever does attempt to do so will do so at the cost of their firstborn and youngest child. Ah, the mystery is solved.

So what can we learn from this unusual Scripture? First, we need to know the content of the Word of God before we pursue our career goals. We need to seek God’s counsel and the wise counsel of others before we move forward. We need to be willing to trust the direction we will take with God and others. Now there’s a fine balance here between faith and folly. Certainly if we sense God is leading us to do something and others don’t see it, we need to obey God rather than man. If however, the wise counsel of others and the Word of God aligns against us, we need to beware before moving forward because our decisions may indeed cost us our family.

If we’re going to rebuild the foundations of anything in life, let’s first start with the rebuilding of our family.

Hide and Seek

I loved playing Hide and Seek as a child. I used to think that I hid in the most undiscoverable nooks and crannies. My younger sister didn’t enjoy Hide and Seek but she played anyway. As I would sit in darkness and silence, waiting to hear her footsteps, I would soon pop my head out–only to find that she was sitting in front of the TV watching cartoons. She had given up. But when it was her turn to hide, I was unstoppable in my quest to find the hidden reward!

Fifty years later, I am still on that quest. The Word of God is in many ways a hidden treasure, waiting to be found. But I have to admit that there are times when that treasure is more difficult to find. One morning, as I was reading in Joshua chapters 20 and 21, I found–for the first time in decades–no eternal truth that I could take with me through the day. That is, until I arrived at the end of the chapter!

Picture this: you are reading through an endless list of city names, the morning is slipping by, and you are wondering if there will be a blessing from what you are reading. While picking up speed through the monotonous list of names, you resign yourself to the fact that there may not be a blessing today. But as you arrive at the end and read the very last verse, a smile starts to form on your face. You didn’t give up, and the unexpected blessing that you begin to read confirms the truth that those who seek diligently will find. Tucked away at the end of a monotonous list of names in Joshua 21, the following blessing can be found: “Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” Now, that is a truth worth searching for!

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 13:10a states that “Only by pride cometh contention . . . .” 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 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).

Jephthah’s Daughter

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 Art of Spear-Throwing

In the book, A Tale of Three Kings, Gene Edwards tells the story of David and the spear-throwing King Saul. What I love about the story is how the author crafts a parallel from David’s continual threat of being speared by King Saul to our lives today. Spear-throwing and spear-fleeing seem be a rite of passage for those whom God is preparing for leadership positions. If you are leading anyone, then this preparation awaits you.

I can testify to this spear-throwing apprenticeship program. As I look back on 33 years of ministry, I can see why I was continually dodging spears. Thankfully, I had read A Tale of Three Kings early enough to recognize that these spears were divine projectiles, preparing me for leadership.

If you find yourself under attack, resist the natural urge to pick up the spear and throw it back. Just as they prepared David to be the next king, these spears are preparing you. Besides, those who engage in spear-throwing always turn the color of bitter.

Are you feeling like target practice these days? Rather than taking up the art of spear throwing, take up the shield of faith, which will be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one. Picture an Old Testament shield made of leather and soaked in oil. When a burning arrow pierced that shield, it was immediately quenched. We must be soaked–or drenched–in faith, in God’s love, in God’s truth, and in God’s forgiveness–our shield of faith. Then the daily onslaught of fiery darts shall be extinguished, and we will be better equipped to wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

We will be ineffective at wielding the sword of the Spirit until we first take up the shield of faith! (Ephesians 6)