Monday, May 15, 2017

A TALKING DONKEY?

I think we all know the biblical account of Balaam and his talking donkey. And like me, you might have dismissed it as being odd and just another story in the Bible that you didn't understand. Recently, as I was praying, the Lord led me to revisit that narrative. When I did, He taught me a valuable lesson.

Balaam was a "corrupt prophet" (false prophet) who could be bought. The setting of this story occured in the plains of Moab, at the close of the Israelites forty years of wandering in the wilderness. King Balak of Moab feared that the Israelites would "lick up all that [was] around [them], as the ox licks up the grass of the field" (Numbers 22:4). The king  had heard that those whom Balaam blessed were blessed and those whom Balaam cursed were cursed (Numbers 22:1-7). So he sent messengers with divination fees to request Balaam to curse the Israelites, so the king might defeat them. 

Ironically, Balak had nothing to fear. God had instructed the Israelites not to take possession of the Moabite land, because not only were the Moabites decedants of Lot, an Israelite, but God had already alloted that land to them as their inheritance.  


Balaam asked the men to stay the night while he met with the LORD for an answer. "Then God came to Balaam and asked, "Who are these men with you?" (Of course God knew who the men were and their intentions, but He wanted to hear Balaam's response.) 

Balaam replied, "Balak...king of Moab, sent this message to me: 'Look, a people has come out of Egypt, and they cover the surface of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me, so I may be able to fight against them and drive them away.'" Then God said to Balaam, "You are not to go with them. You are not to curse this people, for they are blessed." (God's orders to Balaam were unequivocally explicit.)

Balaam then returned to the messengers and said, "Go back to your land, because the LORD has refused to let me go with you." Did you see that? He did not relay the message as God had spoken to him. He should have said, "I cannot go with you, nor can I curse these people, for they have been blessed by God." Instead, he left it wide open for them to return and offer him more money.

Messengers and dignitaries of Balak returned with promises of honor and whatever Balaam asked of them, so he deviously said,  "If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go against the command of the LORD my God to do anything small or great." Then he added, "Please stay here overnight as the others did, so that I find out what else the LORD has to tell me."

Balaam stalled in hopes that God would change His mind, so that he could make a substantial profit from doing what the Moabites had asked of him. God then told Balaam to go with the men of Moab, because He would have an unwelcomed surprise waiting for Balaam.

God was incensed that Balaam went with the men, so the Angel of the LORD stood on the path to oppose him, but only the donkey could see the Angel. Three different times the donkey tried to get out of the Angel's way, and each time, Balaam beat the donkey. The third time, the LORD caused the donkey to speak and ask what it had done to deserve beatings. God then opened Balaam's eyes so he could see the Angel of the Lord standing with a drawn sword in His hand. 

The Angle of the Lord told Balaam that He had come out to oppose him, because he was about to do evil in His sight. Balaam repented and God instructed him to go with the men and speak four oracles to Balak.

In the first oracle, Balaam said, "Balak, get up and listen...pay attention to what I say! God is not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind. Does He speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill? I have indeed received a command to bless; since He has blessed, I cannot change it" (Numbers 23:18-20). For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen (2 Corinthians 1:20). 

What can we learn from this chronicle? There are times, when like Balaam, the Lord gives us clear instructions. Unfortunately, we try to make deals with God, because we want our desires fulfilled. We have analyzed and justified our motives and made excuses to ourselves and often to others as to why it's okay to move forward with our plans. Believe me, I have done that, even when in the deepest part of my heart, I knew it was not God's will. Balaam had known God's answer before he asked, but because of greed, he was willing to press God in hopes of changing His mind.

Balaam's faithful donkey had tried to protect him, only to have been beaten for his efforts. Have we at various times, been angry with faithful friends, family, and God because they tried to warn us about certain dangers that they could see, but we were blind to? And did we heed that advice or did we spurn the warnings and move ahead with our own agenda, only to be met with failure? It is the wisdom of the prudent that discerns God's way... (Proverbs 14:8).

We see a scenario like Balaam played out every day. We can be tempted by something or by someone to pursue what God has forbidden. Though family, friends, and even the Spirit of God make every effort to encourage or persuade us to move in the right direction, strong delusion can become more believable and appealing than the truth. For that reason, it is imperative to examine our motives and see if they are aligned with God's Word and will.

How many times has God sent a "talking donkey" to try and keep us from going down the wrong path? God's mercy is great and the course that He sets before us is sure and perfect. The question remains, "Whom do we listen to and what and whom do we follow?" Things are not always as they appear.

Balaam repented and did what God had told him to do in the first place. When we get sidetracked, God sends messengers, even a "talking donkey" to warn us of impending dangers. Are we listening?

PRAYER:
Lord, I desire to be in Your will. Help me to carefully heed Your Word and Your warnings. Help me not to be just a listener of Your Word, but help me to be a doer of Your Word, so that I may live out the fullest expression of Your Word in my life. Then when temptation comes, I am able to reject it and move forward with You (James 1:22). In Jesus name, amen.



Saturday, May 13, 2017

A MOTHER'S LOVE

     Today, we pamper and honor our mothers. My mother took her journey to heaven in 1998, so I have not be able to enjoy that privilege of honoring her. But for those who still have their mother, I hope that you have been able to make them feel special and loved, whether it has been a phone call, a card, preparing a meal, or any other way to express your love.  
     When I married and moved far from home, I would write my mother letters and poems to show my love and appreciation, especially on Mother's Day. So today, I decided to do something a little unorthodox and write my mother the following poem. Who knows, maybe somehow it will reach heaven.
     Wishing all the mothers a very blessed and happy Mother's Day! 




A MOTHER'S LOVE

Motherhood is filled with many responsibilities,
But she sees her role as a gift and not a duty.

A mother's job is not an easy task;
But her abilities are unsurpassed.

Her love and attention to her children's needs
Routinely prevent time to meet her needs.

Greatness she invisions for her little ones—
A dream that is hers and hers alone.

She sees her children as exceptionally bright
And proudly watches their growth with delight.

She selflessly sits at her children's sickbeds,
Attentively cooling their feverish heads.

She kisses away boo-boos and tears
And quickly soothes their darkest fears.

She tucks them in their little beds each night
And tells a story and kisses them goodnight.

She is slow to anger and quick to forgive;
Her compassion and love, she eagerly gives.

She listens to her children's hopes and dreams
When others think they are but foolish schemes.

She encourages when her children fail,
Knowing their growth comes from life's trials.

Too soon, her children are grown and gone,
But sweet memories of their youth live on.

Nothing compares to this gift from above—
The unselfish giving of a mother's love.

So on this special day that is celebrated
Know that you are loved and appreciated.

I thank God He chose you to be my mother,
For I can't imagine having any other.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!
I love you, 
Joy

C. Joy Bollinger ©2017

Honor your father and your mother, 
That your days may be long upon the land, 
Which the Lord your God is giving you. 
(Exodus 20:12 NKJV).  







Monday, May 8, 2017

SOAR LIKE EAGLES

December 4, 2016, our son had driven from Georgia to pick up his fiancé from South Carolina to surprise me for my birthday. When the doorbell rang, I answered to find a bouquet of balloons, flowers, a gift bag, and big, beautiful smiles. Just their presence alone made my birthday so very special and memorable.

I tell you this, because all the balloons, except one, had lost their air within a couple of weeks. I decided to see how long this one resilient and tenacious balloon would stay air worthy.

Three months later, I was watching the slightly wrinkled and somewhat deflated balloon wave back and forth and up and down in the afternoon breeze, when I was struck with a humorous thought: I am very much like that balloon — a little wrinkled and out of shape, but when life knocks the wind out of me, I regain my strength and keep pressing on with God.

One of my favorite scriptures is: Those who wait upon the LORD will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings as eagles; they will run and not be weary; and they will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40: 31). The most significant part of this scripture is, "Those who wait upon the LORD."  

Over the years, I have prayed many prayers. Some were answered quickly, some over time, and some I am still waiting. Although there are prayers yet to be answered, I continue to pray without ceasing, as I wait upon the LORD (1 Thessalonians 5:17). For I have complete confidence that when I call to God in prayer, He listens and brings an answer in His time (Jeremiah 29:12). It may not always be the answer that I expect or hope for, but it will be God's answer.

Wait means to stop, rest, remain, hold on, sit tight, anticipate, look forward, and be ready. We can look forward to and be ready for what God will do in and for us, and in and for those whom we are praying. However, in our waiting, it is necessary to rest in His love and wait for Him to move according to His time and purposes.

In my early years of being a Christian, my nemesis was impatience. That impatience for answered prayer caused me to make choices that led me away from God's best. However, I eventually discovered that in the waiting, I was developing peace, patience, faith, and the ability to trust my heavenly Father to do the very best for me.

The other part of the scripture, Mount up with wings as eagles... is translated from the Hebrew alah, which means to go up or ascend. The prophet Isaiah was saying that God renews our strength and lifts us above the storms so that we can soar like eagles.

Interestingly, all birds flee storms and hide, except for eagles. They are the only birds to love storms and use them as their playground. They boldly fly into the storm, looking for wind to carry them higher, so that they can rest their wings as they glide and soar above the clouds.

The ability of my birthday balloon to remain aloft reminded me of the eagles. No matter the fierceness of a storm, they will fly through the storm, using the air currents to lift them higher. If we wait upon God with expectant hope and confident assurance in Him and His promises, He will renew our strength and be the wind beneath our wings that catapults us above the storm to soar like the eagles.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, 
And let your heart take courage;
Wait for the Lord!
(Psalm 27:14)
PRAYER:
LORD, You are my strength. Lift me as on eagle's wings that I may soar above the storm where there is rest and peace from the tumult. May I always wait upon You with anticipation and expectancy that You are always leading and guiding me towards Your will for my life.  In Jesus name, amen.