Balaam: If the Price is Right!

The story of Balaam is one you would rarely hear mentioned in a modern sermon.

Ironically there are many treading the same road and if they do not repent they will meet the same end.

This “prophet “or more probably what they used to call a “soothsayer” is somewhat of an enigma. He was a prophet for hire and such was his prophetic gift that Balak the king of Moab sought him to curse the children of Israel. This petty potentate felt threatened by the encroaching Israelites but need not have worried because they were commanded of God not to take any territory from either Moab or Edom. Yet such was the hostility this king had for them that he sought Israel’s destruction by magical rather than military means.

The passage infers that Balaam had delivered messages from God at previous times and a casual reading would suggest that the prophet was well acquainted with the Lord God. Yet even from the first Balaam seems to have been dazzled by the rich prize Balak dangled before him.

Balaam provided hospitality to the king’s emissaries while he sought the Lord.

The Lord clearly forbade him to either go with them or curse God’s chosen people. So the ambassadors departed.

King Balak was not so easily deterred and sent a larger entourage of more important people and this time offered the prophet not only riches but preferment and honour.

While in his speech he stood firm, he sought again to the Lord perhaps hoping God would change His mind and thus be able to oblige Balak and maybe gain the reward.

God allowed the prophet to accompany the men if they asked him to but with the proviso that he only spoke what God commanded him to. The following passage is unclear inasmuch as it seems that God changed his mind and was angry at Balaam for going with the emissaries of the king.

Rather it would seem that in his eagerness for the promised reward he preempted the emissary’s invitation and took off with two of his servants to meet them.

God expects our obedience to His commands to be obeyed to the letter. Balaam could see only the riches and honour Balak promised and this blinded him to anything else.

How many professing Christians today have their eyes on the wrong prize by seeking to serve and worship God yet are covetous for wealth and ease?

The story of Balaam and the donkey may cause some to stumble, yet God is well able to give voice to the dumb creation when he has something to say.indexbalaam

Light heartedly we can discover for ourselves who was the real donkey out of these two. The donkey could clearly see the danger ahead of them when this great “prophet” could not.

We have here the compassion of God illustrated in stopping Balaam in a sinful course.

The lesson and warning this incident taught Balaam about obedience to God’s commands brought him to a shallow repentance because although he obeyed God in prophesying the blessed future of God’s people and even the coming of the Messiah, it did not change the fundamental sinful bent of his desires.

15 And he took up his discourse and said,

“The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,
    the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
16 the oracle of him who hears the words of God,
    and knows the knowledge of the Most High,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
    falling down with his eyes uncovered:
17 I see him, but not now;
    I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob,
    and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab
    and break down all the sons of Sheth.
18 Edom shall be dispossessed;
    Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed.
    Israel is doing valiantly.
19 And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion
    and destroy the survivors of cities!” Numbers 22:15-19

Balak, king of Moab’s persistence beggar’s belief, by every means conceivable he sought Balaam to curse the people yet time and again Balaam was prompted by God to bless the children of Israel and forth tell their future blessings. It made no difference where they stood or how many altars he built God’s will in the blessing of his people will always stand even in the face of their enemies.static1.squarespace.com

The purposes of God cannot be thwarted by man.

And Balaam took up his discourse and said,

“From Aram Balak has brought me,
    the king of Moab from the eastern mountains:
‘Come, curse Jacob for me,
    and come, denounce Israel!’
How can I curse whom God has not cursed?
    How can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?
For from the top of the crags I see him,
    from the hills I behold him;
behold, a people dwelling alone,
    and not counting itself among the nations!
10 Who can count the dust of Jacob
    or number the fourth part of Israel?
Let me die the death of the upright,
    and let my end be like his!” Numbers 22: 7-10

This passage from scripture also is a salutary warning for us all inasmuch as it shows us that a person can be gifted and used of God and yet not truly one of His own and also how easily it is to be tempted from obedience and faith by the deceitful riches a, honours and pleasures of this world.

Later we see Balaam advising Balak to use the women of Moab to entice the men of Israel to sin and idolatry, thus bringing dire judgment upon the people. He chose to ignore God’s warnings and set himself against the will of God thus hastening headlong on the path of destruction.

Balaam did not live long to enjoy the rewards of wickedness because he was later killed by the children of Israel during their war with the kings of Midian.

We must all choose whose side we are on.

Balaam knew the true God and indeed served Him to some degree yet he did so with a divided and covetous heart and paid the price of disobedience and impenitence.

Let us be warned by his sorry end to be wholehearted in our faith and obedience to God.

Also may we see the bright future of God’s chosen people. Although they may now be “under a Cloud” and not much to look at ,in God’s sight they are chosen and precious among the people of the world. They are His possession and will be so for all eternity.

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Standing on the Word of God.

During the nineteenth century there was a strenuous effort on the part of many Evangelical leaders to reconcile Christianity with the new “Theory of Evolution” and the scientific discoveries of the age.

They found the idea of a six day creation and a “young “ earth did not jibe with modern thought and tried to explain them away as the product of primitive and unscientific thought. They also made the Bible stories to be something other than historical fact but still moral and objective lessons.

Others finding the doctrine of substitutional Atonement was found to be irreconcilable with the new thought permeating the intellectual circles and attempts were made to make it less than what scripture showed it to be.

While many of these people were no doubt well meaning the opening up of the scriptures and Christian Doctrine to this sort of adaptation and modification only served to weaken the power of the Christian Gospel.

While it is true that the Genesis creation story is not a scientific document it still demands for itself credence as to the fact of God’s immediate creation of man and indeed the whole creation as well as the subsequent fall of man into sin.

To the thoughtful observer the Fall is the only true and plausible explanation of the historic and continuing state of man in sin and rebellion against God.

As I continually point out in these scribblings any attempt to adapt and diminish the teaching of the scriptures in the hope of appealing to ungodly populace can only undermine the inherent , Spirit  imbued Power of the Word of God in the tearing down of sins strongholds and Satan’ kingdom.

While we invite scrutiny of the Word of God, we must let it stand as it is.

As has been found in the past and will be discovered in the future the Holy Scriptures needs no apology from us.

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Balaam: If the Price is Right!

Art imitates life!

I have always been a TV watcher and have often noticed that in some of the circumstances of my life,events portrayed in programs on television happened to coincide with what has just happened to me.

When I first discovered I needed spectacles an episode of “the Brady Bunch” was screened about Jan trying to lose her new “eye glasses”. 375428688931409e0b6e3af773f8cd7cWhen my mother died recently, an episode of “Star Trek the Next generation” aired the next day that had “Geordie La Forge’s” mother missing presumed dead.

TNG255This has occurred at various times and coincident with various occurrences.I have no idea why this happens but it does make you wonder.

The fact is that such events are common to us all. We are not alone or unique in the joys, sorrows, the good and the bad, the exciting or the mundane.

The one thing television cannot truly imitate is faith in God and Christ because all its emotions are feigned and imitated.

Only by experiencing the reality of faith and Christ can we see it truth and power.

Just made it!200_s

We all know the scene in the film or cartoon where the car barely completes the race and crosses the finish line, only to have the wheels fall off, the engine to fall out and the car falls to bits. The driver is left sitting on the track with only the steering wheel left.

The question is do we want to finish the course of our Christian lives like that.stock-photo-crazy-male-auto-driver-with-the-steering-wheel-and-a-helmet-concept-81227995

We Christian easily get lackadaisical about our spiritual lives. We feel that as long as we sincerely believe in Jesus we will be all right in the end. We often neglect those spiritual practices that help us grow as Christians such as Bible study, prayer and self denial because they require time we do not always have and concentration that we often lack.

We can even be spasmodic and indifferent about our church attendance and can always find reasons for missing the odd worship service.

To neglect these things and fall into bad habits may or may not mean we are not Christians at all. What it does mean is that all the nuts and bolts on our race car are coming loose and by not tightening them and looking after our car we risk not finishing the Christian race or just “getting over the line”.

The Puritans often compare our arrival in heaven as either being that of a ship entering harbour full of holes and with tattered sails compared to a ship in top condition and under full sail. I know which I would rather be.

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A living Hope!

 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:1-9 English Standard Version.

Peter in his first epistle writes perhaps, too many of the same people to whom he preached on the Day of Pentecost. He endeavors to confirm them in the practice of their faith.

While mindful of their manifold sufferings he reminds them of their high calling and their being kept by God who had known and chosen them from eternity.

They had been brought to a life of godly obedience by the sanctification through the Holy Spirit and by the sacrificial sprinkling of the Blood of Christ.

These believers showed the marks of the new birth and professed the new hope which flowed from Christ’s resurrection.

They knew that a glorious and incorruptible inheritance waited for them and would soon be a present possession.

Indeed all their trials and tribulations only served to whet their appetite and increase their present joy.

The trial of their faith, proved and tested like gold, served to bring glory to Jesus Christ.

Though invisible to human eye, Jesus Christ was the sum and sphere of all their hope, love and worship and the fountain of unspeakable joy.

I wonder if we know anything of these things ourselves, here and now.

The certainty is, that if by faith we place Christ where He should be in our hearts we would know like joy and be able to withstand the tribulations that befall us and partake in the same living hope.

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Art imitates life!

Seeking a Hearing!!!

 

I would imagine that the people who view this blog and perchance read it come upon it by accident. The chances are they are looking for something completely different and only stumble upon it by chance.

The fact is that the world wide web is full of people writing blogs and seeking a hearing for their particular views and theories.Image result for finding an audience

At the transfiguration of Jesus it is written  “And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” Mark 9:7

I seek from all my writing to encourage the reader to Hear Jesus Christ and the Word of God.

Whatever and whoever else we hear; we desperately need to listen to what God has to say to us through His Son and the scriptures.

Where we will spend eternity hangs on our hearing, believing and obeying the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If one trait optimizes people today , it is a sense of hopelessness. This sorry state ,even if masked by mirth and worldly distractions is symptomatical of a life apart from God and without Christ.

The only way to genuine Hope is to listen what God has to say to us in the Bible and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

Dare to be a Daniel!

The book of the prophet Daniel has been a battle field over which many have fought over the years. Some have tried to remove the miraculous and future forseeing sections of the book.

For others it is seeking to interpret the more obscure portions of it and apply it to the present and prognosticate the future destiny of Israel and the Church.

The past is full of those who regale their books with Charts of future events based on study of the book of Daniel mingled with other prophecies in the Old and NewTestament especially Revelation .Image result for Prophecies charts from Daniel

The life of the prophet himself as well as his three friends, has a very up to date lesson to teach us of how a believer is to live and act in a pagan society.

Daniel and his three friends are remarkeable in that when everything went against them they stood firm in their obedience to God even in the face of death.Image result for the fiery furnacehttps://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f1/Daniellion.jpg/300px-Daniellion.jpg

The fiery furnace and the lion den could not deter these faithful men from their obedience to God and His commandments.

Believers who follows the example of these ” Men of God” , will find themselves to be “Greatly Beloved” Daniel 10:11

Monopoly on the Spirit!https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f9/Monopoly_pack_logo.png

I think that there are many sections of the professing evangelical church who act as if the Holy Spirit’s power and work were their exclusive experience. Either by the numbers of their attendees or because of the manifestations and experiences festooning their meetings.

Our re-action against the excesses of some these groups does not mean we depreciate the genuine and powerful work of the Spirit. Rather we glorify the Spirit by seeking His fruits and not just His gifts.

We in common with all the saints, plead for a mighty work of grace and revival in our times.

However the absence of the ecstatic and gaudy expressions of worship does not indicate The Holy Spirits absence. Indeed the greater part of the Spirit’s work is to be found in the hidden heart of man, in transformation and renewal in the inner man. It is seen in the faithful proclamation and study of the Word of God, which sad to say is very often subordinated in many places to phenomena and chaos.

The groups who claim the most of the Holy Spirit’s work very often discredit themselves by the “elitism” and superiority they imply by their behavior.

Were these people supreme examples of “Christ-likeness”, humility , reverence and obedience to God’s Word, maybe their claim to a Monopoly on the Spirit’s power would be more credible. If they were living lives un-enamoured by the things of this world and more intent on pleasing God instead of man they might be able to claim the word “Apostolic”.

Christianity by definition shows forth itself in Christ-likeness. These are the people who see Christ in all who love him in sincerity and hold to His truth and stand against sin , falsehood and worldliness.

The true Christian is one who loves the brethren whether or not they have had some particular experience or exhibited some phenomena and identifies with the humblest saint of God.

“By their Fruits shall you know them”.Matthew 7:16Image result for by their fruits you will know them

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In Christian leaders and Christians in general it is sometimes hard to determine exactly what they stand for. It is even harder to know who they will stand up for?

 

 

 

Seeking a Hearing!!!

Unstopping the Wells!

18 And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. Genesis 26:18

D.Martin Lloyd Jones uses this verse to illustrate the constant task facing Christians and the Church.

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Isaac has little recorded about him in the book of Genesis. It seems he spent most of his time covering much the same ground and making the same mistakes as his father before him.

Abraham, his father had dug several wells for his vast flocks: after his death, the Philistines had come along and stopped up these wells with all sorts of rubbish.

Lloyd Jones uses this as an illustration of what happens to the visible church over the course of history.

How many false doctrines have been foisted onto the church as a result of modern Philistines throwing plausible and flesh-pleasing rubbish into the wells of spiritual truth and doctrine?

It is not just the Roman Catholics and their imitators with their mountains of unscriptural and dubious traditions and dogmas.

It is also the modern evangelical trying to repair the decline in church attendance with the landfill of worldly marketing methods, hype and glitz.

The substituting of the fizzy soft drink of unscriptural teaching for the “water of life”.

To unstop the wells of God’s truth and pour them forth to thirsty men and women, boys and girls, is a constant task for God’s people in this world where error and its peddlers are springing up everywhere.

The problem is that so many in the church know nothing more than the rank water which comes from the cracked cisterns that pervade much of the church today.

Many have no real thirst for the water that Jesus promises will “well up” within those who believe in Him.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

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We need to pray for a real thirst for this water in our souls, and do our part to dig away the dirt which keeps us from it.

“Where the saints have trod”.

We also see that Isaac was no innovator; rather he was content to carry on in the same way and follow the same trails blazed out by his father before him.

It is true times change and sometimes we may find better ways to do things. However, in matters of faith, Christian doctrine and practice we have the way laid out before us.

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We have God’s Word, Christ’s teaching and example to follow. We have the message of the Cross and salvation to proclaim and Christ-like living to exemplify.

To deviate from these fundamentals by watering them down and laying them aside shows we are not walking in the path the true saints of God have trod down through the ages and which our Saviour walked and marked out for us.

When we can see no continuation or resemblance between ourselves and the saints of God down through the ages we may well conclude we have gone astray.

Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Jeremiah 6:16

Many of God’s ancient people would not walk in His way and many today are looking for short cuts which end up somewhere else.  If we truly seek for it God will help us find it.

God says to us of the true and scriptural way.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Jeremiah 30:21 E.S.V

How we speak?

Among those things required in the Children of God is found the call to govern and modify our speech.

“4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving”. Ephesians 5: 4

While we may be scrupulous in avoiding major sexual sins and behaviors, we can allow ourselves latitude in thought and speech. We little know how defiling our thoughts and speech may be to ourselves and others.

Spiritually speaking we all carry dynamite around with us. Our own physical desires and lusts if indulged can carry us we know not where if left to their own devices. It takes very little to set them off even if it be an unguarded word.

We are not aided by living in a world and society that sees no harm in sexual innuendo and immodest behavior and dress.

If we regard such things as peccadilloes and venial sins we can find ourselves opening the way for other unclean indulgences.

Whatever our view of these things, the apostle here takes a very serious view of the way we must speak and act. Negatively He calls upon us to avoid all such talking and jesting, while positively he commands us to substitute thanksgiving to God and by implication such like wholesome speech.

Were the average Christian so scrupulous in watching over his conversation, surely they would convict others and testify to the importance in his life of being obedient to Christ’s commands.

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The life of God in the soul of man;

Is the title of a small work by Henry Scougal (1650-1677) .  It deals with the true nature of Christianity and shows that it is not merely a matter of human effort or discipline but the result of the Holy Spirit’s entering into the soul of man, renewing every part and working through him.https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/files/2014/05/Screen-shot-2014-05-30-at-8.50.42-AM-300x584.png

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 N.I.V.

 

The Christian life has been well described as a life of union and communion.

The “born again” believer has union with the living Christ and walks in newness of life.

While our fleshly sinful nature remains and still strives for mastery, we find a new principle within us, drawing us to follow Christ and walk in His ways: indeed we are being created anew.

Yes we stumble and fall, and sometimes we yield to the old sinful ways but they have lost their charms and we, like the prodigal son, long to return to fellowship with our Saviour.

The Christian also lives a life of communion with Christ.

There is no doubt that this communion is mysterious but it is no less real.

We hear Him speak through the Word, we see Him act through our obedience to His will and we know His presence through the help and guidance we receive day by day.

Even when we are blinded by worldly cares and anxieties or crippled by besetting fears we know that he abides with us still “ , because even  “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13https://granosalispaullocandro.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/8317f-rainbow231.jpg?w=660

To some this may seem “airy fairy” and self delusional but the mere fact of our seeking His face and believing and trusting in Him is evidence of God’s power within us.

The worldly wise sinner knows nothing of this. God is not in all his thoughts. He has not the slightest desire to know God or His ways. He has no desire for holiness and would indulge in sin to the full if not restrained by shame and fear of what his fellows would think.

To be a “Christian” runs counter to everything a man is in bondage to sin. For the Christ-less sinner, SELF is well and truly on the throne.

Man it is true, may sometimes deny and sacrifice self for lesser reasons but only a Christian can walk the path of self denial and holiness out of love for his God and Saviour. Only the Believer can cast away his self reliance and come to depend on Christ’s indwelling power.

Some may delude themselves as to the reality of the Divine indwelling within themselves. They do not bear the fruit that this indwelling inevitably brings forth. We should all examine ourselves as to this.

There is however the other extreme: that we come to the point in our lives, when we are at such a low spiritual ebb, in the midst of which, we see no evidence of the work of God within us at all.

The Puritans used to compare some Christian’s experience to a spark in the midst of the ocean.

To all intents and purposes, the spark cannot survive in the sea, it is under constant threat of being quenched yet there it is, feeble maybe but still glowing away.

Bunyan illustrated it by a man pouring water on a fire yet despite his efforts the fire blazes away. The pilgrim is taken behind the wall and another man is secretly pouring oil on the fire to keep it alive. The object lesson is that any spark of true spiritual life within us, despite everything in the World seeking to extinguish it, remains because God is keeping it alive and will cause it to burst into flame once more.

The Christian lives a life unlike anyone else in the World. Only he lives in harmony with the Creator of all things and knows God as his heavenly Father and Christ as Lord and friend.

So to my unbelieving reader I say ,if you would know life, know Christ.

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”. John 17:3 E.S.V.

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Settling on the lees!

In Old Testament “speak” one of the usual illustrations of settling down and remaining undisturbed in spiritual life was to say that people were “settling on their lees”. Apparently because wine has amounts of sediment suspended in it, if it is left unused this sediment settles to the bottom and becomes the dregs. The implication is that this sedimentation does nothing for the flavor of the wine.Image result for wine on the lees

“And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with lamps; and I will punish the men that are settled on their lees, that say in their heart, Jehovah will not do good, neither will he do evil”. Zephaniah 1:12 A.S.V.

The Christian, if left undisturbed by what the Puritans called “the searching ministry of the Word” has a tendency to become complacent and self satisfied with his progress and spiritual state. When all is going along nicely the tendency is to lay back and enjoy the peace and quiet.

As I have mentioned before, everything in this modern world has the effect of sending the believer to sleep with regards to his spiritual state. We are also distracted by other concerns and interests so that we do not apply ourselves to the one thing needful.

This complacent state of being is one of the reasons why the state of Christianity is so low in the western world.

The cause of God in the World is from a human point of view lagging and declining because the average Christian is apathetic to holiness and the furtherance of the Kingdom by comparison to his interest in his own concerns and pleasures.

As also mentioned before, by comparison the zeal of the false Christian cults and fanatics from other religions leaves the average Christian believer in the shade.

True the cause of God will not fail in its purpose yet when you and I fail to serve and obey God to the utmost of our ability; we miss the blessing and suffer the decline which comes from our lack of zeal and effort.

The bold and faithful preaching of the Word of God was always the divine remedy for complacency and apathy in the people of God. The minister of the Word has a terrible responsibility if He fails in this duty. The hearer of the Word also must be open and willing to let the Word search and try him.

The desperate need of our times is for a revival of true scriptural zeal in the body of Christ to proclaim the gospel of Christ to a sinful world and revive the languishing Church.

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Unstopping the Wells!