God Can Use Anyone

Fill in the blanks.  How many times in your life do you say to yourself "God can't use me because I'm not _____________ enough, I'm too _________________, I've done too many _______________".?  Do you realize that God can use anyone for His glory?  Remember Balaam from yesterday's post?  God used Balaam, a pagan prophet who was hired by Balak, to share with Balak the blessings that He intended for Israel. 

Continuing on from yesterday, Balaam had just seen God speak through his donkey.  Now, doesn't that beat all? People, if God can use a donkey for His work, He can certainly use us!!   After hearing the donkey speak, God opened Balaam's eyes (Nu 22:31) and effectively made Balaam understand that God and God alone would give him the words to speak to Balak.

Fast forward now to the 7 prophecies Balaam gave to Balak in Numbers 23 - 24.  Remember now that Balak had paid Balaam to contact the gods and curse Israel.  After all, that was what Balaam was known for in all the land.  However, Balaam did nothing of the sort this time as he allowed God to speak through him 7 different times, all of which were blessings rather than curses on the nation of Israel.  After Balak realized he wasn't getting what he wanted he sent Balaam on his way without paying him (24:11).

Although a little weird, God uses this passage to tell us that He can use anyone to do His work.  Balak apparently needed a true word from God rather than the lies that he wanted to hear about Israel, and Balaam was the man of the hour.  Remember that our new testament apostle Paul was also used mightily by God in spite of his past.   My questions then of both you, dear readers, and myself are these:

1) What is really holding us back from doing God's work here on earth?

2) Are we using an excuse of past sins or failures to not attempt great things for God in the here and now?

Remember, God used a donkey to accomplish something for His kingdom, He can certainly use us.  As our Apostle Paul says about his past:

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.  (1 Timothy 1:12-13 NKJV)

God used a sinner such as Paul to change the world.  He can and will use us as well.  Count on it.

Paying Attention

Once upon a time a well-known greedy fortune teller was called upon to curse another country.  He pretended to have an intimate relationship with that country's god so that he would be looked upon favorably by his lord.  That country's God got mad and sent an angel to visit the greedy fortune teller.  The greedy fortune teller did not see the angel, but his donkey did...and then the donkey started to speak. Finally, our greedy fortune teller saw the Lord.

Anyone who thinks that that the bible is boring apparently hasn't taken much time to read through its pages.  Fortune telling, angels appearing, greed and talking animals are all within its pages.  The story above is another "Janna's paraphrase" of a portion of Numbers 22.  It is the story of how Balaam, a well-renowned pagan prophet, had an encounter with the one true God.

You see, Balak, the king of Moab, was scared of Israel because Israel, through God's hand, had just begun defeating some of its enemies on their journey to possess their promised land.  Because of Balak's fear, he called up Balaam, the best pagan prophet in town,  to talk to the God of Israel and turn God's blessing on them into a curse.  Balak would do anything for a price and accepted the challenge.  Little did Balaam know, but he would later see the Angel of the Lord, the one true God, face to face, and be asked to go work for Him!

Things don't often turn out as we plan, do they?  We have our own motives and go our own ways for a time until we run into obstacles that we don't understand.  We continue to press through the obstacles in our own power, not realizing at the time that they were put there by God.  We don't realize that the obstacles in our path were placed there by God to protect us from future pain, until in our pain, we start to seek God's guidance with our whole hearts.  Even we are often like Balaam.  Balaam's donkey saw God's warnings before he did! 

Father, please open our eyes so that we may see you face to face for the truth that You are.  Remove the blinders of pride, greed and self from our eyes so that we can know Your will for our lives.  Help us to be obedient to Your will.  Amen.

Stay tuned until next time... for more on Balaam & King Balak.

High Expectations

One act of disobedience cost Moses his chance to set foot in the promised land he had waited for so long to find.  Unbelievable.  The story of Moses' error at Kadesh always makes me cry out "That is so unfair!".   In case someone out there doesn't know the story, I'll give you my readers' digest version.

Moses & his often rebellious thousands of followers were in the wilderness at this time probably about the end of their 40th year of wandering around.  Once again, the people cried out - oh, I feel Moses' pain just thinking about it! -complaining that they had no water.  Aggh.

Now there was no water for the congregation, so they gathered together against Moses and Aaron.  And the people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: "If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!  Why have you brought up the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here?  And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink."  (Numbers 20:2-5 NKJV)

How many times must these people complain?  How quickly they forgot that they were SLAVES in Egypt.  They weren't having a good time in captivity.  How quickly they forgot that God had been feeding them manna and providing them water all of these years of wandering when they really should have died from starvation.  This makes me think of the complaining I've done in my own life about certain situations and how quickly I forget that God has brought me through a wilderness to a better place.

Poor Moses.  This was finally the breaking point for him.  Immediately after hearing the complaints, like a good boy, he did go directly to God in prayer.  (20:6).  And once again, God came through.  God told Moses to speak to a rock before the congregation and the rock would bring forth water before their very eyes, once again proving that God was God.  Moses gathered the congregation together before the rock as he was told...and then it happened.  Moses got mad, hit the rock, and sealed his fate to die in the wilderness, never to enter the promised land.  (Nu 20:10-11)

I suppose that Moses should be glad that God caused water to come out of the rock in spite of his disobedience.  Apparently God was pretty upset with Moses.  This whole situation conjures up a lot of thoughts for me. 

1) Leaders are held to a higher standard in God's eyes because people follow them. 

2) God takes respect seriously.  The most serious infraction was not his anger, but the fact that he disobeyed God in front of the people.

3) A lifetime of a good testimony can be damaged in seconds.  For forty years Moses was obedient to God, doing exactly as God told him to do.  In one fit of rage, Moses let his emotions control his mind and he lost the game, big time.

4) The actions of subordinates have a profound impact on leaders.  As followers, we really do have a lot of power.  Our attitudes and actions can provoke stress on our leaders. We need to remember that most of them are doing the best that they can.

There are lots of things to think about from this passage, aren't there?   We are all followers of God and probably all are submitting to someone else's authority in our ministries, homes or jobs.  We are all leaders in one way or another too and people are watching us. Lord, help us to keep our thoughts and actions captive to what you would have us to think or do.  Show us how to obey You completely, in spite of ourselves or the actions of others, so that we can be glorifying to Your name.  Amen.

Shut Your Mouth or the Earth Might Open Its Mouth For You

and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. (Numbers 16:32)

There are a lot of morals to the story I read last night in the book of Numbers 16.  To set the stage, once again poor Moses, our faithful leader, is being challenged by a group of people wishing things were different with their lives.  This time, Korah the son of Izhar, Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, along with 250 renowned leaders of the congregation and some of the children of Israel, decided that Moses and Aaron shouldn't be the only individuals exalted by God. (Nu 16:1-3).

Can you imagine the sight of this?  Poor Moses once again knew what to do.  He fell on his face before God in prayer.  (Nu 16:4).    These people challenging after all, were already special in the sight of God, but they wanted more.  They wanted to be priests. How many of us are never satisfied with the place God has us in our lives?   Moses charged them that they had come against the Lord, not him, in their rebellion (16:11).  Then, another argument ensued.  Poor Moses, I say, but woe on the individuals who argue with Moses.  Moses prayed for judgment, God delivered with a bang.  The earth opened up its mouth and swallowed up the tents and the families of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and if that wasn't enough, fire came down from heaven and consumed the other 250 leaders.

Hmm...I think there are several morals to this story that can even be applied to our lives today:

1) Submit to those in authority over you as you submit to God.  In our jobs, in our ministries and in our homes, we have most likely been placed under the "rule" of someone else.   After all, God tells us to and they are the ones accountable to God for our souls.  (He 13:17)

2) Let God place you in leadership in His time, not yours.  God knows what He is doing after all.  He knows when we are ready to handle more responsibility and He knows when we have more to learn. Just because someone else has the authority we want, do we really want to be somewhere that God has not yet willed for us?  (1 Peter 5:6)  Let's not get swallowed up!

Spying Out the Land

As I mentioned in my last couple of posts, I recently just attended a seminar for potential and current Christian leaders, authors and speakers.  While I'm not a published author, except for this blog and some church newsletters, and I'm not a frequent speaker, I attended this seminar in an attempt to follow the cloud of God's guidance.   

Upon reflecting about my experience this week, combined with my daily reading again today, I feel as if my journey last week was one of spying out my land of Canaan.  In my reading this morning, I came to Numbers 13, the story of how Moses sent out a representative from each of the twelve tribes to check out the promised land and report back as to the condition of that land.  In Numbers13:17-20, Moses asks his spies to check out the people of the land (strong or weak), their living situations (tents or fortresses) and the condition of the land (fruitful or not).   

Here is what I learned from my spying:

1.  I like the land.  Scarey as it is to admit this, I think that the idea of teaching God's word in a large group setting seems like something I would enjoy doing. 

2.  The people in the land are "strong".   I definitely felt like one of the least experienced people out of the 100+ in attendance.  I've had limited speaking experience and am surely not a published author as so many of the attendees were. 

3. The people lived in fortresses.  Looking at the writing and speaking industry from the outside, it would appear that breaking into it would be like breaking into a fortress.   After all, how many people really get published by the major publishing houses and how many people actually make a living by speaking?

So, that is my report.  If indeed I caught a glimpse of my future Land of Canaan, I saw that the land was good but somewhat intimidating.   Facts are facts, after all.  But what each of us do with the facts that are placed before us is what really determines our destiny.  I wonder how many of the attendees at CLASS were like the 10 spies who said "we be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we." (Nu 13:31).   How many were like Joshua and Caleb who were confident in God's ability to deliver His will for their lives?

If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.  (Nu 14:8-9)

I want to be the Joshua or Caleb.  I may not be as experienced as some of the people there, but if God is on my side then things will work out.  I'm just going to hold on and try to enjoy the ride and follow the cloud of God's direction.  After all, I do enjoy roller coasters.

What is your "promised land"?  Can you see it?  Do you believe that God can accomplish anything in your life?  Don't be afraid to dream big.  You never know what might happen.

Follow the Cloud

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:3-5)

How can you tell if God is leading you in a certain direction? Look for the cloud.   Seek God.  Has someone ever told you "You will just have to seek God on this"?  Do you know how to seek God and hear His answers for your life?   

This topic is so interesting to me and is absolutely fascinating when I actually get confirmation as to God's direction in my life - when I can actually see "the cloud".  So what is this cloud I'm speaking of anyway?  In Moses' day as the nation of Israel was wandering around in the wilderness, God was directing them by way of a cloud.  If the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, the people stayed where they were and if the cloud moved, they picked up everything and moved along with the cloud.  The cloud was a symbol of God's presence among His people.   See, it is not always bad to be living under a cloud!! :) 

Whether it was two days, a month, or a year that the cloud remained above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would remain encamped and not journey; but when it was taken up, they would journey.  At the command of the Lord they remained encamped, and at the command of the Lord they journeyed; (Numbers 9:22-23 NKJV)

Are you paying attention to where the "cloud" is in your life?  Are you getting out of your "house" enough and looking up at the sky to see where God may be taking you?  After all, we can't see God if we are so focused inward that we never look upward.  So, how do we see God's direction for our lives?

1) Pray.  First, as Proverbs 3:3-5 above says, we need to involve God in our lives by asking Him for direction.  When we ask, we acknowledge our need for God's sovereignty over our lives.

2) Listen.  This is the most important, but probably the most misunderstood.  We "listen" to God by being careful to observe all of the little things in our lives and how they relate to our prayers for direction.  God will use people, circumstances and our daily reading time to direct our paths and confirm the steps we have already taken.  For example, if you read my previous post, you would notice that I'm seeking direction in my life from God.  He brought me to a seminar through a series of circumstances and individuals that could only be from Him.  In addition, it is interesting to me how in my daily bible reading (I read straight through the bible a few chapters at a time), I read yesterday (in Numbers 9-10) about how God directed the children of Israel on their journey by the cloud.  Remember, while I am seeking God's direction, I did not come back from the seminar randomly looking for a passage in the bible that would speak of God's direction in my life.  God had it planned that I would be reading where I'm reading all along.  This is why a daily trek straight through the scriptures is important.  It takes the "me" out of it.   I hope this makes sense to you, dear readers.

So are you looking for answers?  Are you looking into God's word for them and are you looking up to see God's "cloud" before you?  God will direct your path.  He might not tell you what is miles ahead of you, but I know that He will give you enough light and direction for the step you are on.  What is your next step?

The Lord Bless Thee

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them,The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:  The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.  And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them. (Numbers 6:22-27)

As I read the passage above, I think about how many times throughout the bible up until this point that the children of Israel had neglected God.  I think of how many times they doubted God, cursed God and turned away from God as they wandered through the wilderness on their way to the promised land, wishing they could give God's blessing of deliverance back to Him because they were uncomfortable with change.

Yet God still chose to bless them.  God still chose to give them peace and grace and allow His name to be associated with His.  Can anyone relate to this?  Has anyone else ever been frustrated with God even though in your heart you know that God has delivered or is delivering you from something?   I'm sure we;ve all been in similar circumstances.  Obedience is hard and change is scary.   If we get overwhelmed, we must go back to the basics:  God loves us and is in control of everything, including our lives.  He has good plans for us.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.  (Jeremiah 29:11)

Good plans.  No, great plans.  I can't imagine that God would just settle for good in our lives, can you?  But how do we know these plans?  We only need to wholeheartedly ask God for answers and then listen for Him to speak through our circumstances, our Christian friends and our daily bible reading.

Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.  And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.  (Jeremiah 29:12-13)

Oh, to find God.  Can we really find Him? 

And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I have caused you to be carried away captive. (Jeremiah 29:14)

Yes, dear readers, we can find Him.  God wants to bring us back to Him  no matter how far we've strayed so that He can protect us, guide us, keep us and bless us.    I want His face to shine upon me, don't you?

Questions for reflection:

1) How bad do I want the blessing? Enough to keep seeking God with my whole heart through prayer every day?

2) What is keeping me from seeing God and getting to that place He wants to take me? 


Tonight, I'm going to eat dinner at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.  One of my favorite meals is a medium/medium-rare filet mignon accompanied by salad & baked potato.  Mmmm.....I can just smell it now and can't wait until I get to taste it.  Needless to say that I can relate to the poor Israelites who had been wandering around in the desert living off of manna without any meat as we find them in Numbers 11.  (I'm not sure without doing the research as to how long they had been eating the manna at this point, but I can safely say that it had been the situation for quite some time).  I wonder what I'd be saying had I not been able to eat any form of meat for even a month?  Would I be like the Israelites saying that my soul was dried away?

But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna before our eyes. (Nu 11:6)

There is such a huge lesson to be learned from the rest of this chapter in Numbers.  Have you ever been in a situation where God was present and supplying all of your needs but yet you still wanted the one thing that you didn't have?  What do you think that God felt when his children complained about the very thing that had been keeping them alive?  When we reject God's provision for our lives we are in effect rejecting God himself.  We have lost our faith in the One who has it all under control.  Embarrassingly, but humanly so, I have been at that place.

The people's complaining once again drew Moses to prayer.  Maybe, in God's sovereignty, He was using the burden of the people to draw Moses closer to Him.  Remember, God will use everything for His greater glory (Ro 8:28), including whiners.  I smile uneasily at God's response because I know that I've probably behaved like the Israelites at one time or other and am convicted for the future.   God told Moses to tell the people that because they were desiring the meat they formerly had in Egypt, that He would give it to them...in abundance.  (Moral: Watch what you pray for.  God might just answer your prayer to teach you a lesson!)  Try to imagine what emotions were behind God's message:

Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the LORD which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt? (Num 11:19-20)

Right now I'm thinking, "Steak is good, but I surely wouldn't want it every day for a month!" I don't know about you, but I'm feeling guilty for the children of Israel.  God has delivered me out of my own Egypt, and whenever I am unthankful for the deliverance by wanting something else, I know I'm not pleasing God.  We should always strive to remember where we came from - that we were delivered from an old life into a better one.   We just need to give the time to work things out as He, not we, have planned.

Have I conceived all these people?

I'm laughing inside as I write this because I'm remembering how much this past summer I was looking forward to reading in the New Testament for a change because I was "stuck" in the prophets.  Overall, I had a good time with the Old Testament prophets, but I couldn't wait for the rich doctrine of the New Testament.  Well, now, as I'm immersed in Philippians, I am longing to get back to the stories of the Old Testament.  Apparently, I'm hard to please.  Kind of like the followers of Moses.

Do you like Moses?  He had such a personal relationship with God that God spoke to him face to face as a friend.  We might not be able to relate to that closeness, but we can all relate to the emotions we see throughout Moses' life.  I think that is what I like about him the most.   Poor Moses.  He was leading thousands of the most ungrateful people on earth at the time.  They complained all of the time - for good reason (I would be tired of wandering around, wouldn't you?) and for bad reasons.  Let's take a look at one of Moses' not so good days.

In Numbers 11 we find the nation of Israel complaining because they were tired of the manna, provided freely by God, and wanted meat. (Nu 11:4-6).  I can't help but laughing at this story, because it is just so like us, isn't it?  Because of their complaining, God was ticked off and Moses was displeased (Nu 11:10).  Here's what Moses had to say to God about it:

...Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me?  Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers?  (Nu 11:11-12)

So Moses felt like a nursing father, huh?  Now that would be a sight to behold.  I won't go any further down that path.  Apparently, Moses was feeling a little overwhelmed.  At least he went to God with his frustrations.  Leaders (remember, everyone is a leader in some capacity), do you feel overwhelmed with all of the people God has placed under your care?  Its okay to get frustrated.  All of us are only human after all.  But, don't let your emotions get the best of you and take over your lives.  Take your frustrations directly to God, as Moses did, and who knows what may happen next! 

Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the rest of the story of the hungry Israelites ...    :)