Chapter-a-Day Numbers 23

Business Plan Presentation at FSG 2009
Image via Wikipedia

Balaam answered, “Don’t I have to be careful to say what God gives me to say?” Numbers 23:12 (MSG)

In my vocation, I’ve had the experience of presenting the results of surveys, resesarch projects, and assessments to many different clients and every level of an organization. It’s always fun when the results show satisfied customers, improvements in service performance, and strong overall results. When the news is not so good, however, it can be rather stressful. o one likes to hear bad news. But when the data reveals an outcome that the client will not be happy with, there’s not much I can do.

I identify with Balaam as he presents the results of his conversation with God to his client, Balak. What’s funny is that Balak’s response is the same as I get when I present data the client doesn’t like.

  • “Somethings got to be flawed in your methods.”
  • “Go and check it again. You have to have missed something.”
  • “Redo the survey. Call more customers. This can’t be right.”
  • “Kill the messenger!” (thankfully, I’ve never actually heard this one spoken, I’ve just sensed that my client was thinking it a few times)

I’m sure you can pay people to say what you want to hear, but the truth is a precious gift. When you know exactly where you stand you have an opportunity to make tactical decisions based on reality. Balaam was doing right by Balak to tell him the truth about God’s Message.

Speaking truthfully and honestly about what we know and/or feel can be difficult. However, when it’s done consistently and done well it may reap huge rewards for both the presenter and an audience who is open and receptive.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 22

Jim Broadbent as the adult Digory Kirke in The...
Image via Wikipedia

The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your trusty donkey on whom you’ve ridden for years right up until now? Have I ever done anything like this to you before? Have I?” Numbers 22:30 (MSG)

C.S. Lewis’ classic tale, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, has always been one of my favorites. There is a scene early in the story when Lucy’s elder siblings, Peter and Susan, are convinced that their sister is lying to them about her mysterious trips through the wardrobe into the magical land of Narnia. At their wit’s end, they have a conversation with the Professor about their sister’s odd behavior. To their amazement, he decides that their sister is telling the truth.

“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious she isn’t mad. For the moment then, and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”

The children come to learn that the Professor was correct. They refused to accept their sister’s story because it didn’t fit inside their comfortable definition of reality.

Along the journey, I’ve come to realize that we often place God in a box in our minds. It’s a neat little box. It’s dimensions are those which we define based on our comfort level and our experience in the journey. The problem is that an infinite, omniscient and omnipotent God never seems to consistently fit neatly inside a box we create in our finite minds and limited experience.

In today’s chapter, we learn that God had made himself known to a man named Balaam. Balaam was not one of “God’s people.” He was not one of the Israelites coming up out of Egypt. Nevertheless, it is clear that God had revealed Himself to Balaam and used Balaam (and Balaam’s donkey) to accomplish His purpose. 

Balaam stands as a reminder to me that God can work in and through whomever He wishes in order to accomplish His purpose. The way God works, and those through whom He chooses to accomplish His will, do not always fit within my comfortable definition. Like Susan and Peter, I am constantly finding that my faith and wonder must expand as God reveals Himself to be and to act in ways that are exceeding, abundantly beyond all that I can think or imagine.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 21

The Star of Life, medical symbol used on some ...
Image via Wikipedia

God said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it on a flagpole: Whoever is bitten and looks at it will live.” Numbers 21:8 (MSG)

I was in the car on a business trip yesterday. The client was talking about a young man in their office who was in trouble. In the conversation my client said, “I think the boy protests too much.” It struck me that the client turned a well worn Shakespearean line, but I wondered if she had any idea where the line came from. I’m guessing she could not tell you where the line came from.

In a similar manner, I’ve been amazed once more as we’ve journied through the ancient books of Leviticus and Numbers how many ways God’s Message still influences our everyday lives and culture in ways we don’t realize. In today’s chapter, God tells Moses to make a little art project, sculpting a snake and attaching it to a staff. Those who looked at it were healed.

How many times have we seen the medical symbol of a snake wrapped around a staff on the sign of a doctor’s office or an ambulance? Did have any idea we were looking at a symbol that came directly from Biblical history?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 20

There was no water there for the community, so they ganged up on Moses and Aaron. Numbers 20:2 (MSG)

I am so spoiled with the basic necessities of life. Water is a staple. Water is everywhere. I flush without thinking about the luxury of having running sewers. I wash my face, shower myself, and wash my dishes without even thinking about it. I can even water my lawn and have the luxury of spurning the water in the tap to drink a bottle of “better” water.

For ten days in 1993, the Des Moines area was without water as floods overtook the Water Works. I remember living in an apartment with two young children. Ten days without showering. Ten days without flushing. Ten days of filling jugs at water stations and hauling them back home to cook and bathe. Ten days is nothing. Ten Days is a blip on the time line. But, we still talk about it like we were martyrs. How quickly people grumble when you take away a basic necessity of life. Ask Moses and Aaron. They know.

Around the world, millions of people live without access to clean water every day. In fact, in Africa alone more people than the entire population of the U.S. are without this basic necessity. For the last several years, Wendy and I have supported Blood:Water Mission, whose goal is to help communities in Africa dig wells so that they can simply have clean water.

Today, when I shower, wash, and drink, I’m going to think of the people of Israel who grumbled as they ran out of water wandering in the wilderness of northeast Africa. I’m going to think of the millions of people in that continent and around the world who can still grumble these many thousands of years later.

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 19

None - This image is in the public domain and ...
Image via Wikipedia

“Anything the ritually unclean man touches becomes unclean, and the person who touches what he touched is unclean until evening.” Numbers 19:22 (MSG)

“Wash your hands,” we are told incessantly from the time we are young children. We are told to do it before we eat, after being outside, when we’ve been around someone who is sick, and when we are preparing food. It’s a matter of hygiene, but even the most menial of daily tasks carries with it a spiritual word picture.

Things that make us sick, both physically and spiritually, have a tendency to spread their ill effects. We can either become fanatical about avoiding anything that might make us dirty, or we can learn the self-discipline of washing ourselves of those things which may make us sick.

Throughout God’s message, water is used a physical word picture of spiritual cleansing.

  • God cleansed the earth with a flood.
  • Israel walked through the water of the Red Sea when escaping Egypt, and then those who enslaved them were washed away in the waters.
  • Ritual cleansing and washing was prescribed in the laws of Moses for anything that made people “unclean” both physically and spiritually.
  • Jonah tried to rebel by escaping God’s call over water, then was carried through the deep to the place of obedience.
  • Baptism, literally defined as plunging forcefully, is prescribed as a public sign of their spiritual transformation for anyone who has cleansed their hearts by placing their faith in Him.

Jesus washed His followers’ feet, then told them to do the same for one another. The word picture is clear. We are expected to follow Jesus’ example. We are to walk through this world and actively love others in tangible ways. The journey carries us through some dark and dirty places. It is important that we are regularly cleansed and refreshed by one another. Otherwise, the dirt may pile up and have gravely ill effects.

Today, as I wash my hands, I’m reminded of the deeper meaning of being cleansed.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 18

jeans for men
Image via Wikipedia

Make sure that God’s portion is the best and holiest of everything you get. Numbers 18:29 (MSG)

When I was a child it was a weekly customer for my family to dress in our “Sunday best” for church. Dad would put on a suit, mom a dress, and the four chidren would be dressed in our “nice clothes” for our weekly trek to Sunday School and worship. I can remember that blue jeans were an absolute no-no.

Somewhere in my high school years there was a shift in thinking. As I read God’s message seriously for the first time I realized that God was much more interested in the condition of my heart than in my Sunday wardrobe. I felt it hypocritical to dress up on the outside for church in a show of impressing God and others. What did God care if I dressed up my body if my heart was in rags?

I remember attending a different church one Sunday. I wore jeans to the service. At that time it was considered disrespectful by many people to do so. An older woman sitting in the pew in front of me turned around to introduce herself during the “meet and greet” part of the service.

“I noticed you’re wearing jeans,” she said with a smile and a wink. “Don’t worry,” she added. “It’s doesn’t matter what you wear. We’re just glad you’re here.”

Years later I still don’t really care about what others wear to church. It has been a long time since I put on a suit to attend a regular Sunday service. In fact, I would stand out if I did so. I wonder, however, if the pendulum has swung too far the other way in our hearts. I wonder if we have lost sight of the truth that God wants the best we have to give. Instead of giving God the first and best, we give God our leftovers. Perhaps our relaxed attitudes on the outside have translated into relaxed attitudes about the inside.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating going back to a Sunday morning fasion show. It’s not about the clothes. It’s the attitude and condition of the heart that is still the critical question in my mind. I want God to get the best of all I have to offer, not a portion of the leftovers after I’ve squandered the rest of my time, energy and resources.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 17

Aaron's rod
Image by maraker via Flickr

Moses walked into the Tent of Testimony the next day and saw that Aaron’s staff, the staff of the tribe of Levi, had in fact sprouted—buds, blossoms, and even ripe almonds! Numbers 17:8 (MSG)

God is a God of life. God is a God of redemption. God is a God of resurrection.

In God, old and dead things sprout new life.
A barren staff bears fruit.
Nothing is impossible.

Today, I’m comforted in this reminder.

Enhanced by Zemanta