Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Dumb Ass Speaks!

The Dumb Ass Speaks!

I must say, I have debated whether or not to use "The Dumb Ass Speaks" as the title for this article. And I can't tell you how many times I have laughed hysterically over it, because I know what it may initially imply - that I'm talking about a particular person who is saying something absolutely stupid. And what's funny is that I'm not talking about a person at all, but a donkey!  

The word donkey or ass is interchangeable. The word 'ass' is actually derived from the last word in the species classification, Equus Africanus Asinus. That particular word "asinus" is where the word "asinine" comes from, which means extremely or utterly foolish. A great word if you ask me, and a truly hilarious one as well.

In our language, a male donkey is called a 'jack', thus a jack-ass. A female donkey is called a 'jennet'. A 'mule' is a cross between a jackass and a female horse. A 'hinny' is a cross between a jennet and a male horse.

I remember as a young boy, saying something foolish, and being told, "Don't be a jackass." Sometimes it was shortened it to, "Don't be an ass." When I reflect back on those words, I now laugh out loud.

Over the years, the poor donkey has gotten a notoriously bad rap for being stubborn, headstrong, and downright pigheaded. However, there's an interesting explanation for why they are sometimes that way. When a donkey perceives something as dangerous, of if they become scared, it's almost impossible to make them move towards it. It's an instinctive reaction.

Around the mid-1800's, the term 'donkey' became a more common term instead of 'ass'. The King James Version of the Bible, originally written in 1611, actually uses the word 'ass' instead of 'donkey'. And it seems to me that most people who are quoting a verse from the King James Bible containing this word, hesitate from saying it out loud, for fear that someone might chuckle. Most modern versions of the Bible substitute the word donkey instead.

There is even a Christmas carol that uses the word 'ass'. And many are too embarrassed to sing the verse that contains that word. It's found in the song, "What Child Is This", written in 1865. Verse two of the song goes like this, "Why lies He in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christian, fear: for sinners here, the silent Word is pleading."

The word I use in the title, dumb, is not referring to stupid, but speechless - unable to talk - as in deaf and dumb. So when I say that the dumb ass speaks, what I'm saying is that a donkey, who of course can't speak, actually talks out loud. It's the miracle of a talking donkey - a dumb ass speaks. And what we only see in cartoons, or movies, actually really happened. This fascinating miracle is recorded in detail in the Bible. It's the story of Balaam and his donkey.

Here's the background for the story...... the king of the Moabites was afraid that the Israelites, God's chosen people, were going to take his land, so he sent for a man named Balaam to curse the nation of Israel. Balaam started on his journey to meet the king. Obviously, this was against God's will. So here's how God stopped Balaam. 

So the next morning Balaam got up, saddled his donkey, and started off with the Moabite officials. But God was angry that Balaam was going, so he sent the angel of the Lord to stand in the road to block his way. As Balaam and two servants were riding along, Balaam’s donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand. The donkey bolted off the road into a field, but Balaam beat it and turned it back onto the road. Then the angel of the Lord stood at a place where the road narrowed between two vineyard walls. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it tried to squeeze by and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. So Balaam beat the donkey again. Then the angel of the Lord moved farther down the road and stood in a place too narrow for the donkey to get by at all. This time when the donkey saw the angel, it lay down under Balaam. In a fit of rage Balaam beat the animal again with his staff.

Then the Lord gave the donkey the ability to speak. “What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?” it asked Balaam. “You have made me look like a fool!” Balaam shouted. “If I had a sword with me, I would kill you!”  “But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,” the donkey answered. “Have I ever done anything like this before?”  “No,” Balaam admitted.

Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him. “Why did you beat your donkey those three times?” the angel of the Lord demanded. “Look, I have come to block your way because you are stubbornly resisting me. Three times the donkey saw me and shied away; otherwise, I would certainly have killed you by now and spared the donkey.” (Numbers 22:21-33)

If you read the next few chapters, you will find that the Lord eventually allows Balaam to go ahead and meet the king of Maob, but his mission is totally reversed. He goes not to curse Israel, but conversely, God gives Balaam the words to deliver 7 messages that proclaim that Israel is God's chosen, blessed nation. And the messages ultimately even predict the destruction of the Moabites! 

When we look back on our lives, sometimes we can see how we once were headed in the wrong direction ourselves, maybe living against God's will. Maybe we were once ignoring God, or even living as opposed to Him. But Jesus has the power to change lives. And perhaps you are not who you used to be. And like Balaam, your mission, your purpose in life, your words and actions now proclaim God's glory, not go against it. I hope this describes you.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Has Anyone Seen God Lately?

So....have you seen God lately? I know, "It's impossible for anyone to actually see God." Well, that's true, literally, at least in this physical life. OK, so we can't literally see the ever-present, invisible God. How, then, do we "see" the One who is invisible? It's very possible, you know.

Things that are invisible are easily overlooked and ignored. I suppose that's a natural human tendency. After all, we live and function in a physical reality. However, the physical reality is not the only reality! There is a spiritual reality - one that we cannot see, but is just as real as the physical reality. Actually, the spiritual reality may be the "real" reality because it is the eternal one, the everlasting one, while the physical reality is really only temporary. 

There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that proves the invisible is real, and this evidence is all around us, every day. Just think about what's invisible, besides the spiritual. For example, everyday you probably use your cell phone. If you had special magic glasses that could see cell phone signals, you would be overwhelmed by the intensity and volume of them coming back and forth in the space all around you. The same holds true for radio waves, over-the-air television signals, and every other mode of communication that is out there. You can't see the signals, but you can be sure they exist. Just because something is invisible, it does not mean it is not real. 

How about sound itself? Sound waves are invisible, yet when they reach our ears, we hear them. Another example is wind. We can't see wind, but we sure can see the evidence of wind - trees moving, objects being blown around. We can even feel the wind - it's invisible, but it sure is real.

This idea that there is evidence of an invisible reality holds true for the spiritual realm as well. You just need to open your eyes to see Him, or at least see the evidence of Him, at work. Sometimes, in the moment, you don't realize God is actively working in your life. Sometimes He doesn't show up in the way you expect Him to. There was a time when the prophet Elijah was waiting for the Lord to show up. Well, the Lord did show up, but in a totally different way than expected. Instead of with power and force, the Lord showed up in a very subtle whisper. 

 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord. Look, the Lord is ready to pass by.” A very powerful wind went before the Lord, digging into the mountain and causing landslides, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the windstorm there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a soft whisper. (1 Kings 19:11-12)

There are times, however, when the Lord does actually show up right on the spot, in real time! Maybe it's in a moment of worship when you feel His Spirit touch you. Or maybe, it's a real-life situation when the impossible dilemma is solved in front of your eyes. Or maybe it's a close call where you've escaped danger and felt His protection. Or immediate provision when you were totally without some essential. Or immediate answered prayer. Or when you've experienced His blessings, His love, and His grace pouring down on you. Or in a moment of experiencing peace, knowing that He is with you.  

More often that not, though, reflecting back on your life is what brings out the realization that the Lord's hand was at work all along. It's the looking back in your past that prompts you to begin to see that He was with you all the time. Or that He got you through the tough times. Or that it was Him who worked things out for you  - things that seemed impossible at the time, or beyond all probability of happening. Or that He blessed you beyond what you could ever have possibly imagined or hoped for.

And what's amazing is that the more you begin to recognize the Lord's hand at work in your life, whether in real time, or reflecting back, the more clearly you begin to see Him. 

As Christ followers, we realize that we are children of God, adopted as His children. We are sons and daughters of the King of all kings, the Lord of all lords. And because of His grace, mercy, and love, He cares for us, He wants the best for us, and He wants to work things in our favor, as a loving father does for his children. One thing is for sure, if you are one of His, you can be sure that He will never leave you or forsake you. 

So what should be your response when you become aware of the Father's hand at work in your life, whether in the moment, or reflecting back? Stop what you're doing - and praise Him, and worship Him. And don't be afraid to boast to others about what you have seen Him do in your life - it gives Him glory, and encourages others in their own faith.

And as for now, keep your eyes open!