A Dumb Donkey

But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet. 2 Peter 2:16 KJV

Prophecy for Profit? Even a dumb ass knows better than that!

There’s a wild story in the Biblical book of Numbers, chapter 22, about a mad prophet name Balaam, having an eye opening conversation with a donkey that we could all learn a lesson from today.

The Apostle Peter thought it worth reminding us of also.

Balaam loved the wages of the unrighteous. In the story of Balaam, he was being hired by the king of Moab to curse Israel as they crossed his land in preparation to enter the promised land. Balaam was directed by the Lord not to go with them, but Balaam petitioned the Lord to allow him, the money he was being offered being a big motivator. So the Lord relented and told him he could go, but only if he agreed to say only what God told him to say.

But on the road to the land of Moab he was met by and Angel who was waiting to kill Balaam and on three different occasions his donkey saved his life by refusing to go on until the angel left. Balaam did not discern the angel, the Donkey did. You know you’re in a spiritual desert when a dumb ass has more spiritual discernment than you do, but then, that’s probably true of many animals, they trust their instinct and develop this sixth sense while we just accept everything at face value—if my eyeballs can’t see it—it doesn’t exist!

Anyway, each time Balaam’s donkey refused to plunge forward into unseen danger Balaam got more frustrated with him and started to berate and beat him, until the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey.

The donkey starts talking to Balaam, asking him why he is treating him so when he has been nothing but faithful all these years. Balaam actually has a conversation with the donkey, “Man, if I had a sword right now I would kill you!” In the course of discussion it is revealed to him that there is a very large angel, the Angel of the Lord, with a very large sword waiting to strike Balaam down.

Balaam’s punishment was about to be meted out— why? Peter gives us the answer here—Because he loved the wages of the unrighteous.

He was going to speak the words of God, not really caring so much if they were true or not or what the result was, as long as he got his wages and kept his reputation as a seer so that he could keep his lucrative prophet business profitable.

And, apparently he was mad, which would explain his conversing with his donkey like it was an everyday thing—at least right up until he saw what the donkey saw—the menacing angel, who was actually giving him a second chance through the hyper perceptiveness of the donkey who could see or sense what man could not, the danger ahead.

He could easily have just smitten Balaam and been done with it. God had another plan though, he was using this justified, but now deferred, punishment to ensure that Balaam learned a lesson and that he did indeed fulfill his assignment to speak blessing and truth on God’s behalf to Moab, and over Israel.

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face. 32 And the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me. 33 The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.” Num 22:31—33

There are a lot of false prophets who love the wages of unrighteousness and many who have gotten to the point of madness as they have fallen deeper and deeper into their own deceptions. They end up just leaving you all tied up and cowering in the corner bound up in rules and expectations that leave you powerless and afraid.

When you are in that state, you are very easy to take advantage of.

Cults

We have had some very extreme and horrific examples of that just in my generation. I think of the false messiah David Koresh and the Branch Davidians in the 90’s who met their end down in Waco at the hands of the Federal Government; the Heaven’s Gate cult who committed suicide to be reunited with their mother ship.

On November 18th, 1978 as I was just getting settled into my new life in the Job Corp Center in the remote mountains outside of Anaconda, hundreds of men, women and children were drinking purple Kool-Aid laced with Cyanide in another very different kind of center.

Jones, a doomsday prophet, had proclaimed that the persecution and abuse that he had prophesied was coming upon them was here, and that the only way to escape it and to retain their favor with God was to follow him in death and escape into heaven. Over 900 people died that day, most by suicide, many by forced injection, all in the name of God.

CUT

More recently, and much closer to my neck of the woods, another self-proclaimed prophet, Going by the name of Elizabeth Clair Prophet, convinced thousands of people, that she heard from what she called, ascended masters; among them Buddha, Mahammad and Jesus Christ. I don’t know or remember all the details and I don’t want to know, but she somehow convinced all her followers to send her enough money that she was able to purchase a very large chunk of land in Paradise Valley just north of Gardiner Montana. It was known by all of us around here as the CUT Ranch. C.U.T. being the acronym for Church Universal and Triumphant.

Sometime in the mid 80’s she proclaimed that she knew when–or at least real close-the apocalypse was going to take place, ushering in the new kingdom of whatever and all who survived would be living in some sort Nirvana.

Hundreds of families all across the country sold everything they had and invested it in her massive building project up at the ranch. She was building underground bunkers for all her followers to hunker down in and wait out the impending apocalypse. So, when it was time, all these people, over two thousand, who invested all they had, came out and crawled into their bunkers, and waited for the nuclear holocaust, and —nothing.

They finally went home, broke and disillusioned, Elizabeth Clair false Prophet was discredited and soon afterward was struck with dementia, she soon faded from memory, and lost hers. And her Son, who took over the ranch was eventually indicted for illegally dealing in automatic weapons.

Good times.

Deceived

How were so many people deceived? It’s kind of scary isn’t it? I’m sure they were all good people who thought they were doing the right thing, even serving God. But they stopped listening to their spirits, allowed their emotions to be played, and were ignorant of the scriptures.

There will always be wolves in sheep’s clothing, who will be judged and will suffer the consequences of their heresies even as they are in the midst of the righteous, yet the righteous will be given the means to resist the temptation to join in the foolishness which brings on their punishments, so long as they do not succumb to the temptation to join them in their presumptuousness rebelliousness.

We need to be very careful in this season of turmoil and uncertainty because prophets are going to be coming out of the woodwork all claiming to have the answers and teachers and preachers are going to be exposed and start falling like flies as their great swelling words are exposed to be empty wells that leave people powerless against the evils that are befalling this generation.

It’s not unheard of even in the natural realm, to have a sixth sense so to speak, in fact it’s more unnatural not to. We talked about Balaam’s donkey’s ability to sense danger. They say Elephants and other animals around the Indian Ocean fled inland just before the Tsunami hit that wiped out entire cities and killed untold thousands of people.

Birds can fly half way around the world and always return to the same exact places. Bees never lose their way back to their hives no matter how far or zig zagged their flights. Dogs can smell cancer or sense oncoming epileptic seizures in people and instinctively know that it is bad and try to warn people.

We can certainly know when something so important as the health of our very soul is being threatened, that something is amiss.

Listen to the still small voice of the Spirit within, your own heart will guide you, and the heart of the Lord residing in you will guide you.

Don’t just follow the crowd, just because everyone else is doing it does not make it right. A herd mentality, social pressure and cultural norms derail real discernment quicker than anything else, except for maybe the lust of the flesh.

Before you drink the Kool-Aid, maybe ask yourself, ask the Lord, is this really what I am supposed to be doing? It just feels wrong. . . Yep, it’s wrong.

I don’t know if this is the end, no one knows for sure when that is going to happen, but we must always be ready, be diligent and always looking to God, his Spirit and his word for truth.

Ultimately you will stand alone one day and answer as to what you did with Jesus—if your answer is I loved him with all my heart and soul and picked up my cross daily—you will have nothing to fear; then, or now.

Dry Wells and Tempests

Spiritual discernment is critical in this time of darkness when only the sharpest eyes can see the light.

Not a real happy sounding scripture there is it? You’re probably not going to find that embroidered on a pillow at grandma’s house or on a coffee cup in a gift store.

Don’t you love that phrase—“great swelling words of emptiness.” I’ve sat through a few sermons that could have been entitled that. . . and apparently, so has Peter.

Because if you read today’s chapter in preparation for the message, you know Peter is a little riled up and is apparently taking serious issue, as he ought, with what he calls, along with many other unflattering things, false prophets and teachers

Peter is making no bones about the fact that some among the church are teaching the wrong message. Some things never change…

Wells without water may look good, but they are useless, and clouds that promise rain but only bring wind and dust, are worse than useless, they are dangerous.

People are too easily lured away from the Living Water into what turns out to be a dry oasis. When that happens, they quickly perish, and they won’t even know why. They refuse to understand that the beautiful show being put on all around and above them, promising the life giving rains from the heaven, is only virga—all lights, bluster and shadows—but the rain never reaches them.

False teachers always end up leading others back into bondage, it may be a return to the old bondage, or it may be a new one.

You found Jesus, got set free from sin and shame, forgiven and made alive, but you are lured into new selfish ambitions—your walk becomes a lust for personal gain.

Or, you are given license to indulge the flesh—“go ahead, party hardy, jump into that strange bed, shake that thing—you got it, flaunt it! Focus on your bank account and spend all your time and money pursuing happiness—you deserve it!”But don’t forget to support the teacher who makes you feel so good about yourself, makes you laugh and cry, but never challenges you or leaves you feeling you had a touch from God that you cannot ignore.’

It’s disturbing to me, this seemingly new trend I see in the American church, to use grace as license to sin. If the only difference between the lifestyles of a believer and a nonbeliever, is that one goes to church—once in a while—and one doesn’t, than something is dreadfully wrong.

Drinking, cussing and fornicating on Saturday night and praising Jesus on Sunday morning, does not make you a liberated Christian saved by grace—Hallelujah— it makes you a believer who is still bound up by the sin that you were supposed to have been freed from and perhaps now even worse because you are deceived into thinking that you are free.

I pray Lord that I have not been guilty of that misguided teaching. I have seen way too many people whom I have ministered to over the years, reveling in satisfying their flesh while giving little thought to what it cost Jesus to give them their freedom. And I just shake my head in sadness and ask, “Am I that inept at teaching God’s ways, or are people truly that weak that they would trade the Living Water for empty wells that even those who have never tasted life know cannot satisfy?”

The devil is a wily one and the flesh is incredibly weak.  You have to be constantly seeking truth, constantly going to the source, drinking from the living waters of God’s word, praying in and for the Holy Spirit of God to keep you strong, to keep you free, to satisfy and protect your soul from deceit and despair.

God wants you to be free, and to be safe—it’s called love.

I have a real hard time pretending everything is fine and just patting my adult daughters on the head when I know that something they are doing is wrong and will end up hurting them. Why would our Father God be any different? Unfortunately, some parents just go along to get along with their kids and they end up either spoiled or in serious trouble.

I never stop loving or accepting them, but I am determined to be a light and to share and show the way. The most important thing is to give them the tools to make wise choices as they are growing up. We are all still growing up in the Lord and he is offering us the tools to make wise choices also.

You have to pray for and practice wisdom and discernment, the ability to know something in your head and in your gut. We all have an innate God given ability to recognize when something is amiss or flat out wrong, what we lack is the wisdom and courage to act on it.

When your righteous soul is vexed—it may be time to stand up, or just run the other way.

and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the wicked (for by what that righteous man saw and heard as he lived among them, he was vexed in his righteous soul day after day with their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 2 Peter 2:7—9 RSV

You get the impression when reading the story of Lot and his family in Genesis that Lot thought he was pretty cool living in the woke city of Sodom, but eventually he started getting pretty disgusted. Yet it took a visit from two angels to convince him to get out of there, to rescue him. But he did listen.

Do you?

Listen to the still small voice of the Spirit within, your own heart will guide you, and the heart of the Lord residing in you will guide you.

Don’t just follow the crowd, just because everyone else is doing it does not make it right. A herd mentality, social pressure and cultural norms derail real discernment quicker than anything else, except for maybe the lust of the flesh.

Before you drink the Kool-Aid, maybe ask yourself, ask the Lord, is this really what I am supposed to be doing? It just feels wrong. . . Yep, it’s wrong.

As believers we have something that Lot did not have-we have the Holy Spirit of the Living God within us-listen to Him!

We need to be very careful in this season of turmoil and uncertainty because prophets are going to be coming out of the woodwork all claiming to have the answers and teachers and preachers are going to be exposed and start falling like flies as their great swelling words are exposed to be empty wells that leave people powerless against the evils that are befalling this generation.

I would never be so presumptuous as to say that I have it all figured out, or to render judgement by standards that I do not wish to be judged by myself. But I have some pretty good ideas as I look at others in light of the scriptures, the fruit that they produce, and what I feel in my own spirit when I hear their words,—all things that we must use to weigh the words of those who would deign to speak on God’s behalf. We are told to test the spirits so the onus is really on the hearer as to whom they chose to listen to.

Look for the fruits of their teachings, the scriptural basis, and use the gift of discernment given you by the Holy Spirit. And keep praying; Open the eyes of my heart Lord, that I may see with your eyes and not be deceived.

Will The Church Destroy Herself?

Luther’s ’95 thesis nailed to a church door couldn’t have caused more of a stir than a mask sign does.

God’s word is a light that shines in this present darkness. It is a light we must heed—pay attention to—until the light fully comes, when Jesus, the Morning Star, rises in our hearts.

We have to heed the light and focus on it, not fear the dark. The enemy is using this season of turmoil to destroy us. When this all started I was calling it a dress rehearsal for the coming of the Antichrist, how to totally alter and mollify a population of freedom loving, God fearing people, into bending to your will while rendering the church impotent, irrelevant and willingly shut down.

Well, if it started out as a dress rehearsal, it is no longer a drill. It’s Tora! Tora! Tora! The North Tower has collapsed and Portland is burning. We are at War. If that all went over your head you need to learn history and start paying attention to current events because play time is over.

We have shut down the world and given up our freedoms at the highly subjective and varied whims of governors, shunned our families for fear, and put our very livelihoods into the hands of unelected officials all for the sake of a virus with a 99% survival rate—plus or minus, depending on which political party the person doing the math belongs to.

And it has become the most contentious thing to hit the church since the reformation—seriously. Luther’s ’95 thesis nailed to a church door couldn’t have caused more of a stir than a mask sign does.

As of August the survival rate of the American church, according to Barna Group who surveyed pastors, is 80%. So 20% of the churches in this country are likely going to shut their doors for good. Why? Because of fear, fear of illness, and animosity towards one another over how we should react.

Divide and conquer. Just in our little church we have people who will not come to church unless everyone wears a mask, and we have people who will not come because we do have the mandated sign on the door asking you to wear masks and everyone in between walking on eggshells.

This divide and conquer tactic started back in March with—you have to close the church contingent pulling the church one way, and the you cannot close the church contingent pulling us the other way. Suddenly everyone is a medical expert or a master theologian.

This fight over—

“close or don’t close, mask or no mask, distance or no distance, people are dying in drovesno it’s all a farce!— what did the experts really say this week and who can we trust?— we have to address racial injustice, we have to tell people who to vote for

—is a fight that is happening amongst every body of believers in the country if not the world. And I’ll tell you what—if there are any pastors left standing a year from now, they need to receive purple hearts and Sainthood.

And just in case the pastor’s job is not hard enough, and the sheep not scattered for enough, suddenly, everyone is a prophet also.

Be careful who you listen to. Everyone with a Facebook page or a YouTube channel who claims to be, or is said to be, a prophet—is not. Weigh EVERYTHING against scripture.

The Lost World

And that’s just the church, we who should know better. Imagine how scary this is for the world at large, people who do not have the Morning Star rising in their hearts.

Untold and incalculable damage and death has occurred because of the shutdown and breakdowns of social norms, jobs, families, and support groups. And have no doubt, this rioting in the streets that is burning down our cities is a result of the fear and anger incited by having been locked down and force fed fear. Fear without hope, fear without end.

Now we are being told that the normal flu season that is coming upon us is reason to continue all this, they can keep this going indefinitely.

Even the hope of a vaccine, supposed to be available real soon, the thing that has always been touted as the only thing that will allow us to return to normal, is being discredited and maligned before it has even been released just as long used and well established medications have been.

People need hope, people need you, people need Jesus—they need the truth, the truth of the words of the prophets we know we can trust—the words in the Holy Scriptures. If this is the beginning of the death throes of this present world and the day of the Lord is at hand, the world, and the Lord, need us to be courageous, and engaged like never before—together.

So, let’s get past this, hang on tight to the Lord and each other, keep our eyes on the Morning Star which is rising in our hearts—if we’ll allow, and reflect his glory.

Bottom Line

So, because I love you and want all of you to do be free to do whatever you believe in your heart the Lord wants you to do, If you come to my church, I cannot and will not force you to wear what many believe is the equivalent of a petri dish on your face and put your health at risk.

Nor can I ask you to be around others who are not wearing a mask if you believe it is putting your health at risk.

That is a choice I am going to let you make, I am a preacher of the gospel not an agent of the state. It is not my job to enforce man’s laws, it is my job to preach God’s laws. And, as I have been saying since this started, we need to respect each other’s choices in this even if it means you stay home for a while until we get through this latest apparent uptick in illnesses (in Montana).

For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? 30 But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? 31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. 1 Cor 10

Whatever you decide, mask or no mask, make sure your heart is right and you are doing it for the right reason.

I have said it often over the years and I am not going to change my message now, because the word of God does not change—whatever you do, your motivation has to be love—love for God and love for your neighbor.

Because everything our God does for us is motivated by love.

Little children… love.

The Rise of the Morning Star

The truth of God’s word should always encourage, and never frighten those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

There is no place for fear in the heart of a believer.

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts 2 Peter 1:19

But in the world of chaos we live in where we have monsters coming at us from all sides, all lit up with spotlights piercing the surrounding darkness—looky here, looky there, you don’t stand a chance!—it’s easy to lose sight of the light, the light of promise, the light of hope, the light of Jesus within our hearts, the light which Peter is telling us, we would do well to heed.

One nice thing about living in rural Montana—other than the lack of riots—is that for the most part you can still see the stars, and I love doing that—looking at the stars. Through much of the year, when I leave for work in the morning, it is still dark so I will often stand in my driveway for just a moment and look up at the brilliance of the stars overhead before I get into my truck and spoil it with its artificial lights.

That hill we live on is far away from any other lights so you can see everything. I often see falling stars, satellites crossing the sky, and I never cease to be amazed by the vastness of the Milky way.

This time of year the planets Mars and Venus are very visible in the morning—Mars is the reddish one almost directly overhead and a bit to the Southwest, and Venus is the bright bluish one, due East just above the horizon where the sun is about to rise. Also known as the Morning Star, perhaps because it’s presence and position is seen as the promise of a soon and coming sunrise.

Which is what our scripture from 2 Peter today is about; the promise of a soon and coming day to end the long dark night.

2020 seems to have been kind of a never ending night hasn’t it? In some respects anyway, life is still what you make it and our hope and joy can still be found in Jesus—if you are keeping your eye on him rather than obsessing over the latest scares being bull horned into our heads.

All the world has is threats—projections of doom—while the God we serve, the King of the Universe, offers us promises of a better day. You can keep your computer models, I have the word of God and his Spirit to assure me that my soul is his and the fate of the world is ultimately in his hands.

We have such incredible promises, prophetic words, that come by way of the scriptures, and by those who speak for God by the power of his Holy Spirit. Promises that are so incredible that just the light emanating from those words of hope is enough to get us through the darkness as we await the dawning of the fullness of God’s glory, like the rising of the sun after the darkest night.

The morning star, Jesus Christ, is the promise of that coming dawn just as the planetary morning star, Venus, is always visible in the east just before and even during the sunrise.

Of course Venus is not a star at all, at least not as we understand stars today, it is a planet. As a planet, it does not produce its own light as the distant stars do, stars that are overwhelmed by the light of our own sun as it chases away the dark. The morning star is a planet that reflects the brilliance of the sun. Thus when the other stars are washed out, it still shines until it is overtaken fully by the glory of our sun and it’s light is no longer needed or noticed.  

Reflection

I think it safe to say that just as the morning star reflects the greater light of the sun, so too, our hearts are to be a reflection of the light, the light of Christ, holding the promise of the fullness of his glory which, though we see but a dim reflection in our selves now, will be fully realized at his return as that star rises fully in our hearts, unhampered by the corrupt flesh and misinterpreted prophecies.

When that day comes, when Jesus comes and chases away the last vestiges of the dark, the morning star within our own hearts—the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ—will rise up in inexpressible joy when see him face to face, and all things are now ours to see and understand fully.

In the meantime we have the prophecies—the words of Christ, the prophets and the Apostles, serving as a light to our path. Even before the dawn of that new day we have the light of the morning star to comfort and guide us, a promise that morning is coming.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”

17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Rev 22:16—17

28 even as I also received authority from my Father. To the one who conquers I will also give the morning star. 29 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches Rev 2:28—29

If that Morning star is indeed Jesus Christ, Holy God one in three, three in one, with the Father and the Spirit, then that can only mean that we have eternal life that can never fail, that can never die—it’s a light that can never go dim again for we have Jesus himself rising in our hearts.

Wow, doesn’t leave a lot of room for fear does it?

Which is why we see Peter here, in the scriptures preceding the morning star promise, referring to his pending martyrdom as little more than striking camp and moving to a better location. A lesson we all need to pay attention to in this season of irrational fear, panic and threats.

Threats that come from people in the guise of righteous indignation. ‘If you don’t fear death by cop then you are privileged and everything you have is illegitimate.’ ‘If you don’t fear death by virus and live accordingly, then you are an uncaring conspiracy theorist and even a murderer yourself.’

No, I am not a racist or privileged, I have worked and fought for everything I have and I have had much more than I currently have taken away from me over the years.

And no, I am not uncaring and I will do what I can within reason to not make anyone sick, just as I would any other time with any sickness. But am not afraid and I will not let fear control me anymore than I did or do for any other illness that was supposed to kill us all through the years like clockwork.

Aren’t you afraid? Aren’t you contrite? Aren’t you being selfish and uncaring—oblivious to the truth?

 No. I have just not forgotten the present truth in favor of the current collective and promoted wisdom of the day. A wisdom that changes pretty much every day by the way. The worlds present truth changes at the whims of the powerful.

Honestly, I have been lied to so much in the last 6 months by all sides I don’t believe much of anything I hear anymore. Everything seems to have been spun to fit someone else’s narrative. So I camp in the word of God, the only truth I can get straight from the source and the only source whose primary agenda is love for me.

My present truth is unchanging and eternal. The truth I cling to is   that I am in the hands of the one who holds my heart and that this life is just the beginning of eternity as I look forward to the rise of the morning star.

12 For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. 13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, … 2 Peter 1

And as long as I am in this present tent, I will keep reminding myself, and all who will listen, that Jesus Christ is Lord and he alone is my healer, redeemer and Lord—and my soon and coming King. And I will walk in the paths that he leads me on, even right smack through the valley of the shadow of death, fearing no evil, comforted by his rod and his staff.

Stay Tuned. . .