I always loved the Old Testament story of the talking donkey, in part because I've always loved animals of any kind. But this is more than an animal tale (Numbers 22).
The donkey in this story, Balaam's donkey, proved smarter than his human. Perhaps there are donkeys in our lives with words of wisdom too.
I've had a few donkeys in my life, and I didn't always listen. When I did, I've been the better for it.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012
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Everyone who’s still breathing experiences difficulties. Sometimes they come one after the other, trials or tribulations. Punch. Punch. Body punch. Health issues, family relationship stress, personal problems, financial duress, loss of employment, passing of a loved one, the examples are endless.
How do we survive? Better yet, how can we thrive in the midst of periodic, overwhelming onslaughts of the “vagaries and vicissitudes of life”?
The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk provides an answer:
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fail and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights” (3:17-19).
I remember a time early in our marriage when we experienced a run of problems that placed us in difficult financial straits. It caused me a great deal of stress until one day the thought occurred to me: “It’s just money. What if we lost everything we have? They’re just things.” With those ideas in mind I prayed “Lord, I give it all to you, everything we own, including our current financial pressure. If for some reason in your will it all disappears, it’s OK.”
Of course the Lord did not need my permission to work his will. My submission was more important for me than him. I will never forget that day.
Since that time, when under duress I’ve prayed that prayer a few other times, i.e., “Lord, it’s OK. I give it all to you for whatever you want to happen.” When sincerely offered this prayer results in incredible spiritual rest and emotional release. The problem didn’t go away. The pressure is still there. But how I process it is entirely different. If there are “no cattle in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
I don’t write this in a flippant or self-righteous way. I know certain problems are bigger than others—a loved ones life-threatening illness or death, for example. But I believe “the Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”
I used to believe because this verse represents the theology of my faith. I was supposed to believe it. Now I believe because I’ve experienced the Lord’s strong arm for myself. It’s a continuing lesson, but the Lord is always there—when the fig tree buds and when it does not.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
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Since I was a small boy growing up in a Christian family and taken to a church every time the door was open I’ve heard preachers and teachers exhort me to read my Bible and pray. Participating in these activities is part of the practice and tradition of the Christian faith. Not to read your Bible or pray is in a very real sense not to know what it means to live the Christian life.
God, his Word says, likes to hear from us. He wants us to talk to him, to share our needs and express our gratitude. The Sovereign Creator God of the universe invites a relationship with those he created. He desires communion with you and with me, just as he wanted it with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden long ago.
Reading the Bible lets us learn God’s will for his world. Once we learn it we become his ambassadors, carriers of a message of reconciliation to a lost and hurting world. We know truth and are able to make it known. We can do this because our confidence and our competence are rooted in the Spirit of God’s grace in our lives, not in our own strength.
Revised “Making a Difference” program #462.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010
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Christians face two dilemmas each day: one, I call the “In the World/Not of the World” dilemma. This comes from John chapter 17 in the midst of Jesus’ prayer. He talks to his heavenly Father about the fact that human beings exist in the world, because he has created us for this purpose. We exist in a culture, and we live out our lives in a physical and social space. But Jesus also mentions that he has commanded us to be not of the world, meaning that we are to think and act differently from those around us. We are to live out our lives based upon a biblical philosophy of life. So every day, living in the world, we make innumerable choices based upon Christian values or non-Christian values—not of the world or conformed to the world.
Christians in the United States also live every day with another dilemma: how to live out God’s mandate to influence our culture with Christian values, while at the same time acknowledging that we live in a free and pluralistic democracy wherein many people do not agree with our Christian values. This is the “Faith and Culture” dilemma.
As culture has become increasingly morally relativistic in the past three or four decades this dilemma has become especially evident and increasingly volatile. Many Christians feel pressured, “put upon,” overwhelmed, pushed to the limit, or “persecuted.” We hear discussions about the “Culture War,” a phrase I have frequently used to describe the ongoing “battle” between those who affirm some form of biblical morality for our culture and those who affirm what might be called a libertarian morality, which is to say they want to leave moral choices up to each individual. Christians want to recognize a divine moral code. Libertarians want their own code or maybe no code at all.
Clearly, in terms of publicly affirmed Christian morality, this is not your grandfather’s culture anymore. Where at one time in the 1950s the biggest problems in public schools were chewing gum and tardiness, now many public schools, especially in urban areas, have become their own version of war zones—drugs, violence, guns and other weapons, sexual harassment or even rape, alcohol abuse, and little or no academic progress.
What happened, and are Christians supposed to stand around and watch all this, doing nothing in the name of “freedom”? There may not be a “war on Christians” as USA Today recently called it, but there is certainly a disjunction between what the Bible says morality should be and what American culture says it should be.
I do not advocate a “Christian Right” takeover of government. I do not advocate Christian theocracy. I do not advocate government establishing my religion to the exclusion or oppression of all others. I do advocate a public moral consensus capable of sustaining a thriving culture and society into future generations. With this in mind, I call for more religious content in public discourse even while I call for institutional separation of church and state.
I live in the world, and I try to live in a manner not of the world. I am privileged to do this in a free society. I affirm that freedom for others who may disagree with my faith and values, and I affirm their civil liberties and rights as I ask them to affirm mine.
Our nation can not avoid disagreement, debate, and sometimes dissension. That’s the special privilege and special burden, a sort of divine dilemma, of a free society. American can no more side-step this dilemma than I can side-step the two dilemmas I face every day. They are part of life in this thing we call a democracy.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.