Happy Wednesday, friends! Today is our last day of the Philippians Bible study at my church, the one that I helped write back in the fall of 2020. I cannot believe it's over after today—I'm always a little excited about a break from studying, but it's always bittersweet to see it come to an end. I grow to love the ladies in small group so much and I'm always sad that we don't see each other regularly when we don't meet. The study was so good and I'm not saying that because I helped write it, it is for sure one of the better studies I have ever done. I love the book of Philippians and all that Paul charged the church of Philippi with us then, and us today. If you've not read the book lately, you should! It's short, you could read it in just a few minutes.
I am still reading along in my Everyday With Jesus Bible and I am still loving the layout. It's refreshing to read a few different parts in the Bible all in one day and I seem to get more out of it, at least for now. I love chronological Bible reading, don't ever think I don't, I just have to take breaks from it from year to year. I said all that to get to this post and the reason for it today. I pray it encourages you.
Yesterday I was reading in Numbers, chapters 23 and 24, about Balaam and Balak. (Why couldn't they be named Jethro and Bruce? It'd be so much easier to distinguish them.) In this event that I was reading of, Balaam was the "good guy" and Balak was the king. Balak was pretty mad at the Israelites and that they had set up camp nearby. He wanted Balaam to curse them, but something curious happened.
*Before I move on, we really don't know a lot about Balaam from Scripture. His character is a bit fuzzy, like a few others in Scripture, but in this particular event, the Lord used him greatly and I was encouraged by what happened in this passage.
Balaam went to meet with God and there, God met with him. It says in Numbers 23:5 that the LORD put a message in Balaam's mouth and told Balaam to return to Balak and relay to him what the Lord had told him. So Balaam goes back and proclaims his message from God and when Balak was mad about it, his response to the angry king was, "Shouldn't I say exactly what the LORD puts in my mouth" (Numbers 23:12)?
This happens almost word verbatim again in the following verses and it's in this section where we get a powerful characteristic trait about God. It's in Numbers 23:19. "God is not a man, that he might lie, or a son of man, that he might change his mind. Does he speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?"
This isn't where I'm going with this post, but don't you take comfort in that? God does not lie and He doesn't change His mind. He speaks and acts and He promises and fulfills each promise. I loved reading that!
The third time this happens, when Balaam goes to meet with God, we are told in Numbers 24:2 that the Spirit of God came on Him. Once again, he went and proclaimed the vision that he had seen. Needless to say, Balak was furious with him and sent him to his home, but Balaam did not regret proclaiming what the Lord had told him. In Numbers 24:13 Balaam says that he could not have gone against the LORD's command, that he had to say what the Lord said. There was one more instance in which the same thing happened and at the end of the passage, Balak went one way and Balaam another.
Here is what I took away from reading this yesterday, listed out for you like a good Southern Baptist girl does. Before I start that, this reminded me of how we can deal with difficult people. I'd say Balak was about as difficult as they come.
First, before we ever agree to do anything, or even speak about something with one such person, we should go to the Lord in prayer. Here is a great verse to pray when you don't know what to say:
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
Second, we can trust that God will give us the words to say to one such person. In Luke 12:12, Jesus Himself told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach them what was to be said. If that was true then, it's true for us today, because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, according to Hebrews 13:8.
Lastly, we should aim to let the Holy Spirit guide us in what we say, for those of us who are believers in and followers of the Lord Jesus. I'll give you an example, because I am a practical type gal and I love a good mental picture. Do you ever feel extremely frustrated at someone and when they come in to the room and do or say something innocent, you get the feeling you are about to go off on them? It doesn't have to be an angry outburst, it could be a biting remark or a sarcastic smirk. Right before that moment where you lose your witness, do you ever almost tangibly feel like someone is putting their hand over your mouth? I cannot be the only one who has done this, I trust everyone reading knows exactly this moment in time I am speaking of.
We may call that "thinking before speaking", but I call that the protection and leading of the Holy Spirit, for those of us who walk intimately with Jesus. I have felt in my spirit that at a certain time when I am less than friendly, that I should NOT say what I want to say in such moments. I am always so thankful when I feel that nudge to just delete my comment before I post it, or to keep silent. If I'm able, I like to slip away to somewhere private so that I can pray.
I know I have said this before, but it is always so very important to consider what our words and actions say to others. Are you impatient and rude with someone when you're out? I have been before and I've had to confess it to the Lord in prayer and ask His forgiveness. We will always battle our own flesh, so we have to be diligent. Do you speak so sweetly behind your computer screen or with the stained glass crowd, then go home and berate anyone and everyone in your path? That speaks a multitude about your heart, in both kinds of circumstances. The difference is what we do with that conviction that we feel, when we feel the stinging stab of it. Do you carry on and ignore it, or do you pray and then ask forgiveness, both from God and the person who deserves your apology?
I've not arrived at this moment of a perfect life, my friends. I stumble everyday and it takes diligence on my part to fight the sins of my flesh. I have to spend time with Jesus, without Him I am a miserable human being. I can't even go a day without Him in it, I am so very dependent on Him! I love to share things from my life that the Lord has taught me, either in a physical way or through His Word. So this is me, sharing with you.
Don't feel discouraged that you'll never change, you will when you seek the Lord through prayer and reading His Word. If you don't know what to pray, may I suggest a resource? One of my favorite books of all time is The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. I also love her other books on praying for your kids, both as kids and later on as adults. There is a version for your husband, too, if he is a reader.
Spend time in prayer! I don't have hours and hours to spend each day, so sometimes my prayers are short and sweet, but other times I make sure and take the time to sit. This takes discipline! I sit down with a journal and I always start with praising God for who He is and thanking Him for all that He has done. I make sure and spend time praying for myself, because like an older friend once told me, if you don't pray for yourself, it'd be like trying to help passengers on a distressed flight without first helping yourself with oxygen. If you don't have what you need, you can't give others what they need! I always spend time in confession and I ask the Lord often for a pure and clean heart, based on David's prayer in Psalm 51.
If you can get to a location where you're alone, do that. I cannot pray when people are coming and going, so I usually wait to have my quiet time after everyone has left for work for the morning. Go outside, go for a prayer walk, go drive around—whatever it takes, get alone with God. I don't ever recommend praying silently. For me, I am sidetracked if I'm not speaking a prayer out loud to Him. I like to use a journal, because I like to keep track of special requests there. Everyday I pray for my family under this roof, our parents, and our friends. Just yesterday, I started a new thing, that was inspired by an idea from another friend.
Because I can't keep track of who I pray what for, I wrote down all of our family members names on little pieces of paper and put them inside this prayer box. When I've finished praying for them, I write the date on the back, fold it up and place that one in this glass jar. I also wrote down our missionary friends, persecuted believers around the world, our nation, governing leaders, law enforcement and emergency personnel. I don't take the time to pray for them everyday, but this way, I know I'll consistently pray for them over a two week course.
Here is one blog post I've written on the topic of prayer over the years. Here is one where I share about my prayer notebook. If you need a place to start these are good resources, but there's not a right or wrong way to pray. I know the more I "try to be good" at prayer, the more I stumble. I just close my eyes and picture Jesus sitting across from me at my table, and I just pour my heart out to Him. The more you do this, the more comfortable it gets.
Read His Word, live out the Word and apply it to your life. Ask the Lord to help you and He will, I assure you. I pray this has encouraged you today! I'll see you back here tomorrow, probably for something a bit more fluffy and lighthearted. Thanks for reading along, friends. Love to all.