Donkey Talk

Andy Stanley, the well-known Atlanta preacher, recently stirred up controversy over some comparisons he made between large and small churches.  After being called out for it, he offered a sincere and refreshing apology, even calling what he said “absurd.”  Wow, a modern case for the wisdom of Balaam’s donkey!

Let me refresh your memory of the story, a humorous one if not so serious. There once was a prophet named Balaam.  He lived in the days when Moses was leading God’s people toward the Promised Land.  As they approached Moab, its ruler sent his messengers to get Balaam.  He wanted to pay Balaam to curse God’s people so he could drive them away.

So after a talk with God who told him not to curse the people, Balaam got on his donkey and headed out to meet this ruler. But apparently God knew Balaam was thinking about the fees he might collect for the curse, so He sent his angel to block his way.  It was the donkey who saw the angel with sword in hand, and turned off the path.  Balaam beat her back to the path.  Seeing the angel again, she veered away and mashed his foot into a wall, earning more blows.  Still seeing the angel, the jenny finally just lay down, despite his strikes.  At this point the donkey demanded an explanation, and even more curious Balaam talked back to her!  Then he saw the angel, and had an opportunity to change his words and actions, thanks to the wisdom of his donkey! (See Num. 22.)

It is not just preachers and prophets that can benefit from a change of course. Probably the most overly used, rote prayer phrase I have heard is for God to “lead, guide, and direct,” certainly a noble hope.  But what does that look like?  If God answers that prayer with a mashed foot or a conversation with an ignorant beast, might that be better than stumbling into an angel with a drawn sword?  If we are held accountable for something stupid we said or did, is it not better to set it right than to double down?  “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Prov. 12:15).

When we find ourselves heading down the wrong path, if we are fortunate something or someone will reveal our folly, and perhaps we’ll have the good sense to change course. Thanks Rev. Stanley for demonstrating some humility here, and let us know if you had a talk with a donkey along the way.


Chuck Colson and other of President Nixon’s men spent time in jail for Watergate crimes. In spite of their power and influence, the conspirators could only maintain the cover-up for only a few weeks until someone broke the sordid tale.  One of the objections to the Resurrection of Jesus is that it, too, was a cover-up, a hoax advanced by early believers.

Historians do not doubt Jesus was a real person. Ample archeological evidence, including non-Biblical writings that refer to Jesus and his followers, proves it.  Neither do historians dispute his death by crucifixion nor the empty tomb.

Certainly the empty tomb is not enough to validate the Resurrection, so consider the disciples. Immediately after Jesus’ death, they huddled behind locked doors, fearful that their fate would be the same as his.  What a defeated band of men, obviously not motivated to propagate a hoax!  How could such a group maintain a ruse, given the religious and political power-brokers who were determined to end Jesus’ popularity by any means necessary?  The disciples could have simply written down Jesus’ inspiring teachings and avoided further controversy.  At first it seems they would do even less than that.

History records that they began to risk their lives to declare, not that Jesus was just a good teacher, but that He is the living God. This preaching occurred not behind locked doors, but in public venues, and even at their own trials.  They looked their accusers in the eyes and declared they would obey God rather than men.  The only plausible explanation for this outburst of courage is that Jesus really did appear to them alive after a gruesome crucifixion and death.  Chuck Colson observed, “Nothing less than a witness as awesome as the resurrected Christ could have caused those men to maintain to their dying whispers that Jesus is alive and Lord.”

Little skepticism exists for Tacitus or Aristotle, contemporaries of the time span of Biblical manuscripts, even though the earliest existing copies of their writings date a thousand or more years after their deaths. Yet we have thousands of ancient Christian documents, some of which date within one hundred years of Christ.  One fragment has been located that dates so close to the life of Christ that the people involved could still have been alive to dispute any cover-up or hoax.

On Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate our risen and living Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! We celebrate his defeat of sin and death on our behalf.  Jesus said, “Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  Eternity calls us to say yes, by faith and by fact.

Resurrection Miracle

Easter comes early this year (March 27). The date is based on the Hebrew tradition of using lunar cycles to date the Passover, which coincides with the Passion events.  Science helps us date the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, an event that it cannot explain.

The Bible gives a tempting challenge: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain” (1 Cor. 15:14).  Accepting the challenge, skeptics argue that miracles cannot happen because science explains the reality that dead people stay dead.  Christians believe a resurrection; therefore Christianity contradicts science.  The people of the first century didn’t know better, so they were inclined to believe myths.  A so-called miracle would be a violation of the laws of nature that we understand now.

This argument misunderstands science and the laws of nature, which only explain and predict natural patterns and regular events. They do not cause anything to happen.  The law of gravity didn’t know that the Wright brothers defied it.  But because we know what normally happens with gravity, the Wright brothers are in the history books.  C.S. Lewis’ illustration was that if he put $100 in his hotel room drawer two nights in a row, and the next morning only $50 was there, the arithmetic laws would tell him that criminal laws were violated.  Unless you know the laws of nature you cannot recognize the exception.  If you don’t know that dead people stay dead, then the resurrection of Jesus is not special.

God sticks his finger in the pool of ordinary events and makes ripples. When we see the ripples, we know He was there.  It is not a contradiction to believe that God created a world that operates according to observable laws, and also that God operates outside of those laws.  John Lennox said, “If the God who created the system we describe as laws of nature chooses to work outside that system, how can laws of nature forbid it?  The universe is not a closed system of cause and effect.  It has a Creator.”

 The Resurrection could not have happened naturally. The Creator who made what we describe with natural laws chose to raise Jesus and contradict the way things normally work.  It is no contradiction of natural laws because it was not natural!

The only way to deny the possibility of the resurrection is to assume there is no Creator, which pushes the argument to a different place. Today scientific discoveries like the Big Bang and the genetic code point to an intelligent designer.  So why wouldn’t that designer intervene to make himself known?

By his Resurrection, Jesus “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light” (1 Tim. 1:10). Follow without prejudice the ample evidence for this historic event wherever it leads.  Join Christians near you this Easter in celebrating the greatest documented miracle ever: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.


The concept of God as Trinity sets Christianity apart from the religions of the world. Apologists for monotheistic religions delight in challenging Christians to explain what seems beyond the grasp of the human mind.  Yet we do not explain it as unique to Christianity since the Hebrew Scriptures unfold the mystery of one God as multiple persons long before the birth of Jesus.

In the creation account, the Hebrew for God is a plural word, but used as singular. That sets the stage for the Spirit of God to enter the narrative.  Then God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”  So He made mankind as plural persons, male and female, in His likeness.  In his fifth book, Moses clarified this is not polytheism, declaring that “Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one.”  Interestingly, the word “one” is used to describe something with components, like evening and morning are one day.

Isaiah records the words of a person called “the first and the last” who founded the earth and spread the heavens. This same person is loved and sent by God.  In Daniel’s visions, he saw the “Ancient of Days” giving to “One like a Son of Man” dominion, glory, and an eternal kingdom, so that people might serve Him in ways reserved only for God Himself.  Who are these heavenly persons?

This must have posed a challenge to the early Hebrew prophets and writers. How could they understand what had been revealed to them?  Surely the rabbis of Jesus’ day also pondered these things, and it was in this context that He spoke.  He told his hometown friends that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.  He told a crowd that He, the Son of Man, had authority to forgive the sins of the paralytic who was lowered through the roof by four men.  At his trial He told the high priest that he would “see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”  By these startling words, He revealed himself as one of the heavenly Persons of the Hebrew Scripture.  The Scribes and Pharisees knew what He was claiming.

The Trinity has personal significance for us. God is love.  Love requires an object, so it follows that the Father and Son would love each other.  The Trinity is a loving community.  Jesus includes us in that community saying that “the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.”  Paul adds that “God sends the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  By faith we receive that gift, and are woven into the Trinity.  In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.

Gen. 1:1-2, 26-27; Deut. 6:4; Is. 48:12-16; Dan. 7:13-14; Luke 4:21; Mark 2:10, 14:62; John 16:27; Gal. 4:6, Eph. 2:8