Friday, July 24, 2015

Thinking Twice Before Promising God Anything.

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Our Rash Promises to God
Exodus 24:3: Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!”
After God tells Moses what He wants Him to do next, Moses goes down the mountain and tells the Israelites all that God has said from Exodus 20:1 to 24:2. Then verse 3 tells us that ‘all the people’ answered with ‘one voice’ saying, “We will do all that God said.”
God had given them all His instructions, His laws, and His ordinances.  What we have here in verse 3 of this chapter is the people accepting the conditions for the promises. (Collectively and as one which is interesting in itself – did anyone have a differing opinion?)  In short, here we have a “Covenant between God and His People” that really needed as much thought put into accepting it as God had put into offering it.  Later in the chapter, we will see the preparations for a ratification of the Covenant celebration. Let us for the moment stick to this verse and the utterance of the people.
Commentator David Guzik suggests, “Israel here is perhaps guilty of tremendous over-confidence. The way they seemed to easily say to God, "we will keep Your law" seems to lack appreciation for how complete and searching God's law is.” But Guzik also goes on to explain why they may have been so.  He writes, “However, a nation that had been terrified by God's awesome presence at Sinai was in no state of mind to do anything but agree with God.”  I am not so sure. I believe had the “awesomeness” of God been met with humility by the Israelites, they may well have said, “God we want to obey your words and keep your Covenant but we need your help to do so.”
Matthew Henry adds some interesting insights. Henry points out Moses did not snow the Israelites but rather explained all that God had said in detail and then “fairly put it to them whether they were willing to submit to these laws or no.”  And he continues, “The people unanimously consented to the terms proposed, without reservation or exception.”
Back in Exodus 19:1-8 they had already consented to be under God’s government (to be His people and He would be their God), but now they needed to agree to His laws.  Henry says, “Many consent to the law, and yet do not live up to it; they have nothing to except against it, and yet will not persuade themselves to be ruled by it.” Yet in so doing, they had signed on the dotted line – if they observed His requirements, He would fulfill His promises. They just had to obey.
Chuck Smith on the other hand, is much harder on the Israelites. He says “The Children of Israel lied to God when they said that they would do all that God commanded them to do.”  I would challenge him on this.  When does a failure to comply become a lie? For example, if a man said to his beloved, “I love you with all my heart and always will”, did he lie at the point when he said that, or does that turn into a lie at the point when he leaves her for someone else? I think the latter but we’ll leave Smith alone for the moment as he was trying to make a point. And that being, that we too have often had our words become lies when we have not kept our promises to God.
He goes on to point out that God knew that we would be lying when we promise to keep His laws or make other promises we have broken. Sometimes we say we will “do” something and don’t.  Sometimes we promise “not to do” something again and do. We have a natural bent and history in behaving that way. So why do we make promises to God?
Unfortunately, it is often to make a deal with God. Smith would agree with us that the problem is not a lack of sincerity.  We mean it when we promise something to God and that is proven by the fact that we are often so very disappointed with ourselves when we “blow it again”. But Smith says there’s a bright side to this whole thing:
“God is never disappointed when you break your promise. He knew all the time that you could not keep it. You see, making a vow is to put trust in our flesh, and Paul said, I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, there dwells no good thing.”

He suggests one possible answer to our failures to keep our promises to God is simply not to make them. Instead, we need to ask God to help us do what is right and to help us overcome the flesh. But we cannot do nothing. It is not okay to simply fail and leave things at that and just go on merrily being, or calling ourselves, Christians. If that were the case, Christianity would be no different than other religions. So, another provision was made for us.  Smith continues:
“Jesus not only taught the right way to live, He fully practiced what he preached. He made provisions for forgiveness for failure. He then promised to come and indwell your life to give you the power to live the way God wants us to live. He said, ‘You will receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be witnesses of me. In that day you shall know that I am in my Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.’”

Finally, Smith writes, “God has not changed His laws to accommodate our weakness. But He has taken residence within us to empower us to keep His ideal. Paul explains this in Romans 8.”
If we do nothing else about failures from here on in, may we think twice before we rush to promise God anything? But better still, may we realize that when we do fail, God does not want us to remain in the “failure” category in anything that we do. He has provided a way for us.


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Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

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Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Can You Handle Being Second, or Third, or a "Non-mention" in God's Service?


God’s Invitation to Moses and the Elders of Israel
Exodus 24:1-2: Then He said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel, and you shall worship at a distance. Moses alone, however, shall come near to the Lord, but they shall not come near, nor shall the people come up with him.”
Chapter 24 of the book of Exodus begins with the words, “Then God said to Moses.” So, as timing often gets a little confusing in Scripture, we are left to ascertain, “Just when was that particular ‘then’?” In Exodus chapter 19, verse 24 God told Moses to “Go down and come up again, you and Aaron with you.” And then we read in the last verse of chapter 19, “So Moses went down.” At the beginning of Chapter 20, God starts a communication that does not end until the last verse of Chapter 23 – a whole four chapters in length. In between the end of Chapter 19 and the beginning of Chapter 20, we can only assume that not only did Moses go down and tell the people what God had said, but he also “came up again with Aaron” as God had asked him to do (Chapter 19:24).
So the long discourse of God’s was indeed in the hearing of both Moses and Aaron.  And now we come to the beginning of Chapter 24 when God instructs Moses directly (that is, not words to be shared with the people) and says, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron [again], Nadab and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel.”  So this time God invites 74 of the leaders to come closer to Him on the mountain.
Now we know Moses and we know his brother, Aaron, but who were Nadab and Abihu? This is the second time (but not the last time) that we read their names in Scripture. Back in Exodus Chapter 6, verse 23, we read that Aaron married Elisheba, . . . and she bore him Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. So Nadab was Aaron’s oldest son and Abihu his second oldest. What we do not know is why God asked for them in particular.  It is possible that they had special duties by that time and had become recognized leaders among the Israelites. In fact, as we will see later on in Exodus (28:1 and 29:9), Aaron and his four sons were the first priests appointed as God established the priestly system. [But don’t get too excited right now about these two at least, as their story does not have a happy ending, as we will discover later on in our study.]
But in the meantime, let us focus on the incredible privilege it must have been to be invited by God to come up to the mountain and be closer to Him.  It reminds me of the account of the Transfiguration, when Jesus invited three of His twelve disciples to join Him for that -- Peter, James, and John. In their case, as A. B. Bruce asks in his classic volume, The Training of the Twelve (1877), did “ . . . selecting them to be eye-witnesses of the prefigurement of the coming glory, imply a corresponding precedence in in the kingdom itself? The three disciples probably hoped it did; the other disciples hoped not, and so the dispute began.” And perhaps it was the same afterwards for these two, and the 70 elders of the Israelites in our current passage in Exodus.  Perhaps this was where priestly pride or positional one-upmanship commenced for those who have offices in the church.  Certainly the issue for the disciples was a matter of pride and jealousy among them, which directly led to the issue of “who will be greater in heaven”.  A. B. Bruce, continues, “It was nothing that they (the disciples) should all be great together; the question of questions was, who should be the greatest – a question hard to settle when vanity and presumption contend on one side, and jealousy and envy on the other.”
Let us set that aside for now and focus on the thought of “being invited by God to come up”. What a privilege that would be? Can you imagine the Almighty God giving you a special invitation to “come up and meet with Him now”? What was it like for these 72 that had not been up there meeting with Him before after Moses and Aaron went down and told them the plan? What went through their minds? How did they feel?
When I saw my 10 year old grandson this morning and asked him how he was, he said, “Excited and a little nervous.” And he wasn’t even going to meet anyone special today. He was simply starting his first karate lesson; a day he had been waiting to arrive for some time now. Or imagine you being invited to have tea (along with hundreds of others of course) at Buckingham Palace at which occasion you would meet the Queen. Or, if you are not much into royalty, imagine having become famous for something you did, and you were invited to the White House to meet the President of the United States. How would you prepare?  What would you be telling your friends and relatives? And so on. More importantly, how would you behave afterwards? There’s no getting around it – being asked to go “go up and meet with God” is indeed a big deal.
But let us not lose sight of the fact that God wanted these 74 men in total to go up to Him and “worship” Him.  They were to do so from a distance. You see, even when God calls us to take part in some important event for which only a handful could participate in, even then it is not about us, but it is about us worshipping Him.  It’s always about Him and if you cannot handle that, then may I humbly suggest you either reconsider your position or recognize you are not who and what He wants you to be.
And just in case any of the 74 thought otherwise, that is, they thought “Wait, it can’t be all one-sided, I mean after all, God did invite me up here, he did give me this opportunity when He could have selected millions of others, I must have some importance” God says, “Worship at a distance” because you are not able to get any closer to Him for you are not holy and divine as He is.
And then comes the clincher.  Just when you thought you were all together in this; you had made it to the inner circle, along with Aaron, and from now on, it was all of you together, God speaks again, and He says, “Only Moses can come near Me; the rest shall not.” Wow. Can you handle it?  Can you allow God to make the calls of who is to do what in His service and in His worship? Can you stand being second place, or third, or even a non-mention? And can you rejoice in the selection that God made? It’s only then that God sees in you the kind of heart He wants to see.  It’s only then that He declares you to be ready for more and different service.  It’s only then that the phrase “the last shall be first” can ever have a chance of applying to you. Moses had passed all those tests years ago, back in Egypt. Now it’s your turn and mine.

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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

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Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

God Says "You Don't Need To Make a Deal" with Your Enemies.


God Says No Spiritual Multi-Culturalism and No Deal
Exodus 23:31-33: “And I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods. They shall not live in your land, lest they make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”
Back in the wilderness, thousands of years ago, God told the Israelites that He would “fix the boundaries of their land that He was giving them”.  And then the text goes on to describe the Promised Land for the Israelites.
Take a look at the description given in these verses and then check it out on a map.
On the south: The Red Sea
On the west: Somewhere in the “wilderness” from Egypt (Gulf of Suez) to modern-day Israel (north of the Gulf of Aqaba)
On the north: The Great Sea (sea of the Philistines, now also called the Mediterranean Sea)
On the east: The Euphrates River (beyond a part of Syria today).
Now compare that massive expanse of land to the property that modern-day Israel is fighting for and protecting as a nation today – only a small portion of what God had promised them. And still many of the world powers want them to give that up, too. They would rather have them homeless – without a land to call their own. Their enemies – primarily the Palestinians and the Iranians -- want them to be erased from the face of the earth.
In my humble opinion, there is a possibility that God not only will make sure they keep what they have, but that it is possible He may, before this is all over, in a miraculous way give them now what He promised them in the book of Exodus, or some of it. That makes for interesting observing in the years ahead. Even the Nuclear Deal agreed to by world powers with Iran this past week will change what God has in store for His people and for their enemies. (Of course, in the very end, it really will not matter, because God’s people will have it all.)
God told the Israelites that their enemies would be delivered ‘by Him’ into their hands so that ‘they’ can drive them out of the land that is to be theirs. The truth is that Israel has never actually taken over all of that land (save for a short period in the times of King David, only to lose it again because of their sin). David Guzik explains this by saying that God may “grant” but we need to “possess”. He says, “(God) withholds our possession of many blessings until we will partner with Him in bold faith and obedience.”
Like the Israelites, we too, Guzik says, have “been granted every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ; but will only possess what we will partner with Him in faith and obedience to receive. God is not an indulgent, spoiling father, pouring out on His children resources, blessings, and gifts they are not ready to receive or be responsible with.”  And there once again we see the reference to two of the three key elements we had earlier discovered are the secret to a great life with and for God: total trust (reliance on God); total obedience; and committed service.  If the Israelites did not get what God promised them it was not because He changed the rules. And the same is true in our case.  We claim God’s promises and are ticked off when we don’t get them, but we fail to examine how short we fell on our side of the agreement.
And then God says, “You shall make no pact with your enemies or with their gods.” The promise of the land was conditional also to this requirement – that they should make no agreement of friendship, nor have any familiarity with idol-worshippers, or with their idols or gods. And God goes even further by telling them such people shall not be allowed to live in their land or travel in it without first renouncing their idolatry.  So, what does this tell us about modern-day immigration laws?
I am not so sure that what God proposes is so much an immigration issue as the need for His people to avoid both His reproach and that of other believers as a result of having a close relationship with the worshippers of false gods. Now, who does that include today? Well, in one sense, just about everyone who does not accept, as the Apostle Peter utters in Matthew 16:16 that Jesus Christ is “the Son of the living God” and has accepted Him as his/her own personal Savior. That’s a lot of people.  Did God mean for us not to ‘associate’ with non-believers? Absolutely not – just look at the example of Jesus in the New Testament.  No, the intent of the instruction here for us is not to have “intimacy” and that may mean different things to different people. For me, it means do not rely on them, do not obey them where their instructions contradict what God is wanting of us, and do not serve them or the things or idols they serve. It means do not intermarry with them.
In the days of the Exodus, it may well have made sense that before someone comes to live in the land controlled by the Israelites, they had to become monotheists and agree to worship the Living God of Abraham. That would make a lot of sense today, but it’s far too late for that, as we’ve already given up idea of unification between ‘church and state’.  We have dichotomized our very essence be separating the two. But yet God never intended that way.
And God says there’s a good reason for religious (not racial) separation. Matthew Henry spells out the implication. There’s a “. . . danger of being drawn to worship with them. By familiar converse with idolaters, (our) dread and detestation of the sin would wear off; (we) would think it no harm, in compliment to (our) friends, to pay some respect to their gods, and so by degrees would be drawn into the fatal snare.” Henry, writing many years ago even points out the dangers of living in a ‘bad neighborhood’ for the sins of others will be our snares, if we look not well to ourselves.” (Italics and bracketed parts mine.) Of course, millions of people living today in the only places they can afford to live are proving that to be true. With murders and drug deals taking place regularly, these people know their only hope for survival is to move away.
But the main point Henry makes is this: “We must always look upon our greatest danger to be from those that would cause us to sin against God. Whatever friendship is pretended, that is really our worst enemy that draws us from our duty.” Amen. What relationships do you and I have that would qualify for that?
And by the way, just what did happen to the Israelites with respect to this promise and this warning?  David Guzik writes, “Through lack of discernment, Israel did end up making a covenant with some of the people of the land.” We read about it in Joshua 9. But we also know that there is no area of the law that Israel - or anyone - has ever kept perfectly. And thus, if we were honest, we cannot expect God to bless us fully in them, although in His magnificent grace and love, He does much more than we deserve.
And we will never be in a position where we have to make a “deal” with those that oppose God in order to protect ourselves. Unfortunately, our world leaders do so out of fear or political convenience and nations pay the price.

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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

God says, "You Can't Handle the Change . . ."


Patience for a Purpose
Exodus 23:28-30: “And I will send hornets ahead of you, that they may drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you.  I will not drive them out before you in a single year that the land may not become desolate, and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you.  I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land.”
God told the Israelites He would send hornets ahead of them to drive out the people who oppose them on their way to the Promised Land. If you remember, before they left Egypt, God had brought several plagues against the Egyptians that included members of nature -- frogs, lice, flies, and locusts.  So, the Israelites understood the devastation that hornets would bring to their enemies. Back in Egypt God had also delivered plagues that involved disease, water, hail, and darkness. All of nature was and is His. And He can use it as He wishes.
In fact, if you have been watching world events over your lifetime, you will note God continues to allow (or even causes) nature’s elements – floods, hurricanes, typhoons, extreme heat, aridness, etc. – to impact individuals (both humans and animals), communities, countries, and the world. The outcomes are devastating for those impacted by them. Whether it’s a flooded basement on one end of the spectrum or the complete loss of one’s family or relatives on the other – it hurts.
Many would (and do) have us believe that this is proof of either the non-existence of God or the existence of a God that is cruel and unloving.  Many who thought otherwise often lose their faith when a calamity like this hits them. But can we get real for a moment?
If we accept the word of God as divinely written, have we any excuse to say, “I never thought God would be like this.  I never thought He would allow such things.” The fact is that God is God and He tells us (especially in the chapters we have been studying here in Exodus, but also elsewhere in even more gruesome terms) that He is not to be disobeyed or disregarded. Sin will have its course in this world and the consequences of the decisions our politicians at all levels make, the choices that our church leaders make, the values that our families adopt, and the apathy that we show Him as individuals, will and do come back to ‘plague’ us, one way or another, sooner or later.  It is not like God did not and does not warn us.  His true people, the righteous, will succeed in the end, but the ungodly will, unfortunately, suffer in the end. And in the process, those that are righteous may be impacted, but not for eternity.
So, God will use the elements to bring about His will.  He did so for the Israelites and I believe they serve as a symbolic prototype for what God wants and will do for mankind and those that believe in Him. Yet, in both cases, He is careful that the best interests of His people (the Israelites then, and those who are known to Him now as His children) will be protected.
God says He won’t drive out our enemies “all at once”. In the case of the Israelites, He did not do it because if the hornets drove everyone off their lands before the Israelites got there, first the land would go to waste and secondly, the wild animals would roam free and multiply excessively to the point where the Israelites would not be able to handle them when they arrived.  So He was only going to do what was necessary to bring about His plan for the children of Israel at that time and on His schedule.
And it’s the same for us today.  God does not rid us of all our enemies (external and internal) all at once, although often we wish He would.  He does not because He knows that doing so may well not be opportune for us. We may not be ready for what would be expected of us in that case. Doing it little by little allows us to grow in Him and become the person or people He wants us to be, so He can use us effectively as part of His plan. In short, He does not want to have us be “overcome” with the rate of the physical and spiritual reconstruction He will eventually bring about.
It is possible that these verses here are a foreshadowing of what God intends to do with this earth.  Christians argue about what a “new heaven and a new earth” means and we can save that discussion for another time.  But it is possible that God is giving us some hints at what we can expect to happen to our world, as we know it.  And it’s not all bad as we read in verse 30, “I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land.”
The good news is if we are committed to being His, we will become fruitful and we will possess the Promised Land He has in store for us. But did you notice, the destruction of our enemies would take time.  How much time?  Well, the Bible says until we become fruitful.  Only then will “we” take possession of the “promised” land.  Does that mean we control God’s timetable or schedule and not He?  Absolutely not.  His timetable is right on schedule.  What it does suggest is that the meaning of “we” and just “who” is included in the possession of the land changes. Are you in?

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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

God is Fully In Control of the World's Confusion

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Promise of Conquest . . . Even Today
Exodus 23:27: “I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.”
Here is a verse that many say is clearly Old Testament and at first glance, it certainly appears to be so. I mean what exactly is “God’s terror”?  And what ‘enemies’ are actually fleeing from us?
Well, for starters, commentator David Guzik translates the ‘terror of God’ as the “fear” that God instills in us, probably of Himself. But for the most part, commentators are silent on the topic. What we do know is that God “throws people into confusion”.
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that our world is more confused now than ever before. More confused about whom they can trust and who they cannot.  The Iran Nuclear deal just signed yesterday is just one example. The value of a life lost when killed by a police officer is a crime, but aborting babies and selling their various parts for profit by the thousands daily by an organization called Planned Parenthood is not talked about or investigated. Illegal immigration is wrong but we need the illegal immigrants to fill our menial jobs. The disagreements between members of a similar political party or coalition are rampant globally (see the U.S. Republican party; or the coalition of the Prime Minister of Israel; or the Greek government coalitions). Parents are confused about how much discipline they should give their children. They also do not know when to say ‘no’ and when to say ‘yes’.  The United States appears to be making sweet deals and coming to peace with all its enemies (even those that continue to pursue communism [Russia, Cuba, etc.], or disregard human rights [Syria], or want America abolished [Iran]) and seems to doing all it can to undermine its allies [Israel] and its own Christian citizens. We’ve stopped going to the moon and our long-term NASA projects, but we’re pursuing trips to Mars and Pluto. We spend billions in research to keep people alive on the one hand and we are trying to pass laws to end the lives of the elderly on the other. Greece, by all historical standards, should have been kicked out of the European Union and the Euro currency long ago, and especially now.  And yet, the creditors are afraid to kick her out and are handing over yet a third bailout – one they know cannot be paid back no matter what is promised.  Individuals do not know if they are male or female and some want to be both or the opposite of what they were. Confusion for sure. And I could go on. I’m sure you could as well. Some of us have witnessed that confusion in our own communities, perhaps in our churches, or even in our families.
But here’s the thing, God says “He throws people into confusion” and He does it for the purpose of working out His Plan for His people. All this that is going on around us today is being allowed or sometimes caused by God so that His Plan for us can be worked out. Yes, sometimes that is a very hard pill to swallow, no doubt – especially when it is your family or you that are suffering – economically, socially, physically, etc. But if we can just catch a glimpse of the bigger picture through a fuller knowledge of Scripture and somehow “believe on Him” we will indeed feel the conquest He has afforded to us in Him and through Him.
God says that people that come across our paths and are not His (and I dare say sometimes those that think they are His but for one reason or another do not have in them the ‘grace’ that He alone gives and the ‘hearts’ that He alone changes), these people who choose to oppose us not only in spiritual matters, but in practical ways, will be thrown into confusion by God. Have you seen that or experienced it in your life? If not, may I humbly suggest that you, like many of us at times, are not fully relying on Him and trusting Him to do that, or you are not obeying His instructions to you, or you just aren’t involved in serving Him to the extent that such service is actively opposed by the Enemy and such protection is required by God.
And then God says, He will make these people “turn their backs to you”. Other later portions of the story of Israel demonstrate to us exactly what this means – confusion, defeat by the Israelites, fleeing. God says He will do that to our spiritual enemies and to our physical enemies. I believe that as tough as things get (and they will get tougher), the true Christ-follower who depends fully on God, obeys Him totally, and serves Him unreservedly will be so protected – his/her enemies will be cast into confusion, they will be defeated by God with us (we will have a role to play) and on our behalf, and they will flee from us if not eliminated in battle.
Are you and I ready for the next stage of the working out of His Plan for mankind, for you, and for me? My hunch is that if we are not and we’re waiting for the last minute to make that preparation or decision to be on God’s side, we will, in the midst of the confusion or in the heat of the battle’s pressures, make the wrong decision; the challenge to those who are unaware of what is going on and unprepared when that climatic time hits (be it global or just our individual ‘time’s up’) will be too much to handle wisely.
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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Monday, July 13, 2015

God's Special Formula for Blessing Works


The Richness of God’s Promises
Exodus 23:25-26: “But you shall serve the Lord your God, and He shall bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst. There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.”
God basically told the Israelites that He would protect them from their enemies and they would be part of the battle by their “utterly overthrowing” them and breaking their “sacred pillars”. And in the process or rather while doing so, they were also to serve the Lord.
What was God saying to them? What is He saying to us, in essence, in these verses? It appears like a complex formula for success – but it can really be boiled down to three simple things: dependence on God; doing our part; and serving Him. If we’re struggling in life, it’s not always because we have sinned or made bad decisions. It’s not always about Him teaching us more things and making us stronger, although that happens in the process almost always.  It just may be that we really, I mean really, have not come face-to-face with what it means to fully depend on Him, fully obey Him through our actions, and fully serve Him.
Full dependence on Him sometimes requires more patience than we have; sometimes more faith and trust; and sometimes it means giving up what we are pursuing because He does not considerate it to be good for us, at least at this time. Are we ready to do that?
Fully obeying by doing our part may sometimes mean taking actions that cost something – our job, our friends, our assets, our comfort, our reputation, you name it.  I am in the process of reading that classic book by A. B. Bruce, written in 1877, entitled The Training of the Twelve.  In it, he writes, “They (the disciples) were animated by a devotion to Jesus and to the divine kingdom which made them capable of any sacrifice.” (brackets and emphasis mine)  I often wonder how many of us living in the western world possess that drive today.
And fully serving Him would require a conscious effort to begin each day having dedicated each moment, each conversation, each action, to Him, ensuring that it is pleasing to Him and a help to those He has brought into our lives – our spouse, parents, children, friends, associates, and even strangers.
I don’t know about you, but I have a long way to go to be able to fully ‘expect’ the kind of blessings God promised the Israelites in this passage. For in it, He talks about things that really would make any life much more desired.
God says He will bless our bread. He will see to it that we do not die of starvation. And we will have enough water and not die from thirst or poisoned water.  Matthew Henry points out that God did not promise a “feast of fat things and wines on the lees”.  But our simple bread and water will be “more refreshing and nourishing” with His blessing than such a fatty feast without. The availability of food was important to the Israelites for their survival and this has not changed for us.
While we need food to stay alive and healthy, we also need health to be able to eat and to enjoy our food.  God promised the Israelites would have that as well. In fact, He would “remove sickness” from them.  Imagine no sickness to continue and no new sickness to come. No diseases in the land that would kill off many or desolate the land. It is interesting that this same promise is made to us in the book of Revelation where the Apostle John is describing heaven where there will be no sickness or death. That which God promised His children in the wilderness, we ourselves, may not see until we get to heaven.
But wait, it does not end there. God promises the Israelites that He will increase their wealth, assumedly through the multiplication of their cattle (Henry says the animals would not “cast their young”.) And the number of Israelites shall also grow as “no one will have a miscarriage or be barren” in the land. People shall live to their full life expectancy. We know, by that phrase, that this is not just about “heaven” as people do not die in heaven – it was for the Israelites, for them, right there and then, if they claimed it and obeyed God. The question we would ask is whether or not any of it applies to us today, and if so, how?
Simple observation of our own lives, those of our relatives and friends, and the world around us, would tell us that this part of the promise was strictly for the Israelites at that time and only a symbolic glimpse, of what is in store for us in eternity.  Clearly man’s sin and his own greed for authority and control of his life, have made such a promise of God’s to be difficult to fulfill as we often do not keep our side of the bargain – we do not fully depend on Him, we do not obey Him totally, and we do not serve Him thoroughly.
But it need not be like that. (I do not mean to imply by my next statement that I am anywhere near where I should be in any of these regards [I stated that above], but simply to share that I am inching my way closer.) What I have discovered is that as I draw closer to God, as I rely more on Him, as I obey Him more, and as I serve Him more willingly, my life is indeed better. No, neither I nor my family members and friends stop having challenges in life, our material wealth is not multiplied, and I know there is no guarantee any of us will live to our full life expectancy; some have not. But yet life is less stressful and more enjoyable, and I am more content than before.
So can this precise promise that applied to the Israelites apply to us? Certainly, its key principle and lesson can, and I believe you will find that it does.

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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Stop Being a Half-Participant in God's Promises


Our Role in God’s Overthrow of Our Enemies and Adversaries.
Exodus 23:24: “You shall not worship their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their deeds; but you shall utterly overthrow them, and break their sacred pillars in pieces.”
Wait, we are not off the hook. God has a part for each of us to play in His destruction of our enemies and adversaries. Part of it is, admittedly, passive (things we are not to do), but part of it is very active (things we are to do). He says to the Israelites, “Do not worship their gods; do not serve their gods; and do not do the things they do which relate to their gods.” That’s the general intent of God’s warning to them.  But He goes on and tells them what to do with respect to these idolaters.
God is very clear here.  He tells the Israelites in the wilderness, that when they have to go across the lands of these people, whom you will remember God promised to destroy for them (vs. 23 in this chapter), in order to get to the promised land, they were to “utterly overthrow them and to break their sacred pillars into pieces.”  Matthew Henry suggests:
They must not only not worship their gods, but they must utterly overthrow them, in token of their great abhorrence of idolatry, their resolution never to worship idols themselves, and their care to prevent any other from worshipping them.
I understand that this was said to the Israelites in the wilderness thousands of years ago.  And many will argue it does not apply to us. Often the Enemy would have us believe that and disregard entire Old Testament theology. But yet, we are indeed crossing a wilderness right now and we are coming up against such enemy giants – not the least of which is the Islamic State with its goals to destroy the West in general and Israel in particular. (There are other idolatrous practices like abortion and euthanasia where people take on the role of God.) So, is there nothing for us to take, in a general sense, from this passage?  I believe there is and I disagree with those who say all we can do is pray. I believe we have a responsibility to uphold the worship and authority of God and to promote it; to protect the innocent; and to fight the intruders and idolaters.  I believe we need to understand that while God can do this single-handedly, He wants us to be active partners.  We, on the other hand, must realize that we cannot take the law into our own hands and thus are left to influence those who represent the law in our land – our various levels of government. To sit back and do nothing is not an option any more than burying our loaned talent in the sand so as not to lose it was in the famous New Testament parable, even though we know our Master expects us, as a minimum, to earn interest with it.
It saddens me to see Christian young people or adults waste their lives away, just waiting on God to do it all for them – from having the right future spouse just miraculously appear at their door while they stay home every night praying for that to happen; or for a promotion to come when they do nothing different to earn it but pray diligently for it. 
Are you only a half-recipient of God’s promises for you? Do you accept the passive instructions but not agree to the active requirements?  You need to do both.

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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Whether You Know It Or Not, You Have Two Hearts

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It’s Always The Heart (book review)

 
I agreed to review this book for several reasons not the least of which were that my wife had recently suffered a heart attack; I may be a likely candidate for one; the author, besides having a heritage similar to mine (Greek) had a solid reputation in his field; and I always wondered if there was any connection between our physical hearts that beat away on average over 36 million times a year and our spiritual hearts that are referenced over 700 times in the Bible.

Dr. Arthur E. Constantine, MD, a practicing cardiologist at the Heart Group/St. Thomas Heart at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, in his book, It’s Always The Heart, published by Westbow Press, 2014, describes that connection well with examples based on his personal experience with thousands of patients.  He gives us life-changing spiritual and physical insights into the most important organ in our bodies by sharing accounts of circumstances that can easily represent almost all of us and/or those we love.

Constantine relates the story of Mr. Important who thinks that without him the world would not rotate on its axis and how that lifestyle or attitude impacts both our physical condition and our relationship with God. Through the ever-exercising Mrs. Tallent’s story, the author relates how fear and doubt are used by the Devil to challenge our very faith during times of surprise heart attacks. Through the story of underweight and undernourished chain-smoking Jacob, Dr. C. tells us how addictions impact us physically and spiritually, robbing us of our potential in both arenas. Through the experience of Joanne, who tried everything to be happy, Constantine shows us how the elusion of real joy and meaning in one’s life can cause trouble in both the spiritual and physical realm.

Jim Oliver had to change his spiritual heart with respect to a balanced life and only then could he help his physical heart to function well. And the life of Leroy Harris, the 347 pound truck driver who only ate at truck stops and drove all night except for six hours when his wife spelled him off, seven days a week chasing more income all the time, is a warning to all of us who take better care of our vehicles than our bodies. The author also has a special chapter dedicated to pastors who just don’t get it when it comes to their own health – both physical and spiritual. Through Jean he warns about being in denial about our lifestyle and its impact on our ‘two’ hearts. A second Jim shows us how to live with the fear of dying and the author shows us how to get out of that trap. And finally, through Mrs. Whitt (or Nana as she was so lovingly known to her family), Constantine talks about dying and how to deal with it.

No matter the circumstance, Constantine shows what many of his patients have discovered – somehow, it’s always about the heart.  Being in my senior years, I found myself thinking of so many loved ones I had lost who well could have been one or more of the people Constantine writes about.  What was worse, I found that I could well be one or more of them myself.  And that has its way of shaking you a bit, causing you to sit up and take notice to what the good Doctor is suggesting, not forcing on you. And hopefully taking action right away.

In fact, he goes one step further and makes some strong recommendations about diets (no, not off-the-shelf ones; he really dislikes those) and exercise (no, not the Jane Fonda dvd’s type) – just solid suggestions on how you can start to bring your physical heart into sync with the spiritual heart that God wants you to have.  But make no mistake about, Constantine pulls no punches – if your spiritual heart and life and relationship with God is not in order, do not expect your physical heart to stay fit for long. Kudos to a professional person who takes his faith to the office and by so doing has helped thousands.  Thank God our politicians haven’t found a way to stop people like him.

I strongly recommend the book for all who have been there in the cardiologist’s office or worse still under his or her watchful eye during an operation on their heart.  Also highly recommended for all counselors, especially in Christian counseling ministry.  It would be a bonus for pastors, too.

As for me, I have to run off and do my speedwalking, drink some more water, and strengthen my core muscles.

    -- Ken B. Godevenos, http://www.accordconsulting.com, Myrtle Beach, S.C. 15/07/08  

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Thanks for dropping by. Sign up to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

You Can't Barter With God and You Can't Challenge Him or His Ways

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An Enemy to Your Enemies
Exodus 23:22-23: “But if you will truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.  For My angel will go before you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them.”
Isn’t it amazing how whenever God asks us to do something for Him or about Him or with Him, He always promises to do more in return for us? You can check this out throughout Scripture and this is just one such case here in this chapter of Exodus. Here He says, “Obey the angel I send before you and I will do much for you, even more than “guard you on your travels; bring you to the place I have prepared for you; and pardon your transgressions” (all from vs. 20-21).
[Just as an aside, please note: God can do that with us for He has the right as Creator, but we can’t do that with Him.  We can’t barter with Him like He can with us. Live with it; that’s the way it is. Just as you can do that with your children, but heaven help them if they try to do it with you.]
But here’s the part I love if we do what God says, He will be “an enemy to our enemies”. Boy, are there ever days (like the one I had yesterday) when I need to know that. My God will fight my enemies for me. Again, notice that we are to “love our enemies” but that does not apply to God – He has the right to do whatever He wants to them when He wants to. That is so challenging and unacceptable to the liberal mind. Liberals want God to behave they way they think He should behave or at least the way He wants them (us) to behave. I say again, “Live with it.” This is a most difficult fact for a lot of Christians to grasp, let alone liberals. We keep asking, “Why? Why? Why?” and we apply that question to every aspect of life that we do not like or want to have happened. It could be my looks, my poverty, my disease, death in my family, loss of job, divorce, election outcomes, even rain when I wanted to have a picnic in the park or to have my child’s birthday party outside. Yet if we truly know God and Who He is, we would know that while as human beings we may have the right to ask that question (as we all do), we really have no right to expect an answer. And here’s the deal . . . Happy is the man or woman who learns that early in their life. And happier is the man or woman who accepts it.
Notice also that first God talks about being an “enemy to our enemies” and then He talks about being an “adversary to our adversaries”.  I wondered what the difference was, so I looked the two words up. Here’s what I generally discovered:
·      Enemy – a person (or nation) who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something or another nation (especially in time of war).
·      Adversary – one’s opponent in a contest, conflict, or dispute.
As I reflected on these two definitions, I thought how wonderful it is that God’s promises are so thorough.  First of all, the dictionary tells us that one can be one’s own worst enemy. Now that’s as if God is saying He will be an enemy to our own natural self (the one that wants to do wrong and to sin) if we let Him. Secondly, I realized that the word ‘enemy’ is more applicable to major antagonists in our lives or that of our family, town, country or world (enemies of war, disease, family breakdown, imprisonment, torture, etc.) whereas adversary applies more to the everyday type of challengers that we face (temperature, slow drivers in front of us, ridicule, etc.).  Each one of us can draw the enemy vs. adversary line wherever we want on the continuum.  That’s not the point. The point is that God will fight them all for us – big enemies and smaller adversarial opponents. It is also interesting that Satan (the Devil) is commonly referred to sometimes as the Enemy and sometimes as the Adversary. Which one are you fighting today?
This short passage (vs. 22 and 23) ends with God first listing every single one of the enemies or adversaries that the Israelites will face in their journey.  The lesson for us is simply this: this is not a one-time thing that He is promising the children of Israel.  It is therefore also meant for us to know that God can and will, if we want Him to, and if we let Him – defeat all our enemies and adversaries in our own personal journey through the desert of this life.
And secondly, God says He will “completely destroy them.”  And you thought only your children could do that on their video games. God alone can only do it for real. And that’s a promise I can claim if I’m prepared to turn each and every one of my enemies and adversaries over to Him. How about you?

Author's Note: A few hours after posting this blog, as I was reading another book, the thought came to me that there are several people out there that feel they can and have made deals with God.  The best example is the type of person that says, "If you save me from this calamity God, I will serve you forever" or something to that effect.  I perfectly understand how you feel, but I am not sure that is exactly what I was talking about above.  In the circumstances I was referring to -- God is giving us a choice.  In the circumstance of "save me and I'll serve you" -- you and I really have no choice.  There is nothing for us to walk away from.  We are desperate.  God still may or may not save us.  We only hear about the ones that were saved and made that promise; not the ones that weren't.  We don't say to God as He says to us or as we say to our children, "It's up to you; take it or leave it."  That was my point.


Thanks for dropping by. Sign up to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.