Saturday, March 23, 2019

“Oh, If You Would Only Believe Me”

The Keeper of My Heart:
The Key To Knowing Who You Truly Are



Author: Ashley Wichlenski
Publisher: Freedom International Publishing, Gibsonton, FL, 2018

This is not an ordinary book. It is a work of art in many ways.  It is visually beautiful. It is beautifully written.  It is extremely and solidly scriptural in its message.  It is a much-needed message for millions of people today, especially women, of all ages.

Today's young female teenagers need to know how worthy they truly are in order to combat the "fake news" they are given about themselves from Hollywood, fashion magazines, music celebrities, and those who seek to be gods themselves and failing miserably.  They need this. And because this has been going on way too long, many of those that need this lesson today may be well in their senior years and have lived a hard and solitary life.  They need this.
The book consists of fourteen eternal truths about each reader. Each truth is based on either Old Testament or New Testament scripture and is presented as a letter written by God to His child – the reader of the book.
As a man, with a wife, two daughters, and three grand-daughters, I marveled at the wisdom of this young author – a wife, a mother, and a business woman – who herself “discovered that her value is not in what she has done or hasn’t done, or even in how the world sees her”.  Ashley found her true value in how her Maker sees her.
This book is for the girl or woman that doesn’t see herself as beautiful. It’s for those who consider themselves unloved. It’s for those who feel they have screwed up so badly, they can never be forgiven by anyone, let alone God.  The book speaks to those that see themselves as unworthy of anyone paying them any attention. It’s for those that see themselves as weak in every sense of the word. It’s for those that always feel they are picked last for anything in life. It’s for those enslaved by others or by their thoughts and fears. It’s for those that don’t feel safe and for those that are living without joy. And finally, it’s for those that are afraid of tomorrow and death.
Wichlenski does an incredible job of reaching out to her readers without being overbearing or imposing her beliefs. But her message is a compelling one. Primarily because of her Source.
The book also has room, after each letter, for the reader to reflect and to consider and write her own reactions to what the author is saying or more importantly to what ‘The Keeper of the Reader’s Heart’ is saying to the reader through the author.   Finally, for the reader that relates well to the message, the book includes a link to a most resourceful and encouraging website by which the reader can continue to grow in her new found understanding of how God, her heart’s true Keeper, sees her.
Highly recommended for women of all ages, especially teenagers. The book makes a great gift for any woman that any man really loves.  This book has the potential to change someone's life.

Unfortunately this book isn't on Amazon because the author had to publish it herself and the percentage that Amazon takes made that prohibitive and would not allow her enough funds to translate it into Spanish or write a boys' book.  The book can be purchased from her website: www.thekeeperofmyheart.com

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·     Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, March 23, 2019, www.accordconsulting.com

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Continuing with the Cleanliness Rules God Gives the Israelites.

More Creatures to Stay Away From
Leviticus 11:29-38
29 ‘Now these are to you the unclean among the swarming things which swarm on the earth: the mole, and the mouse, and the great lizard in its kinds, 30 and the gecko, and the crocodile, and the lizard, and the sand reptile, and the chameleon. 31 These are to you the unclean among all the swarming things; whoever touches them when they are dead becomes unclean until evening. 32 Also anything on which one of them may fall when they are dead becomes unclean, including any wooden article, or clothing, or a skin, or a sack—any article of which use is made—it shall be put in the water and be unclean until evening, then it becomes clean. 33 As for any earthenware vessel into which one of them may fall, whatever is in it becomes unclean and you shall break the vessel. 34 Any of the food which may be eaten, on which water comes, shall become unclean, and any liquid which may be drunk in every vessel shall become unclean.35 Everything, moreover, on which part of their carcass may fall becomes unclean; an oven or a stove shall be smashed; they are unclean and shall continue as unclean to you. 36 Nevertheless a spring or a cistern collecting water shall be clean, though the one who touches their carcass shall be unclean. 37 If a part of their carcass falls on any seed for sowing which is to be sown, it is clean.38 Though if water is put on the seed and a part of their carcass falls on it, it is unclean to you.

Thoughts on the Passage
Verses 29 to 31 continue listing swarming things that God considers unclean – the mole, the mouse, lizards, geckos, crocodiles, sand-reptiles, and chameleons. (Robert Jamieson also translates one of these as a snail.) If someone touches a dead one of these creatures, he/she is deemed to be unclean until evening.  Please note that “swarming” here is also translated “creeping”. While we associate swarming with bees, for example, the reference here is to creatures that creep on the ground.
Verse 32 tells us that if a dead one of these creatures falls on something (wooden article, clothing, skin, or sack – or anything that has a use), it needs to be put into water, and it is deemed unclean until evening.
But if one of these creatures (presumably dead, but could also mean dead or alive) falls into an earthen vessel or jar, the vessel is deemed unclean forever and it is to be broken into pieces. (vs. 33)
Verse 34 is interesting in that it says any food that becomes wet, becomes unclean; any liquid to be drunk that has some water fall on it becomes unclean (I’ll leave it to others to explain this one especially in light of verse 36).
Anything that comes into contact with even part of the carcass of one of these unclean creatures becomes unclean (including stoves) and it needs to be smashed.
However, it is okay for a spring or cistern to collect water – it is clean.  Finally, if a part of the carcass falls on any seed meant for future sowing, it remains clean – but if it is already sown and water falls on it, it becomes unclean.    Wow. Let’s look more closely at these verses.
David Guzik says, “From a hygienic standpoint, these laws were very important. They required, for example, that if a rodent crawled inside a bowl, the bowl had to be broken. Therefore, any disease the rodent carried (such as bubonic plague) could not be passed on to the one who would use the bowl.” He adds, “These laws also promoted a general state of cleanliness inside the Hebrew home. This certainly promoted the health and the welfare of the family.” God has His reasons for all that He prescribes for us under certain conditions of the times.
Robert Jamieson has an interesting perspective on these sudden states of uncleanliness as he writes:
“These regulations must have often caused annoyance by suddenly requiring the exclusion of people from society, as well as the ordinances of religion. Nevertheless, they were extremely useful and salutary, especially as enforcing attention to cleanliness. This is a matter of essential importance in the East, where venomous reptiles often creep into houses and are found lurking in boxes, vessels, or holes in the wall; and the carcass of one of them, or a dead mouse, mole, lizard, or other unclean animal, might be inadvertently touched by the hand, or fall on clothes, skin, bottles, or any article of common domestic use. By connecting, therefore, the touch of such creatures with ceremonial defilement, which required immediately to be removed, an effectual means was taken to prevent the bad effects of venom and all unclean or noxious matter.

Jamieson seems to be attributing the need to many of these regulations to the living conditions in the East. 
Lastly, we consider some of the thoughts of commentator Matthew Henry.  He ties the forbidding of creeping things to God’s view of the serpent in Genesis 3:15 when He relegates the serpent to a curse of spending his time on his belly, and thus creating enmity between the serpent and man.  This law here in Leviticus simply preserves that state. Henry writes, “Dust is the meat of the creeping things, and therefore, they are not fit to be man’s meat.”
The Israelites were being taught to carefully avoid everything that was a pollutant. Clearly, many advocates of the Green movement today would approve.  And these rules applied not only in the temple but in every Jewish home.

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Linking Being Unclean, the 1350 Plague, & the #MeToo movement

The Carcasses of Unclean Animals
Leviticus 11:24.28
24 ‘By these, moreover, you will be made unclean: whoever touches their carcasses becomes unclean until evening, 25 and whoever picks up any of their carcasses shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. 26 Concerning all the animals which divide the hoof but do not make a split hoof, or which do not chew cud, they are unclean to you: whoever touches them becomes unclean.27 Also whatever walks on its paws, among all the creatures that walk on all fours, are unclean to you; whoever touches their carcasses becomes unclean until evening, 28 and the one who picks up their carcasses shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening; they are unclean to you.

Thoughts on the Passage
Chuck Smith considers all these rules are about God’s people staying clean and washing up. It’s about taking care of ourselves after touching dead carcasses. God, he says, is just teaching us “good hygiene”.
[An aside: And speaking of good hygiene, I am still appalled by how few people take the time to wash their hands after visiting a restroom.  And I’m not talking about those who may not know better, I’m talking about professionals – engineers and others.  I observed the omitting to do so practice for years in large corporate offices where I worked.]
David Guzik goes says that “Unclean animals, when dead, couldn’t just be left in the community to rot; they had to be disposed of. But the people who disposed of the unclean animals had to remedy their uncleanness by washing and a brief (until evening) quarantine.”  The whole point was to prevent disease and the spreading of disease – the kind that Europe experienced in 1350.  Even then, Jewish communities were “largely spared because they followed these hygienic regulations,” says Guzik.
What is sad, is, as Guzik goes on to say, “because they were often largely preserved, they were often accused and punished for being ‘masterminds’ behind the plague.”  (Sounds a lot like the claims of ‘white privilege’ many are accusing whites of these days.)
Taking the matter to some myths about how we treat people who may be “unclean” today, Guzik wants us to note that due to the fact this quarantine was short and required the thorough washing of clothes, it was a “ceremonial uncleanness” and thus did not mean the person was “in a state of sin”.  No sacrifice was required. The impurity just needed to be addressed.
Matthew Henry says those that were ceremoniously unclean were forbidden to go into the tabernacle for a while, or to eat of any of the holy things, or to even converse familiarly with their neighbors.
He draws a parallel between the uncleanness coming to an end at night just like our sin is all addressed by Christ’s death on Calvary that night He shed His blood for us.  Henry goes on to say, “And we must learn, by daily renewing our repentance every night for the sins of the day, to cleanse ourselves from the pollution we contract by them, that we may not lie down in our uncleanness.”
He points out that God allowed the use of animals for service in their daily work (e.g. farming), but once they were dead, they could not eat them – and what must not be eaten, must not be touched. (A reference to Genesis 3:3.)
With all the #MeToo activity going on today, this lesson is an important one for many of us to learn. Sometimes people in our lives are there for us to work together with, either in business, or on a project, or even in a ministry.  But they are not there for us to take advantage of in any way.  Anyone that has not been given to you as your spouse, is simply not to be touched in any way that would make you (or them) unclean. Work with them, help them, encourage them – but do not make them your possessions. Stay clean.

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Bolivar Heights: When Failure Is Not Final




Author: Leighton Kramer
Publisher: Christian Faith Publishing, Inc., Meadville, PA, 2018

A Warning to the Unfallen; An Explanation, Hope, and Purpose for the Fallen 
Leighton Kramer’s book is one of the most complex books I have ever reviewed. I felt at times like a judge on “America’s Got Talent” – one minute I marveled at his perceptions and the next, I was totally frustrated with both the structural and grammatical editing of his book. The human insights are so on target. But it is hard to clearly adjudicate who is really doing the writing on any given page, about whom, when, and where.
There were many times when I felt this (or at least most of this) is indeed Kramer’s own story without him wanting to admit it.  There is no other explanation for some of his thoughts on what a fallen person can think or feel except that he personally had experienced the same thoughts and feelings. If I am wrong, then he truly has a great gift.
There is no doubt the book is a much-needed one. Too many people in the ministry do not finish well, as Kramer tells us. Many failures could have been avoided by God’s servants making better and less rushed decisions. Others, by having accountability partners who speak up in a timely fashion. Still others, by prayers that rise upwards, uttered by saints on bended knee.
Kramer correctly points out that everyone has a weak spot. But when it comes to God’s servants, that weak spot is fervently and constantly being observed by the Enemy, seeking the most opportune time and way to hurt it again, and if possible, to the point of death. Satan certainly knew the main character’s weakness and he knew exactly how to use it to his advantage.
This book is a must-read for anyone who is in the ministry, anyone who loves someone in the ministry, and even anyone who knows or is responsible from a governance perspective, for someone in the ministry.
The author capably demonstrates that the battle is indeed spiritual. The Enemy is indeed real. The consequences are deadly – not only for the individual but for those he/she entangles in his/her downfall.
If you learn nothing else from this book (and there is so much to absorb and adopt), every reader should learn at least two things: First, you are not protected from failure in your Christian life. As Kramer contends, life is a “probation” period. This could happen to you. And second, when you know the weak spot in yourself or in your circumstances is at jeopardy of being attacked – take every step possible to address it as God would have you address it. Kramer in a very powerful way, especially in his last chapter, drives home the mistake that many of us make – trying to address our ‘problem’ without God and outside our public world.
Indirectly, this book is a call to prayer for pastors, for those in our family who lead ministries, and for ourselves – for many of us are called to serve God without going into full-time pastoral or similar work.   Highly recommended.

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·     Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, March 17, 2019, www.accordconsulting.com

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

And what about Fried Grasshoppers?

Leviticus 11:20-23
20 ‘All the winged insects that walk on all fours are detestable to you. 21 Yet these you may eat among all the winged insects which walk on all fours: those which have above their feet jointed legs with which to jump on the earth. 22 These of them you may eat: the locust in its kinds, and the devastating locust in its kinds, and the cricket in its kinds, and the grasshopper in its kinds. 23 But all other winged insects which are four-footed are detestable to you.

Thoughts on the Passage
I remember when I was younger attending a missionary dinner at our local church and having the opportunity to try “fried grasshoppers” done nice and crispy, on a cracker.  Can’t remember if they had added a dab of honey or peanut butter to make the grasshopper stick to the cracker or not, but I ate several and have survived many decades of life after that.
Now in my study, I learn that it was all part of a God-approved diet.  And I know that John the Baptist ate locusts in the wilderness. But no ants or grubs.
I guess the lesson here is that if you are about to embark on such opportunities – pick up the little critters, turn them over, count the feet – and if there are only four – check to see if they have knees.  If so, it’s okay, go ahead, enjoy your dinner.

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

I Do Enjoy Those Grilled Birds They Serve at . . .

The O.T. and N.T. give us two Different, but not Contradictory, Views of Birds 
Leviticus 11:13-19
13 ‘These, moreover, you shall detest among the birds; they are abhorrent, not to be eaten: the eagle and the vulture and the buzzard, 14 and the kite and the falcon in its kind, 15 every raven in its kind, 16 and the ostrich and the owl and the seagull and the hawk in its kind, 17 and the little owl and the cormorant and the great owl, 18 and the white owl and the pelican and the carrion vulture, 19 and the stork, the heron in its kinds, and the hoopoe, and the bat.

Thoughts on the Passage
In the New Testament, in Matthew 6:26, Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” But here in Leviticus the same heavenly Father says there are certain birds we are to hate because they are, among many other things (just check out the list of synonyms for ‘abhorrent’), distasteful and nauseating.
It is interesting to me that today we protect some kinds of these species – some owls, herons, eagles, etc.  We also have to a certain extent made storks celebrities. As Wikipedia says:
The legend is very ancient but was popularised by a 19th-century Hans Christian Andersen story called The Storks. German folklore held that storks found babies in caves or marshes and brought them to households in a basket on their backs or held in their beaks. These caves contained adebarsteine or "storkstones".
A more detailed account of the mythical relationship between storks and the delivery of babies, going back to Greek mythology, can be found here for those interested:
David Guzik notes that the common thread among the birds listed in Leviticus is that they are either predators or scavengers. And although, as Chuck Smith points out there is no test here to test birds for being ‘clean’ or ‘unclean’, we at least can consider that being a scavenger may make a bird ‘unclean’.  On the other hand, not sure why a predator would get a pass and not be eaten by us, human predators.
Matthew Henry adds the following ideas:
some are birds of prey (eagle, vulture, etc.) indicating that “God would have His people to abhor everything that is barbarous and cruel, and not to live by blood and rapine (the violent seizure of other’s property or being)”
some are solitary birds, that abide in dark and desolate places (owl, pelican, cormorant, raven for “God’s Israel should not be a melancholy people, nor affect sadness and constant solitude.”
some feed upon that which is impure (storks feed on serpents; others on worms) indicating that “we must not only abstain from all impurity ourselves but from communion with those that allow themselves in it.”
finally, others were used by the Egyptians and other Gentiles in their divinations. “Some birds were reckoned fortunate, others ominous; and their soothsayers had great regard to the flights of these birds, all which therefore must be an abomination to God’s people, who must not learn the way of the heathen.”
So, there you have it.  You decide. I must admit that when I visit my favorite Greek restaurant on Toronto’s Danforth, the Pantheon, I do enjoy some lovely grilled quails.

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Saturday, March 09, 2019

God’s Commands re. the Earth’s Animals Present Us with a Dilemma

Leviticus 11:1-8
The Lord spoke again to Moses and to Aaron, saying to them, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘These are the creatures which you may eat from all the animals that are on the earth. Whatever divides a hoof, thus making split hoofs, and chews the cud, among the animals, that you may eat. Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these, among those which chew the cud, or among those which divide the hoof: the camel, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you. Likewise, the shaphan, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you; the rabbit also, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you; and the pig, for though it divides the hoof, thus making a split hoof, it does not chew cud, it is unclean to you. You shall not eat of their flesh nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.

Thoughts on the Passage
Once again, we are faced with the dilemma of “how much of these commands apply to us today?”  The fact remains that not all of us follow these rules. We eat various foods mentioned in this passage.  Some don’t because they believe this applies to God’s people even today. Others don’t because science has said they are bad for us, at least in larger quantities.  Others just can’t stand the thought that they are eating some of them. Others won’t eat them because doing so is cruelty to animals.
So, what can we take from it all that most of us can agree with?
Chuck Smith says when we look at these practical laws, we need to be thinking of the spiritual laws that God has laid down for us. The bottom line is that if we seek to follow God’s laws we will be blessed and if we neglect to do so, we will not. And Smith has the references in Scripture that back him up. If we start with the Spiritual laws, including the law to obey God, the issue then becomes how far down the “commandments” towards the practical (read ‘food’ laws) do we need to go to still have the blessing?
Smith sees it this way. Those food laws show that God is in interested in our health and wants us to have strong bodies. If He were talking to us today about this topic, He would probably hit on ‘junk food’.  He shares the story about going “home from Bible school at night and buy ice cream and chocolate syrup and whipped cream and the whole thing. And then some guy would say, "Who's going to ask the blessing?" I said, "You can't ask God to bless this. It's no good for you, you know, it's not good for you." Eat it and take the consequences, but don't ask God to bless it.
On the other hand, we can’t misquote I Corinthians 10:23 where Paul states, “all things are lawful for me” and claim that we can eat all the pork, ham, and bacon we want. We cannot misquote God in Acts 11:9 when He says, “Don’t call unholy what I have cleaned.”  That does not mean you can eat anything you want. Why? Because the passage is not about food – it’s about Paul taking the message to the Gentiles who were considered ‘unclean’ by the Jews up to that point.
The animals God lists here as being off limits to the Jews were animals that carried disease, especially if not cooked thoroughly. This is especially a problem in warm climates, according to Robert Jamieson. David Guzik notes that God wasn’t just coming up with new rules here about what animals were clean and what were unclean. In fact, these distinctions were known way back in the days of Noah (Genesis 7:2 and 8:20).
Matthew Henry reminds us that “God’s Will” is a manifestation of “God’s Wisdom”. So, anything He commands that we obey is ultimately the wisest decision we could make.  God was interested in teaching His people then and His people now that we are to distinguish ourselves from other people, not only by our belief in Him, but also in our practices, day to day.
We just presented the background to these verses and tied them in with some other passages in both the Old and New Testaments. It is now up to each of us to become aware of what God had commanded, and to decide what He intends for us today, and then to follow through on that decision. Here’s to your health and mine.

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Friday, March 08, 2019

When Excuses (Even Valid Ones) for Sin Make Things Complicated.

Leviticus 10:12-20
12 Then Moses spoke to Aaron, and to his surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, “Take the grain offering that is left over from the Lord’s offerings by fire and eat it unleavened beside the altar, for it is most holy. 13 You shall eat it, moreover, in a holy place, because it is your due and your sons’ due out of the Lord’s offerings by fire; for thus I have been commanded14 The breast of the wave offering, however, and the thigh of the offering you may eat in a clean place, you and your sons and your daughters with you; for they have been given as your due and your sons’ due out of the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the sons of Israel. 15 The thigh offered by lifting up and the breast offered by waving they shall bring along with the offerings by fire of the portions of fat, to present as a wave offering before the Lord; so it shall be a thing perpetually due you and your sons with you, just as the Lord has commanded.”
16 But Moses searched carefully for the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it had been burned up!So, he was angry with Aaron’s surviving sons Eleazar and Ithamar, saying, 17 “Why did you not eat the sin offering at the holy place? For it is most holy, andHe gave it to you to bear away the guilt of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord. 18 Behold, since its blood had not been brought inside, into the sanctuary, you should certainly have eaten it in the sanctuary, just as I commanded.” 19 But Aaron spoke to Moses, “Behold, this very day they presented their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord. When things like these happened to me, if I had eaten a sin offering today, would it have been good in the sight of the Lord?” 20 When Moses heard that, it seemed good in his sight.
Thoughts on the Passage
This passage is dubbed “The Sin of Eleazar and Ithamar” by commentators. It relates the account of these two surviving sons of Aaron given specific instructions by Moses. It had to do with where various remains of the offerings had to be eaten by the priests. They didn’t follow the instructions and Moses gets angry and calls them out on it.
But father Aaron interferes and defends them to the point where Moses agrees and lets it go. But what is the lesson this passage provides?
Robert Jamieson suggests that these two sons in their grief of having just lost two brothers, may have easily made a mistake – they “may have forgotten or overlooked some of their duties”. He goes on to suggest that it was likely Aaron who gave the wrong instructions to his sons. He suggests that they only overlooked “the festive part of the observance” and that is understandable given what they just went through as a family. This part was overlooked “either because his heart was too dejected to join in the celebration of a cheerful feast, or that he supposed, from the appalling judgments that had been inflicted [to his other two sons just prior]that all the services of that occasion were so vitiated [spoiled or impaired the validity of]that he did not complete them.”
Still Jamieson argues, “Aaron was decidedly in the wrong.” He had disobeyed the express command of God and they did not eat the sin offering in the holy place. Nothing erased that disobedience. Sin was committed. Yet Jamieson goes on, “But Moses sympathized with his deeply afflicted brother and, having pointed out the error, said no more.”
David Guzik refers to this whole incident as “Confusion in the Priesthood”.  Perhaps.
Matthew Henry takes a slightly different approach. Moses, he says, instructs Aaron and his surviving sons to continue on in their priestly duties, even though two siblings had just died. Henry writes, “Afflictions should rather quicken us to our duty than take us off from it.”  Henry takes a very stoic approach to how thankful Aaron should be that he only lost two sons and that he was spared the others. And that this should encourage them to continue with their responsibilities rather than shirk from them. The two remaining sons now had to do joyfully do double duty.
What Matthew Henry does point out that we may have otherwise missed is that Aaron “does not plead that his heart was so full of grief that he had no appetite [for eating], but that he feared [doing so]would not be accepted [by God].”  He then goes on to say, “Note, Acceptance with God is the great thing we should desire and aim at in all our religious services, particularly in the Lord’s supper, which is [the modern-day equivalent of]our eating of the sin-offering.”
He continues, “The sorrow of the world is a very great hindrance to our acceptable performance of holy duties.” He suggests it is displeasing to God, “whose will it is that we should serve him cheerfully.”
Henry then turns to Moses’ reaction. “Perhaps he thought it justified what they had done. God had provided that what could not be eaten might be burnt” which is what they did.  Henry continues, “Our unfitness for duty, when it is natural and not sinful, will have great allowances made for it; and God will have mercy. . .. At least [Moses]thought it did very much extenuate the fault; the spirit indeed was willing, but the flesh was weak. God by Moses showed that He considered his frame. It appeared that Aaron sincerely aimed at God's acceptance; and those that do so with an upright heart shall find he is not extreme to mark what they do amiss. Nor must we be severe in our[criticism or censure]upon every mistake, considering ourselves, lest we also be tempted.” 
So, there you have it – it is fine to challenge others – but check their heart and consider their why they may have taken the position they did or behaved in a certain way. Make your point and leave the rest to God.

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