Tag Archives: Israelite

God’s Glory and Grandma’s Traditions

He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. ~ 2 Kings 18:4

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

The bronze snake had at one time been an instrument of transformation. It healed people. Saved them from the consequences of their sin. But then the people turned it into an object of worship. And thereby ruined it and robbed it of its power.

This is the essence of traditionalism. It’s not simply holding onto Grandma’s preferences. It’s when we take things. Good things. Effective things. And we end up worshiping them instead of the God who used them for a season. And it can happen to anything.

Hymns. Or modern worship.

Live preaching. Or video preaching.

One campus. Or multiple campuses.

Sunday school. Or small groups.

None of these are bad things, but they’re also not the ultimate thing. And therefore, we shouldn’t treat them as such.

Otherwise, we run a dangerous risk. The very thing you hold up as a tool for transformation today can easily become an idol of tradition tomorrow.

And God has a way of smashing our idols. Or rendering them powerless.

Don’t get me wrong. We should never lose our appreciation or respect for the things God uses to reach people and transform their lives.

But we should also never allow them to steal God’s glory by becoming a greater object of our affections than God or the new ways He wants to work among us.

God’s glory is greater than Grandma’s traditions.

And our own as well.

~ By Steven Furtick

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Anything, no matter how good or Godly it might appear to be, becomes an idol – a false god – when we are more attached to it than we are to God!

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, Glory of God, God, Priorities, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality

Trying to use God is always a bad idea!

It has to be one of the most blatant and offensive acts of selfishness ever! It occurred toward the end of the period of the Judges but prior to Israel’s first king. It was a time described like this:

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” ~ Judges 21:25

The army of God went out to battle the Philistines… and lost! As they regrouped and tried to figure out why God hadn’t given them victory they struck upon what they thought was a great idea.

Every have a “great” idea flop badly only to be followed by an even worse idea? Multiply it by 1000 and you get the idea. Here’s how it reads:

When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the LORD bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the LORD’s covenant from Shiloh, so that it may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.” ~ 1 Samuel 4:3

First time out the Israelites lost about 4000 men. On their second time out they lost 30,000 men!

Was this a black eye on God’s reputation? Hardly! It was a terribly self-centered move on the part of the Israelites.

God certainly did His share of punishing the surrounding people groups because of their wickedness but there is no indication here that God sent them out to battle the Philistines. And no indication that God led them to take the ark of the covenant.

Not only did the Israelites get badly defeated, but they lost the ark to the Philistines!

The root issue: Rather than wanting intimacy with God, they merely wanted His power to carry out their own agenda.

As a representation of God’s presence the ark was there when some amazing things happened. But it was God Himself that provided the power to accomplish those things; and God is not inclined to be used like some sort of magical talisman.

But before we get too self-righteous, let’s be honest; we tend to do the same thing. We may not use something physical like the ark but we do our fair share of approaching God to secure His favor on our plans.

Life is His story, not ours. When we presume to invite God into our plans we not only mock Him but make fools of ourselves. And then when God doesn’t come through for us we get angry.

We need to enter every day and every situation with the same attitude and response that we see in young Samuel when God called out to him in the middle of the night.

“Speak, for your servant is listening.”

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Read chapter(s) 11 in The Story this week or click on the page tab above to learn more.

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, God, intimacy with the Lord, Serving, Surrender, The Story

A 600 year old promise fulfilled!

I love it when a promise is kept and I enjoy keeping promises I’ve made. There is something very special that happens in relationships when promises are fulfilled.

  • Trust grows and deepens.
  • A sense of value is experienced.
  •  And we are imitating our heavenly Father.

God had promised Abraham that his descendants would one day inhabit the land of Canaan (Genesis 15:16). God used Joshua to make good on that 600 year old promise, and has given them everything they need to be a great nation:

  • A set of guidelines on how to live,
  • His presence in the tabernacle,
  • A way to reconcile their sins, and
  • The land he had promised their ancestors.

But it isn’t enough!

The Israelites abandon God to worship false, pagan gods. Angered, God turns them over to be oppressed by neighboring nations. They eventually repent and cry out to God for help. Graciously, God raises up a judge to rescue and lead them.

For a season of time the people follow God. But when that judge dies they once again abandon God to chase after false gods.

The period of Judges lasted roughly 330 years. During that time, the Israelites spent 111 years being oppressed by other nations because they repeat this same cycle – sin, oppression, repentance, deliverance – six times!

The people are slow to learn and fickle in their faithfulness; but God remains faithful.

There is no longer any condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1); but we are far from perfect and still wrestle with our sin nature. And so… we repent.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.  ~ 1 John 1:8-9 (NLT)

Now it’s time to change your ways! Turn to face God so he can wipe away your sins, pour out showers of blessing to refresh you… ~ Acts 3:19 (MSG)

Even though we are slow to learn and fickle in our faithfulness, God remains faithful!

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Brokenness, Forgiveness, God, Grace, Guilt, Repentance, Sin

God’s trump card… His presence!

God has big plans for His new nation, Israel, but there’s a problem; they’re enslaved in Egypt! So before God can lead them to a land flowing with milk and honey (i.e. – prime real estate), He has to first rescue them.

Maybe God will bring down lightning or send in the S.W.A.T. team or better yet… send a past-his-prime shepherd. Sure, I’ll take curtain #3… NOT!

God speaks to Moses from a burning bush that doesn’t burn up and recruits him to go confront Pharaoh. Moses is flattered, but not interested. Can’t really blame him. He did have three strikes against him.

  1. He was already 80 years old. (No disrespect intended)
  2. He was a poor communicator. (Notice that God doesn’t disagree)
  3. He had skeletons in his closet. (Wanted for murder of an Egyptian)

So what does God offer as a confidence boost? His very presence. I’m sure that Moses appreciated the offer, but since he didn’t know God very well it didn’t much help. God eventually conceded to a couple of traveling companions for Moses. (Exodus 3)

Now, fast forward to the part of the story where Moses and the people are at Mt. Sinai. While Moses is up on the mountain with God the people down below give in to all kinds of nasty idol worship – a real slap in the face to God.

God tells Moses that they can still go to the promised land but without His presence. God isn’t going to go with them because He’s concerned about getting angry enough to wipe them all out. (Exodus 33)

But Moses states very clearly that if the Lord’s presence is not going to be with them then he doesn’t want to go. Moses’ experience with God in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and on the mountain was enough to convince him that all he really needed was God’s presence.

How about you? What is it you’re facing? What is it you need in order to deal with it? Is God’s presence enough?
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If you’re on our journey through The Story then read chapter(s) 4 this week. If you’re not familiar with The Story you can check it out at the tab above or click here.

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Filed under Divine presence, Faith, intimacy with the Lord, The Story, Trusting God

Remember what awaits us!

Moses enjoyed all the wealth and privileges of living in pharaoh’s court but gave it all up and eventually was used by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Can you imagine giving up the lifestyle of living as an Egyptian king? What would motivate Moses do that?

“It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.” ~ Hebrews 11:24-26

Moses was looking ahead to his great reward!

Jesus gave up all of heaven to live among us as a man. His brutal death on a cross redeemed us and make a way for us to be brought back into God’s family. Can you imagine a greatest act of love? What would motivate Jesus to do that?

“Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” ~ Hebrews 11:2

Jesus did this “because of the joy awaiting him…”

Jesus was looking ahead to His great reward!

It’s difficult at times to say no to the pleasures of life as Moses did. And it’s even more difficult at times to sacrificially love others as Jesus did. But God has promised us a place with Him in eternity when we dwell with Him in the here and now living a life as He intended. When we’re feeling bogged down in the moment, we need to…

…remember what awaits us!

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Filed under Determination, Encouragement, Faith, Heaven, Joy, Life in General, Loving others, Sin

Only nobodies need apply!

This past weekend I watched a message by Louie Giglio about Exodus 3 where God speaks to Moses through a burning bush that doesn’t burn up. He had a variety of great insights about the whole encounter but one especially stood out.

Moses was 80 years old when God sent him to Egypt as His messenger to lead the Israelites out of slavery. Moses questioned God’s choice of him and with good reason. He wasn’t on anybody’s A-list. He was over-the-hill. On the downside of life. Literally, out to pasture tending his father-in-law’s herds.

When Moses expressed concern about being the right man for the task God didn’t reassure him by building up his confidence but by simply stating that He, God Himself, was going to be with Moses. God was the assurance factor in all of this; Moses was merely the human mouth piece.

But maybe God chose Moses exactly because he wasn’t qualified for such a monumental endeavor. That way no one would argue about who deserved the credit and the glory. And maybe God doesn’t call those who think they should be called because He doesn’t want the hassle of people debating who deserves the attention; it should always go to God.

When Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth about the ministry they had been given of sharing the Gospel of Jesus he referred to it as a treasure and that they were mere jars of clay. Notice why Paul uses that analogy.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:7

Reread that last part. Paul said it happens this way so show that the “all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

If God puts some task in front of you today or this week that seems too big for you to handle, consider it an open invitation to be part of God’s unfolding and amazing story. He is working all around us in some pretty amazing ways and he needs a few more nobodies to share in the adventure.

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Filed under Divine presence, Faith, Glory of God, Humility, influence with the world