Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lessons from Moses: Glory is the Point! - Exodus 40:34-38

Today we are concluding our preaching series entitled “Lessons from Moses”. The first week we took a look at Moses' early life and we talked about the beginning of his journey and how God used a terrible situation to ultimately bring God glory. The following week we looked at Moses' encounter with God at the burning bush and how God proved to Moses that we can have confidence in God. Last week we looked at Moses and his conversation with God and how God deals with Moses' thoughts of unworthiness. Today we are going to take a look at the last section of Exodus to see the necessity and importance of giving God glory.

This past week I spent three days in Leesburg at the Life Enrichment Center at a Florida Conference mandated seminar. I got there on Monday afternoon and it was over on Wednesday. I was not looking forward to this seminar. I had a great many things that needed my attention here and I just did not feel I had the time to be away for three days. But it was mandatory, so I went.

Well sometime Tuesday evening, right about dusk, I was standing out on the dock overlooking Lake Griffith and I my eyes started to tear up. I was not in pain, I was not overly stressed. I was overwhelmed. I saw this gorgeous lake, wildlife all around, beautiful sunset, and I was overwhelmed. I immediately began to pray and thank God for what I was seeing, what I was hearing, and what I was feeling. God was at work. Right then and there God was at work. I was in God's creation marveling at this work. Admiring that work. Being overwhelmed at that work.

With our Scripture lesson this morning, we have fast forwarded though much of the book of Exodus. We talked last week about a conversation Moses was having with God before he went to Pharaoh for the first time. We have passed the ten plagues, we have passed the exodus from Egypt, we have passed the wondering in the desert for 40 years, and we have passed the Mt. Sinai experience where we were given the Ten Commandments. Now please do not think this was all passed over because of a lack of usefulness or significance. Those events and that era in history are wonderfully filled with God’s story and his love for the Israelites. But what I want us to focus on today is the reason we need to praise God, the reason we should give God all of the praise and glory God so richly deserves.

The first half of Exodus is filled with incredible stories about the Israelites, God’s willingness and efforts to deliver them, Moses’ pain staking efforts to guide them through the desert, and the giving of the Ten Commandments from God to the Israelites to govern them in their new lives. Now, the second half is the explaining of that law. The tedious explanations of how most conceivable situations are to be handled in their new found freedom. It is quite detailed, but inexpressibly necessary for them to have.

After these laws and their explanations are covered we move into the description and construction of the tabernacle. These are very detailed instructions about how certain items are to be placed and arranged, what the priests are to wear, how sacrifices are to be prepared and offered, and even the day that Moses is to setup or open the tabernacle. Then we get to the reason for all of these laws. We get to the point of what all of this is for. The presence or the glory of the Lord is coming to dwell within this tabernacle. The God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob is coming to dwell within this tabernacle in order to be among God’s chosen people.

Our lesson begins with a cloud covering this newly established tabernacle and the presence of the Lord filling it. The presence of the Lord was so overpowering that Scripture tells us Moses was not allowed to enter the tabernacle. The NIV says that glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. But I like the extra word that is added by the New Living Translation, the tabernacle was filled with the awesome glory of the Lord. This event was the culmination of years, of decades, of life. These Israelites had endured incredible experiences, trying hardships, and numerous breaks in their relationship with God for this event to take place.

God had finally come to dwell with them. It is important to see something here. We are all God’s creation. And we were created with one goal in mind, a relationship with God, to experience God’s full and glorious presence. And this tabernacle was going to be the vessel by which God's chosen people were going to experience God's full and glorious presence. This tabernacle was also going to be the vessel by which God traveled with the Israelites.

The second paragraph of our Scripture lesson lays the traveling details out for us. We read that whenever the cloud would rise from the tabernacle then that was the sign for the Israelites to pack up camp and move, following the cloud. However, if the cloud stayed above the tabernacle the Israelites were to stay put. So as to add to the impressive nature of God’s presence Scripture tells us that the cloud would turn to fire by night so that all could still see God’s presence among them. And this practice continued throughout their journeys.

So what does this mean to us thousands of years later? I believe plenty!

Sometimes we get so caught up in the rules of being a follower of God. We memorize the laws, we read Scripture, and we pattern our lives after how we have been taught all good Christians should live. But do we often stop and take the time to understand why we do all those things, why do we praise God. I think it is important for us to know why we do what we do, beyond the idea that this is what I have always done or this is what my mamma and daddy taught me to do.

I have thought of a few reasons that I want to share with you today. You may think of some more to add and that is fine. But why do we praise God?

Because God is long suffering! II Peter 3:8-9 tells us, “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent”. The reason things do not always happen as fast as we want is our fault. We are the ones that throw the wrench in the gears. God is long suffering. God is patient. God is merciful. God did not abandon the Israelites and let me tell you they deserved it! God will not abandon us. God wants us to be in relationship and fellowship with God more than anything else. That is why God is patient, God does not want us to be destroyed. God is worthy of our praise because God is long-suffering.

Because God is worthy! There is a song by Natalie Grant called “Perfect People” and the chorus goes, There's no such thing as perfect people, There's no such thing as a perfect life. So come as you are, broken and scared, Lift up your heart and be amazed
And be changed by a perfect God. Our God is perfect and our God is worthy of our praise. Again, look at these Israelites. They strayed and came back, strayed and came back, strayed and came back. God never left them, they left God. And despite this pattern God still delivered the promised land of milk and honey to their descendants. We are absolutely an imperfect people, but we worship a perfect God worthy of our praise. A God that will accept us at our worst and help to become our best. A God that redeemed us all, at the price of a Son. A God that created us out of desire not necessity so that we could dwell with God in a perfect Heaven for all eternity. God is worthy of our praise!

I realized another thing while I was standing there in Leesburg being overwhelmed at God's creation. And that was that I was where I was supposed to be. I had had a very active week, had another one in front of me, and found it difficult to concentrate because I was thinking about how I was going to get everything done after missing three days.

But at that moment, out there on the dock, all of that disappeared for me and I felt the love, the awesomeness, and the warmth of my God reassuring me that everything was going to work out. I could feel God breathing into me a deep breath of relaxation and letting me know that the God that created this world, the seas of the Earth, the birds of the air, and stars in the sky, was watching over me, was walking along beside me, and absolutely cared for me. And that is the God that we are to give the glory to. That is the God that deserves our love and honor. And that is the God that we have gathered here to worship today to give God all of the honor and glory that He so richly deserves!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bible Challenge 8/30 - 9/5

Hello All!

This week's readings keep up in the Book of Isaiah. As the summer winds down keep up the good work and continue to see what God reveals to you this week as you read.

Sunday 8/30: Isaiah 26-29
Monday 8/31: Isaiah 30-33
Tuesday 9/1: Isaiah 34-37
Wednesday 9/2: Isaiah 38-41
Thursday 9/3: Isaiah 42-45
Friday 9/4: Isaiah 46-49
Saturday 9/5: Isaiah 50-53

Have a blessed week!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Fives

Here are a five things that caught my attention this week:

1. We are having a wonderful time at Bible Study! There are 30 of us that gather each Thursday night at 7pm in the Fellowship Hall. We talk about our brothers and sisters in Christ and how we can learn from other Christian faiths to help enrich our own. Next week we are discussing Lutheranism and all are welcome to come join us.

2. This week we are concluding our preaching series on Lessons from Moses as we discuss why giving God glory is important. Our next series will focus on what we are called to be as the church and how the Methodist Way can help us in that.

3. Remember the Salty Service cards. Our Conference leaders describe Salty Service like this: "Salty Service makes a difference in people’s lives – both those being served and those serving. Salty Service makes us “doers and not hears only” (James 1:27). Salty Service connects the lives of disciples with the ongoing work of Christ in the world. Salty Service restores credibility to those who would share a Gospel of love to a doubting world." If you work one hour outside the walls of our church then please get a Salty Service card from the pew holders and drop it in the offering plate. You do not have to fill anything out. Just get a card and turn it in. As easy as that!

4. Last week we recognized our students, graduates, and school employees. Please keep them in mind as they all begin school and pray for them earnestly and frequently.

5. I would ask for your prayers for my wife Debbie this week. She goes in Thursday, 9/3, for surgery. Please pray for a trouble-free procedure, quick healing, and good post-op results. Thank you in advance.

Have a great week!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lessons from Moses: You Are Worthy! - Exodus 4:10-17

Several weeks ago we began our series entitled “Lessons from Moses”. The first week we took a look at Moses' early life and we talked about the beginning of his journey and how God used a terrible situation to ultimately bring God glory. Last week we looked at Moses' encounter with God at the burning bush and how God proved to Moses that we can have confidence in God. Today we are going to look at Moses and his conversation with God and how God deals with Moses' thoughts of unworthiness.

Several years ago I was privileged enough to be accepted into a chaplaincy program at Tampa General Hospital. I met many people during my time there, including Mabel. Mabel had been in the hospital for several months for pain that no one could find. She was feeling worthless and alone and said the only thing she ever did anymore was lie in bed and read. Over the course of the next several months Mabel and I visited and I tried to convince her that she was in fact not worthless or alone. We talked about ways she could feel useful again, I read Scripture with her, I prayed with her. Nothing seemed to help shake this feeling she had.

Well one day during one of our visits we were talking about things she could do to help her with her feelings of unworthiness. I asked her what she liked to do and she said read. I asked what she likes to read and she said everything. I asked her if she ever thought about reading to the other patients. She said no way! What if I get tongue tied? What if they tell me to get out when I ask?

Mabel felt like she had nothing to offer and was giving all sorts of excuses to not get involved. Our Scripture lesson today depicts Moses feeling much that same way.

Last week I explained that 3:1-4:17 is one long section or division of the book of Exodus. Today we are going to focus on this last section where Moses is questioning God. Our story begins at the foot of Mt. Horeb in the middle of a conversation Moses is having with God. But to understand this middle we need to know the beginning. Moses has already told God, at the beginning of chapter 4, that the people he is to deliver will not believe him that God has appeared to him. Well, in order to try and put Moses' mind at ease God shows Moses a few signs of God's power. God first turns Moses' shepherd's staff into a snake and then back into a staff. Next God turns Moses' arm white with leprosy and immediately restores it to full health. Moses is then told to show these wonders to Pharaoh to prove that God is with Moses and that Pharaoh should release the Israelites to Moses. God even goes one step further and tells Moses that if all of that does not work to take some water from the Nile River and pour it on the ground and God will turn it into blood.

None of that seems to phase Moses because, picking up in verse 10, his response to all of this is that “I am not a good speaker”. The Lord counters with a few questions. Who is that makes a person's mouth? Who is it that gives a person the ability to speak or not speak, hear or not hear, see or not see? Is it not I, the Lord? And again God tells Moses to go and do as he has been told.

But then in verse 13 Moses just flat out says “NO!” To read this verse one could see Moses very politely saying God please send someone else. But I envision Moses at the end of his rope. He has given several excuses as to why he cannot do what God is asking of him and he is finally fed up and just says “no”. Now while God is okay will all of Moses' questions, it is when Moses finally puts his foot down and says no that God gets angry. For the first time God gets angry with Moses and his response to being called and tells Moses that Aaron can go and speak for Moses. God is not giving up on Moses.

Now Moses and Aaron will work together, but they will not be equal partners. You see, Aaron is going to be the mouthpiece and Moses is going to be “God to Aaron”. This still shows that Moses is going to be God's instrument while Aaron is simply a concession to Moses' argument of not being worthy.

And note that God's response to all of this is “Moses take your staff”. Why is that staff so important? This staff is what God is going to use to humble the world power through the ten plagues and part the Red Sea so the Israelites can make it across to Mt. Horeb. This staff is the symbol of the shepherd, one of the lowliest and menial jobs of this culture. And God is going to use this symbol to bring about the central salvific act of the Old Testament.

So what can we learn from Moses' questions and God's response here at the foot of Mt. Horeb?

The first thing that stood out to me was not so much an observation but a question. Is it okay to question God? I have heard that question asked many times. Is it okay to question God? Throughout Scripture, and in our own lives, God calls people to serve the Kingdom. And in our case sometimes we may feel that we cannot possibly accomplish what we feel God is calling us to do. Moses certainly felt that way. And that is where we begin to question. But we need to understand that our deficiencies, regardless of what we think they are, do not determine God's actions. Neither do our vocations or experience. Time after time he calls those out of ordinary circumstances for extra-ordinary tasks. Look at Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. All of them were called out of ordinary circumstances. In fact they all respond with questions and disbelief that God is calling them for the tasks that are being placed before them. And none of them were humiliated or fired. God answers each of their concerns and uses them anyway because God is greater than any of our inadequacies, lack of experience, or lack of talent.

But what we find out in those periods of uncertainty is what leads me to our next point and that is God meets us where we are. You see it is in that uncertainty that God comes to us, meets with us, and we grow. How many times have you heard stories of someone being in the right place at the right time to minister to someone? How many of you have been in the right place at the right time? When God calls us I do not believe that we are immediately expected to fully understand the situation. I believe that if we follow the call we will see that God will give us the wisdom, the words, the courage, whatever is needed. God places ministry opportunities right in our path. We just have to be open to responding when called upon. We are all called in some capacity to serve the Kingdom and often times that can be in the places that we are already.

Another lesson we can learn from Moses here is that God can use anyone. At this point Moses was a man wanted for murder, with no kin, and no home. Now Jethro had taken him in but Moses still felt that he had no people. He even named his first son Gershom which means “I am a stranger in a strange land”. Moses felt there was no way he could be associated with the God of his father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. But God had other plans. God created you and God has a purpose for you, regardless of perceived ability. But there is one thing that God will not overcome and that is our will. God will not override our will. We have to be willing to surrender our will to God and be a willing participant in the Kingdom. God can use anyone, God will use everyone. The question is, are you wiling to accept?

Well one week it came time for my weekly visit with Mabel and when I walked into her room she was not there. I went to the nurse's station to see if she was out for a test and they said no, she should be in her room. Just about that time I heard what I thought was Mabel's voice. I started to follow it and sure enough it was Mabel. She was in one of the patients rooms reading a story to her. When she came out she said she no time for me there was someone else waiting for her to read to them.

Mabel took her feelings of uncertainty and grew through them to bring a little joy to her floor of the hospital. Moses took his feelings of uncertainty in Exodus and eventually became the liberator of the Israelite people. God can use any of us. And it is in those times of doubt, in those feelings of unworthiness that God will help us grow, that God will use us, and that the Kingdom will become all that much stronger because of it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bible Challenge 8/23 - 8/29

For those that have accepted this challenge we are finishing up Song of Songs and moving into one of our major prophets, Isaiah.

Sunday 8/23: Song of Songs 6 - Isaiah 1

Monday 8/24: Isaiah 2 - 5

Tuesday 8/25: Isaiah 6 - 9

Wednesday 8/26: Isaiah 10 - 13

Thursday 8/27: Isaiah 14 - 17

Friday 8/28: Isaiah 18 - 21

Saturday 8/29: Isaiah 22 - 25

Have a GREAT week!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Fives

Here are a few things that caught my attention this week:

1. Bible Study: We had 30 people show up for our first week! We are discussing our Christianity Family Tree and looking at the roots of our denomination. This past week we discussed Orthodoxy and this upcoming week are discussing Catholicism. If you are interested it is never too late to join. We meet on Thursdays at 7pm in the Fellowship Hall.

2. We are continuing our preaching series on Lesson from Moses, as we look at Moses' feelings of unworthiness as God called him to Egypt and what we can learn from his response.

3. Back to School Recognition: We will be recognizing everyone that is involved with our schools in worship on Sunday. If you are a student, administrator, teacher, or serve in absolutely any function with a school system we will pray over you Sunday in worship as you get ready to begin another school year.

4. For those of you that knew Pat Coolidge she died this past week. We will be hosting her funeral service this Friday at 4pm in the sanctuary.

5. Cook Book – Our church is putting together a cookbook, so if you have a favorite family recipe that you would like to submit please pick up a form from the welcome station and fill it out. I know we have a tremendous amount of good cooks in this church that will make for a very good book!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lessons from Moses: How Confident Are You - Exodus 3:1-22

Last week we began our series entitled “Lessons from Moses” and in looking at Moses early life, we talked about the beginning of his journey and how God used a terrible situation to ultimately bring God glory. Today we will look at Moses' encounter with God at the burning bush and how God proved to Moses that we can have confidence in God.

Back in the mid 1980's there was a young man that played running back for the University of Auburn. He was good. In fact most people thought that he would be drafted by the NFL and have a nice career. However, half way through his senior year he was blindsided looking back for a pass. The result was some nerve damage in his right shoulder and some loss of mobility. He tried to play through it but his arm just could not do it anymore. He began to lose strength and eventually began to lose mass. While he could still run and his left arm was just fine, his right arm cost him his football career. Completely devastated he continued with school and graduated with his business degree.

It was several years after graduation that he began to feel God calling him to be a public speaker. He thought maybe his playing days at Auburn would help in this deal, but there was one overriding factor that was going to make public speaking incredibly difficult for him. He had a stuttering problem. Now as a running back he did not have to speak. Working on a company's financial records or researching market trends he did not have to speak. But public speaking was going to cast a blinding spot light on his condition. He was terrified! He initially thought God got it wrong. He knew that public speaking, regardless of what he had or wanted to say, was just not in the realm of possibility for him.

Our story today gives us a similar situation as Moses is called by God to be the liberator of the Israelite people from Egypt and Moses immediately begins to raise all sorts of self-doubts about why God would call him for this task.

Our Scripture lesson today is actually divided into three sections, the calling of Moses, Moses doubting himself, and Moses doubting his reception. In fact this section is part of a larger section that runs all the way through 4:17, and we will look at a portion of that next week.

But as our story begins we find Moses tending to the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro. Now Scripture tells us that Moses led the flock beyond the wilderness to Mt. Horeb. One question that often gets asked here is why? Why could Moses not tend to the sheep close to Midian? Well it is no accident that Moses arrives at Mt. Horeb, the mountain of God. Because it is here that Moses is called into service.

It is here at Mt. Horeb that Moses sees a bush that is on fire but is not being consumed by the fire. His curiosity is immediately peaked and begins to go over to get a closer look at the phenomena. However, when God sees that God has Moses' attention God calls out to Moses from the bush. Moses is told not to come any closer and to remove his sandals. Notice that Moses is not told take off your sandals and then come closer. Moses is in a holy place and has no right to even be there so Moses is told “Come no closer!” and God reveals who is calling Moses. “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”. Notice Moses' change in demeanor. He goes from curiosity about this burning bush, wanting to get closer to examine it, to being told to come no closer and hiding his face out of fear and reverence.

God then tells Moses that God has observed the misery and oppression of the Israelites in Egypt and God has come down to deliver them from the Egyptians and bring them up to a land flowing with milk and honey. God continues by telling Moses that he is to go to Pharaoh and bring God's people out of Egypt. Moses' first response is wait a minute, who am I to do something like this.

Why Moses questions God is up for debate. One would think Moses would be ecstatic to be a part of this grand deliverance, but he is not. You see, Moses is not only concerned about his own qualifications for this task, he is concerned how those he will come in contact with, the Israelites and Pharaoh, will view his qualifications. After all the only thing the Israelites know about Moses, if anything, is that he was raised in Pharaoh's house, killed an Egyptian, fled, and is now a wanted man and Pharaoh is the one that wants him. Moses has two objections here, I do not think I can do what you are asking and no one else will think I can do this either. At this point Moses is still focused on himself and what he will do and not on the idea that it will be God's might that will accomplish all of this. God then tells him that God will be with him and he will not be alone. But this is not enough for Moses. Moses then asks God what name should he give to Israelites when they ask who sent Moses. God replies with the ever famous line, tell them I AM WHO I AM. Tell them I AM has sent me to you. The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.

God then instructs Moses to go and say this to the elders of Israel and they will go with Moses to Pharaoh and ask that the Israelites be allowed to go on a three day journey to sacrifice to God. God goes on to tell Moses that Pharaoh will deny this initial request. However, because of this denial God will then strike Egypt and Pharaoh will agree to let them go. But not only will Pharaoh let them go, the Egyptian people will pay the Israelites to leave, thereby allowing themselves to be plundered by the Israelites.

In looking at this piece of Scripture it is easy to see why Moses' confidence is not exactly sky rocketing. This is a huge ordeal. The Israelites had been in Egypt 430 years at this point and when they left there 600,000 men, plus all of the women and children, plus all of the livestock, plus all of the plunder that was going to go with them. This was not just a few people that Moses was going to pick up. This was significant. This was monumental. I can understand how Moses may not have been immediately jumping for joy at this task placed before him.

So what can we learn from Moses' reaction to God. One thing is that God is always with us. This was a gigantic feat that God was going to accomplish but in Scripture God never told Moses that he was going to do it alone. God repeatedly said “I will be with you”, “I will lead you to a land flowing with milk and honey”, “I will reach out and strike Egypt”. What God does tell us in Scripture, repeatedly, is that we are not alone. From Matthew 18:30, wherever two or more are gathered in my name you can be sure I will be there too. From Acts 2:3-4 when the Holy Spirit came to the early believers. From the sacrifice of Christ himself, for our benefit, so that we could be fully restored to God. God has told us, proved to us, that we are not alone.

Another thing we can learn is that God has gone before us and equips us Look back to the beginning of our story. What was Moses doing? He was tending Jethro's sheep. God was taking what Moses thought was running away time and using it to train Moses. Moses was going to be the person to take care of the Israelites, God's chosen people. So God equipped and prepared Moses in the fields while he was tending to Jethro's sheep. God was laying the ground work long before he called Moses. God does the same for us. God knows the future. God knows the plan for us. And God knows what needs to take place for God's will to be done. God will not send us alone and God will not send us where God has not already gone before.

One more thing we can learn is that there is a purpose. God was not bored one day and decided to send Moses to free the Israelites to see what would happen. There was a purpose. There was a purpose to Moses being saved as an infant and growing up in Pharaoh's palace. There was a purpose for Moses making his way to Midian and tending the sheep. There was a purpose to Moses taking the sheep to Mt. Horeb, the mountain of God. Now we are not privy to God's purpose all the time, but we do not need to be. We simply need to trust God, get out of own way, and allow God to use us. So often we want to know the why for everything. We are curious by nature and sometimes that is our downfall. Trust in God, trust in God's plan, and see what marvelous things God can do!

That man from Auburn University finally decided to trust God and in God's plan and began to speak publicly about his faith. He knew this was more than he could do alone so he says he prayed to God and said I am willing to try this but you have to get me through it. He went out on stage and spoke flawlessly. His confidence grew, his audiences grew, and God's Kingdom grew. I have seen this man walk up to the scariest, meanest looking people, and have them on their knees, accepting Christ as their savior, inside of five minutes. The confidence of this man to trust God has yielded wonderful results for the Kingdom. So one time I asked him about all of this and we spoke for a few minutes. In our private conversation he stuttered on almost every word. When we were finished he looked at me and said when I speak for myself I stutter. But when I speak for God, it is flawless.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

This Week's Schedule

Here is the schedule for our Bible reading this week as we finish Proverbs, make it through Ecclesiastes, and get into the Song of Songs or the Song of Solomon. Enjoy!

16 Sunday: Proverbs 21 - 24

17 Monday: Proverbs 25 - 28

18 Tuesday: Proverbs 29 - Ecclesiastes 1

19 Wednesday: Ecclesiastes 2 - 5

20 Thursday: Ecclesiastes 6 - 9

21 Friday: Ecclesiastes 10 - Song of Songs 1

22 Saturday: Song of Songs 2 - 5


Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Fives

Here are a few things that I caught my attention this week.

1. Bible Study – Starting this Thursday, August 20th, we are starting a new Bible Study class. We will meet at 7pm in the Fellowship Hall and study Christianity's Family Tree. This will be a video series that helps us to understand where we came from and how we can enrich our own faith by understanding the beliefs of others. I sincerely hope you can make plans to attend. It is not too late to register, just give the office a call to sign up. Hope to see you there!

2. Sermon Series – Last week we started a new series entitled, Lessons from Moses. During this series we are going to look at the life of one of our great Biblical heroes and see how God worked in him, through him, and transformed him to accomplish God's will.

3. Salty Service – Our Conference leaders describe Salty Service like this: "Salty Service makes a difference in people’s lives – both those being served and those serving. Salty Service makes us “doers and not hears only” (James 1.27). Salty Service connects the lives of disciples with the ongoing work of Christ in the world. Salty Service restores credibility to those who would share a Gospel of love to a doubting world." If you work one hour outside the walls of our church then be sure to get a Salty Service card from the pew holders and drop it in the offering plate. You do not have to fill anything out. Just get a card and turn it in. As easy as that!

4. Cook Book – Our church is putting together a cookbook, so if you have a favorite family recipe that you would like to submit please pick up a form from the welcome station and fill it out. I know we have a tremendous amount of good cooks in this church that will make for a very good book!

5. New Member Gathering – If you have been attending for a while and are thinking about joining our church there will be a New Member Gathering in the Pastor's Office on Sunday, September 27th at 12:45pm. We will discuss what it means to be a member and get to know one another as we discuss our role as Christians. If you would like to attend please call the church office to sign up.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lessons from Moses: Run Much?

Today we start a new series entitled “Lessons from Moses.” We are going to take a look at the life of one of our greatest Biblical heroes and see what his life can teach us. Today we will focus on the beginning of his journey and how God used a terrible situation to ultimately bring God glory.

When I was 21 years old I received my call to the ministry. I had been thinking about pastor as a possible vocation but that “thinking” did not prepare me for that call upon my life. In fact even after I spoke to several people about my experience, and let me tell you it was quite an experience, I ran. I was scared! I knew who I was and being a pastor I thought was far beyond anything I was capable of doing. So I ran. I ran for five years.

Now I did not literally run but I ran away from that idea. And I will venture to say that all of us here have run at one point or another, from one thing or another. Our story today is similar in that regard.

Our story begins with Moses after he had grown up. While no age is given in this particular part of Scripture, using other references we know that Moses was about 40 years old here. Anyway, Moses still a member of Pharaoh's family went out to watch the Hebrews work. While he was watching, an Egyptian began beating one of the Hebrew slaves. Moses looked around to make sure no one else was around and determining that it was safe, he killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand. Based on what is recorded in Scripture, Moses probably felt pretty confident that no one would know what he did or at least be able to tie him to this act. However, it was not long, the next day in fact, when Moses tries to break up a fight between two Hebrew slaves that he is met with the comment, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Now remember to the Hebrews, Moses represents the enemy, the boss, the one responsible for the current situation of the Hebrews. He was already disliked so there was no hesitation on the Hebrews part to really try and push Moses' buttons. However, when Moses hears this remark, instead of being angry, he becomes terrified. He instantly realizes that if the Hebrews know, Pharaoh certainly knows, and will kill Moses because of it. In fact Scripture tells us that is exactly what Pharaoh decrees, Moses should be killed. However, before Pharaoh gets the chance, Moses flees and ends up in Midian.

Now the priest of Midian, Jethro, had seven daughters and they came upon Moses sitting by a well. Moses helps these sisters draw water, water their flock, as well as help them fend off some unruly shepherds. Well after the sisters return home their father asked them how in the world have they returned so quickly. They explain everything that Moses did to help them and Jethro tells them to go get this man and invite him to dinner. Moses comes and agrees to stay with this family in Midian, is eventually given Jethro's daughter Zipporah's hand in marriage, and together he and Zipporah have a boy named Gershom, which means “I have been an alien residing in a foreign land”.

This whole story was prompted by fear. It was prompted by Moses running away. It was prompted by Moses not knowing where to turn. In looking at this story there are a few aspects that stood out to me.

Several weeks ago we talked about begin open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit; being open to the idea of listening to and for God. After Moses killed the Egyptian, I feel this point in Moses' life he was at the bottom. He was no longer part of the Egyptian culture and the Hebrews certainly did not want anything to do with him. So where could he turn? Who could he go to for help? He probably felt he was simply and utterly alone. But it was here, at this low of lows for Moses', during this crisis, that I feel truly became the junction of God's opportunity to work within Moses. That can also be God's opportunity to work within us. Just because a situation looks bad does not mean that God cannot make something wonderful out of it. Sometimes when things get stripped away that is when we can hear God the clearest.

Imagine if no one had seen Moses kill that Egyptian. Would Moses have ever left the comfortable confines of the royal palace? Would he have left the luxurious lifestyle, the clothes, the food, the status? Would you? Would I? It took having all of that stripped away to get Moses to be able to listen, and give God the opportunity to work within him. With no where else to turn, with nothing left to lose, Moses was open. Moses was in a state to listen.

This was also a time of testing for Moses. It had already been revealed that Moses had a heart for the afflicted, by how he felt when he saw the Hebrews being mistreated. It has already been revealed that Moses had the courage to stand up in the face of injustice, by the way he intervened when the Egyptian was beating the Hebrew. Moses had already been equipped with the tools necessary for what God had in store for him. He just did not realize it yet. God was testing him to see if when faced with a situation, would Moses trust God and use the gifts he was equipped with for God's glory. God had great things in store for Moses but wanted to give Moses the courage to use them. I think God still tests us today. We are all equipped with different gifts from God but will we use them when presented with the opportunity? Will we trust God's providence or ignore a wonderful opportunity God places in front of us. We never know what God has in store for us, or how vital we are to God's will.

Moses probably felt that his act of murder eliminated him from being a valuable person or a significant part of God's plan. This situation he placed himself in was so bad, so terrible that he was resigned to live a life of wandering, to a life with no home and no people. But God used that situation. God used that situation to get through to Moses. Now God did not cause Moses to kill the Egyptian but God used the situation for God's glory. God used that point in Moses' life to reveal how he was going to be utilized.

And look what God did! Moses became one of the great liberators in history. Moses spoke directly with God. Moses brought us the Ten Commandments. Moses negotiated the release of the Hebrews. Moses became one of our great Biblical Heroes!

When I was running, working retail. It took me several years away from that situation to come to a sobering realization. That this was time that was extremely beneficial for me. God took that opportunity to teach me many lessons that are very valuable to me today. It was not simply time God allowed me to waste. God used the situation, the experience, to continue to equip me for the life he planned for me. God took what I thought was running away time and made it equipping time. If God can do that for me, God can do that for you. Do not run from, but rather run towards. God is waiting...and oh what marvelous things God will do!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

This Week's Readings 08/09 - 08/15

Perseverance is the key! We are completing Psalm this week and beginning Proverbs. Here is the schedule for next week:

Sunday: Psalm 143-146

Monday: Psalm 147-150

Tuesday: Proverbs 1-4

Wednesday: Proverbs 5-8

Thursday: Proverbs 9-12

Friday: Proverbs 13-16

Saturday: Proverbs 17-20

Have a blessed week!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

This Week's Readings 08/02 - 08/08

I hope all of you that are participating are becoming enriched by spending this time in God's Word. Here is the schedule for next week:

Sunday: Psalm 115-118

Monday: Psalm 119-122

Tuesday: Psalm 123-126

Wednesday: Psalm 127-130

Thursday: Psalm 131-134

Friday: Psalm 135-138

Saturday: Psalm 139-142

Have a blessed week!