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Category Archives: Exodus

The Graduate School of the Desert

June is the season of graduations. Preschool. Kindergarten. High School. College. Grad School. Every graduate faces a similar question—Will you go on for more education? or Will you pursue something else? Regardless of the level of education, every graduate has something in common. Once the schooling stops, the real education begins.

I received my doctorate in 1989 and was fired by my church two months later. While I had not done anything wrong, neither had I done enough right. I was told I was not a leader, though no one could explain what that meant. Being the quick study that I am, it only took me 12 years to figure it out. Through the efforts of LEAD at Dallas Theological Seminary, I discovered that I lead through preaching and teaching. However, I was in a position that was purely administrative. It was more a question of fit rather than an issue of giftedness and ability.

Through my 12 years of wandering in the wilderness, I discovered the benefits of enrolling in The Graduate School of the Desert. God often speaks to his people in the desert (Deuteronomy 32:10-12). God often trains his servants in the wilderness. Jacob (Genesis 28), Elijah (1 Kings 19), John the Baptist (Matthew 3), Jesus (Matthew 4), and Paul (Galatians 1:17) all learned valuable, life-shaping lessons in the wilderness. It seems that adversity is a required course in God’s curriculum. Trials teach us to obey (Psalm 119:67) and failure makes us teachable (Psalm 119:71).

After fleeing Egypt, Moses heads for God’s graduate school in the land of Midian (Exodus 2:15-25). Moses took classes in humble service (16-17), advanced obscurity (18-22), and remedial waiting (23-25). God used these experiences to teach him to listen for God’s voice and learn the lessons God had for him.

Moses learned humble service (16-17). He learned to serve those in need and to keep his temper under control. He defended some female shepherds without resorting to violence and killing the oppressors.

Moses studied advanced obscurity (18-22). Far from the spotlight of Pharaoh’s palace, Moses learned to be content as a simple shepherd. He learned how to lead by caring for his father-in-law’s flock of sheep. He learned the topography of the Sinai desert which would be useful when he led Israel for 40 years in that region.

Moses practiced remedial waiting (23-25). He learned to rely on God’s timing. While in Midian, there is a change in leadership in Egypt as the Pharaoh who sought Moses’ life dies. The Hebrew people cried out to God for deliverance. God was now ready to act. The stage is set for God to call Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3).

If you find yourself in a wilderness experience, listen for God’s voice and learn the lessons he has for you.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 25, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on the life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy or the sermon notes.

 

On the Fast Track to Failure

The story is told of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and how he played a practical joke on some friends. As the story goes, he sent an anonymous telegram to each of twelve friends, all men of great virtue and considerable prestige and position in society. The message simply said: “Flee at once … all is discovered.” Within twenty-four hours, all twelve had left the country.

No doubt there is some playful exaggeration here, but the point is that each one of us can identify with failure. Each one has at least one skeleton in their closet. However, very few are willing to admit it. John F. Kennedy once said, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan; no one wants to claim it.”

Moses was no stranger to failure. Though he was on the fast track to success, he ran ahead of God, made a huge mistake, and then ran and hid from his failure. His early life provides a cautionary tale for us all about the danger of running ahead of God’s plan.

Moses was on the fast track to greatness (Acts 7:20-25). Moses had:

  • Position (21). Moses was brought up in Pharaoh’s palace and nurtured for the throne.
  • Education (22). Moses was probably educated in the Temple of the Sun, “the Oxford of the ancient world.”
  • Skills (22). Moses possessed intellect, charisma, eloquence, and leadership. He made a name for himself as a young man.
  • Heritage (20, 23). Though raised in the palace, he identified with his Jewish family. He knew who he was.
  • Sense of compassion and justice (24). Moses could not stand idly by and watch the weak being downtrodden. He wanted to help the oppressed.
  • Destiny (20, 25). Though God does not call him into service until the burning bush (Exodus 3), Moses seemed to sense what God was going to do through him.

Moses ran ahead of God’s plan (Exodus 2:11-12; Acts 7:23-25). As a man of action, Moses did not like marking time and waiting. He initiated his own plan to deliver the nation of Israel (Acts 7:23). He rolled up his sleeves and jumped in. In so doing, he demonstrates a misguided understanding of his own importance (Acts 7:25). He seemed to have the idea that all he had to do was sound the rallying cry and all Israel would come running. Rather than think through the situation and develop a plan, he reacts emotionally (Exodus 2:11-12). He acted alone, in secret, and in his own strength. With one rash act, he threw away forty years of preparation.

Moses ran away from his mistakes (Exodus 2:12-15; Acts 7:26-29). When you act in the flesh, you have to cover up your sin. Moses buried his in the sand (Exodus 2:12). However, it did not remain a secret very long and the next day it was common knowledge. Rather than embrace him as deliverer, his own people rejected him (Exodus 2:13-14; Acts 7:26-28). After realizing his failure (Exodus 2:14), Moses flees and becomes an exile (Exodus 2:15; Acts 7:29).

When we take matters into our own hands …

  • We think we are the answer to God’s problems, not the other way around. He reveal our pride and arrogance.
  • We become impatient because God is not moving fast enough. We become anxious and chafe at waiting.
  • We react instead of respond. Rather than think through the issue and develop a plan, we react emotionally in the heat of the moment.
  • We experience rejection because of our foolish mistakes. Instead of our message being rejected, we are rejected for our choices, rudeness, or compromising approach.
  • We end up as exiles. We find ourselves on the sidelines wondering if God can ever use us again.
  • We discover the well of a new life lies nearby (Exodus 2:15). Unbeknownst to Moses, the well Moses sat next to would lead to a new life and renewal.

Don’t run ahead of God. As Moses learned, God will not be bent to our will. He will bend and shape us to his will. Even if it means letting us sit on the sidelines for 40 years.

This is the synopsis of a message given to the congregation of First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 18, 2017. It is part of a series of messages on The Life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Where is God when life is darkest?

The headlines of the past week scream loudly about the darkness of our world!

  • 12 killed and dozens wounded in ISIS attack on Iran’s Parliament and Islamic shrine
  • Veteran to be arraigned on bomb possession, threat charges
  • Qatar and its neighbors have been at odds since Arab Spring
  • 22 die at Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England
  • London Bridge attack—ISIS claims responsibility for Borough Market terror
  • Feds arrest alleged NSA leaker, Reality Winner
  • 5 reasons why marriage is harder in 2017
  • Russia has the third-highest number of new HIV infections in the world
  • Uber fires 20 employees after sexual harassment claim investigation
  • Study: Phone obsessed parent have naughtier kids
  • Three Michigan State University football players charged with sexual assault
  • Mom, young son dead after gunman opens fire on car in Utah
  • Bodies, plane parts found in search for Myanmar aircraft carrying 120
  • Japan murder suspect arrested after 45 years on the run
  • Springfield-Holyoke, MA (Pioneer Valley) is #3 of list of Top 20 Most Unchurched Cities (57% have not attended a church service in past six months; #5 on list to Top 20 Most Dechurched Cities (43% formerly were active but now are not)

Where is God? Doesn’t he care? Why doesn’t he do something?

3,000+ years ago, Moses was born into a situation very similar to our own. Exodus 1:1-2:10 describes the dark world that Moses was born into.

In the midst of darkness, God remembers his people (Exodus 1:1-7). In Genesis 15:13-14, God told Abraham that his descendants would be slaves in Egypt for 400 years and that he would bring them back to the Promised Land after that time. God told Jacob that he would prosper the nation during the time of adversity (Genesis 46:1-4). Even though they faced difficult times of oppression, God had not abandoned his people. He knows their names and their number, and he prospers them. Over 300+ years, they grow from 70 to 2-3 million people.

In the midst of darkness, God causes his people to grow (Exodus 1:8-14). After the death of Joseph, there is a regime change. Rather than being viewed as an asset, the Jews are seen as a threat. The Pharaoh decides to oppress the Jews in an attempt to blot them out. He is unaware of the Second Law of Thermodynamics—the greater the heat, the greater the expansion. Instead of disappearing, God prospers his people and they expand.

In the midst of darkness, God brings help from unlikely sources (Exodus 1:15-22). Since Plan A—oppression didn’t work, Pharaoh turns to Plan B—abortion. However, he didn’t account for god-fearing midwives who practice civil disobedience. He then implements Plan C—infanticide, murdering baby boys.

In the midst of darkness, God raises up a deliverer (Exodus 2:1-10). Moses is born at the right time in history. He becomes a man of great faith because he had parents of great faith. In an effort to hide the baby boy, God brings an unlikely ally, the daughter of Pharaoh. She rescues Moses, adopts him as her son, but allows Moses’ mother to nurse and raise him.

When life is darkest, remember …

  • God knows where you are and what you need. Hard times don’t erase God’s promises. Harsh treatment doesn’t escape God’s notice.
  • God will use the situation for your benefit. Romans 8:28-30 reminds us that God is actively engaged in overseeing the details of our lives and can use anything and everything to help us grow to be more like Christ.
  • God will provide the help you require. If you choose to honor God in (whatever challenging situation you face), how might God meet your needs?
  • God is at work to deliver you. God’s timing is always best. Deliverance doesn’t always mean removal. Sometimes God takes us out of the trial; sometimes he takes us through the trial.

When life is darkest, remember that God is at work in the dark.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church on June 11, 2017. It is the opening message in a series on The Life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.