Saturday, January 16, 2010

How Do We Define Ourselves?

Guest Speaker Steve Saccone titles his message for Mosaic, "Fresh Start on Destiny".   We just finished a decade, which is kind of cool.  Television shows talk about all the special events that reflect on this decade and everything that happened in it.  There are so many things that change in any given decade and there always defining moments that identify or mark this time.  The same is true for our lives, good or bad.  Many of us have God encounters where our lives expand and we feel spiritually close.  But on the other hand, many times in our lives we have times where God seems nonexsitent.  It is so hard during these times to deal with this.  In both of these type of defining moments, in some ways, we can get paralyzed. 

Today, Steve reviews what happend in the story of Moses.  When we hear a story like Moses', we might think, "Well, what do I have in common with a guy who delivered a nation from slavery or from a guy who saw a buring bush?...This is a guy who parted the Red Sea and lived a couple of thousand years ago."  What do we have in common?  Moses had failures and stumbles even while he was still keeping his eyes on God .. Clearly, this was a guy who experienced the ups and downs of God.  Moses' life can be divided into 4 seasons.  Along the way, he learned to reconcile each seasoon and he pushed through.   

In the Book of Philippians 1:6, Moses believed in this verse.  he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  So, when we read this, we can learn to have more faith that God is at work for what he wants to do through us. 

Moses got off to   a rough start.  He was born as a Hebrew, but he was placed in slavery by the Egyptians. Exodus 1 says, "Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. 'Look,' he said to his people, 'the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.'  So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly."  This was the world Moses was born into .  And then you see in verse 22, "Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: 'Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.'

Then in chapter two, "Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. (photo from
Now imagine being Moses' mother and you hid your child for three months, but you can no longer hide him because he is crying, so you put him on the river!  Imagine going through the same emotions with your child and being in this situation.    

"Then Pharaoh's daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. "This is one of the Hebrew babies," she said. Then his sister asked Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?"
'Yes, go,' she answered. And the girl went and got the baby's mother. Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you." So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, "I drew him out of the water."

So, Pharoah's daughter finds the baby and, instead of killing him, she takes him as her own.  When you think of Moses, he was born of a people who believed in One God, but he was raised in the house of "many gods".  Born to a slave, but raised by an Egyptian prince.  What an identity crisis!  If there wasa anyone who would have a crisis of faith, it would be Moses.  I would imagin that Moses frequently asked where God was.  But when we read the story, we see that God was at work all through Moses' life.  Sometimes in our own lives, defining moments that are in the negative camp leave us wondering where God is and we sometimes let the negative side of the circumstances derail us in our faith.  But what God wants us to know is His hand is at work in our lives whether we feel His presences or not. 

As Moses grew older, he began to make his own decisions and as his second season of life began, but it aslo didn't begin very well. He was about 40 years old and saw an Egyptian beating a slave.  He then killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.  Later, he saw two Hebrew slaves fighting and when he went to break up the fight, they asked how he could be their judge after he himself had killed.  Moses thought nobody knew!  It's not like the Internet existed back then which could spread the word quickly, but word had indeed gotten around amd Moses was now afraid for his life. How did Moses react?  How did he respond?  He ran like many people do!  They hide.  As in our own lives, Moses hid.  But we don't need to run from life, rather we need to run too God.  We don't have to earn our way back to God.  He extends Grace to us. 

A week ago, Steve and his family went to Chicago for the holidays and he was reminded of the notion of God's grace.  As they walked onto the plane, he noticed looks he was getting from the other passengers because he was bringing on board his one year old son, Hudson.  People were anxious because they knew a young child usually cries.  Steve worked his way towards the back of the plane and sat where a woman sighed so loud her dread was obvious.  Inevitably, his son started crying and 30 minutes went by without a break.  Sherry, his wife, was apologetic, but the woman next to them was stiff and almost not acknowleding their pardons at all.  We live in a world like this, don't we?  People don't give us grace.  God is not like this.  In the world, if you don't benefit people, they don't give you grace, but God does.  Our world has made it tough for us to swallow the concept that God wants us to come to Him! 

In Chapter three, the beginning of Moses' third 40 year period, now 80 or so, "Moses was tending the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.  When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, 'Moses! Moses!' And Moses said, 'Here I am.'  'Do not come any closer,' God said. 'Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.' Then he said, 'I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.' At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

The Lord said, 'I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.  So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.'

Wait a minute, did you see what happened?  This was Moses who was a murderer!  But God appears before him in a burning bush.  Imagine Moses hearing that God had chosen him.  Moses was thinking, "hold on, I don't know if you have the right guy.   People may have questioned themselves if Moses was the right guy, but he was.  Have you experienced times when you were judged by someone based on one of your worst moments?  Isn't that painful?  It drives us to define ourselves by our worst moments.  We become paralyzed and unable to be courageous for the Kingdom because the shame that others won't let us forget.  Thank God, He sees us at our best.  Thank God, He sees us for what we can be in Him.  God has a plan and He will be faithful to complete it.  He wants us to take part. 

Moses tells God that he is not the right man, but God says he is and that His people will celebrate in worship on this same mountain where they are.  Then Moses asks who he shall say has sent him to free the Israelites and God says, ''This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'  God also said to Moses, 'Say to the Israelites, 'The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.'  This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.'"

These men God named are the heros of the faith and God basically says Moses is to tell the people that He is the doorway of deliverence and freedom; the pathway to peace and the roadway to life and joy.  Like Moses, our instinctive reaction is to think we are not capable and we fall from our call. But God can finish a great work in us! 

As we get to the end of Moses third 40 year period, we get to an interesting time in his life. The last chapter of Deuteronomy talks about Moses climbing Mt. Nebo and how God shows Moses all of the land that He delivered the Israelites.  It was on this mountain top with God that Moses died and was buried in an unknown place.  He was 120 when God called him to climb a mile high mountain.  Was this a metaphor of his life?  There were many mountains he had to climb.  God was with him at every climb as he led his people to freedom.  God showed up.  Somewhere along the way, Moses learned to trust Him.  What else strikes Scott is that God buried Moses. God was there in the beginning and He was there in the end.  Who goes to a funeral when someone dies?  Friends and family go, right?  God seems to say here that He is a friend of Moses.  God is a friend of ours, too.  He wants to walk with us and share life with us.

So if there are 3 things to take from this message, they would be:

1) God doesn't want us to be define ourselves by our worst moments. 
2) If we do our part, God will do His.
3) God wants to send us out of our Egypt.  That place where you can bring others to freedom.  God wil give you strength.

There will never be any one like you.  The last three versus in Deuteronomy talk about how there was no one ever again like Moses.  There is no one quite like you either.  You cannot be the best version of someone else.  You have to be you and trust that God is bringing out the best for our lives.  God will not ask us why we were not like David or Moses.  He will want us to be what we were ordained to be in ourselves.  Will we?

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