Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What Could Possibly Be Next - Part 2

This is a sermon that was preached on Sunday, September 17, 2017 at United Presbyterian Church of Sterling, KS.  Listen to the sermon audio here.

At that same link, you can also listen to the prelude, choir anthem, offertory, and the special song that Rob Krabbe wrote and performed to go with the sermon. 

Read the words to Rob's song at the end of the sermon below.

Read Exodus 14 here.
A little boy named Danny came running out of Sunday school all excited. He searched frantically for his mom or dad. When he spotted his dad, he ran over and grabbed him by the leg and yelled, "Dad, that story of Moses and all those people crossing the Red Sea was great!" His father looked down, smiled, and asked the boy to tell him about it.

 "Well, the Israelites got out of Egypt, but Pharaoh and his army chased after them. So the people ran as fast as they could until they got to the Red Sea. The Egyptian Army was gettin' closer and closer. So Moses got on his walkie-talkie and told the Israeli Air Force to bomb the Egyptians. While that was happening, the Israeli Navy built a pontoon bridge so the people could cross over. They made it!

By now his dad was shocked. "Is THAT the way they taught you the story?"

 Well, no, not exactly," Danny admitted, "but if I told you the way they told it to us, you'd never believe it, Dad."[1]

If I told you what really happened, you wouldn’t believe it.

Maybe that’s why for years archeologists and historians have been researching this event.  There are scores of books written that theorize about what the land was like then, what weather conditions might have been, where the Israelites actually traveled.  There are as many different theories as there are people coming up with them.

I find it easier to imagine the Red Sea parting after some of the pictures that came out of Florida last week when Hurricane Irma blew in.  Verse 21 of our reading today from Exodus tells us that the wind blew all night turning the Red Sea into dry land.  It sounds pretty far-fetched, but that’s exactly what happened, as the force of Hurricane Irma’s wind sucked all the water away from some parts of the Florida coast.  People were posting videos of walking on dry land where there is normally ocean in the Bahamas and in Tampa Bay.[2]
Beach in the Bahamas with no water
One weather reporter commented that this is the sort of thing you read about in textbooks but never expect to see happen. I think it’s like that for us reading the Bible.  We read about God rescuing Israel from slavery with the ten plagues, making an escape route through the ocean, and leading them with the pillar of fire and the pillar of smoke, and we think, “If only God still did things like that today.” 

What if God does do things like that today and we just don’t see it because it looks different than we’re expecting?  Or we don’t attribute it to God?

The situation for Israel seems insurmountable—Pharaoh’s army is chasing after them.  There are two million Israelites, but they are on foot and loaded down with children and livestock and all the stuff that their neighbors gave them as they were heading out of town.  And Pharaoh’s army has horses and chariots and weapons.  Behind them is the army, and ahead of them is an ocean.  Now what? 

The people are understandably afraid.  It looks like death awaits on either side.  They’d rather go back to slavery than death.  They say, “Were there not enough graves in Egypt so you had to bring us out here to die?”  Surely there were plenty of graves in Egypt, and Moses has NOT brought them out of slavery to die, he’s brought them out to live.  But things do look pretty bleak right at the moment. They can’t see beyond what they can imagine.

So Moses points them to the answer to their fears.  They cannot save themselves.  Moses by himself cannot save them.  But God is the one who has brought them this far, who brought them through the plagues, and God is the one who will provide the way through this situation, too.

What could possibly be next? Moses’ answer is in verse 13. It’s one of my favorite verses and is also on the front of your bulletin today: Don’t be afraid.  Stand still and watch God rescue you today. 

In other words, Stand firm.  Don’t be afraid. And trust that God is at work.
God uses Moses and nature to make a way through the water.

This is more than just a rescue.  This is the beginning of a new era, a relationship with God, the beginning of lifetimes of learning who God is and how to trust him.  God is working on their hearts.  So Moses tells them to stand firm and trust God.  Don’t run away. 

Be still and know that God is God. 
Trust that God has a plan.
And trust that God is good. 

There’s a hard reality in this story.  Not only does God rescue the Israelites, but he does it by drowning the Egyptians.  We see in the next chapter of the story that the Israelites are rejoicing about that.  But God is not rejoicing.  The Bible tells us in Ezekiel 33:11 that God is sad when people perish.  “As I live, says God, I do not wish for the death of the wicked, but for the wicked to repent of their way, so that they may live.”

There’s a story about this in the Talmud, the Jewish book of commentary on the Old Testament, that says, “When the Egyptian armies were drowning in the sea, the angels in heaven broke out in a song of jubilation. But God silenced them, saying, "My creatures are perishing, and you sing praises?"[3]

When DreamWorks made the film Prince of Egypt in 1998, they didn’t want to have the Israelites singing for joy at the death of their foes so they had them begin singing as soon as they left Egypt. Do you know the song they were singing?  It was a hit single for both Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.[4]
There can be miracles
When you believe
Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill
Who knows what miracles you can achieve
When you believe somehow you will
You will when you believe[5]

I love that they’re already singing that before they get to the Red Sea.  They’ve already seen miracles.  That’s why they’re able to leave Egypt, and why they’re standing on the edge of the sea.  Their faith is already growing, and the more they stand still and trust God and watch him work, the more it will keep growing.

God rescues Israel, but that’s not the end of the story. It’s just the beginning. What happens next is the story of the relationship between God and his people, that continues through the wilderness and into the promised land and forward all the way to today.

There are two great stories of salvation in the Bible – this rescue of Israel from Egypt, and the salvation we have through Jesus Christ’ death and resurrection.  All of the Bible revolves around these two stories.  One is the foreshadowing of the other, both important parts of God’s great love story – the story of God’s love for us.
We can trust that what Moses says in verse 13 is true even more because God does it again in Jesus Christ.  Stand still and watch God rescue you today.  God started working on doing this long before we knew anything about it.
Ephesians 1:4 says, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.”
Before we even thought to be seeking God, he was working on our rescue.
Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
That by itself is amazing, but God doesn’t stop there. God didn’t rescue us and then leave Israel, and God doesn’t rescue us and the leave us.  God has promised to never leave us. God continues to help us.  and God is still with us, walking with us, working in our lives, helping us through seemingly impossible situations.

Sometimes writing a sermon is the seemingly impossible situation.  That was the case for me this past Friday.  I had just learned the night before that my best friend from high school had died.  I haven’t seen her all that much over the past 30 years, so I was surprised how hard the news hit me.  Sitting alone in the church office, I couldn’t get past the sadness.  Our church secretary Brandi doesn’t work in the office on Fridays, but she came by anyway.  She said she thought I needed a hug.  I burst into tears.  A hug was exactly what I needed.  She didn’t know my friend had died, or that I was sad, but somehow God prompted her to be his messenger to me that morning.  That’s just one example of the millions of ways God sends us a rescue – he sends what we need to make it through.

God still does amazing things today.

God sent Moses and God sent Jesus, and God continues to send us all to help each other.  We help each other seek and find God – in our daily conversations and interactions with people.  In gathering together for Bible studies and prayer. On Sunday mornings, when we meet together for worship we help each other seek and find God.  As the choir sang this morning, God promises us in Jeremiah 29: 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.” (listen at the link above)

You probably noticed that this sermon is Part 2. Part 1 was two weeks ago when we read about God calling to Moses from a burning bush, and we considered how God might be calling us. I said two weeks ago that…
We are each uniquely qualified for the plan God has for us. 
Our church is uniquely qualified to do the work that God has for us to do.
It may not look like we think it’s going to look or happen in the way that we expect it to happen, but if we’re willing to say yes to God, we will find those opportunities for which we have been prepared.

God led Israel with a pillar of fire and a pillar of smoke.  They all could see those pillars, if they were looking, but I imagine sometimes they had to help each other see them.  Maybe one neighbor noticed the pillar was moving and pointed it out to the others, so they could follow, too.

This is what we’re getting together to do tonight – to seek God together and help each other see what God is doing among us.  
  • What gifts and talents and assets has God put here? 
  • What ideas and dreams has God given us? 

We’re not together by accident.  God has brought us together. 
We are in this place at this time to do God’s work together.

That might not look like it’s looked before.  I’m excited to see where God leads us.

About 350 years ago a shipload of travelers landed on the northeast coast of America. The first year they established a town site. 
The next year they elected a town government. 
The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness.
In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles westward into a wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway?

Here were people who had the vision to see three thousand miles across an ocean and overcome great hardships to get there. But in just a few years they were not able to see even five miles out of town.[6]

They stopped dreaming, and stopped watching for what God was doing next.  God is still doing amazing things in people’s lives today.  I’m excited to see what God’s going to do next in our world, in our church, and in each of our lives.

I Did Not Save You Just to Walk Away

© 2017 Rob Krabbe  (listen at the link above)

Sometimes it seems to me, too much to bear,
Sometimes it seems to be, too hard to do,
Sometimes I feel I don’t, have just what it takes
To see it through.

Open the door, the mountain stands too tall,
Close the door, I’m much safer inside,
I’m not the one, to do what you’ve asked me to do
Not in this life.

In my heart of hearts, I hear, a whisper, I recognize,
Telling me things I need desperately to hear, giving me life:

I never said, that You had to go through this alone,
I’ll be there with You, every step on the way,
I’ll never leave You, I’ll even walk You home, one day
You have my word, You can trust the things I say  
I did not save You just to walk away.

Somedays sadness, so much it stops me,
Somedays fear, so much I freeze,
Somedays death seems to take, far too much away.

Sometimes I want to shake my fist at the sky,
Sometimes I wonder, what You were thinking
Sometimes it seems dark, and lonely, and you feel so far away.

In my heart of hearts, I hear, a whisper, I recognize,
Telling me things I need desperately to hear, giving me life:

I never said, that You had to go through this alone,
I’ll be there with You every step on the way,
I’ll never leave You, I’ll even walk You home, one day
You have my word, You can trust the things I say  
I did not save You just to walk away. 

I read again, you’ve overcome this world,
I know again, the hope deep in my heart
The sacrifice, You already willingly, made for me

So take my life, it yours, do what You will
Take my love, its yours, I remember
You are my God, Lord I surrender, to You.

I never said that You had to go through this alone,
I’ll be there with You every step on the way,
I’ll never leave You, I’ll even walk You home, one day
You have my word, You can trust the things I say  
I did not save You just to walk away. 


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

What Could Possibly Be Next?

This sermon was preached on Sunday, September 3 2017 at United Presbyterian Church in Sterling, KS.  Listen to the sermon here.

Read Exodus 3:1-15 and Matthew 16:21-28 here.

Listen to the choir anthem here.

How do you answer when someone calls you on the phone?

My dad sometimes answers, “Joe’s Pizza.  What’s your order?”

Another fun way to answer:
Bill's Roadside Diner: You kill 'em, We grill 'em!

Steve Martin in the movie L.A. Story (1991):
"Hi, this is Harris. I'm here right now, so you can talk to me. Please start talking at the beep. *beep*"[1]

How do you answer when God calls?

In the story we read today from Exodus, Moses answers by saying, “Here I am.”  But then when he hears what comes next, Moses becomes much more reluctant to say yes to God. 

Last week we read the story of Moses’ birth in Exodus 1 and 2. Moses was one of the Hebrew babies that Pharaoh wanted killed because he was afraid the Hebrews were getting too numerous and powerful.  Moses survived because his mother put him in a basket in the river, and Pharaoh’s daughter found him and raised him as her own.  When Moses grew up, he saw one day how badly the Egyptians were treating the Hebrews, and he got angry. He killed an Egyptian.  Someone saw this and told Pharaoh, and Moses fled into the wilderness where he remained for 40 years.  He was out in the desert herding sheep when God called to him from the burning bush.

How did Moses answer?  As we heard several times in the piece that the choir just sang,[2] when Moses hears God’s plan to send him back to Egypt to talk to pharaoh, he says, “Not me, Lord.”  We only read about one of Moses’ objections in the passage we read this morning, but if we were to keep reading in chapters 3 and 4, we would see that Moses has a list of reasons why he doubts his ability to challenge Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

Moses’ first objection is, “Who am I that I should go do this?” (Ex 3:11).  God doesn’t exactly answer that.  Instead God says, “I will be with you.” 
So Moses asks another question.  “Who shall I say has sent me?” (v13).  God replies, “I AM who I AM.  Tell them that I AM has sent you” (v14). “I AM who I AM” means God was and is and always will be God.  The divine name Yahweh means “He is.”[3]  God is.  God exists.  God is here, and always has been and always will be. This is, I think, the most important part.  God doesn’t send Moses to go alone.  God goes with Moses.

Notice that God doesn’t get into all the reasons that Moses is the one God chooses to send.  Instead God shows Moses that God will be with him and working through him.  Basically God is saying, “Trust me, and do and say what I tell you.” The reason Moses will succeed is that God is with him, but Moses is uniquely suited to the task for several reasons. 
  • Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s courts by Pharaoh’s daughter.  He knows his way around Pharaoh’s household.  He knows how to talk to the Egyptians.
  • Moses is a Hebrew and he’s already demonstrated that he is concerned about the cruel treatment the Hebrews have been receiving.  He saw an Egyptian guard beating one of the Hebrews and he got angry and killed the guard.  Not maybe the best response, but a passionate one.  Moses has a heart for this call.
  • Moses doesn’t shy away from talking to God.  He has a conversation with God about this initial call, and then he continues to converse with God.

Moses says, “Not me, Lord,” but really we can see that Moses is exactly the right guy for the job, not just because of his history, but also because, as we see in what happens in the rest of the story, Moses keeps talking to God.  “Not me, Lord” is the beginning of a conversation that goes on the rest of his life.

In our reading from Matthew for today, we see another response to God.  Peter says to Jesus, “Not you, Lord.”  Jesus has just told the disciples what’s going to happen – that he’s going to suffer and be killed and on the third day raised from the dead.  But Peter doesn’t understand.
o   One reason Peter can’t understand is that Jesus is God.  Jesus has insight that a human being won’t be able to have.  That’s why Proverbs 3:5 advises us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
o   The other reason is that Peter’s idea of Jesus’ call is all about worldly success and politics. Maybe Peter also didn’t think God would let Jesus be killed.  Peter has a vision, but it’s not God’s vision, so Jesus chastises Peter because he doesn’t have in mind the things of God.

Moses says, “Not me, Lord.”
Peter says, “Not you, Lord.” 
The prophet Samuel says, “Not him, Lord.”

God sends Samuel to anoint the person who is going to replace Saul as king of Israel.  Samuel goes where God leads him and thinks he’s found the next king when he sees big, strong men that look well equipped to lead.  But God says, “No, not them.  Keep looking.”  When Samuel finally finds the one that God wants him to anoint, he’s a young, scrawny shepherd.  Samuel can’t see why the youngest smallest kid is the one to anoint, but he obeys God anyway, and anoints David the shepherd boy who would go on to be the greatest king Israel ever had, the one by whom all other kings are measured. The one whom God called, “A man after my own heart.”

We see in these stories, that God’s call is unexpected.
o   God calls unexpected people
o   God calls in unexpected ways
o   God calls in unexpected places
o   God’s call is to an unexpected future.

What could possibly be next?  For Moses? For Peter? For Jesus?                                         For you?  For me?  For us?
What is God calling us to be and do?

We are uniquely suited – individually & together. Come join us on the evening of September 17 when we’ll be working on answering these questions together.  That evening we’ll be spending some time identifying our assets and gifts and connections and opportunities…trying to discern God’s will for us together.

Our most basic need is to know God in Jesus– to know the work and fruit of the Holy Spirit living in us, and working among us.  To know that joy.

Do you know God & have a relationship with him?  If not, start there.

Has God given you eyes to see a particular need? 

This past week we saw people answering the call to help with an urgent need in response to Hurricane Harvey.
  • A furniture store became a shelter for people who had been flooded out of their homes.
  • A family that came to visit their cousins for a relaxing vacation ended up being evacuated when the water started rising, then got stranded in their car for a time.  They could have stayed in the shelter once they got there, but instead they went back out and helped rescue people and pets. 
In both instances, people used their unique situations to serve people in need.
Jesus calls us to “take up our cross and follow” him.  For Jesus, the cross is the willingness to do God’s will even to the point of giving up his life, to be the once-and-for-all sacrifice so that we might be forgiven.

The cross is for us all a crossroads, a deciding point.  We keep on carrying that cross because throughout our lives we will have many decision points.  Some will be large and some will be small.  Some we won’t even think much about or maybe even realize we’ve made.

Our lives are full of crossroads – points at which we will have the opportunity to say yes or no to God.

I had a friend years ago who was anticipating God’s call.  He didn’t know what it would be or when it would come, but he decided he would make sure he was ready to say yes.  He sold his house and moved into a smaller one so that he could be putting money away so that he could leave his job, if that’s what was needed.  He watched for opportunities to learn new skills, so that he would be prepared to use them in God’s service.  Instead of saying, “Not me, Lord, I have plans already,” he was saying, “Here I am, Lord, show me what you want me to do.”

Instead of making our own plans, we say yes to God when we look for ways to be a part of God’s plan.

We can say to God, “I’m not strong enough or smart enough or rich enough,” or we can trust God’s promise that he will equip us with whatever we need to do whatever he is calling us to.

We can pray and ask God to bless our plans, or we can pray to ask God to show us His plans.

Instead of asking, “How can we get people to come to church?”
…we can ask,
“How can we make sure that when people come here they meet Jesus and know how much he loves them?”

When I was a young adult thinking about what I wanted to do in my career life, I said I never wanted to own my own business because
  • I wanted a job with finite boundaries,
  • a job from which I could go home and not keep working,
  • a job that didn’t require long hours or weekends. 
Now, here I am, a pastor, a job which is all the things I said I didn’t want, because I have since discovered that I’d rather be a part of God’s plans, and help people know how much God loves them. All the jobs I had before this one were preparing me for this one.

We are each uniquely qualified for the plan God has for us. Our church is uniquely qualified to do the work that God has for us to do.
It may not look like we think it’s going to look or happen in the way that we expect it to happen, but if we’re willing to say yes to God, we will find those opportunities for which we have been prepared.

How is God calling you? 
How is God calling us? 
What is God’s plan for our community?

[2] Ken Medema, Moses, 1973, 1974 Word Music, LLC. Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uyfW1opFEk  Read lyrics here: http://www.sing-and-pray.de/texte/moses.html
[3] Van Gemeren, The New International Dictionary of the Old Testament - Divine Name with explanation—treats the first ehyeh as a divine name followed by the explanation “because I am.”  Although the name he declares to Moses means “I am,” mortal humanity is to call him Yahweh “he is.”  This divine name and its explanation “My name shall be ehyeh (I AM) because I am” emphasize the reality of God’s active and helpful presence in the form of a statement of confidence about the present and future.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Man, This Has Gotten Out of Control!

This is a sermon that was preached at United Presbyterian Church in Sterling KS on Sunday, August 27, 2017.  Listen to the sermon audio here.

Read Exodus 1:7-2:10, Romans 12:1-8 here.


Man, This Has Gotten Out of Control! 

There’s an old story about a man sitting on a park bench, shredding newspapers and tossing the pieces over his left shoulder. A policeman who has been watching him approaches after several minutes and asks him why he’s doing what he’s doing.
“This keeps away the lions”, the man replies.
“Lions?” said the officer.” The closest lions are thousands of miles from here.”
“I know,” said the man, “See? It works!”[1]

Shredding that newspaper gave the man the feeling that he was in control.  Was he really in control?  No.  But he felt like he was.  Like that man, we do things to try to maintain control of our lives, and not always in ways that make a lot of sense.
In our story today from Exodus, Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, has some control issues.  We might expect that he wouldn’t.  He’s the guy in charge, and according to their belief, he himself was a god.  Wouldn’t he already be plenty in control?  But he’s afraid of the Israelites and of losing control.

I love this story.  It’s one we learn as kids in Sunday school.  I enjoy revisiting these stories as an adult and seeing things I didn’t fully understand as a kid.  Take, for instance, the very first verse – verse 7:  “they multiplied greatly and they filled the land.”  They were having lots of babies.  Really, they were just doing what God told them to do. 
  • ·      In Genesis, God tells Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28).  Have babies.
  • ·      God said this again to Noah after the flood (Gen. 9:1). 

The Israelites were doing as they were told.  They were doing a really great job of multiplying!

At the end of the story of Genesis, when Joseph’s family first came to Egypt, they were a group of about 70 people.  Fast forward 400 years to the part we read today.  Now there are thousands upon thousands of them.  They have been busy doing what God commanded.

Pharaoh is worried that the Hebrews will turn against him and take over the country, so he treats them really well, pays them well and makes sure they’re happy to stay right where they are.  Wait, no, that would make the most sense, but instead Pharaoh enslaves them and makes them work harder.  Maybe he thought they’d be too tired to make more babies?  But that didn’t work.  Big surprise.

So the logical next step would be . . . genocide.  Not the logical next step?  No, of course not, and yet not unusual in the history of humanity, unfortunately.  Pharaoh does this in a way that is maybe the most sneaky and cowardly way, killing the babies.  

This is also what happened around the time when Jesus was born. 

Herod, another ruler who had control issues, ordered the killing of all the baby boys (Matt. 2:16).  Herod wasn’t afraid of being outnumbered, so much as he just didn’t like anybody who might get in his way.  He was willing to kill thousands to make sure to get rid of the one.

I wish I could tell you that genocide and killing babies doesn’t happen anymore. Sadly, it is still happening in our world today. 
Pharaoh is overwhelmed and responds badly.  But we also see people in the story responding in good ways.  And I must say that there’s quite a bit of girl power at work here.  Women were mostly at the mercy of men back then.  But they still found ways to do the right thing. 

Like Shiprah and Puah.  When I was in seminary I had to memorize these women’s names.  I think they are definitely worth remembering.  These are the midwives who refused to kill the male babies, even though Pharaoh had ordered them to.  We might think their names sound funny.  What’s really funny is what they say to Pharaoh.
 “Unlike Egyptian women, Hebrew women are more vigorous and deliver their babies before we get there.” 
They’ve basically called the Egyptian women wimps for needing help to have their babies.  They’ve also at the same time appealed to the prejudice that already existed between the Egyptians and the Hebrews.  The Egyptians saw the Hebrews as inferior. Last week we talked about the Canaanite woman who was shunned by the Jews.  The Jews wouldn’t eat with a Canaanite, and the Egyptians wouldn’t eat with the Hebrews, even all the way back when Joseph was Pharaoh’s assistant (Gen. 43:32).  Thinking of people as inferior leads to thinking of them as subhuman or animals.  Animals don’t need midwives to deliver their babies.  Shiprah and Puah were making a bit of a joke about the Egyptians looking down on the Hebrews.  Pharaoh apparently didn’t get it, since he didn’t punish or kill Shiprah and Puah.  These women could have been overwhelmed by fear of Pharaoh’s power, but instead they trusted God to help them do the right thing. And in return for their good work, God blessed Shiphrah and Puah with children of their own (Ex. 1:15-21)

Then there’s Jochobed.[2]  She’s not named in this story, but she is named in the genealogies (Ex 6:20, Num 26:59).  She’s Moses’ mother.  She’s one of those strong Hebrew women that Shiphrah and Puah talked about.  She saw that Moses was a fine baby and couldn’t bear to kill him, so she hid him for three months.  Either the Egyptians weren’t looking very hard, or Jochobed was really good about keeping Moses quiet. We all know it would be pretty tough to hide a baby.  Jochobed does something amazing.  She does exactly what Pharaoh had ordered – she throws Moses into the river – except she throws him in the river in the basket which she’d taken the time to waterproof. 

Can you imagine sending your child off like that?  And yet this is the kind of thing that parents will do for their children – in the midst of wars or threat of murder or disaster, mothers are still sending their kids off in hopes of saving them.  Some parents did it this week in anticipation of Hurricane Harvey. Trusting their children to God’s protection. 
Thank God for Miriam.[3]  She’s Moses’ big sister who watches to see what will happen as the basket drifts downstream, and then when Pharaoh’s daughter finds the child, offers to get a Hebrew woman to take care of the baby until he is weaned.  So Moses ends up right back with his mother, only now as a favor to Pharaoh’s daughter, so no longer under threat of death.  Way to go, Miriam!  Way to go, God!  God in his overwhelming power solved the problem.

Isn’t this such a great story?  So many great things happening.  My favorite part, though, is what it shows us about how to respond when we are overwhelmed.
What do we learn? Don’t be Pharaoh.  Pharaoh was overwhelmed and responds badly. He didn’t know what to do with all those Hebrews, so in his fear of losing control, he tightens control. 

I like this story because I resonate with Pharaoh.  I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed.  Life can be scary.  Whatever is happening in our lives can be overwhelming.  Our perspective gets skewed and our problems can seem bigger than any of the answers we can imagine.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or imagine!  Ephesians 3:20

It maybe wasn’t true that the Hebrews outnumbered the Egyptians, but the more Pharaoh focused on them, the more it seemed like it.  Whatever is closest to us seems the largest.  The more we focus on a problem, the bigger it gets in our eyes.
In what ways do you get overwhelmed?

God is greater than our troubles, but we get to thinking that it’s much safer to try to control God than it is to trust him.  Pharaoh overestimated himself and underestimated God.  But Shiphrah, Puah, Jochobed and Miriam show us another way – trusting God and being overwhelmed by God’s blessings and grace.

In Romans 12 Paul urges us to surrender control to God – to make our lives a living sacrifice.  To allow God to be a part of all the parts of our lives that we hold back, that we try so hard to control.

The NLT puts it this way: Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”  No question about it – that’s challenging.   

I know that surrendering control to God can be SCARY – We don’t know that we’re going to like the outcome.  We pray, “thy will be done… but do it according to my specifications.”

  • ·What if it doesn’t come out the way we want it to? 
  • ·What if it comes out better?

Faith in Christ isn’t about giving up control so much as it is facing the wonderful reality that God was always the one who really had control. 

The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. Romans 12 MSG version: 3
Being overwhelmed by God is WONDERFUL – In another of Paul’s letters, Ephesians, he prays for us to know how wonderful God is:
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

I have had moments of experiencing God’s infinite love that were overwhelming.  Those moments can be fleeting and unexpected….
  • when we suddenly realize that God remembered that dream we had given up on,
  • or heard that prayer that we’d gotten tired of praying,
  • or has sent someone or something into our path to show us that there is hope and he is still there. 

It happens in big and small ways, ways that are sometimes hard to explain.

Being overwhelmed by God is AWESOME because God is awe-inspiring.
Last Monday, this was the experience many people had watching the eclipse.  Reading about it or looking at the pictures can’t quite fully describe how amazing it was to watch it happen.  People drove for miles to get to see the total eclipse. One car stuck in traffic afterwards was asked if it was worth driving so far and sitting in traffic so long.  The roar came immediately from everyone inside the car: YES!

God the almighty creator of the universe who placed the stars in the sky and put the planets in motion in patterns that result in moments like that eclipse, loves us so much that he sent his Son to die for us so that we could know his unconditional love and mercy, and his constant presence.

What if we were to find ourselves saying, “Man, this has gotten out of control” because was God was doing great things in our lives?

May you be overwhelmed today by God and all that He is.

Just A Closer Walk With Thee

Pictured Left to Right:  
Megan Giorgetti, Jenny Dyson, Amy Brownlee, Arn Froese, Rob Krabbe

Listen to special music from the offertory 
August 27, 2017 at United Presbyterian Church, Sterling KS