Author Archives: Shelly Bergland

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Fwd: The Undoubted Truth… Luke 1:1-25

Life of Christ
Lesson 1 (The Very First LC Bible Study Lesson)
The Undoubted Truth…
Luke 1:1-25
Introduction…This now represents an edited version of Learning Center Bible Study Lesson 1, written 17 years ago. Several things leap out at me. 1) The work, time, inspiration and passion required to research, discover and write sustainable TRUTH, as well as,  the outstanding, inspired research and reporting of a few first century Christians , still stands the historical test of time; 2) Spiritual faithfulness’ true reward is often delayed, but no less real; 3) We are John the Baptist. John the Baptist foreshadows every Christian. When we are reborn in Christ, we are graced with God’s Spirit, and with God’s Spirit our goal is to prepare people for God. Pure and simple. 

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Exodus 17:off When the Foes Keep Coming 5-3-15

Exodus Studies Pic
Life of Moses
Lesson 29
When the Foes Keep Coming…
Exodus 17:1ff

Introduction…What’s on your heart right now? Now? Are you at peace? Or are you burdened down with fear and worry? Are you arms lifted up and outstretched to heaven’s eventual triumph or are they fallen in fear and discouragement?

In both these divine rescues, Moses will be directed to use the rod or staff that God had given him to shepherd his people to deliver them, despite their lack of trust that indeed they will be delivered. Has God given you a staff? Something by which he will use to prove his deliverance in your current predicament?

Our hope or desire is never to be in stress or challenge, but without the stress or challenge, there is no dependence, no cry out to God for his deliverance, no hope of his love and no strengthening of faith or trust that he will provide because he has provided in the past. If you want to be freed from being an abused serf in someone else’ abundance to owning a piece of your own heaven, then be prepared for constant, challenge, risk and danger in getting there. But with that risk-filled journey comes a divine Deliverer—God—and that my friends, is the real journey…trusting the Invisible, the Divine.

General Introduction:  Moses led by God is leading the children of Israel, perhaps as many as 2-3 million strong, away from Egypt and closer to the land promised to the forefathers many seven centuries before. But their journey is not without its problems.

Recent Studies…

The sons and daughters of Israel sing out their praise to Yahweh because in what Yahweh God has just done in not only delivering Israel from utter annihilation at the hands of Pharaoh’s massive army. Ex. 15:1ff.

After healing Marah’s bitter waters, Yahweh tests Israel with a lasting ordinance—if you keep my laws, I will keep you safe from all the things that the Egyptians feared. Ex. 15:22ff.

Now, with their backs seemingly up against another wall–the wall of daily sustenance in the desert, the whole community rises up to turn its collective fear and complaint towards God’s servants. Ex. 16:1ff.

Last Week… First the People are commanded to gather and keep enough manna only for that day; Second, they are told to gather twice as much on the sixth day and to save a portion of it for the seventh day because this day is to be a day of rest that belongs to the Lord. And yet despite God’s clear commands, some will still disobey God, attempting to gather too much manna or gathering it on the Seventh day. Both attempts fail, angering both Moses and Yahweh. Finally, Israel is told to set aside into perpetuity one daily sample so that generations to come may know how Yahweh God provided for his people during on their way to the Promised Land. Ex. 16:19-36.


Read Passage several times…

Ask Questions…

Great Sea Map-Route-Exodus-Israelites-Egypt

First Story…

Exod. 17:1   The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.   

Where is the Desert of Sin? Why was it called Sin? Was it a bad place? Is this where we get the biblical word “to sin,” as “to miss the mark” from? How far did they travel at any one time? Ten miles? Twenty? I can’t imagine how far over two million people can travel in a day, and how far of a line would the traveling caravan have stretched? Each new embarking had to be fraught with the peril of finding little to no water. What a seemingly impossible and desperate journey of trust, faith and courage. You can’t go back to Egypt. There are nations living in the land you are traveling to and there are so many people traveling there under harsh, desert conditions. It was certainly a journey of trust and dependence.

2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?”   

Why did they quarrel? Were they about to die of thirst? Why does Moses ask, “Why do you put the Lord to the test”? Did this represent Israel’s doubting that the Lord would provide for them?

3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”   

On the one hand this is understandable. Why would God do this? On the other hand, he has always provided before. Why would he not now? Is this “putting God to the test”? Oh, the struggle…to trust, based on previous provisions, or to doubt and panic?

4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”   

Because they can see you. They can’t stone a cloud. Been there and done that.

5 The LORD answered Moses, “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.   

Crazy faith?

6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.   

Horeb? Is this also Sinai, where the Children of Israel will receive the Law? Is this the place of their wedding with God, where they will receive their covenant and Law? How did this water come out of a rock? Was it like a spring?

7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”   

Second Story…

8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim.   

Are we at the same place or have we journeyed further? And who are the Amalekites? Were they fierce or were they just threatened? And how many? And is word out and the nations lining up to defend their lands?

9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”   

Finally, a military force. And once again, the supernatural staff that turns into a snake and that smote the Nile, the Red Sea and now a rock to deliver water, is about to figure into the Children of Israel’s deliverance once again.

10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill.   

11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.   

That’s a long time to hold up one’s arms. Why attach the battle’s success to Moses’ raised arms?

12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up –one on one side, one on the other –so that his hands remained steady till sunset.   

A most logical and ingenious solution…keep the hands up anyway you can…


13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.   

14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”   

Who were these people? Why did God want to wipe them out?

15 Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner.   

16 He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

Is God using the Children of Israel’s sojourn to judge pagan nations?

Who? (1st) Israelites, LORD, Moses, our children, elders of Israel, (2nd) in addition to the first story: Amakelites, Joshua, Aaron, Hur

Where? (1st) from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place, Rephidim, out of Egypt, on ahead of the people, the Nile, rock of Horeb, in the sight of, Massah and Meribah, (2nd) at Rephidim, go out, on top of the hill, in my hands, held up, under him, on one side, one on the other, under heaven, the throne of God

When? Tomorrow, as long as, whenever, when Moses’ hands grew tired, then the Lord, from generation to generation


• The Israelites travel to Rephidim where there is no water.

• They begin to doubt and quarrel with Moses because of the lack of water. 2-3

• Moses cries out to God because they are about to stone him. 4

• The LORD directs Moses, along with the elders, to walk ahead of the people and to strike the rock of Horeb. 5-6a.

• Moses does and water comes gushing out. 6b

• Moses called this place Massah and Meribah because the people grumbled and doubted God’s presence. 7

• Then the Amakelites come out and attack them. 8

• Moses tells Joshua to go out and fight them. Moses will take the staff of God to the top of the overlooking hill. 9-10

• As long as Moses held his hands up, the Israelites were winning, but when he would drops his hands they began to lose. 11

• So they provided a rock for his to sit on and they held his arms up until sunset. Eventually the Israelites defeated the Amakelites. 12-13

• The Lord commanded Moses to write this down. 14

• After which he built an altar and named it “The Lord is my Banner.” 15-16

Summary…Via His staff, God delivers Israel from two fierce enemies; a scarcity of water and a fierce foe.


• People doubt quickly, even when God has provided many times before. In other words, people have short-term memories, and they panic. Been there and seen that.

• When desperate, the mob will point its finger or focus its blame on visible leadership. Someone has got to take the fall. If we can’t fix it, then the nation must have blood. It can’t be just to cry out to God for help.

• God is faithful. He delivers and protects his people, his charge…his responsibility.

• It is God who is our source of power and strength.

• God allows life’s different dangers to threaten us in order to see if we will trust in him.

• Leadership can’t do it all by themselves; they need those whom they lead’s support.

• It is appropriate and good to commemorate God’s deliverance.

• In delivering one person or set of people God may be judging or disciplining another person or group of people. God is multitasking in his purposes.

So What?

2003 Application…

Struggles…a busy day, finishing up this lesson, participating in a wedding at our church, finishing up the message. Sunday evening. Next week, Jordan has a college baseball tryout; I am trying to find a tractor, plant some grass on the ball field and prepare for the Carpenters’ return to our church, as well as Father’s Day, etc.

Truths…Don’t panic in the midst of a fierce foe; trust God even up to the last second.

Application…Keep walking ahead with the staff of God in my hand. The staff today, I would assume would be God’s Spirit—his power becoming my power—as particularly manifested via prayer and his word. I am going to trust God to get me through this next crucial week or so, walking by faith that indeed he will see me through.

Big Springs IMG_6160

On an average day, 288 million gallons of water, enough to fill St. Louis Cardinal’s Busch stadium in 33 hours, will bubble up from the earth beneath at Big Springs near Van Bure, MO.

2015 Application…

Thanksgiving…God has been faithfully gracious to me on so many levels here lately. My life is a thanksgiving. People have helped me at just the right moment too many times to mention; I had an amazing afternoon with my Spiritual daughter, who went to sleep that night dreaming of the Spiritual story that I had been waiting to tell her for ten years—that her safety and security is NOT in a guy, but eternally secure in her kinsman redeemer, Jesus. I am indeed blessed.

Struggle…trusting God that as he has so often delivered in the past, that he will deliver again and that it will be his weekend with our college friend Nancy, the most interesting person on the planet, here to sing and share at Fellowship this weekend. I want it to be a good weekend for her, for us and for Fellowship.

Truth…That as God has always provided for us in the past, he will continue to provide for us on our journey home. And yet, without hardship or stress, there is no provision, no trust, no deliverance. The world can be a very difficult place. Leaving Egypt, traveling to Canaan, and going through the desert to get there are all threats. Can we trust his provision in the midst of little being like heaven or perfect?

Application…Today, this weekend, Sunday, this season in my life…these past thirty years at Fellowship, or almost forty years of deeply growing in my faith, or almost fifty since I trusted his sacrifice as an atoning payment for all my sinful imperfections, which is much, all represent my journey of having left the enslaving security of my own personal sinful Egypt and traveling through this world or life’s dangerous desert journey to my heavenly promise land, saturated with milk and honey.  And with each trial or trying adventure is the moment in which I can panic, grumble and rebel because I see threat or to cry out to my Redeemer and trust his eventual deliverance. Each moment…Nothing has changed, except that with each trial and corresponding desperate trust comes greater confidence, hope, love and trust. I accept the journey. I want the Promise Land without the struggle, but I accept the journey. I accept the dangers. I accept the threats, but I also accept your deliverance…

Your struggles?



Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

Exodus 13:off The Path Less Traveled 2-22-15

Exodus Studies Pic

Life of Moses
Lesson 22
The Path Less Traveled…
(Reminding, Teaching, Worshiping and Trusting)
Ex 13:1ff

Introduction… In a world that can often times seem very discouraging, what best holds you faithful or accountable in your Spiritual journey or walk with God: prayer? Sunday worship? Daily devotional reading of the Bible? Teaching others? Small group Bible study? Inspirational music? A good friend? Your mate? Who or what best holds you accountable?

One of our church kids asked me for a recommendation to go to Christian-based prep school. I asked him why? Without hesitation, he answered that he believed it would be for advantageous for him Spiritually. When I asked why? he answered that it was not easy being a Christian at his local public school. When I asked why was this? he seemed to imply that there is fear and intimidation he must face about when he is openly honest about his faith or belief in God. So sad, but not unexpected.

Now whether he gets into his Christian prep school or not, and whether it works out as he hopes for, who knows, but I do know the kid is thinking, and he is seeking to think through a biblical-Spiritual lens. He wants to talk about God without threat, and who wouldn’t. Even in the sixth grade, that’s pretty cool and seemingly somewhat rare.

How many of us filter daily existence through this type of Spiritual lens—what allows me to discuss and talk about my faith freely, without fear of rebuke or repudiation


“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.” Taken from “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.

In a passage that at first glance appears fairly sedate compared to what we have been experiencing here lately, i.e. devastating plagues and miracles powerfully delivered by the hand of God upon a stubborn, polytheistic Egyptian dynasty (as summarized in the review below), there lies embedded some very powerful and practical tools for Spiritual accountability. See if you can find them and perhaps label them. Then compare them to what I have listed within my own applicational truths near the end of this study. Seek to walk away with something…something that counts…something that repeatedly and consistently holds you Spiritual accountable and in the process contributes to your ongoing Spiritual vitality and longevity. Continue reading

Exodus 4:18-31 Redemption… 9-28-14

Exodus Studies Pic
©2003; 2014
Fellowship at Cross Creek
Life of Moses
Lesson 8: Redemption…
Ex 4:18-31
(1.12.03; 9.28.14)
Intro…Can God both give you an assignment to do and it be hard? Yes. Why? Why would God do this? Why would a parent, teacher, coach or employer do this? To see the mettle of his student? To expose their strengths and liabilities. If we come to the table already fit, what’s the point? What do we have to learn? How will we grow? Sometimes we are given a difficult, challenging assignment that we may or may not be able to accomplish, particularly in our own wisdom and strength, as Moses sought to do when he intervened on behalf of the Hebrew slave that was being beaten by the Egyptian steward. Moses in his own strength and wisdom ends up killing and burying the harsh steward. When he finds out that others know what he has done, he panics and flees Egypt, and then spends forty years in a self-imposed exile. Moses had talent, no doubt about it, but he needed what only God could do through him, if he was to pull off the impossible. This is true of all of us. Pretty good, on our own, perhaps, but not good enough…not God enough. God is our only hope and salvation.  With God, always greater than.
How might you demonstrate or expose this truth to your students. Good, bad or indifferent without God; invincible, called and empowered with God.
Series Introduction: You make a mistake…perhaps even a huge mistake; you think your life has changed forever–that there is no going back. In exile, you take your flock of sheep, which you have been pasturing for these past forty years to an out-of-the-way desert valley that seems to symbolize your exiled existence. You see something strange in the distance—it’s a fire…an inextinguishable flame. 
You bravely venture forth for a closer inspection of the undying flame. As you draw closer, something happens–you begin to experience something that will change your entire understanding of your human existence—you encounter God of the Universe. 
Out of all the people on the planet, the Creator of the Universe has chosen YOU–a wandering, lonely, exiled, imperfect shepherd–to free and lead an exodus of what will become an emancipated people group of over two million strong from the oppressive grip of a much stronger nation that enslaves them—a nation that does intend to just allow you to walk in and then walk out with all its slaves. And even after you pull off this miraculous emancipation, you must now lead or shepherd this massive new nation across a vast desert with little food or water resources to a land that, while flowing with milk and honey, only somewhat briefly belonged to your forefathers over four centuries ago and is now currently occupied by many wicked or evil tribes that just don’t intend to hand you back your ancestors’ tribal lands. 
Impossible, you say? Ridiculous? Utterly insane, if you ask me. Unless the God of Creation is the one doing the calling AND the work of liberation and deliverance. Do you have the guts or crazy faith to be obedient, to trust, to put one foot in front of the other no matter the costs?
I write all this to encourage all of you NOT to minimize what is about to take place in this, one of the great stories of human history. It is one of gargantuan proportions. And yet, our faith…your faith, born in heaven itself, is a faith of gargantuan implications. If God could do this with Moses, what might he still have planned for you? 
Read the Passage three times…
Ask questions…
18 Then Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Let me go back to my own people in Egypt to see if any of them are still alive.” Jethro said, “Go, and I wish you well.”   
Was it respectful to ask the father-in-law to leave or cultural? Jethro seemed very trusting of Moses. But after 40 years, this kind of trust makes sense. Now Moses knew that his brother was coming to him because of the previous passage, but did he think he was coming to tell him that his family was dead? Why did Moses not tell Jethro what God had told him? Was his father-in-law not a believer? Was this the reason? He was a Midianite priest? Who and what did the Midianites worship? 
19 Now the LORD had said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who wanted to kill you are dead.”   
A new wrinkle that we were not told of earlier in the LORD’s conversation with Moses, so we don’t know everything that might have been said. Does this mean that the nation has forgotten Moses? He is a non-issue? 
20 So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand. 
Now it has become the staff of God; no longer is it the staff of Moses. How long a journey was it across the Sinai to Egypt? Was it a difficult journey? Would this journey be difficult on his family? Would it be safe? How old were his sons?   
21 The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.   
Was this a second conversation or from the previous conversation? If from the previous conversation, why did the writer, presumably Moses, choose to use this approach to tell us more of what was said? Why is God going through all this—the miracles and the hardening? What is the purpose to defeat your purpose? To cause a greater miracle? To severely discipline the Egyptians? Did he have a reason? Was it for enslaving Israel? Was it due to their polytheism? 
22 Then say to Pharaoh, `This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son,  
How is a nation his first-born son? I thought Jesus was? Was this because of Abraham? First-born, usually means eldest and by which the family land, name and authority were handed  down? Is this a metaphor? Does this mean that Israel is special?
23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.'”   
Here is the discipline? Intervention to allow them to go? Why so severe? Makes God sound vindictive? Is this literal—Pharaoh’s son or the entire nation’s firstborn sons?
24 At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met [Moses] and was about to kill him.   
Where did this come from? This sounds extreme? Why is Moses in brackets? How was he going to kill him? It would seem that the same God that is sending Moses to Pharaoh to tell him that he is about to lose his first born son—no small act…to take the life of a prince of Egypt—certainly means business and is NOT afraid to take the life of the servant he is sending…
25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched [Moses’] feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said.   
Why did Moses’ wife act so fast? How did she know what to do? Why now had the LORD chosen to do this? Is this something that Moses had been instructed to do, but had failed to follow through on? Why does this event come so out-of-the-blue? Why did she touch Moses’ feet? Why had Moses failed to circumcise his son? Why was it important now? Because they were getting closer to the nation once again? Would the LORD actually have killed Moses? What would he have done to find a leader to lead the nation out of Egypt? Did Israel’s redemption hang so narrowly in the balance? What does this say about God? That he will not be disrespected? That he does not play favorites? Did Zipporah resent having to circumcise her child? What was the custom of circumcision all about in the first place? Was this the symbol or sign of God’s covenant or contract with Abraham? All his male descendants would have the foreskin of their penis removed? Why this painful symbol? At one time we thought it was hygienic? Easier to clean? This does not seem to be the case today? Was it a symbol of the flesh that needs to be removed in our lives? A symbol that says that our biggest struggle with sin will be through the male’s reproductive organ? It allows us to have children, but at the same time because it is a source of great pleasure, mankind finds it difficult to stay within godly, healthy limits? (Okay enough. Just some wild thoughts.)
26 So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)   
27 The LORD said to Aaron, “Go into the desert to meet Moses.” So he met Moses at the mountain of God and kissed him.   
Is this Mount Sinai or Horeb where Moses was first called to the burning bush and later where he will receive God’s covenant with Israel or the Law, the code of ethics of how Israel was to live and worship God in the new land they were traveling to—their constitution so to speak?
What was running through Aaron’s mind? Did Aaron know what was going on? Did God speak to people often then since they did not have many or any Scriptures?
28 Then Moses told Aaron everything the LORD had sent him to say, and also about all the miraculous signs he had commanded him to perform.   
29 Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites,   
The story jumps immediately forward to their being in Egypt? Did people remember or know who Moses was? That he was raised in the house of the Pharaoh when other infant boys were put to death? That he traded all that for the role of an exiled shepherd via his coming to the defense of a fellow Israelite that was being beaten and the murder of an Egyptian who was beating him? How many elders? 
30 and Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people,  
So Aaron becomes Moses’ mouthpiece. All the people or just the elders?  
31 and they believed. And when they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.
Who’s? Moses, Jethro, his father-in-law, my own people, any of them, all the men who wanted to kill you, his wife and sons, Pharaoh, the people, Israel is my firstborn son, your firstborn son, Zipporah, her son’s foreskin, Aaron, elders of the Israelites, the people, LORD
Where’s? went back to Jethro, to my own people in  Egypt, in Midian, to Egypt, in his hand, before Pharaoh, at a lodging place on the way, into the desert, at the mountain of God
When’s?  then Moses went back, still, when you return, then say to, then Moses told, and when they heard
• Moses asks his father-in-law if he can go back to his people. 
• Jethro has no problems with this and wishes him well.
• The LORD reassures Moses that all those seeking his life have passed on—kind of like King Herod with Jesus, just in reverse. Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt.
• Moses loads up the family and heads back to Egypt with the staff of God in hand.
• The  LORD reminds Moses that his task will not be easy. Despite the miracles, God will harden Pharaoh’s heart and refuse to let Israel go.
• At this point, God will severely discipline Egypt, taking their first-born sons, because Pharaoh refused to allow God’s first-born son, Israel, to leave Egypt and worship him.
• On his way to Egypt a strange episode occurs. The LORD almost takes Moses’ life when his wife intervenes and circumcises Moses’ son.
• The LORD instructs Moses’ brother Aaron to meet Moses in the desert.
• They meet at the previous mountain where God had called Moses.
• Moses tells Aaron God’s plan for the both of them to lead Israel out of Egypt.
• They meet with the elders of Israel, and after performing the miracles before the people, the people fall down in worship because God has seen their plight is about to deliver them.
• Moses must return to Egypt.
• God reminds Moses that Pharaoh’s heart will be hard, but that God will take care of this—he will take his firstborn son. 
• Zipporah spares Moses’ life by circumcising his son. 
• Aaron is directed to meet Moses in the desert where he learns of God’s plan to liberate the Israelites.
• The Israelite elders, back in Egypt, respond worshipfully to Moses and Aaron’s message of God’s intended redemption. 
Bottom line…
Despite a serious bump in the road, Moses, equipped with a seemingly impossible mandate from God—to lead Israel out of slavery, now makes it back to Egypt.
Whys? What do I learn about God? Life? People? Myself? 
• Despite his great call, Moses is still respectful of his father-in-law.
• Eventually, our enemies…God’s enemies… will be destroyed. 
• God can be and is multi-purposed. He allows Moses to perform the miracles, but at the same time, he hardens Pharaoh’s heart–two seemingly contradictory objectives. And yet in the long term this will all make sense. In the short run, Pharaoh’s lack of a positive response, despite the miracles, could seem discouraging. But don’t be discouraged that things don’t always go the way we would like them to, even if God has called us to the task. Both the task and the resistance are allowed by God. God has something bigger up his sleeve.
• Despite Moses’ call, God was still not going to bend the rules for his especially-chosen leader. Moses had failed to circumcise his son—something all the children of Abraham were supposed to have experienced (Gen. 17:9ff). Moses’ failure to recognize God’s covenant had almost cost him his life. God must make it clear to his servant—if you work for me as my holy instrument, you will be holy…no exceptions. I am not afraid to take the life of Pharaoh’s son, and I am certainly not afraid to take your life. Get holy. Do the basics. Do what you have failed to do. Circumcise your son. 
• Zipporah’s shrewd and quick acting spared her husband’s life, though it cost her as mother to inflict pain upon her son. But she did it anyway because she knew it was the right thing to do, albeit painful and costly, as she admits. (Why Moses did not do this or why she took it upon herself to circumcise her son is not clear.)
• God can work in two different peoples lives at the same time. in very separate ways He did this with me and Rhonda in order to bring us together and he still does this in people’s lives today. 
• The proper response to the news of God’s merciful intervention, such as his sending of his Son to Spiritually intervene on our behalf, is always worship.
So What’s? (Prayerfully connect a specific personal struggle to one of the above truths or principles and be willing to share or confess it with the group.) 
2003 Application…
This week’s struggle: Just a lot to do, the chief of which is to prepare to present to the Body the elders’ ministry/financial goals for the upcoming year. There is also a renewed emphasis of work going on the church this week to finish up left over construction projects, as well as my message to prepare, etc. Just feeling a little nervous about getting it all done or managing it. 
Principle/Application: Just because God may have called us to do something doesn’t mean that it will be easy, or there won’t be divine resistance involved. In fact, there probably will be. But this is what builds up our Spiritual muscles. 
Just because he may have called us to build a church facility or to strengthen our ministry via an increase in staff, does not mean it will be easy. But you step up to the plate, honestly present your case and allow the Body to respond how they are going to respond. So far they have always come through very solidly, particularly, in these last seven years. My part is just be obedient. God is responsible for the results. 
2014 Application…
Thanksgiving…It was an amazing Sunday, especially my teaching, lunch and a picnic afterwards and a baptism and walk. I was actually better prepared than I had been in awhile. I had taken the previous week off, which no doubt helped, but I was still late in the process. And yet, even late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, the passage, illustrations and application all came together. It felt truly of the Lord–As we experience, trust and walk or live in the divine Light of the Son’s atonement for our sin and the Spirit’s words, truth and power, we are becoming children of Light to those who are lost in a ever-darkening world. We become light. We are light in a dark world. We give out hope and truth to those lost in the dark. It’s an amazing Spiritual process and journey—one not to be taken lightly or for granted. Amen! (John 12:33ff).
In addition, one of the Spiritual grandparents of one of the children I had the honor of baptizing into Christ, it turns out, attended my church over a quarter of a century ago…as a college student! In addition, they want to get together. They are from out of town and our meeting for reasons I can’t elaborate right now is absolutely crucial. I am telling you, you can’t make this stuff up…modern-day hints of God’s miraculous working in the life of Moses and the Children of Israel so long ago…
Struggle…A lot to get done seemingly. A lot of study, reading and writing…this revised lesson, this Sunday’s teaching and filling in some gaps in SLove. And yet there are still lots of sheep to shepherd, check on or look after, including wayward sheep, as well as, administrative, facility and grounds and personal tasks to get done. God give me the grace to pace myself. Grace, Lord. Grace. In your strength…your tasks…your time…your leading…your power…your truth…
Truths…God’s multi-tasking purposes within our lives; God’s call does not exempt the called from even the very basics of the Covenant’s demands. In other words, the messenger is NOT above the message he is to deliver; Zipporah quickly and shrewdly moves to save her husband’s…the messenger’s…life; the message of deliverance validated by God’s power ought to inspire worship of the Deliverer.
Application…Because I am seeing evidence of God’s eventual deliverance and power, I will worship Him. I must thank Him. I must look forward to the battle…the struggle…the war…understanding that he is constantly weaving individual destines and plot lines together to accomplish his greater will…even plot lines that seem resistant or contrarian to the task he has given us. So therefore, even if something is difficult, that really means very little. Expect it. As the writer of Hebrews, quoting the Proverbs, reminds us: “As a father disciplines his son for his own good, so God disciplines those he loves for our own good.” We can be called to a Spiritual task, and yet, there may be divinely allowed obstacles strewn within our path. It has certainly been true of my life. Both are critical for our growth…the call…and its acceptance, and the resistance that must be overcome in order to fulfill the call. For me, this week, it is balance, patience, insight, trust, perseverance. 
Your struggle?
Principle/Prayerful application?
What about your students? What are some of their current struggles?
Which principles seem to relate?
How could God prayerfully apply these truths to their lives? (Just try a few in your preparation…then try leading the application in that direction. It may go another direction. Be sensitive to God’s leading among the group.)
Special Note on the “LORD”: Notice that I AM WHO I AM as well as LORD  are in all caps in the NIV. Why is this? 
The reason for this is that both phrases or words are one in the same. LORD in all caps becomes a substitute for I AM (or Yahweh, pronounced Yah-way in Hebrew) for God’s personal name. That is why we call him LORD. When “Lord” is not in all caps, it is the Hebrew word for “master” (adonai).
Why LORD  for I AM? Good question. Because God’s personal name, I AM or Yahweh, was consider sacred and not to be taken in vain (Ex 20, one of the ten commandments), scribes substituted the vowels for “Lord or master” (adonai) underneath the consonants for the Yahweh (I AM) within the biblical text since there were no vowels to begin with (Jews did not need them; we did). Rabbi’s knew they were to substitute “adonai,” Lord, for “Yahweh,” I AM, thus not profaning the LORD’s name. But what we, later readers did was to come up with an entirely new word, one that did not really exist, one that combines the consonants of Yahweh with the vowels of adonai–Jehovah. 
In fact, for the most part, I will seldom use it. It does not really exist. We have made it up. Either use LORD (Yahweh, I AM ) or  Lord (adonai, master or Lord).
So now you know why LORD is in all caps. Remember it stand for I AM or Yahweh, God’s personal name, just like my personal name is Joe or Joseph.
Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.


Exodus 4:1-17 Overcoming the Excuses 9-21-14

Exodus Studies Pic
© 2003; 2014
Fellowship at Cross Creek
Life of Moses
Lesson 7: Overcoming the Excuses…
Ex 4:1-17
(1.12.03; 9.21.14)
Introduction…Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps one of the biggest obstacles to anyone’s Spiritual growth is the insecurity to risk the attempt or responsibility to lead others… be it one’s marriage, family, Sunday School class, Bible study or just about anything in life that involves others. I have seen it over and over again. Sheep without a shepherd. Great sheep. Talented sheep, and yet none of the sheep takes it upon themselves to risk shepherding or leading the other sheep in the very real need that needs to be met or the assignment that needs to be carried out. Someone take charge. Someone risk leadership, even imperfect leadership…even the complaints and grips of others. Seen a family or marriage without a leader? … Tragic. Seen a Bible study, small group or ministry project without a leader? … No direction. 
Now you can’t be a jerk…I mean… all the time…and be a good leader as well. Sometimes the kids think mom or dad are jerks, we all understand this, but good leaders are teachable…trainable. They want to become better leaders, not so much for their own personal glory in leading, but to get the task done and done right, and this involves people…it involves a wise, expedient expenditure or allocation of time, manpower and resources. 
What can I say? People need leadership. Not necessarily dictators, but definitely leadership…leadership and responsibility. Good leaders are willing to face their insecurities to become a better leader in order to meet the need or get the assigned task done. 
And bottom line…no leadership risked, Spiritual growth and maturity, I promise you is arrested. NO WAY around it. Even servants must eventually risk leadership. 
Exodus coach-own-child-2
So how does this relate to kids or students? I think a good teacher or leader seeks to identify, encourage and equip others, including students, to own the process of meeting the need or accomplishing the assigned task, as well as, constantly meeting the need or accomplishing the assigned task better. In other words, a leader seeks to build leaders. It is this easy? Heck, no. There are lots of pitfalls and nuances that must be navigated, but are we just teaching children for the sake of teaching or are we equipping students to think, lead and make difficult, complex and morally courageous decisions? What is our ultimate goal? 
If I was exposing this study to children, I would probably attempt to get them to recognize a moment in time in which the kids interpreted a moment when a situation needed leadership and NO ONE stood up to the plate? Or perhaps, I would get them to talk about moments in which they felt someone was being too bossy and why? Now contrast that with a situation in which there was no direction? Where’s the balance? Why didn’t they step up to the plate? Why don’t most people? Just get them thinking about the concept of leadership and why many are fearful to risk its desperate plea.  
Life of Moses’ General Introduction: You make a mistake; you think your life has changed forever; that there is no going back. In exile, you take your flock of sheep, which you have been pasturing for the past forty years, to an out-of-the-way desert valley that seems to symbolize your life. You see a fire in the distance that refuses to die. You decide to take a closer look. As you draw closer to the inextinguishable flame, suddenly your life does change forever… 
The God of the universe has plucked YOU, out of all people, a wandering shepherd, to lead your entire nation, numbering well over two million people out of the country where they are currently enslaved, across a barren wasteland with little water or food resources, to a land which their forefathers had previously shepherded their flocks for a seemingly brief three hudred years, but has been now been abandoned for over four hundred years and is currently occupied by inhabitants who have no intention of giving that land back up to their forefathers’ descendents. 
Impossible you say? Ridiculous? Sounds like it to me, unless the God of creation is the one doing the calling and doing the work. Do you have the guts to be obedient no matter what…no matter the price?
Read the Passage two or three times…
Ask questions…
Exod. 4:1   Moses answered, 
“What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, `The LORD did not appear to you’?”   
Who is they? The elders of Israel? The Egyptians? Believe about what? That it was God or I AM or the LORD sending him to lead the children of Israel (or Jacob) out of Egypt and slavery? This is a great question. I would be asking it. Who would believe him?
2 Then the LORD said to him, 
“What is that in your hand?” 
“A staff,” he replied.   
Why a staff? Was it because it was just convenient? Or was the particular tool of validation that God wanted to use? A staff to shepherd sheep. Fend off wild animals? Count sheep? Gently nudge or guide them? Lean on?
3 The LORD said, “Throw it on the ground.” 
Moses threw it on the ground 
and it became a snake, 
and he ran from it.   
How did God do this? How does God transform a wooden staff into a living snake? Was the snake hissing at him? Was it a dangerous snake? I still jump at snakes. This does come across as a bit humorous as Moses runs from his staff-transformed-into-a-snake.
Exodus Moses_rod_turns_snake_BBL72-139
4 Then the LORD said to him, 
“Reach out your hand 
and take it by the tail.” 
So Moses reached out 
and took hold of the snake 
and it turned back into a staff in his hand.   
That took courage. Why the tail? I would rather take hold of it right behind the head, so that it could not bite me. And yet, I watch snake handlers grab the tail, and then use a stick about half way down the snake’s body? How is God doing this…changing the snake back into his staff and vice versa? 
5  “This,” said the LORD, 
“is so that they may believe that the LORD, 
the God of their fathers 
–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac 
and the God of Jacob 
–has appeared to you.” 
Proof. Validation. Would they think this trickery? Only something God or a god could do?
6 Then the LORD said, 
“Put your hand inside your cloak.” 
So Moses put his hand into his cloak, 
and when he took it out, 
it was leprous, like snow.  
Did this scare or frighten Moses? Is this what leprosy look like? Like snow?
 7  “Now put it back into your cloak,” he said. 
So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, 
and when he took it out, 
it was restored, 
like the rest of his flesh.   
Moses had to be shocked.
8 Then the LORD said, 
“If they do not believe you 
or pay attention to the first miraculous sign, 
they may believe the second.   
Makes sense, but would they still think it gimmickry?
9 But if they do not believe these two signs 
or listen to you, 
take some water from the Nile 
and pour it on the dry ground. 
The water you take from the river 
will become blood on the ground.”   
A third sign. It’s as if God expects Israel’s skepticism or lack of trust in Moses. And yet, God can do anything as he is about to do. He is sparing no price at accomplishing his promise or objective of placing Abraham’s descendants back into their forefathers’ promised lands. God is keeping his word. And this is only a small token of the miracles or supernatural that he is about to perform.
10 Moses said to the LORD, 
“O Lord, I have never been eloquent, 
neither in the past 
nor since you have spoken to your servant. 
I am slow of speech and tongue.”   
Another obstacle anticipated. So despite three signs, Moses is still insecure. Does he mean that he is struggling even just communicating to God at the bush? Why was this important to Moses? Even then did leadership seem to require a mastery of words?
11 The LORD said to him, 
“Who gave man his mouth? 
Who makes him deaf or mute? 
Who gives him sight or makes him blind? 
Is it not I, the LORD?   
Why or how does God do this—make one blind and one not? Or is it that he simply allows the laws of genetic and disease run their courses?
12 Now go; I will help you speak 
and will teach you what to say.”  
God has answered his objection. I will do it for you. If I can turn a stick into a snake, and water into blood. 
13 But Moses said, 
“O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”   
Despite everything God has equipped him with, Moses still hesitates. It doesn’t surprise me. Moses still struggles. Why was he so afraid? Was his speech (such as the king’s speech in the film the King’s Speech) this bad? Did he stutter? Why would God use or allow his servant to be such a poor communicator? What was he afraid of? Would people laugh or not take him seriously? Is Moses really still asking out of the whole project?
14 Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses 
and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? 
I know he can speak well. 
He is already on his way to meet you, 
and his heart will be glad when he sees you.   
God seems to have had enough of Moses’ excuses. Why was Aaron already on his way to meet Moses? Had God put something on Aaron’s heart to go to Moses? Had God planned this anyway? Why did he become angry at Moses, if Aaron was already coming? Or had God picked Aaron for a different supporting role, but not a primary mouth-piece role?  When it says that God’s anger burns, just how mad is God? Is he really mad? Impatient? Or is Moses really pushing the envelope here?
15 You shall speak to him 
and put words in his mouth; 
I will help both of you speak 
and will teach you what to do.   
So Moses will speak after all? But Aaron will be the primary mouth piece?
16 He will speak to the people for you, 
and it will be as if he were your mouth 
and as if you were God to him.   
What an interesting expression—“God to him.” Moses would carry this much influence? 
17 But take this staff in your hand 
so you can perform miraculous signs with it.”
(Note: for a change of pace, sometimes try skimming the passage looking for nouns or naming words, then verbs or action words, or color words such as adjective or adverbs. Or look for stated questions or commands. Don’t get caught up in perfection either. Remember, the goal is to use any legitimate observing device to read or skim through the passage enough times that the student becomes more and more familiar with the passage and its narrative or argument. The more you observe the passage, the better will be your interpretation of the passage, and the better your interpretation of the passage, the better your application of the passage’s embedded truths or meanings.) 
Who’s? Moses, the LORD, they, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, man, who makes…who gives…I, the LORD, someone else, your brother, Aaron the Levite, the people, 
Where’s? on the ground, inside your cloak, from the Nile, on the dry ground, on his way, in his mouth, in your hand
When’s? then the Lord, then the Lord said, then the Lord said, and when he took it out, in the past, nor since, then the Lord’s anger, already on his way, when he sees you
• (Review) vv. 1-11  God calls Moses for the mission of his life—to deliver the people of Israel from Egypt and to take them back to the land, which was promised their forefathers.
 • (Review) vv. 12-22 God not only answers Moses question that he will be with him to help him accomplish the mission God has given him, he tells him his eternal name and gives him the message he is to take of freedom for Israelites from the Egyptians via God’s mighty hand. They will also not leave empty-handed.
• 4:1-17…
• Moses asks another question, “What if they don’t believe me?” v. 1
• The LORD gives him three signs:
a) his staff that turn into a snake and back 2-5
b) his hand turns to leprosy and back 6-8
c) water from the Nile River turning to blood 9
• But this is still not enough for Moses; he informs the LORD that he is not an eloquent speaker. v. 10.
• The LORD reassures Moses that he is capable of handling this and helping Moses. Vv. 11-12.
• But Moses protests and still asks for the LORD to send someone else. V. 13.
• Though the LORD becomes angry, he gives him his brother Aaron, to help him speak. Vv. 14-16
• He reminds him to take the staff; it will be the tool that God will perform his miracles through Moses. V. 17.
Summary…3:1-11: God calls Moses for a special mission; 3:12-22: God tells Moses he will not go alone and gives Moses God’s special name, I AM. 
4:1-17: But Moses, still fearful, asks about two problems: 1) what if the leaders of Israel don’t believe me? And 2) what about my lack of eloquence?
God answers both of these concerns: 1) along with two other signs, your staff will be a special staff that will manifest God’s powers; 2) Your brother Aaron will speak for you. 
Bottom line…I am not sending you back to your people empty handed. I am giving you a special powers and your brother Aaron’s voice. 
Note: Despite all this, Moses still does not seem secure or desiring of this call.
Special Note on the term “LORD”: Notice that I AM WHO I AM as well as LORD  are in all caps in the NIV. Why is this? 
The reason for this is that both phrases or words are one in the same. LORD in all caps becomes a substitute for I AM (or Yahweh, pronounced Yah-way in Hebrew) for God’s personal name. That is why we call him LORD. When “Lord” is not in all caps, it is the Hebrew word for “master” (adonai).
Why LORD  for I AM? Good question. Because God’s personal name, I AM or Yahweh, was considered sacred and not to be taken in vain (Ex 20, one of the ten commandments), scribes substituted the vowels for “Lord or master” (adonai) underneath the consonants for the Yahweh (I AM) within the biblical text since there were no vowels to begin with (Jews did not need them; we did). Rabbi’s knew they were to substitute “adonai,” Lord, for “Yahweh,” I AM, thus not profaning the LORD’s name. But what we, later readers did was to come up with an entirely new word, one that did not really exist, one that combines the consonants of Yahweh with the vowels of adonai–Jehovah. 
In fact, for the most part, I will seldom use it. It does not really exist. We have made it up. Either use LORD (Yahweh, I AM ) or  Lord (adonai, master or Lord).
So now you know why LORD is in all caps. Remember it stand for I AM or Yahweh, God’s personal name, just like my personal name is Joe or Joseph.
Whys? What do I learn about God? Life? People? Myself? 
• God can do anything. Nothing stops him. He has no limitation, even turning water into blood or wood into a snake.
• Humans, even God’s servants, initially can be very insecure, not only doubting God’s call upon their lives, but their ability to truly accomplish the task God is giving them to do. 
• In human terms, God can and does become impatient with our doubting his provision for the task ahead.  
• God is not afraid to answer all our fears/requests, nor to give us the power, truth and tools we need to accomplish the job. 
• In the end, God can and does direct man, including his mouth, ears and eyes, including his being deaf, mute and blind. 
• God uses what we have as his tools.
• God can use our families to help us, as Aaron with Moses (not that there weren’t problems. In fact, there were.)
• God was already providing the answer to Moses’ rebuttals in Aaron’s coming to Moses before Moses had even brought up his speech impediment. 
So What’s? (Prayerfully connect a specific personal struggle to one of the above truths or principles and be willing to share or confess it with the group.) 
2003 Application…
This Week’s struggle: I started off strong, but in the middle of the week, along with Jordan, I started watching the DVD of 24, a television series that allegedly takes place in a real time of 24 hours. It was so addicting–like a book that you can’t put down. Each episode—an hour—ended as a cliff-hanger, so it was hard to STOP watching it! Once you were finished with one DVD or episode, you wanted to go on to the next to see how the previous cliff-hanger was resolved. So I watched the entire 24 hours–actually about 16 hours (commercials had been edited out). Needless to say this really shot my productivity at the time. While it was fun, I fell behind, lost sleep and am not feeling well right now, and all this with a lot to do, as the weekend is coming up. 
Principle/Application:  Despite all that God attempts to provide us with to do the job, we can still doubt that he can help or resource ME to do it.
Can God get me through the next 36 hours? In fact, quite often, my life does seem like a 24 hour drama, especially as each weekend arrives. 
God can do anything. I only need to be sensitive to the tools and support he provides and walk in faith. He will give me the illustration, examples, editing and rehearsal I need to finish preparing my teaching. 
And in my various meetings, draw from the people God has brought me. Pull the answers from them. Empower them. In other words, everyday, be aware of God’s answers and resources as I am living out my life’s drama.
2014 Application…
Thanksgiving…I have young adults whom either I remember being born or knew shortly after they were born, independently coming to me saying I see a ministry need and I am not only willing to meet that need but am willing to lead it, if called upon. Tell me, who gets to see fruit like this in a lifetime of ministry? I am blessed beyond measure! 
And guess what? After a stressful and sustained drought, the Fall rains have returned. Something symbolic here, if you ask me. 
Struggle…an irritating fly in my joyful ointment, or perhaps as the “Beloved” cries out to her “Lover” in the Song of Songs, Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyard—for our vineyard is in floom bloom (Song of Songs 2:15). 
After seemingly a good, long run of not really having to think too deeply about finances—which has NOT been the case in previous years—we came up somewhat short here recently. It kind of caught me by surprise. My real concern is whether there is a gradual trend in which our financial output has been exceeding our financial input and that trend is just now getting exposed. We shall see. 
Truth…There are a thousands reasons something seemingly impossible will or cannot work, and yet if God calls for it to be done, and for whatever purpose, he can and will provide the resources, tools, truth and power necessary to accomplish or bring about his divinely-inspired decree or will. And despite all our seemingly reasonable human objections, there comes a point in time when the only alternative left to us is to merely trust God and step out in faith. And if God wants it done; He will do it. We are just the tools. And if he wants it done immediately, it will occur immediately, and if not, it will take longer, and longer is okay, maybe even better, because over time, it builds a stronger, more sustainable Spiritual confidence, faith, trust, backbone and relationship with our Creator…as opposed to miracles, that come and go so quickly, that as time goes by, we are tempted to question Why is God Not working in the same way as he did in the miracle? 
Note: I have seen people step out in denial. In other words, it was NOT trust in God, but their own selfish denial. And how do I know this? 1) long-term fruit or the lack thereof, and 2) they failed to take advantage of all the Spiritually supportive checks and balances that Scripture provided for them within the local church because God, it seemed was only talking to them…in a room of not just cold-hearted saints, but very godly men and women that just as passionately sought the will of God as well. 
This is not to say that God can’t or doesn’t call out the individual, as in the case of Moses, here (although Moses does have Aaron), or perhaps a Joan or Arc (France) or Gideon (Judges) or Christ himself, to go against the general public or cultural grain, and in so doing, establish a new Spiritual direction, trend or paradigm. But in those cases, history or Scripture usually makes it clear, that those surrounding the individual being led or called by God are NOT sincerely seeking the LORD as well. 
In the cases I am referring to, there are no checks and balances, and the person who is advocating that they are being led or called upon by God to do something special can’t even answer some basic motivational whys or validation of God’s direction. In this case, God over-abundantly validates Moses’ call and leading, and in fact, it is Moses who doubts the call. And in fact, I would probably be much more willing to listen to or trust someone WITH a speech or some other impediment who inwardly probably doesn’t want to do what they or others feel God is calling them to do. 
Application…Stick to the present general trend or course. I have been doing this a long time…listening to, sensing and courageously seeking to be obedient to God’s leading within my life. I feel fairly confident of the message he is giving me now, and the human resources (or Aarons) certainly seem to be stepping up to the plate and validating this direction. Stick to the course and message…Boots on the Ground…regardless of the proverbial flies in the ointment or annoying little foxes that will seek to ruin the crop. And what does Boots on the Ground  mean? More to come…It’s a metaphor for where I believe God is leading or taking our Spiritual family. Time will tell. It always does. 
Your struggle?
Principle/Prayerful application?
What about your students? What are some of their current struggles?
Which principles seem to relate?
How could God prayerfully apply these truths to their lives? (Just try a few in your preparation…then try leading the application in that direction. It may go another direction. Be sensitive to God’s leading among the group.)
Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

Gen. 47:13ff Shrewd Grace… 6-8-14

Ruins. Genesis Studies© 1998-2014
Fellowship at Cross Creek
Gen. 47:13ff
Shrewd Grace…

Intro… What does being shrewd mean? What about tough love? How does one know when to dispense grace at a seeming cost to the one receiving the grace? Doesn’t that seem a bit contradictory? I mean isn’t grace something not earned, or can grace be mixed with discipline and therefore be in a person’s best interest? In other words, was it a very disciplined grace or favor that found me?

Rhonda and I were just playing a dice game called Farkle with seven year old Maliki. As he rolled, he kept dropping the dice all over the floor, delaying the game significantly as we would then have to search for the dice somewhere on the floor or under the table, so finally, I told him whatever die or dice he dropped on the floor, he lost them as a part of his roll or turn. He did it again, and I stuck to my threat. He lost the last die and therefore goose-egged or farkled that roll. Remarkably after that no die ever hit the floor, AND he came back to win on what turned out to be the game’s last roll, because he rolled (on the table and not on the floor) the exact dice and, therefore, the exact number of points he needed to win the game. Was my discipline of him an example of being a shrewd steward of grace? Perhaps. It not only stabilized the progress of the game, so that I didn’t pinch his head off, but he made a strategic, risky gamble on his last set of rolls, a gamble that none of us had employed during the entire game, but a gamble that paid off. Not bad for a kid. Not bad at all. I suppose that is why sports have coaches.

Because of the desperate times and season Joseph was battling against, he determined he had to be extremely shrewd in managing or selling the grain he had collected during the years of bountiful rains and harvests. In doing so, he not only saved the lives of all the thankful Egyptians who were able to purchase the grain, first with all their money, then later with their livestock and lands, but he also solidified the wealth of the Egyptian monarchy and therefore, the political stability of the civilized world. The very shrewd use of God’s previous resources brought saving life into what could have easily been the death and destruction of a great empire. Instead, Egypt’s eventual decline was delayed for centuries.

And isn’t that what Jesus—his life, death, resurrection and the ensuing giving of his Spirit, truth and community to his believers—has done and will do even more someday for the world? Through a very painful, disciplined allocation of his life and Spiritual resources, two thousand years later, not only has the world greatly benefited (whether the world fully gets it or not) and, perhaps more importantly, so do I…and so do we.

Therefore, by Spiritual extension, as God’s redeemed vessels of divine love poured out over, on and through us, as well as, being more and more saturated with his ever-enlightening truth and Spirit, are we not to be Spiritually savvy dispensers or allocators of his truth and love as well–not casting his precious pearls before the swine?

Bottom line…much like Joseph, are we not called to be shrewd in both our physical and Spiritual subduing, saving and stabilizing of God’s now fallen and chaotic Creation? He admonished his disciples to be innocent as doves, but shrewd as serpents (Matt. 10:10).

Recently, we began a new unit or section or person of, study…the life of Joseph. Essentially, the story of Joseph, is for the most part, our story. Chosen by God for a special purpose, Joseph must first endure much suffering and injustice before arriving at his God-ordained purpose and calling, and what a purpose it will be.

As we read, I want you to continue pondering, your special identity in Christ, and that just because you may be going through difficult days, your suffering…your waiting is NOT in vain. As God’s child…as God’s children, just as with Joseph and his brothers, you…we…all have a purpose in Christ (Romans 8; Eph. 1; 1 Peter 1).

Your servant,

Series INTRO…

The Bible’s very first word is the Hebrew word Bərēšīṯ, which means “in [the] beginning.” “Genesis” is actually the Greek word for “beginnings” or “origins,” and thus the origin for both the Latin and English transliteration: Genesis.

So what’s our goal? Just to explore. Like an archaeologist exploring ancient ruins, we are going back to the Scripture’s beginnings to do a little Spiritual digging and poking around to see what was God doing before God’s Son was Spiritually conceived in his mother Mary’s womb? What were the world, people and life like from the very beginning?

Summary of Recent Explorations…

 The Creation: The Creator Creates His Creation and its Caretakers (Adam and Eve). Gen. 1-2.

• The Fall: But a Crafty Adversary Emerges, Infecting the Creator’s Caretakers with a Virulent Strain of Deceptive Evil (non-beneficial actions). Gen. 3-4.

• The Flood: The story of the righteous Servant and a devastating Flood.  In order to Save his Creation from a self-destructive and merciless evil, the Creator Must radically purge or cleanse his Creation Gen. 5-7.

• Creation’s New Beginning…Gen. 8-11.

• Creation’s New Caretaker: The Creator Raises up, Chooses and Greatly Blesses a righteous and trusting Caretaker named Abraham. Gen. 12-25.

• The Torch of the Creator’s Trusting Caretaking Now Passes to Succeeding Generations (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph…) Gen. 26ff.

Joseph’s Story…Gen. 37-50.

• Jacob’s older sons grow deeply resentful of their favored youngest brother, Joseph. Gen. 37:1ff.

• Joseph’s jealous older brothers cruelly sell their younger brother Joseph, against his will, into slavery, and then inform their grieving father, Jacob, that Joseph has been killed by wild animals. Gen. 37:12ff.

• Despite being trafficked as a slave and falsely imprisoned, God’s favor mysteriously still accompanies Joseph. Gen. 39:1ff.

• Despite correctly interpreting the baker and cupbearer’s dreams while in prison, Joseph’s good deeds, go momentarily unrewarded. Gen. 40:1ff.

• When Pharaoh’s cupbearer recalls how Joseph correctly interpreted his dream of restoration to Pharaoh’s court while he was imprisoned along side Joseph, he recommends Joseph to Pharaoh to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. When Joseph is able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream correctly, as seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, Joseph is finally delivered from his false imprisonment. Gen. 41:1ff.

• Pharaoh empowers Joseph to guide Egypt through these next fourteen years of plenty and famine. Gen. 41:38ff.

• Due to the famine, Joseph’s brothers, come to Egypt in search of grain. Unknowingly, the Egyptian ruler that they seek to purchase grain from is their younger brother Joseph. Sensing a divine plan, Joseph accuses his brothers of spying and forces them to leave their brother Simeon behind as surety that they will return with their youngest brother Benjamin. Gen. 42:1ff.

• When Jacob’s sons tell him of the bargain that they were forced to accept for their grain, Jacob initially refuses to risk losing a third son. Gen. 42:19ff.

• Finally, with grain supplies running low, Joseph’s brothers are able to persuade their father to allow them to return to Egypt, accompanied by their youngest brother, Benjamin, to purchase more grain. Their return to Egypt with Benjamin is rewarded with a great banquet held in their honor in the presence of the Egyptian ruler whom had originally sold them the grain. Gen. 43:1ff.

• Once again, the brothers have their departure from Egypt momentarily aborted under the false pretenses that one of them has stolen a silver cup. When the missing cup is found in Benjamin’s sack, his older brother Judah now offers himself to serve in Benjamin’s place in order that Benjamin might return home safely to their father. Gen. 44:1ff.

• When he can no longer contain his pent-up emotions, Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers, warning them of the famine’s severity and their need to return here with their father to live in the shadow of Egypt’s great providence. Gen. 45:1ff.

• Pharaoh offers the children of Israel the best that Egypt has to offer. Gen. 45:16ff.

• With God’s blessing Israel takes his entire family to Egypt, where he is reunited with his son Joseph and settles down in the land of Goshen to care for their flocks. Gen. 46:1ff.

• That while Israel even blesses Pharaoh for granting Israel and his sons’ request to settle down and graze their flocks in the rich lands of Goshen, Israel, close to his death, still makes his son Joseph promise him that he will not bury his body here in Egypt, but with his fathers back in Israel’s Promised Lands. Gen. 47:1-12; 27-31.

Egyptian grain storage

Excavations of an ancient grain storage facility in Egypt dating back almost four thousand years to the time of Joseph.

Pray; read three times (perhaps just twice) and ask questions… 

13 Now there was no food in all the land, because the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because of the famine. 

So the famine has not only devastated Canaan where Israel had come from with his family, but Egypt too.

14 Joseph gathered all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan for the grain which they bought, and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. 

There seems to be a connection with Canaan and Egypt, like Egypt rules over Canaan? Interesting. So people are buying grain from Egypt, is that the idea?

15 When the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us food, for why should we die in your presence? For our money is gone.” 

So individuals have spent all their money in buying grain? Apparently, large landowners and farmers did not also store up grain?

16 Then Joseph said, “Give up your livestock, and I will give you food for your livestock, since your money is gone.” 

And grain is required to feed livestock when there is no grass due to the drought?

17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses and the flocks and the herds and the donkeys; and he fed them with food in exchange for all their livestock that year. 

Joseph seems a shrewd bargainer. This does not seem like the naïve son who was sharing his dreams with his family or was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers or wrongly sent to prison by Potiphar. Has life’s lessons toughened Joseph considerably? I mean, there does not seem to be a lot of mercy taking place here—why?

18 When that year was ended, they came to him the next year and said to him, “We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent, and the cattle are my lord’s. There is nothing left for my lord except our bodies and our lands. 

19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we and our land will be slaves to Pharaoh. So give us seed, that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.”

Notice that the Egyptians offer to sell their lands. Joseph does not suggest it.

20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for every Egyptian sold his field, because the famine was severe upon them. Thus the land became Pharaoh’s. 

Thus the land became Pharaoh’s…legally, which is still important via deeds of sale no doubt.

(I remember where I was from how I was always told that during the Great Depression Capt. Black paid all the back property taxes on much of the county’s farmlands and thus, still to this day, via his descendants, owns and farms much of the county’s rich farmlands.)

21 As for the people, he removed them to the cities from one end of Egypt’s border to the other. 

Why? Is this how cities came to be in Egypt?

22 Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had an allotment from Pharaoh, and they lived off the allotment which Pharaoh gave them. Therefore, they did not sell their land. 

This seems very similar to the Levitical cities (as opposed to Land, the tribe of Levi’s portion of the was God, so they were given cities throughout all the 12 tribes) in the Promise Land.

23 Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, I have today bought you and your land for Pharaoh; now, here is seed for you, and you may sow the land. 

24 At the harvest you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four-fifths shall be your own for seed of the field and for your food and for those of your households and as food for your little ones.” 

Here comes taxes so to speak.

25 So they said, “You have saved our lives! Let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s slaves.” 

Ironically, the people don’t regret this because they have survived. I suppose living is more important that cattle, lands and sharecropping with the king.

26 Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt valid to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; only the land of the priests did not become Pharaoh’s.





• Because of the famine’s severity, the people use all their money to buy grain.

• When their money was all gone, they traded their livestock for grain.

• When their livestock was all gone, except for the priests who were exempt from selling their lands, they gladly traded their lands for grain. In receiving seed for planting, they in turn would be required to payback one-fifth of their harvest to Pharaoh because he owned the land that they were farming. In addition, this practiced continued hundreds of years after this severe famine…all the way to Moses’ day when Genesis was formally written.

Summary: Joseph very shrewdly, through the selling of the grain that he had stored up during the years of abundant harvests, ends up not only saving many lives from starvation, but in the process also solidifies the Pharaoh’s great wealth.

Why did God include this event in his record or what would we not know–about God, life, myself, others, etc.–if this story were not in the Bible? 

• We know that for sure that Joseph was incredibly shrewd in the way he went about not only saving the people from starvation, but securing for his master the wealth of Egypt. And everyone was happy. No complainers. Salvation, power and wealth wrought by the hand of God through a chosen, available, righteous, faithful, shrewd and steadfast servant. Are we Joseph? Are we Josephs? Chosen by God to deliver the world from its devastating Spiritual drought?  Increasing the strength of mighty Egypt for generations to come? Was this the Pilgrim/Puritan story in America? The Pilgrim/Puritan Spiritual values and work ethic leading to our country’s stability and greatness within the world, rescuing the world from two world wars and one cold war? Just a thought…

• It’s okay to be shrewd…even tough…and for people to be thankful for that shrewd toughness.

• Joseph, knowing full-well that the source of his gifts, talents and destiny was God, still understood that he served the king or Pharaoh of Egypt, a pharaoh who had not only trusted him with the fortunes of Egypt, but had rescued him from prison and had richly provided for his family in Goshen. Bottom line: Joseph was a steward, not only for God, but for his master, the king of Egypt. It was NOT his wealth and greatness he was serving, but greater authorities and powers. Why can’t we see life in such a manner? We are only stewards of the gifts, talents, abilities and circumstances that God has dispensed upon us. It is NOT our well-being we seek to accomplish, but our well-being is brought about by rather NOT focusing on ourselves, but instead serving others…seeing my life…our lives…as a Spiritual stewardship. I am here to serve. I am most fulfilled when I am used by God to foster Spiritual good…or what is in the Spiritual best interests of Creation.

• Perhaps this was also God’s plan to stabilize the region with the Pharaoh’s power and wealth. National, even region and sometimes world stability not only profits those blessed by its blessings of peace and prosperity, but foreshadow the biblically promised kingdom of God when the world for the most part will be at Spiritual rest. Thus, Paul commands us to pray for our leaders and rulers. 

First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, 2 even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, 4 since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim. 2:1ff. 

In other words, the gospel can and does still prosper during times of world peace. In fact, it was during the Pax Romana or Roman Peace that the gospel was born and was spread via Roman roads, and taking firm root…roots that that even today still bear much Spiritual fruit.

So What?

Thanks… The rain? Man, it’s dark outside. Dark clouds and sky. Hail, thunder, lightning, strong winds, rain. The cold air moves in causing warm air to rapidly rise, condense into moisture and return to the earth. Everything seems so lush and green. Another strong Sunday. Powerful worship, teaching and great, efficient picnic. We were done well before 2 PM. Probably a new record. We did the reasonable best we could. We left nothing on the table. If CRU did not feast, it wasn’t because Fellowship did not put forth the effort. Thank you, God. Thanks, to my wife for heading up the picnic. This kind of organizing leadership was certainly NOT your obvious gift or desire thirty-five years ago, but MAN, you have grown into making this run  work efficiently. And thanks Fellowship for assisting her. Despite the ticks and flying ants (I hope NOT termites), we persevered. Thanks HUD for the barbecue. Thanks Shann and the Worship Team for a wonderful worship.

Also heard lots of good feedback with what we discussed on Sunday.

Hate, narcissism, sadness, lonely, questionable values, materialistic, broken, self-absorbed, worldly, arrogant, shallow, jealous, insecure, seemingly-rejected, bitter, sick, entitled, godless, confused, hopeless, foolish, wanting to be loved or adored, lustful, worthy, idolatrous, spoiled, mislead, seemingly invisible, socially-challenged. These were some of the terms you used to describe what you observed in two of Elliot Rodger’s self-posted videos—videos he reposted shortly before he enacted his planned Day of Retribution for having been, as he interpreted it, been rejected romantically by women. On the evening of May 23, the last day of Spring classes, Elliot, a 22 year-old part-time UCSB college student, ended up killing six people, besides himself, and injuring 13 more, as well as rocking Southern California and perhaps, even if only momentarily, the world.

Basically, I made the case, like an uncomfortable mirror held up to our faces, Elliot Rodger, his life, his family, his videos and his 141-page manifesto, whether we like it or NOT, is our…America, each and every family in America, each and every one of us… uncomfortable mirror. Sadly, we are Elliot and Elliot is us….hopefully not in one misguided exploding nutshell of insanity, but certainly undeniable portions as you described above. And although Elliot had been diagnosed as having the autistic social disorder of Asperger’s Syndrome, what Elliot seemed to be saying underneath it all was that he just wanted to be validated. Like all of us, he wanted value and worth, or Dr. Larry Crab describes human’s greatest emotional needs—to be significant and safe…to be valued and okay.

Elliot, in his own warped worldview, thought that validation would only come through sexual intimacy with a beautiful girl.  Ironically and tragically, he construed a world in which that was never going to happen either.  Besides dressing nicely and appearing in public, he never reached out to any girls. Therefore, he created an existence in which he was never going to receive what he believed would make him truly happy. Trapped, in his “living hell,” as Elliot describes it, he decided that if he wasn’t going to have sex, others wouldn’t either. He became a god and attempted to play God. Elliot, as it turned out, was not a very good God.

Elliot was never intended to be God or a god. Rather, the Scriptures tell us that there is only one true source of lasting, sustainable significance and safety, or value and worth, and that is the Creator himself. Not only did God create us in his own image, after our fall into sin or imperfection, through his Son’s sacrificial atonement and the gift of his Spirit of truth and power, God is recreating us into the image of his Son. We have value. It was given to us on the cross. Our redemption—our value and eternal safety–according to Mark 10:35ff, was bought with the life of God. God so loved the world, that he gave…(he gave what)…his Son…(to suffer, die and therefore make atonement for mankind’s imperfection) so that whoever puts his trust in him…his atonement…will live forever (with God) and will not die (forever)…John 3:16.

No human, job, family, event, experience, moment, accomplishment, amount of money, fame, prestige, will ever be able to give me the significance and safety that my broken soul so deeply craves. Why? Because they are not perfect. They are NOT God. They are NOT God enough. Too fragile; too imperfect, too fallen and flawed themselves. For a bit, perhaps. Moments, perhaps. But never enough to satisfy thirst. Only God. And his well, water fountain, river…of significance and safety never ever runs dry. Every moment of every day, I can drink it in. I have value. I have worth, and NO ONE can take it away from me. Eternal fact. Trust. Faith. Believe. Say it again and again and again. God’s truth for my flawed truth. God’s value for man’s incomplete value of me. Yes, sadly, we are Elliot and he is us, but instead of angrily taking out our revenge upon the world for not loving or admiring us the way our souls crave to be loved or admired, by faith and trust, we can drink from the well of value and worth that never runs dry—God—and immediately have our soul’s thirst quenched. It makes all the difference in the world, and could have made in both Elliot and the lives of his victims. And it can still make a difference, in the lives of a million, billion other partial-Elliots like us out there. The mirror drives us to a savior. That savior is Jesus.

Truth(s)… Shrewd planning and toughness can not only save lives, but honor and reward those we seek to serve. We are and can be the middle-men or stewards of God’s great benefits. Tough love provides a peace that allows God’s blessings to thrive.

Struggle(s)…Balance, balance, balance, motivation, rebellion, perfectionism, difficulty, choosing, breathing, being patient, relaxing within the challenges, reaching out to and finding the lost sheep, being shrewd and wise, as I seek to be led by God to challenge sheep.

Application… I am just the steward; it is not about my personal comfort or happiness. I can be uncomfortable. I can take risks. I can make mistakes. I can learn. I can grow. I can think, ponder and re-evaluate. I can think and pray, and talk and ask for feedback. And it’s okay to be a shrewd steward of God’s grace, and in doing so, I/we can and will still save lives, as well as, bring further glory to our Creator.

And what do I mean by being a “shrewd” steward of God’s grace? My tendency, I think, is to be too light, too gracious and too understanding at times, which is NOT always in someone’s best interest. No doubt, much like gold to us, because of Joseph’s shrewd measures, the Egyptians truly valued Egypt’s grain. It was a precious commodity…a life-saving commodity. Thus desperate times required stringent measures. Makes me wonder…should we as stewards of God’s eternal truths, love, grace, mercy, hope and wisdom, be diligent, shrewd and/or wise in our dispensing of the gifts God has given us? We make this case with God’s Spiritual or sustainable love. Not only should it be loyal, but according to Phil. 1:9-10, it should be wise and insightful. It can also be reconciling– both soft and tolerant within biblical, moral, Spiritual boundaries or tough with increasing consequences if behavior strays outside the boundaries. I mean isn’t that shrewd. I am NOT just going to throw grain away or be loose with it. Lives are depending upon it. Some poorly thought-through yeses leaves us with I have no choice but to say NO because there is nothing left. We have given it all away. And to those who didn’t value God’s grace or life-saving grain. 

In between Jesus’ admonition to judge ourselves before we judge others and to ask, seek and knock on God’s benevolent door for the good gifts he wants to give us, Jesus utters these seemingly-cryptic words: Do not give what is holy to dogs and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet and turn and tear YOU to pieces. Matt. 7:6-7.  Is Jesus admonishing his listeners to be shrewd in dispensing the gifts and graces of God? Quite possibly.

Your application:

Biggest Struggle at the moment:

How does what happen here relate to you?

What about your kids?

Biggest Struggles (Imagine these or several–put yourself in their shoes–walk through a day with them at school, at home. What might they encounter?)

Now how does what happen here possibly relate/ (Remember this is only to give you a feel or an introductory hook or a reinforcing took; in there looking, they may come up with something entirely different.)

Remember to have fun, sense the Spirit’s leading and develop a love for these kids.

As always, thanks!


Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission.” (

Candles and Roses

fellowshipwebbanner-white orig

Dear Fellowship Family,
One of the few negatives of always working weekends, especially when your mate works weekdays, is trying to find a time to squeeze in a date weekend.  So a few years back, well, probably many years back, a friend (okay, Tod) was able to secure me a comped condo for a early, cold February weekend so that I could surprise Rhonda with a date weekend. I borrowed a bunch of candles from the church, bought a few dozen roses and rose petals and, with the help of a dear sister (Patti Cline), attempted to create the most romantically intimate environment possible. I think I told Rhonda just to pack a bag. She had no idea where we were going. 
When we arrived at our surprise location, Rhonda was greeted with a rose petal- strewn path into a candle-lit, serenaded paradise. It was a sight to behold (thanks, Patti). 
Why did I go to such lengths? I wanted to honor my beloved, by attempting to create a romantically, intimate environment. I think she got the message.  
This was also the weekend that in the midst of a snowstorm, Rhonda introduced me to the ultimate all-time chic chick flick…the entire six-hour 1995 BBC Jane Austen “Pride and Prejudice” miniseries. In fact, after watching it into the early dawn, I decided NOT to make a 6-hour trek through a blizzard to Northwest Arkansas to watch my beloved Razorbacks upset what turned out to be eventual college basketball national champions that year, the Florida Gators (and for any of you wondering why I had scheduled both events for the same weekend. I hadn’t.  A couple which I married the previous year had surprised me with the tickets). 
And I must confess, despite my best intentions for that weekend, I was still intent on trying to accomplish both, even if it meant a six hour drive through a blizzard, and my precious wife, bless her heart, would have accommodated my crazy pursuit of college basketball Nirvana. After all, it was OUR weekend. 
But fortunately reason or something (the Spirit perhaps) prevailed and instead, I experienced a memorably, romantic and exclusive weekend with my wife, as well as, becoming exposed to something I would have never chosen to experience in my wildest masculine, or perhaps feminine, imagination—how really good writers, even female writers, such as Austen, are able to subtly capture with pen on paper, the daily realities of real people’s feelings, thoughts, emotions and desires and then to turn those intriguing realities into captivating narratives that speak to the hearts, minds and dreams of all peoples, including my wife. 
What’s my story’s point? I can’t promise you a Spiritually-charged or intimate moment with God’s Spirit during this Sunday’s “Elijah worship,” but with the help of my friends, we will attempt to create a moment in which it is possible. 
Elijah the Tishbite, the only other man in the Bible, besides Enoch, who did NOT die, but instead was taken up into heaven, was, seemingly, an unassuming 9th century BC Hebrew prophet who, because of his courage in calling out the moral and Spiritual darkness of his times, including the wickedness of King Ahab, Ahab’s evil wife, Jezebel, and Jezebel’s many false prophets of the fertility and storm god, Baal, was suddenly thrust onto one of the great Spiritual stages of all time—a stage in which Elijah, alone with Yah, must now compete with almost a thousand false prophets for the affections of God’s wayward people. Who is the true God? The one Creator God, Yah, who had both previously created and then rescued his people, Israel, from their  Egyptian servitude and had placed them within their Promised Land or the impotent Baal who was now presiding over a three year drought that had transformed the Promise Land into a barren wilderness? 
Before the electric moment of truth, the Scriptures records that Elijah, whose name means “Yah is MY God,” cried out to the people, “How long are you going to limp around on two crutches? If Yah is the true God, then walk after Him, but if Baal is, then walk after him.” 
Strangely, Scripture says that the people said: “NOT A WORD” (1 Kings 18:21).  
Where they in fear of Ahab and Jezebel or which way the mob or culture’s proverbial moral or religious winds were blowing at the moment? Did their silence hedge their bets? I am not sure. I just know that because of the faithful actions of ONE MAN, the glory of God broke through Israel’s darkness and the rains finally came. 
I want to celebrate, recreate, observe…honor that moment. That despite how dark the land, times or culture may become, it only takes ONE for Yah to reveal his powerful light through. 
Will God bless us? I don’t know. That’s his prerogative and for his purposes. 
I just want to declare LIGHT or TRUTH in the dark!
Let us NOT NOT be silent! Let us testify with our prayers, our hearts, minds, gifts, presence, words, songs, voices, confessions, attention and his truth that Yah truly is God, regardless of the times, regardless of the culture, regardless of a king’s or nation’s false religiosity, regardless of a growing moral and Spiritual darkness within the land or regardless of a nation’s Spiritual, moral and economic drought. 
I want to declare truth. Will you declare light and truth with me…with us? Will you be a part of this possibly Spiritually-electric, romantic, intimate, enlightening, exclusive moment? 
And as preparation for this moment and as no doubt there were many both fasting and praying on behalf of Elijah’s cutting-edge moment, though he felt alone (I Kings 18:22), because as Yah later informs Elijah, “I have kept in Israel seven thousand, all the knees that have NOT bowed to Baal, and all the mouths that have NOT kissed him” (1 Kings 19:18), I too am asking anyone who feels inspired ahead of time to consecrate our sacred moment in prayer, or perhaps, even fasting and praying, and even if only for one meal or a few precious moments, PLEASE DO SO, by all means! Pray that Yah-God will jealously guard our attempt at a Spiritually romantic with his Spirit with a high wall or hedge of his protection.
We plan to offer a nursery plus perhaps for any fidgety children and babies, but remember this is for ALL ages. This is a truth that will be testified to by the dramatic retelling of an ancient living story through prayer, Scripture, music and song, thus it is our hope that it does capture thoughts and sooth anxious hearts. And if anyone feels called of God to sacrificially serve our children in this capacity, please feel free to let B or me know before Sunday. 
I look forward to sharing a Spiritually romantic moment with you with our LORD!
your servant,
Joseph M. Cross