Monday, April 17, 2017

Turn Aside

In Exodus 3:1-6 it says,
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.

Moses was a shepherd. He was in the desert by himself tending to his father in law's flock of sheep. He was doing his every day normal routine, but this day was about to be much different! God should be able to find us being faithful in the place(s) where He has called us. We need to be good stewards of the little and not despise small beginnings!

In verse 2 it says that Moses looked and saw a burning bush. This was most likely not an uncommon occurrence, but there was something different about this burning bush. So Moses decided to turn aside and look at it again. Moses decided to inspect it and examine it more closely. God notices that Moses turned aside and that's when the Lord speaks to Moses.

Just looking and seeing the bush burning isn't what caused God to speak to Moses. It was when Moses turned aside and continued to look that He spoke to Moses.

God didn't shout from the bush to get his attention. God waited until He saw Moses turn aside to see and look again. That's when God spoke. Many times we don't hear God speaking because we aren't listening. We aren't taking the time to seek Him and turn aside and listen.

In verse 6 it says Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look upon God. I want to take us on a quick journey through Exodus and Moses' life in order to see the progress and change in his relationship with the Lord. Remember that in chapter 3 Moses is fearful and hiding his face from the Lord.

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After this defining moment at the burning bush, Moses continued to hear from the Lord and obey and grow in closer relationship with Him. Moses saw the plagues in Egypt, he saw God deliver Israel out of Egypt, he saw the Lord split the Red Sea, and he saw the Lord deliver Israel from pharaoh and His army pursuing them.

Moses saw Israel provided for miraculously while in the wilderness. They followed a pillar of cloud in the day and a pillar of fire at night. They were provided with manna while in the wilderness. They were provided with water from rocks. They were delivered from numerous enemies on multiple occasions.

Now skipping ahead to Exodus 20, in verses 18-21 it says,
Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.

Moses is no longer fearful and hiding his face from the Lord like he did at the burning bush in chapter 3. Now he is drawing near to "the thick darkness" where there is thunder, lightning, trumpet sounds, and smoke. The same happenings that were causing the rest of Israel to pull away, tremble in fear, and only be bystanders was causing Moses to behave in a completely different manner These things were causing Moses to turn aside and draw closer, not pull away in fear.

"Even if God speaks audibly from Heaven, some people would only hear it as the sound of thunder. The difference between the deaf and the hearing is not how loud God speaks, but how open we are to hear Him speak." - Kris Vallotton

Moses went up on the mountain many times to be with the Lord and receive instruction and direction from Him. Moses dedicated time to being with the Lord. There were at least two separate 40 day stretches where Moses was on the mountaintop with the Lord, besides the many other shorter periods of time. He did this out of hunger. He did this out of necessity. Moses continued to turn aside and seek the Lord.

Moses changed from being a man scared of the Lord and hiding his face to a man that spent incredible amounts of time with the Lord. In Exodus 32 he talked the Lord out of killing all of Israel after they made the golden calf. The same guy who was scared to talk to pharaoh was now bold enough to speak to God and change God's mind! That's a HUGE change, but that change didn't happen over night! It was a long process. This change came out of an ever deepening intimate relationship with the Lord.

In Exodus 33:7-11 it says,
Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the Lord went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp. So it was, whenever Moses went out to the tabernacle, that all the people rose, and each man stood at his tent door and watched Moses until he had gone into the tabernacle. And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door. So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.

Moses pursued the Lord. Moses worshipped before something happened or until the Lord came. The people of Israel only worshipped after the Lord had already come.

Moses was proactive and the people were only reactive. All but Joshua. And who took over as leader once Moses was dead? Joshua! The Lord spoke to Moses face to face as a friend. Joshua hungered for the same kind of relationship as Moses. Joshua was desperate and hungry as well!

A good question we can ask ourselves: Am I a true worshipper or am I only a reactor?

Later in this same chapter Moses prays an amazing prayer, and this prayer shows just how much he has grown in relationship with the Lord and how truly dependent he was on the Lord. In verse 15 Moses prays, "Then he said to Him, 'If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.'" And in verse 18 he says to the Lord, “Please, show me Your glory.” And in chapter 34 we read that Moses was spending so much time with the Lord and in such close relationship that his face was actually shining!

What if we lived in such a way!? Moses wouldn't leave a place unless the presence of the Lord left first. It sounds very similar to the way Jesus lived. Jesus only said what the Father told Him to say and only did what the Father showed Him to do. They were completely connected in relationship and dependence. We were created to live in the same fashion.

Moses spoke face to face with the Lord as a friend. Moses wouldn't leave a place unless the presence of the Lord left first. Moses wanted to see the glory of the Lord and the Lord honored his request and passed before Him! And finally, the face of Moses was shining with the glory of God. But I believe that none of those things would've happened if Moses had not first turned aside at the burning bush to see the Lord.

Seeking precedes finding.

Deuteronomy 4:29 says, "But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul."

We will find Him IF we seek Him with everything we have!

In A.W. Tozer's book The Pursuit of God he writes, "Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted."

2 Chronicles 16:9a says, "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him."

The Lord is searching for those that love Him and want Him. He's looking for those that are hungry! He's seeking those that He can show Himself strong to.

I want to encourage you today to take the time to stop and turn aside and diligently seek God with your whole heart. He waits to be wanted!

He's waiting for those that will choose to turn aside.

Shake the earth!
- Joel

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Hernia Disappeared! The Power of Testimony

Last year while doing a small remodeling project in my kitchen I felt something tear in my lower right abdomen as I was lifting something heavy. It didn't bother me at first so I didn't think about it or give it much thought. But a few months later I began working at Menards and was lifting 50 pound bags of dog food and bird seed multiple times a day. I was fine at first but after a couple of months of working there it started to aggravate my stomach, caused me a lot of pain, and also made me super fatigued. After working only 4-5 hours I would need to come home and nap for 2-3 hours. It totally wore me out.

One day it was causing me so much pain that I decided to go into urgent care. After being there for an hour or two they weren't able to tell me much. I don't even remember what they thought it was. They just ruled out the possibility of it being something serious like my appendix or gall bladder and sent me home. I then scheduled an appointment with a natural homeopathic doctor we sometimes visit and he was able to see me pretty quickly. He let me know that I had an inguinal hernia and the pain was being caused by the hernia pinching off a nerve or vessel to my testicles. So basically it felt like I was getting kicked in the nuts ALL the time! (All the males reading are now cringing and feeling uncomfortable haha!) Every 10-15 minutes I would be in super bad pain for a couple of minutes as this vessel was pinched off. Not fun at all.

After seeing this doctor he believed I could most likely avoid surgery and he gave me some stretches to do and some natural remedy stuff to take. He also put me on weight restrictions and running restrictions for awhile. I wasn't allowed to lift more than 20 pounds and I couldn't run or jog. I believe the weight restrictions were for 2 weeks and the running restrictions were for a whole month. I did what he prescribed and after a couple of days I wasn't in excruciating pain any more and it got to the point where I was feeling pretty good again.

Fast forward to April of 2017. I have been mostly pain free and the hernia hasn't bothered me much. It has only caused me bad pain about 10 times in the last 6 months but I can still feel it bulging out pretty often. It is especially easy to find at night when laying in bed or right after lifting something heavy. So it has been manageable, but it is still there and limits me at times. I am very mindful of where my son jumps on me, because it doesn't feel very good when he lands on that spot!

Last weekend I attended a Christian men's conference at a camp on Lake Koronis in Paynesville, MN. I have attended the weekend men's conference half a dozen times or more over the years and this camp is also where I attended church youth camp as a teenager. I have some very fond memories of the camp and of the things I have experienced in the Lord over the years there. It is a special place to me and I always expect to experience the Lord when I attend meetings there.

During the first evening service, Pastor Brad Brede, the minister who holds the men's conference as well as the youth camp, was ministering and sharing about what the Lord has been doing in his ministry as he travels all over the United States. During this time he gave a testimony of someone being healed of a hernia during one of his services without even being prayed for. When I heard this testimony I quietly said under my breath, "I receive that for myself Lord!"

I didn't feel any different at the time, but I was full of faith and hope (joyful and confident expectation) because I know the power of testimony. After the service I felt my stomach and couldn't find the hernia. I felt for it that night while in bed and couldn't find it then either. Jesus healed me! Praise God!!!

I understood the power of testimony because I had studied and taught a message on the topic in May of last year at my church. While studying, I had learned that in the Old Testament the word testimony comes from a word meaning “do again.”

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Testimony acts a lot like a magnifying glass, it attracts and amplifies what God can "do again." Testimonies reveal what we can expect God to "do again." Sharing our testimony encourages and imparts faith and releases God’s power to perform similar acts, miracles, signs, and wonders again.

God is actually limited when we do not recount and give witness and testify of His acts of blessing and power (Acts 4:33). True testimony has life in it! In Mark 16:14 Jesus actually rebuked the disciples when they didn't believe the testimony of Him being risen.

So when I heard the testimony of the man's hernia being healed, I not only knew the power of testimony but I also expected Jesus to do it again! Jesus is our Healer and by His stripes we were healed (1 Peter 2:24).

Photo courtesy of Brade Brede 

Expectation is a very important part of our Christian faith and the Church. Without expectation there is little life, and without life the Church is no longer a living Body but a museum or even worse, a graveyard. Have you ever attended a church or a service with no expectation and very little life? Such services have little to do with a living relationship with a living God, but are mainly dead religious exercises. There is little life and because of that there are very few testimonies of life.

In the book When Heaven Invades Earth Bill Johnson writes, "The testimony of God creates an appetite for more of the activities of God. Expectation grows wherever people are mindful of His supernatural nature and covenant. When the expectation grows, miracles increase. When the miracles increase, testimonies increase as well. You can see the cycle... The reverse is also true."

If I didn't believe Jesus is our Healer or that healing is for us today, then I probably wouldn't expect God to heal me or to heal others. But I do expect God to heal people when I pray for them, and they get healed! If I didn't expect healing then I doubt people would get healed as often as they do.

Your life testimony and the testimonies of what God has done in your life are some of your greatest evangelism tools! So I want to encourage you today, to not only be bold and share your testimony of what God has done and what God is doing in your life, but also expect God to do it again through the power of testimony and the power of the Holy Spirit! God is not a respecter of persons, what He has done once He will "do again"!

Until next time, shake the earth!
- Joel