Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Raising Moses - "after Moses had grown up..."

"One day, after Moses had grown up..."    Exodus 2:11

Few words, but I couldn't move on. I've been looking at Moses' mother for a few years now. I keep reading and rereading her story, seeing something new each time. This morning I was reading Exodus to my children, but I couldn't move on from this verse. There was something there for me. Something that I hadn't yet seen about Moses' mother.

Moses grew up. In that one verse, forty years are covered. In the passage that follows, events are covered that happened when he was 40. Yes, Moses grew up. We hear about him as a 3-month old, then here as a 40 year old. What happened in 40 years? He was living life in Pharaoh's palace. What I'm more interested in for now is what happened to Jocebed, his mom? We don't hear anything more about her after he was 3-months old. We read about her great faith, prophet insight, and fearless parenting of a newborn. And nothing more. What happened to Jocebed?

Chances are, she went on to live a "normal" life. Normal meaning the life of a Hebrew slave in Egypt. She probably never saw the Lord's deliverance of His people (she would have been at least 100). She probably never saw the great man that her "fine child" became. Probably the last she ever saw or heard of her son was the palace prince who would become a murderer (that comes later in chapter 2 of Exodus).  

Here's why this all spoke to me so clearly. Perhaps the greatest ministry I will ever do is RIGHT NOW raising my children. Perhaps I'm raising Moses. I often dream of a teaching ministry that will carry me around the country. I see "the good stuff", the "exciting stuff," as yet to come. But perhaps I'm in it right now. Perhaps the greatest thing I will ever do for the kingdom of God is to raise four children who know, love and serve the Lord. I could be raising Moses.

Not all kids are designed by God to be Moses, a great leader. But Jocebed also raised Miriam (a worshipper, a leader of women and a prophetess - Exodus 15:20) and Aaron (public speaker, miracle worker, companion to Moses and the first high priest - Exodus 6-12, 28). Jocebed's kids served God and experienced God in extraordinary ways.

So I say again: What if I'm raising Moses? I could waste my days dreaming about the future, or I could realize how important today is. I could give my all to my kids - loving them, training them in self-control and obedience, teaching them the Bible and how to pray, and coaching them in how to love each other, unselfishly. Perhaps this will be my greatest contribution to the Kingdom of God.

...I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Ephesians 4:1

God help me to live a life worthy of the calling I have received.  Help me today to raise my children to be faithful followers of the King.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Proverbs and Money - Freedom

I started looking at Proverbs and Money because I was asking God to free me from the chronic money worry in my life. I wanted to get personal in this post, and glorify God for what He has done, and how He has done "a good work in me" and brought "it to completion." (Philippians 1:6)

Its amazing to me that we can search in one place, but God will find us in another. I was looking for freedom from money worry in Proverbs, but God freed me in Ephesians. Ephesians 5:22-24 says:

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 
"What do submission and money worry have to do with each other?" you may be wondering. For me, everything.

It all started with a fight. Todd and I both wanted to make some changes in how we did things financially. We disagreed on how to make those changes, thus the fight. I thought he was wrong; he was just angry. As I prayed through our fight that day, the Lord showed me that I was the one who was wrong. Part of how God did that was from listening to this sermon by Mars Hill Church pastor, Mark Driscoll, which 'just happened' to be already on my itunes account.

See, God made Todd head of my house, head of my family, and head of me. That means he lovingly, sacrificially, gives up his life for us as a family, and in return, we give him the leadership and respect that God commands that we give him. That includes our finances. What I understood as I listened to Mark Driscoll speak was that my worry about our finances came from two places:

1. I didn't have peace because I was in sin. Even though I was unaware of my sin. Peace comes from obedience, not sin.

2. I was taking on responsibility that wasn't mine. I felt the burden to make the right decision. That burden wasn't mine! AND, I was missing out on God's blessing. God gave me Todd not to RULE over me, dominate me, boss me around. God gave me Todd to CARE for me, provide for me, lead me, and take responsibility for me and our family. I was taking the responsibility and burden that God gave to Todd and putting it on myself. What a fool I am! I felt worry because I was carrying a burden that was not mine. The truth is, Todd takes much better care of me than I can care for myself. He is more aware of my needs and generous with me than I am. I spent 11 years missing out on the blessings of being led by my husband. He is a good, kind, loving, generous man. But I didn't trust him. In my pride, I thought I could do it better, and I'm the one who suffered.

I humbled myself before God, and then Todd, and repented of my sin. I had failed to submit in this area for our entire marriage. And I was the one who was reaping the fruit of my sin -- worry! Todd, and God!, of course forgave me, and we moved ahead into uncharted territory: Todd leading our finances.

We did bills a couple days later with Todd at the helm for the first time in our married life. And I saw him shoulder the burden (so I didn't have to!) for the first time. I saw him look critically at our budget for the first time. And the truth is, he is the one with the administrative gifts! Not me! He is a much better problem solver and critical thinker than I am. I realized that night how badly in error I had been, but also, how grateful I was to watch my husband pick up his responsibility and carry it - for me.

The first decision Todd made was to sell his car. I had been telling him it was foolish for many months, but I was the fool. Within a week, God had provided a new car for free. And in one month's time, we saved $160 in gas alone! God added blessing to our obedience.

It's been a month since we made the change. And I tell you, I feel free! I don't feel responsible! Because I'm not. I play an active role in managing our monthly cash flow, but I don't feel the burden of managing our money, big picture. What a relief! Because ultimately, Todd is responsible before God for every decision he makes. So even if I disagree, it doesn't matter. That's for God to work out, not me.

Living God's way brings peace and blessing. We are called to take that step of faith and believe Him and what He says in His Word. Then we can watch Him show His faithfulness!!! I would encourage you to do the same.

Proverbs and Money - Part 2

It's so important that we have God's perspective on money. In Proverbs, there is so much wisdom on many topics, including money. In this post, we'll continue on our journey to freedom from financial worry.

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.   Proverbs 22:7

Let's split this verse up, and look at each half individually.

The rich rule over the poor...

In "Proverbs and Money - Part 1" we learned that the Lord created both rich and poor alike. They are both dust, equal, and God doesn't play favorites. Yet, the rich rule over the poor. This truth makes me uncomfortable. I know it's true, but should it be this way? Shouldn't the rich have compassion over the poor? Shouldn't the rich fight for the cause of the poor, and provide for their needs?

Isaiah 58:6-7 says:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter -
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

We established earlier that if you are reading this blog, you are wealthy. You have the means to buy or borrow a computer, and the education to read it. So we, the rich, are not to rule over the poor, but instead to feed them and provide shelter for them, to clothe them and not "turn away from [our] own flesh and blood." Because remember, we are both made by the same Creator. We are, rich and poor, flesh made from dust.

The rich may rule over the poor, but it shouldn't be this way. We can make a different choice: to care for the poor instead of rule over them.

Believers in the early church took it a step further. In Acts 2:42-45 it says:

 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.            Acts 2:42-47
This passage has always encouraged me, challenged me, and made me very uncomfortable. I'm excited to devote myself, along with my fellow believers in a small group, to studying the Word and hanging out together. I love to eat with them, and I'd love to spend far more time in prayer. I long to see God do many signs and wonders in my small group. I'd love to be used as an instrument of miracles, where God's power through the Holy Spirit flows through me and makes me a miracle worker! Its the next part that challenges me:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Acts 2:44
What does this mean? They had everything in common? Does that mean they liked to watch the same TV shows, shop at the same stores, eat the same food and go to the same church? I looked up the phrase "everything in common" in the Greek and this is what I found. In the KJV the phrase is they had "all things common." The word "common" in the Greek is koinos which means "ordinary" or "belonging to generality." I interpret this one of two ways:

1. No one owned anything fancy or expensive, or
2. They shared everything, like the saying, "What's mine is yours and what's yours is mine."  Its as if no one laid claim to anything he or she had, because as soon as someone had a need, they were willing to sell anything to meet that need.

This is where I get very uncomfortable. If I want to be obedient to God and His Holy Word, and if I want to see miraculous signs and wonders, and see the Lord adding daily to those who are saved, I should be living this way. But I don't. I'm not. The passage goes on to explain how to have "all things common."
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 
                                                                                        Acts 2:45
If this is how to have all things common, then I don't think it was enough for the early believers just to have "ordinary" things, all of them living humble, simple lives with common, simple, non-fancy stuff. They could have fancy, ornate, expensive "stuff," but none of them held on tight to any of it. It was as if they held it with open hands. I have it now, but if there is a need, I'll sell it at any time and give to whoever needs it.  Wow. There are tears in my eyes because I don't live that way. This is so anti-American Dream. The American Dream says get more stuff than your parents have so that you can make a "better life" for your children. But is it really a better life? Are we missing the point completely? And are we missing out on miracles and salvations because our goal is accumulation instead of distribution?

If we want to see people get saved, if we want to see God do amazing things, we need to have a looser grip on our "stuff." We need to give to the poor, at home and abroad. We need to proclaim Christ with our words AND our checkbooks. This is a massive challenge for us Americans. But God calls us to live differently than the world. Are you ready to take that step of faith? Am I?