Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Leading a Rebellion Pt 3: Moses

Leading a Rebellion, Pt. 3:

            Rebel- a rebel is a person who resists any authority, control, or tradition.

            Tonight we are continuing our “Leading a Rebellion” series by studying our next rebel—Moses. Moses is the first rebel that we have looked at that wasn’t really a counter-culturalist. Both of the other rebels—Noah, and Joseph, were rebels for God based on how they rejected what the rest of the culture considered normal. But this doesn’t mean that Moses was completely different from the previous two. Joseph was the most powerful man, second only to Pharaoh himself, in all of Egypt. Moses was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter into the royal family. And there are a couple of interesting connecting points between Moses and Noah. Noah became a leader when he preserved the human race through the waters of the flood. Moses preserved the nation of Israel by leading them through the waters of the Red Sea. Noah’s ark was covered in pitch, and when Moses’ mom made his little boat and pushed him down the Nile, she covered it in pitch. Pharaoh’s daughter named the baby she found Moses, which means “drawn out of the water.” Noah and his family were drawn out of the water and were saved in the ark.
            Let’s look at Exodus 2:1-10 to recap the birth and adoption of Moses. “Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes[a] and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews' children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child's mother. And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”
            Times changed, as they usually do. One Pharaoh died and a new one took over, one that did not remember what Joseph did for the country. At the same time, God was blessing the nation of Israel with incredible growth. Pharaoh and his advisors suggested that he start mistreating the Israelites lest a war break out and they join forces with their enemies. So they made all of the Israelites become their slaves and treated them ruthlessly. As if that was not enough, Pharaoh talked to the Hebrew midwives—these were the women who helped expectant mothers in delivery, and told them when a woman gave birth to a baby boy they were to kill it, but if it was a baby girl they were to let it live. The Midwives said, “Sure thing, boss,” but went away fully knowing they were not going to obey the Pharaoh’s commands. In fact, they led a rebellion of their own. They were the only two midwives mentioned, but they could not have been the only two serving the entire nation of Israel. They apparently recruited every other midwife to their cause. When Pharaoh realized that a lot of Israelites boys were still being born, he called the midwives in for a meeting. The Midwives said, “The Hebrew women are not like other women. They are strong, and by the time we get there, they’ve already given birth to their babies.”
            One of the babies that was supposed to be killed was Moses. When he was three months old, his mother sent it downstream, while his sister watched to see what would happen. His sister following him allowed him to be reunited with his mother, who nursed him for Pharaoh’s daughter. When Moses was weaned he began his life in the Egyptian royal family. We know that he received the best education available to any Egyptian, but that he still remained connected to his Israel brothers and sisters.
            A lot of this story reminds me of what is happening right now in China. The communist leaders treat their citizens as slaves. Due to over population families are held to a strict one child rule. If you are pregnant with a second illegal child you will be forced to abort it. If you somehow get around the abortion and give birth to the child, the government can and will kill the baby, and then put you in prison. On top of all of that, baby girls are basically discarded. People from all over the world are adopting Chinese baby girls because orphanages are literally finding them laying in the streets, in garbage cans, and wrapped in newspapers.
            Back to Moses: One day Moses was out walking and saw an Egyptian official harshly mistreating an Israelite, so he stepped in and killed the Egyptian, thinking of himself as a savior of his people, and then buried him in the desert. The next day he was walking around and saw two Israelites fighting. He didn’t understand why the two brothers should be fighting each other so he stepped in to stop them. One of them said, “Why? Are you going to kill us, too?” Moses said, “Oh snap! Word must have spread about what I did!” So he left everything he had and took off into the desert, got married, had a couple of kids, staying there 40 years. God then spoke to him through a burning bush, telling him that He wanted him to lead his people out of Egypt. Not only would he have to rebel against his family, but he would have to rebel against his nation’s government. What Moses was preparing to do was to walk into Pharaoh’s court and tell him to release all of his slave laborers—which is how he got all of his stuff done…for free. Now he would have to pay people to work for him. This would not be acceptable.
            So Moses and his brother, Aaron, went to see Pharaoh, and asked him to let God’s people go. Pharaoh did not let them go, and in fact increased the work load of the Israelites. This did not make Moses popular among the Israelites either. God responded with the first of the ten plagues, turning the water to blood. Moses and Aaron came back nine more times, with Pharaoh saying “no” nine more times, and the resulting plagues: 2) Frogs; 3) Gnats or Lice; 4) Flies; 5) Livestock killed off; 6) Boils; 7) Thunder and hail; 8) Locusts; 9) Darkness; 10) Death of all of the Firstborn people and beast. After the tenth plague, Moses was allowed to leave with God’s people.
            Moses was an unlikely leader. He spent almost no time with his own people. He was raised in Pharaoh’s court, spent forty years in the wilderness after murdering someone, came back claiming a mandate to lead them, and had such a bad stuttering problem that he recruited his brother to speak for him. When he stood up to Pharaoh and made his request, he failed. He failed again a second time, a third time, a fourth time, a fifth time, a sixth time, a seventh time, an eighth time, a ninth time, and finally after the tenth time he succeeded. Moses didn’t get frustrated, angry, or upset with himself or God throughout this whole narrative. Why? Because he knew beyond a shadow of doubt that God spoke to him. Seriously, a burning bush talked to him about it. Secondly, it was confirmed through more than ten different miracles. And finally, Moses would not have even approached Pharaoh about the subject if he was trusting in his own abilities. But because he was trusting in God’s power, he would have had to trust God with the results, also.
            Moses did eventually lead God’s people out of Egypt, was chased down by Pharaoh who changed his mind once again, and led them safely through the Red Sea while the opposing armies drowned. Moses didn’t rebel just to rebel. He wasn’t doing it because he was bored. He was very confident that God had called him for a very specific purpose. God may not call you to lead an entire nation out of slavery and into their promised homeland, but he may ask you to stand up for the lives of the unborn, for traditional marriages, the ability to pray in school, or even the ability for churches to gather and worship. If you want to be a rebel like Moses, you have to learn to discern the voice of God, and then have the backbone to do what He asks you to do.        

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Leading A Rebellion Pt 2 Joseph

Leading a Rebellion Pt. 2:
Tonight we are doing part 2 of our “Leading a Rebellion” series. If you remember from last week we established a definition that we will be using when we discuss rebels. For our purposes a rebel is a person who resists any authority, control, or tradition. Some examples of people who have control and/or authority over you are parents, teachers, bosses, youth pastors, police officers, government officials, and even our friends and peers. If your friends can influence you into doing something you know to be wrong, then they have control over you. We also looked at another term “counter-cultural.” Counter-cultural refers to anything that goes against what the rest of the culture considers normal.
What are some examples of good rebels? Bad rebels? Good counter-culturalist? Bad counter-culturalists?   
Tonight we will be looking at someone who rebelled against his culture, and did what was right in the Lord’s eyes. Last week we looked at our first rebel, Noah. He rebelled against his culture, found favor in God’s eyes, the world was destroyed, and he and his family alone were saved. Basically, he rebelled against his culture, did what was right in God’s eyes, and everything worked out for him. But what happens if you rebel against the culture, do what’s right in God’s eyes, and it doesn’t work out for you? That’s what we’re going to look at tonight in the life of Joseph—specifically his time serving Potiphar.
The story so far: Joseph was one of the twelve sons of Jacob, the second youngest, but first born from his favorite wife Rachael, so he was definitely Jacob’s favorite. His other brothers found the whole situation quite annoying. If that wasn’t enough he had two dreams where his eleven brothers bowed down to him, and through bad politics he decided to tell them about his dream. This got his brothers grumbling and scheming. One day when they were out in the fields, Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers. When they saw Joseph coming in his fancy coat daddy bought him, they devised a plan to kill him and make up a story about a wild beast devouring him. One of his brothers convinced them not to kill him, and was planning to rescue him later, when the rest of them saw some people walking by and came up with the idea of selling him into slavery. Joseph was sold a second time and ended up working for a man named Potiphar.
Potiphar was not just any man—he was the chief executioner for Pharaoh. This meant that he was a ruthless, cold hearted dude. Back when the electric chair was still being used to execute people, they used to have three different switches (one live switch and two dead switches). Three different people threw the three different switches at the same time so no one would know who actually killed the man. This was a way to help the executioners not have to deal with so much emotional baggage of knowing they killed someone. Even in firing squads, they gave some of the gunmen real bullets and some blanks. Potiphar didn’t seem to be concerned so much about any of the emotional baggage. He made a pretty good political career out of killing prisoners, and enemies of Pharaoh.
Through hard work, and the Lord’s blessing Joseph rose in the ranks of Potiphar’s staff of servants. He eventually became so powerful, and trusted in the house that Potiphar didn’t concern himself with anything except the food that he put in his mouth. He left Joseph in charge of everything. The only thing that was restricted to him was his wife, Mrs. Potiphar.
The Bible clearly states that Joseph was a handsome young man (Gen. 39:6), but we have to assume that Mrs. Potiphar was also an attractive young lady. In that culture, it was not uncommon for really old men to marry much younger girls. So it is not hard to imagine that Potiphar was an old man (maybe 50-60) and that Mrs. Potiphar was a young girl (maybe still a teenager or early twenties) and that she held no physical, or emotional attachments to her husband. So when Joseph showed up, and started becoming a rising star, she started making plans. He was young and hunky. She was young and hot. Let’s pick up the story there:
Genesis 39:6-23 “So he left all that he had in Joseph's charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master's wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.
11 But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12  she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. 13 And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, 14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. 15 And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.” 16 Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, 17 and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me. 18 But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.”
19 As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. 20 And Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23 The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph's charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.
Every day she came out and tempted Joseph and said, “Lie with me!” What would the rest of society do in that situation? They probably would have had sex with her. Even in today’s culture it would be the same result. I mean, seriously. This was like “Desperate Housewives, 3,000 B.C.”
Joseph decided to do what was right in the Lord’s eyes, rebel against what the rest of the culture considers to be normal, and trusted God with the results. Last week we discussed two athletes who rebelled against what the culture considered to be normal: A.C. Green, and Tim Tebow. A.C. was a professional basketball player in the NBA. He was an outspoken Christian, and was outspoken about his commitment to remain a virgin until he married. He began and ended his 16 year career a virgin. Most of the other players had a new and different girl in each city. He remained pure even while his “friends” and teammates sent prostitutes to his hotel room while he was on the road. Tim Tebow is the modern day A.C. Green, but in the NFL. Perhaps it was people like A.C. that paved the way, making Tebow’s commitment easier. This is the reason why we study these rebels. Not because they are so wonderful, but because we can follow their example. Billy Graham said, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” Joseph, A.C., and Tim have taken a stand to rebel against the culture. Let’s stiffen our spines and join them.           

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Leading a Rebellion Pt 1: Noah

Leading a Rebellion:

            Tonight we are starting a new Bible Study series called “Leading a Rebellion.” We will be studying individual rebels throughout biblical history. But before we do that we have to have a working definition of what a rebel is. The definition of rebel we’ll be using is a person who resists any authority, control, or tradition. What are some things that have authority, or control over us? The government, your family, your school, your boss at work are the obvious ones, but what about your peers, or your friends? Do they have authority over you? If they can influence you into doing something you know to be wrong, then yes they do. What about traditions? I had a friend in college who’s dad had a tradition that went back a few generations where the father would drink beer with the son on his 21st birthday. My friend didn’t drink, didn’t want to drink, and his dad came home with a six pack of beer expecting to drink with his son. When my friend rebelled against his father’s traditions and stood his ground, it made his father very upset and created quite a rift between them. It hurt my friend very deeply.
            Another term we need to look at is “counter-cultural.” When all of society is going one direction, or believes one way and someone is going the other direction, or believes another way that person is said to be counter-cultural.
            Of course there is good counter-culturalists and bad counter-culturalists; good rebels and bad rebels. In our culture, cannibalism is not accepted. Therefore, someone who eats other people would be counter-cultural but they would fall under the bad counter-culturalist category. You all got that? On the flip side…how many of you have heard of a guy named A.C. Green? A.C. was a professional basketball player that holds the record for most consecutive games played in NBA and ABA history. In fact, he played in 1,278 of the 1,281 games in his career, earning him the nickname “The Iron Man.” All three of the games he missed came in the second season of his 16 year career. But that isn’t what I know him best for. I know him best for his outspoken Christian faith, and his outspokenness about being a virgin in a league where most players have a new and different girl in every city. He began and ended his career as a virgin. How did some of his teammates respond to his commitment to stay pure? By sending girls to his hotel room to tempt him into having sex. A.C. Green is a good counter-culturalist. He was Tim Tebow before Tim Tebow.
            We tend to think of our founding fathers as good rebels because they stood up to the tyranny of the British government and gave us the great country we have today. Timothy McVeigh, and his cohorts who tried to bring down the U.S. government by bombing the Oklahoma City Federal building would be seen as bad rebels.
            So the rebels and counter-culturalists we’ll be looking at are not the ones who have the giant blue mohawk, tattoos, and piercings who are different just to be different. We’ll be looking at rebels and counter-culturalists who are different because of a calling on their life. They’re different not because they want to be but because they have to be.
Our first rebel is Noah. What do we know about Noah? Suprisingly, very little. We know he had a wife and three sons, (his wife is mentioned several times, but never by name—I always call her Joan) and he built a giant boat. Let’s read the biblical account of the flood. I’ll be skipping around in Genesis 6-7.  6:5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Noah and the Flood

These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh,[c] for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood.[d] Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch…. 17  For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you…. 22  Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.
7:1 Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing[i] that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.
Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.
11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12 And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah's wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark….And the Lord shut him in.
            Here’s what we know: The earth was filled with evil people, with nothing but evil thoughts continually going through their heads, but Noah found favor in God’s eyes; God used Noah to prolong humanity. We don’t know where Noah lived prior to the flood but most of the other Biblical stories at that time were in the very dry, arid desert regions around modern day Iraq. We don’t know if he lived near any body of water at all, but in my sanctified imagination I picture him in the middle of a very dry environment with no water within miles—there would be no reason for anyone in that area to build a boat. Scholars believe that based on the timing of the birth of his children and their subsequent marriages that it took Noah between 55 to 75 years to complete the giant boat. The ark was 1 ½ football fields long and taller than a three story building. And lastly, scholars believe that scripture indicates that it never rained prior to the flood.
            Imagine a world filled with the meanest, cruelest, bullies, who think nothing but evil thoughts all day, and there is one guy who isn’t like the rest of them. Just that point alone will tell you what the rest of the world would think of Noah. They would pick on him, make fun of him, call him names like “Goody two shoes,” and say he is “holier than thou.” In movies we always pull for the under-dog, or the one that doesn’t quite fit in, but in reality it’s a different story. You know that if you don’t make fun of the weird kid, then you’ll be made fun of. Just the fact that Noah wasn’t like everyone else caused him to be the subject of intense ridicule. Do you know what Noah said to these people? Nothing.
            Then Noah started building a giant boat…because God told him to. I can picture all of his neighbors rolling on the ground, crying because they’re laughing so hard. Do you know what Noah said to his neighbors as they laughed at him? Nothing. God tells Noah to build a giant boat because he was going to prolong the human race through him and his family, but destroy the rest of the world. Do you know what Noah said in response to this? Nothing. Can you imagine being Noah’s three sons? “Hey! Nice boat your crazy dad is building!” Do you all know the Culligan bottled water company? Their slogan is pretty simple, “Hey, Culligan man!” I dated a girl in high school whose mom went to school with the Culligan man’s son. She said they used to tease that boy relentlessly, “Hey, Culligan man!” Guess what? They aren’t laughing now. And neither are the ones who laughed at Noah or his three sons. I have always pictured Noah’s ark to have claw marks on the side from all of his neighbors trying to save themselves when the floods came. It’s a sad image of repentance that came too late.
            Noah was a counter-culturalist because he rebelled against what the rest of society thought was normal. He wasn’t wicked. Not every thought he had was evil. He was a good and righteous man and caught the eye of God. He didn’t rebel just to be different he rebelled because he had to. I guarantee you that it was not easy, and that he probably wished he could quit several times, but he didn’t. God told him to build the ark. He didn’t ask for directions. He didn’t ask for a sign like Gideon did. He didn’t ask for clarity. He didn’t protest or offer alternatives like Abram and Moses did. He didn’t need to be blinded and knocked to the ground like Saul. He didn’t say anything. He just built the boat. We don’t know his thoughts or his feelings. All we know is his actions. And that is what makes him a rebel.
            Do you want to be a rebel in today’s culture? You don’t have to be a goth, shave your head, get tattoos, brandings, or piercings. You don’t have to drink, smoke, or do drugs. You don’t have to have to protest anything. Besides, most of the so called rebels today are different just like everyone else. If you want to be a rebel you have to do the things no one else is doing. Read your Bible. Pray. Go to church. Eat with the smelly kid. Stand up for what’s right. Point out what’s wrong. Dress conservatively. Save your virginity for marriage. That’s real rebellion.
            But remember, you need to be different not just to be different but because you have to be different. Christians are called to a higher standard of living. Do you think A.C. Green and Tim Tebow maintained their virginity because it was fun to be different? No they did it because of the calling God placed on their lives. 1st Peter 1:16 says “Be holy for I am holy.” Christ gives us the power and the directive to be different, and therefore, Christ gives us the power and the directive to rebel. If you are trying to do this on your own strength, you will fail, and you cannot be part of the rebellion. If you want to be part of the rebellion you have to put Christ first in your life, and then, like Noah, you have to start doing what He says.
            Remember the image of the neighbors trying to get on the boat when the flood waters came? It was an image of repentance coming too late. People die every day, and the Bible says that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, but many of those will be doing that too late. They will have the sudden realization that Jesus is Lord as they are being led to Hell. Please don’t make that same mistake. If you don’t know where you’re going to go when you die, then you need to repent of your sins and accept the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. I pray that if you haven’t done that, that you will do that tonight.