Yesterday’s message …
- Gave me a chance to call the congregation “gullible” as they re-enacted Moses, Aaron, and Hur on the mountaintop in Exodus 17;
- Gave me another opportunity to help households realize how relentlessly their children are under attack by 21st Century culture;
- Gave me a forum to confess to former programming studipity — well-intentioned for sure, yet still stupid — at Good Shepherd;
- Gave this bottom line: When ME becomes WE, it unleashes the power of HE.
So we are moving and shaking together and it is very frankly about letting you know that you have living within you a whole lot of ability and even a whole lot of leadership and we want to raise your awareness of what’s inside and then unleash it outside. We want you to live up to your potential. No big deal, I know.
But the biblical movers & shakers have been in the book of Exodus and in the first couple of episodes I chose some really obscure characters: Shiprah, Puah (midwives) and Bezalel & Oholiab (craftsmen). These folks were SO OBSCURE that even when I was telling a group of preachers about it, they were like “huh? Who dat?” Bezalel. Where’s he? Exodus 35. To preachers!
So today we move to the ONE guy everyone knows in the Book of Exodus … Charlton Heston! (AV) Moses! And he goes through something here in Exodus 17 and how it prepares us for Ex 18 that, no joke, every mom and every dad, whether single parent, absent parent, nuclear family, need to know and do and be. So many of you around here if you adopt this thing I’m going to talk about it will totally transform your home and your relationships and I know that will happen because I’ve already seen it transform our children and student ministries. Transform them to the point that we’re reaching our goals: NOT to have the best Student Ministry in CLT here at our church but in your family room, dining room, living room. And get this: you may not have kids yet, you may be an empty nester, or you may be single & never gonna have your own biological kids, and you can still be part of making this happen.
Because look at Exodus 17:8: READ.
8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim.
Amelikites. Who ARE these guys? Well Amalek himself was the son of Esau, the outsider, the giver upper of his covenant, the reason you never hear God say “I am the God of Abe, Isaac, and Esau.” Nope. Always Jacob. So something in Amalek & his line is almost irresistibly opposed to God. And the Amalekites themselves are a bit mysterious; they are native ppl in the land God has given Israel so when the Hebrew nationals come marching towards the PL, they’re not eager to give it up. But what you most need to know about the Amalekites is that they keep popping up throughout the OT. Like insects or rodents they never disappear; they just hide and reemerge. They always seem to represent the forces lined up against God’s people and God’s himself. Persistent, annoying, relentless. Always subjecting the people of God to unexpected, uninterrupted pressure.
Sometimes it makes me think of my UMC preacher friends who have moved pastorates a lot. 6-8 different assignments in 30 years or so. But they always describe the same people – ususally nemeses! – at every church. They keep showing up! Just with different names and faces and churches. Amalekites, it seems. Relentless, persistent, everywhere.
But there more. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating in Movers & Shakers: moms and dads, your kids are under assault. Half the time the assaults come disguised as love. Their brains, their thinking, their outlooks are being shaped and molded by forces who never give up and who have an agenda designed to draw them away from God – and you – and ever increasingly towards themselves. Your kids don’t know it’s going on. You are only vaguely aware. But it pops up in all those time as a mom or a dad or a grandparent the pressure just squeezes in on you and you look at your kids and think “what happened to you?” If you doubt me, check this headline: KIDS TV VIEWING LINKED TO CRIMINAL ACTS IN ADULTS. Gulp! See, the generation being raised now is the more aborted, the most divorced, the most incarcerated, the most medicated, and now the most inundated with screen time of any generation ever in this land. Amalekites! And the screen times convinces your kids and mine that they don’t have enough, they’ll never be enough, and nothing as important has ever happened on earth as what is happening right now. Newer is better, younger is smarter, and God is whatever YOU want him to be. Amalekites then; entertainment, social media, higher ed now. They always attack without seeking permission first.
And in Moses’ battle the most unusual thing happens. Look at 17:9-11a:
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.”
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,
I love that repetition of “on top of the hill.” Makes you wonder if somehow God is anticipating for us something else monumental that happened with outstretched hands on top of a hill. Wouldn’t put it past him. But more than that, we meet two other relatively obscure people who end up moving and shaking: Aaron & Hur. Who are they? Aaron’s a bit more familiar – early priest. Hur? He is the son of Caleb and the grandfather of … Bezalel, who we met last week. Huh. But look what happens: Moses hands are raised on top of that hill and what happens? Israel manhandles Amalek. The forces of God repel the forces against God. Now: how? What are the mechanics of HANDS UP WE WIN? What is it about elevating hands that mobilizes an army? And what does WINNING look like other than dead Amalekites? We don’t know cuz it don’t say!
But look at 17:11b:
but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.
Oh bummer. Hands lowered they lose. (Hey all hold hands to side for as long as ye can!) We don’t know those mechanics, either, of why lowered hands = losing army we just get told it happens. And now you know first hand just how hard it is to keep your arms lifted for any length of time – imagine the pressure of knowing lives are counting on you! And what I want you to see here is that Moses is acting alone. It’s a ME thing, these hands of his. Living and dying and it’s up to ME.
Moms and dads, single parents, adoptive parents, even absent parents: it can be so tempting to hunker down in the face of the modern day Amalekites. Hope and pray and figure it out on your own. Single mom, single dad and you want to keep the pressure you’re feeling on the downlow. You’ve got a kid who doubts God is real. You’ve got a kid who is suddenly gender fluid – doubting their own biology. Hearing that biology is bigotry. You’ve got a kid who is depressed. You’ve got a kid who cuts. Your arms are tired trying to hold it together but they’re the only arms you got! It’s a ME thing and it’s almost too much.
Then the most glorious thing happens right after the most curious. Look at what Aaron & Hur do in 18:12a:
12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it.
Now is this a bible laugh line? The problem was his hands, not his … bum! What?! Why a rock? But the heart of the matter comes up in 8:12b:
Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.
Ah, Aaron and Hur lift up his arms up and keep them there. ME, meet WE. And see what happens? Moses surrenders ME, joins WE, and what is the result? 8:13 tells us:
13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Israel wins; Joshua’s army operates in the power of HE. And that’s it. That’s the takeaway for every mom and dad, married or single, whatever parenting dynamic you find yourself in, when the pressure’s too much because today’s Amalekites are never going away: When ME becomes WE it unleashes the power of HE. That’s the We Team!
That’s how we have a WE team. Movers & Shakers is all about opening parents up to the power of WE. All about releasing leaders to be WE. We want every parent, whatever configuration, to have one other voice, one other Aaron or Hur, to give you an arm raising assist by being the additional voice of faith, beauty, and wisdom in the life of your child. That’s it. One voice, maybe two, to speak truth that counteracts the relentless pressure of Amalekites’ lies
Now: let me tell you what this not. It’s not It Takes A Village. Nice saying, good intentions, but I fear many who heard it in the late 90s used it as a reason to turn child rearing over to the community. Nope, moms and dads, you still primary. And I don’t know about YOUR village, but mine has an idiot or two in it, anyway. No, this is a voice, a leader, a Jesus soaked volunteer, prayed over and raised up who adds his or her faith to the faith you are already starting at home. This is EVERYTHING we believe about your students & kids ministry here. Why the best youth group in CLT needs to be in your living room not our church … we just add a WE TEAM to make it happen.
It’s a bit like something I lived through in a different sphere. My dad taught me to play tennis. I was 6 and he taught, patiently. Then we I got to be 12-13, playing on a national level, it was time for another voice. A few others. So that’s when Danny O’Bryant took over. My dad had done what he could be needed to join WE. When ME becomes WE it unleashes the power of HE.
And Lord, if it matters in something like tennis, how much more with faith. In my own life, we raised our son Riley, and he made it through high school loving Jesus and liking us – WIN! – and then we sent him off to Chapel Hill. Amalekites there! And yet there he connects with a mentor with Cru ministry and that guy just poured into him and Riley is now on that same ministry team. If you were to ask him, “Why are you in ministry, Riley?” I might make the list but not like Miles. He was the voice. He was the influencer. As a dad and a preacher am I intimidated by that? A little. Am I grateful? Totally. I don’t know Miles well but trust his voice and have seen its impact. He’s on my WE TEAM. When ME becomes WE it unleashes the power of HE.
Biblically, you know what is so cool? You know how I KNOW that Exodus’ author wants you to see this? What comes after Exodus 17? Right! 18! What’s 18? All about Moses father in law telling him he’s working too hard and he needs to divide the labor. Ex 17 predicts and prepares you for 18! And next week you’ll learn something about the division of labor that will blow your mind. I love how the books of the biblical library are put together. When ME becomes WE it unleashes the power of HE.
We totally believe this around here because we used to be so stupid. Yeah! With good intentions but stupid execution! We used to have a mid-week student ministry and marketed it well and people came but we put up this sign: NO PARENTS ALLOWED. How silly in retrospect! As if we are so cool parents are the obstacle. Never! We want to be so biblical we know they are the partners. Because we don’t think church is here to get your kids to BEHAVE. It’s to help them BELIEVE. It’s not about their CONDUCT. It’s about their CHRIST. It’s not about modifying their behavior. It’s about surrendering their soul. Huge difference all around.
Listen, moms and dads: who is on your WE TEAM? You can’t do it alone. How are you making ministry HERE as big a priority for things of eternity as you are making all kinds of extra curricular options out there for their temporality?
Listen, more: a lot of you today are being invited TODAY to join someone else’s WE TEAM. You’re an Aaron. You’re a Hur. We empower you. We resource you. You sign on as one voice, one hand, one assist. Nursery, KZone, GS Students. Get this: you ARE too busy. That suggests you’re not lazy. It’s why we want you. You’re who we look for. I’m so glad a woman from our church named Shug Hopper heard that call … here’s her story: