Sun, Mar 30, 2008

DESERT EXPERIENCES! EXODUS 3:1-10

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
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DESERT EXPERIENCES!
EXODUS 3:1-10

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Exodus chapter 3 as we look at DESERT EXPERIENCES and why God allows them in our lives.  Now, for the most part, none of us like to live in the desert unless it is the end of March, the temperature is below 40 degrees and there is still snow on the ground! In other words, unless you are living in Wisconsin! Let me share with you this story that will help set the stage for our study this morning. We are told:

In 1832, French engineer Ferdinand Marie Lesseps was traveling in the Mediterraneanwhen one of the passengers became sick and the ship was quarantined. Lesseps was an active man, so the confinement was terribly frustrating for him. The many long hours aboard that isolated vessel, however, gave him time to read the memoirs of Charles le Pere, a man who had studied the feasibility of building a canal from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. That volume prompted Lesseps to devise in his own mind a detailed plan for the construction of the Suez Canal. When it was finally built under his leadership some 30 years later, it brought invaluable service to the world. That quarantine had proven to be immensely profitable.

- Source Unknown

            My prayer as we go through this study is that you would see that desert experiences are necessary for us, they can be very beneficial in our Christian lives and thus, they are not necessarily bad. So with that said, let’s begin reading in Exodus chapter 3, starting in verse 1 and see what the Lord has for us as we look at DESERT EXPERIENCES!

EXODUS 3:1-10

            Forty years earlier Moses felt the call of God upon his life to be the deliverer of his people from their bondage in Egypt. He saw how his brethren faced the rigors of the taskmasters. And one day as he was walking and seeing the brutal treatment of his people, he also saw an Egyptian beating up one of his brethren.

            And Moses shouted, “Here I am to save the day!”  Well, not exactly but in a sense his actions were portraying that mentality! Thus, after looking to the left and looking to the right, making sure no one was watching him; he kills this Egyptian and buries him in the sand. The deliverance has started – well, not exactly!

            On the second day of his ministry as the deliverer he sees two Hebrew men fighting and he breaks up the fight. Now, to his surprise, one of these men turn on him and he asked Moses if he was going to kill him like he killed the Egyptian the day before! “Hey, wait a minute. I am the deliverer called by God to bring you out of Egypt. Don’t you recognize me?”

            Well, they didn’t recognize that fact and as soon as Pharaoh found out what Moses did, he put a death sentence upon him and thus, Moses fled.  He fled not to a beautiful area but to the desert of Midian. There he got married, had two children and became a shepherd for his father-in-in law, Jethro.

            Here’s the thing. Day in and day out Moses tended to this flock of sheep. Back and forth they went and this goes on for forty years.  Then, in God’s timing God speaks to Moses from the burning bush that is not consumed in this fire and He tells Moses that now it is time for him to go back to Egypt and deliver his people from their bondage. Why those forty years in the desert, is what we might ask ourselves?

            The answer is simple even though we might not like it.  God was working in Moses so He could then work through Moses! In other words this was vital in the spiritual growth of Moses and apart from this desert experience he could not be used!

            This morning I would like to focus on two areas in regards to desert experiences. They are as follows.  DESERT EXPERIENCES ARE A PRELUDE TO HEARING THE VOICE OF GOD. And, DESERT EXPERIENCES ARE USED TO PREPARE US FOR SERVICE.  And folks, I truly believe that these go together, hand-in-hand you might say. We need to hear God’s voice and we need to be prepared for service. Thus, with the remainder of our time this morning we are going to be looking at these two areas of desert experiences and see what we can glean from them.

1.  DESERT EXPERIENCES ARE A PRELUDE TO

     HEARING THE VOICE OF GOD

            Now don’t misunderstand me here. I am not saying that the only time we can hear the voice of God is when we are in the desert, but many times it does take those desert experiences to allow us to hear the voice of God. Why is that?  Because there are so many other things competing for our attention that they drown out the voice of God, that still small voice by which He speaks to us.

            Let me give you this powerful example of a desert experience and what was born from it. In Revelation chapter 1 we are told, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants — things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. . . . I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying,  ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,’ and, ‘What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.’ Revelation 1:1-2, 9-11.

            Why was John banished on the Island of Patmos?  Now, before I answer that let me share with you what this god-forsaken place was like. The Island of Patmos was not like Fantasy Island or even Gilligan’s Island, it was not some paradise resort. No, the Island of Patmos was a penal colony that was located on a volcanic outcropping in the Aegean Sea. This rock was only some 10 miles long and 5 miles wide. The Island was and is still treeless, just a rocky, barren place with no escape!  That is where John was!

            John was banished to the Island of Patmos by the Roman Emperor Titus Flavius Domitian for his faith in Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Some say that Emperor Domitian tried to boil John in oil and when that didn’t work he banished him to this rock, the Island of Patmos where he was forced to work in the mines and with the idea of him dying there, that he will not speak of Jesus and the Word anymore!

            Yes, from a historical perspective Emperor Domitian banished John to the Island of Patmos but I truly believe God wanted him there. But why would God do that? Why would God want him on this barren rock?  What good could come from it? The reason is really very simple. God wanted him to write         “THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST” or he wanted John to write the unveiling of Jesus in all of His glory as he rules and reigns in the Millennial Kingdom and on into eternity with the new heavens and the new earth! Yes, to get to that point John will be told of the 7-year Tribulation Period but that leads to the unveiling of Jesus Christ as He returns in His Second Coming!

            You see, God needed John’s attention and being on the Island of Patmos there was not much distraction. For John, when he was done writing, he was released by Emperor Nerva and lived out the remainder of his life in Ephesus where he died at the age of around 100.

            John Walvoord sums it up like this:

            It was in these bleak circumstances, shut off from friends and human fellowship, that John was given the most extensive revelation of future things shown to any writer of the New Testament. Though men could circumscribe his human activities, they could not bind the Spirit of God nor the testimony of Jesus Christ. John’s experiences paralleled those of the Old Testament prophets. Moses wrote the Pentateuch in the wilderness. David wrote many psalms while being pursued by Saul. Isaiah lived in difficult days and died a martyr’s death. Ezekiel wrote in Exile. Jeremiah’s life was one of trial and persecution. Peter wrote his two letters shortly before martyrdom. Thus in the will of God the final written revelation was given to John while suffering for Christ and the gospel.

- John Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 41

            Again, our lives can be so cluttered with noise and activity that we don’t hear God speaking. Look at Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the others, these are desert experiences for them and through them God used them greatly! You see, it doesn’t mean that God is going to send you to a literal desert, He is not going to send you to the Island of Patmos, He could but He doesn’t have to. But that does not mean we won’t have our own desert experience where things are quiet and we can hear God speak.

            For me, as I prepare each study I believe that God is speaking to me by His Spirit the words I need to hear and the words you need to hear. But I must admit my schedule is full, I am busy and thus, I look forward to vacation. Not a desert experience like you might think but it is a time I can be alone with my wife and with the Lord. It is a time where I can slow down and hear God speak.

            I don’t know why or maybe I do, because I have slowed down, but God has spoken to me very clearly on some difficult situations, some I didn’t even see as issues or didn’t want to see as issues.  And His voice was so clear. Again, not really a desert, although it is warm most of the time, but I have the time to slow down, to spend time in the Word without doing a study, reading biography’s or other study books and God does speak!

            Let me share with you this very moving story of how God puts on the hearts of people to pray and others to work even though they are thousands of miles apart. You see, it all boils down to hearing God’s voice and then responding to His voice. We are told:

This beautiful story was written by a doctor who worked in South Africa.

One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do, she died, leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator).

We also had no special feeding facilities.

Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts.  One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in.

Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst  (rubber perishes easily in tropical climates).

"And it is our last hot water bottle!" she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles.

They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.

"All right," I said, "put the baby as near the fire as you safely can, and sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm."

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.

During prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. "Please, God" she prayed, "Send us a hot water bottle today. It'll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon."

While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, "And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?"

As often with children's prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say  "Amen?" I just did not believe that God could do this.

Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything; the Bible says so. But there are limits, aren't there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever, received a parcel from home.

Anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water 
bottle? I lived on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses' training 
school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there on the verandah was a large 22-pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children.

Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box.

From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas - that would make a batch of buns for the weekend.

Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the . . . could it really be? I grasped it and pulled it out. Yes, a brand new, rubber hot water bottle. I cried

I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could.

Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, "If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!"

Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, 
beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted!

Looking up at me, she asked, "Can I go over with you and give this dolly to 
that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her?"

"Of course," I replied!

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my 
former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator.

And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child - five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it 'that afternoon.'

- Source Unknown

            You see, you don’t have to have a desert experience to hear from God, but sometimes God places us in those situations so we can hear from Him. Sometimes we are so busy serving the Lord that we don’t take time to listen to the Lord, as strange as that might sound, it does happen. John was banished to the Island of Patmos so God could give to him The Revelation Of Jesus Christ!  Moses was banished you might say, to the desert of Midian and there he heard the voice of God!

2.  DESERT EXPERIENCES ARE USED TO PREPARE US FOR SERVICE

            Again we might not like this but desert experiences are used to prepare us for serving, to prepare us for the work that God has called us to do.  For Moses, he needed to be broken of self-reliance, self-assurance, he needed to be broken of SELF and he was as he was learning to rest in the Lord and trust in the promises of God, the Word of God!

            But God was not only doing that, not only the brokenness of self. God was going to use him to deliver and shepherd His people. You see, what was Moses doing for those forty years in the deserts of Midian prior to God’s calling?  He was shepherding the flock of sheep for his father-in-law, Jethro in that desert area.  Guess what?  God was preparing him to shepherd His people out from Egypt in that same desert area he was so familiar with. God was preparing Moses for the work he was going to do!

            Paul the apostle also had an interesting desert experience.  In Galatians 1:11-17 Paul tells us, But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

            Paul was a very educated man. In Acts 22:3 we are told, I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. Paul knew the Scriptures, he was taught by the best, Gamaliel!  In fact, it is said that Paul was such an avid reader that Gamaliel could not give Paul enough books to keep him busy.  He was a Pharisee, a keeper of the Law; he was the top of the class, a brilliant man!

            And after he got saved on the road to Damascus, before he could be truly used by God, he had to go through a desert experience. Paul spent some time in Arabia, not Saudi Arabia but a region that stretched east from Damascus down to the Sinai Peninsula. I believe it was there that God spoke to Paul putting the Old Testament Scriptures together with what Christ has done.  Paul knew those Scriptures and once he was saved, God opened them up to him in the deserts of Arabia!

            That is what we are told in Galatians 1:11-12 and this time I will read these verses from The Amplified Bible. We are told, For I want you to know, brethren, that the Gospel which was proclaimed and made known by me is not man's gospel [a human invention, according to or patterned after any human standard]. For indeed I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but [it came to me] through a [direct] revelation [given] by Jesus Christ (the Messiah). The New Living Translation puts it like this, Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.

            You see, God revealed this to Paul during his desert experience to prepare him for service, to bring the Gospel message to the gentiles!

            Maybe you are going through a desert experience right now, a time where things are dry for you in your life. Maybe you don’t feel God’s presence in your life. Maybe you don’t feel God’s love in your life.  Maybe you don’t feel God’s power in your life. What should you do? Where did God go?  Why doesn’t He love you?  Here it is and it once again is very simple. Go back to the Word of God and trust in the promises of God that He has for you! I told you it was simple and yet how often as we go through these times we end up moving away from that which can help us.

            You may have heard this story but it does drive home the point. We are told that:

A former park ranger at Yellowstone National Park tells the story of a ranger leading a group of hikers to a fire lookout. The ranger was so intent on telling the hikers about the flowers and animals that he considered the messages on his two-way radio distracting, so he switched it off. Nearing the tower, the ranger was met by a nearly breathless lookout, who asked why he hadn't responded to the messages on his radio. A grizzly bear had been seen stalking the group, and the authorities were trying to warn them of the danger.

Any time we turn out the messages God has sent us, we put at peril not only ourselves, but also those around us. How important it is that we never turn off God's saving communication! 

- Harold M. Wiest, Power for Living, p. 109

            Here’s the danger that we face. We can allow our emotions to dictate our actions. I don’t know about you, but my emotions are always changing, they are always in a state of flux because they are controlled by the outward circumstances. Thus, emotions go up and they go down. Think about it. Our emotions are affected by how our job is going or not going.  Our emotions are affected by how our family is or isn’t doing.  Our emotions are fickle and they are affected by the things that happen around us and to us!

            Now, does God want our lives to be unstable, going up and down depending on what comes our way? Absolutely not!  Then what are we to do?  Like I said, be in the Word of God and walk by faith and not by feelings. I can’t tell you the number of people who have dropped out of church, out of ministry, out of life because of feelings, the emotions they had to a certain situation!

            This person said this or that person said that. They never think of me.  You should have seen the way they looked at me.  They never look at me. They never talk to me. They always talk to me. And that list goes on-and-on I am sad to say. You see, their emotions dictated their walk instead of the Word of God!

            Folks, I have been up here in Manitowoc for almost 13 years now and if I walked by my emotions I would have been gone almost 13 years ago!  People say all kinds of things to me, against me, behind me. They write letters. They leave.  Then why in the world do I stay? Because the Lord has called me and God’s Word has confirmed that calling and thus, I walk by faith and not by emotions! How about you?

            Think about it. You FEEL that the Lord is not with you and yet the Bible tells you,Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ Hebrews 13:5. And if you are still not convinced, listen to how The Amplified Bible puts this verse, Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor  give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not,[I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor  let [you] down ( relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]  [Josh 1:5.]  I think that is pretty clear!

            You DON’T FEEL God’s love in your life and yet the Bible tells you, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:35-39.  Once again I think that is pretty clear!

            Maybe you DON’T FEEL God’s power in your life and yet the Bible tells you, Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:20-21. Once again I think that is very clear!

            Thus, the bottom line is this. Do you believe God’s Word?  If you don’t, or you negate what God has said in His Word, your walk is going to be unstable. Your emotions will be up one minute and down the next.  The joy you had in ministry is now gone just as quick as it came and it becomes a burden to you instead of a blessing to others! Why is that?  Because, like I have been saying, emotions are fickle! Emotions are changeable!  Emotions will vacillate! Don’t go by emotions; go by what God has said in His Word!

            Do you know what happens when we stand upon God’s Word and walk? We grow in Him as we trust in Him! And what would you rather do, stand upon God’s Word or to sink in your own fickle emotions? I can tell you what I want to do, stand upon God’s Word and walk by faith!

            Remember as Joshua was taking over for Moses and he was about to lead the children of Israel into the Promise Land. Joshua was a little nervous, his emotions were a little out of control and in Joshua 1:1-9 we are told, After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, saying: ‘Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them — the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’

            What is God doing here with Joshua? He is encouraging him and that is what God’s Word does for us. It gives us hope for what we presently face, it encourages us to go forward, it helps us to trust in what God has said even when we don’t feel those things. God’s Word is that important to us folks!

An unknown writer said, “This Book is the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding; its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable.

Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s character. Here paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. Follow its precepts and it will lead you to Calvary, to the empty tomb, to a resurrected life in Christ; yes, to glory itself, for eternity.”

- Source unknown

            As I close this morning may we learn the lesson that God is showing us. Those desert experiences are there to help us to hear God speak and they are there to help us to be prepared for service as we learn to trust in the Lord and His Word!  May we learn to be content in those desert experiences and grow in them and then be able to say, “Lord, You have given me the promise of Your Word. That is all I need. Help me to grow and to hear Your voice as Your direct my life!”

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