I AM Bible Study Lesson Six

West Side of the Wilderness Key Scriptures:
Exodus 3:1-9
Acts 7:30-35
 

Welcome back! This lesson has been burning in my bones and if I don’t let it out soon, I may spontaneously combust! God’s presence is often manifested in fire in Scriptures. We are about to study the most famous blaze in history. I hope it fans the spark in you as it has me.

Remove your darlin’ little sandals, Girls. The place we are going is holy ground.

“Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law,the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side fo the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.” Exodus 3:1-2

In this passage of scripture, forty years have passed for Moses in a life that looked nothing like he’d planned. However, we have learned from our previous lessons that he is decidedly content being married to Jethro’s daughter, tending to Jethro’s sheep and living in Jethro’s land. On this particular day a fire blazed forth in the desert in the sight of a man who needed it more than he had ever known. Moses was convinced that he ‘was’. Little did he know, he was about to meet I AM.

Girls, our God is one of present-tense. There is no situation where you have ever been, are in now, or are going any time in your future where He will not prove Himself to be a current solution. I believe sometimes we have the mindset that because our issues are rooted in our yesterdays, our past failures, our shameful histories, that God is unable to work a miracle in it today. Don’t let the enemy feed you that lie! God’s eyes are ever on you, even in the west side of the wilderness and for everything you are not – He IS. He can and will redeem a life not lived for Him and use it for His present glory but just like Moses, sometimes that calls for a cleansing.

Let’s look at a bit more scripture to explore this thought:

“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 come near here, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.'” Exodus 3:4-5

 

I am fascinated by the word ‘call’ that is used in this verse. It is not merely a shout or command, but when used with a name, is an establishment of authority over the one being called. The same concept is found with Adam in the Garden with his naming of the animals thereby establishing authority over them. God was in a sense beginning His commissioning of Moses by reminding him who was in charge. We’ll see in next week’s lesson how Moses tried to argue that point, but make no mistake, God allows dialogue but never disagreement where His will is concerned.

After God called to Moses, we find that he responded much like Abraham when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac. Whether in prosperity or pain, when God called the response was, “Here I am.” I pray that when my God comes looking for me that He doesn’t have to search for me in the bushes as He did Adam and Eve in the Garden. God did not call out because He didn’t know where they were. He wanted them to realize how far they had run from Him. It is a wise woman who constantly asks the question, “Where am I?” in her walk with the Father.

Moses is told not to come near because he is ‘standing on holy ground’. The terminology used in this phrase tells us the ground was consecrated and was in essence a place of cleansing. Though God used all those 40 years in Midian as preparation for Moses, he was living in past tense as an alien and stranger in a land not his own. God was extending an invitation to start over, be clean, and to be used of Him to work His wonders and spread His fame. It was time for Moses to lay aside the prince and the shepherd as well as any other pre-conceived idea of how he would bring about Israel’s rescue and become the God-defined deliverer he was born to be.

Girls, I have no way of knowing where you are in life. I simply know where I have been in mine. I have experienced difficult times in the past that I can look back on now as preparation periods for my ‘now’ ministry. When I have endured long times of waiting, it has always been followed by a time of an intense encounter with the Lord where He lit a fire to have me recognize to some extent the reason I had to go through that trial. That fire was not only for illumination but also for rejuvenation and restoration depending on what my state of mind was at the time. I know our lives would be so much easier if God would just show up in our azaleas and tell us audibly what He would have us do. But you know, He did that for the Israelites and they doubted Him nonetheless. I’ll take His written Word and Holy Spirit anyday. I can forget what a voice tells me. The power of it fades when hard times come however, I can never forget what a black and white word tells me day after day. What the Bible tells me is God loves mankind and He has chosen to reveal Himself to them through me and you. What will we do with that commissioning? God’s deliverance will come! I pray we will be a willing instrument through which He brings it. Let it be, Lord. And let it be me.

Let’s apply what we’ve studied with a few Discussion Questions.

 

1. How current is your God? Is he up to date on all your issues or do you have old hurts you still hold behind your back?

2. Has the enemy ever told you there are situations that are ‘old news’ that are better left stuffed down? Or perhaps because they were so long ago they can’t possibly be affecting you now?

3. In the matter of established authority, does God truly reign in your life? Where are you when He calls your name?

4. Do you ever feel God has forgotten you in your ‘west side of the wilderness’?

5. Have you ever experienced a time of cleansing where God has illuminated and rejuvenated you? If not, do you find you are in need of this now?

Please know I pray for each of you as we continue this study together. I appreciate your emails with your very personal responses to what God is doing in your life. When His Word falls on the fertile soil of our hearts, He promises it will bear fruit.  Blessings on you!!!

 

 

I AM Lesson Five                                                        I Was

Lesson Five

“I Was”

Key Passages:

Exodus 2
Hebrews 11
Acts 7  
 
“And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.”
Exodus 2: 21-22
 
Welcome back!

 By this point, you have a whole new perspective on biblical beauty from the first four lessons. I pray what you have learned of God’s idea of loveliness is something you will hold on to day after day when the enemy attempts to use the mirror to tear you down. Can we resolve ahead of time to instead turn that mirror back on him? In doing this, you will remind him of a divine paradox. He used to be the most lovely of God’s creation but Sin made him repulsive. We were once repulsive in our Sin however, by faith in Jesus Christ, God has made us beautiful. Satan is the ugly one, dear! Do not let him assign his fate to you!

We have come to the place in our study of Moses where we find him fleeing the wrath of Pharaoh because of his killing the Egyptian on behalf of a Hebrew. We are told in the New Testament book of Hebrews that he fled Egypt ‘in faith’. Can I suggest to you that sometimes we can be ‘in faith’ yet be totally bewildered, downcast, confused, and downright demoralized when things do not turn out like we planned? Are there any hands to raise? Moses flight led him to Midian which was located across the Sinai peninsula. (Midian is modern-day Saudi Arabia) The inhabitants there were descendants of Abraham and his wife Keturah, yet they were not devoted worshippers of the One True God.

Can you fathom Moses’ run across the desert? Envision his stumbling into the area of the Midian well distorted from the heat rising from the scorching sand. There is no doubt he caused quite a stir among the shepherds as he defended the Midianite women in his sweaty, Egyptian finery. The noble gesture earned him a place at the dinner table of Jethro, the priest of Midian, and Jethro’s daughter Zipporah as a wife to boot.

Do not be confused into thinking that Moses limped out of the desert and straight into happily ever after. Let’s break down our key verse and learn a bit more about Moses state of mind when he agreed to become a part of Jethro’s family.

“And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter.” Exodus 2:21 (KJV)

The word ‘content’ in this context is very interesting. It is the Hebrew word “ya’al” (Strong’s 2974) and means “to be willing, to show willingness, to be determined, to undertake to do, to make a beginning. It is making up one’s mind to commence a given activity. Today we use terms such as ‘initiative’, or ‘motivation’. The word has the nuance of determination and resolve.” Now, in comparison to this meaning of ‘content’, consider another definition NOT used here. It is simply, “to breathe after”.

Can you feel the difference? Moses’ contentedness was a determined decision to be happy in this new situation. He was a man with no family, no home. This opportunity was all he had going for him so he resolved to pull himself up by his fancy sandal straps and make a new life for himself. The other ‘content’ in my mind is much more dreamy and romantic. It is the steady rhythm of one who is not holding her breath in anxiety. It is the happiness of a mother watching her husband and children play together. It is the young couple without a penny to their name but rich in love. It is the college student who embraces God’s future for her life. It is the deep exhale of bliss.

And so Moses’ new life began. He became a shepherd, a detestable vocation to any Egyptian, much less one raised as an Egyptian prince. Hebrews tells us that Moses chose to be mistreated with his own people instead of enjoying his life of luxury, but something tells me he did not envision how far the mighty would fall. The next verse in our Key does not seem earth-shattering at first glance, but I am fascinated by the implications of the wording in it. Let’s take a deeper look.


“And she bare him a son, and called his name Gershom; for he said, ‘I have been a stranger in a strange land.”
 

In considering this verse, we will be setting the stage for perhaps the greatest encounter in the Old Testament between God and man – Moses and the Burning Bush. You have no idea how anxious I am to present it to you and how inadequate I feel to do it. If God has taught me nothing else through this study, it is that He is ENOUGH. I trust Him to complete His work and even if I say it wrong, He will have you read it right. I’m praying for a visual Pentecost!

Look with me at the definition for the name ‘Gershom’. Remember how significant the naming of a child was to the ancients. You can literally look at a child’s name and know the heart of the parent. Moses had become an alien in a strange land. Here was the birth of the concept of being far from our heavenly home, of living somewhere we do not belong. Moses was a City Boy who had found himself in the backside of the desert. What a terrifying, lonely feeling.

What I want to focus on right now is not so much Gershom’s name but with the verb Moses used before it, ‘have been’. There is yet some time to pass before Moses will meet God in the Bush, but you already know the name by which God will introduce Himself to Moses – I AM. I get the shivers just typing it! Here is the really fascinating part. The Hebrew verb translated ‘I AM’ (hay ah – Strong’s 1961) is the exact same verb translated in Moses’ naming of his son as ‘I have been’. When God says, “I AM ever-existent, I AM ever-present, I AM ever capable”, Moses will reply, “I Was. I was in the position to save the Egyptians. I was going to be their deliverer. I was going to do mighty things for You, God. I really was.”

Have you ever found yourself floundering in a desert? Unsure of your next step? Feeling like a ‘has been’? There have been seasons in my life when my situation was so barren that I could do nothing but look back on brighter days and think, “then I could have done something great for God. Then my faith was deeper, my relationship with God stronger, my circumstances more blessed.” I used to be so heartbroken over what I believed were wasted years of ineffectiveness when now I understand God used some very painful circumstances to demonstrate His power to heal. They were not wasted days at all. They were days of faith, days of preparation, days of strength. His strength, not mine. He wanted me to know Him so when it was time to spread His fame, I would have an intimate knowledge of the Person of whom I spoke. It is hard to convince someone of God’s goodness when you have never actually tasted it. It would be like trying to describe the view from the top of Everest when you have never climbed it. He and I have climbed together and the summit is amazing, Dear Sister! He’ll take you too, if you let Him.

Let’s discuss what we’ve learned today.


Discussion Questions:
 
 
1. Have you ever found yourself ‘in faith’ yet bewildered or demoralized?

2. Do you consider yourself content? Would you describe it as Decidedly Content or Dreamily Content?


3. If you are not content, are there circumstances that keep you from this feeling?
  
 
4. Have you ever found yourself in a place where you looked back on a period of your Christian walk and believed a great opportunity passed you by?
 
 

5. Do you ever believe your faith was stronger in an earlier time in your Christianity and find yourself floundering now?
 
 

6. How can this season be one of great preparation instead of a period of “I Was”?
 
 

 

In our study together next week we will continue with this line of thinking as we meet Jehovah God. I can not wait to show you how God can make the great exchange of our “I Was” for his ‘I AM’



‘I AM’ Study Lesson Sixteen

‘Wide Open Spaces’



Key Text:

Deuteronomy 34

Hebrews 11

It is with a bittersweet spirit that I write this Lesson – our final in the ‘I AM: So You Don’t Have to Be’ blog study. I hope you’ll be patient as I share a bit about what this process has meant to me.

I remember clearly coming home last March from our church women’s ministry retreat where I first presented this material and feeling God wasn’t finished with the message yet – not so much because He told me you needed to hear it, but because it required more time in my own heart to be a Word that would abide rather than be stored away on a shelf as a quaint memory of a great weekend with God and my girlfriends. He impressed upon me to spend more time in the Exodus account by writing the lessons out for this blog.

I had no idea how the idea of a blog study would be received by you, but I continued as a matter of obedience. When I shared my heart with my dear friend Iris, she was so incredibly supportive and even put legs to her encouragement by volunteering to make a study button. Thank you, Iris. You’ll never know what fire you’ve stoked in me!

One thing you can always know about anything I presume to teach is that God has already made my refining crucible melting hot before He ever lights a fire under yours. This study has been intensely personal. 1 Peter 5:10 is a favorite verse of mine. It says, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” This establishment Peter is referring to comes from a couple of Greek words that mean, “to set fast, to turn resolutely in a certain direction, or to confirm” and also, “to lay a basis for, erect, something put down as a substruction of a building”.

Girls, there are pillars our God is setting under our faith so that it will be one that does not shrink back nor is shaken. The idea that God is ENOUGH, that He is sufficient in every way so I don’t have to be is absolutely foundational for me in a way I didn’t comprehend before He led me down a very difficult road. Before this past year, I subconsciously believed I set my own pillars, that I had to be strong and in control so the house wouldn’t come tumbling down. So when the house did crumble in a most unexpected way I was left amidst the rubble holding on the only thing which still stood – the pillar of salvation. What is a girl to do when the walls fall in? The worst thing is to try to rebuild that thing on the same sand as before. We have to look to the Higher Rock and allow Him to be the substruction for every single thought, decision, action, word, and deed. It is only when our feet are set on this firm place that He can confirm the direction He has for our lives. This is the message of abundant living – being set on a right course in which we’ve traded all our dreams for God’s.

I am also very sentimental over today’s Lesson material as we will be focusing on Moses as he overlooked the Promised Land atop Mount Nebo. I think each of us have one person in Scripture with whom we feel a deep kinship. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been the girl at the bush stammering, “But, God! I can’t, God. I’m not good enough, God. Pick someone else, God.” This one thing I know through studying the relationship between God and His servant, Moses: It is SO not about me. Who am I to say my God is not enough to accomplish anything He wills through me? Satan will seek to turn our acceptance of a task into an issue of pride. If we say ‘yes’, will others think I think I’m good enough? And in all our looking at one another we have taken our eyes off the One whose glory will not be shared.

By the end of his long life, Moses had his eye on one person – the I AM, Yahweh, his Jehovah. Above all the names Moses could use to speak to God, perhaps the most precious to him was Friend. How else could he climb Mt. Nebo that final day of his life, knowing he would never return? I’ve read this last Chapter of Deuteronomy so many times always wondering what that scene must have been like. So, imagine my delight when I found the account of the day according to Jewish Tradition as recorded by Jocephus, a Jewish historian. Now remember, this is Jewish Tradition, not Scripture but captivating nonetheless. Just don’t get hung up on any extra-Biblical details.

With that said, get yourself a hanky and read Jocephus, Antiquities of the Jews 8:48-49 (*Note – scroll down to Chapter 8, verse 48-49. There was no link for these specific verses. I didn’t build them into the post for sake of space.)

Saying Goodbye

Being in ministry, Luke and I have had to say goodbye way more times than I like to count. The first time was when we left for college from the church we were both saved in the year before. Most of the years prior to my salvation, I hadn’t cried many tears. I was cold, strong, and self-controlled. The major work God did in my life in that first year after I was born again was simply to turn my black heart into a feeling, beating thing again. During our last Sunday at church, I cried every tear that had been penned up for the last ten. I didn’t think I would ever be the same again having to leave those people I had learned to love so much behind. BUT – a wonderful thing I’ve learned is this: Goodbyes are always followed by hellos.

I can only imagine the things in your own dear lives you’ve had to say goodbye to: loved ones, church fellowships, jobs, homes, dreams and expectations or perhaps many combinations of these. Based on what I know about God, I can safely say if He has allowed a goodbye in your life, He has replaced it with a hello you never asked for or imagined. What we are seeking in this last section of study is God as our Portion and the satisfaction for our souls.

There is no more beautiful picture of this concept than that of God and Moses alone on that mountain. Moses who had been a Prince of Egypt, a judge and prophet to millions and here he stood overlooking the Possession he’d sought for 40 years knowing he couldn’t enter. A lesser man would have been bitter and disappointed but Moses had come to know God Himself as his inheritance and salvation.

Though he would never step foot into what he believed to be God’s promise to him as well as the children of Israel, his joy was found in knowing his Canaan was about to be ultimately fulfilled. Just like Hebrews 11 tells us, we may not ever see the thing we believe God has promised us on this earth but our hope is in the ultimate rest of our Savior Jesus Christ. I believe I can also scripturally show you Moses looked forward to the rest of Jesus Christ as well. You are going to love this.

I want you to remember with me Moses’ Song in Exodus 15, particularly verse 2 which reads, “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him, My father’s God, and I will extol Him.”

Let’s look at the word ‘salvation’. The Hebrew for this word is ‘Yeshuwah’. For those of you who may not recognize this word, it is the Hebrew for Jesus! I have chill bumps each time I read its meaning, “something saved, i.e. a deliverance“. Okay, hold on because it gets better. The root word of ‘Yeshuwah’ is ‘Yasha’ and means “to be open, wide, or free. i.e. to be safe, to bring salvation, get victory.” The opposite of this word is ‘to be bound’. So what was Moses saying in his prophetic song? God has become my Jesus. He is my deliverance, my safety, my wide open spaces, my unbinding, my Promised Land.

It only makes sense that Moses would have been saddened by being told he could not enter Canaan, however, he didn’t need the ‘here’ because he looked ahead to his reward and persevered because he saw Him who is invisible. (Hebrews 11:27-28) Girls, sometimes God says ‘no’. It may be because of our own sin or more often simply because God is keeping us safe from circumstances we can’t possibly know. I love The Message version of 1 Peter 5:7, “Live carefree before God; He is most careful with you.” He is careful with you. Oh I could just collapse in a heap in my Father’s arms knowing I am safe in His heart. He is careful with me because I am precious to Him. He doesn’t want anything to come my way that He hasn’t carefully planned. If I do have to experience the fire, He wants to go in first instead of having me run off on my own. Our Father is very careful. Very watchful. Very much in love.

The View From the Top

I live close to Chattanooga, Tennessee and one of our famous tourist attractions is Rock City. The site is perched on the side of Lookout Mountain and, if you believe all the marketing hype, you can look off and “See Seven States!” Along the landing, there are several stands with the metal binoculars that allow you to see for miles.

I always think of Rock City when I read how God called Moses to the top of Nebo and began showing him the Promised Land broken down into each tribes’ inheritance. As I prayed over this scene while I was walking just this week, the song ‘Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus’ came on my iPod (The Third Day version of course). I cried like a baby as I pictured Moses on that mountain looking over the Promise. In my own imagination, I believe Moses’ death came just as in the song, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His Glory and Grace.” As the earthly Canaan dimmed, the unfading one appeared. Oh, that we could all go out in such a whisper.

It’s Time

There is so much more that could have been said and so many better ways to have said it but I pray from the depths of my heart that God impressed at least one truth from this study that will indwell your spirit, abide richly, and change the way you move through this earth. I hope you know you are beautiful in God’s eyes. That you are enough because He is enough. That you have enough because He is your satisfaction. He is all that and more – so you don’t have to be.

Instead of our list of Burning Questions, I would like to leave you today with just one:

What is one thing God has taught you through this study?

Blessings on you!

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