Thursday, February 27, 2014

March Gaylord E-Free Preview

God is doing some amazing things here at Gaylord E-Free and the month of March is set to be quite a month for our ministry.  Below is an update of just a few of the highlights that will happen in the coming month as we continue to strive to MEET as many people as possible right where they are and help MOVE them to where God wants them to be:


Over the first 3 Sundays of March we will be completing our character study in the life of Moses.  Beginning March 23 we will start a new 4-week series that we are calling “The Trial of the Ages.”  Over the 12 hours in between Jesus’ arrest and His crucifixion He endured six grueling and illegal trials.  We will be digging into the Gospels and studying what the Bible says in detail about these trials.  Over the 3 Sundays leading up to this series, Pastor Joe will be teaching a Parallel Points Class on Sunday nights which will follow Jesus from His triumphal Entry through his arrest.  This series will help to prepare us for the Easter season. 


It has been absolutely amazing to see and hear the daily feedback we are receiving from people who are listening to our 9am service broadcast on The Eagle (101.5).  Beginning this Sunday we will expand our radio ministry to thousands more with our new “Folks Listen” broadcast on The Promise FM (90.5) which can also be heard on line at  This will be a 30-minute taped and edited broadcast of past sermons I have preached here at E-Free.  “Folks Listen” will air every Sunday morning at 11am.  The broadcast schedule for the first 13 weeks is as follows:

·        Mar 2 – History’s Greatest Weddings (Adam & Eve)
·        Mar 9 – History’s Greatest Weddings (Esther)
·        Mar 16 – History’s Greatest Weddings (Ruth)
·        Mar 23 – History’s Greatest Weddings (Water into Wine)
·        Mar 30 – History’s Greatest Weddings (Revelation’s Wedding)
·        April 6 – Essentials: From God, Through Me, To You (Draw Near)
·        April 13 – Essentials: From God, Through Me, To You (Hold Fast)
·        April 20 – Essentials: From God, Through Me, To You (Consider How)
·        April 27 – Finding Your Style (The Straight Approach)
·        May 4 – Finding Your Style (The Story Approach)
·        May 11 – Finding Your Style (The Seeing Approach)
·        May 18 – Finding Your Style (The Serving Approach)
·        May 25 – Finding Your Style (The Social Approach)


·        March 5 – Concert of Worship
·        March 8 – Splash N Skate
·        March 15 – Men’s Conference
·        March/April – Sr High Florida Trip
·        March/April – Israel Trip


God is doing some great things in regards to the funding of our nursery expansion.  As of now we have over $227,000.00 in cash and pledges which may allow us to break ground this Spring as we look to raise the remaining monies for this needed project during construction. 


We have tentatively picked Sunday, March 23, as our first broadcast Sunday with our new camera system.  On that Sunday we will look to broadcast the sermon part of our services down to the Classic Service in the chapel.  Below are some questions and answers regarding this possibility:

Why are we broadcasting the sermon down to the Classic Service?  It is our desire to see our Classic Service grow in both numbers and effectiveness.  Currently the worship portion of the Classic Service is abbreviated each Sunday so that there is time for the attendees to walk from the Chapel down to the Gospel Center in time for the message.  Broadcasting the message down to the chapel will allow more time for worship in the Classic Service and it will allow for the service to flow uninterrupted.  All of this together will enhance the worship experience in the Classic Service.

What if people still want to be part of the Classic Service worship but watch the sermon in person in the Gospel Center?  There is certainly no problem if there are some who would still want to walk down to the Gospel Center for the message.  The only difference is that there will not be a set time in which those who would like to do this are dismissed.  They will have to do this on their own.

Will this broadcast be quality?  The main reason we have not yet started the broadcast is to ensure the quality.  Not only will the picture be high definition in quality, you will actually find the quality increased in that you will be watching the speaker up close rather than from a distance.

What else will this broadcast technology allow for?  Along with broadcasting down to the Chapel we will also be able in the very near future to begin doing a quality video live stream of our worship service on line as well as having video archive of services and messages available on our church website.  All of this will allow us to make even greater strides in our vision which is to saturate Otsego County with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and having it bleed over into all of northern Michigan.


Easter this year is April 20.  Due to it being later than usual and in no way associated with Spring Break, we are anticipating the largest Sunday morning in the history of our church.  Our theme will be CSI: JERUSALEM as we set up the empty tomb as a modern day crime scene and use Easter as the first of 3 Sundays in which we follow the evidence to see exactly what happened that resulted in the tomb being found empty.


Our Vision Tree in the back foyer outside the Gospel Center is continuing to see the green apples (indicating the specific aspects of our 3-year vision plan and the cost associated with each element) turn to red (indicating that those items have been paid for by someone in our church).  As God lays it on your heart to give a financial gift to see a specific element(s) of our vision take place, you can simply remove the green apple.  You can then place a check in the box that is at the tree or you may give the gift through the church offering or by contacting the church office.  Either way you give – please be sure to indicate what specific aspect of the vision plan you are giving the gift towards.  Because we don’t want to sacrifice present ministry, we do ask that all gifts toward our vision plan be above your regular giving. 


Don’t forget to follow through on these three commitments regarding your TARGET THREE.  This is MEETING & MOVING at its best!

·        Pray for each of them by name daily that they would come to know Jesus and that God would use you in the process!

·        Build bridges to them regularly!

·        Partner with E-Free to get them under the sound of the Gospel!

Friday, February 21, 2014

FOLKS LISTEN Radio Broadcast Schedule Announced

The Promise FM (90.5) has officially released the schedule for the first 13 programs of the new FOLKS LISTEN radio broadcast which will debut on Sunday, March 2, @ 11am.  FOLKS LISTEN is a professionally taped and edited 30-minute broadcast of sermons I have preached here at the Gaylord E-Free Church in Gaylord, Michigan.  The first 13 shows will feature the following three message series:

"History's Greatest Weddings" - a study of 5 great weddings in the Bible including the very first wedding of Adam & Eve; the redeeming wedding of Ruth & Boaz; the royal wedding of Queen Esther; the revealing wedding in Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine; and Revelation's wedding, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

"Essentials: From God, Through Me, To You" - a study of Hebrews 10:22-25 as we seen the need for we as followers of Jesus to draw near to God, hold fast to our hope, and consider how to stimulate other  believers to greater love and good deeds.

"Finding Your Style" - a study of 5 different styles of sharing our faith with others including Peter's straight approach, the blind man's story approach, the woman at the well's seeing approach, Dorcas' serving approach, and Matthew's social approach.

The schedule for the first 13 weeks of FOLKS LISTEN is seen below.  FOLKS LISTEN can be listened in northern Michigan on 90.5 FM or anywhere in the world at

Mar 2 – History’s Greatest Weddings (Adam & Eve)

Mar 9 – History’s Greatest Weddings (Esther)

Mar 16 – History’s Greatest Weddings (Ruth)

Mar 23 – History’s Greatest Weddings (Water into Wine)

Mar 30 – History’s Greatest Weddings (Revelation’s Wedding)

April 6 – Essentials: From God, Through Me, To You (Draw Near)

April 13 – Essentials: From God, Through Me, To You (Hold Fast)

April 20 – Essentials: From God, Through Me, To You (Consider How)

April 27 – Finding Your Style (The Straight Approach)

May 4 – Finding Your Style (The Story Approach)

May 11 – Finding Your Style (The Seeing Approach)

May 18 – Finding Your Style (The Serving Approach)

May 25 – Finding Your Style (The Social Approach)

Moses (part 2) - Welcome Baby Moe

We began our Moses series by looking at the time in which Moses was born, 350 years after the death of Joseph.  All of the Jewish people had been put in to hard labor and slavery because the new Pharaoh feared their numbers.  In order to try to emasculate them, he puts them into slavery but it doesn't work.  They continue to multiply.  They continue to grow so he issues a proclamation that every baby boy born to a Hebrew woman was to be thrown into the Nile River.  That's the setting when Moses comes in to the world. 


Exodus 2 doesn't give us the names of Moses’ parents but if you jump ahead to Exodus 6 you see the name of Moses' family. 

“Amram married his father's sister Jochebed and she bore him Aaron and Moses.” (Exodus 6:20)

Moses is born to a Jewish family living in Egypt at the time of slavery.  The husband's name is Amram.  We do know based on scripture that Amram was from the tribe of Levi.  He ends up falling in love with a woman named Jochebed.  According to Exodus 6:20, Jochebed is also Amram's aunt. 

Moses is not their first child.  He's actually their third.  Their middle child is a son named Aaron who would have been about 3 years older than Moses.  Aaron would have been born prior to the king's edict to kill all the baby boys.  The oldest child of Amram and Jochebed is a daughter by the name of Miriam.  At the time that Moses is born she's a pre-teenager.  She's somewhere between age 7 and 12 and she's going to play a very vital role in the story.  

When Moses is born it is during the time of a horrible Egyptian proclamation.  Let me remind you of that proclamation seen back in Exodus 1:22.  In this verse, the king makes it very clear what is to take place. 

“Then Pharaoh commanded all his people saying, every son who is born, you are to cast into the Nile.  Every daughter you are to keep.”

When Amram and Jochebed conceive and she realizes she's pregnant, this proclamation is in effect in Egypt.  I have to believe that every single day for nine months this couple prayed one simple prayer, “God, please let it be a girl.”  They knew that if it was a boy they were in big trouble.  If it was a boy, it was going to have to be killed. 

When Moses is born we see the nature of these parents.  According to Exodus 2:1-2, they have a son.  Jochebed hides the baby for three months.  Here's the question – “Why does she hide him?”  The verse gives us the answer. 

“The woman conceived and bore a son and when she saw that he was beautiful she decides to hide him for three months.”

What makes this woman come to the conclusion at the risk of her own life and the life of her family, to hide this baby boy?  It says that she saw the baby was “beautiful.”  Don't just wax over that because it's easy to read that and go, “Yeah, yeah, every mother thinks their baby is beautiful….Big deal.”  Are all babies beautiful?  No!  Are all babies precious?  Yes.  Are all babies beautiful?  No.  Some look like aliens. 

There is more to this description.  When it says that she saw that he was beautiful, it's saying that God has put into her heart the fact that this baby had a special purpose.  That's what made him beautiful.  If you jump ahead into the New Testament, you get to Acts 7 where Stephen is preaching a sermon.  At the end of the sermon he will be stoned to death and will become the first martyr in the New Testament church.  In part of his sermon he's going through the history of Israel and he gets to this part about Moses.  Notice what he says about Moses' beauty in Acts 7:20:

“It was at this time that Moses was born.  And he was lovely in the sight of God.”

When it says she noticed he was beautiful, I don't think it's simply talking about physical beauty.  The Spirit of God put in Jochebed's heart that this baby had a special purpose.  He was lovely in the sight of God and so for three months this family, in an amazing act of courage, hide the existence of this baby. 

Do you realize how hard that would have been?  Everybody knew she was pregnant and now everybody knows she's not pregnant.  How do you hide the existence of a baby in a land with thousands upon thousands of Hebrew people living in small huts right next to each other?  What do babies do all the time when they're not sleeping?  Among other things they cry and they cry and they cry.  Can you imagine what a task this was for this family for three months to hide the existence of that baby boy? 

It took such courage that it lands them right smack dab in the middle of Hebrew's chapter eleven’s great hall of faith - the chapter where God lists for us all the great men and women who have shown faith in the Bible.  In Hebrews 11:23 it includes the parents of Moses. 

“By faith, Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents because they saw he was a beautiful child and they were not afraid of the king's edict.”

We already have seen the Hebrew midwives who were ordered to kill all the baby boys and chose not to because the Bible says they feared God more than they feared Pharaoh.  You and I will never reach our full potential as followers of Jesus Christ until we fear God more than we fear any human on the face of the earth.  That's where Jochebed is.  That's where Amram is.  As a result, they hide this baby for three months. 

During those three months we have no idea what they called this baby.  The name Moses is given to him around the age of 4 by the princess of Egypt.  That wasn't the name given to him by his parents.  The Bible doesn't tell us the name given to him by his parents.  I like to think it was “Scott” but I'm not real sure about that.  We're not sure what it was.

They concealed the baby boy for three long months and now they realize they can't keep it up any longer.  They're going to put together a plan to save the baby that I believe was put in their heart by God and it's going to involve a basket. 

“When she could hide Moses no longer, she got him a wicker basket.” (Exodus 2:3)

The word “basket” is the same word used in the book of Genesis to describe another floating device that was much bigger in size.  It's a word that literally means “ark.” and was used to describe Noah's ark - different size but same concept.  She takes this basket, covers it with tar and pitch so it is water resistant, and then she put the child in it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile River. 

I’ve been to the Nile River.  On one of our trips to Israel we visited Egypt.  I remember when we first arrived eating at a cafe right on the Nile River.  As I was eating and watching the Nile River, in my mind I was trying to envision this basket floating down the river with the current with baby Moses inside of it.  I was really enjoying this picture in my mind until it all got popped when I looked down and there was something floating down the Nile River but it wasn't a basket.  It was a big, dead, fat, bloated cow. 

They didn't put the basket in the main part of the Nile River so the current would just take the basket downstream.  That's not what they did.  There would have been a tributary coming off the Nile River with large reeds and they would have put the basket in the tributary so it would sit among the reeds.  The basket wasn't going to go anywhere.  There was no current.  It was just going to bob there.  Interestingly enough, in doing this, they really obeyed Pharaoh's command. Pharaoh said that every Hebrew baby boy was to be put into the Nile River.  They did.  They put him into the Nile River. 

Think about how difficult this was.  When Jochebed and Amram put that baby in the tributary and they walk away, Jochebed had to be thinking, “Will I ever see my baby again?  Will I ever hold my baby again?”  Remember the day that you dropped your child off at college for the very first time?  What a tough day that is for a parent.  Can you imagine leaving your baby in that basket?  At this point they were trusting God completely with that baby's future.  When Amram and Jochebed first married, this wasn't what they envisioned happening to their child.  Moms and dads, we must get to the point where we are willing to trust God with our children's future even if it doesn't measure up to what we thought was going to take place. 

According to verse 4, Miriam doesn't go with them back home.  Instead she stood at a distance to find out what would happen.  She's not just hiding in the distance out of curiosity.  There's a plan that she's going to play a part of and she knows the plan.  They have rehearsed it. 


I believe that Jochebed and Amram scoped this whole thing out.  They realized that for their baby son to live someone had to find the baby who had the power to say, “This baby lives.”  In all of Egypt who's the only person who could disobey Pharaoh's command?  Who's the only person who could say, “I found a baby.  I'd like to keep it.”  It was Pharaoh’s daughter, the princess herself.  Some things transcend generations and transcend cultures and one of them is that daughters really do have their daddies wrapped around their little finger. 

Moses’ parents are banking on that when it comes to the princess.  They know that the princess has a routine.  They know that about the same time she would come down to the Nile River to bathe.  This is what we would call a “Divine appointment.”  A divine appointment is when God puts the right person in the right place at the right time for the right purpose.  That's what He's doing.  He's putting the right person (the princess) in the right place (the Nile River) at the right time (when the basket's there) for the right purpose (to find Moses). 

Divine appointments don’t just happen in the case of Moses.  They happen in your life.  Just about every single day of your life God is orchestrating the events of your life to get you at the right place at the right time for the right purpose.  At this very moment God is orchestrating the events of other people's lives, some of whom you've never even met, to get them at the right place at the right time so they can rub shoulders with you.  God is always working behind the scenes.

“Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile with her maidens, walking alongside the Nile.  And she saw the basket among the reeds.”  (Exodus 2:5)

The princess sees something strange.  She is down at the river all the time and that basket's usually not there.  Her curiosity now takes over and she sends her maid into the water to get the basket.  All the while Miriam is watching the plan unfold.  The maid takes the basket and brings it back out.  God has accomplished the divine appointment.  He has the princess at the right place at the right time for the right purpose. 

“When she opened the basket she saw the child and behold, the boy was crying.”

Why is that important?  Why is that even in the text?  Remember, she is the daughter of Pharaoh.  She knows Pharaoh's edict.  She's been told that Hebrew people are dangerous and that if they keep multiplying, they're going to overtake the Egyptians and their dynasty would fall.  Her family would lose the palace.  When this woman sees that it's a Hebrew baby boy in the basket she should have ordered the maid to take the baby by the ankles and drown him in the Nile River.  She is not a lover of Hebrew people.  She's been taught to hate Hebrew people. 

But something happens when she opens that basket that connects to her heart.  At that exact moment God causes the baby to cry.  I don't know if an angel pricked his foot or what but God causes him to cry.  There are no coincidences with God.  There are no accidents with God.  He knows what He's doing right down to the finite details.  Men cave in when women cry.  Women cave in when babies cry.  And when this baby cries, he connects right to this princess's heart.  God uses even the cry of a baby in this whole process to rescue Moses for the special purpose that he has. 

There's a verse in the Bible in the book of Proverbs that says that the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord and like rivers of water He turns it any direction he wants it to go.  It doesn't matter how powerful a man or woman is; it doesn't matter what degree of royalty they attain; if God wants to change their heart, God will change their heart.  And He does just that with the princess.  She is now connected to this baby. 

“Then his sister Miriam said to Pharaoh's daughter, shall I go call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women that she may nurse the child for you?” (Exodus 2:7)

This baby needs fed.  The Gerber baby food company has not come on the scene yet.  The princess has not given birth so her body can't produce milk at this point.  So, Miriam, just like I'm sure her mom had her rehearse a million times, comes over and says, “Would you like me to go get a Hebrew woman who's recently given birth who can nurse the baby?”  It's all part of the plan that God put in their heart.  Pharaoh's daughter thinks it's a wonderful idea and so she sends Miriam off to find such a woman. 

As Miriam races back to the land of Goshen, can you imagine how her heart is about to explode?  She's got to be running back going, “It worked!  She bought it!  This is amazing!”  She runs back and she gets her mother, Jochebed, the mother of the baby.  The princess doesn't know it's the mother of the baby.  Jochebed has to put on a pretty good act here.  She has to pretend she doesn't know this baby.  She has to pretend she has no real interest in the baby, even though it's hers, as she comes before Pharaoh's daughter. 

Pharaoh's daughter asks Jochebed to take this child away and nurse him for her and offers to pay her to do so.  Jochebed left the Nile earlier that morning wondering if she would ever see her baby again, wondering if she would ever hold this baby again.  Now, not only does she see the baby, not only does she hold the baby, she gets to take the baby back home with her because she's going to nurse the baby until the baby is old enough to go to the palace. 

Do you remember the old Ginsu knife commercials?  It slices, it dices, it does everything.  And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, the announcer would go, “But wait, there's more!”  That's what is happening here.  Jochebed comes out and the princess gives her the baby.  How awesome!  But wait… There's more!  She gets to take the baby home.  But wait…There's more!  She gets to nurse the baby and continue that bond only a mother can have with their child.  But wait…There's more!  If you order right now, here's what else happens.  She gets paid to do it!  And every mother reading this is going, “That's how it should be!” 

We serve an awesome God!  Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him -- God -- who's able to do immeasurably more than anything you could ever ask and anything you could ever imagine.”  If there was ever a woman in all of history that understood that fact, it's a Jewish woman named Jochebed who not only got to hold her baby again, she got to take that baby home, she got to nurse that baby and she got paid to do it.  What an amazing story. 

That leads us to the adoption of Moses.  Moses would have stayed in that Jewish home until he grew.  The Bible says in verse 10, “the child grew.”  He's not just weaned, he grew.  He would stay in that Jewish home until it was time to be adopted by the princess.  In Egyptian culture of that day, that would happen around the age of 4.  Moses would have stayed in his own Jewish home for the first four years or so of his life.  Look at verse 10. 

“The child grew and she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son and she named him Moses and said, because I drew him out of the water.”
For the first four years of Moses' life he doesn't live in the palace.  The first four years of his life he's in that Jewish home with his Jewish mom and dad who taught him Jewish songs, fed him Jewish food, and told him the story of a Jewish God.  Then, at age 4, they would have brought Moses to the palace where the princess would have adopted him.  It's at that point in the text that she gives him the name Moses because the word Moses means “to draw out.”  She drew him out of the water.  We don't know what his name was before age 4 but at this point his name becomes Moses. 

The first four years of his life, he's a Jew.  The next 36 years of his life, until age 40, he lives in the palace.  Notice what the book of Acts says regarding his Egyptian years.  In Acts 7:22, Stephen's preaching still.  He says,

“Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians and he was a man of power in words and in deeds.”

For 36 years, from age 4 to 40, he's living in the palace.  He is getting trained with the best Egyptian education possible, hieroglyphics and the whole nine yards.  He's learning it all.  He has the best clothes.  He has the best textbooks.  He has the best teachers.  He has the best tools.  According to the text, he becomes powerful in words and in deeds.  In fact some historians that he was being groomed to be the next Pharaoh.  This guy has a future as an Egyptian and it’s a future of power and wealth and prestige. 

At the age of 40, however, he's going to have to make a decision.  He's going to reach a fork in the road.  He's going to have to decide at the age of 40 if he is going to fully continue and immerse himself in the Egyptian culture, which might even land him the job as Pharaoh, or if he is going to go back and immerse himself in his Jewish roots.  Not much of a choice, is it?  What's amazing is what the Bible says in Hebrews 11 he decided to do.  In Hebrews 11:24-25 it says this,

“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, he's 40 years old, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.”

At the age of 40, he makes the decision to turn his back on his Egyptian connection and to fully immerse himself in his Hebrew connection.  What in the world would have led Moses to make such a decision?  I'll tell you what did it.  It was those four years from birth to age 4 that Moses spent in the land of Goshen with his Jewish parents learning about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  And when age 40 came, we realize that those four years behind that door marked Joseph for life. 

I think we have made a mistake in our culture today.  I think we have made a big mistake in the church today.  We have undervalued the importance of those formative years.  We have undervalued how critical birth through age 4 really is.  It was what happened during those four years that far surpassed in Moses' heart what happened in the 36 years that he lived in the palace.  What happens to you before the age of 5 will mark your life forever. 

In the church today it is easy to say, “Ah, that's just the nursery.  All they do there is rock babies.”  Tell that to Jochebed.  Tell that to Amram.  Those four years marked Moses' life forever.   It is not just the nursery.  They are not just parents of preschoolers.  You are not just a children's worker.  The story of Moses would have been completely different had it not been for those four years in that Jewish home.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Moses (part 1) - Misery Multiplied

The Bible is an amazing book and it's filled with unbelievably exciting stories.  You don't have to make the Bible more exciting than it already is.  We want to begin our journey through one of those stories and it's going to be the life of Moses.   

We're not going to get through the entire life of Moses but we are going to go from his birth to the Exodus as we study through the first 13 chapters of the book of Exodus.  We begin in chapter one by seeing the times in which Moses was born into.  We're going to learn the history behind the birth of Moses.  If you're going to understand the Bible theologically, you must also understand it historically.  To really understand the man, you have to understand the time in which the man lived.  We're going to break it down into three areas.  We're going to see, first of all, that Israel goes to Egypt.  Then we're going to see that Israel grows in Egypt and then we're going to end by seeing that Israel groans in Egypt. 


Let's begin by talking about how Israel got to Egypt to begin with.  To understand this you have to know the story of Joseph.  Joseph is betrayed by his brothers which results in his being sold as a slave into Egypt where he spends many years as a prisoner.  Ultimately, he is elevated to the position of prime minister where only Pharaoh himself was greater in power. 

God then uses Joseph to save all of Egypt and the surrounding areas from a horrific seven-year famine.  During that famine, Joseph's brothers are forced to go to Egypt for food.  They think Joseph is probably long since dead.  It ends up that they are reconciled to their brother, the prime minister.  Joseph is again bonded with his brothers and all of Joseph's family leaves the land where they live and they come to Egypt where Pharaoh gives them the good part of the land and they end up living in prosperity in the land of Egypt.  That's where Exodus picks up the story in Exodus 1:1.

“Now, these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob. They came each one with his house hold.”

In verses 2, 3 and 4, he lists the names of his sons.  Now, interestingly enough, he doesn't list them in the traditional way which would be to list them in the order of their birth.  Instead, he lists them in groups based on who their mother was.  If you remember the story of Joseph, the sons of Jacob were born to him by four different women.   

“All the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were 70 in number but Joseph was already in Egypt.”

We see that when Israel arrives in Egypt, they arrive with 70 men along with women and daughters.  There is 70 of them - that's all.  That's how they start in the land of Egypt. 


From there we discover is that Israel grows in Egypt.  In verse 6 of Exodus 1, we learn that Joseph dies.

“Joseph died and all his brothers and all that generation.”

To give you a little bit of a timeline, Joseph would have been 17 when he was sold into slavery.  He would have been 39 when his family moved to Egypt.  He then would have lived another 71 years ruling as prime minister and he dies as the age of 110.  Along with him dying, so does his generation.  His dad has already died.  All of his brothers have died.  All the generations of Joseph are completely gone.  Time is marching on. 

From the time of Joseph's death to the time of Moses' birth is about 350 years.  Many of the following generations have all died.  But during this time, we discover the prosperity of the sons of Israel.  Look at verse number 7 and notice what happens to Israel in the land of Egypt during these 350 years. 

“But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly and multiplied and became exceedingly mighty, that means in numbers, so that the land was filled with them.”

Here are the sons of Israel.  They have lived in the land of Egypt now for 350 years.  God supernaturally blesses them and they multiply in amazing fashion.  They start with 70 men plus Joseph, but notice how they end up.  In Exodus chapter one, 70 men enter into Egypt but in the book of Numbers, when they leave Egypt there are over 600,000 men.  When you add women and children, at the time of the exodus there were probably over 2 million Jewish people.  It all started with 70 men who entered Israel 350 years prior to the birth of Moses. 

God blesses them in amazing ways which, by the way, is evidence of God's promise.  Back in Genesis 46:3, when Joseph invites his family to come live in Egypt, his father is hesitant.  Should he really leave the land where he lived and move to Egypt?  So God makes him a promise.

“I am God, the God of your father.  Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt for I will make you a great nation there.”

God keeps that promise.  At the time of the exodus, the Israelites have grown from 70 men to over 600,000 men.  They are an amazing number of people filling the land of Goshen in the region of Egypt. 


Now we get to the time period that leads up to the birth of Moses.  This is not just a time period of misery it is a time period of misery multiplied.  Two things take place.  In verse number 8 we find that a new Pharaoh has come into power. 

“Now a new king, a new Pharaoh, arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph.”

Keep in mind it's been 350 years since Joseph died.  There have been several different Pharaohs reigning in Egypt during that time.  The Bible doesn't tell us which Pharaoh it was that ruled during the time of Joseph, or which Pharaoh it was that ruled at the birth of Moses, or which Pharaoh it was that ruled at the time of the exodus.  But a new Pharaoh comes on the scene and this Pharaoh has no remembrance of Joseph.  If you were to bring up Joseph's name, he would go, “Joseph who?”  He has no idea about Joseph or what happened in Egypt through Joseph. 

How could that be?  How could a Pharaoh not remember Joseph?  Keep in mind that it was 350 years earlier.  Let's do a little exercise to see if we can't plant that into our minds.  Let me give you a year in history and I want you, without cheating and using your smartphones, to tell me who were the main characters on the world stage and what were the main occurrences going on at that time.  The year is 1664.  Who were the main characters?  What were the main occurrences?  You likely don’t have a clue because it was 350 years ago.  So it's not surprising that this new Pharaoh would have no recollection of Joseph. 

For him, there's no sentimental connection at all to the Hebrew people.  They are just a group of people, a large group of people, living in the land.  That results in a nagging problem for Pharaoh.  Beginning in verse 9 you see the problem and how he deals with it.  Here's what it says,

“Pharaoh said to his people, behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we.  Come, he says.  Let us deal wisely with them or else they will multiply and in the event of war they will join themselves to those who hate us and fight against us and apart from the land.  So, they appoint taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor.  And they built for Pharaoh storage cities.  But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel.  The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously and they made their lives bitter with hard labor, in mortar and bricks and in all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.” 

The Israelites have grown to the point that they outnumbered the Egyptians.  For Pharaoh, this is a problem.  It also produces fear in Pharaoh's mind and heart.  The fear is that the children of Israel may join forces with one of their external enemies, and if that were to happen, the Egyptian empire would topple easily.  Based on this fear he decides he needs to break their spirit which he believes would keep them from multiplying and becoming an even mightier group of people.  To do so, he puts them into severe slavery.  Go back and read verses 9 through 14 and notice the adjectives and adverbs.  This was hard slavery.  They worked rigorously.  They worked in bitter conditions.  This was an attempt to break their spirit. 

He puts them in slavery and they build storage cities.  Some people have the mistaken idea that it was the Hebrew slaves that built the pyramids.  The pyramids pre-date Moses and Joseph.  That's astonishing.  I've had the thrill of standing at the foot of the largest pyramids in Egypt and when you look at these amazing structures, one of the greatest wonders of the world, it is staggering to think that they were built in a time period with no modern construction or engineering equipment.  The Hebrew slaves did not build the pyramids.  They already existed.  They built storage cities. 

Notice a principle that is worth contemplating.  What was it that drove Pharaoh to put the Israelites in hard labor?  Was it his dislike of the Israelites?  Not really.  Was it mere racism?  No.  The thing that propelled Pharaoh to act in such an aggressive and brutal nature was his internal fear that they would join with an external enemy.  Quite often people who act in aggressive ways are really acting out of an internal fear that you cannot see.  When you look back over your life at the times that people acted towards you aggressively, even brutally, chances are very good that it wasn’t really stemming from a hatred towards you as much as it was from an internal fear of something.  In your own life, when you find yourself being aggressive towards somebody else, you need to stop and ask yourself, “What am I really afraid of?”  Often our aggressive nature is propelled by an internal fear.  That's what happens to Pharaoh which results in his wanting to break the spirit of the Israelites by putting them in hard slave labor. 

It doesn’t work and instead the Israelites multiply even more.  His problem grows.  His fear escalates.  Now he has to try something else.  He's going to have to get more brutal.  He's going to have to get more aggressive to try to alleviate the fear that's in his own life.  He issues a nasty proclamation which really comes in two phases.  First, there is a subtle phase, kind of an ‘under the radar’ approach.  Then, there will be an ‘over the top’ approach.  The first approach deals with the midwives.  Pharaoh issues an order to the midwives in verses 15 and 16. 

“Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives and said, ‘When you are  helping the Hebrew women to give birth, and see them upon the birth stool, if it is a son then you shall put him to death but if it's a daughter then she shall live.’”

In order to try to stop the growth of the Jewish people, because that's what Pharaoh sees as the problem, he goes under the radar and calls in the midwives who help with all the Jewish births.  Two are mentioned by name, Shiphrah and Puah.  There would have most likely been more than two midwives so chances are really good that Shiphrah and Puah were supervisors.  All the midwives probably worked underneath them. 

Basically Pharaoh says, “Here's what I want you to do.  When you're called to a Hebrew home because a woman is giving birth and she is on the birth stool (keep in mind in the culture of that day ladies didn't lay down when they give birth, they crouched on a stool) and you're helping to deliver the baby, as the baby's coming out, as soon as you notice the gender of the baby, if it's a boy, smother it.  If it's a boy, as it comes out, kill it and tell the women it was a stillborn.  Tell them that their baby was born dead.’   That's the command to the midwives. 

It's amazing to me how cultures change in many ways except evil continues to progress.  What the king was demanding of the midwives is no different than the modern-day practice in our country of partial-birth abortion.  That's what the king commands of Shiphrah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives.  Notice how they respond.  Notice their courage in verse 17.  I

“But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded, but instead, let the boys live.”

Shiphrah and Puah, though they are names most people have not heard of, are amazing heroes in Scripture.  These are women of great courage because to disobey the king would most likely result in execution.  These women are caught in a quandary.  If they disobeyed the king, they would probably die.  But if they obeyed the king, they were going to have to disobey their God. 

So they make a decision and this decision is that they fear God more than they fear the king.  They would rather face the king being disobedient than to face God being disobedient.  One of the number one reasons today as to why believers continue to live compromising lives in our culture is, because unlike Shiphrah and unlike Puah, believers today fear man more than they fear God.  They fear their neighbors more than they fear God.  They fear their co-workers more than they fear God.  They fear their classmates or their bosses more than they fear God.  Not Shiphrah.  Not Puah.  These ladies said, “We would rather face Pharaoh and disobey him than face our God and disobey Him.”  So they chose not to obey and the children of Israel continued to grow. 

The Bible is filled with examples of individuals who walked in the steps of Shiphrah and Puah, who disobeyed human authority when human authority called upon them to disobey God.  In the Bible we are told very clearly that we're to obey our authorities but it is not a blanket submission.  There is an exception.  In Acts 5 we see Peter and the apostles who have been arrested for preaching about Jesus.  They've been beaten, thrown into prison and told, “You are not to preach about Jesus ever again.”  Jesus Himself was the one that commanded Peter and John and the apostles to go into the world and preach the gospel so they can't obey the orders of their Jewish leaders.  Instead, they continue to preach and they're brought before their authorities again who question them.  Notice how Peter responds,

“Peter and the apostles answered and said, we must obey God rather than man.”

It's very simple.  We are to always obey our authority unless by obeying our authority it causes us to disobey God.  That's the principle.  If you go back to the book of Daniel, you are introduced to three young men -- Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego.  King Nebuchadnezzar orders that at the sound of the music everyone is to bow down and worship the idol and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refuse to do it because God said, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”  The king brings them in and says, “Don't you realize by not doing this I can throw you in the fiery furnace?”  Look how they respond. 

“Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego answered and said to the king, ‘Oh Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire, but even if He does not, let it be known to you, O King, we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.’”

They say, “Sorry, King, we can't obey you because to obey you, we'd have to disobey our God.”  Notice another important principle that we see.  When you're put in the position that you have to choose to disobey a human authority because by obeying that authority you would be disobeying God, you must be willing to pay the consequences.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were and they were thrown in the fiery furnace as a result.  God ultimately saved them but they were willing to pay the consequences. 

Notice one more example.  In Daniel 6, Daniel is told that he can't pray.  Daniel knows that to obey that command he'd have to disobey God so he prays anyway and he's thrown into the lion's den.  The next morning the king, who has a hunch that Daniel's God will save him, runs down to the lion’s den. 

“The king arose at dawn at the break of the day.  He went in haste to the lion's den.  The king spoke and said to Daniel, Daniel, servant of the living God has your God whom you constantly serve been able to deliver you from the lions?”

I love Daniel's answer.  God did deliver him and Daniel responds and says, “O King, live forever!”  Here’s another principle to remember.  Even when Daniel is forced to disobey his authority, because by obeying his authority he would be disobeying God, he still does so with respect.  If the king threw me in the lion's den and God sent an angel and saved me and the next morning the king showed up, I'd say something like, “Ha, sucker!  It didn't work!”  I love how Daniel responds, “O King, live forever.” 

These examples are not teaching that any time you disagree with an authority you can disobey them.  The Bible doesn't say that.  The Bible doesn't say, “Submit to your authorities unless you disagree with them.”  The Bible doesn't say, “Submit to your authorities unless you don't like them.”  The Bible says, “Submit to your authorities unless their command would cause you to disobey God if you did it.” 

In the 48 years that I have been alive I can only think of one time in my life when I was put in that kind of a situation.  I was a kid playing little league baseball.  I wasn't very good.  I had a lifetime batting average of .034.  If you know anything about baseball, you know how rotten that is.  Our team was going down to the building where they had all the uniforms and equipment to pick up our gear.  Every team got so much equipment.  You could buy additional equipment if you desired.  As we were walking through the facility, my assistant coach looked at me and pointed at a doughnut.  In baseball, that's not something you eat.  A doughnut is a weight with a hole in it that you put on the bat as you're warming up.  He pointed to the doughnut and he said to me, “They have more of those than they need.  Put it in your bag.” 

What in essence did my assistant coach tell me to do?  He was telling me to steal the doughnut.  If I obeyed him, who would I be disobeying?  I would have been disobeying God.  As a result, my answer should have been, “Sorry, Coach, but I fear God more than I fear you.  I can't do that.”  Instead, I took the doughnut as instructed and put it in my bag.  Someone caught me.  I got in big trouble and when I told them that the assistant coach told me to do it, he denied the whole thing. 

My point is simply that in our culture (at least today) this is not a common occurrence.  In 48 years I've only been put in this position one time where to obey an authority, I would have to disobey God.  I think sometimes we're way too good about rationalizing away why it's okay to disobey authorities we don't like and don't agree with. 

When I was a youth pastor I was trying to teach this principle to my teenagers so one night at youth group I put white papers all over the walls of the youth room and I said, “I want to make a list of every dumb rule that you have to obey.  Let's start with your parent's rules.  I want you to tell me every dumb rule your parents have and we're going to write them on the walls.”  We filled those white papers and a lot of those rules, frankly, did seem pretty dumb.

I then said, “Now let's go to your school.  Let's list all the dumb rules that you have to follow at school.”  We listed many more.  Then I said, “How about youth group?  What are some dumb rules I have as a youth pastor that you have to obey?”  We had the walls filled with these rules.

I then gave each student a marker and said, “I want you to go up to the walls and I want you to star any of these hundreds of dumb rules that if you obeyed them you would have to disobey God.”  Not one rule got a star next to it.  Even though some of them were really dumb rules, and even though these students didn't agree with or like them, none of the rules would have caused them to disobey God by doing it.  We are called upon in Scripture to submit to our authorities with an attitude of respect unless obeying a command of our authority would cause us to disobey God.  That's what happened to Shiphrah and Puah.

Over time, Pharaoh realizes that his command was not followed and he questions the midwives saying, “Why do I still see baby boys?  How come you haven't done what I told you?”  They respond in verse 19.

“The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women for they are vigorous and they give birth before the midwives can even get there.’”

I can't help but laugh when I read that verse.  I think the thing that makes me laugh the most is that Pharaoh bought it!  They're saying, “Pharaoh, you know we tried but you have to understand that Egyptian women, they take a long time to get that baby out, but not those Hebrews.  Boom-boom-pop and there it is.  It’s all over before we even get there.” 

Now, in essence what did they do?  They lied.  We could talk about situational ethics all day long.  We could bring up all kinds of examples and give all kinds of explanations as to why this might have been a justifiable lie.  But when I look at scripture I see very clearly the principle that God hates a lying tongue.  I really do believe that God could have protected these midwives even if they would have told the truth.  I just wish that we as Christians would be as zealous to find ways to obey God as we are to find ways to get around His commands.  Notice, though, that God still rewards these midwives.  Look at the consequence that they face in verse 20. 

“So God was good to the midwives and the people multiplied and became very mighty and it came about because the midwives feared God that He established households for them.”

Nowhere in the text does it say He rewarded them for lying.  He rewarded them because they feared God more than they feared man, seen by their refusing to obey Pharaoh.  As a result, He gives them households.  If you go back and read the ancient literature, it appears that for the most part in that culture, that midwives were barren.  Barren women became midwives.  Women who couldn't give birth became midwives to help others give birth.  Chances are really good that Shiphrah and Puah were barren women and as a result of their willingness to obey God, even though the king had given them a command, God allows them to have families of their own. 

For Pharaoh, however, his problem continues to increase.  The children of Israel continue to grow and Pharaoh’s fear continues to escalate.  Now, instead of an ‘under the radar’ command to the midwives, he gives a public decree to the masses.  Notice the order he gives to the masses in verse 22. 

“Then Pharaoh commanded all his people saying, every son who's born, you are to cast into the Nile River and every daughter you are to keep alive.”

Pharaoh now gets aggressive.  He escalates his brutality.  He gives a public decree to every Egyptian in the land that whenever a Jewish baby boy is born into the world, they are rip that baby out of the arms of its mother and throw it into the Nile River to drown it.  It's hard to estimate how many thousands of Jewish baby boys were thrown into the Nile River but many of them were.  It's that culture into which Moses is born.  It's that scenario that's going to make the birth of Moses unbelievably miraculous. 

Keep in mind that back in Genesis 15 God made a promise to Abraham about 450 years before Moses was born.  

“God said to Abraham, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs (the land of Egypt) where they will be enslaved and oppressed for 400 years (and they were), but I will judge the nation whom they serve and afterward your descendants will come out of Egypt with many possessions.”

That's what's ultimately is going to happen.  The children of Israel living in misery for 400 years as slaves with baby boys being drown in the Nile River will ultimately leave that time of slavery with 2 million plus people and many possessions on their backs and animals.  It didn't matter how powerful Pharaoh was, he couldn't thwart the plan of God.  It doesn't matter how powerful man thinks he is, man cannot thwart the plan of God.  It doesn't matter how powerful Satan thinks he is, Satan cannot thwart the plan of our God.  And that's what the story of Moses is going to show us in amazing, vibrant color.   

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A brief glimpse into the private part of my heart

It’s not often that I give a public view of my heart.  Though I do public speaking for a living, preaching to multiple services at our church which are also broadcast live via the radio and internet; and though I make dozens of Facebook posts and tweets each week; the truth is that I tend to be a private person when it comes to the personal areas of my life.  On the things that are most personal to me, I tend to keep my thoughts quite reserved.  I am the type of person that if I were having a surgery, I would be prone to not tell a sole (other than my wife and kids) and just take a few days off without people knowing the reason and circumstance.  But today I feel led to let others see into my heart, at least in one specific area.

This past Valentine’s Day my wife and I both were faced with a vivid and emotional glance at our immediate future.  We were spending the day together out in Petoskey, having lunch and catching a movie.  At the end of the movie we put our coats on and I began walking to the exit thinking that Laura was right behind me.  When I got out into the hallway I turned around only to see that she had not come out of the theater yet.  I stuck my head back inside and she waved me over to where she was standing. 

She was talking to an elderly couple that had been seated a couple rows ahead of us during the movie.  The wife was up but the husband was still seated.  The wife politely explained to us that her husband had Parkinson’s disease, and after sitting for two hours watching the movie, his body had stiffened and he could not get up.  Though she had tried, she could not get him out of his seat.  As I helped her get her husband up he smiled, thanked me, and told me how much he had enjoyed the movie.  We asked if we could help them walk out to their car but the wife assured us that now that he was up, though they would move rather slowly, he would be able to walk to their vehicle. 

As Laura and I exited the theater we looked at each other and both broke down crying.  We had just seen a glimpse into our future.  You see, my dad also has Parkinson’s disease and the progression of his illness has begun to accelerate.  Mom and dad live in Florida.  They were with us last summer and we were able to see this digression for ourselves.  Since then, things have continued that slow, downward spiral.  Recently dad fell and my mom had real difficulty getting him back up on his feet.  Though in his brain he was doing everything he needed to do in order to get back on his feet, what he was thinking in his brain was not transferring to his body.   

This, along with other issues reacted to his disease, has made mom and dad realize that living so far away from either me or my sister would make it very difficult for my mom to be able to take care of my dad as this disease continues to take its toll.  As a result, my parents have put their trailer in Florida on the market and, as soon as they sell it, will be moving up here to northern Michigan where we hope to find them a place to live so that we can be nearby to help care for my dad.  As we saw this dear couple in the theater, and the way this wife was so loving and patient with her husband, we saw our future and realized just how much we will need the grace of God in our lives.

On one hand, I look forward to being able to spend more time with my dad in the time he has remaining on this earth before his entrance into heaven.  On the other hand, I am in no way looking forward to watching his decline and his ultimate physical demise.  I want to be the kind of son to my dad that this dear wife at the movie theater was to her husband.  It was obvious that it took everything this woman had to take her husband to a movie by herself.  It was cold and snowy outside. How much easier would it have been to just stay home and watch television?  Yet, this precious wife wanted her husband to enjoy as much of life as he could for as long as he was able.  That’s my desire for my dad.

We realize that the foreseeable future will not be easy for my wife and me (though I’m sure we really have no idea the degree of the challenge that it will be).  There will be lots of heartache.  There will be lots of pain.  There will be lots of tears.  There will be lots of trials.  Yet, I am convinced that in every season of our lives, even the most difficult of ones to endure, there is a beauty waiting to be seen.  We saw a glimpse of that last summer when my parents were with us and we were having dinner out on the back deck including, Laura, myself, my parents, and my daughter (Joy). 

We were talking about silly songs when my dad piped up and said that he remembered a silly song about skinny-dipping that they use to sing at Boy Scout camp.  Unfortunately, his demeanor sank when he couldn’t remember the words or the tune.  Our conversation continued for a while when out of nowhere dad said, “Wait!  I remember.”  He then sang just the first line of that silly song from his Boy Scout days.  That was all he could remember.  Several minutes later he again said, “Wait I remember another line,” and he added the second line of the song.  This went on for quite some time.  It took a good 45 minutes or more but ultimately he was able to piece together the whole song (actually, I’m pretty sure it was a combination of two songs that he was making into one).  He taught the song to Joy and one of my prized possessions and fondest memories is the video I took on my cell phone of him and my daughter singing this song together as they laughed and smiled (picture above).

It is that memory that reminds me that even in the hardest seasons of life there are beauties to behold.  The problem is that we can become so focused and so absorbed on the hardness of these seasons that we fail to see and/or fail to appreciate the beauty that lies beneath the pain.  It is my prayer that in the months and years ahead, whatever timeframe that God wills, I will be able to look through the hardness of the coming season of my life and not only see, but appreciate the beauty that I know will be there.

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that there is a time for everything.  The wise man then gives a list of couplets with one side being something positive and the other side being the exact polar opposite (i.e. there is a time to laugh and a time to cry; there is a time to be born and a time to die).  Each side of these couplets is different in that one is easy while the other is difficult, but each side of these couplets is also very similar in that both sides are part of God’s plan for our lives.  That makes each side of the couplet, the positive and the negative, a season in life that includes beauty.

So there you have it – a little glimpse into the private part of my heart.  If you right now are going through a difficult and hard season of your life, it is my hope and my prayer for you that you will be able to see beyond the hardness and take notice of the glimpses of beauty that I believe are there.  You may have to look deep and you may have to put on your spiritual spectacles to see them, but there is a beauty that is present for you to view and to appreciate.

This past Sunday we showed a video in church of a dear man of God who recently passed away of lung cancer.  I had the privilege of interviewing him on video a couple weeks before he went home to be with the Lord.  I asked him how he was handling his physical condition becoming worse.  He replied, “It’s not worse.  How can it be worse when it ends with me seeing Jesus?”  Now there is a man who can look beyond the pain and horror of a season of his life called “cancer” and see the beauty.  After all, for the Christian the best is always yet to come.