Thursday, March 1, 2012

Excuse Me (Part I)

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land.  For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (Deut. 34:10-12)

 Now that is an epitaph, a fitting summation to one of Israel's greatest leaders, and yet Moses never wanted to answer God's call on his life. 

For most of my life I did not believe in the concept of present-day "callings"- God commissioning individuals for certain tasks and/or missions, but my experience over the last three years has shifted my perspective. I have no concrete evidence that God calls people today.  I cannot purchase a Calling Test at the local Walgreen's, open the box and ask, "God, are you calling me to move to Africa and serve orphans and widows?"- spit on the test sensor and if it turns pink, - yes, Africa is a calling.  But, if it turns blue, "No, just last night's tacos talking." In other words, it is a grey issue, where it is difficult to discern between God and bad tacos.  My belief that God calls people to specific tasks is a "gut thing" not a "scientific thing" (as wrong or as right as that might be). It's the Jeremiah syndrome: a fire in my bones burning to come out, a dull ache in my heart relieved only by answering its proddings.   

Perhaps God has called you to a specific task or ministry: from adoption, to recycling, to full-time church work. As you respond or think about responding, Moses's failed excuses in Exodus 3-4 offer valuable insight regarding "callings." In this post we glean some calling principles from Moses's first two excuses.

It's not about being a SOMEBODY but about being with A SOMEBODY (Ex. 3:11-12). Out of a burning (but not burning) bush God invites Moses to stand toe to toe with Pharaoh.  Moses responds, "Who am I?"  In other words, I'm a nobody, especially to go 12 rounds with a heavyweight like Pharaoh.  Moses was right.  He was a nobody.  Wait, let me take that back.  He was a murderer (Ex. 2:11-12).  He was also an experienced shepherd, but God was not calling him to herd sheep through the desert. God was calling him to lead the defining liberation movement in Israel's history.

Moses focused on his inability rather than on God's power.  Within three verses Moses already forgot that the exodus was God's project, "I have come down to rescue them [his people]." God did not need Moses but he strategically chose to collaborate with him.  The exodus was not an opportunity for God to showcase Moses but rather for God to showcase his power and love through Moses.  (God also makes a habit of choosing the least likely with whom to partner.)

So if God is calling you to a task, you are likely to have one of two reactions.  First, "Who me? I can't do this." Second, "Of course he picked me. I have all the credentials."  Both are wrong.  God's calling is not about being a Somebody but being with A Somebody - namely GOD. Take confidence that this is his project and he has chosen to partner with you.  

It is not simply a call to mission but to personal transformation (Ex. 3:13-14).  After God extinguishes Moses's first excuse, Moses lights another match. "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your Fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask, "What's his name?"  In other words, they say, "Who?"  Israel did not yet have a relationship with Yahweh, and for that matter neither did Moses.  Moses had likely heard of God but did not have a relationship with him. He didn't even know God's name, "Oh, and uh, you are...?"

God responds by saying, "Tell them 'I Will Be who I Will Be" sent you (Ex. 3:14)."  The divine name was an invitation to discover God.  God tells Moses, "You don't know me yet and neither does Israel but by the time this journey is over you WILL know who I am."  After the 10 plagues, the crossing of the sea, the manna, the quail, the water, the victories,  and the covenant Israel would no longer ask, "Who?" and it would be said of Moses, "He knew God face to face." Answering God's call not only freed Israel, it transformed Moses.

When God calls you to mission it is not simply about you doing something; it is about God doing something in you.  When you adopt a child so much more happens than completing paperwork and bringing a child home, something changes in you.  When you answer a call to the inner city, it's more than fighting poverty. You develop the eyes of Jesus.  When you answer the call to ministry, it is more than teaching and helping others. It's learning to love the bride as God loves her.  When you answer the not only create change but you are changed.  Do it for others.  Do it for yourself.


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