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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

FEAR OF FIRE


Blogging Exodus 3: 1-6



Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.
3 Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”
4 So 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.”
5 Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”
 6 Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God (Exodus 3: 1-6).

Moses saw a bush on fire.  In the desert. 

And?

Brush fires weren’t unusual in the desert, but this particular fire was . . . weird.  It didn’t do what fires normally do. 

Fire is light and heat.  Fire light reveals, symbolically and literally pushing back darkness. 
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119: 105).


The heat of a fire transforms the internal chemical nature of its fuel, and unless exposure to the heat of flame is controlled, fire will consume and destroy whatever it burns. 
For our God is a consuming fire! (Hebrews 12:29)

A great move of God in your life and the life of a community can be frightening, like spotting flames in the brush surrounding you.   In that moment your instinct may be to flee or to douse the flames.  You might escape into distracting entertainment, mind-numbing social media, or the soul-clouding anesthetic of sin.  You could quench the Holy Spirit by rationalizing providence as coincidence or by submerging your head in the sands of anxiety and self-doubt.

Moses, the introvert, chose to retreat into himself. 
And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God (Genesis 3:6).


Fear is the opposite of faith.
Jesus said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26). 

Fear is also the opposite of love. 
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).

The only good fear is the fear of God. 
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).


Knowledge is also called enLIGHTenment. 

Moses hid his face in fear, but not fear of being destroyed by the Lord’s fiery wrath.  He already knew that this was a fire that didn’t consume.
He looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed (Exodus 3:2).

Moses hid his face because he was afraid to SEE what new and disruptive things God wanted to show him.  Moses didn’t want to know.  He didn’t want to be enLIGHTened.


When God lights a fire in your life, you don’t have to fear.  The fire isn’t sent to destroy you.  It’s there to light your way.

For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob (Malachi 3:6).

If you’re afraid like Moses was, do what Moses did:  Follow your curiosity and draw closer to God in study. 
Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn” (Genesis 3:3).

If you’re afraid like Moses, do what Moses did:  Draw closer to God in worship. 
Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Genesis 3:5).

If you’re afraid like Moses, do what Moses did:  Be present in the presence of God. 
God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”
And he said, “Here I am” (Genesis 3:4).

When God called me to preach and when He called me to serve in the community full time, I was a scared as a shepherd watching a weird brush fire in the desert.  I hid from, ran from, and rationalized away those callings for years.  But while I wrestled, I studied, I worshipped, and I learned by fasting and meditation to be present in the presence of God.  Then I laid all my excuses out before God.  And then I followed His calling on my life.

It wasn’t and isn’t easy, but it was and is worth it.

So you are not alone.  WE aren’t alone.  Moses knew the same anxiety. He felt the same self-doubt.  He, like us, felt the same fear at what God was going to reveal to us about us this time.  Moses, like us, dealt with his fear through study, worship, and practicing presence with God. 

Those tools still work.  I know they do. 

You don’t have to fear the fire.


You can listen to the full sermon that led to this article. The audio version is posted at http://andersontgraves.blogspot.com/2017/03/dont-fear-fire.html

--Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama. He writes a blog called A Word to the Wise at www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064

Sunday, May 20, 2018

BUILD IT OR BURY IT

At the intersection of tabernacle, talents, and tongues of flame is a message about how we used the gifts God gives us.  Originally delivered for Young Ladies Guild Day at Miles Chapel CME Church, the title of the sermon is: BUILD IT OR BURY IT.


Listen well and leave a comment.

If you can’t get the audio on your device, visit the main podcast page at http://revandersongraves.podomatic.com/

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, AL 35064

Sunday, May 13, 2018

FROM WANDERING WOMAN TO WONDER WOMAN (sermon podcast)

A message for mothers and all women.  (Brothers, this might do you some good, too.) FROM WANDERING WOMAN TO WONDER WOMAN.


Listen well and leave a comment.


If you can’t get the audio on your device, visit the main podcast page at http://revandersongraves.podomatic.com/

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, AL 35064

Friday, May 11, 2018

THE END OF CONTENTMENT & THE BEGINNING OF PEACE


Blogging Exodus 2-3.


Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses. And she bore him a son. He called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.”
Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage.
So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush.
So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.   Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn” (Exodus 2:21-3:3).

Moses had tried, but it didn’t work.

He’d tried to use his education to enlighten his people.  He’d risked his position and personal prosperity as an example of commitment to the cause.  He’d fought for them, killed for them.  He’d believed that if he told them and showed them and sacrificed himself for them then they would listen, and see, and rise up with him to take back their freedom.  Moses had tried to be a revolutionary.


It hadn’t worked.

So Moses left.  He put a (literal) thousand miles  between him and Egypt.  Met a nice Midianite girl.  Got married.  Adopted her dad as his dad.  Quietly took up the family shepherding business.  Had kids.  You know, normal life.  He’d been a son of pharaoh, a prince of Egypt but the whole time he’d been so angry.  In Midian he was old Jethro’s son-in-law, a husband and father, the shepherd.   In Midian Moses was content.

Then Moses was content to live with the man (Exodus 2:21).

Content means Moses didn’t feel like something was missing in his life. He didn’t sense the absence of a greater destiny.  He’d gotten past all that change-the-world, save-my-people stuff.  He was good.  No, really.  Fine as he was.

Then God set a bush on fire.

And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. . . .  God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses! . . .  Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exodus 2: 2-4, 10).

And Moses told the Lord, “No, thank you.”

The next 29 verses (Exodus 3:11 – 4:17) is Moses making excusing and God refuting Moses’ excuses, until Moses finally says point blank,  “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send” (Exodus 4: 13).

Basically, “Send somebody else.  I don’t wanna go.”

I understand Moses.  I understand how it feels to be genuinely and truly OVER IT. 



You get tired of repeating the same truth to people who say, “Amen” and then live like they don’t know what truth is.   You get tired of pulling all-nighters to figure out solutions for folks who begged you to figure out a solution, but when you offer the solution they say, “Who made you a prince and ruler over us.”   You get tired of fighting Pharaoh for your people AND fighting your people to get them to fight Pharaoh.    When you realize that “your people” ain’t gonna lift one finger to protect you from bankruptcy, stress-related high blood pressure, student loans, strained relationships in your own house, or Pharaoh’s guards ---- then you might decide to put as much distance as you can between them and you.  You might decide to just be husband, father, and local shepherd.  You might not even miss trying to be a revolutionary because you might actually be content. 

Now godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).  

But then WHY IS that bush STILL on fire?

Because GOD was not content.

Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage.  And God  heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them (Exodus 2:23-25).

600-plus years after the promises to Abraham, God’s people were still His people.  400 years after Joseph, 4 centuries of being addicted to life Pharaoh’s Goshen, 4 generations of forgetting who they were and Whose they were ------ God’s people were still His people.  And the Lord had not given up on fulfilling His promises to His people. 



Your people don’t stop being your people.  


Your calling to your people doesn’t cease to be your calling to your people.

And no matter how genuinely OVER IT you are, the fact that you still draw breath means God is not done with you yet.

When Moses said “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send” it pissed off God. 

So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses (Exodus 4:14).

And God made Moses go back to Egypt ANYWAY. 

They keep calling and emailing you, don’t they?  



You deliberately missed all the meeting and they still want you to work on the project.

Your social media feed, the commercials during your favorite show, that song that made you weep on the way to church, that radio sermon that almost made you pull over on the way to work, even the advice you hear coming out of your mouth to somebody else . . .
I said, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.”  But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not (Jeremiah 20:9).

 Now, you understand some things you didn’t before.  Now, you’re not na├»ve about how easy the war will be.  Now, ironically, when you don’t want to lead anymore, you’re ready to lead. 

And yeah, you have reasons and excuses and 29 verses worth of prior engagements and conflicting obligations, but guess what? 

You’re still gonna go.

You’re not going to change God’s mind about your calling.  You might piss God off.  But you aren’t going to change His mind about your destiny. 

For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob (Malachi 3:6).

You still doing what God called you to do is the reason you are still around to do anything.  You might as well accept it.

So Moses went and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said to him, “Please let me go and return to my brethren who are in Egypt, and see whether they are still alive” (Exodus 4:18a). 

You’ve had your season of contentment on the sidelines.  Now the only place you’ll find peace is back in the middle of the game.

And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.”  (Exodus 4:18b). 


If the blog moved you, listen to this message from our Exodus preaching series.


If you can’t get the audio on your device, use this link:  WHEN GOD DOESN'T LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE (audio)


--Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama. He writes a blog called A Word to the Wise at www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

ANGRY YOUNG MAN or “MOSES AND THE REVOLUTION”


Blogging from Exodus 2:11+

Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.(Exodus 2:11, 12)

Moses was angry.  It was a seething, simmering, suppressed rage lidded by a schooled smile, a flawless WASP accent, and the impeccable manners acquired in an Ivy League lifestyle; but Moses  had been angry for the better part of 40 years. 

If any of his high-class Egyptians peers had noticed, one of the elders would surely have accused Moses of being “ungrateful.”  After all, he’d enjoyed privilege, education, and opportunities other boys like him could only dream of.



But Moses knew too much to just “shut up and play” the game of Egyptian assimilation.  

Moses KNEW that the man he called grandfather had tried to kill him when he was a baby.  Moses KNEW that the same folks who caled him “sir,” and “your highness” would have cheerfully drowned him in the Nile without hesitation and without consequence.

In 4 decades in Pharaoh’s house, how many racist, anti-Semitic jokes do you think Moses forced himself to laugh at?  How many times did he sit through impassioned speeches about how it was acceptable for Egyptians to murder young Hebrew boys because “Look at all the Hebrew-on-Hebrew crime”?


How many family dinner guests casually quipped about wasting education on Hebrews because “All they really need is to job skills so they can make bricks faster”?

  

In 40 years, how many adopted siblings, cousins, uncles, and aunts repeated the common line,  “All those Hebrews do is live off the government in Goshen and have babies and take Egyptian jobs” and then when they noticed Moses’ awkward silence added, “but not you, Moses.  Oh no, your highness.  You’re not like THEM.  I don’t even see color when I look at you, your Highness.  You’re like a ‘real’ Egyptian.” 

Someone probably even tried to explain to Moses that the Hebrews LIKED being slaves.  “They’ve been in Egypt 400 years,” they said, “That sounds like a choice.”




For 40 years Moses heard and KNEW:  “They’re talking about my people.  They’re talking about my brother, my sister, my mama.  They’re talking about ME.”  

Yeah, Moses was angry.  But, he didn’t kill the Egyptian overseer because he was angry.  Not ONLY because he was angry.   Moses killed the Egyptian because he was angry and AMBITIOUS.

Moses supposed that his  Hebrew brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand . . . (Acts 7:25).

that God would deliver them by his hand

Moses didn’t just want to kill an overseer; he wanted to Nat Turner the whole system.  Moses was trying to start a revolution.



That’s why Pharaoh ordered Moses killed.   He didn’t care about another spoiled prince’s liberal rage, and he didn’t care about a dead overseer.  The Egyptian royal family were worshipped as the descendants of the gods.   A prince of Egypt could have killed or ordered the death of a hundred lowly Egyptian overseers for any reason or for none at all.    No prince would be arrested for murder but one would have been arrested and executed for treason.


So why didn’t God support Moses when he first tried to deliver the Hebrew children from their oppressors? 

Remember what the Hebrew men asked Moses the day after the murder? 

And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, “Why are you striking your companion?”
Then he said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? . . . ”  (Exodus 2:13,14)

Who made you a prince and a judge over us? 

They knew that Moses wasn’t just angry; he was angry and ambitious.  Moses didn’t just want to be a liberator.  Moses wanted to be king. 



But the only kind of king Moses knew to be was a king like Pharaoh.



God didn’t want another pharaoh. 

So instead of endorsing Moses’ revolution by striking down the Egyptians in a string of deadly miracles, the Lord let Moses catch a case.  He  fled into the wilderness of Midian where he met a man named Reuel, aka Jethro.

Reuel (Exodus 2:16) became Moses’ father-in-law and mentor.  For the first time in his life, Moses sat under an actively engaged father figure.  He learned to be a husband and father.  He learned to know and love the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  In Egypt Moses spent 40 years learning  to lead like a pharaoh.  In Midian, it took just as long for him to learn to serve like a shepherd (Acts 7:23; Exodus 7:7).

When God spoke to him out of a burning bush Moses had changed so much that he tried to decline the offer of leadership.

God didn’t support the revolutionary who wanted to be a king.  God called the prophet who wanted to be a shepherd. 

Maybe this is why OUR attempts at revolutionary reform in and through the church fail:  because we fail to get beyond our anger and our ambitions.  We need to add a whole new mindset to our highly educated skillset.   

The Lord is looking for leaders who have not made their ascent to power a condition of their people's deliverance.  God is waiting on us to think less like revolutionaries and more like shepherds.

--Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama. He writes a blog called A Word to the Wise at www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064


Sunday, May 6, 2018

DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHOSE WORDS ARE COMING OUT OF THEIR MOUTH?

The first sermon in the new series, preaching through the book of Hebrews. 

The title is a question you may (kinda) recognize: DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHOSE WORDS ARE COMING OUT OF THEIR MOUTH?


Listen well and leave a comment.


If you can’t get the audio on your device, visit the main podcast page at http://revandersongraves.podomatic.com/

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 

Click here to support this ministry with a donation.  Or go to andersontgraves.blogspot.com and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, AL 35064