Soundtrack Part 1 - Your Burning Bush
In this message you will learn: God wants to walk with us before He works through us.
Today we are kicking off a brand new series, Soundtrack. And thorough this series, my desire is that you take some steps towards having a growing awareness of God’s presence in your life.
Soundtracks have a way of setting a mood… they help us interpret what is going on. They also add color to things.
[4 Movie Soundtracks]
Just like movie soundtracks have a way of setting a mood or taking us back to a moment, being in the presence of God has that same effect.
Now, anytime I talk about some of the deeper things in a relationship with God, there are a couple of groups of people that are listening to me.
The first group, you're here and you may not exactly know why. You don’t yet have a real vision for how you want your life to be different but there's something inside of you that probably thinks it's going to have something to do with God. And that if there were a few things fixed in your relationship with God, that that my overflow and impact your marriage, or your job, or friendships, or something, right? And so there's something inside of you that kind of made you least want to put your toe in the water again and say, "I need to be more consistent with this God thing." And so, you are hear.
And we are honored that you would choose this place as you community to help you get this figured out.
Then, there are some people here today who will get nothing out of today, nothing at all. And there's a couple of reasons why. There's a group of you who think you're too spiritual. So when we start talking about what we're about to talk about in a minute you're going to think “you know what, I’m beyond that. I already know that kind of stuff and so I'm just going to kind of cruise through this.”
There's also a group of you who think you're not spiritual enough. Another mistake I think but you're like, “this sounds good and I would like to be interested in what that dude's talking about but there's no way he's talking to me because I don't really know if I believe in God. I don't know if I believe in the Bible and so I would like to be interested in that but I'm going to walk out of here and my life won't change at all because I'm not spiritual enough.” So there's that group, you won't be impacted at all by today.
There's another group of you who you're going to listen today and you're going to be like man that kind of makes sense. I've always thought that that's kind of what God was. And I always thought that's the kind of relationship that he probably wanted to have with me. And so I love the idea of that, I really do.” But then you're going to walk out of here and you going to right back into some kind of pattern of busyness, and distraction, and if we're honest, although you walk out excited, it's not going to change your life one bit.
But then there's another group of you, and it may be a small group. It may only be a handful of you at each one of our services. But you're going to hear this today and something's is going to click. A light bulb is going to go off inside of you, and you're going to grasp this today, and you're going to make some changes. You're going to walk out of here today and you'll be like yeah I need that, I want that. I want my life to revolve around that. And you're going to be forever changed. And it's going to change your marriage, it's going to change the way that you date, it's going to change the way that you work, it's going to change everything about your life.
And that handful of people, whoever you might be, you're why I got out of bed this morning. You're why I wrote this message. You're my motivation to want to do what I'm doing because I know that for some reason today when you hear God's Word, something is just going to click and it's going to change you.
So it's going to be fun over the next few minutes to just see how this connects and who it connects with. But I want to start with this passage in Exodus 3.
If you grew up in a church, you've heard this story before. It's kind of like one of the very first Sunday school lessons that you would hear as a kid.
3 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father,[a] the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
Now this is obviously where we get this phrase, “a burning bush moment”, right? And you've heard that phrase before. It's often used to describe some kind of supernatural encounter that someone has with God. It's like this moment where you sense or you feel God's presence.
It could be a moment where you felt like you heard from God or God impressed something on you. Some of you have had typically what we describe as the burning bush moment before, right? Where you were you just really felt God's presence in a very significant way.
Some of you are thinking, I've never experienced that but I would really like to. And we've all had those moments where we feel like were crawling in the dark. And we just wish God would say, "Hey marry that person. Take that job. Move to that city." We really wish that more often we would have these burning bush moments. We think it would probably increase our faith, maybe we would have a closer relationship with God.
And I think that in many ways we've taken this story out of context. This was an amazing moment, no doubt about it, but I think really what we see in this story in many ways is that God engulfs the ordinary.
It’s just a bush, right? I mean Moses, he's a shepherd. He's probably walked by this bush and thousands just like it hundreds of times every day. It's just a bush, right? But now it's different because he sees God in the bush. He literally heard God talk to him through the bush and so now my guess is he'll never walk through that desert, past a bush again, and not think about the presence of God. God engulfed the ordinary and it changed everything probably about Moses as Moses walked forward.
And so my goal, and part of what I want to set up today is, we can live everyday in the presence of God.
I think that many you desperately want your life to be different than it has been in the past. But you probably don't have a real vision for how it could be different. You have hope, but you don't have a plan. So my goal, what I want to help us kind of do as a community over the next couple weeks, is get to a place where I think we can live everyday in the presence of God.
I want us all to get to this place where you live with your spiritual eyes open and you see God in this world, maybe in a way that you never have before, in places that you've never seen him before.
I read a quote that struck me in a profound way. This is Elizabeth Barrett Browning. She wrote, “Earth's crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God. But only he who sees, takes off his shoes."
And I read that and I thought to myself, “You know what? There are so many moments like this, every single day.” Earth is crammed with heaven. Earth is crammed with God's presence. There's so many of these just every-day, common bushes in my life that are afire. I miss them. Why? Because I'm distracted. Because I'm busy. Because I'm running the rat race.
I just started to think, “How many of these things are happening in my life that I miss every day because I'm not listening to the soundtrack?"
What would it be like if first, I start with my life, and then, we talk about this as a community? What would it be like if we could try to put some things in place so that we start to live aware of God’s soundtrack? What would it be like?
I mean, how incredible would that be if every single person that calls Next Level home, went into every day looking for these moments, right? Where God's presence is just evident in all of these ordinary moments?
3 men, John Ortburg, John Elderedge and Dallas Willard have probably done more than anyone to help shape my idea of what we call a with God life. This idea of this God who really wants to be with people. I'm heavily indebted to them for this concept of this with-God life.
They all point out that there is a theme to the Bible. If you were just to kind of open up the Bible and look from the beginning to the end, there's a real theme that tends to kind of come up...
The Bible is about human life with God.
It's be hard to argue that. It's human life with God. We see it from the very beginning in Genesis, right? That there's this God who creates this world, and He creates man, and He creates woman. We read about Him creating this garden in Eden, right? Really, what this garden is, is it's just a place where God can be with that which He has created. It's just a place where He can be with Adam and Eve.
In Genesis 3, this isn't in your outline. It's a very ... I think it's a remarkable verse, but it says that, "Adam and Eve heard the Lord God walking through the garden in the cool of the day." It's a really interesting phrase, "They heard the Lord God walking through the garden in the cool of the day." I don't even know what that's like, because we don't really believe that God has a body. He's more like a Spirit, but they hear God walking through the garden in the cool of the day.
The way it's written makes us believe that this was common. This was an ordinary thing that God would be with them walking in the garden.
Now, what's so remarkable to me about this concept of God walking with them in the garden is you walk with people that you want to be with, right? I mean, it's like when Jody and I met. We met in college and in college you're busy, or at least you think you are, and so we had classes, and all this stuff, but we wanted to be with each other. We would study, or do whatever with our friends, and then at night we would often meet up and we'd go for a walk around one of two lakes near campus. We would do it for hours. We would walk around the lake and just talk about everything.
It's the same campus that earlier that day I would've been walking to class complaining about how long of a walk I had to get to my classes, but when I was walking with her it was different, because it wasn't about the walking, it was about the being with, right?
Part of what I want to help us begin to understand is this God, this God of the Bible, is a God who wants to be with. You were created to walk with Him. You were made for this with-God kind of life.
There’s another passage, it's Micah 6:8. It says, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
To walk with Him, right? We see this theme all the way throughout the Bible. There's a guy by the name of Enoch in the Old Testament. We know very little about this guy, but it says that he walked with God. We're told that Noah walks with God. We're told that the Lord was with Abraham. We're told that the Lord was with Isaac, Abraham's son. We're told that the Lord was with Joseph.
This is where things kind of get really interesting, because Joseph had a very difficult life, and the Bible kind of goes out of its way to specifically say, “The Lord was with Joseph when he was in slavery. The Lord was with Joseph,” all right, “When he was imprisoned. The Lord was with him.”
Now we see that the Lord is not just with us in the Garden of Eden when everything is going great, but now there's sin, and now there's brokenness in the world, so now what we have is this God who's with us when things are difficult, when we experience surprises, when we go through tough times, that He is with us.
We see that God was with Moses. He was with the entire people of Israel. He told them to build a tabernacle where He could be with them. He eventually told them to build a temple where He could be with them.
We see that God was with David, and God was with Ruth, and then one day God does something remarkable, and He decides He's going to come to Earth in the form of a baby named Jesus. We're told that, “He will be called Emmanuel,” which means, God with us.
Through Jesus, we see something that's just so profound, because now we get to see in human form what it is to be this God who really wants to be with us, and so Jesus is with people. That's what he did.
Jesus was with people that nobody else wanted to be with, so Jesus is with the lepers, and Jesus is with the sick, and Jesus is with the sinners, and Jesus is with the prostitutes, and Jesus is with the outcasts. Jesus is with the disciples when they are stuck in the storm. Jesus is with the disciples when they're making promises that they can't keep. He's with them.
Then one day Jesus says something I think is absolutely profound.
John 15. He says, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
You can do nothing. He says, "I'm the vine and you are the branches." He says, "Really, there's just one thing that you're to do…. remain.” Some translations the word is abide. The idea is to be with, that Jesus invites you to be with him from moment to moment, to moment. That's it. That's the one thing that you do. You just remain.
We begin to see this idea that what God really wants,
God wants to walk with us before He works through us.
Now, we live in a culture where we want to be doers, right? We want to do this, and we want to do that, and that's great.
What Jesus is saying, is even more important than that, God wants to walk with us before He works through us. Again, what Jesus is saying here when he says, "I'm the vine and you're the branches," is from one moment to the next, your job is just to receive the unceasing flow of life, and nourishment, and love, and if you'll be with him, fruit will come.
Listen, he's saying, "You're going to do wonderful things, right? But your job is not to produce the wonderful things." See, I think a lot of Christians get this mixed up. We think our job is to produce the wonderful things. No, no, no. Jesus says, "Your job is not to do wonderful things. Your job is real simple. You just abide in me and as you abide in me, then you're going to produce wonderful things, but apart from me," he says, "You'll do nothing."
Here's the goal, all right? Now, this is my goal and I'm not assuming this is your goal, all right? This is my goal. This is something I want to see in my life. How many moments of my life can I fill with a conscious awareness and surrender to God's presence?
There's lots of things I'd like to see happen in my life, but I think if I can start with this, this is going to filter down into a lot of other things. So the goal is this, how can I live my life with a conscious awareness of God, of His presence, in all of these ordinary moments?
I'm wondering, how many of these moments am I missing? Now listen, don't misinterpret, because if you grew up in a church, or you grew up as a Christian, you just heard what I said and you interpreted in your mind to say, "Oh, what he's saying is that I need to wake up 10 minutes early every morning and read a chapter out of the Bible, and that I could check that off my list and move on." No, no, no.
Now, there are some worse things you could do. But that's not what I'm saying. All right? That's not the goal here. The goal here is not to add to a list of religious activities that you can check off your list and feel better about your spiritual development. That's not the goal. The goal is this. How can I begin to live with the conscious awareness of God's presence in my life?
How can I do this at work? How can I do this when I'm in the car? How can I do this when I'm fighting with my spouse? How can I do this when I'm parenting a child who doesn't want to be parented? How can I do this in all the different aspects of my life? As I'm going through life, each and every moment, how can I begin to live aware of God’s soundtrack, God's presence in this world? How would by life be different if I did that?
Now some of you are really smart and you're a little type A and you're already wondering, "Okay, tell me how to do that. Give me a list. How do I live with a greater awareness to God's presence?" I do think there are some things I think that would be really helpful. And if we have time in this series, I may wrap it up with some of those.
But before we even get there, all I want to do today is ask, do you want this?
I can't answer that for you, all right? That's a question for you to think about as you leave today is do you really want this? Do you want this with God kind of life more than you want anything else? Nobody can answer that for you. Do you want this? I can tell you, I want this for you. But you have to come to the decision. Do I really want this?