“It Takes a Village”
Exodus 18: 9-23
*In 1994, The Chicago Tribune ran the story of Marcio DaSilva, a Brazilian artist who was head over heels in love with his girlfriend, Katia. She ended the relationship after 4 years. He tried to win her back by walking on his knees to her house which was 9 miles away. Marcio was 21 and fit but the 14-hour trip on his knees took its toll. Cars passing by honked in approval because word had gotten around what he was doing. Katia was not amused and actually left her house before he arrived. Marcio was crushed (Cont. Illustrations, Larsen, 94).
All of us are wired for relationships. We hate loneliness; we turn on the television if the room is quiet or open a browser looking for a friend and praying someone will respond favorably to our Facebook posts. Many of us project a tough and independent exterior but down deep, we need others. A lack of meaningful relationships is why 600,000 teenagers attempt suicide each year. The reason that many people give themselves sexually is that we want to be wanted!
*The famous Albert Einstein reportedly said, Why is it that I am so universally known and yet so lonely? (Why Believe? Laurie, 19).
Senator Hillary Clinton proposed the idea in the early 1990’s that kids today cannot be adequately raised without governmental and community programs, and that the village, aka the government is required for successful parenting. Her suggestion raised the ire of many conservatives who bristled at governmental intervention in child-rearing.
As people of faith, we do need a village, a village full of the warmth and security of others and a commitment to Christ and his mission for us on the earth, and we do that best in groups.
In the NT, we read that a church met in the house of Prisca and Aquila in Romans 16:5. Paul complimented Philemon on the church in his house (Philemon 2). And a lady named Nympha opened up her home to the church as we read in Col. 4:15.
1500 years earlier -600,000 men and a total of 2 million Israelites camped out for 40 years
-Exodus records their departure from 430 years of slavery in Egypt.
-Chapter 14 the Egyptian chariots wobbled and they drowned.
-Chapter 14 -Moses sang a song of deliverance, and Miriam danced with joy then they complained about the bad water in Marah.
-Chapter 16 – they were hungry and grumbled and criticized their leaders.
-Chapter 17 -records their lack of water and the problems that caused.
If 2 million people needed each other during the largest campout in history, so do we and the truth is that we all need a village. Once we join the village and throw away our spirit of isolationism, benefits emerge not only for us but for others as well.
1. Life has meaning, purpose and vision when our hearts are full of love and grace.
Moses had relocated his wife Zipporah and their 2 sons to his Uncle Jethro’s house during the exodus, perhaps for safekeeping during this difficult time.
Moses’ heart was full of grace and love which enabled him to see a vision for his life. Do you live without vision, simply existing from day to day with no vision for future? When grace and love is missing, our hearts grow cold and lifeless, vision dries up and meaninglessness takes over.
And Jethro rejoiced over all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel, in delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians. Exodus 18:9, NAS
They had been released from enslavement or entanglement with a tyrant.
They had been released from a life of fear.
They caught a glimpse of hope and knew that God had a better plan.
The lesson you will never live a life of hope until you live with a heart full of grace and love!!
Notice the residual effects of love:
Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless there were, like sheep with no shepherd. Matthew 9: 36-37, The Message.
The results of grace and love in our hearts is this:
- We want others to grow in their relationship with Jesus.
- We can see beyond ourselves and suddenly realize that isolation is deadly.
- The shepherding instinct in our hearts takes over when we look at others.
2. Our lives are blessed when we invest our lives with others.
Jethro was wise and quickly diagnosed a problem in their ranks. He asked Moses,
……………Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening? And Moses said to his father- in – law, “Because the people come to me and inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor, and make known the statutes of God and His laws.” Exodus 18: 14-16, NAS
Moses had a load he could not bear. He loved the people but was overloaded! Jethro threw down the gauntlet to his nephew, Moses and demanded change.
You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Exodus 18: 18, NAS
The point is that churches can take of themselves if we all pull together.
I Peter 4:10, NLT – “God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you.”
We are a distribution center for God’s love, rather than silos that merely store the gifts and blessings we receive.
* The late Los Angeles pastor, Dr. E.V. Hill tells the story of his early marriage when he could not adequately provide for his family. He struggled in every way and even experienced a huge loss in the purchase of a small service station. He came home one evening and found the house lit up with candles and a nice meal on the table. His wife said she thought it would be nice to dine by candlelight. He walked into the bathroom to wash his hands and hit the light switch. Nothing happened. The utilities were off. She said, “You work so hard. I didn’t want to tell you. We’ll be ok.”
Life is all about others, not ourselves.
3. Life assumes clarity when we learn to listen to Godly counsel
*The story is told of a tough general on the battlefield who was temporarily captured by the enemy and with some of his men was tossed into a pit full of manure in order to humiliate them. Without blinking an eye, the General yelled, “Come on men, there’s got to be a horse in here somewhere” (Swindoll, Tales, 99).
Jethro was the uncle we all could hope and pray for and like a general to Moses.
18:19 says, “listen to me and I will give you counsel.” He told Moses to teach the Word to the people. Jethro exemplified that the primary task of leadership is to define reality, give clear direction and walk in faith.
Then teach them the statutes and the laws and make known to them the way in which they are to walk, and the work they are to do. Exodus 18: 20, NAS
The result was to enjoy clear living and experience life with a 20-20 vision of what God has for us. Let’s take a look at the ingredients to clear living in this verse:
Statutes -meaning the laws that God has laid down for us to live by.
Laws -guidelines that are then clarified by the Holy Spirit.
Direction -to “make the way known that we are to walk” – our niche’.
Purpose -to discover the specific call we have in this life and then pursue it.
The plan here involves the selection of leadership who will assume care over people and in so doing make the village a better place to live, serve and enjoy protection.
Furthermore, you need to select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain, and you will place these (leaders) over them. Exodus 18:21, NAS
Notice the 4 qualities of effective leaders and others who assume a ministry:
- Able men – those who demonstrate desire and a skill set to do the job.
- Reverent lifestyle – a man who can give the credit to God, not self.
- Truthful – when he talks, you know that his word is like a contract.
- Honest – a man who refuses to abuse others or the truth itself.
4. Life becomes peaceful when we join the village.
Healthy churches have healthy small groups because the peace and love found there sustains the church. Another sad reality is that lonely people bounce around from church to church looking for acceptance and a sense of purpose and mission.
If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure and all these people also will go to their place in peace.
Exodus 18: 23, NAS.
Do you want peace, grace and love? Join the village and do life with God’s people.
6 BENEFITS OF JOINING THE VILLAGE OF GOD’S PEOPLE IN A SMALL GROUP:
- We get role models to live by – we see in others what we want in ourselves.
Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. –Philippians 3:17, NIV
- We get a mission.
Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us……….this will build them up. –Romans 15: 2, The Message, NIV
- We get great counsel in making decisions.
Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many counselors bring success.
-Proverbs 15:22, NLT
- We get no-holds barred honesty and transparency which builds community and trust.
Tell each other the truth, because we all belong to each other in the same body. –Ephesians 4:25, NCV
- We get a safe place to hurt and to heal when life treats us badly.
Confess your sins one to another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. –James 5:16, NAS
An important principle of confession: the audience for your confession needs to be no larger than those who were affected by it, or to your confidante only. Confession is not a spectator sport!
- We get humility in a group which helps us to defeat self-centeredness.
Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.
-Philippians 2: 3-4, The Message
Luke 16: 1-15
A college student had the following message on his dorm answering machine:
“Hi! This is Billy. If it’s the phone company, I sent the money. If it’s Mom or Dad, please send money to me. If it’s the financial office, you didn’t loan me enough money. If it’s my girlfriend Julie, leave a message– and don’t worry, I’ve got plenty of money.¨
It’s been said……….. “When a man with money meets a man with experience, the man with the experience ends up with the money and the man with the money ends up with the experience.”
Jesus told 38 major parables during his life on the earth, half regarding possessions. There are more than 2000 verses of scriptures related to material possessions and stewardship.
Luke was a medical doctor who hung up his stethoscope, and left town with Paul. He was the only non-Jewish writer of the NT, and wrote with surgical precision. Luke focuses on medical details, poverty and wealth, and the prominence of women. Luke records 4 hymns: Magnificat of Mary, Gloria in Escelsis of angels, Benedictitis of Zechariah, and the Nunc Dimittis of Simeon. The book is written with stunning accuracy and attention to detail.
Luke told an interesting parable of the Shrewd Manager, or the Unjust Steward. Essentially, money is a neutral object which can be used for evil or for the good of the kingdom.
*Chicago Cubs player Andre Dawson pitched a fit a few years ago when the umpire called a strike on him that he disagreed with. He severely chastised the ump and was fined $1000. He wrote on the bottom of the check in the memo line, “donation for the blind.” Andre used his money for the purpose of retaliation.
Jesus told this story to his disciples as a means to magnify the importance of handling spiritual matters and to underscore our mission of sharing Christ with people who don’t know Him.
- WE GET REALLY RICH WHEN WE DISCOVER THAT DEPOSITS IN THE KINGDOM NEVER LOSE
The story is told here of a wealthy business owner and his manager or trustee.
Jesus told his disciples, “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.” -Luke 16: 1-2, NIV
Evidently some embezzlement or mismanagement was occurring and the owner became aware of it. The owner first thought the manager was incompetent rather than evil and fired him as a result.
The manager panicked.
-In v. 3, he knew he lost his job, and knew he was not strong enough to perform manual labor.
-He called in some of his accounts, and demanded payment.
-The first one owed 100 measures of oil and 800 gallons of olive oil, and was offered the discounted payoff of 50%. Perhaps the discount was the commission he would have received. The second one owned 100 measures of wheat, or 100 acres worth for which the manager offered a discount of 20%.
This plan of discounting the notes that were due had its intended effect considering the manager was cunning and shrewd. He bought the affections and admiration of these men, and would have his future housing guaranteed as a result. He lured them into the deception, and if he were later to be prosecuted he had others to blame and use as a convenient alibi.
The owner responded with a commendation.
- 8 the owner praised him for his ingenuity and his savvy business sense but this is not to be seen as a compliment for his deceptive practices. Jesus basically said that people without Christ are smarter in the ways of the world than are people who know Christ in the way they deal with spiritual matters. There are lessons here.
People who live in the light of Christ should be savvy in spiritual matters!
In the past you were full of darkness, but now you are full of light in the Lord. So live like children who belong to the light. Light brings every kind of goodness, right living, and truth. Ephesians 5: 8-9, CEV
In Luke 16:9, Jesus hit the nail on the head with this eternal truth.
The rabbis said, “The rich help the poor in this world, but the poor help the rich in the world to come.” Jesus told them to use their funds wisely to lead men to Christ, so that when they arrive in heaven, they will see their investments there as well!
Christian financial writer Austin Pryor offers this advice in these 4 steps:
- Reducing your external obligations and debt will lead to greater freedom.
The rich rules over the poor and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave. Proverbs 22:7
- Save wisely for future needs.
There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up. Proverbs 21:20
- Invest wisely so that future returns will lead to greater opportunities for ministry.
Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Matthew 25:21
- Invest wisely and broadly.
Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth. Ecclesiastes 11:2
- WE GET REALLY RICH WHEN WE PROPERLY MANAGE THE MATERIAL IN PREPARATION FOR OWNERSHIP OF THE SPIRITUAL
Money is a test of readiness and there are 3 test involved in 16: 10-12:
- Attention to the details of life & obscure matters prepares us for larger responsibilities.
Anyone who can be trusted in little matters can also be trusted in important matters. But anyone who is dishonest in little matters will be dishonest in important matters………….and if you can’t be trusted with this wicked wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? Luke 16: 10-11 CEV
- The faithful use of money for God’s glory accumulates spiritual wealth for us in heaven.
v. 11 teaches that if we manage well, God will bless us with “true riches”.
- If we cannot be faithful and wise in managing what belongs to others, namely money, then how will we properly manage the spiritual riches of His grace that He has given to us?
Jesus essentially says that we are wealthy by having the most incredible riches in the world:
- We have his priceless care.
And my God will meet all of your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 19, NAS
- Rich with mercy.
But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so very much, that even while we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. Ephesians 2: 4, NLT
- Rich in being allowed to share the glorious gospel as we meet needs.
Tell the rich people to do good, to be rich in doing good deeds, to be generous and ready to share. By doing that, they will be saving a treasure for themselves as a strong foundation for the future…………and be able to have the life that is true life. I Timothy 6:18, NCV
- Wealthy with His grace deposited in us.
In Christ we are set free by the blood of His death, and so we have forgiveness of sins. How rich is God’s grace!! Ephesians 1:7, NCV
- Rich with the privilege of giving to others as Jesus has given to us.
Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. II Corinthians 8:2, NIV
- NO HEART HAS ROOM FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY AND THE LOVE OF GOD 6:13
*Singer and songwriter Bob Dylan had a hit a number of years ago titled,
“You Gotta Serve Somebody”. The chorus has these words, “it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody.” He’s right; who do we serve?
Slavery was acceptable in the First Century and slaves were required to be 100% loyal. The scriptures say………..
No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Luke 16: 13, NAS
The point is that the love of money will keep us from God, and the love of God will keep us from the love of money!!
The Message paraphrases it, “No worker can serve two bosses; He’ll either hate the first and love the second, or adore the first and despise the second. You can’t serve both God and the Bank” (Luke 16:13).
As expected, the proud reacted angrily and basically sneered at Jesus.
In 16:14, we read that these men were lovers of money. The assumption in their culture was that the wealthy were the most likely candidates to go to heaven because they gave the most amount of money to the poor. Here they were “scoffing” or lit. turning up their noses at Him in disgust. In their minds, Jesus had gall to lecture them when He had so little himself! Their sense of personal spiritual success was in their prideful public displays of spirituality!
The movie, I Am Sam tells the story of a mentally challenged man who raises his daughter, Lucy, on his own. Sam works at Starbucks and hangs out with four other men who are also mentally challenged. Sam’s friends are excited about the new addition to Sam’s life, and they want continually to hold or feed little Lucy. For her entry into first grade, Lucy needs new shoes. Money is tight for Sam and his friends. Sam’s wages are barely sufficient for the 1-bedroom apartment he and Lucy share. But he and his four friends set out with Lucy to buy her a pair of shoes. They all take the task very seriously as they search for the perfect pair, showing each option to Lucy. They find shoes with lights that blink, pink shoes, and leopard-skin shoes five sizes too big. The shoe salesman is somewhat frustrated by this exasperating process, but he cooperates nonetheless. When at last they find the perfect pair, Sam asks the shoe salesman the price, and the salesman says, “$16.19 with tax.” The mood gets a little tense as Sam counts out too little money. Sam says, “I only have $6.25.” There are people in line behind them, and Lucy begins to exchange nervous glances with Sam and his friends.
“That’s all you have?” says the salesman. “Yeah,” responds Sam, “because I didn’t get my whole check, because I had to go to the parent and teacher meeting this week.” The clerk said, “I’m sorry, sir, the price is $16.19.” Sam’s friends, without being asked, reach into their pockets to make up the difference, and all the money that is needed is spread out on the counter. Lucy smiles with pride and they all leave with balloons.
When we learn that all of life is an investment in God’s kingdom and life is meant to be for the purpose of serving others, a broad smile appears on our faces and on the face of God as well because we are beginning to understand who Jesus really is.
“GOD’S PLAN FOR FINANCIAL FITNESS”
II Kings 4:1-7
The story is told of a young and successful yuppie who took an afternoon drive in the mountains in his new BMW. He became careless and drove the car off of the road and down a ravine. As officers arrived they quickly noticed that the driver had been flung away from the car and was laying on the side of the roadway. He looked up and muttered, “Where is my car?” The officer became irritated and angrily told the young executive that he was so materialistic that he did not even notice that his left arm was severed and missing. The yuppie replied, “Oh, no, not my Rolex also!
We live in materialistic world dominated by a hunger for possessions which are often nothing more than status symbols. As Elijah’s protégé, Elisha’s ministry was during the period 848-797 B.C., a time when evil and idolatry and spiritual lethargy dominated the landscape.
God’s goal for each of us is to enjoy spiritual, emotional, relational, and financial freedom. Elisha had been used by God to perform miracles such as the provision of money for a widow, the raising of a dead young boy, and the raising of an ax head from the bottom of the river. In this unique encounter with the widowed wife of a fellow prophet, Elisha gives insight into God’s plan for our financial freedom.
I. FINANCIAL FREEDOM MUST BECOME A PRICELESS POSSESSION (4:1-2)
Elisha encountered a young widow and her two needy sons. Her husband had passed away leaving her destitute with no visible means of support. The situation had become desperate. Fear controlled her emotions and she was frightened by her future.
In verse one, she described her husband as “your servant” in re-lating her dilemma to Elisha. Perhaps her complaint was that God had not rewarded her as a result of her husband’s faithful years of service to God, a common complaint of many who are serving God today as well. Notice the common symptoms of a loss of freedom, whether
financial or otherwise.
- Tension -never a relaxed moment, her situation worsened
- Anxiety -she feared the worse as creditors were on her trail
- Cynicism -referring to her husband as “your servant,”
perhaps she questioned the value of service.
II. FINANCIAL FREEDOM IS ACTIVATED BY A STEP OF FAITH (4:3-6)
This young widow knew full well that the Mosaic Law indicated that children could be taken by force to alleviate a family debt by manual labor. She poured out her pain and anguish to the man of God and pleaded for an answer to her dilemma. Notice in these verses the steps of faith through which Elijah led her.
- Evaluate your condition
-Elisha asked, “what do you have in the house”(v.2)?
An inventory of gifts and possessions is wise.
- Seek Godly advice
-She knew the source of God’s wisdom and asked for it.
- Swallow your pride
-Elisha asked her to borrow from others the vessels she would need to begin a home business (v. 3).
- 4. Combine work and faith
-God advised her to work and to trust Him.
Her display of faith was reflected in the number of jars she chose to borrow from others. God was preparing a growth spurt in her faith experience and was allowing her to determine the magnitude of that experience.
III. FINANCIAL FREEDOM IS RECEIVED IN ORDER TO ACTIVATE OUR GENEROSITY (4:5-6)
As she and her sons worked diligently, the flow of oil seemed never to end as they filled a multitude of jars with the valuable commodity which was certain to find its way to needy customers. The jars were filled which stopped the flow of oil into the jars. God responded according to her faith. At times, God sovereignly limits our income for perhaps several reasons.
- As all needs have been met -Philippians 4:18
- As our capacity to manage it is reached -Matt. 25 – The Talents
- As times of need better form character -Deuteronomy 8
- To prevent materialistic obsession -I Timothy 6:17
Ultimately God wants our dependency upon Him and He will stop at nothing to achieve His purposes within us. He can be trusted.
“RECIPE’ FOR A LOVE AFFAIR”
I Corinthians 13: 1-7
Sex and love has become a billion dollar industry in our society. Sex sells and sells well, and advertisers fully realize its value. A hit movie several years ago known as Indecent Proposa, starred renown Hollywood actor Robert Redford who portrayed a wealthy businessman who made an indecent proposal, at least considered indecent proposal by some. Redford’s character offered one million dollars to the wife of another man if she would agree to a one-night tryst. The movie explored the acceptability of such a notion and in so doing revealed the true character of many Americans today.
Of course, the biblical view of love is considered by the whole of our society as antiquated at best and not relevant for modern man. The Corinthians had a distorted view of love and marriage as well. One group of new believers was led to believe that sex in marriage was, in fact, an enemy of spiritual growth. They rationalized that since God was spiritual rather than material in nature that any arena of life which had contact with the material was at war with the spiritual. Some concluded that celibacy within marriage was an acceptable method to pursue a closer union with God. In contrast, others were sexually permissive and viewed their behavior as inconsequential since God was solely interested in matters of spirituality. The negative effect upon the institution of love and marriage is obvious.
The Corinthians were known for their factions, immorality, incest, continual lawsuits against one another, drunkenness, and a distorted use of the spiritual gifts. Surveys have revealed that women in our society dream most of a romantic love affair with their husbands! Paul’s beautiful words in chapter 13 reveal the elements of personal character which are the ingredients for such an experience. Notice in these verses that the single ingredient of love comes in many colors and is the stuff of which God-honoring love affairs are made.
I. LOVE IS THE PROOF OF OUR SPIRITUALITY (13: 1-3)
A dynamic and deep-rooted faith in God with the accompanying gentility which Jesus deposits in our hearts is the stuff of which love is made. As Jesus floods our hearts with Himself, we begin to respond to our mates and to others in a compassionate manner which defies description. It is the expression of that love that is the genuine proof of our spirituality and which gives full meaning to our love. In these verses, Paul offers three truths:
- Spirituality without love is offensive – like a “clanging cymbal” (v. 1).
- Spirituality without love is empty – Without love we are “nothing”.
- Spirituality without love is fruitless – We “profit” nothing without love (v. 3).
Love is often communicated in different ways: by words, gifts, by service, with time, or by touch, to paraphrase Gary Chapman, the author of The Five Languages of Love. Discovering the most effective manner to communicate love is a necessity ingredient if we are to enjoy love as we should.
II. LOVE IS AUTHENTICATED BY AN ATTITUDE OF COMPASSION (13: 4-6)
In these vivid verses which plumb the depths of love, Paul lists the qualities of love by stating nine of them in the negative as to what love is not, and lists three traits related in the positive. Love is “patient” (from “macro” for long, and “thumei” for passion, meaning that love is very slow to boil over or be resentful).
Second, love is “kind” referring to its nature to be mellow or graceful (from “chrestos”).
Third, love rejoices with the truth, which suggests that the genuineness of our love is proven by its marriage with the truth of God and with interpersonal honesty. Love can be negatively impacted and tarnished by a number of culprits in our lives such as:
- Unforgiveness – Proverbs 15: 16
- Fatigue and stress – I Kings 19:4, as in Elijah
- Secret sin – Psalms 32: 3-4
- Aimlessness – Proverbs 13: 12
III. LOVE MOTIVATES HOPE IN THE FUTURE (13: 7-8)
Love has the uncanny ability to provide strength in a relationship and do what cannot otherwise be done. It provides stability under pressure (bears from “stego” for strength). Love is reflected in the one we love in that it believes all things (v.7).
Love causes us to look for the good in others in that it “hopes”. It “endures” and provides stability for the future. These qualities and more are the ingredients of a love affair which God approves!