How are your bushes burning?
This story is one that hits home for me. It is the scene that replays over and over in my mind. When I was dealing and wrestling with my call to ministry, God used this story as portrayed in the movie, “The Prince of Egypt,” to get my attention. God’s power is not regulated to our understanding, and I will never understand how a cartoon movie can echo so hard in my mind, or how God can speak to a man that is trying as hard as he can to ignore what he is saying. But those are questions and thoughts for another day. I want to talk with you this morning about you. What do you think you are worth, and do you really believe that God can use you?
That question is simple if we really think about it, but it is a question that so many people stumble over. Think of it like walking down a gravel road and tripping over a pebble. This question, in its simplicity, makes up a whole roadway of things to think about. How is it that God can use me? The answer is equally easy; God can use you to do anything he wants. In the story of Moses’ call to work as a servant of God, we can see ourselves.
We can see ourselves because like Moses, we are weak. We have a sheltered past. And like Moses, many of us don’t think that God can use us. The problem is, we want to limit God. We want to say to him what He can and cannot do. In reality, that just isn’t our place. When it comes to thinking that God cannot use us, I used to be the best at it. There was nothing I could do that God could possibly use. I am the product of a split household. I didn’t have any skills, and I wasn’t that spiritual. I was living with an attitude that I was in control. But as usual, God has a way of explaining things to me in a different understanding than the one I lean on. So what can we glean from this story of a burning bush and an orphan?
No, we do not live in a desert, and we do not shepherd for a living. But when we are confronted by God and are shown God’s will, do we not react in the same way? Think about it for a minute. Close your eyes, and imagine it for a moment. Imagine walking around outside and seeing something shiny in the distance. You walk over to see it, and when you get there you see that it is a bush on fire, yet there is no ash or smoke. Suddenly, the bush speaks to you, and it tells you to take off your shoes for you are on Holy Ground. So you do. Then the bush says that it is God, and He wants to help your people. I don’t know how most of us would react, but I think it would be very similar to Moses’ reaction. “Hey, that’s cool God. It’s about time. What are you going to do?” “ I’m going to use you,” the voice said. “Oh, you can’t use me! I st- sts- st- stu- stutter in public. I have a fear of people. I can’t see out of one eye. I have bad knees. I’m too old. I’m too young. Shouldn’t you use someone else God?!!” God replies, “No I want to use you.” So now you‘re scared. You don’t know what to do. But that doesn’t matter, because you have God.
So I ask you today, how are your bushes burning? And I ask this question because there are three really interesting things about the way this bush is burning. The Bible says that the bush was consumed by flame, and that that flame was the very presence of God. The bush was a tool for God, and because of that, the area around the bush was Holy ground. The bush got Moses’ attention from a long ways away.
What preoccupies our lives? I think if I really sat down and thought about that, I would not like the answer so much. Because you see, the world that we live in does not find itself concerned so much with this person we call Jesus. This world does not find itself concentrating its energy on knowing the loving God that created us. So it would be only natural and logical, that I would concern myself in the affairs of this world.
But just what is it that this world concerns itself with? That is a much easier question to answer. All you have to do is turn on the TV. You see it. Right there in big and bold letters. SIN. Now, sin comes in all packages and forms. It looks all nice and shiny, and when you get it, it does what it has done for thousands of lifetimes. It leaves you unfulfilled. So, when we become concerned with sin and the world, the fire destroys us. Yet our calling as a Christian is not to be concerned with the world. Rather, we are to be like the burning bush, which was consumed in its every fiber with the spirit of God.
When something is consumed, it is used. When you consume food, your body uses the energy, which in turn, is put into something else. But when something is destroyed, it is gone. It can no longer be used unless it is somehow put back together. After Hurricane Ivan, there was an abundance of slash pine; trees that were broken and split in the middle of neighborhoods and pine plantations. For lumber it was useless. For paper it was more trouble than it was worth. It was broken by the torrents of the storm. The only thing the lumber companies could use it for was fuel wood for the paper mills. Our lives can be just like those trees, broken and useless, the only thing left is the inferno. That is, if we let ourselves be consumed by sin. As God’s children, we are asked to seek after righteousness, and not after the things that the world offers: unfulfillment and dissatisfaction. Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life and have it more abundantly.”
It is amazing that in this story, when Moses asks God what name he is to give pharaoh when he asks who sent him. God says, “You tell pharaoh, ‘I AM’ sent me.” God is! God is saying to you right there, the answer to your questions. Who will get me out of this situation? “I Am!” Who can I call on in my pain? ” I Am!” Who will rescue me form the hell I am headed for? “I Am.” That’s what God is saying to you right now. He is. There is only one who can make that claim, and He is God. Buddha can’t claim it, Mohammed won’t claim it, Ganesh doesn’t claim it, but Jesus did, does, and will forever, because HE IS.
What are your bushes burning with? Is it God’s eternal spirit, or the world’s temporary fuel?
Now hopefully, we can answer that question with God, then we may find ourselves in the position of a tool, just like the bush. The bush in this story became a tool that God used with profound effect.
When I was twelve years old I worked part of my summers on a cattle ranch in western Montana. One day, while I should have been helping to move hay, I wandered into the stable where the rancher kept his horses in the winter. Inside there was a blacksmith who was shoeing a horse. In his hand, was this funny looking pair of pliers. Being twelve and curious, I asked him, “what ya doin?” After couple moments of silence, the blacksmith said that he was re-shoeing a horse. Then, he explained that the tool he was using could do everything that he needed. It would pull out the nails, reshape them for use, trim the hoof, and hammer the nail back into the new shoe.
As a Christian, I want to be like that tool. Able to do whatever God needs me to do. But that takes more than my mouth simply saying it. My faith has to live it. You see, in order to be like that tool, I have to be willing to be in stronger hands, because if I am not completely in the blacksmith’s hands, I am useless and in the way. The thing about tools is, they only work if the one working the tools knows what he is doing. Trust me, God knows what He is doing. Just look around and you can see what has been taking place since creation. The fact that your heart beats should let you know that God knows what He is doing. If I won’t allow God to pick me up, I will just sit there on the bench and gather rust.
Tools can be reworked. But it takes time. It takes cleaning, sharpening, and honing. Maybe you have reached a point in your life where you need to be reworked, re-forged. Are you willing to let God rework you in His image? Will you let the master craftsman forge your life?
Knowing a little about the desert region that Moses lived in at the time gives you an idea about what this bush looked like. It was probably short and scrappy looking. The kind of bush you would mistake for dead. If this bush was in your yard, you would probably pull it up and get rid of it, because it wasn’t any good in your eyes. But that is exactly the kind of medium that God likes to work with. God likes the person that the world thinks is a loser. God loves the person that thinks they are no good. Think I’m lying? Look at the bible. David was an adulterous murderer. Abraham was a liar. The disciples came from the dregs of society, and Paul was the least likely missionary ever. It doesn’t matter what you look like, where you come from, how you dress, or who you know. As long as God is one who you know, you are in with the top of the heap. Show me a person who you think has no talent, and I will show you a canvas on which God will paint the most amazing picture you have ever seen. Show me an ordinary kid, and I will show you a person that God can make extraordinary. In fact look at me. It doesn’t come closer to plain ordinary Middle America, but I have lived a life since becoming a Christian that Ernest Hemingway would have envied. Why? Because where the world says there is nothing, God says there is something. When God says it, it happens. He said let there be light–there was. Let there be life–there was. And let there be grace–there is. He is saying to you today, forget what the rest of this world says. You are my child, and you can do anything I call you to do because I AM.
Moses saw the bush from some distance off and was drawn to it. Something about the way the bush was shining and flickering made Moses alter his course in life and go over to the bush. He wanted to see just what was going on. Imagine, if you will, walking out on the plains of Texas at night. Far off, you see a light shining. I guess if you were out in the dark a long time, the light would call you to it without you really understanding why. You would just go toward it one way or another.
There is something about a church that God is working in. There is something about a Christian that God is working through, that draws people. My father used to tell me that you could always see a peace in people that know Christ. That peace, that something special, is the presence of God. The bible says that Christ now lives in you.
Moses was drawn to the bush because that is where God was. People will be drawn to you, and to the church, because that’s where God is. They will know we are Christians because of our love. In this modern world, they are looking. Some of you in church are looking. You want to see what the Christians do. But more than that, you are looking to see if this is what you need. Is this Jesus the answer to that question in the pit of your soul? You know the question. The one you don’t tell your fishing buddies about. The question that keeps you up at night. Is Jesus the one who has the answer? I only know one way to answer that. Yes! He is! He is standing outside the door of your heart waiting for you to open the door. What are you holding onto? Pride? Pain? It’s all selfishness, and even the world would say selfishness is wrong. Let go today. Fall into the arms of a waiting savior. Come home, and be used for something that really matters.
So I ask again, how are your bushes burning? Are they lighting the city on a hill? Or are they just embers? Come be refueled this morning, come be lit aflame with the spirit of God.