Take off Your Shoes

Our boys were just about the age to attend youth group when the youth pastor of our church was called away to another ministry opportunity. It was spring of 1998, and Mark and I were thinking of taking our boys to Creation Fest, a huge Christian music festival, near Harrisburg, PA. (Yes, this is the story I began to tell back in the May, 17 post – “Without a Battle, there is no Victory” If you haven’t read it, or need a reminder, take the time to read of my first experience in ministry.)

That first year at Creation Fest I faced many fears, experienced many stretching situations, and enjoyed great speakers and amazing worship as 80,000 voices joined together in praise of our awesome God!

The following year Mark and I were no longer in the situation with the group of teens we brought before, so instead, several families decided to go to Creation Fest. It was the summer following the shooting at Columbine. On a hill near our camp site were thirteen white crosses. It was a solemn  reminder of the battle between good and evil that rages for our teens.

One afternoon Mark and I went to listen to a speaker on the fringe stage. I don’t remember her name, but as she shared some statistics and the ways God had broken her heart for teens, Mark and I found tears running down our cheeks. It was on that hill, in the hot summer sun, that God began to give us “singleness of heart and action” as He began to awaken us to the desire I spoke out several years before.

We left Creation Fest that year convinced that if we ever went back we would take a group of teens. If we were to go to all that work, we wanted to give teens the chance to enjoy the great Christian music and to hear the life changing messages from the speakers.

That fall Mark was driving our boys to youth group and because of the distance it made sense to just stay. He found himself helping out, and before you know it we were asked to come alongside the youth leaders. By spring the couple that was leading passed the baton to Mark and I and another couple to co-lead the youth group.

Youth Ministry?

It was such unknown territory for me.

It brought out so many insecurities.

The desires God puts within us take us beyond our own abilities.

While homeschooling was like walking on water…

Youth Ministry was like Moses before the burning bush.

Some people don’t want to let God send them for fear they will be sent to Africa.

Well, I said, “Send me to Africa, just don’t send me to teens!”

Moses found himself standing in front of a bush that was on fire, but not burning up. God called to him from the burning bush and told him to take off his sandals, for the ground he was standing on was holy ground.

I don’t know why Moses was told to take off his shoes, but to me it represents taking off my own plans and laying aside my agenda in order to come into God’s presence and hear His voice, listen to His call, and to embrace His will for my life; willing to walk where He leads.

 

“Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt… Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey.” Exodus 3:7-8

Moses listened as God told him that He had seen the oppression and had heard the cries of his people. God told Moses that He had come down to rescue them from their suffering and would lead them to a good land!

In some ways my desire to be in ministry had this element to it. Something about the word ministry lead me to believe God would do the work…He would rescue the teens from their bondage and He would lead them into the truth.

“Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:10

But there, standing barefoot, on holy ground, with God asking me to go and speak to teens, to sing with teens, to care for teens, I responded just as Moses.

“But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11

“Wait a minute, God, You said You were going to set Your people free… how am I to set teens free? My teenage years were so different than the teens of today. Besides, I grew up Mennonite, remember, I have nothing in common with the teens here in this church! Who am I to do this?”

“But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Exodus 4:10

“God, You see me in that small room filled with teens, and how badly I want to be a good example of how people who love You sing and praise You. But, God, there is one problem…I can’t sing! I really can’t, I’m always off key, I sound awful!”

“And, Lord, You know how much I want to encourage the teens, but I have no idea of what to say to them, how to connect with them, we have nothing common.”

“And if those aren’t embarrassing enough, You heard me the other night when I stood up in front of them and gave the talk. I know You heard me, my voice totally shook and quivered. I sounded as if I was about to cry…and that’s exactly what I wanted to do!”

Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” Exodus 4:11-13

I can totally relate to Moses!

What I find interesting about this conversation between God and Moses is that…

When Moses speaks his focus is on himself and on his inabilities.

When God speaks His focus is on Himself and His abilities.

God doesn’t get caught up in discussing whether or not Moses is capable or not, based on his abilities. God keeps reminding Moses that He will be with him, that He will tell him what to say, and He gave Moses supernatural power to prove He sent him.

The call of Moses, and the call Mark and I received really are no different.

It’s a call to, “To set God’s people free!”

The Israelites were in bondage from their enemies, the Egyptians. Pharaoh was afraid they would become strong and overthrow his reign, so he subjected them to hard labor and abused them; stealing, killing, and destroying them.

Today, Satan, also hates those who God has created in His image and will do all he can to steal, kill, and destroy them. He recognizes that those who belong to God have great power to overthrow his strategies. The same evil that hardened Pharaoh’s heart is alive and well today as he lies, deceives, and blinds many.

But, as God saw the oppression and bondage of the Israelites, He sees the oppression and bondage of those He created today. His heart is still the same; He comes to rescue, to save, and to bring them into a good land.

And He does it through those who He calls into His presence, who take off their shoes, who listen to God’s voice, and who go where He calls them.

 

 

 

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