Talk 9

AUDEE VILLARAZA: The luxuries of life vary from season to season. Whatever season you are in will dictate what kind of luxury you enjoy.

We have two kids at home and I’ve noticed that the luxury of a mom, especially a new mom, is very different from a mom who has kids all grown up already.

What do I mean by that?

If you’re a new mom, you can probably relate to this. The luxury of my wife is not being able to shop for whatever it is that she needs; it’s not being able to travel to any destination that she dreams of. No. That’s not her luxury.

Would you like to know the luxury of new moms? It’s being able to pee in peace— that precious 20 seconds that your son and your daughter are not looking for you. That’s the luxury for the new mom.

I remember our five-year-old was so clingy that when my wife would disappear, for a while, he would start behaving as if the world would crumble.

But you know that’s a pattern that happens in life— not just when you have kids.

Pattern of Lost Identity

Let’s paint the picture so you can understand it better.

Let’s call this person Princess. She’s two years old, she’s clingy to Mommy. When Mommy disappears, she starts crying and acting out. You know, that’s understandable. Kids feel like their parents are part of them. So, when the parents disappear, the kids feel like they’re nothing— their identity is gone.

But you know what? One day will come

when Princess will grow up. And eventually, she will also outgrow Mommy. But in reality, she’s not outgrowing Mommy. You know what’s happening? She’s replacing Mommy with something else— whether it’s a barkada at the age of 15, whether it’s a job at the age of 21, whether it’s a boyfriend at the age of 25, whether it’s a spouse at the age of 32.

But here’s one thing: I’ll show you the pattern. Eventually, Princess grows up. She replaces Mommy. She takes control of her life. And for Princess,15 years old, the same pattern happens. How? Through her barkada.

One day, her barkada forgets to invite her to their special party. So, she starts crying, “They are not really my friend.”

So, she starts looking for other friends. Eventually, life becomes good because they text her again.

But at the age of 21, eventually, she outgrows her barkada because of her job — she now has a career.

But one day will come and the company will downsize and then she gets retrenched and now she’s asking, “Who am I without my job?”

So, she tries to look for another job to control things.

But then eventually, her job is replaced by a boyfriend or a girlfriend. And then one day, that boyfriend dumps her, or that girlfriend breaks up with her.

Now, she doesn’t know her identity.

And then a day will come, at the age of 32, when she will see all of her friends now married, each with two babies.

Now she’s struggling, “Why does it seem I’m invisible to guys?” And she’s trying to take control of things.

Then, at the age of maybe, what, 45. She doesn’t have a single property under her name, she doesn’t have a single Hermes or Louie Vuitton bag and she sees all her friends successful. Now she feels like she’s a failure.

Now, what is happening here? In moments of uncertainty, you know what we do? We create false gods that we think we can control. But one day will come when you realize these are all false gods and you cannot control anything.

And then you realize that there’s only one God that you cannot control. But He is in control.

Right now, we are at the part of Exodus where Moses is now up on the mountain— Mt. Sinai— while the Israelites were down the mountain. And then something happened…

Let’s read together Exodus 32:1:

So, what was happening was there was a little delay. Moses was up on the mountain, they were waiting for him.

And you know what? I can certainly understand what the Israelites were going through. Why? Because— how many of you would agree with me when I say that every issue in every relationship comes up when someone disappears on you? Yes? Have you ever been ghosted by someone? That sucks, right? I hate that. That’s often the start of an issue.

Moses was not gone overnight. He was gone for 40 days. No tweet. No message. No email. No smoke signal to tell them he was okay. Nothing.

So, you can imagine the restlessness of the Israelites.

You know, one thing I find annoying the most — and I’m guilty of this, by the way— is when people message me, and I would reply, and they would disappear. And then for about a week, they resurface and I’m like, “What happened? Did you get kidnapped, or something? Did you get abducted by aliens? Did you fall into a quicksand? And now you’re just back?”

How To Deal with Delays

I can understand where the Israelites were coming from. But I can also understand where Moses was coming from.

Moses was with his Lord.

How many of you know this: That sometimes, you spend so much time with God that there are moments you lose track of time. Yes? You get lost in His Presence. Time just stops when you’re with the Lord, time is gone by.

So, that’s what Moses must have felt like. He spent so much time with the Lord, he forgot.

But here’s my theory: It’s not that he actually forgot — but it’s that he understood the delay because God had a purpose.

My dear friend, when you know, when you believe, that God has a purpose— even through the delays of life— you know what’s going to happen? You’re not going to mind waiting. It’s going to be okay for you to wait. Why? Because you know that God is working. If you know that God is cooking something good in the kitchen, you’re going to take your time and wait for that beautiful thing.

So now, here’s my question: If you know that there will always be delays in life, that sometimes you have to wait in life, how do you deal with the delays of life?

I’ll share with you a story.

Three years ago, right about the same time this year, I was traveling to Cebu because it was KCON (Kerygma Conference, now called Feast Conference) week. Traveling, by the way, with the Feast Worship team…

You know some of the delays in life — if you can agree with me— they usually happen in airports. Like there would be flights delayed. And sure enough, our flight was delayed. Not just for ten minutes, not just for 15 minutes. But for hours.

And every time there’s a delay at the airport, what happens? There are disgruntled passengers. Sure enough, people started fighting with the front desk. No, not the Feast Worship team. They’re good.

In the middle of what was happening— I vividly remember this— there was this one elderly gentleman sitting in the Departure lounge — nothing could affect him. He knew what was going on. But he was just calmly reading his book, smiling, there was a look of contentment in his eyes.

And you know, at that moment, I had a reflection: In life, there will always be delays. Sometimes, you’ve got to wait. Why? Because it is in the waiting where God will reveal to you your true character. It’s in the delays of life that God will tell you how you are behaving.

So, here’s my point— I truly believe this: I believe that God is more concerned about your attitude in the Departure than your disposition at the Destination.

I believe that God is more concerned about how you behave when you’re in the Departure area than how you celebrate when you’re already at the Arrival.

Because think about it: It’s easy to celebrate when you’ve already got the breakthrough, the answered prayer, the boyfriend, or the job promotion that you’ve been praying for. It’s easy to celebrate when you’ve already got your answered prayer. But it’s a completely different thing when you’re still waiting at the Departure area and then there are delays.

My question is: How do you behave? Do you behave just like that elderly gentleman who just calmly accepted that there is a purpose— “Maybe God is protecting me through this delay.”

Or are you going to be like that toddler Princess who will go into a tantrum because Mommy is not there?

How will you behave when you experience delays in life?

I’m going to share with you three practical messages based on the passage. The first message is this: You cannot tame God.

I want you to check out how the Israelites respond to the delay of Moses. They told Aaron to make idols.

This is how Aaron answered them: And the Israelites said:

The story is very simple. In the absence of Moses, they become restless.

And in their restlessness, they take matters into their own hands. They come before Aaron and they say, “Aaron, can we make other gods who will go before us?”

You know the problem? It seems to us, when you read this, the problem starts when they said, “Let’s make other gods before us.”

But to me, personally? This is my opinion: The problem started when Aaron listened. I believe it’s so dangerous if you are the kind of leader who will listen only to popular opinion. If you’re the kind of person who will listen only to the voice of the majority.

How many of you know that the popular opinion will not always be the best opinion? Yes? In the same way that the will of the people will not always be the will of God.

What or Who Are You Worshipping?

I want you to be the kind of Christ-centered follower that— Yes, you listen to the popular opinion but you’re more leaning in, and dependent on the leading of the Spirit. Because if you’re listening only to the voice of the majority, you know what’s going to happen? You’re going to make the same mistake as Pontius Pilate made. Pilate listened to the public.

What was the public saying? “Crucify Him!”

So sometimes, we make mistakes because we listen to popular opinion.

And that’s what happened to Aaron.

A point will come in your leadership when, sometimes, you’ll need to call out what is idolatry and tell people, “This is not who we are. This is not God. I did not raise you up this way.”

That’s the kind of leader that we need.

So, what did Aaron do? He listened and they fabricated this golden calf and they worshipped this deity.

Question: How will you know if what or who you are worshipping right now is actually God or a false god?

Two ways:

1. Take a look at your calendar.

2. Take a look at your budget. Why? When you look at those two variables, they will ask you two questions: Where do you give your time? Where do you give your treasure?

And your answers to those questions will reveal to you who your God is.

Do you give your time generously to your job? Yes, you love your job, right?

But there is a point in which sometimes you give so much time to your job that your job becomes your god.

Do you give your time so much to your hobbies? It’s good to be healthy, to be active. But there comes a point in your life when you give generously to your hobby that the hobby becomes your god.

The second question is: Where do you give your treasure?

Do you give it to organizations, never give to your church? Then maybe the organizations are your gods.

Ask Yourself These Questions:

Where do I give my time? Where do I give my treasure?

Because by nature, my dear friends, wherever you give your time and treasure generously, that will become your god.

Take a look at the Israelites. What did they do?

Aaron said, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing and bring them to me.” (Exodus 32:2)

They gave their treasure. They gave their time. Because those are what they worship.

By the way, I have another valid interpretation of the story.

Bible scholars believe that the Israelites believed they were actually worshipping God. This was a common practice in ancient times— where they used to believe that God would inhabit a particular idol.

I’m not talking about just a person— I’m talking about an artifact. For instance, an amulet. They would believe that God would inhabit a pendant.

You know what? There is a danger when you believe something like that. Number one: Because if you believe that God would inhabit— like this handkerchief— if you need God, what. Do you do? You take it out of your pocket. When you don’t need God, you put the handkerchief back into your pocket.

So what’s happening is that God is turning into this very convenient commodity. If you need Him, poof, He’s there. If you don’t need Him, you tuck Him in. God becomes a Genie.

But God is not a genie, my friend. He’s not somebody in a lamp, that you rub, he comes out, and you get your three wishes.

This is the way that they tried to control and tame God. And that’s what we do. When we need God, it’s convenient He’s there. When we don’t need Him, we forget about Him.

But how many of you know that you cannot tame God?

If you control God, you know what that makes you? It makes you God. You cannot control God. Let God be God.

Sometimes you pray like God is a genie. You rub the lamp and say, “Lord, here’s what I want.”

God is not a genie. You don’t pray to get what you want. You pray to know what God wants for you.

Here’s the second message: God is the source of your ultimate worth.

I’m sure some of you might be thinking: “What was Aaron doing? Shouldn’t he have been the representative of Moses? He was the trusted spokesperson. He was left in charge. Why was he doing this? Why was he making a false idol?”

You want to know why?

Simple answer: Because Aaron preferred to please men more than pleasing God.

That’s a lesson for somebody here.

I want you to read this funny conversation between these two brothers. Moses said to Aaron:

Check out what Aaron was doing.

He’s like to Moses: “Bro., I took some gold, I threw them into the fire, and then poof, how come, this golden calf.”

Come on. I know fake news when I hear it. That’s not real. That’s disinformation.

But what was happening? Aaron was playing the game we all like to play.

The blame game: “It’s not me. It’s you.”

And mind you, this is a hyperlink all the way to the book of Genesis.

The time when Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent.

Because in life, my friends, it’s never really your fault, right? It’s always going to be somebody else’s fault. A time will come, my dear friends, when you will need to start owning up to the things that you’ve been doing. And just start coming before God, saying, “Lord, I’m sorry for all the things that I’d done.”

You know, we offer Confession here at The Feast every time. Make use of it.

Come before the Lord and confess your sins. Make Him wash your sins away. Own up to the sins that you have committed.

Looking for Your Identity?

Aaron was playing the blame game. Why?

Because he was very insecure. He was such an insecure leader. And for me, the reason he did what he did was he let flattery get the better of him.

Did you know that flattery is another form of idolatry? Let me explain:

People please you. People appreciate you.

People confirm you. People commend you. And then you get this feeling of identity: “Uy, I’m worthy. Because people appreciate. They’re complimenting me.”

So now these people become your idol because whenever you approach them, you feel like a plant that’s fully watered.

But the problem there is that when these persons walk away from you, they walk away with your identity.

You’ve been going to people and places to look for your identity not realizing that the places and people you go to are also broken.

Go to God. Jesus’ mission is to turn you from woundedness to completeness.

It’s Jesus— He alone can complete you.

And I came to announce this to somebody here today because you’ve been running from relationship to relationship, from church to church, from organization to organization, looking for who you are.

I’m telling you, you don’t have to run to people or places to know who you are.

Why? Because God has already approved of you. God already made you worthy.

You don’t have to go to that person anymore because you think that person will give you your worth to please people.

God already approves of you. That’s the Good News today.

Here’s the third message: God wants a close relationship with you.

Exodus 32:9-14 says:

You know this is a very controversial passage. Let me explain:

If you’re reading this with an oversimplified lens, you know what’s going to happen? You’re going to end up asking three questions:

  1. Why does it seem that God had a temper problem? Like God was this wrathful God.
  2. Why does it look like Moses was more merciful than God? Did you feel that? He’s pleading for the people

and God was so angry.

  1. Is this how God works?

That if I persist enough with my prayer God is going to change His mind, and He’s going to listen to my prayer?

 

Understanding God

Is that how it works?

Just like that single lady who at the age of 25 prayed to the Lord: “Lord, I want a good man.”

And then at the age of 30, she saw nothing and she prayed: “Lord, I want the best man.”

Still nothing. So, at the age of 35 she said, “Lord, I want any man.”

By the age of 40, still nothing, and she said, “Lord, please naman!”

Is that how it works? You persist enough with your prayer and God will listen to you?

Okay. Quick, quick lesson:

Whenever you are reading, especially the Old Testament, I want you to remember that this is an ancient text coming from an ancient time. You’re not going to understand this when you’re reading with modern lenses. So, what you need to do is to look at the context.

And the context is this: The time when the author wrote this, he was using a language that they used to refer to as anthropomorphic.

Anthropomorphism is when you apply human attributes to things that you do not understand. For instance, non-human entities, concepts, or insights. And in this case, when you apply anthropomorphic language about God, you’re applying human attributes to comprehend the incomprehensible God.

That’s why, if you notice, in this passage, the author was sort of giving a personality to God: God had a temper—God had this unique temperament. Because there was one simple point: the author was saying that God is somebody that you could talk to, you could negotiate with, you could plead with, you could argue with.

Simply because God is somebody who cares enough to listen to you. Now, why is that important?

God Cares

Think about it: If God is somebody who could get mad, or angry, because of what you do, it simply means one thing: that God cares about you, that God loves you.

Doesn’t it make you happy to know that there is a God who loves you? It’s a hard message to preach. I want to close this way:

In reality, my friends, God did not want to destroy Israel— in as much as He did not want to destroy Egypt. He loved Egypt. He loved the Egyptians. He loved the Israelites.

But sometimes, God’s justice takes over, and thus, the consequences for the things that we do. But I am glad God’s mercy is also there. And God will often use intercessors to intercede on your behalf. Just like He used Joseph to intercede for Egypt— to save the land of Egypt. God used somebody like Moses to intercede for the Israelites. Moses returned to the Lord

Let me fast forward to Exodus 32:31:

What was Moses doing here? He was sacrificing his life for the sake of the Israelites.

He Sacrificed for You and Me

God would use intercessors like Joseph and Moses.

But ultimately God used Jesus to intercede for you and me.

Moses sacrificed himself for the sins of the Israelites. But Jesus, He sacrificed Himself for the sake of mankind— for you and me.

And Jesus, when He went up on that Cross, He said: “Father, forgive them— forgive him, forgive him, forgive her, forgive her, forgive him, forgive her, forgive them, forgive me— for they know not what they do.”

He climbed that Cross and He said, “I’ll take their place. I’ll receive their punishment, I will bear their burden.”

I pray that this will make you fall in love with Jesus and want Him more in your life. Because the truth, my friends, this is the God that we worship. He’s not a false God. You cannot control Jesus.

But one thing you can control is the amount of faith and surrender that you can give to Him. I pray that today, you finally dethrone all the false gods in your life and allow Jesus, the One True King, to reside in your life.

Father, we have allowed false gods to rule us, to reign over us. But today this stops.

Today, we offer our life, to surrender to You.

We bow to Your Lordship, King Jesus.

Come, take Your place and have Your way.

We want You Jesus into our life. Amen.