Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush changed his life forever. Over the weekend of 29 and 30 April, Pastor Bobby Chaw shared two takeaways from this divine encounter.
“Our faith in God is not rooted in outward circumstances or blessings, but it is rooted and grounded in the love of God,” said Bobby Chaw, executive pastor of City Harvest Church, as he began his sermon over the weekend of 29 and 30 April.
Believers may be weighed down by financial issues, family troubles or personal struggles, but an encounter with God can shift their focus back to God, the One who can do the impossible.
“Encounters with God are the turning points of our lives,” declared Pastor Bobby, as he brought the congregation to Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush in Exodus 3.
At the prime of his life, Moses thought he would deliver God’s people from slavery and lead them out of Egypt into the Promised Land. However, in a moment of uncontrolled impulse, he took the law into his hands and killed an Egyptian. Overnight, this celebrated Prince of Egypt became a murderer, forced to seek refuge in the wilderness. He spent decades tending sheep with the nomads.
At the age of 80, Moses probably thought he already missed God’s plans and purpose for his life. Yet a burning bush encounter led him to become Israel’s prophet and deliverer.
Pastor Bobby shared two things that the church can learn from Moses’ divine encounter with God.
ENCOUNTERING GOD BEGINS WITH A DESIRE
Exodus 3:2 reads: “And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.” In the decades that Moses had spent in the wilderness, he would have seen many burning bushes. But on that day, he noticed something different. The phrase “looked, and behold” means to watch, think about, or to pay attention to.
“If you are too consumed with your work or too preoccupied with life’s distractions, you may miss God,” said the pastor. “But if you make time, pause, and give it attention in your everyday moment, you will find Him.”
Pastor Bobby shared the testimony of a current student enrolled in the church’s School of Theology (SOT). Traumatic experiences had caused her to shut down emotionally and withdraw from family and friends. She had made an inner vow to feel nothing, and unknowingly, she had also shut down emotionally towards God.
With her sister’s encouragement, she enrolled into SOT this year. Despite her initial reluctance, she kept showing up for class and fully participated in the worship, teaching, and counselling sessions, all because she had a glimmer of desire for God.
“Just a few weeks ago, while praying in class, she was suddenly overwhelmed by waves upon waves of God’s love flooding her heart,” Pastor Bobby told the church. “For the first time in years, she broke down in tears and wept like a baby in God’s presence.” Years of pent-up anger, bitterness and pain loosened their grip on her.
The change in her was so drastic that even her countenance was transformed. Her classmates were shocked and commented that she looked like a different person.
“An encounter with God is the turning point of your life. And all it takes is a desire,” preached Pastor Bobby, reminding the church members of the woman with the issue of blood in Matthew 9, who had a desire to encounter God. One touch from God transformed her life forever.
In His Word, God also promised that His people will find Him if they look for Him wholeheartedly (Jeremiah 29:13-14).
ENCOUNTERING GOD IS ABOUT EXPERIENCING HIS LOVE
When believers think about flames of fire, they tend to associate it with anger and wrath. Some may even think that God’s fiery judgment is all ready to consume anyone who falls short of Him, so there is no room for carelessness or mistakes.
“Yes, God is Holy, and we must serve Him with reverence and worship. But yet in the Bible, fire itself is often a metaphor for love,” said Pastor Bobby. He pointed the congregation to examples in Song of Songs 8:6-7, and Psalm 103:8.
When God appeared to Moses in a burning bush, He revealed His love to Moses instead of condemning him: He called out to him, “Moses! Moses!” (Exodus 3:4) The name “Moses” in Hebrew means “to pull out or draw out of water”. It was a reminder to Moses of God’s love and protection over his life, from the time he was a helpless infant. If God could pull Moses out of danger when he was an infant, He could pull him out of any depression or anxiety again, the pastor preached.
In Exodus 3:6, God also told Moses, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Although Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were deeply flawed individuals with dysfunctional backgrounds, God was not ashamed to be associated with them. Instead, God entered a personal relationship with them and gave them unbreakable promises of eternal blessings. In the end, all three of them fulfilled their destinies in God.
As He spoke to Moses from the burning bush, God knew he had many weaknesses: he struggled with doubt and fear, and he was also not articulate in speech. Moses must have questioned how God could use someone like him, and how he could become a leader. But God assured him and reminded him of His protection and purpose for his life.
“All of us can identify with Moses in one way or another,” said Pastor Bobby, sharing his personal story as the lead pastor of CHC Chinese Service. Due to his limited Chinese vocabulary, he often feels inadequate preaching in Chinese, and takes many hours each week to prepare a Chinese sermon.
Pastor Bobby gave a funny example of his weakness: two years ago, during a sermon, he wanted to encourage the Chinese church members to worship the Lord with all their heart and to sing from their diaphragm, but instead of using the correct Chinese term for “diaphragm”, he used the word for “anus”. The congregation laughed so hard that they almost could not continue with the service.
Despite such challenges and incidents, Pastor Bobby shared that the Lord always encouraged him to do it again, and again.
He was reminded of the first time that he had experienced God’s love: when the 16-year-old Bobby Chaw attended a cell group by chance. Even though he did not understand the Bible teaching, he felt the presence of God in that meeting. His heart was so moved by God’s love that he could not stop crying.
“From that day, God’s presence and love became my lifelong pursuit,” said Pastor Bobby. Now, he sits at the dining table every morning to spend time with God, desiring for an encounter.
“Most days, nothing extraordinary happens. But it’s okay, because having the grace to sit in His presence and giving Him all my attention brings me so much satisfaction. But then there are moments when I would cry as I worship Him, just like the days of my first love,” said the pastor, encouraging the church to stay hungry for an encounter with God.
HOW TO ABIDE IN GOD’S LOVE
“Our lives must revolve around experiencing God and His love,” said Pastor Bobby. He personally meditates and prays through 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Since God is love, he explains, one can read the passage substituting the word “love” with “God” and gain insight into God’s love for His people.
Praying through these verses and conversing with the Lord, Pastor Bobby would often find himself being embraced by the Lord.
“Now that I’ve been touched by God and experienced His love, I can never revert to the state of not being touched by Him,” Pastor Bobby said, explaining that his only two options are to keep returning to God’s presence or to reject, ignore and forget his encounters with God.
Romans 5:5 shared that “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” The phrase “poured out” refers to a “continuous flood” in Greek.
In other words, the divine love which was poured out in a person’s first encounter with God will not be the only time, because the Holy Spirit wants to continue pouring out His love.
In closing, Pastor Bobby encouraged the church to respond to the love of God, even if it is simply having a small desire for an encounter. The pastor also led the church in prayer, reminding them of God’s patience and kindness, and encouraging them to put their trust in God.