Running the play like it’s called

The football team in my state recently released their former starting running back. To some fans, this seemed like a surprise, because the team had been saying that this was their guy. At the beginning of the season, he looked liked “the guy.” He ran hard, ran solid, and gained good yardage. But as the season went on, his production began to decline. He was replaced by a rookie and let go shortly thereafter. So what went wrong? Well, it seems that the team no longer trusted what he would do once he got the ball. Apparently, he wasn’t running plays like they were called. Rather than hitting the gap and fighting through contact for a few yards, he was bouncing to the outside, spinning, avoiding, running out of bounds. He was relying more on his judgement than on the play call by the coach. This ultimately led to his dismissal.

Hand drawing a game strategy with white chalk on a blackboard.

As a coach, it’s important that the players run the plays that you have drawn up. The coach generally has an idea of how he or she is trying to approach the game. And as a player, you have got to trust your coach. You need to run the play like it’s called. At my daughter’s soccer award night, the coach mentioned that when my daughter started catching on to the plays as called, she started scoring more. It’s true! She listened to the coaches’ instructions and had multiple games where she scored more than one goal. She simply just had to run the play like it was called.

Which brings me to Exodus 40:16 Moses did everything just as the Lord commanded him.

This was the marker of Moses’ life. He ran the play like it was called. Over and over again, we read this statement regarding Moses. He did it the way God told him to. Moses wasn’t in danger of being cut from the team. He wasn’t going to lose his job. There weren’t any trust issues. Moses just ran the plays that God called. 

So how am I running the plays that God gives me? I can’t say I have the same track record as Moses did, but I am certainly trying. Reading that simple verse today challenges me. It challenges me to obedience when the Lord instructs. But it also challenges me to seek the Lord for the play in the first place. The truth is, that in life, I am sometimes just running around the field with no direction. But when I go to the Lord, He dials up the right play for me to run. The rest is up to me. Will I doubt? Or will I simply run the play like it’s called? I hope I run the play.

What about you?

 

You’re doing what?!

I’m not afraid to try things that I haven’t done before. It doesn’t mean I’m good at them, but I’ll try them. Let me clarify: I’m not talking about skydiving or eating fish eyeballs. I mean skill stuff. Like playing a new sport or attempting to fix something. But just because I attempt things, doesn’t mean I am doing them the best way possible. I worked in retail for 13 years. During that time, I worked many positions within the store. With each position comes a new skill set. I remember when I first worked night crew, stocking the shelves for the next day. The way I was opening cases of cans was taking me a while and the others were working circles around me. When one of the experienced guys saw how I was cutting open the case, he was like “what are you doing?”  Then he showed me the pro way to do it. It was way better! I was just doing the best I could, but there was a better way.

youredoingwhatMoses found himself in a similar situation. He started out as a one-on-one leader but the leadership needs began to grow. Rather than adapting his leadership style to the changing needs of the people, he just continued to stay course on the only way he knew how, which was exhausting! So when his father-in-law Jethro came to town and saw what was going on, he quickly asked: “you’re doing what?!”

Exodus 18:14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

Jethro then proceeded to give Moses some wisdom about how to better handle the situation. You see, it was a blind spot for Moses. He couldn’t see it any other way. He figured this was the only option he had. And he needed someone else with wisdom to look at the situation with fresh eyes. That wisdom probably saved Moses from a continued life of exhaustion and frustration.

Do you have anyone in your life who asks, “you’re doing what?” Do you have anyone who you have allowed to speak into the places where most people can’t go? You see, we need wisdom from others. We need input. We may not like it or even want it, but we need it. Because, quite frankly, we have blind spots. We get entrenched in things and don’t see any other options. So we must find ourselves a mentor, a trusted friend, a person of wisdom. These are the people who might just see something that we don’t. It might be as simple as how to open a box more efficiently. But it also might be how to get out of the proverbial box that you have been stuck in for so long.

The Sea Within

It’s an epic scene in history: the parting of the Red Sea. You may know the story… The Israelites have just been freed from slavery in Egypt, but the Pharaoh is sending his army to come after them. The circumstances look grave, but God does a miracle. They stand at the Red Sea before them and Moses touches the water with this staff. At that moment, the sea forms a wall to their left and to their right and they walk through it on dry ground. Awesome! Even more awesome is that the Egyptian army pursued them. During the pursuit, God caused the water to flow again and every single one of the bad guys drowned in the sea. God=1, Egyptian Army=0.

redsea

That’s how God works! He is a God of miracles. He does great big things that shape our lives. I think about Jesus and the thousands of people he fed, healed, and set free by the miraculous power of God. Jesus is awesome! This miracle in Exodus 14 was awesome, too! I want you to notice something about this story, because there’s actually a miracle before the miracle; a parting of the sea before the parting of the sea.

Exodus 14:13-14 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

If you read the whole chapter, you’ll find the Israelites freaking out. They say to Moses, “What, there weren’t enough graves for us in Egypt? God obviously brought us out here to be killed!” We see the fear and doubt overtake them. It paralyzes their faith to the point where they aren’t sure God can pull this one out. Even after the 12 plagues. They freeze.

At that moment, Moses speaks a word of faith over them from the Lord. “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” Stop, people. Stop freaking out. Stop doubting. Stop losing your mind to fear. The Lord is about to do a giant miracle! He is going to take this sea and form a wall of water to your left and a wall of water to your right. You will walk through it safely! It’s going to be okay!

The miracle was on it’s way for Israel. The walls of water would be in their near future. But there was another miracle that needed to take place: the miracle inside of them. You see, there was a sea of doubt and fear swirling around inside their hearts. They were in a panic, couldn’t see clearly, and had lost all perspective. But if they would just be still for a moment…

If they would just be still, God would blow into their hearts and deal with the sea within. He would push doubt into a wall to their left and push fear into a wall to their rights. And in their hearts, they would stand on solid ground knowing that a bigger miracle was coming. The miracle inside their hearts would give them the resolve to stand for the miracle outside of their control. Egypt was coming after them. But in this place of peace in their hearts, the worry ceased. And as that worry ceased, so too, did the waters of the Red Sea. They would soon see with their eyes, the walls of water to their left and right and walk safely through.

The miracle inside was just as great as the miracle outside. Both miracles saved them. One from Egypt and the other from themselves. What “inside” miracle do you need in your life? Take it to the God of miracles and watch what He will do!

Are you paying attention?

I live in Washington; it rains a lot. This time of year, outdoor furniture is on sale everywhere. I have a hard time understanding why in Washington, they sell the kind that has the thick cushions. Don’t people know that those are just going to be wet all the time? It doesn’t make sense for the Northwest, yet it continues to be what I see the most. Is anyone paying attention? It is going to rain! And because it is going to rain sooner or later, you can’t leave stuff outside like you can in places like Arizona. The kids have to bring their shoes in at night. Bikes must to brought into the garage. Stuff must be sheltered or else stuff will get ruined.

hail-storm

In the book of Exodus, God was sending plagues on the land of Egypt so that the Pharaoh would let God’s people go. In chapter 9, God sent some hail. Now it hails here sometimes, but this was some serious hail. Like giant hail that destroyed stuff. Unfortunately, some of the people didn’t pay attention to the forecast. And their stuff got ruined.

Exodus 9:20-21 Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. But those who ignored the word of the LORD left their slaves and livestock in the field.

It baffles me, really, that people who have just experienced other plagues would not pay attention to God’s weather forecast. He said there would be hail and there was hail. Crops were ruined. Livestock was killed. People died. All because people didn’t want to pay attention to the Lord’s warning.

God warns us today, too. Sometimes it is the gentle caution of the Holy Spirit that tells us to change course. Or maybe it is His Word that tells us that the wages of sin is death. But we continue to sin. We continue to live our lives contrary to His leading. He has told us what will happen, but we don’t pay attention. 

It’s avoidable, really. I mean, not ALL trouble is avoidable, but much of the heartache that we get ourselves into is. If we would just heed the voice of the Lord. If we would just pay attention to what He is saying to us, we might find that He actually knows what He is doing. And we might avoid some of the consequences of our poor decisions. So be like those who feared the Lord, believed His forecast, and saved themselves the heartache!

Yoda didn’t need the cane

There’s this scene in Star Wars Episode II that remains one of my favorites. Yoda comes limping in to a room and confronts the evil Count Dooku. He’s got the little cane in his hand and leans on it as he walks. Poor old Yoda; the guy can barely walk. But then it happens… his lightsaber comes out and he starts fighting like a young man. He’s jumping around the room, doing 360’s and somersaults. He transforms into the ultimate Jedi Warrior. Wait a minute… Yoda doesn’t really need the cane, does he?

Yoda1

There were a couple of old guys in the Bible that had canes, too. Well actually they were staffs, but same idea really. Their names were Moses and Aaron – brothers. Old brothers.

Exodus 7:6-7 Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD commanded them. Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh. 

Now both of these guys walked around with staffs in their hands. Very practical, really, as they were in their 80’s. Old dudes sometimes need canes, or staffs. But it turns out that the staff was more than a walking stick; it was a tool that was used for God.

It says in verse 10 that Aaron threw down his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and it became a snake. Then Moses threw down his walker and it became a giant spider. Okay, not really – but that would have been cool! The point is, God used ordinary walking sticks to show His power!

I bet we’ve got some ordinary things in our lives that God could use to show His power. What would happen if instead of looking at the things we rely on as things that meet our needs, we look at those things as potential tools for God’s glory? What if our jobs became more about a mission field than a paycheck collection service? What if we viewed our money as a tool to accomplish God’s vision for our lives? What if we used a place a weakness to share about God’s faithfulness?

If Moses and Aaron could use walking sticks to display the glory of God, then surely we can find some things to do the same. God isn’t limited by our age, our weaknesses, or our disabilities. He is limited only by one thing: our obedience. Because He gives us the freedom to choose His ways. At ages 80 and 83, Moses and Aaron obeyed. What followed was a ridiculous outpouring of the miraculous. Imagine what might happen if we respond to God in the same way. Accomplish great things, we will!

Clueless

Clueless: having no knowledge, understanding, or ability. Know anyone like that? I must admit that there are several things that I don’t have knowledge of or ability in. For example, gardening. I’m no good at it. My abilities are poor in this area. I have no problem admitting that I am deficient. But I don’t think I’d like to be called clueless. There’s a difference with not having an ability and being called clueless. Clueless is a derogatory term. It says way more than, “this fellow doesn’t seem to possess the clue.”

Dear-God-clueless-peopleClueless. It’s what you mutter under your breath about people who cut you off in traffic. It’s what you say about people who paint their houses hot pink. It’s the word that comes to mind for the customer service technician who continues to ask you the same question over and over again. “Yes, I’m sure it’s plugged in!” “No I couldn’t fill out your web form – I’m calling because my internet ISN’T working!”  Clueless.

For some reason, Moses seemed to think that God was clueless. “God, your plan isn’t working! Don’t you know how bad we’ve got it right now?” To which God responded: “You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them.” (Exodus 6:5)

God wasn’t clueless. He knew the plight of His people. He heard their cries for help. He hadn’t forgotten His covenant with them (even though they “forgot” to hold up their end of it several times). He was well aware of their need and well aware of His promise. No, God wasn’t clueless by any stretch of the imagination. And you know what…

God still isn’t clueless. He hasn’t forgotten about you. He hasn’t been too busy to hear your prayers. He is well aware of what is on your heart. My question is this: are you well aware of what is on His? Because I think we tend to be the clueless ones. But God isn’t clueless. In fact, far from it. So if you feel like He isn’t seeing you, isn’t hearing you, isn’t paying attention – take heart today. Don’t give up. God loves you and He has a plan. He is well aware. He is NOT clueless!

This isn’t working out

Confession: I’m a man who likes a plan. I read instruction manuals. I’m type A. I tend to be a perfectionist. Get the picture? Here’s another confession: things don’t always work out as planned. I’m learning to live with that… learning to make adjustments, to be patient, to accept less than perfection. I’m learning that things don’t always go the way I expected them to. And that’s okay. Because God has a lens that is way more wide-angle than mine.

God had a plan for Moses and the Israelites, too. He told Moses the plan. But when Moses went to Pharaoh, it didn’t go exactly like he thought it would. He was supposed to be really convincing and Pharaoh was going to listen to him. That’s not what happened; in fact, the opposite happened. Pharaoh decided to make life more miserable for the Israelites.

Exodus 5:22-23 Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”

not as plannedYou call THIS a rescue, God?! I mean, you said if I went to Pharaoh it would work out. You said you were going to free the people. Some rescuer you are! Do you blame Moses? I don’t. This whole situation must have been confusing. Things weren’t making sense. The people he was trying to help were now mad at him. This isn’t working out.

Here’s the thing: even though it didn’t seem to be working out, God was still at work. He was about to put on a pretty epic show in the land of Egypt that would be undeniable. It would be clear that God was the one doing the rescuing, not Moses. It was going to be awesome, but it was going to be in His timing.

We tend to miss seeing what God is doing, too – especially when we have stuck in our head a particular way in which we think God should be working. We think He missed it, that He’s too late. He must not understand what’s at stake. How could He not know what’s going on? Maybe we are the one who don’t know what’s going on. Maybe we are looking at life through our microscopic lens rather than God’s wide-angle one. Because I guarantee you that He has a better perspective than we do.

So the next time you feel like this just isn’t working out, consider that in the big scheme of things, it just might be turn out okay in the end.

 

 

How not to respond to your calling

There are legends of the faith that we look up to. People like David, Esther, Paul, Gideon, Ruth, and Moses. Some were brave; others were bold. Some of them endured great hardship, while others reaped incredible blessing. And when we look at the end of their story, we celebrate their lives that were used greatly by God. But not everyone had the best start to walking out their calling… especially Moses.

Basically, God called Moses to do some cool stuff for Him, but Moses wasn’t so sure. He felt under-qualified. He was scared. So instead of taking God at His word, he argued. It’s not that he wasn’t sure if this was God’s voice. I mean if a bush on fire that isn’t burning up starts talking to you and says it is God, then you should listen and obey. Either that or drink more water and take a nap. But in this case, “listen and obey” was the correct answer.

Moses wanted to question everything, though. I wonder what kind of conversation the Trinity had about all that questioning? Did the Holy Spirit ask the Father, “Are you sure this is the right guy?” Did Jesus offer to just go take care of things Himself? Did The Father ask Jesus to hold Him back from killing this guy? I’m not sure exactly, although at one point in Exodus 4, it says that God was about to kill him. So that’s not good. But in the midst of all the arguing with God about his calling, the best part comes in Exodus 4:2-3. Check this out:

Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?”     

“A staff,” he replied.    

The LORD said, “Throw it on the ground.”

Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it.

scared manOkay, folks. HE RAN FROM IT. He ran from his staff that had temporarily become a snake. I imagine a high pitched squeal went along with his running. At which point God face-palmed.

Folks, Moses ran from that snake staff, but what he was really running from was his calling. He didn’t think he would have what it takes. He was certain God had knocked on the wrong guy’s door. Moses, running from a temporary snake was how he began his calling. Even though many years earlier, the calling of God was in his heart. Even though all along, he knew that God was calling him to greater things. When it came down to it, he panicked.

Later in life, Moses taught a class at the local seminary called: “How not to respond to your calling.” Okay, maybe he didn’t, but Exodus chapter 4 could serve as the curriculum. Here’s the thing: Moses was unable to see what God saw in him. He focused more on his shortcomings than God’s abilities. He worried about his potential effectiveness rather than God’s power to do the miraculous.

The calling of God isn’t dependent on our qualifications. It is not dependent on our readiness. What matters is the calling and the One who is doing the calling. So why not trust Him? Why not stand in awe that He would choose imperfect you to do something great for eternity!? Don’t run from the staff snake and squeal like a little girl. Pick up the mantle that God has for you and begin to walk in it!

 

The proof comes later

proofI am a fan of guaranteed things. Are you with me on this? I’m talking about no risk, all reward stuff. I would jump out of an airplane if there was a 100% guarantee that the parachute will open. I know the percentage is high, but it’s not 100. Maybe I’d step out more in faith if I knew it was going to work out. But that’s not really faith at all, is it? That’s just doing something that you know will produce the desired results. The truth is: most often, the proof comes later.

Moses was placed in a situation I find myself in often. It’s a situation in which he was hoping God would give him an up-front guarantee. Here’s how it went down…

Moses sees a bush on fire, yet the bush isn’t burning up, it’s just burning. He checks it out and it starts talking to him. Except it isn’t the bush talking, it is God speaking from within the bush. And God in the bush tells him that he is being sent to get His people out of slavery in Egypt. That seems intimidating to Moses, because the last time he tried to rescue an Israelite slave, it didn’t go well.  Moses wavers and questions God’s good judgement in choosing him. Here’s God’s response:heresyoursign

Exodus 3:12  And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Wait a minute! What kind of a guarantee is that? “After it’s all done, you will worship right here with the people.” Yes Moses, after you have stepped out of your comfort zone, put your life on the line, and lead ungrateful people through a sea with soldiers chasing you – then God will confirm that it was really Him who sent you.

I wonder if I would take God up on that offer. I wonder if I would be willing to take the step of faith and receive the confirmation later. The truth is, faith requires… um, faith. It requires trust. And it means that sometimes (often) you won’t be confident of the outcome. But you CAN be confident in the God who sent you.

The proof usually does come later. And even though I’d like some proof up front, I have found that the actual outcome is often far greater than I could have ever expected. That’s the beauty of living for God and taking Him at His word!

*What is God calling you today? Where are the scary places He is sending you that require faith?

Taking matters into your own hands

Sometimes, life throws situations our way that just aren’t fair. Things aren’t right; injustice is happening. You know those situations; he ones in which it seems that somebody needs to do something. Maybe you have been in a situation like that. Maybe you’ve said to yourself “I’ve got to do something about this” even when you know that you aren’t really called to do something about it. And so you take matters into your own hands when you shouldn’t. You spring into action when it wasn’t your place to do so. I’ve done it. The results are rarely favorable.

moses kills egyptianIn Exodus 2, Moses found himself in a similar situation. Now Moses, was indeed called by God to rescue the Hebrew people. It was God’s big plan for his life; it was his destiny. But instead of waiting for God’s timing for the calling to be activated, he took matters into his own hands. The outcome was disastrous.

Exodus 2:11-14 11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” 14 The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”

When Moses was defending the Hebrew slave, he must have felt like a hero. However, he quickly realized what he did was wrong. And in that moment, he went from hero to zero. Yes, Moses tried to walk in his calling before he was anointed to walk in it. It’s like there was something in him that knew he was to be a rescuer, but without the anointing all he could do was rescue in his flesh.

This is important: when God calls us to something, we must also wait for God to release us into that calling. We cannot, like Moses, take matters into our own hands. We cannot make the calling of God happen on our own strength. Instead, we must listen to the leading of the Lord and be guided by His hand. It may require that we wait, but when the time comes, it will be right.  If we don’t wait, however, we may end up with destruction instead of destiny.