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.