Surrender Your Staff

In the hands of Linus, a blanket strengthens, assures and comforts.  In the hands of Jordan Spieth, a golf club connects, lifts and directs.  In the hands of Moses, a staff declares, stuns and signifies.

I invite you, over the next three weeks, to explore “The Tale of Moses and His Staff.”

If a picture of Moses resides in your head, it probably displays the leader holding either stone tablets or a staff.  Let us focus on that staff

Near the beginning of the Old Testament book of Exodus, we find Moses, the refugee, “alone with his sheep in [a] desolate wilderness.”  (Nahum Sarna, Exploring Exodus, p 39)  There, while demonstrating His power and control by setting ablaze a bush that did not burn, God speaks to Moses.  God reveals His plan and details the facts of events to come that will free the Israelite people from the hands of Egypt.
After seeing this miracle and hearing God’s plan, how do you think Moses responded to God?
Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”  (Exodus 4:1 NIV)

“What if they don’t believe me?”

Have you asked a question like that?

  • What if they don’t like me?
  • What if I look like a fool?
  • Why don’t you use someone better?
  • Why me?
  • What do I have to offer?

Far too often, when God calls, we succumb to self-doubt or fear, or a mixture of both.  If you will rewind with me, it is important to note some of the words that God spoke to Moses during the bush experience.
“The elders of Israel will listen to you.”  (Exodus 3:18a NIV)

God already answered Moses’ doubt before he asked!

Moses heard a word from God, yet he did not believe that word enough to trust. 

In honesty, we must admit that we do the same.  Recall with me, the myriad of promises from God that we find in Scripture which we doubt.

For Moses’ sake and for ours, I am glad that God extends His grace and answers our doubts rather than turning a deaf ear.  Listen to His response to Moses.

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. Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. “This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”  (Exodus 4:2-5 NIV)
At the beginning of this divine conversation between the Creator and a shepherd, I am sure that Moses was thoroughly confused.  He might have said (to himself, of course), “'What is that in your hand?’  What kind of question is that?!” 

At first glance, it appears that God was trying to change the subject.

Quite the opposite, however.  God addresses the doubt head-on and provides Moses with a faith-booster.

God instructs Moses, the shepherd, to take his simple, yet only, tool of trade and throw it to the ground. 

What is that in your hand
What tool, talent, skill, gift, passion, or ability do you hold that God wants to use?  Explore that in prayer this week.  Can you identify the staff in your hand?  Do you recognize your staff’s potential to impact the lives of other people to the glory of God?  Discover your staff.

Compare two phrases with me.
Exodus 4:2b – “’A staff’ (Moses) replied.”

Exodus 4:20b – “And (Moses) took the staff of God in his hand.”

Something extraordinary occurred!  What happened?  Nothing in the staff’s material composition changed.  Yet, a staff once known as “a staff” became “the staff of God.”

Today’s challenge is for you to identify the staff in your hand so that you can throw it down and surrender it to God.
  For it to be of any lasting good, you must throw it down; you must throw it down!  Throw it down!

If you have been following my blog for a while, you may remember my post from May 24th when I referenced the American Women’s Bible, released this year by Thomas Nelson Publishers.  They have provided me with an extra copy to give away.  Share this blog post on Facebook and/or LinkedIn for a chance to receive this Bible. 

Not Sexy

In his book The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni peers into the media’s soul when he writes . . .
First, organizational health just isn’t very sexy, so journalists aren’t terribly excited to talk or write about it.  No magazine or newspaper wants to run a story about a humble leader who continues to run her medium-sized company with discipline, common sense, and consistency.  They would rather tell you about how a brash young entrepreneur is trying to set the world on fire -- and maybe himself -- with a disruptive new piece of technology or a revolutionary new service.  And that makes sense given that they’re trying to sell magazines and lure more advertisers.  But it certainly doesn’t mean their eye-catching stories are more instructive or practical.  (11-12)

Lencioni’s words relate well to our focus on living the Ordinary.  In his next paragraph he proceeds to explain that one of the difficulties of covering the less-than-sexy stories lies in the fact the their impact is difficult to measure.  Relate?

Perhaps your tape measure bent or your yard stick broke and you no longer know how to measure success, achievement, or even happiness in your life. 

You think that someone is a better mom than you. 
You are convinced by your son’s friend that his dad really is stronger and faster than you, and that he can beat you up.
You didn’t make Varsity.
You hold your violin in third chair.
(Side note: I am the youngest of three and my mom kindly, yet unsuccessfully, tried to convince my sisters, when racing me on foot to the family car to tell me that I placed “third” not “last”.  Loryn and Lisa, I love you and have long since forgiven you for the several “you’re lasts."  ☺)
Your story made section D, back page, if at all - clearly missing section A, page one. 

You assure yourself that your “mom skills” are great.
You can bench press way more than that other dad.
You play every game and score the most points, goals, etc.
You play Mozart (or “Fiona” Joy Hawkins – listen to her 3rd Movement.  Beautiful!) like an angel.
(Next side note:  Maybe the real angels play cello or even drums instead?)
Your article made it to the Washington Post.
Content?  Measuring up? Feel like you count?

I assure you that sexy or not, your story matters. 

I’ve read the Bible – all of it - for many years.  Yet, when I read through Luke’s Acts recently, I said (out loud),

                “Jason.  I don’t remember him” (see Acts 17). 

He receives mention in Romans 16; but other than that, his story is limited to five verses of the over than 31,000 verses in the Bible.   Yet, his faith and trust in Christ cost him physically and financially.  The angry crowd dragged him through the streets.  He was arrested and had to post bail.  Not a great day!  Or was it?  The officials and crowds tested his faith and he earned an A+. 

I, one who preaches God’s word for a living, forgot about Jason.

My apologies to Jason.  His story, as brief as it is, matters. 

Your story matters, whether or not anyone remembers it. 

The Value of Weeds

Beautiful – that one word describes the weather for most of our 2016 summer so far in my home of Anchorage, Alaska. 

As I watched one of my sons play baseball last Tuesday, a girl (I assume a little sister of my son’s teammate) sat in her sun dress in the 63 degree weather and complained to her father, “It is hot!”  If you’re not Alaskan, 63 and hot do not belong in the same sentence.  Be that as it may, no one else at the fields complained and we enjoyed the Little League – pursuits of victory and the sunshine. 

Sunshine in Alaska also means weeds.  Every year I battle dandelions, crabgrass, and unwanted clover.  I am winning the war this year, mostly.  Yet, in the yards of those who are losing their lawn fights or just don’t care, I try to see beauty in their weeds. 
Dandelions provide bright yellow signs of life and much “blow and make a wish” fun. 
Crabgrass, well that’s another story. 
Clover – there’s an easy one for the theologically inclined.  Think, even though it’s June and not March, Saint Patrick.

Saint Patrick’s Breastplate is said to have been composed by Saint Patrick in preparation for the victory over Paganism which was completed on Easter Sunday in 433.  The words were translated into English verse by Cecil Frances Alexander in 1889. 

Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me;

Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me;

Christ to the right of me, Christ to the left of me;

Christ in my lying, Christ in my sitting, Christ in my rising;

Christ in the heart of all who think of me;

Christ on the tongue of all who speak of me;

Christ in the eye of all who see me;

Christ in the ear of all who hear me.

Christ with, behind, and before.  Now that’s worth repeating and celebrating.  Christ penetrates all of life with His grace, love, and beauty.  In the words of Paul, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Colossians 1:27

I’m convinced that the Devil resides in weeds (and will continue to show them the wrath of “Weed and Feed”); nevertheless, I also try to look at weeds and praise the Creator and the gift of His Son.

Thank you God, for weeds!