Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Man and his Stick

Exodus 4:2-5
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.”

This has been Vacation Bible School week at our church, and I've been teaching the 3-5 year old class.  If you haven't had that pleasure, lessons are fast paced, because if you get them to sit still longer than a couple of minutes you are doing great. Its also amazing to see how much they do absorb in such a short time, and how much they can remember later.

Our lessons have focused on Moses.  We talked about how Moses was saved as a baby, God's call to Moses from the burning bush, the plagues, and finally God's provision of the Israelites in the desert. 

Moving at the speed of light to keep up with these youngsters, teaching stories I've heard before, I learned something new at VBS this week. The importance of a man and his stick.

I've been studying Moses for a few weeks, even before we received our literature for VBS.  God had led me to Exodus.  When I studied the details of Moses' call by God in the burning bush, and the excuses he made with God before accepting the call...what an amazing example for us.  That's a blog for another day. 

As a reply to one of Moses questions to God, God tells Moses' to take his staff and throw it on the ground.  It becomes a serpent.  As he picks it up, it becomes a staff again.  God uses this example to give Moses a tangible sign to show the Israelites he is truly sent by God.

Throughout this week we have studied Moses and how he followed the call of God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.  Moses' staff again and again played an important part of their 40 year adventure.

With a simple stick and the hand of God, Moses got the attention of the Israelites and was able to share God's plan for leading them out of Egypt.
With a simple stick and the hand of God, Moses started the punishment of Pharaoh for not releasing the Israelites by turning the Nile to blood.
With a simple stick and the hand of God, Moses provided water for the Israelites in the desert by tapping a stone.

An ordinary man who lived in the wilderness was chosen to lead his people out of Egypt to the promised land.  Through his simple stick, God showed his provision for his people again and again.

God is still in the business of using ordinary people and ordinary things to do extraordinary works. 

Vacation Bible School isn't just a time to teach the little ones.  We big kids can get some great lessons too.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Celebrating 40

I'm celebrating my 40th birthday in just a few days. I thought by age 40, I would have my life figured out and expected to be settled into the plan God had prepared for my life.  That streamline path I expected has been more like a wandering experience, not knowing what would come next. Each time I seem to get "comfortable" in the role God has planned for my life, he seems to open another door into another area of the "wilderness." I know, you have been there too.

I've been thinking about the Israelites 40 year journey out bondage into a land of freedom.  A straight route from point A to B would have been less than 250 miles, or about 2 weeks on foot.  So why did they spend 40 years in the desert?  Deuteronomy 8:2 says "And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no” .  It was a journey of the heart.

Those crooks and turns in our road, the ones that lead us away from the goal in sight and in a different direction, those that call us to make difficult choices and endure things we did not expect...they are our journey of the heart.  They prove our faithfulness and test our ability to let God lead. 

But they also prove God's faithfulness.

Deuteronomy 2:7
For the LORD thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand: he knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the LORD thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing.

There were tough times in the wilderness, and the Israelites were able to look back at the end of the journey and see how God was with them during every step of the way.  He provided for them in unique and sometimes miraculous ways to bring them to the promised land.

Its easy sometimes to let the unknown consume you. We pick up our burdens and carry them along, focusing on them instead of the promised land for which we are headed. God promises we will lack nothing. He meant that.
In my 40 years, I can clearly see that provision in my life too.  During the times I consider "easy" and during the deepest desert journey, I have never lacked for anything.  Unique and miraculous opportunities were always in place just when and where they should be.

My journey hasn't been the straight paved path I imagined.  It has been one full of people, places and experiences that have shaped me into who I am and who will continue to create the person God will have me to be.  Grab your backpacks, lets go.