Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Rod of Surrender

Most of us have said that we want to be used by God.  We pray it; we speak it; we sing choruses about it, but many times we can’t figure it out why it doesn’t come to pass in our lives.  Why are we toiling and laboring, but it seems like we’re not getting anywhere in our desire to be used by God?  Maybe, there’s something that’s left inside of us that hinders God’s use.  Maybe we see our talents and abilities as the reason God can use us.  Maybe there’s still some pride:  We want to be noticed for what we’ve done for God, or assume that God will reward our egos. 

Is it about what Gods wants to do, or is it about what you want God to do for you? Are you surrendered to God’s purposes, or are you looking for God to bring about your purposes? 

Surrender to God is the beginning of real revival.  Here’s a secret, what God is doing isn’t about us, it’s about Him and His purposes.  Today, I want to post a message on what it means to surrender.

Exodus 4:2-3 (NKJV)
4:2 So the Lord said to him, "What is that in your hand?" He said, "A rod." 3 And He said, "Cast it on the ground." So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.
 Exodus 4:20 (NKJV)
4:20 Then Moses took his wife and his sons and set them on a donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the rod of God in his hand.

The Staff of Man

In our text, we see Moses as he is receiving the call of God on his life.  This moment takes place at the burning bush.  We all know the story; Moses sees the bush burning but not being consumed.  He turns aside to see the miracle and God calls to him out of the middle of the bush and sends him to deliver Israel.  The problem is that Moses isn’t ready to answer God’s call.  He has a number of reasons why he can’t do it.

I stutter – I’m not eloquent.  The people won’t believe me or trust me.  He had lots of reasons why God should choose someone else.  Finally, God says to him, “What’s that in your hand?”  Moses answers, “A rod.”

What it is, is the shepherd’s staff – Moses was a shepherd.  The staff is what identifies him, this is what defines him.  It says who he is and Moses is hanging onto it.  All of us have things in our lives that define us:  Things that speak to who we are.  It may be a job title.  It may be some material thing.  It may be an image you’ve cultivated – It defines who you want to be to other people. 

When we put those things before the purposes of God, we’re like Moses, resisting the call that’s on us.  We’re holding to the rod of our self-image.  We can’t have revival, when it’s our image that we’re trying to lift up.  We can’t serve the purposes of God when it’s about making us look good. 

Moses is holding on to the symbol of himself.  He’s holding onto the rod and saying this is who I am.  I’m not the instrument of God’s deliverance; I’m the shepherd that this rod implies. 

Many times, it's lack of faith that keeps us back.  Other times the problem is that we want to be used, but we want to be used on our own terms, in the position of life that we have already attained.

There was a time when Country and Western singer Johnnie Cash wanted to be an evangelist like Billy Graham.  When he brought it up he was told. “You can do more for God as a famous singer.”  He wanted to give it all up for God’s purposes.  He wanted to throw down his guitar.  He wanted to give it all up for God, and I believe that if he had, God would have used him powerfully. 

Up to this point, Moses had dome nothing for God.  He’d spent the last forty years as a shepherd.  Prior to that, he was the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and he rose up as a deliverer of God’s people but he did it on his own terms and fell flat on his face.  He wanted to deliver the people of God from the oppression and bondage of slavery, but he didn’t want to give up who he was, and in trying to do it that way, he was forced into exile in the desert.  His motives were questioned by the very people he wanted to deliver.  He was operating in his own power, and not surrendered to the will of God.  God tells him, “Cast it on the ground,” and as soon as he releases it and casts it down, God begins to move in the supernatural.  God begins to move in power.  If we want to see the power of God in our lives, we also have to cast down our image of self.

This is a picture of his surrender to God.  He’s saying God if you have a purpose for me, that’s outside of whom I’ve always been, then I will throw that down for you.  He’s stepping out of himself to be God’s instrument.  Can you see yourself in the service of God in a role that you would not have chosen for yourself, or in a lifestyle to which you wouldn’t have aspired, if not called into his service. 

Moses wasn’t comfortable with releasing it all into God’s hands.  He resisted the call of God.  He made excuses for not answering the call.  He did what he could to get out of answering it.  He even asked God, “Can’t you send someone else.”  We do the same thing in our generation, but when you do surrender; when you’re willing to drop the rod, that’s when the power of God is seen in your life:  That’s when God can do the miracles.

The Rod of God

When Moses drops the shepherd’s staff, that’s when we see God move.  Look at what happens:

Exodus 4:3-7 (NKJV)
4:3 And He said, "Cast it on the ground." So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail" (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand), 5 "that they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you." 6 Furthermore the Lord said to him, "Now put your hand in your bosom." And he put his hand in his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, like snow. 7 And He said, "Put your hand in your bosom again." So he put his hand in his bosom again, and drew it out of his bosom, and behold, it was restored like his other flesh.

God begins to show His power through Moses.  He begins to give Moses a supernatural ministry.  That only comes after he throws down the rod.  Usually, we are the limiting factor to God’s power.  God isn’t limited – He’s omnipotent – He’s all-powerful.  He can do anything.  This is the God who spoke the universe into existence.  This is the God who created living, breathing man out of the dust of the earth.  This is the God who brought a flood upon the whole earth.  What’s the limit to His power?  The limit is us; our unbelief.  Our lack of faith limits God.  We can’t turn loose of who we are right now, because we can’t see the possibilities of God’s will for our lives.  Can you step out of your comfort zone to step into the will of God?  Look at the things that Moses is telling God about why he shouldn’t go.  What are they?  I’m slow of speech – Because of my impediment people won’t listen to me.  I’m not eloquent – I’m simple; I’m not persuasive or well-spoken, but God tells him I can teach these things to you mouth.  This isn’t difficult for the creator, so what is Moses problem?  A lack of faith; unbelief; fear.  He doesn’t see the possibilities of God’s power.

Because of fear, unbelief creeps into our lives, and we are unable to completely surrender ourselves to all that God has called us, so there is no tangible demonstration of the power of God in our lives.  We need to cast down the rod of comfort, before we can see God do something in our lives.  When we cast down the rod of our comfort zone; it can become a rod of power, because we aren’t limited by our comfort zone any longer.  We are only limited by God’s supernatural power, which is limitless.  We should be glad to toss away the limits of human potential for the limitlessness of God’s power.  That’s often pretty scary, though, because we’re used to having control of our own destiny and by surrendering ourselves to God we are relinquishing control to God.

I’m not saying that preparation isn’t necessary, but God doesn’t always do things in our timing, and if we try to control it all we put the brakes on the will of God. 

What if God had allowed Moses to talk him out of sending him?  God had prepared Moses and equipped Moses for this task:  He had the education of a future king.  He had the humility of a shepherd.  God had spent eighty years preparing him to deliver His people.  What would it take to prepare someone else, because Moses refused to give God control over his life?  We are all like that.  We all say, “I’ve given my life to Jesus,” but we still hold off on giving Him complete control of our lives.  There are certain things we hold onto:  Our jobs, our finances, the place we live, certain attitudes, beliefs or behaviors.  We hold on to those things – We control those things.  Abandon those things to God and we’re forced to trust Him, or someone else he has placed in our lives.  That’s the rod we hold on to.  That’s the rod we don’t want to cast down, and that’s the rod God commands us to drop so that He can move through our lives.

Moses wasn’t appointed the deliverer of Israel for Moses’ benefit – It was for the benefit of the people of God.  God was moving through Moses’ life.

Moses threw down the rod and when he picked it up again to do what God called him to do it was no longer his rod, but the Rod of God.  It was the rod that parted the Red Sea.  It was the rod that brought water out of the rock.  It was the rod that brought victory over Amalek.  Moses could never have done those things in his own strength.  If he had never cast down the rod, God would not have been able to use him.

The Testimony of Surrender

Exodus 33:7-11 (NKJV)
33:7 Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the Lord went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp. 8 So it was, whenever Moses went out to the tabernacle, that all the people rose, and each man stood at his tent door and watched Moses until he had gone into the tabernacle. 9 And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. 10 All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door. 11 So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.

Finally, God shows us the testimony of surrender.  The people watch Moses and see God.  This is a powerful thing.  They see his surrender.  They see the things God has done.  They recognize that God is using him.  They see God’s hand and power in his life.  I want people to see what God has done in my life.  I want them to KNOW that God is moving in me.

This is what’s happening here.  They see Moses go to the tabernacle, and they’re thinking, “God is going to show up.”  “Let’s pay attention because God meets with Moses.”  They see the cloud standing at the tabernacle.  They see God speaking to Moses.  They see him as a friend of God. 

Don’t you want that kind of relationship with God?  Don’t you want people to recognize that God speaks to you?  What did it take for Moses to have that kind of relationship?  Surrender.  He had to surrender to God.  He had to cast down the rod of self.  He had to cast down the rod of comfort and give it ALL to God.  We can’t expect to be all that God has called us to, if we won’t get ourselves out of the way.

We’re holding many rods: The rod of self-will, the rod of our comfort zone, the rod of unbelief, the rod of pride, even the rod of apathy.  Until we’re willing to throw them down, we will never be all that we have he potential to be.

You might be thinking, “Why isn’t God using me?”  What’s that in your hand – Cast it down.  “Where are the blessings that God’s promised?”  Who controls your life? Throw it down.  “Why am I not growing in God?”  Who is your faith in?  Cast it down.

Surrender to God!  This text is a picture of Moses surrender to God.  God finally had to get angry before Moses really released it all and said, “Okay, God whatever you have for me that’s what I’ll do.”  As he surrendered the rod that was the symbol of who Moses was, it became the symbol of God’s power in him.  That’s a testimony.

The life we have laid down as we have given it all to God is the testimony of God’s power in us.  I’m not just talking about the release from sin.  This testimony usually comes after we’re saved – It’s the testimony of trust in God.  That’s where the power in our lives comes from.  With God all things are possible – If we surrender all things to him.

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