Messages to challenge, encourage and lead you back to your Bible. Please hold me accountable. Challenge my understanding of scripture; make me better!
Monday, June 13, 2011
Promised But Seldom Entered
The story of the nation of Israel’s release from years of captivity in Egypt begins in Exodus 4. The final act that “buys” their release, the blood of the lamb, is in chapter 11.
To assure that this freed people would not lose their way to God's blessings and provision, a pillar of fire in the night and a cloud during the day wold guide them every step of the way on their journey (Exodus 13:21-22)
For several generations, God had promised a specific land to Israel. Not only did He promise the land, but He released them from their captors and guided them directly to the place of entrance into the promised land.
Israel balked. They came right up to the point of decision and they chose not to enter the land. ( Numbers 13). God’s reaction to Israel’s balking?:
Surely, all the men who have seen My glory and My signs, which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it. Numbers 14:22-23
After the "balking" generation passed away the Nation of Israel is again at the entry point of the promised land.
Deuteronomy 12:8-12 is the key section for us to understand clearly what the new terms of their entrance would be: It explicitly states that "tomorrow" everything changes.“you shall not do all that we are doing here today…”All of the do's and don'ts of the law were being left on the wilderness side to the border.
The promise is that Israel will live in rest and security provided they enter the land of promise as God intended.
Unfortunately, Hebrews 4 states that Israel NEVER entered the promised rest and security and continues on warning us that we also might miss it if we respond to God the way Israel did. The crowning statement is verse 19:..they were not able to enter because of unbelief.
The bottom line is that the people of Israel never entered the land of security and rest because every step of the way they “Logic-ed” their way through the enemies and issues. God required that they enter the land knowing the He had given it to them and that it was He who would clear the way and fight their enemies.
The invitation to us is the same. Cross the Jordan that separates the dominion of this world from the kingdom of God; the world from the promised land; drudgery and toil from rest and security. It is only by faith that we can enter the promised land!
I grew up a Mormon. For the first 25 years of my life Mormonism was my life.
Here is the rest of my story:
At the birth on our firstborn, I began to grasp a hint of a love that was unearned and unconditional. The long awaited event took some unusual turns which resulted in our son being born cesarean. As the hours moved on my joy and anticipation changed to deepening concern. With no one to talk to or no where to turn I hung in until our son was born early the next morning. As I left the hospital with both my wife and my new son doing well I was very weary but unsettled in my mind. As I arrived home, I walked out into our back yard and looked up at the billions of stars in the infinite universe and was overwhelmed with my smallness and insignificance. I can’t remember what I said or even what I thought but I know that was a beginning.
When I say “beginning” I mean that it was a beginning of a sort of “quickening”. As I look back I can see God’s hand in different people and events throughout my life. For example, a junior high school friend of mine happened to choose the University of Utah, also my school, and got heavily involved in Campus Crusade For Christ. He never preached to me; at least not in words, but his life showed me much. Further, my wife's extended family were strong Mennonites. When they found our that she was marrying a Mormon I have no doubts that they prayed a lot for me and us, even at and during our wedding itself.
My wife's sister had had a resurgence in her spiritual life and shared books with my wife like books by Keith Miller and Ann Kimmel Anderson and Chuck Colson’s “Born Again”. I would often pick them up a read a little very critically when my wife wasn’t around. I could go on and on about all that God has done to get my attention.
Back to the “beginning”. Having a new child my wife and I increased our attendance at a local Presbyterian church from attending on the big holiday’s to attending semi-regularly. We had gotten into a habit of going pretty regularly. While there each time, I would sit and silently critique to services. Pompous was my attitude; gracious was God’s. While I sat there silently critical, God’s word was being planted.
After several months I received a job opportunity to move to a small town in Utah (Moab) to further my career. The small town atmosphere appealed to us because we thought it would be a better place to raise a family.
When we moved to Moab, we discovered that there was no Presbyterian church in the town. That required us to look around a bit. I didn’t much care but as often happens in small towns, my wife happened upon a few people who went to a local Community Baptist Church.
The people were friendly so my wife suggested we try it out. The first service that we attended was most notable for what it wasn’t than what it was. The building was big, the membership was small. The pastor was from Romania and spoke in a very rough English, a significant change form the polished Presbyterian sermons.
Unknown to me at that time, God had moved us to city where He could remove the “her church” mindset and where He could show me the sincerity of heart through a humble servant who would not allow words to get in his way of communicating God’s love.
This kind pastor visited my wife and me shortly after our first attending the church. I was prepared to graciously accept his ignorance and give him a few minutes to make his appeal. I was completely taken off guard by his demeanor. Tenderness and care flowed with that pastor. As he talked with us he was completely accommodating. Knowing my Mormon background did not alarm nor disconcert him. He kindly invited me to attend or participate to any degree that I chose and offered himself to us in any manner of our need.
The new job that I had moved to Moab for was a mining facility 10 miles south of town. During my half hour lunch I would generally sit in my office and eat my lunch while reading a book or magazine. As God opened my heart a sliver more, I decided to fall back what I “knew” so I picked up a bible decided to would walk out in the woods around the mining compound every lunch time and ask God to show me the truth. As I read in the Bible, I resolved to find some of the mistakes that Mormonism had taught me were there. As I discovered what I perceived to be mistakes and questions, God used my ignorance to encourage me to read in search of more.
At this same perios of time, my wife and son left me alone for a week to visit her parents in another town. One evening I decided to do a little work on our car. When I say “a little” I mean a very little. My skills end a bit past putting gas in the tank. Anyway, I turned on the TV just to have some company while I struggled with the car just outside the front door. As the evening wore I would walk in and out of our apartment for different things. As I walked through one time I picked up on what was being said on TV. Not having any idea what I was watching, I heard to words, “Three Keys to Better Health and Miracle Living” followed by an offer for a free book by calling the 800 number on the screen.
The words “better health” and “miracle living” were an invitation specifically designed for me. There is nothing that could have assured my attention more completely. I called the number and ordered the free book from Oral Roberts Ministries. I cannot tell you today what the book said but it was one more tool in God’s arsenal.
As God continued to work on me, He opened a discussion between the Company’s receptionist and me about spiritual things. She was searching and we talked a lot about questions and issues. God used her to help define some of the many issues in my theology.
There are just so many things! God is so good. How could I ever begin to explain His working, even in my own life?
He opened up another career opportunity which required a move back to the Denver area. When we came back we were no longer comfortable “her” church and we thought we were suited to the Baptist church since that was in the name of the one we had been going to. We search for several weeks to find a church that “fit”. We found THE church that was the perfect fit for us at that moment, a non denominational Christian church. What a blessing those people were to us!
Obviously, this is the brief version of my story. I will end this brief history here with the hope that it has given you a flavor for what God has done to get this hard headed, stiff necked, obstinate, never gets it right but always thinks he is, guy.