Saturday, October 9, 2010

It’s Easy


To get ahead this morning, you may wish to turn in your Bibles to the book of Numbers, Chapter 13. Allow me to set the stage while you turn …

You know, I have been conditioned to believe that most things in life are easy. For the past 40 years Brenda has told me that something is wrong with me because I always think most things are easy. Without regard as to what we want, need or attempt to do, I almost always see it as easy. Sure it might take a lot of work, money and time, but that’s easy. After all, I have a partner in life and His name is God.

God made us all different and He made me to believe things are easy. And what if we encounter something that is truly hard, as sometimes we do? God will still see us through – however we should not allow one truly hard thing we encounter in life to make everything else we encounter in life hard as well.

Come on now … if anyone has ever done it before, you can do it. You might not want to, you may wish you didn’t have to, but come on now, you can do it. Especially when you don’t have a choice! You just:
• Take what you have
• Start where you are
• Do the very best you can one step, one day at a time.

How could it get any easier than that?

Now as I said, you may not get to choose what you go through but if it is a must, you may as well not make it any harder on yourself or on others than it already has to be. And a big part of making tough things easier is your attitude; how you see things and how you continue to present them to yourself and to others in the process. So, I have always reasoned that if I have to do it anyway, I may as well make it as easy and as enjoyable as possible.

Have you ever been around someone who sees everything in life, or life itself, as being hard; someone who makes things seem worse or more difficult than they have to be? People who borrow trouble which they are never going to experience … drama kings or drama queens. These people can be a real drain on your energy, especially when you are facing one of those critical battles in life in which you really need all your strength to win.

Well, this brings us to our Bible story for today. Have you found Numbers 13 yet?

Between 1450 and 1500 years before Jesus was born, God sent the 80 year old Moses and his brother Aaron to command Pharaoh to release the Children of Israel from their captivity. God wanted them to return to the land He had promised to their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. At first Pharaoh refused but finally agreed after encountering the 10 plagues which God brought through Moses upon the land and the people of Egypt.

A simple reading of the Bible gives us to understand that approximately 600,000 Israelite men, along with their families, crossed the Red Sea and went out into the wilderness on their way to the Land of Canaan. They were fed and sheltered by heaven’s own hand as they followed Moses to the mountain of the Lord. God gave them two tablets of stone upon which He wrote the Ten Commandments with His own finger. He brought water from a rock to satisfy their thirst and utterly destroyed all of their enemies in this wilderness. All He required from them was their love and trust.

However, even with all His provision many in the crowd murmured and complained. They spoke among themselves how hard life had become since they had been freed from slavery. Many wished to return to their old masters in Egypt and continue making bricks for the cruel Pharaoh. Following God just seemed too hard for them.

Almost 2 years after leaving Egypt they found themselves camped at a place called Kadesh Barnea, which lays a little southeast of the city of Beersheba. It was from there Moses sent 12 spies northward, up to the valley of Eschol, past the hill of Hebron and on deeper into the land of Canaan. These spies were sent to recon the country and bring back a report which was to be used to develop strategy for the impending invasion.

When the spies returned they brought a glowing report of their 40 days in the land. It was just as imagined, a land flowing with milk and honey. To prove the bountifulness of the country, they brought back one cluster of grapes which they had cut from near Hebron. It required two men to carry it. This was truly an amazing country with bountiful goodness, great walled cities and strong armies.

Although every one of the spies observed the same things and brought back the same glowing report as to the bounty of the land, its cities and the inhabitants, they were divided as to their counsel on how to proceed. Ten spies said that the invasion would be too hard, too potentially costly and that victory could not be accomplished. However, two of the spies saw victory, although not without costs, as nonetheless easily achievable.

Why did the ten spies, and ultimately the whole congregation see life so hard and so difficult and victory so unattainable? Because they left God out of the equation completely! You see without God everything suddenly becomes difficult, in fact life is impossible … without God nothing lasts and therefore nothing is worth living, working or dying for … what’s the use?

But two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, did not see themselves without God and therefore they saw what they were facing as being easy.

Numbers 13
26 ¶ And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land.
27 And they told him, and said, We came into the land where you sent us, and surely it flows with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.
28 Nevertheless the people are strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.
29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.
30 And Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.
31 But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we are.
32 And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.
33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

Numbers 14
1 ¶ And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.
2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! 3 And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?
4 And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.
5 ¶ Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.
6 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, tore their clothes:
7 And they spoke to all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.
8 If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which flows with milk and honey.
9 Only do not rebel against the LORD, neither fear you the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.
10 But all the congregation said, “stone them with stones”. And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.

11 ¶ And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?

Why did the people want to stone them … because they disagreed as whether it was hard or easy … and – lest you get on the wrong side of the track here … who was right here? God was looking for those who saw it as easy as bread – all you’ve got to do is keep God in the equation.

God has made and does make things easy – people make things hard by leaving Him out of the equation.

In 1980 I pioneered my first church, Word of Faith in Simms, Texas. Our motto was painted on the wall behind the pulpit . It read, “You Won’t Leave Here Like You Came, In Jesus’ Name!” I had been going to school and working with my dad for about a year as a heavy equipment operator since returning home with my wife and two children after a six year enlistment in the military. He and I had become pretty close during that year. He had fairly recently quit drinking and was on a new path. He didn’t go to church but it seemed he had finally gotten saved and so that year was my opportunity to be a part of his initial discipleship in the Word.

Mom and Dad allowed me to start a home Bible study at their house and they invited friends and family members to take part each Tuesday evening. Life was good and we were all growing in Christ. It was from that Bible study that we later began Word of Faith Church. It ended up that my dad was an elder in that church and he considered me his pastor right up until the day he died. You know, it matters less where you begin your journey than where you end up.

My dad developed a habit of faithfully praying and reading the Bible every day and he would often ask me questions or give me revelation about something he read that morning. Once, while dad and I were working together and discussing the things of the Kingdom, he told me why he had not gotten given his life to the Lord as a younger man.

Like many growing up in rural America during the great depression, my dad dropped out of school at a very early age to help with chores and start carrying his own weight. My dad started drinking moonshine whiskey and taking care of himself at age 10 and by age 13 was living on his own and driving an ice truck full time. By age 18 he was addicted to alcohol, secretly married to my mom, with their first child on the way, and was known to be somewhat unpredictable, a little prone to violence, and seldom sober.

Dad told me that he hated being an alcoholic and hated disappointing his family, changing jobs and moving all over the place looking for geographical cures. Worse yet, he started taking jobs which kept him on the road and away from the family for long periods of time so he would not have to face being a disappointment all the time. According to him, his early life with a wife and children was a miserable time. He wanted to do right, but just seemed unable to get a handle on life and continued to drink in efforts to escape.

In the early 50’s, with 3 children and one on the way, he was a truck driver delivering meat, produce, and materials from coast to coast. The day I was born, he told me, he was in Lampasas, Texas getting a load of Christmas turkeys headed for New York City. When he came through town that next night he just decided to stop, get out of the truck, quit his job, clean his life up and find local work so he could be with the family. He sent that truck load of turkeys on to New York with his older brother J.D. alone at the wheel. My dad got home in time to name me. In fact, I hold the distinction of being the only one of four in our family named by my father.

For years my dad tried hard to stop drinking and be a family man but that demon of alcohol just would not let him go. He needed help but where could he get it? Dad told me that one night, in desperate need of a drink, on his way to the bootleggers, he drove by a small church in the little community where he was born and raised. He turned around and pulled into the gravel parking lot, got out, walked inside and sat in the back pew. He was scared, shaking, needing help and, looking around he knew everybody there that night … and worse yet, they all knew him.

When the preacher finished preaching and opened the altar for people to come and pray through, my dad pushed his pride aside, got up and went toward the front of the church. He wanted to be saved, he wanted to be delivered, and he wanted help. However, that walk to God that night was interrupted by the preacher who stopped my dad at the altar and, right there in front of everyone he publically told my dad that they all knew him; that he was a sorry man who didn’t care about God or his family, a no good sinner, bound straight for hell.

Right there in the altar of that church the pastor told my dad that he could not be saved. He said that he knew my dad had already done too much for Jesus to save him and that he was a soul destined for hell with no hope of change and no help in this life or in the life to come … not for a man like my dad. Then the preacher told my dad to leave the church.

Dad told me that without saying one word he turned and walked out of those doors believing that there was no hope and no help for him. He heard what that preacher said and figured he knew what he was talking about. So, dad made a decision: if God was going to send him to hell, he would just go ahead and live like the devil. My dad left church that night and went out to face his Christ-less eternity. For the next many years he lived his commitment and served his wife, his children and his community disappointment after disappointment, hurt after hurt, all the while dying on the inside, all because someone had made it too hard for him to get saved.

It was more than a quarter century later while I was standing waste deep in water in an old stock pond which belonged to Little Joe Kruse in Simms, Texas; I was preaching about the power of God to save, deliver and set free, and how easy it is to get saved … I told those listening that it only takes one step of faith. Then much to my surprise, I saw my dad believe the word of a preacher one more time. I watched as he dropped his guard, abandoned his pride, and with tears in his eyes, he walked out into that water. There he confessed his need for Jesus, forsaking his sin, and there I baptized him in those muddy waters. I was so convicted and inspired by the moment that when I lifted him up from that watery grave, I turned and ask him if he would re-baptize me – which he gladly did.

I am here to testify that God changes lives and I will stand up to any man and every doctrine of any church to declare with all authority that it is easy for a man to get saved … it is easy for anyone to receive deliverance … it is easy to give your life to Christ. The hard part was done 2000 years ago on the cross of Calvary and I warn anyone who would make it hard to come to Christ not to cross paths with me, not even on a good day. How dare anyone make it hard to receive what Christ died to freely give.

Salvation is a gift given to all who will come without respect as to where they are coming from. The only marching orders God ever gave the church is to go into all the world and tell others the Good News … oh, how easy it is to be born again.

Once you realize that you need a savior, you must only repent of your sins and receive Jesus in your heart. He will help you and you will have a partner in life from that very moment forward and forever more.

Jesus, who was always visiting with publicans and sinners, prostitutes and thieves, said:

Luke 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Mark 2:17 … They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Matthew 11
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

May God forgive the man and the church that made it too hard for my dad to be saved and may God wipe that doctrine off the face of the earth as heresy and blasphemy against the cross and against the blood of Christ.

And, may God give us all the same faith of Joshua and Caleb who saw what others saw but believed what God said.

Don’t forget … It’s Easy!