Posts Tagged ‘pivotal moments in life’

Numbers 9:1-14 (Part 4)

The Second Passover

Significant decisions. Life changing decisions. They are tough to make. We’ve all been there at one time or another or maybe even multiple times in our lives. What to do? What to do? Pros and cons. Trying to make a decision that will make everyone happy. Probably one of the most momentous decisions that I have ever had to make was in the Fall of 2008. At the time, I was working as a consultant here in Duncan, SC with America Fujikura, Ltd. (AFL) (an American subsidiary of the Japanese publicly traded company, Fujikura, Ltd.) helping them with the implementation of the Japanese parliament’s mandated internal control systems law. Just as the American congress had passed a law called the Sarbanes-Oxley law (or SOX) as the result of financial scandals in the US in 2001, the Japanese had suffered through the same thing in 2007. Since the law passed by Japan was so similar to the American law, many called it JSOX. Anyway, the JSOX law implementation at AFL had provided me with a long-term assignment. I was here for 8 months solid working on the project. The full-time work for us consultants was coming to an end. However, one of the subsidiaries of AFL was a mess when it came to financial reporting and internal controls. It was their California subsidiary, Fujikura America, Inc. (FAI). As the director of internal audit found, it was impossible to remotely get things corrected out there. They needed a consultant to go out there and stay out there for 6 months. They asked me to go. That was not the tough decision. It was only a six-month assignment. I would get to come home every three weeks or so. It was temporary. And in 2008, it was right at the beginning of the worst US recession since the Great Depression. Work was hard to find back in those years between 2008-2010. The decision to continue this consulting gig, though in California, was not a real tough decision. It was to be a 6 month adventure in California. What a unique opportunity! No that was not the tough decision!

 

Six months later, when this consulting gig (that had started in October 2007 just when I needed a job) was now ending. By Thanksgiving 2008, I was to be finished. The internal control system at AFL’s global operations had been completed. My work at the FAI subsidiary out in California was coming to a close based on what I was being told. I knew as early as September that I would be packing up and heading home by late November. However, it was in mid-September 2008, that a decision began looming on my horizon that would change my life. The controller at FAI at that time was a pitiful excuse for a leader and as an accountant. Because of poor hires by FAI over the previous six years, they had gone through 3 controllers and this latest one was one of the worst accountants that I had every personally met. The accounting function at FAI was a complete mess and an utter failure when it came to the reliability of any data or any financials that came out of that place. I guess she saw the handwriting on the wall, that she was in over her head, she resigned suddenly to take a purchasing job at another Japanese-owned company in the Bay Area. Because of the experience that AFL financial management and FAI senior executives had with me over the previous 11 months, they immediately offered me the job as controller at FAI. Ok. Now, there’s the tough decision. Momentous decision. The toughest decision of my life.

 

I am a South Carolina boy. I had up to that point always lived in South Carolina. I love the Southern culture and the Southern life. My family is rooted here going back many generations. My girlfriend at the time (now, my wife of six years, Elena) was back here in South Carolina. My kids, my girls, were back here in South Carolina. Everything about my life was South Carolina. Although my past employers over my career had allowed me to see the world, literally, through my travels as internal auditor, I had always come home to South Carolina. This is my home. I love travel but South Carolina is home. There is just something intrinsically good about living here. The people are nice and race relations, though they could be improved, are a far-cry better than the stereotypes the rest of the nation places on the South and a far-cry better than they are in other parts of the country. People here are just nice for the most part. People here are all about what’s good for the economy. People here are about hard work. People here are about not taking hand-outs from the government. People here still see God and the Bible and church as a necessary part of life (though this is in decline like much of the rest of the nation). So, this place I love calling my home is South Carolina. Temporary assignments away from it were no big deal to me, but a permanent one away from South Carolina. And we are not talking a state next door, like Georgia or North Carolina. No, this was California – completely across the continent. It’s a four-day drive to California if you drive 10 hours a day for four days. It’s a long way away. I mean a loooooong way away from South Carolina. What to do? It was 2008. Jobs were scarce. Nobody was hiring. Back then, if you had a job, you considered yourself lucky and you stayed put at that job and held on for dear life. What to do?

 

This was momentous decision. Back then, I was a baby Christian. I had not grown very much in my walk with Christ in the 7 years (at that point in 2008) that I had been a Christ follower. Never in my life had I had to make such a momentous decision. To move to California permanently might as well been like moving to Mars. It was like the biggest decision EVER. Elena and I had been dating bi-coastally for a while but it was seen as a temporary problem til now. We would be bi-coastal permanently (unless she moved to California). My girls were back home and they had their lives firmly rooted here. My mom and dad and the whole Bowling clan was basically all here in South Carolina. Tough decision with wide-ranging implications. Although I had not been much on prayer up to that point (and am still in need of improving my prayer life to this day), that was one weekend that I had a mighty struggle in prayer with God. It was a weekend where nothing felt right. It was a weekend where I toss and turned and could not sleep. It was a weekend where there was a continuous on-going conversation with the Lord. Although I longed for home, for South Carolina, the feeling that I kept getting from the Lord was to take the job. It was that feeling that won out.

 

I took the job. It not only changed my career but it also changed everything for me (and for Elena) in our walk with the Lord. If I had not accepted this job in California, Elena would not have moved to be with me. If she had not moved to be with me, we would not have settled in Livermore, CA (where Elena found Jesus and I finally started maturing as a Christ follower). If we had not settled in Livermore, we would not have met Luke & Felisha who nurtured our faith and unknowingly readied us for our return to South Carolina in 2010. And it is here that we found LifeSong Church where we serve the Lord with great passion. All of it hinged on that one tough decision that required a weekend of anguished prayer as to whether to take a permanent job in California or not. I am thankful to the Lord that He influenced me to go against the grain and take the job. Everything has changed with that decision. Where would my life be without that one decision? I shudder to think about it. I know that it was God’s plan for it to happen the way it did. I am thankful that I listened to the Lord. I sought the Lord for once and listened to Him for once. It was the start of me trusting in Him, for real.

 

Let’s read through the passage, Numbers 9:1-14, for the fourth time this morning and for this morning, let’s concentrate on v. 8 today:

 

 

9 The Lord spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt. He said, 2 “Have the Israelites celebrate the Passover at the appointed time. 3 Celebrate it at the appointed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of this month, in accordance with all its rules and regulations.”

 

4 So Moses told the Israelites to celebrate the Passover, 5 and they did so in the Desert of Sinai at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

6 But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body. So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day 7 and said to Moses, “We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the Lord’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?”

 

8 Moses answered them, “Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you.”

 

9 Then the Lord said to Moses, 10 “Tell the Israelites: ‘When any of you or your descendants are unclean because of a dead body or are away on a journey, they are still to celebrate the Lord’s Passover, 11 but they are to do it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations. 13 But if anyone who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, they must be cut off from their people for not presenting the Lord’s offering at the appointed time. They will bear the consequences of their sin.

 

14 “‘A foreigner residing among you is also to celebrate the Lord’s Passover in accordance with its rules and regulations. You must have the same regulations for both the foreigner and the native-born.’”

 

Here, in this passage, Moses had a momentous decision to make. The easy way out would have been to compromise God’s standards and allow them to partake of the Passover rites. They accidently and unknowingly defiled themselves. They did not do it on purpose. It would have been easy for Moses to make a knee-jerk, immediate decision and compromise the holiness standards established by God for the Passover. Moses knew that the easy way out might bring further and deeper complications such as consequences from God for not following his requirements. Tough decision. Take the easy way out or take the harder road. Satisfy the crowd or satisfy God. What does Moses do? He delays his decision until He can pray and hear from the Lord. Because, above all, Moses wanted to satisfy the Lord. He did not want to make a decision clouded with personal desires and the opinions of others. He wanted to take time to pray and get His direction from God.

 

How do you make decisions? Do you pray about them? Do you even pray? I admit that my prayer life still to this day is not what it should be? I need to learn to set aside time for intimate one-on-one prayer with God without distractions. We need to become intimate with Him like Moses was. We should aspire to be able to discern God’s voice through the clutter of life and the chatter of opinions of others. We need to sit down and pray. We need to listen. Sometimes our prayers might simply be to be quiet and alone and undistracted and simply listen for God’s voice. Sometimes, we need to implore and beg and plead with Him. Sometimes, we need to shout in anger. Sometimes, we need to sing in praise. We just need to spend intimate time with Him. How do we have great relationships with our wives? We talk with them. We get to know them deeper and deeper in conversations over the years. Why are we not like that with the Lord? In order to be intimate with Him, to better know His will for our lives, we have to talk to Him every day. We need to consult Him in everything. Especially those big decisions that change the course of our lives. When we listen to the Lord, when we seek Him in prayer, you can look back almost a decade later and see how listening to the Lord and seeking Him in prayer has been the most important thing you ever did.

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 16:13-20 (Part 2)
Peter Says Jesus Is the Messiah

Who do you say that I am? This is the question about Jesus Christ that we must answer. It seems on this side of eternity that you answer to the question does not have any impact at all. However, when it comes time to meet our Maker or when Jesus returns to wrap things up here on earth, the answer has eternal implications. Peter’s reply to the question is that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. It is upon this profession of faith that Jesus will build his church. The faith of Peter and the faith of the disciples were the building blocks of what we know now as Christianity. On their faith profession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Jesus built his church. After his ascension, their faith created a firestorm of faith that spread quickly through the Roman Empire. So impactful these guys were, the Christian faith became the official religion of the Roman Empire within 3 centuries of Jesus’ ascension.

It reminds you that decisions that we make about Jesus are eternally impactful, but there are also decisions that we make here on earth that have far-reaching implications. I think of my own life in this regard. There were a series of pivotal events during 1976-1980 which forged the course of my future more than any others. Outside of my accepting Christ as my Savior in December 2000, the pivotal decisions of Travelers Rest on the future of my life cannot be understated. Even the timing of my acceptance of Christ as my Savior is, in part, affected by 1976-80. What if my dad had not been moved by the SC Methodist Church from Anderson to Travelers Rest in the summer of 1976? What would my life look like now? It was in Travelers Rest that met my first wife, married her, had children with her. What would my life look like now if the Methodist Church had moved us to another town? It boggles the mind to think about it at times. It makes you wonder if you would have had the same heartaches, pains, choices, results, etc. had we moved to another town. I loved my situation in Anderson when I was 13 going on 14 and I got yanked out of it for a new town. What would life have been like? Another pivotal decision was about college a few years later. Because of my relationship with Lisa, who would become my first wife, I chose to stay in Travelers Rest and go to nearby Furman University for college. What if I had chosen to go to one of the other two colleges that had given me acceptance letters, Clemson University and University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV)? What if I had decided to go to Clemson, just an hour away from home, but far enough away where I would have had to live on campus or in an apartment in Clemson. How would that decision have changed my life? I am certain Lisa and I would not have gotten married after my freshman year in college. I am even more certain that we probably would have drifted apart as I would have begun immersing myself in the college life. What if I had the guts to have decided to venture out to UNLV, across the continent from Travelers Rest? What would my life be like now? These thoughts boggle the mind sometimes. The what if’s of life. It is amazing how there are those pressure points in life where a decision not only affects your immediate future but has a profound impact on the rest of your life. The decisions that I made between 1976 and 1980 still affect me to this day. Everything that has happened since that time has been a result of, a reaction to, or the consequences of that time frame. What if I had chosen Clemson instead of Furman? What if I had chosen UNLV over Furman? Where would I be today? Would I be sitting here in a house in Duncan, SC at age 53 writing this blog? Our lives right now are the culmination of the major decisions of life and in small part to the little decisions as well, too. Where we are right now can be traced back to a few pivotal events.

Just as we have a few pivotal events in our own lives, this moment in Caesarea Philippi is a pivotal moment for Peter and the disciples. Everything hinges on this moment. Peter and the disciples probably looked back at this moment as the moment that changed everything. It changed the course of their lives. No, they were not just hanging out with the coolest, newest, latest prophet to come along in Judaism, they were hanging out with Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of the living God. That’s a whole lot different from hanging out with the latest rage in prophet-dom. Pivotal events that change everything. Pivotal events that send us down a road chosen that cannot be undone. No turning back after such events. The choice to choose one road over another often has long-ranging, overarching impact. So, today we look at what the results Peter’s revelation did for the disciples and what our same decision about Jesus Christ does for us.

 
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

 
Here Peter and the disciples are in a pagan town hanging out with their mentor and teacher, Jesus Christ. Up to now, they have seen a lot of things and witnessed miracles and listened to Jesus mesmerize crowds with His eloquence and with His understanding of Scripture. But til now, they have been on the sidelines. They have not been confronted with the head-on question from Jesus that they have surely pondered in their mind but have refused to answer to themselves. Here, Jesus forces the issue. What say you about Jesus? He asks them point blank, “who do you say that I am?”. Not what other people say. What do you say? It is Peter’s response that profoundly changes everything for the disciples. Peter says it. He verbalizes it. He says what the others were afraid to say. He says that Jesus is the Son of the living God, the Messiah. It is from this point forward (with a whole bunch of mistakes and errors along the way) that these guys changed the world. It is these bumbling, clueless fools who become the foundation of the church of Jesus Christ. It is this faith statement by this one man and subsequently but these other men upon which Jesus built his church and continues to build it today. It is through this faith statement by Peter than Jesus grants Peter and the disciples the authority to build His church on earth after He returns to heaven. It is from this point that they will begin to understand who Jesus is and why things happened the way they did. It is from this faith statement that they were willing to die for the sake of Jesus Christ. The gates of hell could stop them from living a life of faith in Jesus Christ and made them willing to die some gruesome deaths to expand the kingdom of God. Pivotal moment. Road chosen. Life changed forever. Each one of these guys I bet when sitting around campfires years later pointed back to this moment as being the one that changed everything.

It is the same for you and for me. When we see Jesus as just one of many options, just another in a long line of prophets, it does not really change anything. We are still in control. We can pick and choose, as we said yesterday, from what we want from Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Confuscianism, and Christianity among others. It is our menu driven spirituality where we are in control. Jesus is just another prophet to us. He is just a radical rabbi, a political revolutionary, a great philosopher, an accepter of all people and behaviors. That way we don’t really have to address the issue of who He is when we make Him just one of the boys, one of the greats in spiritual history. But He will ask you at some point in your life or when He returns in His glory, “who do YOU say that I am?” That’s the question. That’s the one question that changes everything. We will have to answer to Him one day. He is God in the flesh and won’t a lot of people be surprised when they find out that this thing was for real! It takes faith to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. It changes everything. When we finally see Jesus as the Savior that He is, He sends the Holy Spirit to live in us. Through the Holy Spirit we learn of the sins that we commit that grieve the heart of God. We submit to His authority and begin turning away from our sins one by one as we mature through the Holy Spirit. We are not perfect. We are works in progress. But the decision to see Jesus as the One and Only Messiah, the Son of the one and only True God opens our eyes. We see Him as having died for our sins on the cross so as to reconcile us the Father in heaven. A Father in heaven that by His nature cannot allow sin and imperfection to be in His presence which then counts us out because we are stained by our first sin and any sins after that. We need rescue and that comes in the form of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God. We see that without Jesus’ sacrifice that we are lost in sin. Without his covering, we are ugly, stained, sinful beings. When we see Jesus as who He says He is, we see that we are no longer in control. We see that we depend on his grace and not our effort. It is the most pivotal moment in our lives. It changes everything. Nothing is the same after that moment of salvation, that moment when we proclaim Jesus to be our Savior and Lord, that moment when we proclaim Him to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

Just as the decisions of Travelers Rest from 1976-1980 are the pivotal juncture in history upon which everything after it in my life hinges and just as Peter admission of Jesus’ identity is the moment at which everything after it hinges for him and the disciples, so it is in our lives when we finally answer the question that Jesus asks us, “Who do you say that I am?” Everything hinges on that moment and how you answer that one simple question.

Amen and Amen.