Summary: This is the message we preached together as husband and wife pastors for our 14th Anniversary At The Church.
Today we celebrate the reality that some fourteen years ago, God intervened in the life of this congregation in a definite manner with a specific purpose in mind. With God, nothing happens simply by chance, for even things which may seem insignificant can be life changing events in our lives. When Moses took time out to look at a burning bush, he did not know he was entering a journey that would lead millions of people out of slavery.
God looked at his people in Egypt and he had a purpose in mind. God’s desire was to bring His people out of Eygpt, but his purpose was to bring them into the promised land so that they could be blessed and truly get to know Him. He sent Moses and Aaron, to bring the people out of Egypt.
God had to do all kinds of miracles to get the Egyptians to set free the Hebrew slaves. He turned the Nile River into blood, he sent plagues of frogs gnats, flies and locusts. God sent sickness and sores, hail storms and darkness. It wasn’t until the first born son in every Egyptian family died that the Egyptians obeyed God and let the people go.
After they left, the Egyptians had a change of heart and took the whole army to go after them to bring them back as slaves. The people of God had the Red Sea blocking them on one side and the Egyptian army with chariots and whips coming from the other side. Before the Egyptians could attack, God sent a wall of fire between the groups so that the Egyptians could not cross.
In the meantime, God had Moses lift up a rod which led to the Red Sea splitting down the middle so that the people could cross the sea on dry land. There was water to the right and to the left, but they crossed on dry land. The Lord removed the wall of fire and instead of the Egyptians realizing they were fighting a losing battle, they still ran after the Israelites trying to follow the same path through the sea, but the waters on the left and right collapsed on top of them, and the whole army was destroyed.
The people shouted and danced at God’s work. They were glad to have left Egypt. When they got to the border of the promised land, they sent in 12 spies to see if all God had said about the land was true. All 12 came back saying “everything good about the land that God said is true”.
But 10 of the 12 said, “there’s no way we can take the land, the people are too strong and the problems are too many.” But two of them said, “don’t you remember what God did for us in Egypt? Don’t you remember what God did at the Red Sea? Don’t you remember how the Egyptian army was destroyed? The same God who did that to the Egyptians will do it to the new enemies that we face. After all, it was God who promised to give us this land.”
But the “voice of faith” was silenced by the voice of “what we can do.” The 10 spies kept emphasizing the size of the problem, to the point where they actually started lying, claiming the giants were so big they looked like grasshoppers in their sight. The people chose to believe the lies that they could not do, what God had told them to do.
They believed God’s purpose for them was to bring them out of Egypt so that He could wipe them out. They decided to go choose a new leader in order to go back to Egypt. They would not believe God had a positive purpose for their lives.
About eighteen years ago, after getting off to a good start in the 60’s, our church found itself in a place like Egypt. Glenville was struggling to survive in a changing community with many members who were simply names on the rolls, but had left the call to work. Our giving was poor. We were dependent on the presbytery for our financial needs. The presbytery had decided to end the funding it had been giving for the operational expenses of the church.
Pressures were coming in from different sides to get the church to consider merging with another church. The alternative was to consider closing the church. At times collapsing seemed imminent. God had used Glenville in the past to touch many lives of people. It was a church known for its involvement in the civil rights struggles. It had a reputation for feeding and educating youth. Some of you had come to know Christ in this place. The church was committed to being in Glenville when others were leaving.