No Turning Back

Scripture: Acts 19:19, 1 Samuel 6:12, Psalm 5:8
Date: 02/19/2005 
There are times in our Christian life in which we should never turn back. There are bridges to burn, there is a life to turn away, there is a commitment we all should make to God. We need to set our eyes straight ahead and go forward.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

[Intro comments about buying property]

Let me tell you what's going through my mind. I'm not worried about the idea and the mechanics of building a church. It's done all the time. But there are spiritual battles that rage during a time like this. You ask any pastor that has been with his congregation through a building program and they usually roll their eyes and sigh. Because when you get such a diverse group of people together (and I love our church because of our diversity), but all the different talents and opinions and backgrounds. And we say, “We’re going to form a decorating committee.” You don't realize those are the words that are synonymous with, “time of trouble.” And when you get a design committee together and they say, “Well, I really think that you ought to have the ladies restroom in the front of the sanctuary.” Someone else says, “No, no. It ought to be back over here.” Very strong opinions. You'd be surprised. Some folks are going to lose their sanctification over this.

I remember something. It's interesting that this is the week that Pastor Wheeland Henry passed away. I worked with his brother, Bill Henry. And Bill was building a church, and I did some evangelistic meetings with him. I was doing some meetings with Bill Henry, while he was building a church. This poor man is in retirement, pastoring a church, building a church, and conducting evangelistic meetings with me. Very busy. And I went out there one day as he was working on the church. And they built a big beautiful church there. If you ever go to Sebastopol, you'll see it. He was all by himself. There might have been one other person, one day that I saw. And he was putting all of this energy into this building. I said, “Bill, it just doesn't seem right that here you're retired [from] church and you've got a congregation of several hundred and you're here by yourself.” I thought maybe he'd buy into my complaining. He smiled and said, “You know, Doug, whether the church gets built or not doesn't matter. What matters is if I am becoming like Jesus in the process.” You know why this is happening to Central now? I think the Lord is leading to see if we are going to become more like Jesus in the process. Because, remember, this building is irrelevant to the Lord. It's not going to heaven no matter what you do. The new building is not going either. The whole thing is, during the process do we become like Christ?

I remember reading about when George Washington was camped out one winter. They were bogged down in a snowstorm and his men were becoming irritable and fighting among themselves. And George Washington told his forces, “… that we quickly need to build a fort to repel an imminent enemy attack.” And the men were quickly roused, and they began to cut down logs and peel them and built this fort to repel an enemy attack. And after a few months, they marched away, and there never was an attack. And someone asked General Washington, “What was that all about?” And he said, “Well, it wasn't an attack from the English that I was worried about. It was an attack from the devil. You had nothing to do and you needed to get involved with a vision to keep you from being at each other's throats.” And he said, “That was the important thing, how you were working together.”

Sometimes we forget why God does things is because He's trying to make us like Him. Some people have said, “Pastor Doug, Jesus is coming soon.” That's right. Well, this new church could take a couple of years to build and might only be in existence for a year or two and then Jesus comes. Was it worth it? How long did Noah use his Ark? How much did it cost? It cost him everything and he only got to use it for about a year. Was it worth it? Why? Because it was the vehicle of reaching many. And you know, I think that we should be faithful in moving forward in God's work right up to the day that Jesus comes. And we don't know the time. So He's told us to occupy until He comes. These are some of the things that I'm praying about and thinking about.

And in keeping with that, I'm hoping that as a church family, we will all be pulling together and moving in the same direction. Sometimes the body may not be going where you wanted to go, or you planned on going, but we need to go together. Let me give you an illustration. When the Lord first brought the children of Israel to the Jordan River He wanted them to cross over. But because of their unbelief they had to wander for 40 years. Did all of them have unbelief? No. Did Joshua and Caleb have enough faith to cross over? But when the children of Israel turned away from the orders of the Promise Land and went back into the wilderness, did Joshua and Caleb say, “Well, you're going. It's your fault, but we are crossing over.” Or did they go with them? They went with them. And I think that it is so important that wherever God leads us, why ever God leads us, He leads us together. So let's pray that God will give us a spirit of unity as He is leading in this. It would've been so easy; so many places along the way, for the Lord to throw up a roadblock [snaps fingers] and it would've been over right away. But God continues to remove the barriers, and so I can only interpret that He is leading, in spite of my occasional resistance.

Without thought in mind, I thought it would be appropriate. We have sort of put our feet in the Jordan today and we’re preparing to cross over and so the message this morning is No Turning Back. Because it is so important now that we build momentum, and we keep going. God may surprise us how quickly this can happen. Just this week, things have happened so quickly that it has made my head spin.

Some of you know in your history books the story of how Hernando Cortez, with a very small group of Spanish conquistadors, was able to basically conquer a nation; conquer much of Central America and Mexico. Forces that outnumbered him a thousand to one, because of his fortitude. Now I'm not approving of what the conquistadors did. At some of what they did was very brutal. But it is still an amazing point of history. What many people don't know is that when Cortez landed there in Mexico he established the town of Vera Cruz. And this took place about March 1519. When he realized how outnumbered his forces were, and the trials and the obstacles that they were going to encounter in the jungle, he ordered some of his servants to join the ships that were in the harbor so that he would remove the option of going back. That's a pretty bold thing to do. Others have done that and regretted it. But he did it and it motivated his men to move forward, no matter what the consequences were.

I'll submit that there is a time when it is good to burn your bridges. Everyone says, “Don’t burn your bridges.” Well that depends. If it's a bridge, you know, you don't want to go back over then you may as well burn it. There are sometimes when you don't want to turn back. The Bible tells us in Acts 19:19, when a number of the people that were listening to the preaching of Paul there in Asia were converted; they were involved in the occult, and sorcery and witchcraft. And when they heard the good news, and the purity of the message of Christianity they brought their pagan books to the courtyard and they burned them. Some people say, “I'm going to quit smoking. I'm burning them one at a time.” That's not what we're talking about. They burned their books so they would never be tempted to read them again. There are times to burn your bridges.

In our scripture reading it said, “Any man who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not worthy of the kingdom.” Does anyone here know what story Jesus is quoting from the Old Testament when He makes that parable? I believe He's talking about when Elijah called Elisha to follow him. You remember, Elisha was out in the field with his servant. He was a very wealthy son. This farmer had a lot of land, evidently, because there are 12 yoke. of oxen. That was a lot. One ox made you a middle-class man. If you had 12 yoke of oxen, that's two times 12, 24 oxen all plowing in the field, and he's with one of them, and Elijah comes along, and he puts his mantle on the shoulders of Elisha, meaning, “I am calling you to leave everything and follow me,” as Jesus called Peter, James, and John, and Matthew. And you know what he did? He said, “Let me kiss my mother and father goodbye.” He kissed them goodbye. As he went outside he sacrificed his oxen that he was plowing with to the Lord. And he took the plow implements and he burned them in the sacrifice. Basically saying, “I am leaving this life and I'm never coming back. I'm going to run my John Deere tractor off the cliff, so I'm never attempted to return to farming again.” He was burning his bridges. He was basically saying, “I am going to commit my life to following Elijah and to being a messenger of God.” And I was a life of trial and hardship, but you know what? You read the story of Elisha. Did he ever turn back? He followed through with his commitment. He never had a second regrets, unlike his servant, Gahazai, who started wondering if he maybe could have some of the world's wealth as well.

Being a Christian is a path where we are counseled not to fall in the right hand ditch or the left-hand ditch. You know, there are a couple of ditches that people generally err with. Some label them conservative-liberal. You know, we've got a lot of different labels or terms that you could use to identify them. In the time of Christ, they had the Sadducees; they were what we call the liberals. And then they had the Pharisees. They were what we would call the legalists. And it's like that boy the devil tried to destroy and Mark 9. The fathers said, “Sometimes the devil tries to drown him in the water. Sometimes he tries to burn him in the fire.” It doesn't matter what extreme, and how different our fire and water? Just as long as you get them off the road; drown on this side, burn on this side. It doesn't matter. In the Bible, God says to set our eyes straight ahead and move forward. This is not natural, because humans by nature meander.

You know, one reason Jesus said, “When you start to plow don't look back.” In our culture today very few people even understand farming terminology, because we've grown up, so many in our generation believe that all the food is manufactured at a factory behind Raley's or something. How many of you have lived on a farm at some point in your life? Believe it or not, Pastor Doug did that too. I know how to drive a tractor, and I've plowed a field. What happens when you're plowing and you look over your shoulder to see how straight your furrow is? You veer. Any of you notice, when you're riding a bicycle it's hard to ride on a straight line when you're looking over your shoulder? Try it sometime. Go down the middle of the street (make sure you have your helmet on) where the line is, make sure there's no traffic, and then try to stay on that yellow line and turn to the right and left and look either side. And you know what will happen? If you look this way you start to go this way. If you look this way you start to go this way. How many of you have done that before? You know what I'm talking about. It is so hard. The same thing when you're plowing. To keep the plowing straight, you fix your eyes on something ahead of you and you go right towards it. Your furrow will be straight, if your eyes are directed straight.

Cows generally meander, but there is a story in the Bible was some cows went straight. Let me give you the background here. The children of Israel had been unfaithful. In a battle with the Philistines, the Philistines captured the Ark of God. It was the only time that it had ever happened. I don't believe it ever happened again. They took the Ark of the Covenant, with golden box, Ten Commandments, angels on top. They brought it as a trophy into the temple of Dagon. And they set it down there in the doorway of the temple of Dagon as if to say, “Our God is bigger than your God.” They began to have a lot of problems. To begin with, the kid in the next morning, after they had conquered the Ark to the temple of Dagon, Dagon had fallen off his altar. He was a big idol. And no man by himself could pull him over. So they were horrified by that, wondered what that omen should mean. Then they got their crew and they stood him back up. The next day they came back, he had fallen down again before the Ark of God and his hands were broken off. And they thought, “That’s not a good omen.”

Then I began to be plagued. And they were plagued with, the word in the Bible is tumors, and some have translated it hemorrhoids. They don't know what it meant, but, and they were plagued with mice. And rats began to swarm everywhere. And they had all these plagues. So finally the five lords of the Philistines got together. They had five cities of Gath and Ashkalon and Ekron. I can't remember all five cities of the Philistines. And all the princes came together and they said, “What are we going to do?” They said, “We’d better give the Ark back to Israel because their God doesn't want to live with us. We'll how are we going to do this? We should send an offering.” So they made five golden mice and five golden tumors. We don't know what that looked like. And they put it in the Ark. Now they were not killed for touching the Ark because they didn't know any better, they were pagans. It shows that God's merciful. And they said, “Well, they are at war with us. How are we going to get it back to them without the people bringing it back being killed?”

They said, “Well let's see if maybe these plagues that we’re suffering from, maybe they’re just a coincidence and has nothing to do with our having the Ark of God. So let’s do a test. Let’s take two cows that are milk cows, which means they have calves, let’s tie their calves up in a stall and hook them to a yoke of oxen and put them on the road back to Israel. If they pull the cart straight down the road back to Israel then we’ll know that God is drawing His Ark back to His people.” But any normal cow, when you separate it from its calf. Those of you raised on the farm, what do they do? They begin to bellow and lowe and whine. They begin to yearn and pine for their calf. And they go back to their calf. How many know that? Of course they do. So they hook these two cows up and they start them on the road back to Israel. And it says in I Samuel 6:12, “Then the cows headed straight for the road to Beth Shenesh. And they went along the highway, lowing as they went, and they did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. And the lords of the Philistines went after them to the border of Beth Shenesh.” They followed to make sure that it made it back to the territory of Israel. “And they left them.” Now how can these cows resist the natural yearning; and that’s why they were lowing as they went, to turn back to their calves? And they’re pulling the Ark of God.

The only way that we can. What’s in the Ark of God, in case you’ve forgotten, the significance, the connection here? What’s in the Ark of God? The law of God. How can we go straight with the law of God? It’s only the Spirit of God leading us. And when the Spirit of God was leading them they did not follow their animal natures, but they went the way the Lord told them. Not to the right hand, not to the left. Going with the Ark of God. Psalms 5:8, “Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies. Make your way straight before my face.” That should be our prayer. How many of you have read the vision of Ezekiel about the wheel within the wheel? Some of you skip over that because it just seems so bizarre. It’s hard to figure out. I don’t understand it all, but I’ll tell you one thing I noticed, he has this vision of these creatures in heaven and listen to what it says. Ezekiel 1:9, 12, “The creatures did not turn when they went, but each one went straight forward. Each one went straight forward. They went wherever the Spirit wanted to go. They did not turn when they went. When you are led by the Spirit, He leads you straight forward. Not turning to the right hand or to the left.

I remember a few years ago, I do Amazing Facts. Every week I come up a new amazing fact, almost every week, for our radio program. It's fun. And we assembled those into books. Now we've got, book two is about to come out. An assembly of all of the amazing facts of the last few years. I remember doing one on pigeons. Pigeons are really interesting. That was amazing to me because I grew up in New York City where pigeons are like dust. And they're real pests. So I began to study about pigeons a little bit, and they’re not bad. First of all, did you know, there are more varieties of pigeons than any other creature as far as things that have been bred? They have bred the most bizarre kinds of pigeons. They have pigeons that look like little hippies. And pigeons that don't even look like birds. They've bred pigeons, so that they look really bizarre.

Have any of you seen some of the strange varieties of pigeons that they've [bred]? And do you know, they raced pigeons? They easily go 60 miles an hour. Some of these homing pigeons, when they release them; of course they've got records for going halfway around the globe. But some of these homing pigeons, they will travel 60 miles an hour, beating their wings eight times per second, for 12 hours before they rest. You try that. That's amazing. I read somewhere; the longest flight made by a homing pigeon on record was one that flew in 1931 from Paris, France to its home in Saigon, Vietnam. To demonstrate that homing pigeons are not using earthly landmarks, when they took it on the ship from Vietnam to France they covered its cage. It never got to see its environment. When it was released it circled a little bit and then flew straight as an arrow, 7200 miles over unfamiliar land to its home, in 24 days. That's dedication.

One reason I'm talking to you about pigeons is not only because they fly straight and they fly fast. They live a long time, up to 30 years. And they mate for life. They fly straight. I thought it wouldn't be fair if I’m talking about no turning back to bring up the subject of marriage. Because we all know that there are all too many marriages in North America, where people throw in the chips, they throw in the towel, they give up, they turn back and they forget about their commitments. Sometimes you should burn your bridges. Amen? There is a time to burn your bridges. One of the first things that a couple ought to do when they make their marriage vows is burn the bridge of divorce. Don't leave that as an option. If you've got doubts going into your marriage and you think you need that as an option, don't get married. You might have the wrong person. They might have the wrong person. No turning back. “Ah, but were incompatible.”

They've got this phenomenal success story now with eHarmony. How many of you have seen the ads for eHarmony, or you've heard them on the radio? They've got these commercials talking about dating, and it's an Internet dating service. And they've been very successful. And they'll show, one couple after another and say, “I found my soul mate. I didn't know they were out there, but I found them on the Internet through this dating service. And I filled out this criteria.” And I'm not saying that you can't find the right person that way. I think you can, but you know what happens? The commercials always make these couples, they're just beaming and drooling on each other and they look so starry eyed. And then other people who are in real marriages, they look at that and they go, “Maybe I’ve got the wrong one. Because, after all, eHarmony wasn’t around and I didn’t fill out my test to find out who I was the perfect match with. I just happened to have worked with this person, or I met them in church and I figured they’d work. And so we got married. I didn’t take enough time to do their research.” And people begin to think, “Maybe we’re incompatible. We didn’t use eHarmony.” Doesn’t matter. You’re too late. You’re married.

Don’t be fooled by the advertising industry’s portrayal of marriage. A lot of people have become dissatisfied in their marriages because the Devil has created unrealistic expectations of what marriage really is. It is tough. You get two people from different backgrounds with different opinions and gifts and things. We’re blinded by love and lust at first. And then you get married and you start to realize some of those differences. And I am of the opinion that when God puts two people together in a marriage He deliberately, some divine form of His sense of humor, He puts people together that are opposites in certain areas where one person is a certain extreme and the other person is the opposite of that extreme and He wants to use you two through sometimes conflict to bring each other back towards His ideal. He will match you up with somebody that will have certain areas in their life that irritate you because those are the areas where you need to change. And so if you’re looking for the person that you’re just not going to have any conflict with, that’s probably not the person God wants you married to. Does that theory sound plausible? It generally works that way, as I have observed. So when you get married, no turning back.

I’ve been hearing more and more about these marriage covenants. You thought the marriage service was a covenant. I’m talking about; people are actually, because divorce has become so easy, people are making contracts. How many of you have heard of this before? Legal contracts, drawn up by a lawyer, that doesn’t allow them to get divorced very easily unless they go through this whole process of counseling and arbitration and things like that. And they're making it more difficult. They're making covenants. That's not such a bad idea. Sometimes we need to burn our bridges. Make sure we won't go over them. I think when you choose to follow Jesus. You should burn your plow and sacrifice your oxen and make up your mind that you're not going back. Some of the most important thing to do in life is baptism and marriage. And when you make those decisions. You should do what you can do humanly to burn the bridges of return, of retreat.

Some of my heroes in history, and you've heard me refer to them before, is Lewis and Clark, for one. That whole expedition, there's just nothing like it you can really compare to it in history before. Where this team of roughly 40 men, sent by the president to find if there is some Northwest Passage. They were hoping that the shipping industry could cut across this continent. They didn't have satellite imagery back then. They didn't know what the western half of the US looked like. Jefferson bought the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon. He didn't know what he had thought. And they were hoping that the Missouri River would just keep on going until it somehow ran into the Pacific. How they could believe that a river would run from the ocean to the ocean, I don't know. But some of them actually believed that. And they went up the river looking, 4000 miles. They went largely by boat; some over mountains. They went over the Rockies and over land. And they got so discouraged. They had nearly starved to death at times. They were abandoned and could not call home to their families. That’s tough. But they kept going forward because they said, “We have a command from our Commander in Chief, Jefferson, not to turn back until we reach the Pacific.” And that’s what they did even if it was going to kill them. When they were crossing the Rockies, they just kept on going.

I think that we have a mandate from our Commander in Chief. What happens to airplanes when they lose their forward motion? Unless they’re already on the ground, right? They fall. Have you ever tried to hold a bicycle up? My kids and I play this game. Sometimes we go for a bike ride around the neighborhood. And we’ve got these cul-de-sacs. And we get into one of the cul-de-sacs and we’ll count to three. And we start pedaling as fast as we can in a circle and we count to three, “One, two,” and we’re pedaling fast. And as soon as we say three you’ve got to stop pedaling. And what we do is we see who can coast the longest before they have to put a foot down. And the last few seconds you’re trying to stay up on the bicycle and just creeping along and you’re looking for every possible downhill grade so you can just move another inch or two. Because if you lose your forward motion; I know there are experts that can bounce their bicycles. The average person can’t. You lose your forward motion, you fall over. When you take your motorcycle test, you know one of the hardest things they have you do? They have a drive in a circle, a white circle. And I remember the first time. I did this, “Piece of cake.” And I'm going around the circle and instructor says, “No, no. Slow down.” “Huh?” “Slower.” And I'm going like this, trying to stay on the white line. That's when you find out if anyone has control. It's, can you stay on the line. Yes, I still have my license. But it's hard to keep the motorcycle up, unless removing foreword.

Do mobile homes get termites? Not until they park. Isn't that right? All through the natural world, you can see examples of where we get into trouble when we stop. Moving water doesn't freeze. It's when it becomes stagnant it freezes over. And part of the secret of being a Christian is you've got to keep your momentum. You don't turn back. You keep on going. I Corinthians 10:13, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. But will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that you're able to bear it.” Part of the way that we stay successful, and our walk with the Lord is to keep on moving. It's when we stop that we start getting in trouble. [end side one]

Another one of my heroes from history is Columbus. Again, I know there are people that have tried to rewrite history, that these guys were all tyrants, but you still have to admire the fact that he was willing to try to prove that the world was round, when everybody else was thinking it was flat. That is still true. And as he was going across the ocean his sailors did believe that it was going to drop off some Niagara like precipice. Or there were going to be sea monsters that would devour them. They had all kinds of superstitions. And they were going where no man had been before. They were sailing off the map. And that's disconcerting. They had no stars to guide them. All he knew was, “Going to keep going west. I'm convinced that the earth is round. Keep going west.” He was hoping to get to India. And you know, several times his soldiers were on the verge of mutiny. And he had it in his diary. He was praying all along the way God would give him wisdom to know how to deal with this constant obstacle. And finally when they said, “We're going to mutiny. We're turning back,” he'd pray and then God would do something to keep them going one more day. I remember one time he was praying and they saw coconuts float by. And they said, “Obviously were getting near some land.” They said, “All right. We'll go another day.” And so they'd sail another day and they'd say, “There’s been no sign of land. We're going to turn back.” Just when they were ready to mutiny and throw him overboard and turn back, and empty canoe floated by the ship. And then another day, when they were about to mutiny and turn back, seagulls showed up and landed on the ship. And little by little, he just one day at a time, he would keep them going. And they never lost their forward momentum until they finally made it.

I can't remember her name, one of the great women long-distance swimmers. She swam the English Channel. She swam to Catalina. On her first attempt. Does anyone know her name? On the first attempt to swim to Catalina she got within 1 mile, and she quit. Half a mile. You know why? It was foggy, and she couldn't see the land. And she just got discouraged. She said, “I don't even see it. I don't know how much father, I've got to go.” And she quit. And they said, “You were half a mile away.” The second attempt, the fog came down again. But she kept on going this time because she said, “I know there's land out there somewhere. Even if I hit Japan, eventually I'm going to hit land.” And so she didn't turn back and she broke the record. She actually beat the men's record by two hours. I feel bad; I'm apologizing. What's the name? Anyone know? Oh, you're history's know better than mine, so I feel OK.

Another area where we need to be careful about turning back is when we make a promise. No turning back. No U-turn, you might say. Keeping your word. I think in the Bible about Psalm's 15:4 where it identifies someone who will be in the house of the Lord. “He that swears to his own hurt and does not change.” Makes me think of the story of Jephtha. Judges 11:30, this great judge of Israel. He was a poor man when he first was appointed to be the judge. He had one daughter and a little ranch and he promised the Lord, he said, “If you give me a victory over the Moabites when I come back, whatever comes through the gates of my yard, the first thing that comes through, I'll make an offering to you, a burnt offering.” And he thought maybe one of the cows or the goats or the sheep would come through his yard. And he came home and his daughter was the first one out of the gate, banging the tambourine and singing. And he said, “Oh, you have brought a very low, because I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I can't turn back. I have made a promise to God.” And a promise to God is worth something. Amen?

For a Christian, your word is worth something. Jesus said, “Your yea should be yea and your nay should be nay.” And your word should be so dependable that you don't need to punctuated it all with these [expletives] and vowels and curses. When you say something that's your, your words mean something. And here Jephtha said, “I’m going to offer my daughter, and he did. Not as a burnt offering, but he gave her the Lord. She went to the temple. She never married. She served the Lord the rest of her life at the temple. His word meant something. No turning back.

Have any of you ever used the expression a beeline? Why do you say that? Why do they say to make a beeline? You ever watch a bee? Bees don't make a beeline. Watch a bee when he's collecting nectar. They're kind of flitting from flower to flower. Why do they say beeline? You know why? Because beekeepers know that there are scout bees that go out looking for a source of nectar, new sources. And when the scouts find a new source they collect some of it and they make a beeline back to the hive to tell the other bees where to do the collecting from flower to flower. They fly straight. And I've got a friend named Bill Roam [?]. He's passed away, but he used to be a beekeeper up in the hills. And he would tell me how he used to find as many as two while the beehives a day by tracking bees. You get in a meadow where there are a lot of flowers on a warm spring day and you'd see the bees collecting nectar and you'd catch one of these scout bees. He'd take off like a shot, and you'd follow him as far as you could. He put some honey down. He'd wait until one of them found it. You'd follow that one and eventually they just keep tracking you right back to where the hive is. And he'd cut down the tree and collect the wild honey. He’d smoke them. Because they make a beeline. They’re dependable.

You’ve heard the expression, as the crow flies, right? Because after a crow finds something they go and they feed in the morning and they head back home. They fly a straight line in the process. Christians could learn something from the bees and the crows, living straight. Amen? How did the Children of Israel get into trouble? They kept looking back. God saved them out of Egypt and they kept looking back. Numbers 14:3-4. He brings them to the borders of the Promise Land and they say, “Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt? Let’s select another leader and return to Egypt.” They had forgotten what Egypt was like. Numbers 11:5, they begin to complain about this manna from heaven that God is giving them. And they say, “We remember back in Egypt the fish we ate freely from Egypt and the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic.” Can you imagine giving up the Promise Land for garlic and onion? That’s really what they’re saying. God is giving them bread from heaven and they’re saying, “Oh, we miss the garlic and the fish and the onions. The Nile always had lots of fish.” And they’d lost the sense of what their mission was, and they kept looking back. “Any man who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not worthy of the kingdom.”

Hebrews 10:38-39, “The just shall live by faith, but if anyone draws back my soul has no pleasure in him.” How is it that we go forward through the wilderness? “The just shall live by faith.” How did the Israelites live? By faith. Why did they want to go back to Egypt? Because in Egypt they didn’t need faith. They had a river full of fish. They had fields full of onions and garlic and they said, “We don’t have to wonder from day to day, will the bread be there?” We don’t have to live by faith in Egypt. In the wilderness they had to live by faith. God would send the quail. They didn’t see them. They’d come one day at a time. God would send the manna. They didn’t have it stored up except on Friday, they’d store some for Sabbath. They had to live by faith. Sometimes people turn back because the ways of the world are not the ways of faith. If you're going to get Christian and follow the Lord, God is not going to show you today, where you're going to be in six months. I don't know where I'm going to be in six months. I've got hopes, I've got goals. I don't know. All I can do is go one day at a time by faith. That's all you can do. Amen? None of us are promised tomorrow. And when we start saying, “I want to go back to Egypt,” what we’re say is, “I want I don't want to live by faith anymore. I want it right in front of me.” God leads us by faith. So if you're going to follow Him, those are the terms of how He leads.

Matthew 13:20 talks about, “He that receives seed in the stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself. He endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the world immediately he stumbles.” I put that in there because it illustrates that some people might start out, but they quit. And God says, “Don't be like that seed that falls in the rocky soil, where you spring up, but you don't ever produce fruit. You want to keep on going all the way. Never turn back.” Proverbs 14:14, “The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, but a good man will be satisfied from above.” Some are just backsliders in heart, they're always looking back. We need to ask the Lord to give us a victory.

Now, one reason, I think that a message like this is relevant in our day and age is when Jesus talked about the second coming He specifically talked about being ready to run for your life and not look back. Do you remember that? It's in Matthew 24, also Luke 17:31. “In that day, speaking of when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, who so reads let him understand. Let those who be in Judea flee into the mountains.” He goes on to say, “In that day, he that is on the housetop and his goods are in the house, let him not come down and take them away. And likewise, one who is in the field, let him not return back.” Matthew says, “Don’t let him go back for his coat.” And then Jesus makes these very poignant words, “Remember Lot’s wife.” What is Jesus reminding us to think of there? Good Lot's wife make it out of Sodom? Yes she did; she made it out of Sodom. Did she make it to salvation? No. Why? She stopped and looked back. We could only speculate what she was thinking when she looked back. She might've been thinking of her family that was left behind, and that would be natural. It would be natural for a cow to think about its calf, wouldn't it? God is asking us to do something supernatural when He asks us to walk straight; keep our eyes fixed upon Him. It could've been she was thinking about her possessions. One thing we do know, He said, don't look back and God means what He says. Jesus said, “Don’t look back.”

I don't know if some of you saw this. One of the things I noticed when I saw the tsunami footage, some of the news footage. They showed certain segments again and again, because there weren't that many people with their cameras on when their lives were being threatened like that. But there were a few people that had the self-control to roll a camera while waves are lashing around them. And one scene, this wave is; it must be up to the elbows of this man and all the debris and people are being washed up the street and he's holding his motor scooter. The guy is clinging to it not because it floats. He's trying to save his motor scooter. It's probably his main means of transportation. Who knows what the reasons were. It might be the only thing he owned. The guy is just about drowning and he won't let go of his scooter. Did anyone else see that? I thought to myself, “Let it go. Help somebody that's drowning.” It just tells you where people's priorities are in a time of crisis. It's hard to imagine that the world could be coming to an end around you and you'd be clinging to your little Vespa. But you know what? A lot of people are going to be found doing that. The Lord says, “Flee to the hills.” And people say, “I'll be with you in just a minute, Lord. I've got to go back to the house and get something.” He says if you're on the roof of the house, if you're that close, don't even go back inside. If you're in the field, don't go to the end of the furrow to get your jacket, but head for the hills.

The real impact of this message is we need to be ready to go straight as soon as God tells us to go, without hesitation. Because as soon as the devil can get you to hesitate and start looking over your shoulder, that's when we get into trouble. We need to be able to go when He tells us to go. Proverbs 4:25-27, “Let your eyes look straight ahead and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet. Let your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left. Remove your foot from evil.” In the Christian life, He’s asking us to look straight ahead. How do we run that race in Hebrews 12? “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” And it's only by looking unto Jesus that we can “lay aside the weight and the sin that does so easily beset us.”

I think about a passage in the Bible where Jesus is not very nice to dogs and pigs. There was a day when you could say, “Well, I understand why he wouldn't be nice to pigs, but dogs are pets.” “Do not give that which is holy to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn and tear you to pieces.” Now it’s not that there's really anything wrong with dogs or with pigs, as far as animals are concerned, but they are symbols in the Bible for animals that don't have a sense, for that which is clean. They are considered unclean. II Peter 2:20, Peter is talking about those who once followed the Lord, but turned back. “For if after they have escaped to the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again and tangled in them and overcome, the latter end of them is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it's happened to them, according to the proverb, ‘A dog is returned to his own vomit, and the sow who has been washed to her wallowing in the mire.’” Again, Peter is referencing the dog and a pig. And I don't want to go into detail here, but you can wash a pig and put a bow around its neck, but you show them a slimy pit and he's going to say. yippee, right? Do I need to explain what dogs do sometimes? No, I won't. The Lord says that's what happens. Though He delivers us from our filth, He delivers us from what makes us sick, He invites us to be clean and be whole, but because of the carnal nature we turned back to those things. This is how heaven views it when we are saved from our sin, and we turned back again.

The Christian is to fix his eyes on Jesus, make a commitment to Jesus and not turn back. Ruth is one of the heroes in the Bible in this respect. I love that statement. If you've been at a wedding here, I almost always quote from this because it's one of my favorite verses. Ruth 1:16, “Ruth said, entreat me.” Now think about this, Naomi has lost everything. Naomi has lost her husband, she's lost her possessions, lost her sons, and she's going back home empty. And Ruth says, “I'm going to go with you, even though you have nothing earthly to offer me.” Why would you follow somebody that has nothing to offer you? Because you love them. One thing you know right away, Ruth was not a gold digger, was she? She ended up prospering by marrying Boaz. She became very wealthy, but she didn't know that when she decided to follow Naomi. She said, “Entreat me not to leave you or to turn back from following after you. For where ever you go I will go.” You ought to underline this and say to the Lord every day. “Wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you lodge, and I will lodge. Your people are my people and your God, my God. God do so to me and more also, if anything but death separate you and me.” That's where you get the expression till death do us part, it was a vow to stay with her until death. Why did she do it? Because she loved Naomi. Why would we make a commitment to the Lord? Because we love Him.

Not everybody that started following Jesus finished following Jesus. He lost a big part of His following along the way. He had thousands at one point when He was preaching. But at Pentecost at how many were there? 120. You could say He lost 90% of the multitudes that were hailing Him as king as He went into Jerusalem. One time, John 6:66, it says, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walk with Him no more.” Hey, I wonder if that's prophetic. John 666 are the ones who turned away. “They followed with Him no more. And Jesus said to the 12 (apostles), Do you also want to go away? But Simon Peter said, Lord, where will we go? You've got the words of eternal life. To whom shall we go?” Did a day come when they temporarily forsook the Lord? Yes, they all forsook Him and fled at one point. And that may happen again.

Ultimately, Jesus is our example in all things. What was the attitude of Jesus? When He began to follow the Lord's will and head towards the cross, did He get discouraged? Let me read something to you. Isaiah 50:7, “For the Lord God will help me. Therefore, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a flint.” What's the difference between flint and clay? Clay is pliable. Wax is pliable. And of you ever work with flint? It doesn't move. It's fixed. “I have set my face like a flint and I know that I will not be ashamed.” That is something I think Luke is quoting when he talks about Jesus in Luke 9:51. “It came to pass, when the time came for Him to be received up.” Jesus has not been sacrificed yet. He's going to go to heaven. He has to die first. “He steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Jesus set His face. It's saying, the disciples said, “Let’s go to Jerusalem and die with Him.” They knew what was going to happen. His enemies had just continued to intensify their anger and hatred. There was no way they were going to let Him out of their fingers one more time.

That's why when He said, “I'm going to Jerusalem. I'm going to resurrect Lazarus,” it was during the same time He was making His last trip into Jerusalem. Thomas, Doubting Thomas said, “Let’s go and die with Him, because we know what's going to happen there.” Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem. He set His face. Do you have the picture? Have you ever seen somebody, they set their face, and you say, “Hey, come here,” and they won't look? “Hey, over here.” They just set their face. They're not going to get distracted. He was determined to go through with His path of dying for you and me. It doesn't matter how unpopular it was going to be. It doesn't matter how much it was going to hurt. Why did He do that? He set His face because He loves us. He loves you. He was thinking of you. And that's why He wanted to just keep on going, and nothing was going to turn Him back.

Some of you might be feeling a tangent of discouragement from a message like this, because you say, “Doug. I got off the road, I fell in the ditch. I haven't been living straight.” You've got a song in your hymnal, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing that was written by Robert Robinson. He wrote that hymn, he had a wonderful relationship with the Lord, and it was a spirit filled hymn. He got off the path. He wandered from the Lord and was living a life of sin. During this time in his life he met a young lady who was a Christian. He felt attracted to her, but he knew he was not living like a Christian. One day they were talking, and she opened up a hymnbook she said, “I’ve read this most wonderful hymn. What do you think of it?” And she hands it to him. The author's name wasn't on there. She didn't know that he had written it. He looked at it and he began to weep. And she said, “What’s the matter?” He said, “I wrote that hymn.” And he said, “I long for the days when I could have that experience once again, were I had fixed my eyes on Jesus and I was full of His Spirit and His peace, and H is joy.” And she looked at the words and she said, “The streams of mercy that you wrote about are still flowing.” And he came back to the Lord that day, and was converted for the rest of his life.

So maybe you have gotten off the road. Being a Christian, it's a road. One gate is straight and narrow. It's not popular, but it leads to heaven. The broad, meandering road leads to destruction. Everybody's on the road somewhere. We’re either going to the city of God on that street path, or we're on our way to destruction on the meandering road. I'd like to encourage you to say, “Lord, I want to get on the right road, fixed my eye on Jesus, not turn to the right hand or the left and never turn back.” Is that your prayer? Then it’s time we sing about it. We're going to sing, not sing Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. We’re going to sing He Leadeth Me. And that’s 537; let’s stand together as we sing this.


We’re going to do something different here. As a church family, Central family, we’re getting ready, we've got our feet in the Jordan, to embark on a process that has incredible potential and is no doubt going to test our mettle, test our love for each other. We want to move in this direction, and we need to move together. I don't believe that this church is being led by the pastor, any one pastor or a group of pastors. I hope and pray, makes me tremble to think we're being led by anyone other than the Lord. He is the one we're following. And as long as we know He is leading us we're safe, amen? He might lead us sometimes through the water, sometimes through the flood. Sometimes through the fire, always through the blood, right? But I want Him to lead us together. Is that your prayer? So even though we're singing, “He Leadeth Me,” I'm also thinking He's leading you. Why don't you take the hand of the person next to you? Yes, we're going to get touchy-feely, and as we sing verse two together, when you say He leadeth me, we are one body. Amen? Let's sing verse two together.


Have you ever prayed before, “No matter what it takes Lord, do whatever it takes to save me?” Doesn't ever scare you when you pray that prayer? It scares me. But do you mean it? What profit is it if you have any other prayer than that? Whatever it takes Lord. When you're in the kingdom you'll say it was worth it. Amen? So if that's your desire, to say, “Lord, where ever you lead, I just want to know you’re leading and I'll go. I won't turn back.” What you say amen? Let's sing the last verse together.


I started feeling left out of here without being able to hold anyone's hand. Let's pray. Father in heaven, we just want to thank you. You're so good to us, Lord. We’re so thankful for the ways that you have lead in the past. And it is obvious to us that you have lead this church and this ministry. We are thankful for the ways they have lead in our lives even though there have been trials. We believe that you are working these things out to save us. Lord, I pray that in our relationship with you, we will choose to fix our eyes on Jesus, and not turn back. In our relationships with our families, we will choose to never turn back. And Lord, I would pray that you continue as a church family to bless us and to not turn back from the way you are leading. Lord, that's all we want to know, is that you're leading us and we'll go where you lead. We thank you and we pray these things, in Jesus name, amen.

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