There aren’t a lot of days in my life I can say that I know God sent a message intended just for me. But there are a few. This is one of them…
It was the fall of 1998. We were living in Lake Forest, Illinois, and I had spent the year interviewing for senior/solo pastor positions. I was asked to interview for the position at Waupun Evangelical Free Church (Edgewood). It had been a busy year with trips to visit churches in California, North Dakota (two different churches), Maryland, and Arkansas. We actually had a lot of fun traveling the country, and three of those churches had offered me their position, but we didn’t sense any of them were quite right. However, all of those churches were solo pastorates. This Waupun thing was not – there was an Associate Pastor (Mike Giebink) – and it was the largest of all the churches I had interviewed with at that point (the statistic I received at the time was 225 people).
That first interview (by phone) with the people in Waupun was scheduled on Monday evening, October 12. On the morning of the 12th, I took a prayer walk to talk to the Lord.
I was nervous. Not only was it the largest church I had interviewed with, but there was an associate staff person, and they were heading into a building campaign. I knew that I was weak in administration, and I doubted my qualifications. So I told the Lord about my concerns. I don’t remember what I said, but I do remember what he said. As I was walking, some semi-obscure verses from the book of Numbers popped into my mind that I had memorized some time before:
Joshua, son of Nun, and Caleb, son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes, and said to the entire Israelite assembly: “The Land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into the land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord, and do not be afraid of the people of the Land, for we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” – Numbers 14:6 – 9 (NASB)
Well, that was all it took. I was buoyant and encouraged as I headed back to our home, realizing that even if I doubted my abilities in pastoring the church in Waupun, the Lord could give grace and bring it about.
I went inside to look over the information that the church had sent, and I turned on the CD player to put on some Michael W. Smith. At first, however, I got the radio; it was Chuck Swindoll preaching in his Insight for Living broadcast (I liked Chuck, but wasn’t in the habit of listening to him). The message was set at Dallas Seminary, and he was speaking to pastors or future pastors…from Numbers 14. When he got to the few verses God had just brought to my mind, he actually read them, and I got down on my knees there in the kitchen at 770 W. Westleigh in Lake Forest…and began to cry. There were four guys set to interview that night, but I had an advantage over them – I already knew the outcome.
We were going to Waupun.