No doubt God used many people and circumstances to bring me to know Him, here are a few of the things that I would hold significant.
When I asked my wife Tammy to marry me she told me she wouldn’t unless we went to church, “what! on my only day off?” I said to myself, but that few visits made a huge impact I learned I could hear from God through the Phi Slamma Jamma Cat’s Pajama Prayer…As story by itself. However as much as that had me thinking, God had other treasures awaiting.
In 1991 I became the manager of Crown Honda Volvo in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. At the time we were living in Greensboro. I was commuting to Chapel Hill. I was very career oriented so I left Greensboro about 7:30 a.m. and returned home between 10:30 and 11:00 p.m. six days a week. During the commute time I would buy self- actualization Books on Tape to listen to so I could hone my skills as a salesperson and manager.
Then I bought the series “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale. As I began to listen, Norman Vincent Peale explained that in order to have a positive attitude you needed to get up 30 minutes earlier every morning to read the Bible. Considering my work schedule that seemed insane, but since I had invested in the set, I needed to do what it said. This plan made no sense to me. I was dead tired already. I decided to go ahead with it anyhow.
The first thing I needed was a Bible. I thought I had one somewhere. I was so right. I still had it, the only remnant from my childhood after nearly 30 moves. You know you can’t throw away a Bible, or leave it behind. I didn’t really believe in God, but in case I was wrong, I didn’t want to upset him. It was the Bible that I had received from the First Congregational Church of Naperville, Illinois when I graduated from 5th to 6th grade in 1966. It was black leather with red edged pages, New American Standard Version, presented to me by Rev. Stanley Cox, our pastor.So I started my “Journey” through the Book I had carried around for 25 years, but never read.
Genesis was neat. It read like a history book. Exodus started out like Charleton Heston’s Ten Commandments. The further I read, however, the more I began to question Norman Vincent Peal’s idea that this had anything to do with my attitude. It certainly had nothing to do with selling cars. Some things struck me and wouldn’t let me go. The first real puzzle was why would God kill Aaron’s sons for offering incense improperly. This made no sense, yet I was driven to understand. This Book was either right or it was wrong. What were the consequences of the Bible’s veracity? What does the fat around the liver have to do with selling cars? I was sure I was crazy, but deep inside another voice said “Read on”.Numbers and Deuteronomy really dragged. Yet I felt I had to read this in the order it was written, in spite of many friends saying that the Old Testament is too difficult, I should have started with the New Testament. I now know that the order the books are in is called the Cannon of scripture. For me this was of utmost importance.
God had to lay out his story to me to show me that I was in no way smart enough or powerful enough to understand this without help. That’s why Norman Vincent Peal’s instructions included prayer before reading, so God would open your eyes to the truth. In my case so the “Cannon Ball” could hit me upside my head.My next puzzle came in the book of Joshua, the deaths of Achan’s kids. Maybe I could understand why they had to stone Achan for taking the goods of Jericho and hiding them in his tent, but stoning his whole family, kids and all. How could this loving God whom I had heard about all of my life require such a thing?
Judges and Ruth were great history, but I still saw no secret to a positive attitude, especially not Sampson. Boaz had something interesting. I loved the story of Ruth and was fascinated with King David’s lineage. Still I kept searching for the real meaning of all this. 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings and Chronicles were a great history lesson. I was more and more fascinated as I kept plowing through, but there seemed to be parts that were worthless, like all the numbers of people and the details of every offering. “Why would people read through this?” I wondered. Ezra was boring at that time in my life. Nehemiah was a little better. Esther was very cool, because, I could really see God is in control.Then came Job and that’s where the “Cannon Ball” of the scripture blew my head off.
I really expected Job to be all about patience. The part where Satan was reporting to God completely surprised me. It was hard for me to understand God’s actually allowing Satan to mess with Job big time (killing his children). Then my patience was tried as the next 35 chapters dragged on and on while Job and his friends tried to explain why God does what he does. None of it really made sense to me at the time. I was very, very frustrated with the whole process. My prayers increased. If there was a God, then show me what this means.
Oh! Did he show me! In chapter 38 God was speaking directly to me.Job 38:1 “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct me! Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.’” Whoa! I had no idea. Then I got to this:Job 40:15 “Behold now, Behemoth, which I made as well as you; he eats grass like an ox. Behold now, his strength in his loins and his power in the muscles of his belly. He bends his tail like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are knit together. His bones are tubes of bronze; his limbs are like bars of iron. He is the first of the ways of God; let his maker bring near his sword. Surely the mountains bring him food, and all the beasts of the field play there. Under the lotus plants he lies down, in the covert of the reeds and the marsh. The lotus plants cover him with shade; the willows of the brook surround him. If a river rages, he is not alarmed; he is confident, though the Jordan rushes to his mouth. Can anyone capture him when he is on watch, with barbs can anyone pierce his nose?”
I had no idea even what a Behemoth was. I asked every Christian that I knew, but no one had an answer. One told me to go to a Christian bookstore and buy a Christian dictionary or a commentary. My quest continued. Somehow I felt all the answers that I was seeking were going to be found in this passage, I couldn’t get it out of my mind.Here is what Matthew Henry said: “God, for the further proving of his own power and disproving of Job’s pretensions, concludes his discourse with the description of two vast and mighty animals, far exceeding man in bulk and strength, one he calls behemoth, the other leviathan. In these verses we have the former described. “Behold now behemoth, and consider whether thou art able to contend with him who made that beast and gave him all the power he has, and whether it is not thy wisdom rather to submit to him and make thy peace with him.’’I was left to consider just that. Could I contend with this beast on my own? Not only that, but also bring the tide in or make the wind blow. Just as God was saying to Job and his so called friends, he was saying to me weak and. powerless as I am, “Who are you to question me?”
I realized for the first time in my life how powerless I am, and that I am certainly not God. If I’m not God, then I’d better find out who is and what He requires. My prayer took on a whole new dimension. Instead of questioning whether there was a God, I believed that there was, and was asking that he please forgive my arrogance. I pleaded with Him to show me what I needed to do and understand. Show me he did! Soon I came to the New Testament and Jesus.
At the very same time my wife Tammy began begging me to go to a Christian Parenting Class at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, here I would meet wonderful joyful people who seemed to care about me, though they didn’t want to buy a car. This was significant and they helped guide my new Bible Understanding.
Now I had a new hunger to understand why He had to die. This was really the question that had always haunted me, “Why would God have to die?” That just didn’t make sense. If He was God, why couldn’t He just fix it?It took most of the New Testament for me to understand that question. God had said,” If you eat of the fruit of the tree in the center of the Garden you will surely die”. In other words “The wages of sin is death.” If God doesn’t lie then Romans 6:23 is true “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Jesus is that sacrifice. Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us!”All that was left was for me to make a decision of my will. Either I believed God that Jesus was His son and died for me, and asked Him into my life to clean up my act, or I put that Book down. Just like Lot’s wife had I turned back, I’d have turned to a pillar of salt.
The “Cannon Ball” did it. Talk about a positive attitude! Norman Vincent Peale knew Romans 10:17 and asked anyone who read his book to apply it. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” What is a positive attitude if not faith? Norman Vincent Peale knew that we can hear the word of God by simply reading the Bible after asking God for his understanding of it. Believe me if you’ll try it, God will talk you all the way through it. It really is God’s love letter to us. Read it and grow your faith. Many, Many years later I still make every effort to do it daily. Can’t live without it…Robby