Journey to Mount Sinai 2
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Ephesian 2:10 NKJV
What does it mean to walk in the good works that God has prepared for us to do? This is a question that I have been conscience of for much of my own life. This coming May 15 and 17, we will be releasing the next film, Patterns of Evidence series, Journey to Mount Sinai II, as a FATHOM EVENT in theaters nationwide.
The Official “Saudi Arabian” Invitation
The Journey to Mount Sinai investigation was started in 2003 when I was invited by Dr. Glen Fritz, along with Jim and Penny Caldwell and Dr. Lennart Moller, to travel to Saudi Arabia on an officially sanctioned visit to the NW corner of the country. This was considered a goodwill trip allowing Westerners the opportunity to get to know Arabian culture and experience the beauty of the desert as well as Bedouin hospitality of the area.
For those on the trip, this was an amazing opportunity to go to the area some historians pointed to as the ancient land of Midian, where Moses fled from Egypt and lived for 40 years with his father-in-law Jethro. But more importantly, we were excited to see the mountain location where many suggested Moses brought the Israelites to worship God. For over a decade, photography of archaeological sites found in the Jebel-al-Lawz area has piqued the interest of Bible enthusiasts around the world. Was this evidence for biblical events that happened at Mount Sinai?
The challenge was that Saudi Arabia was not typically open for outsiders to visit this NW region, so we were delighted that the invitation came. Upon our arrival, we experienced wonderful Arabian hospitality, and even our Saudi guides were excited to make the journey to this part of the country. This was the land where T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) had also travel during his time as a British intelligence officer during the Arab Revolt from the Ottoman Empire.
When Dr. Glen Fritz arranged the Arabian tour, he gave the coordinates and locales with which he wanted the tour to visit. What he didn’t talk about was any connection that these sites might have had to the Bible. And what is unique about this time was that we had all received official permission from the Saudi government for the tour to be in this area. When our group finally arrived at the Jebel-al-Lawz area, it was late in the day. Our Saudi guides were as excited as we were to begin this two-week adventure which was also new to them. They had never before had the opportunity to be in this part of Saudi Arabia.
For me, this was an opportunity to film the locations with a professional approach. Much of the footage I had previously seen was from amateur Exodus Explorers and was filmed on older camera gear. This was a chance to film at a much higher quality than had ever been filmed before. I invited Rick Garside, another filmmaking friend, to join me in documenting the trip. Rick had been with me the year before when we went into Egypt. The results of that trip became the beginning of our first film, Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus.
Everything seemed fine as we set up our campsite, which was a great surprise to Jim and Penny Caldwell, who had made numerous trips prior when Jim worked in Saudi Arabia with an oil company. On their previous trips, they had been detained and arrested by the frontier police for coming into the area. They were given strong warnings to leave immediately and never return. But they did return and documented what they believed to be the remains of the Israelites’ time at Mount Sinai. It was these photographs and videos that caused so many from around the world to believe that the real Mount Sinai was not in the Sinai Peninsula but in Arabia.
It was around sunset when Dr. Moller decided to explore the area, and so I, as well as several others, followed him up a valley and proceeded to climb a small boulder-covered ridge that overlooked what is called the altar site. As Moller was hiking up the rocky hillside, he felt something strike his leg from behind, almost causing him to stagger. It was a physical blow. When he turned, there was no one there, and Moller felt that it was a spiritual force that took on a physical attack. Later, you could see his leg had become severely marked, just as if something had struck it with great force. Moller was slightly limping as he struggled to walk, but he continued to the top of the ridge.
That evening, one of the local tribal leaders offered a young goat, and we enjoyed Bedouin hospitality under a canopy of a million stars. The campfire lit the canyon walls as we sat around the fire with Arabian rugs and pillows. We enjoyed hot coffee poured from an ornate silver pot that may have been hundred years old. Penny Caldwell suggested that the meal we had consumed was like that of a Passover meal.
The next morning, we went to explore the mountain site. This was the area that many Exodus Explorers, like Ron Wyatt, Jim and Penny Caldwell, and Bob Cornuke, believed to be the covenant site where Moses and the Israelites gathered to make a covenant with God. After, what I had learned from the difficulties that these Exodus Explorers experienced, it was hard for me to believe that I was filming what could be one of the more significant archaeological sites of the Bible.
We were allowed to walk further into the area that the book “Al Bid,” published by the Saudi archaeological survey, calls a dwelling for workmen who were there to work in a marble quarry. The remains of pillars could be seen around this long stone structure. But there was another interpretation of this location by Exodus Explorers. They saw a pattern of evidence matching the biblical account as an altar site where sacrifices were made, and the blood from those sacrifices was sprinkled on 12 pillars representing the 12 tribes of Israel.
Due to the coming heat of the day, we proceeded to climb the mountain, which, again for Jim and Penny Caldwell, was hard to imagine was possible since, for years, it was guarded, and no one was allowed in the area. It was a difficult climb, but we made our way all the way up to the marble quarry and could see the work that had been done there. After taking numerous photos and filming some on-camera segments with Dr. Moller, we started our way down.
When we reached the campsite, that was when the tone changed dramatically. While we were on the mountain, our Saudi guides were told by the local tribal authorities what this location represented and its connection to Moses and the Israelites. They were told that we had to immediately leave the area. This was a problem for everyone because we were told by the Saudi government that we had to stay with our itinerary.
That night I was questioned by my guides about what I was doing there and why I was filming. I told them that I was interested in the Bible, and this was the ancient land of Midian, where Moses fled and lived for 40 years. And that would also mean it was where Moses encountered God at Mount Sinai.
They told me that this was a big problem now. They said that Moses was Moslem and that I had no business even being involved with anything to do with Moses. The rest of the trip was very difficult because of the confrontations we would encounter at other proposed biblical sites. At the end of the trip, I was told to surrender all of my footage which I did. To this day I had never received it back.
It was a confusing time for me. Here I believed God had opened the door for us to get into Saudi Arabia. Then I filmed some of the best footage I had ever taken, documenting what many believe is one of the most significant biblical events, and at the end of the trip, I have nothing to show for it. Or did I?
So what do you do when you believe God has something for you to do, like make a film about the real location of Mount Sinai, and yet you have no idea how it will happen? Or when it will happen?
The First Call
I went to see my first film in the theater in 1975, I was 18 years old. It was a Billy Graham Film called, The Hiding Place. Due to my conservative upbringing, we didn’t go to movies, so this was a real treat. The movie was the true story of Corrie Ten Boom and her Dutch family that prayerfully took it upon themselves to hide Jewish people in their home during World War II. Eventually, they were betrayed, and the whole family was taken to a concentration camp and died. Only Corrie survived by God’s providence to tell the story.
This film really impressed me, and so did the cinema experience. I began to see more films in the theater during my time at college, and at one of those times, I felt God speak to my heart and say, “Someday, you will have a film in the theater!” I don’t know if you have ever experienced anything like that in your own life, but if you have, you must wonder, “How is that going to happen?” On the other hand, you must remember these words because this is how God gives us an idea of a “good work” he might have for us in the future. I would suggest even writing down these thoughts and keeping them so you don’t forget your future and get distracted by the everyday cares of life.
How do you Define the “Good Works” God has chosen for your Life?
For me, I had a deep sense that I was to do something with media. I wasn’t sure what it would look like, but along the way, I kept trying to do as many media-oriented projects as I could. It started with the recording studio in our basement. This was the reason I wanted to buy our own home. And miraculously, at the age of 21, my newlywed wife, Jill, and I purchased a home with the help of my mother and her sister. It was an older home but in a good neighborhood.
The next year, I found a used TEAC mixing board, and I talked my wife into us taking out a loan. When we brought the mixer home, we dedicated it to the Lord. By faith, this would be the beginning of a recording studio someday. When friends would come over, I would take them to the spare bedroom, take the towel off the mixer and share the vision. After 18 monthly payments, the mixer was ours. I then began to look for the next piece in the studio, a multi-track tape machine, and that took another 18 months.
Finally, the time came, several years later, for me to jackhammer out the floor in the basement and move all the plumbing to one side of the house. After that, I set the walls of the studio, which eventually formed a partnership with an engineer from the local TV station and we started Morningside Records, where we recorded our first album, Servant Song.
Although I was advancing the “Good Works” for my calling, I was also causing my wife to become depressed trying to keep four children under the age of 10 quiet upstairs while we recorded the Servant Song album, in the basement, over the summer.
Finding the Balance in “Good Works”
Early in my marriage, I focused on providing income for the family so we could have a house, food, and occasionally go out for ice cream. But all work and no play were not helping my children and certainly not my wife, Jill. She became depressed with the burden of four young children by the time we were 30, and I was working six days a week with two jobs, one painting cars and the other building the recording studio in our basement. I was trying to find a way to get to the “Good Works” of a career in filmmaking, but my family was suffering because I hadn’t matured enough in my own life to see the needs of my family and how they needed to balance with the “Good Works” I was pursuing.
For me, it would require a long journey and learning some important practical spiritual lessons before I would stand at the back of the same theater where every seat was full over 40 years later. They were watching the first versions of what would become Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I remembered what the Lord had spoken to me so long ago. God has been faithful in this calling and helped me by bringing along a number of people that have joined in the calling of which we have given the name of Patterns of Evidence.
Journey to Mount Sinai II is the seventh Patterns of Evidence films. (1.) The Exodus (2.) The Moses Controversy (3.) (4.) Red Sea Miracle 1&2 (5.) The Journey Home (6.) Journey to Mount Sinai 1. So now, what began in 2003 is finally coming to being 20 years later. As I look back on the last two decades, this film, Journey to Mount Sinai II, which will be released nationwide as a Fathom Event on May 15 and May 17, is a vastly superior film than the one I would have created in 2003. There is so much more we know now that we didn’t know before.
Journey to Mount Sinai 1 & 2 is a big investigation where we look at six different proposed Mont Sinai locations looking for a pattern of evidence at each of the sites and comparing them with the biblical text. We are looking for six patterns that also have sub-patterns within some of them. We have created a downloadable Mount Sinai Scorecard1 that the viewers can use to follow along with during the viewing of the film.
Good Works takes Faith and Discipline not to be Distracted
You might ask, what was it like taking 20 years to finish this next film. First, today it is greatly satisfying because I can see that I have not been alone in the making of the film. I am a weaver of information, and I have a great team of filmmakers who have helped research, design, create and edit these films into powerful testimonies of God acting throughout history. Secondly, I, like many of the Exodus Explorers and scholars I have interviewed, have been trying to tell our own understanding of what we have seen and what theories we have arrived at as to what happened 3,500 years ago. My joy comes in recording these testimonies and giving them a voice in this discussion about the Bible.
But, what it was like was a journey of faith. There are many things along the way that can distract us. What I had to do was to keep my eyes on the goal. This meant I had to take my eyes off other distracting ideas or activities that, at the end of the day, would have done nothing to show for my time. “Good Works” takes faith to believe that they will be accomplished and the discipline to not be distracted from the goal, however long it might take to reach.
Good Works takes Obedience
And “Good Works” takes obedience to see them accomplished. I like the story of David talking to King Saul when he is dealing with Goliath.
But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, 35 I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 Moreover David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
1 Samuel 17:34-37 NKJV
David was the younger brother of many brothers. He was faithful in tending his father’s sheep, and during that faithfulness, a threat came to the family’s resources. And so, David defended against the lion and the bear. God doesn’t put us in front of a Goliath until we have been able to deal faithfully with the lions and bears.
What have I learned along that way that might help you in your own calling to do “Good Works?”
Well, first, some of you might think that this question doesn’t apply to you. But it does! Each of us, if we are Christ’s workmanship, has things that God has prepared for us to do before the beginning of creation. Again, the challenge is not to get distracted from finding out what these “good works” might be. If you don’t know what they are, spend some time, maybe several months, where you ask the Lord to reveal the “Good Works” he has prepared for you.
Get away from the noise of life and spend specific time in prayer. Ask others to pray for you during this season as you set your compass for what the Lord has next in your life. There are some tests you can take that will help you learn more about yourself and how you were created. I took a test called Strengths Finders2 which gave feedback on five of my strongest strengths. This test is available online.
One of my strengths is Strategic.
It’s very likely that you will examine the past. You discover why things happened. This permits you to foresee the future. You study humankind’s story to identify subtle nuances, recurring sequences of events, and predictable human behavior. By generating clever, resourceful, inventive, and original alternatives, you can offer solutions to age-old problems.
- Strength Finders Report
The other strength is Context.
Because of your strengths, you gravitate to people who love to think about and talk about the past. Your taste in books and other written materials often leads you to the history sections of bookstores, libraries, or Internet sites. Your passion for reading about humankind’s ever-unfolding story allows you to feel quite comfortable in the presence of knowledgeable historians.
- Strength Finders Report
This report didn’t give me these gifts, it just helped me to feel more comfortable in moving forward in the “Good Works” God had created me for. And the Bible tells us that we all have differing gifts.
How to Get Started in “Good Works”?
I think that there are basic things that God expects of us, and that is to live a life acceptable and pleasing to God. Romans chapter 12 summons up many of these requirements with three major areas, and 1 Timothy 5:8 adds the fourth.
1. We are to be Living Sacrifices to God
I beseech[a] you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your [b]reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:1-2 NKJV
2. Serve God with Spiritual Gifts
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function.
Romans 12:3-4 NKJV
3. Behave like a Christian
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;
Romans 12:9-10 NKJV
4. Care for the needs of our own Family
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
1 Timothy 5:8 NKJV
During these last years, I have learned that if I keep a balance and watch out for the needs of my children and grandchildren, there will be time for the other “Good Works .”But first, I would need to address those immediate needs. So, you ask why this is so important. It is very common for people to spend their life in the pursuit of some ‘Good Work” and lose their own family to the world. Whatever we can do to be there for our children and spouse in helping them along their own faith journey is a priority. And my wife is teaching me, because I am a slow learner, that I don’t always have to fix it. Which a lot of us guys like to do. I just need to be there, be present, and pay attention. Not giving unasked-for advice. But, I am silently praying, and when they ask for advice, let them turn to you. What seems to work most of the time is to ask if we can pray with them.
The COST of putting the “Good Works” ahead of your Family
In 1977, after I graduated from North Central University, I attended a local film school where I met an interesting group of people, including a young want-to-be filmmaker by the name of Billy Sunday. He was red-headed and bearded, and we became good friends. With such a unique name, I asked him if he was any relation to the famous baseball player turned evangelist, Billy Sunday. He said, “I am. He was my great-grandfather!” So, I asked him, “Are you a Christian? He said, “Ah, no! None of my family are.” What I would learn is that Billy Sunday was one of the most successful evangelists of the early twentieth century. He traveled the country telling people about Jesus Christ, and yet his own family was lost.
“The great tragedy of my own life is that though I have led thousands to Christ, my own sons are not saved.” It is recorded that Billy’s sons mocked their father’s ministry, they were drunks with horrible family lives, and one of his sons ended his life by suicide.”
Billy Sunday, Evangelist
Now, let me say that each of our family members has free will, and it is up to them if they will decide to follow the Lord or not. But we must be careful that we don’t try to save the world and lose our own families in the process.
The Lions, Tigers, and Bears in the “Good Works” Training Process
I would eventually be able to work for another Billy, and his name was Billy Graham. We had the honor of living in the same city, Minneapolis, MN., where the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) had its headquarters. To enter the building was to feel the presence of the Lord. You could see all the “Good Works” that had been prepared for this ministry as giant Crusades photographs, taken from around the world, lined the lobby. You realized you were witnessing something that was supernatural. At that time, I convinced them that I was a good person to help them with their video needs as a freelance company, and it was a part of my own education, as I helped make three documentary TV Specials that would introduce people to their upcoming films with Worldwide Pictures, the motion picture division of BGEA.
From there, I was asked by my cousin, Matt McPherson, the creator of Mathews Archery and McPherson Guitars, to help him produce a film on a book called The Bible Code written by Michael Drosnin. This was when I first met Chuck Missler, who was interviewed as one of the experts for the PAX TV/ NBC Special – Secrets of the Bible Code, which was produced by Grizzly Adams Productions, the creators of Ancient Secrets of the Bible. All of these experiences were a training ground for me to eventually be able to create the “Good Works” of Patterns of Evidence.
IN CLOSING: The Revelation of PRAISE over FEAR
Something happened as I came to the end of this investigation. You see, I haven’t told many people, but this past year I have had times of fear. To be truthful, in the pursuit of “Good Works the Lord has prepared for me,” I have had to deal with fear many different times. It comes and goes throughout the making of these films. Sometimes I’ve been afraid for my own safety when I have been in the Middle East. Other times I have been afraid of financial ruin when we haven’t known how to pay for the film’s production and marketing. There are other times when I, maybe just like you, have been uncertain of what the future holds.
Within the last two months, by three separate friends, I was encouraged to spend more time in Praise and Worship. I took the message seriously since these were all independent of each other. They felt led to tell me I needed to “worship the Lord” to continue in the work of biblical filmmaking. I believe it is also a new discipline against the fear that can come when we are in the midst of doing a “Good Work” God has placed before us. This caused me to also notice that when the Israelites came to Mount Sinai, they, too, were to come and worship God. We also know that many times the Israelites were also gripped with fear.
We don’t want to be like the Israelites who ended up wandering in the wilderness, afraid of the Giants in the Promised Land. So this is why at the end of this film Journey to Mount Sinai II, in theaters all across the nation, we are going to ask the audience to actually stand up and join the Praise Choir and me in a brief time of worship to the Lord just as the Israelites worshipped the Lord at Mount Sinai.
I am inviting you to join me in the theater on May 15 & 17 and see one of our best Patterns of Evidence films yet. Journey to Mount Sinai II. It will encourage your faith, challenge the unbelievers, and possibly start a revival of praise across the nation. And it should encourage you to start to Praise God as he continues to guide you into the “Good Works” he has prepared for you. I hope you will be a part of this great FATHOM Event and that you will invite your family and friends. Yes, please let others know as well.