The High Places

Speaker:

                                    The High Places, however, were not removed.

     “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD His God, as the heart of David his father had been.” (I Kings 11:4)  “On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites.”  He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.” (I Kings 11:7-8)  The seeds of destruction in the form of idol worship were planted throughout Judah, leading to its final destruction and removal to Babylon .  Although Hezekiah removed them more than 210 years later, they were rebuilt by his son Manasseh and only finally destroyed by Josiah nearly three hundred years after Solomon had built them.  Even those considered as “good” kings did not remove them.  Asa did not fully remove them. (I Kings 15:14)  During Jehoshaphat’s reign it was said that “The high places, however, were not removed, and the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.” (I Kings 22:43)  Although Joash was considered a “good” king, the same was written about him in II Kings 12:3, “The high places, however, were not removed.”  The same was also written about other “good” kings, about Amaziah (II Kings 14:4), Azariah (II Kings 15:4), and Jotham. (II Kings 15:35)   

     The knowledge of God that the people of Israel were given was to result in the love of God (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) and be manifested in the fear of God (Deuteronomy 6:13), and in trust in Him.  Instead the nation, progressively over three hundred years, trusted false gods.  They depended upon these idols to provide for them, to protect and to guide them.  Instead of fearing and serving the One true God (Deuteronomy 6:13), they feared and served other gods.    They went to these high places first rather than make the trip to Jerusalem to worship the One true God.  

     In Galatians 6:7 it is written.  “Do not be deceived.  God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.”  The same is true for nations.  For nearly three hundred years the nation had sown itself to idolatry.  The reaping is described in II Chronicles 34:24-25.  “This is what the LORD says:  I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people-all the curses written in the book that has been read in the presence of the King of Judah.  Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and provoked me to anger by all that their hands have made, my anger will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched.” 

     Our nation is now 246 years old.  It was founded to provide us the freedom to worship God.  Our coins still say “In God We Trust.”  High places, however, have been progressively built and have not been removed.  Increasingly, more and more of the population seeks to burn incense at those idols that have been established in our country.  What are these idols, these high places?  They represent those things in which we put our trust, those things that provide for us, that give us protection and guidance.  The list is legion.  It includes our retirement accounts, jobs, reputations, education, degrees which we may possess, skills, natural abilities, as well as our race and our cultural background.  Pastor Tony Evans regards all these as a “resource.”  He states that there is only one Source for our lives who is the LORD.  He is the One we should fear, worship and trust. He is the One in charge of all the resources.  He is free to take care of us by using any of none of the resources we can number.  He is our only Source.  When we take any resource we have and regard it as the Source, we have created an idol, a high place at which we worship. 

     G. Campbell Morgan makes these comments about worship.  “It is unthinkable and impossible that human nature should exist without a god in some form.  The most blatant infidel, denying the existence of a Supreme Being, yet worships; and where there is no other object, then man enshrines his own intellect, bows down before that, declaring that he will receive and yield to the things he can comprehend, thus making his understanding the very deity that receives his worship.”  The Crisis of the Christ, Hardpress Publishing, Fifth Edition, page 22.  With man’s understanding as his deity, then, truth is relative, each person having their own truth.  Sexual immorality, then, becomes sexual choice, sexual preference, and sexual freedom.  Our country is only twenty four years short of the time God allowed His chosen people before it was time for them to reap what they had sown.  Has the Lord already started His judgment?  The gods and idols of many have been exposed and threatened by the twenty percent drop in the market and the highest rate of inflation in forty years.   

     What is true of nations is also true of us as individuals.  We need to examine our own lives as well.  Deuteronomy 6:13 says that we should “serve Him only.”  We can tell what we are serving by looking at our resources.  Where do we use financial resources that we do not need at the moment?  When we are not on our jobs, how do we use our time?  What occupies our thinking in moments when we are not busy?  Where do we use the talents that Lord has given us?  What are we most concerned about losing?  How do we raise our children?  Do we focus on the development of their Christian character, preparing them to make a difference in the world, or do we train them to merely make a living?  By focusing merely on their education, their degrees, their employment opportunities and careers we have unknowingly led them to worship and burn incense at the idol called the American dream. 

     How do we, then, remove the high places in our lives?  We must realize that we cannot serve God and high places at the same time.  “No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)  We also need to realize that these high places are not trust worthy.  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Mathew 6:19)  We need to return with our whole heart to the One Source who is our Life and allow Him to be in charge of all resources.  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  (Matthew 6:33)  It is by trusting in Him only that we can experience His removal of the high places in our lives.  

     When we are freed from our high places we are then able to know God more fully.  To know God is to love Him.  To love hIm is to trust Him.  He, as our One Source, has given us the following promises.  “The Lord Himself will go before you.  He will be with you.  He will not leave you or forget you.  Don’ t be afraid and don’t worry.”  (Deuteronomy 31:8)  “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:19)  

In Christ, Richard Spann   

     

     

               

Because He Lives

Speaker:

                                                          Because He Lives

     It was a very festive occasion.  My wife and I along with other members of our church had been invited to a retirement party for one of our pastors.  We met and conversed with a number of those we knew and we were looking forward to the program which was to celebrate his years of service.  Despite the upbeat atmosphere, however, I was suppressing a gnawing concern about a biopsy that was performed two days earlier.  The results were to be available the next morning.  I kept telling myself that there was only a slight elevation of the PSA and the likelihood of having prostate cancer was slim.  As different speakers talked about the service and life of the pastor I forgot completely about my health concerns, that is, until the soloist began to sing one of Bill Gaither’s songs.  

                                 Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,

                                 Because He lives, all fear is gone.

                                 Because I know He holds the future, 

                                 And life is worth the living, just because He lives.  

Despite the fact that this was one of our pastor’s favorites and had been a request of his for the program, the Holy Spirit immediately impressed me with the following thoughts.  “This song is for you as well as for the pastor.  The biopsy is positive for cancer, but you can face tomorrow, because I live and I will be with you.”   

     His presence did sustain me through the surgery and has sustained me since.  The scriptures often remind us of His presence as in Isaiah 41:10.  “So do not fear, for I am with you.”  He holds the future firmly in His grasp as He tells us in Psalm 139:3 (LB).  “You chart the path ahead of me, and tell me where to stop and rest.”  And in verse 5 (LB), it says the following.  “You both precede and follow me, and place your hand of blessing on my head.”  Why is life worth the living just because He lives?  The fact that He is resurrected and lives today firmly establishes the fact the God was satisfied with His sacrifice for us.  In Him we have pardon and peace.  He lives to give His life to us so that in Him we have His purity, His power and His purpose.  Life is worth the living because He lives in us to manifest His love to us and through us! 

     In the years that followed, the Holy Spirit continued to enlarge my understanding of this song, not only of the chorus, but of the stanzas as well.  

                                  How sweet to hold a newborn baby,

                                  and feel the pride and joy he (she) brings;

                                  But greater still the calm assurance;

                                  this child can face uncertain days because He lives!    

     I remember clearly holding our first daughter the day she was born in a Rochester MN hospital.  The pride and joy that I felt then I still feel today.  That pride and joy grew and grew as she followed Christ throughout her life.  She married a godly young man and started her family eventually having five children.  When the youngest child was but four years of age, however, she was diagnosed with inoperable cancer.  She faced many uncertain days of pain, nausea, weakness and side effects of chemotherapy over the next next five years.  She faced these days, however, with calm assurance until the day the Lord took her home last year.  She knew that the Lord held her future in his hands.  Because He lived in her and through her, life was worth the living just because He lives.

    

   

                                And then one day I’ll cross the river

                                I’ll fight life’s final war with pain;

                                And then, as death gives way to victory,

                                I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives!  

     Last year, I held my wife’s hand as she crossed the river.  She had fought life’s final war with pain.  Death gave way to victory.  As I was looking at her, she was looking at the lights of glory!  Before long I will join her in beholding those lights.  I have had four surgeries, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy for recurrent bladder cancer over the last seven years.  Whether the Lord calls me home this year or waits many years is uncertain.  What is certain, however, is His love for me.  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)   It is because of this love that I continue to sing the chorus I heard that night twenty years ago!     

                                Because He lives, I can face tomorrow

                                Because He lives, all fear is gone

                                Because I know He holds the future.

                                And life is worth the living, 

                                Just because He lives.  

In Christ, Richard Spann

                              

     

What’s the Hurry?

Speaker:

 Howard Hendricks once commented that we live our lives in such a tight spiral that we honk at our own taillights!  That is an apt description of our times.  When our grandparents missed the stage, they knew that there would be another one next month.  I have literally noticed people who are upset because they missed one section of a revolving door!  This mindset carries over from travel to the totality of our lives.  A father’s day is too crowded to have breakfast with his children.  When he comes home late from work, as is often the case, he hurries off to other activities.  He leaves undone that which he should have done.  Hurry has claimed that which is urgent rather than that which is important.  Many families pass a “genetic” code of hurrying on to their children.  Music lessons, baseball, volleyball, soccer, and dance lessons are all introduced to our children at an early age, commanding evenings and weekends.  They learn, like their parents, to hurry from one thing to the next.  There is little family time and limited meaningful interaction with the parents.  Time with the Lord is often left out altogether.  There is no daily spiritual interaction between parents and children.  The parents send their children to church or enroll them in a Christian school, hoping that those measures will suffice.  In fact, it results in a colossal failure.

     The causes of a hurried lifestyle are multiple.  We may simply be doing the wrong thing.  Once we are involved in an activity that takes our time it may be hard to stop.  There may be pressure from others to continue an activity or relationship.  Even knowing that what we are doing is wrong, there may be enough satisfaction or enjoyment that we continue anyway.  More commonly, we are involved in too many activities, hobbies or relationships and have no margin in our lives.  We have replaced that which is essential in our lives for that which we should eliminate or delegate.  The root cause for hurry, in most cases, is trying to take care of our own lives and manage them ourselves. We are not designed to do this.  We do not have the capacity to control ourselves.  Only the Lord can do this.  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6) 

     The results of hurry in our lives are familiar to us all.  Mistakes are made in judgment.  We are often frustrated, anxious and commonly irritated with others.  Those, who, with an agenda involving spiritual growth and activity, try to hurry things along in that realm may find themselves irritated with God.  Their efforts only serve to delay the work of God in their own lives as well as in the lives of others.  Abraham decided to hurry God’s agenda along by having a son with Hagar.  History amply tells the story of how Ishmael and his descendants have hindered the work of the Lord.  Likewise Moses, in his attempts to hurry God’s timing, led to his herding sheep for another forty years before he was of use to the Lord.

     To hurry the work of God in our lives and others is to be out of step with God.  When we try to “help Him out” we are taking over God’s work from Him.  Hurry is wanting our agenda, not His.  It is wanting to be in charge ourselves.  It is wanting control.  Hurry reflects our impatience with God.  It results in impatience with others as well.  Hurry accuses God of mismanagement.  It is an affront to His character.  Hurry looks to ourselves and is a reliance on self.  When we live a hurried lifestyle, self is asserting its own authority.  Hurry must die, because self must die. 

     It is the Lord’s work to prepare us for eternity, not our own work.  He works from eternity for eternity.  He is never in a hurry.  Our hurry focuses on events, situations, and circumstances.  His work focuses on character.  Only He knows how far we have to go, what is needed, how long it will take, and how to get there.  We will never get rid of hurry by trying to get rid of hurry.  We must get at the root cause.  Hurry is but a symptom, a symptom of lack of trust in God, which comes from a lack of knowledge of God.  To know Him is to trust Him.  Jesus is the only person who was never in a hurry.  Why was this?  He was the only person who knew God perfectly.  To know Him perfectly is to trust Him perfectly.  We are given by virtue of the resurrection, the life of the One who never needed to hurry.  This is because He had perfect trust in God to control each aspect of His life.  It is through immersion of our life with His that we are willing to surrender to His love and turn over the control of our lives to Him.  There is no longer any need for hurry for those who trust Him fully.    

Forgetting what is behind

Speaker:

                                                     Forgetting what is behind

      The above is a portion of the Apostle Paul’s words to us in Philippians 3:12-14.  “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  What was it about the past in Paul’s life and in ours as well that needs to be forgotten if we are to press on toward the goal to win the prize?  As I have considered my own life and those of others, i have observed two things that are a detriment to our future progress in our life and ministry with Christ.  They have different names, but they are what we all have experienced in the past.  They are known by the names of success and failure.  They may have been areas that we conquered, or that conquered us.  There were times of encouragement, and those of discouragement.  There were situations in which we received some measure of acclaim and also those when we seemed to be ignored.  We have had moments when everything was in control as well as those of disarray.  We have all seen areas in which we have achieved our objectives as well as those where we could see nothing accomplished.  The above list is only partial, but I am sure that you can relate to these statements.  

     I have seen success effect others in various ways.  Some look with satisfaction on what the Lord has accomplished through their lives.  They contemplate the good outcome from their investment of time and resources and think they have accomplished all that the Lord had for them to do.  My wife and I once took a tour through an English village featuring castles , museums and cathedrals.  Our guide, noticing that we were from America, commented that England, as a country, looked to the past, while America looked to the future.  This statement was true.  Unfortunately, there are some in ministry as well who have created memories to efforts in the past and are content to merely remember them.

     I recall others who have looked with nostalgia on former days of their ministry.  They have wished to alter the seeming failure with ministry in the present by reinstitution of methods and activities of the past.  What was “good” at that time, however, is not what God desired for the future.  The “good” in the past was meant to prepare us to walk by faith in the future.  We are to seek the Lord, not the experiences of the past.   

     The Lord tells us that “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)   Was Demas one of those who looked back?  Paul says that “Demas, having loved the present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”  (II Timothy 4:10)  The world beckoned him.  It was alluring.  Gradually, not suddenly,  as he contemplated the ease of a former life, with its attractions and benefits, he deserted Paul and the ministry.  He had not forgotten what was behind.   

     The most destructive effect of success, however, is the development of pride. It is written in James 4:6 that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  If God opposes us in our work we have a mighty adversary!  We might try to hide how proud we are of what God has done through us, but Luke 1:51 tells us that “He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.”  We would do well to remember the Psalmist in Psalm 109:26-27.  “Help me O LORD my God; save me in accordance with your love.  Let them know that it is your hand, that you, O LORD, have done it.”  Isaiah 26:12 also speaks to us with these words.  “LORD, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.”  Paul had chosen to forget those things of the past that might produce pride, and so must we. 

     The failures of the past need to be forgotten as well.  The time spent with others will not have the impact in some that we desired.  There will be differences of opinion that come up on spiritual topics that separate relationships.  In some of those in whom we invest our lives, the “worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things come in and  choke the word, making it unfruitful.”  (Mark 4:19)  Those whom we anticipate as leaders in the future develop health crisis, family issues or move out of town.  Funds to support the ministry diminish.  The replacement of aging workers in the harvest field by younger ones does not occur as anticipated.  Those from men’s ministries developed in the church transfer to other churches.  The above is only a partial list of failures which I have experienced.  Paul says, however, that we should forget these things.  Why?  Luke 9:62 applies to the dissatisfied as well as those who are satisfied with the past.  If we are looking back, we are not fit for service in His kingdom.  Whether encouraged or discouraged, our eyes must be directed ahead, not behind us.  This is why Paul said that we must press on toward the goal.  Forgetting what lies behind is not enough!  We must replace remembering the past by remembering the prize set before us.  This prize is not based on success or failure.  It is based on faithfulness! 

     I remember attending a service in our church many years ago.  I was working in the hospital that weekend and had a busy Sunday morning.  The service was almost over when I arrived at the church.  I crept into the back row and sat down just as the Pastor was finishing the sermon.  His words were “Remember, God has not called you to be successful, He has called you to be faithful!“   

     Regardless of our past, whether there was success or failure, it should not occupy our mind.  We are to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me (us) heavenward in Christ Jesus”   (Philippians 3:14).  We are certain to obtain this prize because of the following promise He has given to us.  “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm, let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (I Corinthians 15:58) 

In Christ,  Richard Spann      

                  

What’s the Hurry?

Speaker:

 Howard Hendricks once commented that we live our lives in such a tight spiral that we honk at our own taillights!  That is an apt description of our times.  When our grandparents missed the stage, they knew that there would be another one next month.  I have literally noticed people who are upset because they missed one section of a revolving door!  This mindset carries over from travel to the totality of our lives.  A father’s day is too crowded to have breakfast with his children.  When he comes home late from work, as is often the case, he hurries off to other activities.  He leaves undone that which he should have done.  Hurry has claimed that which is urgent rather than that which is important.  Many families pass a “genetic” code of hurrying on to their children.  Music lessons, baseball, volleyball, soccer, and dance lessons are all introduced to our children at an early age, commanding evenings and weekends.  They learn, like their parents, to hurry from one thing to the next.  There is little family time and limited meaningful interaction with the parents.  Time with the Lord is often left out altogether.  There is no daily spiritual interaction between parents and children.  The parents send their children to church or enroll them in a Christian school, hoping that those measures will suffice.  In fact, it results in a colossal failure.

     The causes of a hurried lifestyle are multiple.  We may simply be doing the wrong thing.  Once we are involved in an activity that takes our time it may be hard to stop.  There may be pressure from others to continue an activity or relationship.  Even knowing that what we are doing is wrong, there may be enough satisfaction or enjoyment that we continue anyway.  More commonly, we are involved in too many activities, hobbies or relationships and have no margin in our lives.  We have replaced that which is essential in our lives for that which we should eliminate or delegate.  The root cause for hurry, in most cases, is trying to take care of our own lives and manage them ourselves. We are not designed to do this.  We do not have the capacity to control ourselves.  Only the Lord can do this.  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6) 

     The results of hurry in our lives are familiar to us all.  Mistakes are made in judgment.  We are often frustrated, anxious and commonly irritated with others.  Those, who, with an agenda involving spiritual growth and activity, try to hurry things along in that realm may find themselves irritated with God.  Their efforts only serve to delay the work of God in their own lives as well as in the lives of others.  Abraham decided to hurry God’s agenda along by having a son with Hagar.  History amply tells the story of how Ishmael and his descendants have hindered the work of the Lord.  Likewise Moses, in his attempts to hurry God’s timing, led to his herding sheep for another forty years before he was of use to the Lord.

     To hurry the work of God in our lives and others is to be out of step with God.  When we try to “help Him out” we are taking over God’s work from Him.  Hurry is wanting our agenda, not His.  It is wanting to be in charge ourselves.  It is wanting control.  Hurry reflects our impatience with God.  It results in impatience with others as well.  Hurry accuses God of mismanagement.  It is an affront to His character.  Hurry looks to ourselves and is a reliance on self.  When we live a hurried lifestyle, self is asserting its own authority.  Hurry must die, because self must die. 

     It is the Lord’s work to prepare us for eternity, not our own work.  He works from eternity for eternity.  He is never in a hurry.  Our hurry focuses on events, situations, and circumstances.  His work focuses on character.  Only He knows how far we have to go, what is needed, how long it will take, and how to get there.  We will never get rid of hurry by trying to get rid of hurry.  We must get at the root cause.  Hurry is but a symptom, a symptom of lack of trust in God, which comes from a lack of knowledge of God.  To know Him is to trust Him.  Jesus is the only person who was never in a hurry.  Why was this?  He was the only person who knew God perfectly.  To know Him perfectly is to trust Him perfectly.  We are given by virtue of the resurrection, the life of the One who never needed to hurry.  This is because He had perfect trust in God to control each aspect of His life.  It is through immersion of our life with His that we are willing to surrender to His love and turn over the control of our lives to Him.  There is no longer any need for hurry for those who trust Him fully.    

Matthew 9:36-38

Speaker:

                                The Harvest is Plentiful, The Workers are Few.

                                                                                   Matthew 9:37

     The harvest is plentiful.  Do we believe this?  More specifically, do I believe this?  Am I optimistic about meeting new people, convinced that in time, as we build our relationship, they will have an interest in the Gospel?   Have I despaired of others after no interest has been shown for years?  Have I consigned a number of others to a “they probably won’t be interested anyway so why bother troubling myself by getting to know them” category?  Jesus goes on record on three separate occasions saying that the harvest is plentiful.   He said this in Samaria regarding those considered as half breeds, (John 4:35) in Galilee to those who were despised, (Mathew 9:36-38) and in Perea regarding foreigners. (Luke 10:2)  The crowds are no different today than they were then.  What is it about our Lord that makes His viewpoint different from mine?  In the passage in Matthew 9:36-38 there are three items mentioned that make the difference!  1)  He opened His eyes. (When He saw the crowds)  2)  He opened His heart.  (He had compassion on them.)  3)  He commanded us to open our mouth.  (Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.)  

     Do I really see people in my daily routine of activities, or are they faceless, nameless persons that are there to assist me with my needs?  Do I only see neighbors and acquaintances as those to whom I need to make an obligatory comment while coming and going?  Do I see people as getting in my way when I am in a line at the store or drive through? If so, then I need to see them as Jesus saw them.  He saw each one as a unique creation in God’s image and created for His glory.  He saw the worth of each individual as the reason for His cross.  He saw the potential and possibilities of that life when governed and led by the Holy Spirit.  He saw them as a member of an entirely new race, part of His bride to be in the new heavens and new earth.  

     The opening of the heart and the pouring forth of compassion is seen most clearly in the accounts where it is said that He wept.  The first of these is in John 11:35.  The word for wept here is in contrast to that of Mary and her friends.  The word describing their weeping referred to loud wailing.  The word used of Jesus in this passage refers to tears flooding down His face.  Here, in the face of the tragedy of death as a result of original sin and subsequent fall and misery in the human race, He wept.   Uncontrollable tears fell down His face.  The emotion triggered by His compassion for our condition produced those tears.  Sometime later, it is said that as He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it. (Luke 19:41)   G. Campbell Morgan states that “The word for weeping there does not mean merely that tears forced themselves up and down his face.  It suggests rather the heaving of the bosom, and the sob and cry of a soul in agony.”  The Gospel according to Luke, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1931, page 221.  Has my soul ever been in agony like this?   Have tears ever streamed down my face?  It is His heart of compassion that I must seek if I would see that the harvest is plentiful. 

     Finally, He commanded us to open our mouths and ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.  Asking precedes and is directly linked to our availability as workers.  Immediately after Matthew 9:36-38 He sends out the twelve disciples into the villages to preach the message that “The kingdom of heaven is near.”  I have noticed in my life for many years that faithful prayer for others leads to opportunities for relationships and conversations.  Neglect of prayer leads to neglect of others.     

     The workers are few.  No one disagrees with this statement.  The reasons the workers are few are due to the enemies of our Christian walk, namely the world, the flesh and the devil.  The world presents many opportunities for us to invest our time.  Our many interests and responsibilities decrease our availability to the Lord and others.  The scriptures say, however, that “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs- he wants to please his commanding officer. (II Timothy 2:4)  The world also would have us be a slave to our occupation, despite the fact that the Lord tells us that He is responsible to meet our needs.  (Philippians 4:19)  In addition the world wants us to place our treasure here which is in contrast to our Lord’s direction in Matthew 6:21. (to lay up treasure in heaven)   The world desires to consume our heart.  It is successful by appealing to self purpose.  Where there is purpose outside the will of God for my life, the world will appeal to it.  Self wants the prestige and possessions that the world offers.    

     In John 12:42-43 we see an example of how the flesh attacks us by causing us to fear others.  In II Timothy 1:7, however, we are told that we are not given a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and a sound mind.  The flesh says to us that we may be disliked, ostracized, and that our reputation may suffer as result of identifying with Christ.  Why do we let the flesh have power over us?  We have a subtle desire for self glory.  We want to be liked, to be respected and to look good.    

     The evil one uses not only the world and the flesh to attack us.  He attacks us directly by planting the following thoughts in our minds.  “You do not know the gospel truths well enough to be a witness.” “Your life is too messed up!  How would anyone believe you?”  You need to wait to develop a  better relationship before you tell others about Christ.”   “You have waited too long.  They are too close a friend now and you might lose them as a friend.”   Why does the evil one stop us with these suggested thoughts?  We have a problem with self sufficiency.  We try to find answers and adequacy for our uncertainties within ourselves instead of looking to the Lord.  He says that we walk by faith, not by sight.   (II Corinthians 5:7)  

     The workers are few due to the world influencing us in the area of self purpose, the flesh involving us in self glory, and the evil one inducing us to do battle in the realm of self sufficiency.  The problem in the last analysis, then, is self.  We pray, “Lord, do something about the harvest!”.  His answer to us is “Do something about the self!”  “And he said to them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  (LuKe 9:23)  

     May the Lord enable you to see with His eyes, embrace the compassion that comes from His heart, and be faithful in praying for workers for His harvest.  May He then empower you with His presence and manifest Himself as salt and light through you as you labor in the harvest field.  

In Christ, Richard Spann                       

 

                                                       

     

Embraced by the Infinite Love of God

Speaker:

                                      Embraced by the Infinite Love of God

     It was nearly twenty years ago that the Lord miraculously demonstrated His infinite love in a manner I will never forget.  I remember it daily and it is a constant reminder of who He is as El Roi,, El Elyon, and El Shaddai.  Every Friday morning that Spring began with a six AM meeting for Bible study and prayer with a close friend, followed by a men’s study at 7 AM that we led together.  At 8AM I would meet my wife Bev for breakfast at McDonalds and go to the Hospital for rounds and then to the office at 10 AM.  My friend did not come that morning, which had never happened before.  I went into the church library and “happened” to pick up a book entitled “To Know Him by Name” written by Kay Arthur.  I was deeply moved by her description of the Lord through these three names, El Roi,(The God who Sees) El ELyon, (God Most High (Who is in control of each aspect of my life) and El Shaddai, (the All-Sufficient One).  7 AM came and went and the four men who were regular attendees were also absent that day.  This also was most unusual!  I read and prayed through those pages until time to meet Bev at 8AM.    Following hospital rounds I went to my office where I found an envelope on my desk.  After opening and reading the letter enclosed, I immediately understood, not only the unusual events of the day but of the entire week.  Four days earlier I had a strong impression as I sat down to breakfast that I should not eat, but rather get some lab tests.  (It had been two-three years since any routine test had been done.)  I dismissed the mental impression I had been given that morning and had my usual McDonald egg and biscuit.  The next day, as I was entering McDonalds, the same impression was implanted in my mind but only much stronger than before.  As a result, I had water only and ate following the lab test drawn in the office.  Until I opened the letter, I had forgotten all about the tests!  Enclosed with the normal results was a slightly elevated PSA, indicative of a possibility of prostate cancer.  Subsequent biopsies confirmed its presence.  At surgery it was found to be plastered against the outer lining of the prostate poised to break through and spread through the body at any moment.  El Roi saw all this, El Elyon impressed me strongly to get a test, and prepared me the morning I saw the lab test by canceling my morning activities, leading me to Kay Arthur’s book and revealing Himself to me as El Roi, El Elyon and El Shaddai.  The significance of that day in retrospect is largely in the revelation gained of God’s infinite love and secondarily of the healing from prostate cancer.  It was a day given to me by His loving hand to reveal who He is, the depth of His knowledge concerning me, and His unlimited ability to pour forth His healing and blessing in my life. 

     He has also given other days.  One of these “other days” was just last week.  I awoke at 6 AM, prepared to drive to Eugene, Oregon for a 9 AM flight, drop off my rental car and return to Wichita in the early afternoon.  There was a message on my phone saying that the flight was canceled and I was rescheduled to leave at 5 AM the following day!  I called United Airlines, hoping to make arrangements to leave that day, rather than to wait another day.  I finally reached a person who spoke with a heavy non understandable accent.  After multiple pauses, he said that he could get me to Denver.  I couldn’t make him understand I wanted to go to Wichita!  After a half hour, he finally wished me well and hung up!  Being stuck in Oregon another day meant another $97 for car rental.  My daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren all  had to go back to work.  That meant that I had to spend the day with various cats, chickens and the family dog by the name of Curdie.  He and I have a similar relationship with one another.  We accept that each of us has a right to exist somewhere on the planet.  We don’t bite or bark at one another, but we don’t relish any affection either.  After only three hours sleep I awakened at 2:30 and drove in the night to the Eugene Airport, praying that perhaps the Airlines would be partially repentant and upgrade my economy plus ticket to first class.  When I checked in at the desk I was delighted to see that I was upgraded to seat A3!  My prayers were answered!  God was so awesome to see I was transferred to first class!  I was rejoicing all the way through security and up to the gate assigned to the flight.  It was then that I noticed that the A3 referred to the gate number, not my seat assignment!  My seat was B38.   I didn’t know there were that many aisles on airplanes!  As I entered the plane I kept walking until, you guessed it, i reached the last aisle, and, of course, I had the middle seat.  An oversized man was already in seat A, lopping over into the B space and leaving little room.  That seat, of course, being at the back, would not recline.  A similar sized individual then sat down in C38, compressing me even further.  At 6 feet 6 inches of height, there was no room for my legs either.  There was hardly room to breathe.  I began to be a little claustrophobic.  I don’t mean to imply that the seat itself was defective.  It would have been perfect, say, for a horse jockey weighing 106 pounds, or perhaps someone in the end stages of severe malnutrition.  My thoughts turned to the Apostle Paul, who described himself as being in a similar position to mine. (Although in an entirely different context!)   In II Corinthians 4:8, he refers to himself as being “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.”  That was the way I felt!  The noise from the rear engine had an unbearable whine broken only by the sound of the toilet flushing behind my seat every few minutes.  I had paid extra for economy plus on this flight and ended up with economy minus!  

     Having safely returned to Wichita, I was reading the Bible and praying the next morning.  I began to thank the Lord for various things he had done in the past for me and my family.  As I remembered the previous day, I hesitated and asked Him what significance there was in that day for me.  Was there a message there for me?  I had just been thanking Him for His deliverance from cancer twenty years earlier.  As I waited I had the distinct impression that He wanted me to know that He was the same God yesterday that I had experienced twenty years earlier.  He is the One who is too loving to be unkind and too wise to ever make a mistake.  He was the One who prepared a day for me with the animals and woke me up in the middle of the night.  He was in charge of the Airlines and had picked out my seat personally along with my two seat mates.  In fact, because of who He is, it is impossible to escape the center of His love.  Because He is infinite love, He cannot help but to do the most loving thing continually in my life.  He calls me to trust hIm, not to understand Him.  Some things I will later understand, and some I will never understand.  As I contemplated these recent events I wondered if I had begun to drift toward worshipping and praising God for outcomes rather than for who He is.  If I were to do this, then I would begin to doubt His love when things were not what I wished them to be.  

     I can recall a time when the Lord revealed to me what doubting His love does to Him.  A friend and I had agreed on how to manage a certain situation that occurred in their life.  The next day, they said to me in a conversation “If you had cared for me at all you would not have agreed to handling the situation that way”!  I was deeply hurt.  This was a dear friend, whom I cared for deeply.  To be accused of not caring about them, and in effect not loving them, was a deep wound to me.  I awakened in the middle of the next night and I remember asking the Lord about this in the night.  As I waited for Him to supply some comfort or wisdom, He impressed me with the realization that this is what people do to Him continually.  They doubt His love.  The more you love and care for a person the greater they may wound you by doubting or denying your love for them. The greater the love you have for them, the greater is the pain you may suffer.  He who loves us with infinite love suffers immeasurable pain when His love is doubted.   

     How, then, do we come to a place in our lives where His love in not doubted?   David Benner has the following comments in answer to that question.  “What we need is a knowing that is deeper than belief.  It must be based on experience.  Only knowing love is sufficiently strong to cast out fear.  Only knowing love is sufficiently strong to resist doubt.  It comes from sitting at the feet of Jesus, gazing into his face and listening to his assurances of love for me.  It comes from letting God’s love wash over me, not simply trying to believe it.  It comes from soaking in the scriptural assurances of such love, not simply reading them and trying to remember or believe them.  It comes from spending time with God, observing how he looks at me.  It comes from watching his watchfulness over me and listening to his protestations of love for me.”

     “Because such knowing is beyond faith it is more immune to doubt.  Just as the child who regularly meets her mother’s love in the core of her being knows that love without any effort to believe it to be true, so we may know God’s love in a way that is deeper and more durable than knowing based on belief.  Contemplative or existential knowing may be supported by belief, but it is never reducible to it.  It is based in experience, the direct personal encounter with divine love.  The goal is, as stated by Paul, that we might know the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, and so be filled with the utter fullness of God.”  (Ephesians 3:16-19) 

     “The point of God’s love is to remake us in his image of love.  God wants to make his life ours, his heart ours, his love ours.  He wants us to be -like him- characterized by love.”    Surrender to Love-Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality  Intervarsity Press, Expanded Edition 2015, Pages 76-77, 85.  

     This, then, is the purpose for which we are embraced by the infinite love of our Lord, to be remade in His image of love.  He wants to make his life ours, his heart ours, and his love ours.    May the Lord progressively fulfill this purpose in your lives as you follow Him.  

In Christ, Richard Spann              

Living By Faith

Speaker:

                                                             Living by Faith

    “We live by faith, not by sight.”  (II Corinthians 5:7)  Jesus Christ came into the world, living with perfect knowledge of the Father and perfect trust in the Father.  His life was lived by faith from beginning to end.  What was natural for Him is unnatural for us.  I can only recall (dimly) one time in my life when I lived totally by faith.  I was not worried about where my next meal would come from.  I had no concerns about what I was going to wear.  There were no anxieties about what the next day would bring.  The thought of worrying about school work, a career choice, eventual marriage and family responsibilities never crossed my mind.  I lived a life of trust and dependence.  Sadly, in some regards, these days of early childhood slipped away and I joined the rest of fallen adult humanity.   Humanity assumes it must take responsibility for itself and find its own way in life.  It is no wonder that Christ says we must become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven!  When our forefather (Adam) chose independence from God as a lifestyle he set himself up to be his own God.  He said, in effect, “I know better how to run my own life that you do”  As David Benner notes, there are only two prayers offered by mankind.  These are often unspoken, non verbalized prayers expressing two alternative desires of mankind.  One is supernatural, the other is natural.  One is “Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”  The natural one, the one we are born with is “Hallowed be my name, my kingdom come, my will be done!”   Desiring God’s Will, Intervarsity Press, 2015, pg 33.  Jesus says to those who unconsciously or consciously pray the natural prayer, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  The burden of running our own lives is a heavy one.  Christ offers us His burden, the will of God, telling us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  (Mathew 11: 28-30)   

     St. Ignatius notes that “Sin consists of our unwillingness to trust that what God wants for us is our deepest happiness.”  If we really knew God fully we would trust Him fully.  To live by faith does not mean that we need more faith.  It means that we need greater knowledge of the object of our faith.  I John 4:19 says that “We love because he first loved us.”  To immerse our lives in a study of His love for us would overwhelm us with the truth Paul describes in Romans 8:38-39.   “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  If we knew what Christ knew about the Father when He was on earth, we would surrender to His love, and willingly turn the control of our lives over to Him.  “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  (Philippians 2:13)  The apostle Paul further describes his experience in allowing the Lord to control the events of his life.  “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”   (Philippians 4.11b-12)  To live by faith, then, is to relinquish control of our lives to Him.   

     Isaiah characterizes another aspect of living by faith.  In his reply to the Lord in Isaiah 6:8 “Whom shall I send?”, and “Who will go for us?”, he says “Here am I.  Send me.”  G. Campbell Morgan describes this response as abandonment and readiness.  Isaiah has abandoned himself to God!  Oswald Chambers has these comments to say about what it means to abandon.  “Are you prepared to abandon entirely and let go?  The test of abandonment is in refusing to say—“Well, what about this?”  Beware of suppositions.   Immediately you allow—-What about this?—- It means you have not abandoned, you do not really trust God.  Immediately you do abandon you think no more about what God is going to do.  Abandon means to refuse yourself the luxury of asking any questions.”  To abandon is to live by faith.  The opposite of this is to live by sight, as three men in Luke 9:57-62 demonstrate by their (hypothetical) questions.  Where are we going to sleep tonight?  Can I bury my father first?  Can I say goodbye to my family first? 

     To live by faith also means continued waiting on God.  We must be attentive and responsive.  We wait on His agenda and timetable for our lives and ministry, not on our own.  If He chooses to set us aside from our work for Him, are we able to wait patiently for what He wants?  Waiting on Him implies that what we want is what He wants for us.  Do we want blessings, active service for him, and success in what we are doing, or do we want Him?  Living by faith is waiting for  Him to be glorified in our lives regardless of the path and its detours.  

     Finally, living by faith means that we have not yet attained that for which we were created.  We continue to thirst and hunger for deeper knowledge of our Lord.  We are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.  (II Corinthians 3:18)  Paul has this thought in view in Philippians 3:12-14.  “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  We must always have the vision of the person of God before us.  Our satisfaction is not to be granted during this probationary existence.  It awaits for us when we are with Him.  “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness.  I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”  (Psalm 17:15)  KJV 

     I am reminded of an illustration I heard a few years ago describing living by faith.  Imagine a river flowing from His throne of grace.  This river of grace flows throughout the whole world, touching and redeeming the lives of multitudes of people.  Picture yourself going down to the river with an empty pail which you fill and then dispense to others throughout the day.  You have carried His grace to minister to others.  Now imagine going down to the river and actually jumping into the river!  You are now allowing His grace to carry you!   Do you appreciate the difference?  Allowing His grace to carry you rather than you carrying His grace relinquishes your control, abandons yourself to Him, waits fully on Him, and has a clear vision of God and His glory before you!  May His grace carry you as you live by faith in Him. 

In Christ,  Richard Spann      

     

                 

He Must Become Greater

Speaker:

                                   He must become greater;  I must become less.  

                                                                                             John 3:30

     John the Baptist had clarity concerning his calling.  It was not to draw attention to his own ministry, but to the person of Christ.  HIs role was defined as follows.  “The bride belongs to the bridegroom.  The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegrooms voice.  That joy is mine, and it is now complete.  He must become greater; I must become less.”  (John 3:29-30).

     Our task, like that of John the Baptist, is one of introduction.  Our relationship with others should enable them to fall more and more in love with Jesus Christ.  We wait upon the Holy Spirit to manifest the bridegroom’s voice in their lives.  Our joy is in seeing His voice become increasingly manifest in their lives.  We need to be available to them as long as it takes to see God’s work accomplished in their lives.  At some point, however, we must be willing to become unnecessary to them.  As He becomes greater, we must become less.  As Oswald Chambers relates, “If you become a necessity to a soul, you are out of God’s order.  Your great responsibility is to be a friend of the bridegroom.”  My Utmost for his Highest, March 24. 

     In our relationship with others, we must always emphasize what Christ has done for us, not what we have done for Him.  Their gaze needs to be continually directed away from us toward Christ.  Although we may be channels of God’s blessings and introduction, it should be clear to them that we are not the source.  Our lives must be lived with enough transparency that they can see the light of God shining through the cracks in our clay pots!  “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.”  (II Corinthians 4:7).  We must be convinced in our own lives that Christ has done all that we need and that He is all that we need.  If they see that we are looking to anyone or anything but Christ, then we will have become a stumbling block to them.   We will have diverted their trust and dependence away from Christ.  

     In some business ventures, I have known some who would not teach others fully, holding back some information or needed skill from new employees.  They wanted their own position to always be a little superior to others.  They withheld knowledge of the job from others in order to keep their own standing as a leader or supervisor.  Our goal with others, however, is to see Christ increase in the lives of others to the fullest extent possible.  Paul says the following about this ministry in Colossians 1:28-29.  So naturally, we proclaim Christ.  We warn everyone we meet.  We teach everyone we can all that we know about Him, so that if possible, we might bring everyone up to his full maturity in Christ.”  Paul holds nothing back in his teaching.  He also mentions this in Ephesians 4:11-13.  “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” 

             None of us have all the gifts needed fo fully impact others for Christ.  We need the gifts of others.  To continue to minister to another person without the help of others will foster dependence.  In order for Christ to increase His prominence in their lives, we must be willing to introduce them to other individuals, groups and ministries.  The Holy Spirit uses the body of Christ, not just an individual.  In addition, we need to remember that we transmit our weaknesses as well as our strengths.  The presence of other individuals impacting the lives of those with whom we work will lessen this effect.  As they broaden and widen their relationships with others, any dependence they have on us will naturally diminish.  This is part of what It means when John the Baptist says “I must decrease.” 

     Some years ago, I had a conversation with a relative about his son.  He was discussing some of his desires for his child.  He went through a few items that he was hoping to accomplish and at the end of his list made the following statement.  “My main goal is that he will become independently dependent upon Christ.”  Independently dependent!  Having heard this from him, my wife and I then decided that this should be a prayer for our two daughters as well.  We knew that there would be an end to what we would be able to say and do.  Our influence would diminish and our impact would lessen over time.  As this occurred, our hearts were gladdened and encouraged as we saw both of our daughters manifest dependence upon the Lord independently of us!  We were full of joy when we heard the bridegroom’s voice expressed through their lives!   

     Time, distance and other ministry pursuits often separate us from those we have ministered to over the years.  We no longer play any role in their Christian walk and service.  We have become unnecessary to them.  We may wonder if our impact was sufficient to make a significant difference in their life and ministry.  The apostle John, near the end of his life, had the occasion to look back on those to whom he had previously ministered as well.  In many cases, his influence and input had long since ceased.  They had become independently dependent upon Christ.  After hearing that the bridegroom’s voice was still being heard through their lives, he described his joy in these words.  “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth.  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  (3 John 3-4)  May this joy be yours as well as by God’s Grace you hear the bridegroom’s voice in the lives of those in whom you have invested your own life.  

In Christ, Richard Spann  

Not by Bread Alone

Speaker:

      Several years ago, I was reading about the temptations of Christ as recorded in Matthew chapter 4 and Luke chapter 4.  One of the verses He used to refute the devil was Deuteronomy 8:3.  I was interested to read Jerry Bridges comments on this verse in one of his writings.  His opinion was that “every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3) included more than just the scriptures.  It embraced His creative decisions, “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth, (Psalm 33:6) as well as His providential care of all of His creation.  (Isaiah 55:11)  I came across this same opinion from Dallas Willard in his book “Hearing God.”  These thoughts began to widen my understanding about God’s care and directions for His people.  They include bread, but also manna, which was supplied by the “word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

     Bread is that with which we are familiar.  We can see it.  We watch it grow in the stalk, whether it be wheat, barley or oats.  It is also a substance over which we have some control.  We harvest it, (the wheat for example) and mix it together with yeast and other products to produce our bread.  It is a process which we comprehend.  We understand how our body processes the bread and provides the nutrients we need.  Manna, on the other hand, was a substance with which the Israelites were unfamiliar.  Daily by faith they picked it up from the ground.  They had no control over when and how much appeared.  They could not even control how long it lasted. (On the day before the Sabbath it lasted two days compared to one day the other days.)  They had no ability to comprehend how it appeared and how it was used to supply their nutritional needs during the forty years in the wilderness.   

     From this example it is clear that the Lord will guide us in both the familiar and unfamiliar, in matters over which we have some control and that over which we have none, and in ventures which we may understand his leading as well as by paths that are inscrutable to us.  It includes a walk by faith, not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7), taking risks, getting out of our comfort zone, and leaving the outcomes of what He calls us to do in His hands.  

     I was in the process of memorizing this verse (Deuteronomy 8:3) when I was admitted to the hospital for the fourth of five surgeries I have had in my life (so far!) for the removal of a cancerous growth.  The surgery went well and I returned to my room later that afternoon.  In the evening the pain from the incision significantly worsened despite the medication they were giving and I asked for more pain relief.  At 9:00 PM they gave me four mgm. of Morphine which did not relieve the pain.  I was given another eight mgm. of Morphine at 10:00 PM but again with no benefit.  At 11:00 PM they tried an intravenous injection of Toradol (another strong pain reliever) with no benefit either.  At midnight she went back to more Morphine with still no relief of the pain.  I knew that Percocet had helped pain like this before from previous surgeries but they would not give me that drug because I was not to take anything by mouth until morning.  My wife, Beverly, had stayed in my room overnight and would be available, should I awaken her, to leave the hospital and go to our home and bring back the Percocet I had on hand.  As I considered this option, my mind turned to Deuteronomy 8:3 and I was reminded of the Lord’s opportunity to turn the stones into bread.  There was a legitimate need before Him and he had the means to take care of it by saying the word, but He would have stepped out of the Father’s will for His life.  I was reminded that to take my own medication against hospital advice, even though it would have relieved the pain, was not what the Lord wanted me to do.  Having rejected this option I was given the thought that I should take both hands, and press them into the left aide of the abdomen next to the incision and roll over on my left side.  Within a few minutes I was asleep and slept until the nurse came in at 6:00AM!  By faith I responded to the thought the Lord had given.  The control of the pain was up to Him, not me.  It was beyond my understanding as to how He accomplished this!  The pain relief itself was profound and I was exceedingly grateful for it.  What was even more profound, however, was the lesson that the Lord taught me then and has been teaching me since.  

     We go along in our daily lives walking by sight, in control of most things that concern us and able to comprehend the path ahead of us.  Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are in the Lord’s hands, being sustained by His mighty hand of Grace.  To walk by sight, however, is to live by bread alone.  It is doing what we usually do each day with familiar surroundings and with people we know and with whom we are comfortable being around.  The Lord, however, does not want us to live by bread alone.  He desires that we also walk by faith.  He asks us to take risks with the use of our time, our talents, and our resources.  He desires that we leave our comfort zone of activities and trust Him to use our lives, leaving our future in His hands, or, as the title of John Ortberg’s book states, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get out of the Boat!  He asks that we befriend others of different religions, cultures, races, lifestyles and that we spend time with them and minister to their needs.  By faith, He asks that we accept them and seek their good.  We have no control over whether they will respond to the Gospel but we are to love them just the same, uncertain of how the Lord will use our lives and uncertain of the outcome itself.  We are unable to comprehend what He plans to develop in the lives of others by our simple steps of faith as we follow Him.  This is living by His word,  which supplied the manna, not just by bread alone.     

     His word, His providential care and direction of our lives leads us to a venture of faith, relinquishing control of outcomes, trusting His sovereign judgment to use our lives as He desires.  Living by faith we are called to make a difference, not just a living.  Our lives, lived by faith, will then make a mark, not a blur.  It is my desire that His word will direct your lives into a life that is is not lived by bread alone, making a difference for eternity, not just for this life.  

In Christ, Richard Spann