If you are suffering without succeeding

Speaker:

If you are suffering without succeeding,
it is that someone else may succeed that follows you.
If you are succeeding without suffering,
it is because someone else has suffered ahead of you.  

                                                          —Lorne Sanny

     Throughout the history of the world, and at present in many cultures and countries, there is suffering of a degree that we have not yet experienced in America.  This includes verbal and physical abuse, loss of property and employment, imprisonment and even death.  The suffering in our country is usually limited to effort expended with no evident result, rejection, or perhaps ostracism.  The suffering to which Lorne refers, in our culture and generation, largely consists of working to advance the Kingdom of God but with little or no visible effect.  Lorne’s words were spoken to encourage those who were involved in a ministry that, seemingly, was unproductive.  His words are also a reminder to those whose ministry the Lord has blessed with success.  They should remember they they are in debt to those who have gone before them in preparation for the results they are now experiencing.  His comments are made necessary by the fact that we live in a success oriented society.  

     Our entire world is impressed by success.  Those who have success in their fields are all honored, whether it be sports, the entertainment industry, developers or inventors.  Many others who have invested years in these same fields are seldom noted and rarely mentioned.  We celebrate and root for winners, not the runner-up.  We carefully and expectantly follow the careers of the successful and cheer them on.  If we do give any thought to those who have more failures than success, it is to wonder what they are doing wrong.  These same thoughts, sadly, are reserved for those who are not successful in the spiritual realm.  We suspect that they may have personal problems, or that their methodology is wrong.  We compare them with others and are more inclined to pray for and provide financial support to those who report successful ministries. We look with approval and perhaps admiration at organizations and churches which seem to flourish in membership and in their ministry endeavors. 

     Our generation is not alone in experiencing varying results.  Jim Petersen points out in his book “Living Proof,” that Peter’s message at Pentecost resulted in 3,000 converts while the Apostle Paul’s message in Athens produced only a “few believers.”  What was the difference?  Was Paul’s message deficient?  Was Peter a better preacher than Paul?  No to both questions.  The difference, pointed out by Jim Petersen, is that Peter was talking to a prepared audience. 

     Jesus, in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John, points out that some are called to a prepared audience, while others are called to do the preparation.  He says in John 4:38 “I sent you to reap what you have not worked for.  Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”  According to our Lord, to labor with little visible fruit in preparation for the harvest is harder work than reaping the harvest with its visible demonstration of success.

     For some, the Lord grants times of seeming success without suffering.  I recall hearing about a lady who responded eagerly to the Gospel presentation and trusted Christ after only a brief discussion with the presenter.  A few weeks later I learned from a friend of hers that a small group had been praying for her for years and investing time with her in various activities.  Despite their efforts she had always turned a deaf ear to all that was said.  Her friend related that they were about to give up and had concluded that she had a hard heart and would never come to the Lord.  Their work had been extensive and difficult with no visible response resulting in their discouragement.  The investment of the other person, however, was very limited and successful. 

     I, with others, have had the opposite experience.  Some of us had invested years in a Bible study with a man who showed no interest in trusting Christ.  He continued to come to the study, but showed no response.  He finally left our group after a few years.  I heard some years later that he had eventually been led to the Lord by a different individual and that he was now a follower of Christ.  In this situation, the group of which I was a part had done the hard work.   

     The Apostle Paul describes the varying work to which we are called in I Corinthians 3:5-8.  “What, after all, is Apollos?  And what is Paul?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.”  

     The recognition and thanks that we receive from others for success in ministry endeavors is, at times, a needed source of encouragement that the Lord provides.  There is a danger, however, in looking to that source as an evaluation of our service to the Lord.  We need always to remember that our service is to Him.  Colossians 3:23-24 reminds us that “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”   

     One of the drawbacks of any ministry organization or church is the seeming necessity to provide results of their ministry.  One reason for this, of course, is that some measure of accountability is required.  We would all be safer, in some measure, if we modeled our lives after the Apostles.  It is recorded after the twelve had been sent out in Luke 9:15 that their ministry resulted in the following results.  “So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the Gospel and healing people everywhere.” (Luke 9:6)  There is no doubt that they were excited and delighted with what had been accomplished.  What did they do then?  Luke 9:10 states that “when the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done.”  They reported to Jesus!  Can we learn to report primarily to Jesus rather than to others?  Are we able to bring our suffering without success to Him?  Should we bring our success without suffering to Him?  He is the One who has sent us to minister in both situations and He will reward both!  It is my prayer that, whether in suffering or success, your eyes would remain on Him, knowing that it is the Lord Christ you are serving.  He is the One who will say  “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  

In Christ, Richard Spann               

The Test of a Movement

Speaker:

                               The Test of any Movement is its ability to 

                           regenerate and reproduce its own leadership.

                                If you Fail to Reproduce yourself today,

                                     you will fail to exist tomorrow.

                                                                     Howard Hendricks

     These words are relevant to all of us, whether we apply them to our business, our church, our mission organization, or, as in the case of the Israelites, to their nation.  We read the following in Psalm 78:5-7.  “He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.  Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.”  Despite these instructions given to Israel, however, we discover their failure in Judges 2:10.  “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.”  In one generation all that the Lord had done for His people, from Abraham to Joshua, was forgotten.  The failure to reproduce leadership resulted in the failure of the Ideal, the Nation existing under God for His Glory.  

     Howard Hendricks, in his message on the above topic, lists various comments that are foundational in regenerating and reproducing leadership.  Before considering these, however, we must remember what our Lord did just prior to selecting His own leadership team.  It is chronicled for us in Luke 6:12-13.  “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountain side to pray, and spent the night praying to God.  When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.”  If our Lord spent all night praying about His team, how much effort and time will be required to select and prepare our own leadership team?  No effort of our own will succeed.  It is His work through us, in response to our total dependence on Him, expressed in prayer, that God uses to continue and establish the ministries to which we are called.  Unless prayer is the foundation of all we do, then all our efforts will be in vain. 

     Howard’s comments may be broadly considered under three main categories; each representing one of the three means the Lord has given His church for its growth.  These include the word of God, individual personal interaction with others, and the body of Christ, that is, the Church.    

  • We need to do an agonizing reappraisal of our own ministry.  Hardening of the viewpoint is more serious than hardening of the arteries!  Our first job is not to act, it is to evaluate.  Do we have a passion for making disciples?  Have we denied ourselves, taken up our cross and followed Him?  We reproduce in kind.  Others become what we are.  Can we truthfully say with the Apostle Paul “Follow me, as I follow Christ?”
  • We need to establish clear objectives for ourselves and those we are discipling.  The Lord always operated on the principle of priority, not pressure.  If you operate on the basis of pressure, you will always do the urgent, but not the important.  The objective that was chosen for our Kansas Navigator team years ago is as follows.  “To know Christ in my own life in ever increasing depth and to make disciples and develop laborers at all times under any conditions in every place I go.”  Opportunities to serve on various boards and committees with multiple organizations were presented over the years.  I would consider them all with the questions, “Will this help me know Christ better?”, “Will it help make disciples?”  Very often the answer to these questions was No.  This objective helped me respond to the important rather than the urgent. 
  • Develop an incurable confidence in God’s ability to change people.  A person’s confidence in themselves comes before they experience change.  Our Lord’s words to Simon were used to provide hope in what he, by God’s Grace, was to become.  “Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John.  You will be called Cephas.”  John 1:42.  The Lord saw him for what he would become.  We need to do the same with those to whom we relate.   

     The following comments address the second method of God’s work in the lives of people which is individual personal interaction. 

  • Seek to make disciples independent of you and dependent on the Lord.  Do less and delegate more.  People are developed by responsibility.
  • Allow enough developmental rope for disciples to grow.  Don’t thwart individual initiative.  They must have a spirit of freedom.  Do not give too many restrictions. 
  • Intensify interpersonal relationships.  How do we reach a world?  We reach individuals.  Bigness and size leads us to administer, not minister.  

     Several of Howard’s comments refer specifically to the role of the church, that is, the body of Christ in developing leadership.  These are as follows.

  • Recruit individually, but train as a team.  Our Lord’s disciples were recruited as individuals primarily, although John and Andrew came as a twosome.  His training of them was as a team.  I have been a part of a Navigator team for the last forty six years.  In the interaction with others the Lord has sharpened my focus, restored perspective, and provided prayer support and encouragement.  
  • Expose your disciples to a number of Spirit gifted individuals.  No one is God’s gift to every person.  Take others with you to a variety of conferences and seminars where they are able to meet and mingle with others.  Pray for and seek out speakers, as well as written material, DVD’s etc that the Lord will use to speak into their lives.
  • Help them to discover and develop their spiritual gifts.  It is here that the body of Christ is invaluable in providing opportunities to exercise and develop their gift.   Encourage them to serve, or to speak in a variety of settings.   

     The above comments, to which I have provided some expansion, are not exhaustive, but rather illustrative of foundational principles in regenerating leadership.  We are all called to pass on what we know and do to the next generation.  Not only our church or mission organization is in perpetual danger, but Christianity itself is always one generation from extinction.  Do we sense the urgency to equip and train the next generation?  Or are we content to live out our days like Hezekiah, saying “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”  Isaiah 39:8.  It is my prayer that the Lord will fill our hearts with compassion and love for the lost in the generations to come and direct our steps as we produce leadership for the future.  

In Christ,  Richard Spann          

                     

It is More Important to Talk to God about Men

Speaker:

                             It is More Important to Talk to God about Men 

                                     than to talk to Men about God.  

                                                                       Howard  Hendricks

     God has called us to talk to men.  We are to affirm the Gospel with our lives and proclaim the Gospel with our words.  A testimony of our life alone without relating that the source of our life is Christ is a proclamation of self, not Christ.  It is not only important to talk to men about God, it is necessary.  

     What Howard Hendricks is emphasizing with his remark is the comparison of the overall effectiveness of the two forms of communication.  More is accomplished when God works than when man works.  To speak to men about God and not to speak to God about men is to neglect the power that God offers.  We need to rely on His wisdom rather than on just our own.  With the pressure of numerous responsibilities, however, it is not always easy to remember to talk to God consistently about the people with whom we are working.  

     Leroy Eims tells the following story in his book “The Lost Art of Disciple Making,”   Zondervan Publishing House 1978 Pg 69-70.  “J.O. Fraser was a missionary in Southwest China, ministering to tribal people living in that very mountainous region.  After some years, he noticed a strange thing.  The churches which were miles away from the city in which he was living seemed to do better than the church in his own town.  He would visit the distant churches occasionally and discovered that they were healthy, active, dedicated, and growing, much more so than the church in which he ministered regularly.  Why was that so?  Finally the LORD showed him.  He found out that he prayed far more diligently for people who were miles away than for those with whom he fellowshipped regularly.  From this discovery he concluded that there were four basic elements in developing disciples and churches:  prayer, prayer, prayer and the Word of God.”     

     A close friend for many years had steadfastly refused any efforts on my part to share the Gospel.  He would stiffen visibly whenever the subject was introduced.  He moved to another town and I would occasionally call and send some books that I thought might interest him.  All to no avail.  The only recourse was to pray.  Some months after I began to do this he called and said that the Lord had brought some circumstances into his life that were a wake up call to him.  It was entirely God’s work in bringing him to repentance and faith in answer to prayer.  

     At one time, I was meeting with a young man who, although he knew the Lord, was struggling with consistency in his life.  The material which we were reviewing and discussing had not been reviewed by him on multiple occasions.  Out of frustration, I said to the Lord that unless He were to act in this young man’s life all my efforts would be futile.  I persisted in this prayer regularly for him.  The next time we met he had not only done the assignment for the week, but was working ahead in our study.

     Another young man was growing in his faith, studying and memorizing God’s word.  We met regularly and I was pleased with his progress as well as his testimony at work.  He was not attending any church, however, and continued to decline an offer on my part to take him to our church.  I mentioned several other churches in the area as possibilities, but there was no desire on his part.  Finally I remembered the importance of prayer for this issue in his life and began regularly asking the Lord to bring him to a believing congregation of Christ followers.  A few weeks later he said that a fellow worker had started taking him to his church.  This was a God fearing congregation and once again I was reminded of the importance of talking to God about men, not just talking to men about God.      

     Why is it more important to talk to God about men?  My conversation with any person gives a very limited amount of information from only one source.  God has available for His use many individuals, the word of God, the entire body of Christ and circumstances with which to produce change in individuals.  Furthermore the amount of time I am able to spend with others is limited.  God is available for them 24/7.  In addition, my life and words are only able to impact a few.  I am able, however, to pray for many, some of whom I seldom may have an opportunity for a conversation.  

     If the above is true, why then do we not spend more time talking to God about men?  One reason, I think, is that it requires more faith than many things with which we are involved.  When we give financially, a note of appreciation is often sent.  When we teach or instruct publicly, others often relate their thanks to us.  Prayer, however, is often devoid of feedback.  We pray and then we wait.  Sometime the waiting stretches over long periods of time.  

     Another reason is that our enemy realizes the importance of prayer and allows hindrances to enter our lives.  These may consist of valued and worthy endeavors of many kinds, but are all less important than prayer.  We must remember the following verse from Luke 5:16 as it describes the life of our Lord.  “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  We can be certain that His prayer included those with whom He had regular interaction.  

     It is my prayer that the Lord will lead you often to those places where you will talk to God about men and not just talk to men about God.  

In Christ, Richard Spann

And He spake a parable

Speaker:

                                And he spake a parable unto them to this end,

                                that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.

                                                                                          Luke 18:1

     Do you remember situations in your life when you were faint?  Webster’s dictionary describes the word “faint” as implying the following;  lacking strength, weak, languid, to sink into dejection, to lose courage or spirit.  The NIV translates this word as to “give up.”  I suspect that nearly everyone has had at least one if not numerous times in their life when the desire to give up or to become faint has occurred.  The causes may be multiple for such an occurrence.  I recall distinctly a time in my life when I was working three jobs one summer between the second and third years of medical school.  I was in debt. The school would not loan money for the first two years and I was trying to earn enough to start the third year.  I worked in a laboratory at Kansas University Medical School during the day, sold shoes at Burts in downtown Kansas City on Monday evening and Saturdays and drove a taxi cab from nine in the evening until three in the morning every Friday and Saturday night.  I was not only burning the candle at both ends; I was burning it in the middle as well.  About mid July it all came crashing down with a spirit of dejection, fatigue and I wanted to “give up”  And that is what I did.  I called the shoe store and the cab company the next day and quit both jobs.  In this instance, excessive work responsibilities led to my becoming faint.

     Years later I was in a practice of Internal Medicine and Pulmonary disease with additional responsibilities and commitments to individuals in the Navigators organization as well as with World Impact.  Many of these commitments involved some spiritual oversight and the load began to produce a desire to “give up.”  Fortunately, at this time in my life, I had become aware of the Lord’s words in Luke 18:1 and realized that there are only two choices in life.  One is to pray.  The other is to faint or ”give up.”  If I pray, I will not faint.  If I faint, it is because I have not been in prayer. 

     The importance of this was driven home to me recently as I observed the life of a brother in Christ.  He had responsibilities and commitments far greater than most of us and burdens for others which were immense.  These gradually began to wear him down.  As we talked, I became aware of our need to pray together so that neither of us would “faint”or “give up.”  

     God has not designed us to carry all the burdens of others.  We are not equipped to do that.  Their material and spiritual needs are overwhelming.  We see so many with deep needs and we can do so little.  Even the little we can do often is reversed by their decisions or circumstances over which they have no control.  We have a vision and a desire to help them but we do not see progress.  We need to learn to do what we can and then move on.  For a number of years I would have weekends when I would visit and help manage up to seventy patients per day in the hospital in the city where I practiced.  At least half of these were on ventilators in intensive care units.  My only hope of survival and ability to take care of the next patient was to realize as I left each room that I had done what I could.  I would then entrust everything else into the hands of the Lord and move on to the next patient.  The Lord describes something similar to this when he tells us the following in I Peter 5:7.  “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (KJV)   

     What does this process look like?  How do we cast our cares on Him?  Lorne Sanny once remarked that when he came to work in the mornings he would find a stack of problems that were represented by a pile of papers and notes on his desk.  One by one, he would say “Lord, I am convinced that you are able to take care of all these problems by yourself.  I would like to ask you to do that.  Now, if there is anything you want me to do, just prompt me and I will do it.”  This describes a method of casting your care upon Him that I have found helpful over the years.  Our first, and it may be our only, responsibility is to pray.  This prayer includes asking the Lord to provide for others, to accomplish His work in their lives, as well as asking the Lord to show us what He wants us to do.  They are the Lord’s children, not ours.  He is the chief Shepherd.  He is the One who will take care of them.  They are ultimately His burden, not ours.  Lorne once asked a small group, of which I was a part, to write down on a piece of paper every concern, including every person or situation that we carried as a burden on one side of the sheet of paper.  On the other side we were to write down I Peter 5:7.  We would then pray about each item, casting it solely on Him, and moving that care from our shoulder to His.  

     In Luke 18:1, the Lord has described for us two paths, two doors, two choices for our lives each day.  We can either pray, or we can give up.  We can either faint, or we can cast our cares on Him.  It is my prayer that you will choose the path of prayer, the door that leads to his throne where we can cast all our cares on Him.  

In Christ, Richard Spann     

       

           

We are looking to be comfortable

Speaker:

                                      We are looking to be comfortable.

                                   God is looking for us to be conformed.

                                                                         Jerry Bridges

     The world around us is perpetually committed to comfort.  This includes our home, cars, work environment, hobbies, leisure activities and various personal items of use.  All advertisements seem to focus on those products that make our lives easier.  The slang expression “take it easy” characterizes our culture.  We, as followers of Christ, are exposed to this as well.  The world around us is constantly seeking to press us into its mold. (Romans 12:2)  This culture which looks to be comfortable may influence our spiritual life as well.  Do we select churches, speakers and literature largely based on the premise that we will be comforted by what we hear and read?   Are commitments that require effort and discipline largely avoided?  Is comfort preferred over sacrifice?  Do we desire the benefits of discipleship without its cost?  Do we rejoice in His provisions which bring comfort and shirk from the cost which is necessary for us to conform?  Our generation is not alone in seeking to be comfortable rather than to be conformed.  Simon Peter demonstrates this as well when he joyfully exclaims on the mountain “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” (Matthew 17:4)  One week earlier his statement was “Never, Lord!” he said.  “This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22)  Glory?  Yes!  The Cross?  No!  Comfort?  Yes!  Conformed?  No!  

     God’s desire that we be conformed is clearly stated in Romans 8:29.  “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  It is also stated a little differently 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.”  Paul describes this as “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)  This conformity of which Paul speaks is dependent upon a  process. 

     Ray Stedman once remarked that to pray in God’s will meant that we were asking for what He wants, dependent upon Him to do what we asked, and dependent upon His process.  He related that this process was often the cross.  We need to be planted with Him in His death before we participate in the likeness of His resurrection. (Romans 6:5)  Denial of self and taking up our cross come before “follow me.” (Luke 9:23)  The Holy Spirit is the One who accomplishes this transformation in our lives.  “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (II Corinthians 3:18) KJV  His tools include the word of God, prayer, individuals, the body of Christ and circumstances in our lives.  Through Him and by Him, we learn to depend increasingly upon the risen Christ as our “righteousness, holiness and redemption.”  (I Corinthians 1:30)  As Paul describes in II Corinthians 10:5, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  This process, however long and arduous it may seem, is God’s chosen method to accomplish His glorious purpose for our lives. 

     In His Grace, God revealed His purpose before creation.  His plan from all eternity was to bring mankind into a relationship with Him in Christ.  Our rebellion as a race, our hatred of Him when he came could not stop the flow of infinite love extended to us in His Son.  When we nailed Him to the cross, He was still on the throne overwhelming our sin and making it not to be.  His resurrected life is now at our disposal and in Him we become one with God and He becomes one with us.  In His great love, God knows that only one thing will ultimately satisfy the creature He has formed, and that is to have intimate fellowship with God by sharing the likeness of His Son.  The Psalmist states the following in Psalm 17:15.  “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness:  I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” (KJV)  God, in His great Love, is not satisfied until His creature is satisfied.  His Grace, His Holiness, and His Love will not permit Him to fall short of perfecting that which He has created.  Being conformed to Christ is ultimately the work of God, not that of ourselves. It is His process and His purpose.  What, then, is our responsibility?  Someone has defined this as “Our response to His ability.”  What should our response be?  If we desire conformity, if we seek it in our lives, if we pray that His will be accomplished, then we can rest in His ability.  We can rest in His promise given to us in Philippians 1:6.  “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  

     This likeness of His Son, expressed in the body of Christ, that is, the Church, will be to His everlasting Glory!  “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen.”  (Ephesians 3:21) KJV   It is my prayer that conformity to Christ in your life will be to the ever increasing glory of the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  

In Christ, Richard Spann         

The People are Crying for Bread

Speaker:

                                         The People are Crying for Bread,

                                                    not French Pastry.

                                                                 Dawson Trotman

     About fourteen years ago, my wife Beverly and I stayed in a motel for several weeks on the outskirts of Paris, France.  Just outside our window across a shopping mall was a French pastry shop.  Every morning we would wake up and dash over to the shop to taste something new that caught our attention on the the shelf.  Although we never tired of this morning activity we also realized that a diet consisting primarily of French pastry would lead to an unhealthy condition of the body.  The reasons are obvious.  Fats and sugars are used to replace starch and fiber.  The fructose included with other sugars is turned into fat in the liver, while excess sugar itself may contribute to insulin resistance, a stepping stone to diabetes.  Although pastries consist of some amount of bread, the end product is bread plus.  Bread plus other ingredients which are unnatural, artificial and unhealthy.  Why then are they added?  The reasons are multiple and varied.  Different flavors, colors, and taste variations are added; all designed to increase interest, anticipation and customer appeal.  The goal is to simply increase the popularity and profit of the business owners. 

     The spiritual comparisons are obvious.  The people are crying, they are needing the true Bread, which is Christ, not Christ plus.  Adding artificial, unnatural, and unhealthy ingredients to the true Bread is not a new invention of mankind.  Paul spoke of this in Galatians 4:17, 5:1-6, and in 6:12, where to add appeal and acceptability, some were preaching Christ plus, Christ plus circumcision.  We have the same issues today.  Some, in order to gain popularity or wealth, preach Christ plus.  It may include a health and wealth gospel, legalism, or a variety of additions designed to promote their own agenda rather than that of the Lord.  In whatever case, the true Bread is obscured and the hunger that mankind has for Him is not met. 

     The only Christ my friend knew was hidden behind the addition of ceremonies and services which were not understood.  The true Bread was never presented.  His life was like that of the man in Psalm 107:4.  “Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle.  They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away.”  When given an opportunity to get to know the person of Christ by looking at the Scriptures together, he jumped at the chance.  He later came to know Christ personally and was satisfied with the true Bread.  Psalm 107:9 describes this.  “For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”   

     Another man with whom I met was reminiscent of the passage in Psalm 107:10-12.  “Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High.  So he subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help.”  This man was the son of a pastor who preached Christ plus.  The plus was a severe degree of legalism.  Growing up in this atmosphere, he could not see Christ and rebelled against all religion.  Many years were spent as an alcoholic and locked away in prison.  Following release from prison, he managed to get free from alcohol but remained a bitter reclusive individual who wanted nothing to do with God.  Although denying the authority of the Bible, he was willing to read the Gospel of John with me.  Before many months transpired, the Holy Spirit opened his eyes to the true Bread and he was able to rejoice in the sufficiency of Christ for his life.  He also experienced the truth of Psalm 107:9.  “For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” 

     The cry of mankind is always for the Bread of God.  Although they did not fully understand what Jesus was telling them, the deepest need of their hearts was reflected in the statement they made to the Lord in John 6:34.  “Sir, they said, from now on give us this bread.”  Jesus answered them as follows.  “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”  John 6:35.  

     In their search for bread mankind is but dimly aware of the enormity of its need.  As G. Campbell Morgan relates, “Man is a ruined instrument.  He nevertheless retains, though in impaired form, the natural elements which constitute the Divine image.  There is therefore a constant demand in his nature for that for which he was created.  Intelligence is still demanding light.  Emotion continues to seek for objects upon which to fasten.  Will requires a governing principle; in brief, man demands God.”  The Crisis of the Christ.  Hardpress Publishing, Miami, Florida  5th Edition. Page 22.  

     God, in His great love for lost mankind, became incarnate in Christ so that the Father might be revealed, sins might be taken away, the works of the devil might be destroyed and the Kingdom of God be established in the new heaven and the new earth.  The heart of God will only be satisfied when the heart of mankind is satisfied.  God’s great love will permit nothing less.  To that end, in Christ, God has become one with mankind.  In Christ, mankind has become one with God. 

     The people are indeed crying for bread, but that bread, and that union with the creator comes only from calling on the name of the Lord.  “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”  Romans 10:14  “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”  Romans 10:17 

     It is through the preaching of Christ alone, and not Christ plus that the true Bread is revealed to mankind by the Holy Spirit.  As we are led by His Spirit to affirm and proclaim the Gospel, may the person of Christ, not Christ plus, be clearly seen in our lives and ministry.  

In Christ, Richard Spann 

                                                      

What we do in the moments

Speaker:

                                 What we do in the little moments determines

                                            what happens in the great ones. 

                                                                                  Lorne Sanny 

     Scripture chronicles for us some little moments as well as great ones in the lives of individuals.  David, for example, was well known for his great moment when he confronted Goliath with a slingshot.  That great moment, however, was determined years earlier when he confronted the lion and the bear attacking the flock with the same faith that was used to conquer Goliath.  I Samuel 17:36 states  “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.”  We see the same relationship between little and great moments in the life of Daniel.  We all remember the great moment in the lion’s den.  The little moment came years earlier when he sought the favor of God when in his teenage years.  The following is recorded in Daniel 1:8.  “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way.”  We also see in Scripture the little moments in the life of Judas the traitor.  In John 11:5-6 we see the following statement about Judas.  “‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?  It was worth a year’s wages.’”  He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”  This little moment revealed the character of the man who was later to betray our Lord for thirty pieces of silver.   

     Character and conduct are always intimately related.  Our character is consistently revealed by our conduct.  That which is hidden in our character will be made open and visible by our conduct.  Character is the root, conduct is the fruit.  One is being, the other is doing.  Both the little moments and the great ones in our lives are subject to our character.  If our character, or root, is holiness, then the fruit, or conduct, will be righteousness.  If our character is unholy, then the conduct will be unrighteousness. 

     Luke 16:10 states  “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”  We are urged by this passage of Scripture to become diligent in that which is least.  We are to seek Him and be obedient to His voice in the smallest and most insignificant areas of our lives.  These are the ones which occur when we are alone, when we are hidden from view, when no one but our Lord knows what transpires between Him and ourselves.  These are the all determining little moments that will ultimately declare the course of our lives.  How then should we guard them?  How do we bring each of these moments to Him so that His character is formed in our lives?   One of the habits of Lorne Sanny that he shared with a friend of mine has been helpful to me in this regard.  

     Periodically I have the opportunity to meet with Al Ewert, who has worked with World Impact here in Wichita for many years.  He had occasion, with others, to attend a retreat in Colorado Springs with Lorne Sanny for several days.  Al related that on one of the days, Lorne led them in prayer and during that prayer he rededicated his life to the Lord.  Later during another meeting that day Lorne again rededicated his life to the Lord.  It was not long after this that Lorne again rededicated his life to the Lord.  Al was struck by the fact that this Godly man continued to make multiple petitions to the Lord for rededication.  When Al asked him the reason for the repetition, Loren replied that “No sooner do I make a request for rededication than there begins to be a drift away from the Lord.  I find that I need to renew this rededication continually.”  If a man of Lorne’s spiritual stature found this prayer necessary, how much more should we seek His face in rededication ourselves?  Hebrews 2:1 reminds us that “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”  There is no middle ground.  We are all of us either paying more careful attention, or we are drifting away.   

     We are all familiar with the Scriptural phrase “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”  From this we can know that the root of our life is centered in our thoughts.  It is there that the battle begins and ends for the eventual control of our acts, our habits, our character and our destiny.  It is in this arena, then, that we must be stedfast in addressing the little moments in our lives.  II Corinthians 10:5 has been of great help to me in this regard.  “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  The KJV reads as follows.  “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”  This requires a daily renewal of our moment by moment commitment to look to our Lord for His thoughts, His words, and His deeds as He expresses His life in and through us.  It requires a moment by moment dependence upon the Holy Spirit to reveal to our consciousness the thoughts that need to be brought into the presence of our living Lord.  Should thoughts of anxiety, resentment, unholy or other troubling thoughts arrest our day, we should picture ourselves grabbing the thought by the scruff of its neck and marching into the presence of the Lord and saying.  “ Here is this thought that is persistently troubling me.  Would you please deal with it?” G. Campbell Morgan comments that this practice as described in II Corinthians 10:5 is the true essence of discipleship.  

     Most days bring us unexpected delays, interruptions, misunderstandings, stress at our jobs, or family challenges.  Our Lord has made His resurrected life available to us to meet each of these needs.  As we consistently look to Him, knowing that each situation is brought by His Sovereign love we can rest assured that His Grace will be made available to us to express His Will through our lives.  It is my prayer that the practice described by Lorne Sanny and the application of II Corinthians 10: 5 to our thoughts will so transform our lives so that His character will be evident in both our little and our great moments.    

In Christ, Richard Spann                 

The Promises of God Prompt Prayers

Speaker:

                              The Promises of God prompt our prayers.

                              Our Prayers activate the Promises of God.  

                                                                              Leroy Eims

     What response do we typically observe to the promises of God?  Some may not even recognize His words as a promise.  To others, there may be doubt as to God’s ability to fulfill the promise.  Many of us, myself included, may recognize the promise and merely assume that it will come to pass.  We may not be aware of our part in the fulfillment of all that the Lord intends to bring about.  The Scriptures contain multiple instances, however, of those whose interaction with God and prayers to Him were based on promises that were made by Him. 

     One of the more striking examples of a request made of God was based on a promise He had made concerning the people of Israel.  When the Lord saw their great sin of building the golden calf as an idol He said to Moses “Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them.  Then I will make you into a great nation.”  (Exodus 32:10)  Moses’ response to God was based on a promise previously made to Abraham, Isaac and Israel.  “Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self:  ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’”  (Exodus 32:13)  The prayer of Moses was recorded in Deuteronomy 9:26-28.  “I prayed to the LORD and said “O Sovereign LORD, do not destroy your people, your own inheritance that you redeemed by your great power and brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand.  Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Overlook the stubbornness of this people, their wickedness and their sin.  Otherwise, the country from which you brought us will say, ‘Because the LORD was not able to take them into the land he promised them, he brought them out to put them to death in the desert.’”  Exodus 32:14 states that  “Then the LORD relented and did not bring on this people the disaster he had threatened.” 

     Daniel also records for us his prayer which was prompted by the promise of God.  “In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian Kingdom- in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.  So I turned to the LORD God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.”  His prayer, which was contained in the next sixteen verses, concluded with the following appeal in verse 19.  “O Lord, listen!  O Lord forgive!  O Lord, hear and act!  For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” 

     The history of the Navigators is one which is based on prayer prompted by the promises of God.  Dawson Trotman, Lorne Sanny and others met early in the morning, placing their fingers on the map of the world and asking God to fulfill His promises, many of which were found in the book of Isaiah.  The promises of God were activated with the result of many laborers now living in these countries and discipling those coming to Christ.  Only eternity will reveal the importance of those meetings which resulted in prayer for the nations.   

     The promises of God are multiple and varied with some based on meeting certain conditions for their fulfillment.  Others represented the richness of His Grace toward mankind, expressing desire for His righteousness to be made evident in our lives and expressing itself in fruitfulness through our lives.  One of these promises that began to prompt our prayers for our own children as well as other individuals is found in Isaiah 61:3.  “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting for the LORD for the display of his splendor.”  Based on His purpose and His promise we can pray confidently that He will perform His work in their lives for the display of His splendor! 

     The LORD, however, has more in mind for those for whom we pray than being a solitary oak of righteousness.  He desires that their lives will so impact others that many people will be brought to Him and discipled as a result of His Grace in and through them.  His promise in that regard is given us in Isaiah 43:4.  “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life.”  This promise should prompt our prayers that the Lord would raise up the foundations of many generations of believers through their lives.  How extensive does the Lord desire the effectiveness of our lives to be manifest?

     His promise in Isaiah 60:22 is as follows.  “The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation.  I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.”  Do these promises prompt our prayers?  Are we able, by faith, to see the transformation of those with whom we meet into oaks of righteousness, the development of other disciples through their lives, to the extent that the least of the generations would be a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation?  These promises of God have prompted the prayers of many throughout the years.  It is my prayer that the Lord’s promises would prompt our prayers as well, initiating His activity in fulfilling these promises.   

In Christ, Richard Spann    

Don’t Seek the Word of the Lord

Speaker:

                                      Don’t seek the word of the Lord

                              without first seeking the Lord of the word.

                                                                       Dave Gresham

     The word of the Lord is revealed to us in Isaiah as follows.  “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  Isaiah 55:10-11.  Accordingly, much emphasis has been placed upon the importance of seeking and knowing the word of the Lord.  Once we have been given the word of the Lord we must continue to seek the Lord of the word, lest we depart from His will at our peril.

     The thirteenth chapter of I Kings is a difficult passage but most illustrative of this principle presented by Dave Gresham.  The following verses chosen from this chapter focus on the importance of his statement.  “By the word of the LORD a man of God came from Judah to Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make an offering.  He cried out against the altar by the word of the LORD:  ‘O altar, altar! This is what the LORD says:  A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David.  On you he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who now make offering here, and human bones will be burned on you.’”  (verses1-2)  “The king said to the man of God, ‘Come home with me and have something to eat, and I will give you a gift.‘  But the man of God answered the king, ‘Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here.  For I was commanded by the word of the LORD:  ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.‘  So he took another road and did not return by the way he had come to Bethel.  Now there was a certain old prophet living in Bethel, whose sons came and told him all that the man of God had done there that day.  They also told their father what he had said to the king.  Their father asked them, ‘Which way did he go?‘  And his sons showed him which road the man of God from Judah had taken.  So he said to his sons, ‘Saddle the donkey for me.‘  And when they had saddled the donkey for him, he mounted it and rode after the man of God.  He found him sitting under an oak tree and asked, ‘Are you the man of God who came from Judah?‘ ‘I am,’ he replied.  So the prophet said to him, ‘Come home with me and eat.‘  The man of God said, ‘I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place.  I have been told by the word of the LORD:  ‘You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.‘  The old prophet answered, ‘I too am a prophet, as you are.  And an angel said to me by the word of the LORD:  Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.‘ (But he was lying to him.)  So the man of God returned with him and ate and drank in his house.  While they were sitting at the table, the word of the LORD came to the old prophet who had brought him back.  He cried out to the man of God who had come from Judah, ‘This is what the LORD says:  You have defied the word of the LORD and have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you.  You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where he told you not to eat or drink.  Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your fathers.‘  When the man of God had finished eating and drinking, the prophet who had brought him back saddled his donkey for him.  As he went on his way, a lion met him on the road and killed him, and his body was thrown down on the road, with both the donkey and the lion standing beside it.  (verses 7-23)   How might the man of God from Judah avoided his untimely death by the lion?  It would have been avoided by seeking the LORD of the word and not being satisfied by the initial word of the LORD only.

     It is important in our lives as individuals, and also as organizations, to seek the word of the Lord.  By that is meant the goals, directions, purposes and the vision statements that we use as individuals, companies or churches.  Having sought these from the word of the Lord, it is imperative that we seek the Lord of the word to fulfill them.  It is all too easy to declare our vision statement, or purpose we have received from the word of the Lord and fail to seek the Lord of the word.  Unless we continue to seek the Lord of the word we will use our own methods and look to our own abilities to accomplish His work.  We live, not in danger of the lion which will kill the mortal flesh, but the activities of the flesh which will kill the work of the Spirit.  In the NIV this is described as “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.”  I Thessalonians 5:19.  In the KJV it is referred to as “Quenching” the Spirit.  Unless we seek the Lord of the word continually in dependence upon His methods, His timing, and His ability we are in danger of quenching the Spirit.   

Campbell Morgan says these words in regard to this subject.  The Holy Spirit.  Flaming H. Revell Company  Copyright 1900   2016 Crossreach Publications  Pg  107.  

     “Men have perpetually quenched the Spirit by attempting to work in their own strength, hoping that God would step in and make up what they lacked.  God will not come and help men to do their work.  This is no mere idle play upon words, the difference is radical.  If men make their plan of service and then ask God to help them, they may, by that very assertion of self, quench the Holy Spirit.  If, on the other hand, they await the Divine vision and the Divine voice and the Divinely marked out path; if they wait until they hear God saying, I am going there I would have you go with me, then the Holy Spirit can exercise His gift in their lives.  The Spirit is quenched by disloyalty to Christ, or when His gift is used for any other purpose than that upon which the heart of God is set.”

     It is a good thing when we seek the word of the Lord.  Let us also remember to seek the Lord of the word.  May the Lord of the word continue to grant us His Divine vision, His Divine voice and His Divinely marked out path as we seek Him. 

In Christ, Richard Spann                                                                                                                                                                                  

Don’t get hung up on motives

Speaker:

                              Don’t get hung up on motives, give your

                                 motives to God, and do what is right.

                                                                        Lorne Sanny

     The Scriptures contain a number of motives by which mankind is led to accomplish the tasks that God desires.  One of these is the fear of loss, as described in I Corinthians 3:12-15.  “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  It it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes another motive which should impel us in the correct use of time and resources.  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”  (Matthew 6:19-20)  Several godly motives are mentioned in II Corinthians chapter five.  One of these is the fear of the Lord.   “Since then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.” (Verse 11a)  Verse nine relates the following motive  “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”  Love of our Lord is mentioned repeatedly as a motive, primarily in John’s Gospel.  “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.  He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”  (John 14:21)  Again, in II Corinthians 5:20 (Wuest) we read that Christ’s love being expressed through us is a motive for service to Him as well.  “For the love which Christ has for me presses on me from all sides, holding me to one end and prohibiting me from considering any other, wrapping itself around me in tenderness, giving me an impelling motive.”

     Our motives may differ and change as we walk with Christ.  Lorne has cautioned us against introspection of our motives, as that would deter us in our walk.  Some, wanting the highest and purest motive, may fear that there is a mixed motive in their service to the Lord.  Our enemy may plant the thought that, after all, we are serving the Lord for our benefit, and not His.  If we accept his implanted thought, we may be caught up in evaluation of our motives, rather than keeping our eyes on the Lord.  

     One young man with whom I was meeting years ago had done quite well in a spiritual discipline which was transforming his life.  The scriptures had been used to give him a heart for the Lord and for others.  Surprisingly, he related to me at the end of the course that he was no longer planning to continue in that spiritual endeavor.  His reason was that he was afraid that his motive for the spiritual discipline was to please me rather than to please the Lord!  Another man with whom I met periodically was almost afraid to make any spiritual investment in others because he doubted that his motives were correct!  In my own life, I have observed that the enemy introduces questions periodically in my thoughts that are designed to delay me in following the Lord’s path of service to Him and others.  He may suggest the following  “Are you sure that your motive is pure?  “Why are you doing what you are doing with others?  Whenever I hear the voice of the enemy in this regard, I am encouraged by Lorne’s word  “Give your motives to God and do what is right.”  

     In II Thessalonians 1:11 we read the following.  “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.”  What, may we ask, is our faith in?  Does our God fulfill every good purpose and act because our faith is in our motive?  Does self introspection and improvement of the perception of our motive render our service more acceptable to God?  Assuredly not!  Our service to our Lord is acceptable because it is in His name that it is offered.  We are perpetually dependent upon Him to do His work through us.  It is faith in Him, not our motive, that is pleasing to Him.  Our Lord has shown us what is right in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), the Great Commandment (Luke 10:27), and the Great Requirement. (Micah 5:8)  As we focus on these avenues of service God has given us to do, we can simply give our motives to God and do what is right.  

In Christ, Richard Spann