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    

Dirt in the Heart

Speaker:

                                    Dirt in the heart throws dust in the eyes.

                                                                              Lorne Sanny

     Dirt in the heart comes from several sources.  A heart that looks to someone else or something else for fulfillment or satisfaction rather than to the Lord Himself heads the list.  Dirt also occurs in our hearts when we fail to respond to the direction from the Lord in our lives.  The point at which we are disobedient to the Divine Voice marks the beginning of its accumulation.  Unconfessed sin may, in addition to the above, contribute to dirt in our hearts.  Regardless of the reason for dirt in the heart, the effect is the same.  It throws dust in the eyes.  Dust in the eyes obscures the path ahead of us so that our steps may be faltering and stumbling.  We may be required to stop at the side of the path.  Because they are no longer able to discern the path ahead, many will stray into the wrong path.  Proverbs 7 describes such a young man with dirt in his heart and dust in his eyes.  Verse seven says, “I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who lacked judgment. “  Verse ten relates  “Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.”  Verses 24-27 summarize the end of the story.  “Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say.  Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths.  Many are the victims she has brought down; Her slain are a mighty throng.  Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.”  We all know many, both young and old, who have gone down this path because of dirt in the heart and dust in the eyes.

     Failure to respond to the call of the Lord in his life created dirt in the heart and dust in the eyes of Jonah.  Jonah 1:3 states the following.  “But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish.  He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port.  After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.”  He chose a path which was the opposite of what the LORD had directed in his life.  As chances happened, he managed to find a ship headed exactly to the place he had predetermined to go, namely, to Tarshish!  We cannot trust circumstances, the advice of others, or our own heart if we reject the leading of the LORD.  They will all lead us down the wrong path if we are disobedient to Him.  

     Walking away from the Lord and His revealed light always obscures our path.  There is a street lamp by our mailbox at the edge of the street.  Sometimes, after dark, I remember that I need to get the mail from the mailbox.  As I walk toward the street lamp, all my steps are sure, and I can see perfectly.  After getting the mail and returning to the house, I am walking away from the light and the path is not clear.  It becomes increasingly shrouded in darkness.  I am in danger of running into a bush or stumbling along the way.  This experience always reminds me that turning away from His Light  will lead me down an increasingly darkened path.  It is like walking with dust in the eyes.  

     Dirt in the heart throws dust in the eyes and not only obscures our path but obscures the Lord Himself.  We are distanced from Him in our intellect, our emotion, and our will.  Dirt in the hearts had reached such proportions in the days of the prophet Malachi that the people’s vision of the true God was obscured.  They even asked “Where is the God of Justice?”  (Malachi 2:17)  The love that God had for them was obscured.  In Malachi 1:2 they ask  “How have you loved us?”  They were blinded as to how they had sinned against God asking the following in Malachi 1:7.  “How have we defiled you?”  Even their reconciliation to God was obscured when they asked  “How are we to return?”  

(Malachi 3:6)  

     What advice do we have from Scripture that guards against dirt in our heart?  There are two passages of Scripture that specifically speak to this need.  One of these is Psalm 19:14.  “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD my Rock and my Redeemer.”  The other is found in Psalm 139:23-24.  “Search me, O God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  If these verses reflect our daily prayer and desire of our hearts, then the LORD will be faithful to prevent and remove dirt from our heart and dust from our eyes.  

In Christ, Richard Spann          

God Gives Discernment

Speaker:

                             God never gives us discernment in order that 

                               we may criticize, but that we may intercede.  

                                                                     Oswald Chambers

     I was appalled.  I could hardly believe the story he was describing.  It was as foreign an approach to the situation he was recounting as to be unbelievable.  I could not imagine that he was responding to the individual in the manner he described.  It was the exact opposite of what I would have done.  Furthermore, I could have provided him with several biblical references as to what the scriptures would have to say on the subject.  Usually he asked my advice, or at least what I thought about his decisions.  But not this time.  He even seemed proud of his response to his friend which had resulted in further hurt and estrangement from one to whom he was attempting to serve and influence.  I kept waiting for a chance to speak or an invitation to share my thoughts with him but the opportunity did not present itself.  I was fully prepared to correct him for his handling of the situation which he presented.  It was only after thinking about the above conversation for nearly a week that I remembered Ray Hoo’s statement from a conference he had given years before.  He had quoted from Oswald Chambers;  “God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.”   My Utmost for His Highest, Nov 23.

     What does it mean to intercede?  The clearest description of intercession in our lives is that of prayer.  As I thought about prayer in regard to this situation, I realized that I needed to pray in at least three areas.  The first of these was prayer for myself and my attitude toward my friend.  Was I being too judgmental?  Was there some basis for his response which I did not understand?  Were I in his shoes would I have responded differently?  Periodically I am reminded of the verse in Romans 14:4.  “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?  To his own master he stand or falls.  And he will stand for the Lord is able to make him stand.”  This verse always gives me pause when I want to speak out to someone about something.  I am reminded of the words of G. Campbell Morgan when he remarked.  “The fullness of the Spirit is more often manifested by keeping one’s mouth shut than by what it says when it is open.”  

     The second need of intercession in prayer is that the Lord would personally bring direction and counsel to my friend in this situation.  Colossians 4:12 describes this intercession as follows.  “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings.  He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.”  I need to intercede that the will of God will be made known to my friend, and that he becomes fully assured that he is on the correct path in his relationships with others.  Further intercession on his behalf would be that the Lord would continue His work in his life to lead to his maturity in Christ.  In this prayer, I recognize that it is the Lord’s responsibility ultimately, and not mine, to bring about the formation of discipleship in his life.

     The third area in which I needed to intercede was in asking for wisdom in my eventual response to my friend concerning the matter described.  What should I say?  How should I say it?  What attitude toward him should I convey?  Ephesians 4:29 states.  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  The KJV version is also helpful.  “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”  According to this verse there are only two choices in communication.  I can either choose that which is corrupt and unwholesome, or that which will minister grace and be helpful in building him up according to his needs.  I should speak the truth in love with acceptance and encouragement.  What words and scriptures would the Lord desire I should use to build him up according to his needs?  I am confident that the Lord will answer that intercessory prayer as I wait on Him. 

     Has the Lord given us discernment about situations, individuals, plans or programs of organization or churches?  If so, it is well to remember that others do not need our critique as much as they need our prayers.  Are we able, by His Grace, to remember to speak to the Lord before we speak to others?  May His Grace empower us all as we intercede with Him for ourselves and others.   

In Christ, Richard Spann          

The Truth is What God Says About You

Speaker:

                                 The Truth is what God says about you,

                                    not what you think about yourself.

 

                                                                       Ray Stedman

     You may have seen his claim to fame on television recently.  It starts as follows.  “I am the greatest!  My only fault is that I don’t realize how great I really am!”  His dialogue continues at some length describing his various attributes which contribute to his greatness.  Such statements epitomize the natural man in his distance from God.  Although it is not common to hear claims to this degree, most, however, would ascribe to the thoughts expressed by the title of a book written some years ago entitled “I’m Ok, You’re Ok.”

     The word of God to the natural man, however, says the opposite.  You are not Ok!  We read the following in Romans 3:10-18.  “As it is written:  There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless, there is no one who does good, not even one.  Their throats are open graves, their tongues practice deceit.  The poison of vipers is on their lips.  Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.  Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.  There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 

     God, in His Great Love, did not leave mankind suffering the consequences of its rebellion.  I Peter 1:3-4 states the following.  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you.”  Many have entered into this living hope and inheritance over the centuries since our Lord has made this provision for us.  The Scriptures are full of His promises and provisions for our walk with Him.  Some, through failure to realize these promises and avail themselves of His provisions, have been disappointed in their walk and relationship with the Lord.  Some still look to the old man, trying to find some good in that which Christ has taken down into His death.  Some may look at others and compare their lives with those who are deemed to be more successful in their Christian life leading to an incorrect view of their relationship with God.  Still others have focused on their failures and consider the Christian life to be attainable only by a few.  Many experience discouragement and do not think their life measures up to  what God expects of them.  After some years, it is common to settle in to what they regard as a mediocre degree of Christian faith.  In addition to our own sense of failure, the evil one is quick to point this out in our lives well.  As a result of the above, some Christian’s thoughts about themselves are ones which focus on their failure and inadequacies. To liberate us from this pattern, God wants us to know that the truth is what He says about us, not what we think about ourselves. 

     For a helpful list of what God says about us, I would refer you to one found in a book by Bill Gillham entitled Lifetime Guarantee,  Harvest House, 1993, Pg 93-94.  

You are justified and redeemed (already)-Romans 3:24. 

Your old self was killed (crucified)-Romans 6:6. 

You are not condemned.  (My performance is condemned when I don’t trust in His life through me, but God does not condemn the performer; just the performance.)-Romans 8:1.

You are free from the law of sin and death-Romans 8:2.

You are accepted. (All my life I’ve sought to be accepted, Now I am!)-Romans 15:7.

You are sanctified (holy, set apart)-I Corinthians 1:2.

You have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption (I am ransomed-restored to favor)-I Corinthians 1:30.

You are always led in His triumph (whether it appears so or not)-II Corinthians 2:14.

Your hardened mind has been removed-II Corinthians 3:14.

You are a new creature. (Even though I don’t always feel or act like it.)-II Corinthians 5:17.

You are the righteousness of God. (You can’t get more righteous than this.) II Corinthians 5:21.

You are liberated-Galatians 2:4.

You are joined with all believers (not inferior to anyone)-Galatians 3:28.

You are a son and an heir-Galatians 4:7.

You are blessed with every spiritual blessing in heaven-Ephesians 1:3.

You are chosen, holy, and blameless before God-Ephesians 1:4.

You are redeemed, forgiven-Ephesians 1:7.

You have obtained an inheritance-Ephesians 1:10-11.

You are sealed with the Spirit. (Imagine the real you sealed up in the envelope of God Himself.)-Ephesians 1:13.

You are alive (formerly a dead spirit)-Ephesians 2:5.

You are seated in heaven (already)-Ephesians 2:6.

You are created for good performance. (And I can let Christ live through me to perform it.)-Ephesians 2:10.

You have been brought near to God-Ephesians 2:13.

You are a partaker of the promise-Ephesians 3:6.

You have boldness and confident access to God (not slinking as a “whipped dog”) -Ephesians 3:12.

You were formerly darkness, but are now light-Ephesians 5:8.

You are a member of His body (not inferior to other members)-Ephesians 5:30.

Your heart and mind are guarded by the peace of God. (Peace is knowing something, not always feeling it.)-Philippians 4:7. 

You have all your needs (not greeds) supplied-Philippians 4:19. 

You are complete (perfect)-Colossians 2:10.

You are raised up with Him-Colossians 3:1.

Your life is hidden with Christ in God-Colossians 3:3.

     Our lives are governed to a large part by the narrative that we tell ourselves.  The Truth Project starts with the following question.  “Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?  Do we?   Do we really believe all that God says about us?  Then we need to let it be our narrative daily.  We need, as Jerry Bridges says, to preach the Gospel to ourselves daily.  We need to examine, study, memorize and repeat to ourselves daily what God says about us.  Only then will our hearts and minds capture and rejoice in the truth of who we are in Christ.  We no longer need to be captive to an incorrect narrative.  We can live in the truth of what God says about us, not what we think about ourselves.  

In Christ, Richard Spann 

       

Battle

Speaker:

                                          The Battle doesn’t need us,

                                             but we need the Battle.  

                                                                Lorne Sanny

     There is no place in Scripture that illustrates the truth of Lorne’s words more than those which are found in II Samuel 11:1-4.  “In the spring, at the time when Kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army.  They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah.  But David remained in Jerusalem.  One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace.  From the roof he saw a  woman bathing.  The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her.  The man said, ‘Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’  Then David sent messengers to get her.  She came to him and he slept with her.”  Because of this sin the sword never left David’s house.  David’s place was in the battle, not wandering around at night on the roof of his palace.  Involvement in the battle would have prevented succumbing to the attacks of the world, the flesh and the evil one.  The very activity and involvement in the work of the Lord acts as a barrier to sin in our lives.  Leroy Eims asks the question, “When is the last time you were tempted to sin while you were talking to someone about Christ?, or when you were praying with another individual whom you were discipling?”  It does not occur when we are on our knees in prayer for others.  When we are actively serving the Lord in His ministry to others our thoughts and hearts are aligned with His will, and less vulnerable to the world, the flesh and the evil one.  The battle may not need us, but we need the battle.

     We not only need the battle as a guard for our lives, we also need it to prevent the only alternative to the battle, which is a life involved in civilian affairs.  Our walk with Christ is likened to warfare in II Timothy 2:3-4.  “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs-he wants to please his commanding officer.”  What does a life look like that is involved in civilian affairs?  It is a life that adapts and blends into the world around us.  Rather than being “transformed” (Romans 12:2) it “conforms” to the culture.  It is a life that no longer holds forth salt and light, but loses any distinctive features of a follower of Christ.  Others looking at such a life might regard it as a “moral” life but there are no hallmarks that would point others to Christ in their life.  They are accepted by the world because they have become one with the world.  The battle is but a dim memory.  They may give it some thought from time to time, but “civilian affairs” occupy their thinking, such as “what shall we eat,” or “what shall we drink,” or “what shall we wear?”  (Matthew 6:31)  A life with these concerns has fallen in love with the world.  It is a life characterized by “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.”  II Timothy 4:10.  The battle didn’t need Demas, but Demas needed the battle.  

     There is yet a third reason that we need the battle. Our entire being, spirit, soul, and body was made for activity and for a meaningful purpose that outlives us.  Furthermore, we are creatures who are in the process of being prepared for our eternal purpose.  Our life here, James tells us, is but a breath.  We were designed for meaningful work and activity in the countless ages of eternity that stretch before us.  It is in concert with the Lord and in His work that His Spirit develops and performs that in our lives which is needed for our eternal work.  This journey begins with denial of self and taking up our cross (Luke 9:23), and continues with following Him. (Matthew 4:19)   It is in the battle that we are hardened and made fit for our eternal roles.  It is in submission to His throne that His work is perfected in our lives. 

     Someone may say, like David, I have forsaken the battle and became involved in sin.  Other, like Demas, may look back on a past which consists of worldly pursuits.  Still others may look at their lives and realize that God’s design for their lives has not taken place because of a failure to be involved with Him in His battle as His disciple.  In all of these, there is the sense of the vessel being marred by the the lack of submission to the Potter’s hand.  If that is our story then we need to consider the following words from a sermon given by G. Campbell Morgan.  Westminster Pulpit.  1954-55  Volume 1. Pages 56-57.  

     “They bought the potter’s field with the price of Him Whom they priced, and they called it, little thinking how deep the significance of their calling might be, the field of blood.  Are there some wrecks in the potter’s field in this house tonight, men and women who are saying, I have been spoiled and flung away. I am waste in God’s universe.  The potter’s field has been purchased with blood.  I come back to Jeremiah, and I read that when the vessel was marred in the hands of the potter he made it again another vessel.  

Blessed be God, He came to the potter’s field, and He gathered up the wrecks to make them again.  There is another chance for you, my brother.  By the mystery of His betrayal, by the mystery of His denial, by the mystery of His being sold for the price of a slave, the potter’s field is bought, and though you have missed your purpose by disobeying your principle, the Person, the Potter Himself, has come down to the midst of the wreckage, and by the price of His own mysterious life has bought it, and the wreck can be remade. But you must begin with the Person and submit to the principle, and find the purpose.”  In His Infinite Grace, there is yet a battle in which He would have you join with Him in His Work.  The battle may not need you, but you need the battle.  

In Christ,  Richard Spann      

   

Men of Issachar

Speaker:

                             Men of Issachar, who understood the times

                                    and knew what Israel should do-

                                                                      I Chronicles 12:32

     These men of Issachar were among those who came to David at Hebron to turn Saul’s kingdom over to him. (I Chronicles 12:23)  They were a distinct and remarkable group of men.  They not only possessed knowledge but also had the wisdom to apply that knowledge to accomplish the task at hand.  Every generation requires its men of Issachar.  From the prophets of the Old Testament these men extended into  the New with the presence of John the Baptist, followed by the Apostles and the early church fathers such as Athanasius and St. Augustine.  More recent history has endowed us with Martin Luther, George Whitfield, John Brainerd, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and many others.  They all understood their times and knew what they should do.  Our culture, likewise, has continued to change requiring men of Issachar in our time as well.  In our own lifetimes we have seen people groups classified and then reclassified the following decade!  The labels that were used began with Baby Boomers, followed by Baby Busters, Generation X, Generation Y, and more recently the Millennials.  Who knows what description will come next?  A recent study of those in their twenties revealed the following information.  Most declared that they didn’t want to go to meetings or be required to “join something.”  They were, as a whole, looking to be resourced (equipped) rather than to be plugged in somewhere.  Some wanted to discover their own methodology.  An over arching theme was the desire for relationships rather than structure.   

     With all the changes occurring in our culture, then, the perpetual question arises “How will we raise up a new generation of laborers for Christ?”  The Lord Himself answers this question.  “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”  (Matthew 13:52)  What old treasures in our storeroom should we utilize, then, as we approach others in our culture?  Three come to mind.  The first of these is found in Psalm 33:11.  “The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” (KJV)  The word of God is timeless. It is His perpetual method of instruction and agent of transformation in our lives despite changes in any culture or any country.  It is the sword of the Spirit and He will use that sword regardless of varying opinions about the authenticity or validity of the Scriptures.  

     The second treasure is found in Philippians 2:5-8.  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus; Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross!”   At least three themes are apparent in this passage.  These are the need to identify with others, serve them, and be involved, if necessary, at cost to yourself.  People are hungry for genuine relationships.  They do not find these on Twitter, Facebook, or in Chat rooms.  It requires an investment of time, energy and even financial cost to engage with others at a level that will produce an impact.  Mark 10:45 tells us that the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.  The passage in Philippians likewise declares that our fundamental relationship with others is to be their servant.  At times, the process of serving others may result in a significant cost of time, energy and financial resources.  It is when the cost is greatest, however, that the result in the lives of others may be most profound.  

     The third treasure which relates to our purpose in the lives of others is found in II Timothy 2:1-2.  “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  We must have the eyes of faith to see the world through the life of a single individual.  All of our contact and prayers for others must be that which will prepare them for their ministry in the future. 

     A friend related to me some years ago that he was visiting with a business associate who began to relate some concerns and questions about their common profession.  My friend took the time to listen and then asked if he would like to get together to discuss the issues further.  They began to meet and spend time together relating the issues confronting their common pursuit.  This time extended into helping with family concerns, travel together and a friendship was developed.  At some point my friend stated that the most significant answers for his business and family relationships were to be found in the Bible.  His associate was intrigued and although familiar with the Bible, was from a different religious background and had never read it with any regularity.  They began discussing the Bible regularly for some time before starting the thirteen week Navigator study entitled, “Growing In Christ.”  As the weeks progressed the truth of the Gospel became evident to the individual with whom my friend was meeting.  As they continued to meet over the subsequent months, the new believer in Christ became a changed man.  He continued to have a hunger for God’s word and developed a heart to reach others.  I had the privilege of meeting him several years ago.  His comment at that time was “I want to do for others what someone has done for me!”  

     The question arises for us today.  “Where are the men of Issachar in our generation?”  Well, I can state that “I have found one!”  May his tribe increase!  It is my prayer that the “Men of Issachar” will increase and multiply in your ministry, your neighborhoods, your churches and become evident throughout our culture.   

In Christ, Richard Spann