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