Lessons to be learned

Speaker:

                               Lessons To Be Learned From Those Who Failed

                               “For everything that was written in the past was

                                written to teach us, so that through endurance

                                and the encouragement of the Scriptures we 

                                might have hope.”  Romans 15:4

     During the days of the Divided Kingdom in the history of the Jewish nation, the kings of Israel (Northern Kingdom) all departed from the Lord and His direction.  The Southern Kingdom (Judah) had some good kings but some notable failures as well.  There are three lessons for our lives that we may learn from observing three different kings.

     The first of these was Amaziah.  It is recorded that he started well.  “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD but not wholeheartedly.”  (II Chronicles 25:2)  In verse four, he “acted in accordance with what was written in the law.”  Later in life, he forsook the law, and bowed down to the gods of the people of Seir. (Verse fourteen)  In verse seventeen it is written that he “consulted his advisors.”  In verse twenty seven it records that he was killed by his own countrymen.  The beginning of his reign was governed by the law and he later forsook the law.  What happened?  It is recorded in Deuteronomy 17:18-19 that the kings of the nation of Israel were to write for themselves on a scroll a copy of the law.  It was to be always with him, to be read all the days of his life, so that he “may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees.”  It is unlikely that his cessation of this practice happened all at once.  Most probably a few days would go by, then a week, then a month, and then he no longer consulted the LORD but sought advice and counsel from others.  His declension was gradual but describes the total abject failure that occurs from neglecting God’s word.  It is from his life that we learn the importance of God’s word in our lives.  

     Examples of what God’s word is able to do in our lives is seen in Psalm 119.  In verse nine and eleven it enables us to avoid sin, and in verse eighteen, we behold wondrous things.  In verse twenty five, we find encouragement and in verse thirty six, our covetousness is decreased.  In verse fifty, we are comforted, in verse sixty two, we are enabled to be thankful and in verse ninety eight we find wisdom.  In verse 105, we experience His guidance.  Jerry Bridges, in his book Practice of Godliness, mentions three ways that the LORD guards our lives through His Scripture.  It develops the Fear of God (Genesis 11:24-27), the Vision of God (Hebrews 11:24-27), and Humility before God. (I Corinthians 15:10)  

     The second king from whose life we may learn lessons is Jehoshaphat.  His story is recorded in II Chronicles 17-20.  The beginning of his reign is described in II Chronicles 17:3-4.  “The LORD was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed.  He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel.”  In chapter eighteen, however, we find that he allied himself with Ahab by marriage.  In II Chronicles 19:2, it is recorded that he helped the wicked and loved those who hated the Lord.  In chapter 20 verse 35 he was seen to have made an alliance with Ahaziah, who was guilty of wickedness.  His life is best described by a verse in the New Testament found in I Corinthians 15:33.  “Do not be misled:  ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” 

     The contrast to this corruption is to be found when we “have fellowship with one another” (I John 1:7)  We daily need the encouragement of others (Hebrews 3:13), as well as the comfort we bring to one another. (II Corinthians 1:4)  This is why we are told to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. (Hebrews 10:24-25)  To turn away from this fellowship and seek it elsewhere is, again, a recipe for failure. 

     The third king from which we may learn lessons is Joash.  We read about his life in  II Chronicles chapter twenty four.  The following is recorded in verse two.  “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years of Jehoiada the priest.”  In verses seventeen and eighteen, however, we read this account of his life.  “After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came and paid homage to the king and he listened to them.  They abandoned the temple of the LORD, the god of their fathers, and worshiped Asherah poles and idols.”  In verse twenty two, we read that Joash killed Jehoiada’s son.  Later it is recorded that his own officials killed him as he lay in his bed. (Verse twenty five)  

     Jehoiada’s influence in the life of Joash was remarkable.  When he was gone, however, there was no one to step in and provide direction and accountability for the king.  The impact of the individual life made a difference initially in the life of Joash.  When this was no longer available to him, his life deteriorated.  I have known of many people whose lives have been altered by the impact of another individual.  We see this progression clearly in the book of Acts, where Barnabas invested in Paul, who in turn was used by the Lord in the lives of Aquila and Priscilla, who in turn were used in the life of Apollos.  We should never under estimate our own individual need to interact with another person for encouragement and accountability, nor should we neglect the opportunity to meet with those individuals with whom the Lord has called us to invest time and resources.  No interaction with them is wasted.  Our time, talents, and totality of our lives will be used for His Glory in establishing His Kingdom. 

     From these three kings, then, we are able to understand the value of the word of God daily in our lives, the importance of regular contact with the body of Christ, that is, the church, and those individuals who minister to you as well as those to whom you are called to minister.  May the Lord so develop these patterns in your life to the end that He will be continually glorified through your life.   

In Christ, Richard Spann         

What is a disciple?

Speaker:

                                              What Is A Disciple?

                            (A Learner, A Follower, and A Reproducer)

                                                                 Howard Hendricks

     There have been many descriptions of a disciple over the years.  The above comments by Howard Hendricks were made over forty years ago and my mind keeps returning to them as I consider this subject.  To reflect on this more fully we need to turn to our Lord’s comments on these three aspects of discipleship.

     Learning is addressed in Matthew 11:28-30.  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  In the middle east at the time of Christ the older oxen bore the weight of the work while the younger oxen in training was simply fastened to the older oxen by means of the yoke.  The direction of the oxen as they pulled together was determined by the course of the older oxen, not the one in training.  The Lord used this symbol of union to illustrate spiritual truths of our relationship with Him.  These conditions for learning then, include closeness of association, observation, and participation in all His activities.  The desired effect was to produce in the learner consciousness of His presence, dependence upon His power, and a commitment to His purpose.  This process is described in II Corinthians 3:18.  “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.” (KJV) 

     Jesus describes the importance of following Him as being necessary to discipleship in several locations in scripture.  The Gospel of Luke contains multiple references to this aspect of discipleship, including Luke 9:23, 9:57-62, and Luke 14:25-35.  In Luke 9:23, the Lord relates that prior to following Him, one must deny themselves and pick up the cross.  The inner hidden choice of denial of self must be followed by open identification with the cross in our lives.  He dealt with three obstacles to discipleship in Luke 9:57-62.  The first of these was material possessions, the second was other relationships, and the last was turning back.  In Luke 14:25-35, the Lord again mentions three hindrances to following Him which are our possessions, other relationships, and our personal freedom.  Sometimes the simple songs we sing as children capture truth vividly for us.  The truths of Luke 9:57-62 were made evident to me some years ago when my wife and I took two of our grandchildren out to lunch at a nearby restaurant.  Our granddaughter, who was four at the time, stood up in the booth and began singing the following in her clear soprano voice. 

      I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to 

      follow Jesus, No turning back.  No turning back.  

      The world behind me, the cross before me, the world behind me, the cross before me, The world behind me, the cross before me,  No turning back.  No turning back.

      Though none go with me, I still will follow,  Though none go with me, I still will follow, Though none go with me, I still will follow,  No turning back.  No turning back. 

Her message was clear and understandable.  All that remained for us to do was to say Amen, collect an offering and give the Benediction to the surrounding tables!    

     Our Lord’s words to us on being a reproducer are found in Matthew 28:18-20.  “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”  One of our speakers at a recent navigator conference, Bill Hull, remarked that they were simply told to “make more of what you are.”  To make more of what we are we need to be available, to be vulnerable, and to persevere.  First of all, we need to manage our time wisely so that we are available to others.  Jim Morris stated repeatedly that “Discipleship is more caught than taught.”  Our contact should be such that we can say with the Apostle Paul.  “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.”  (Philippians 4:9)  Our lives, furthermore, must be so transparent so that others can clearly see that Christ is living in us.  “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”  (II Corinthians 4:7)  We also must learn to persevere with others.  “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”  (Luke 8:15)  Our work with others is not completed until we can see four generations through their lives.  “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.”  (II Timothy 2:2)   

     In Matthew 28:17 it is noted that “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.”  Those who worshiped had their eyes on the Lord.  Those who doubted had their eyes only on themselves.  Jesus said that “All authority is given to Him.”  With our eyes on Him, we need never doubt His ability to make disciples through us as we learn, follow and reproduce our lives in others.  

In Christ, Richard Spann   

                 

When God Hides Himself

Speaker:

                                           Truly you are a God who hides himself,

                                                  O God and Savior of Israel.

                                                                                    Isaiah 45:15

     When the Lord called out the Israelites and made of them a great nation whose function was to impact and bless the world, He bestowed on them a priestly blessing.  

                                           “The LORD bless you and keep you;

         

                                           The LORD make his face to shine upon you 

                                           and be gracious to you;

                                           The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

      

                                                                                                         Numbers 6:24-26

G. Campbell Morgan makes these comments about this blessing which I have summarized as follows.  In the first, the LORD is pictured as the One who comes to kneel in order to serve us, and hedges us round so as to protect us.  The second of the statements refers to Jehovah as not only the supply of blessing but the channel of blessing.  It is His grace that comes to us in our need.  God Himself becomes flesh and so the glory of His face is seen, and the wonder of His grace becomes operative.  The third statement conveys the thought of a new experience created by the presence of Jehovah Himself, resulting in peace.  The Westminster Pulpit, Baker Book House, 1954-55, Volume VIII, Pages 135-136.    

     For many centuries, the children of Israel repeated these blessings continually as a reminder of God’s promise of His presence.  Because of the sin and idolatry of His people, however, His face and His presence were no longer realized.  Even among His prophets and His spokesmen, there was a lament about God having hidden Himself from their view.  

     Among those who complained was Elijah, described by the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:3.  “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me.”  Asaph lamented before God his condition as compared to others.  “This is what the wicked are like-always carefree, they increase in wealth.  Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.  All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.”  Psalm 73:12-14.  Perhaps the most distressing call of all was heard from His prophet Habakkuk.  “How long O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?  Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice?  Why do you tolerate wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.  Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.  The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.”  Habakkuk 1:2-4   Whether the concern was personal, in regard to Elijah, or in his relationships to others as related by Asaph, or distressing circumstances experienced why Habakkuk, they all sensed the absence of God.  Where is God?  What is He doing?  Why does He not act in my behalf or in the behalf of others? 

     When God hides Himself, it is always to do a hidden work.  His hidden work in the nations of Israel was to bring judgment resulting in restoration.  His hidden work in His followers is always that of purification and preparation.  Purification is provided that they may more closely abide in Him and draw strength from Him who is their life.  Preparation is furnished so that more fruit is forthcoming for the Father and so that they may be fully able to perform the eternal tasks in Glory which will serve and honor our LORD throughout the coming ages.  No moment of darkness, no shadow of doubt, no perplexing thought, no heavy burden, no days of despair are permitted that are not a part of His infinite love, His limitless knowledge and His complete control.  

     Knowing that God is at work, whether we can see or measure His activity, makes all the difference in our lives.  Job recounts the following in Job 23:8-10.  “But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him.  When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.  But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”  Job was stating his conviction that even though God was hidden from him, he was not hidden from God.  He states that God is all knowing-“He knows the way that I take”, that He is in complete control of my life- “when He has tested me”, and that His purpose is that of infinite love which will be reflected in my good-“I will come forth as gold.” 

     Eternity’s greatest work was only possible because God hid Himself.  Our Savior’s cry from the cross chronicled those three hours at the the end of which He exclaimed “My God!  My God, why didst thou forsake me?”  G. Campbell Morgan has the following comments on this period of three hours.  “In these three hours of darkness we are face to face with the time when all the force of evil was brought to bear on the soul of the Son of God, and all the unutterable intent and purpose of evil wrapped Him about in a darkness that is beyond our comprehension.  In the deep darkness, and in the midst of the silence, He triumphed over the forces of evil, the principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly by the Cross, putting off from Himself all that assaulted Him in, and by, and through the darkness.  In those hours transactions were accomplished which through all eternity defy the apprehension and explanation of finite minds.”  The Westminster Pulpit, Baker Book House, 1954-55, Volume VII, page 195.   

     This work of God in Christ, hidden from our view, will be marveled at throughout the ages to come as we, His body and church, will praise Him forever.  The hidden work of God in our lives is meant to be revealed as well even though we “suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”  I Peter 1:6.  The following verse (I Peter 1:7) tells us that “These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”                                 

     When God hides Himself, it is to produce a work in and through our lives that will be to His eternal glory and will result in our praise, glory and honor as well.  This will be revealed in those who have persevered by faith, knowing that, like Job, though God may be hidden for a time from us, that we are never hidden from Him.  

In Christ,  Richard Spann

Habakkuk 2:3

Speaker:

               But these things I plan won’t happen right away.  Slowly, steadily,

               surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled.  If it

               seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to

               pass.  Just be patient!  They will not be overdue a single day!

                                                                 Habakkuk 2:3 (The Living Bible)

     Habakkuk’s burden was not only for himself, but also for the country in which he lived.  He says in chapter one verse three that there is “oppression and bribery and men who love to argue and fight.” (Living Bible)  In verse four he states that “the wicked far outnumber the righteous, and bribes and trickery prevail.” (Living Bible)  His personal complaint before the Lord is found in verse two of chapter one.  “O Lord, how long must I call for help before you will listen?  I shout to you in vain; there is no answer.” (Living Bible)

     Everyone will find themselves in life situations that are perplexing and difficult, at times almost intolerable.  These include a wide variety of issues.  It may be, as Habakkuk experienced, a spiritual discouragement and/or depression over the state of affairs in one’s country.  This condition may apply more locally, to our individual communities, churches or individuals.  More commonly, the voice of complaint we raise to the Lord focuses on our physical needs, such as prolonged difficult health issues, the oppressive conditions in which we may live, either the lack of employment or an intolerable work environment, as well as unresolved conflicts with some of our relationships.  The causes are multiple and varied, but we all reach a point where we cry out to the Lord.  “How long?”  “When will my prayer be answered?”  “How long must I endure this situation, which for me, has an unknown timetable and an unknown ending?”  The Lord’s answer to Habakkuk, and to us, is found in chapter 2:3.  His vision, His plan for us and all that we desire to see happen in our lives will not be overdue a single day!  God has gone to great lengths to assure us of this!

     Did you know that there is a book in Heaven written about you?  As with all books, we desire to know not only something about the Author, but what it says and when it was written, particularly when we are the chief subject of the book!  The Author of the book written about us, is, of course, our God and Father.  He says in Psalm 139:16, “Every day was recorded in your book.” (Living Bible)  How complete or extensive is your book?  Psalms 139:17-18 says the following:  “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!  Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.”  That number, incidentally, is approximately ten to the twenty third power, or a one with twenty three zeros behind it!  This book starts with your own individual DNA being selected by the Lord.  “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.”  Our nationality, cultural background, our sex, height, and all our individual characteristics were chosen by our Father.  His knowledge of His creation is so extensive and deep that He reminds us that all the hairs of our head are numbered!  The Author of your book also wants you to know that you arrived on the planet at the exact location and time that he planned for you to make your entrance!  Acts 17:26 states that “he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”  

     Your book is also quite detailed.  Psalm 139:16 relates to us that “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  This includes all that each day brings, not just the number of days.  It lists each day, every event, conversation, where you go and what you will do, the trials and troubles, as well as the blessings you will receive.  There are “incidents,” but no “accidents.”  It records how His great love reached you with His redemption, how he has called you by your name and that you belong to Him!  “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)  It records the journey of His care for you, how He turned you back when you were headed the wrong way, (restores my soul) and directed you into His righteous paths. (Psalm 23)  His gifts and opportunities to serve Him are mentioned as well. (Ephesians 2:10)  

     What does your book say about the difficult times, those you pray diligently about that they would be resolved or pass away quickly?  The Author and Perfecter of your life states the following:  “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”  Isaiah 43:2.  Does the Author tell you what He was accomplishing during these times of distress and perplexity?  Not entirely, but we see His promises to us in Romans 8:18.  “I consider that our present sufferings are not worthy comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”   And again the following is stated in II Corinthians 4:17.  “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”  The book which God has written assures us that His work in us is to prepare us for an eternity with Him in which His glory is to be exhibited in and through us.  All of us are being prepared for a glory that is beyond our comprehension.  

     We are always interested to know when a book is written.  Was your book written as an afterthought?  Was it written hurriedly after the fall of our race in the Garden of Eden?  Scripture is not silent on when it was written, where it was penned, and the purpose of its writing.  Psalm 139:16 says that “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  We may ask, How long before?  Isaiah 46:10 states the following:  “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.”  II Timothy 1:9 states that “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”  It was in the beginning that had no beginning that our LORD painstakingly, and in minute detail, planned your life with His infinite love, unfathomable knowledge and complete control.  Seated on His Glorious throne, His Hand guides and directs through all He has planned for us. Why was it written?  So that we might know Him as our sanctuary through each day of our lives.  Jeremiah 17:12 relates that “A glorious throne, exalted from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary.”  In our country, we have what are called “sanctuary cities.”  These are places of safety, security and protection.  The place of our sanctuary, however, is His Glorious Throne.  It is in knowing that our lives are fully determined by His mighty hand of love that we are safe, secure and experience His protection.  His desire is that all these days will prepare us to join Him in His Glory as He describes for us in Ephesians 3:21.  “Unto him be glory in the church by Jesus Christ throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen”  (KJV)   

     Some years ago, my wife wrote me a note of encouragement including the following verse in Psalm 138:8.  It was a reminder of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling all that He has planned for us in our books.  “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever-do not abandon the works of your hands.”  He will perfect the work of His hands!  Each day is carefully and lovingly prepared for us to the accomplishment of His glory in and through our lives for all eternity.  Because of His infinite love, His unfathomable knowledge and complete control we are enabled, by His grace, to be patient.  We can rest assured that the things that we long and hope for will surely come to pass.  They will not be overdue a single day!  

In Christ, Richard Spann          

Walking in Darkness

Speaker:

                                     Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light,

                                   trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.  

                                                                                               Isaiah 50:10

     Have you ever experienced total darkness, where you cannot see your hand in front of your face?  I have experienced this while traversing caves in Missouri on several occasions.  You can imagine what that is like.  If it were not for a flashlight, you would reach out with your hand or foot not knowing whether there was a stone wall, a jagged ledge, or a drop off in front of you.  A friend of mine was once lost in the mountains of Washington State near Mt. Rainier.  As we waited for him on the trail in the darkness, we were relieved to finally see him tumble through the woods.  I can still remember his description of the terror he felt as he groped his way through the woods to the trail.  

     Isaiah in the above passage is describing this from a different perspective, one with which we are all familiar.  It is not material darkness, which is but transient.  It is far worse.  It is a darkness that hovers over us wherever we go, lasting for days, weeks or even months.  It is a darkness which surrounds our spirit, creating a constant awareness of not knowing which way to go or what to do.  It lasts throughout other activities and events of our lives, casting a continuous cloud over us.  The causes of this darkness are multiple   The accumulation of debt, for example, may be increasing to the extent that it consumes our future and we see no way out of its darkness.  Close relationships may be damaged so severely that there is no apparent reconciliation.  No job openings or dead end jobs for others may create darkness in the lives of some.  For others, it may be a chronic unrelenting illness for which there is no cure.  In all of these there is a search for some light in the paths ahead, but there is but darkness surrounding us. 

     It is to these particular situations where we walk in darkness that these words are given to us.  “Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.”  What does it mean to trust in the name of the LORD?  Proverbs 18:10 states that “The name of the LORD is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe.”  How do we run to the name of the LORD?  The LORD’s name signifies who He is.  It describes His character.  His name, by which He appeared to Moses is Jehovah (which we write as LORD), means that He is the “Becoming One.”  He will become all we need him to be.  There are multiple scriptures which reveal illustrations of all this means to us.  His name is given to us in the book of Judges as Jehovah-Shalom, (He is our Peace).  In Jeremiah we learn that His Name is Jehovah-Tsidkenu, (The LORD is our righteousness).  In Genesis, we experience with Abraham that His name is Jehovah-Jireh, (The LORD will provide).  In the Psalms we find Him as Jehovah-Raah, (The LORD is our shepherd).  The children of Israel experienced Him as  Jehovah-Nissi, (The LORD is our banner).  He is the One we can come to with any need in prayer. They also experienced Him as Jehovah-Rapha, (The LORD Is our healer).  In the middle of seventy years of darkness the children of Israel realized in the last verse of Ezekiel that even in the bleakness of their surroundings that the name of the LORD Is Jehovah-Shammah, (The LORD is there).

     In our home, we have a hallway stretching down the middle of the house for fifty feet.  It is less that four feet in width and totally devoid of light at night.  A person walking down that hallway at night is in total darkness.  To turn on the light would wake up others sleeping in adjacent bedrooms.  There is something, however, in which I trust that keeps me from bumping into the walls.  It is the presence of a motion detector at the end of the hall.  I find that if I start walking toward the end of the hall that the motion detector will light up.  As long as I keep walking and walk directly toward it, trusting in its guidance, I will be on a direct and safe path in the dark.  

     In all our experiences of darkness, the LORD has an answer.  His answer is to be found in His name.  It is by looking steadfastly to Him as we walk in darkness that He reveals Himself to us as the One who is present with us, Who will answer our prayer, Who is our righteousness, our Shepherd, our Healer and the One who will become all that we need.  As surely as I am kept safe by walking toward the motion detector in the darkness of our hallway, I am secure as I fix my eyes on Him and keep walking, trusting in the name of the LORD and relying on my God.      

     The nation of Israel was about to enter into four hundred years of darkness.  No new vision was to be given.  No additional revelations were to be provided.  The voice of prophets was not be be heard during this time.  Yet the LORD spoke to them about His relationship with them during these years of darkness.  “Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard.  A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.  ‘They will be mine,’ says the LORD Almighty ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possession.  I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.’”  Malachi 3:16-17  Instead of “honor” in verse sixteen, some translations render this as “to esteem,” or to have “thought on His name.”   The thought is the same.  It is that of trust in His name and relying on their God.  They looked to the One with infinite love, perfect knowledge and complete control to be all they needed Him to be.  The LORD regarded them as His treasured possession.  They would be spared from anything that would hinder God’s perfect work in them for His Glory and for their eternal good.   That is also God’s promise to us we face darkness with its many origins and varied forms.  As you trust in His name, you become His treasured possession and are assured of safe travel until you reach the loving arms of our LORD Himself.   

In Christ, Richard Spann   

The God-centered life

Speaker:

                                The Self-Centered Life Fails without 

                                  the Remotest Chance of Success.

                                 The God-Centered Life Succeeds

                            without the Remotest Chance of Failure

                                                                        Ray Ortland

     G. Campbell Morgan, in The Westminster Pulpit defines the self-centered life as follows.  “It is the life irreligious, the life that has no vision of God, that never waits for His voice, has no sense of the eternal, no commerce with the spiritual, no traffic with the unseen, the life which Peter describes when he says ‘seeing only the things that are near.’”  Baker Book House 1954-55, Volume III, Page 242.  It is a life which equally may be condemned by the culture in which one lives, or it may be a life that is highly commended.  It may accomplish much by the world’s standards, but when examined in the light of eternity it will be of no consequence.  The Lord states to us in John 15:5  “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  The life lived without dependence upon His person and His power achieves nothing of lasting value.  Our Lord relates to us that in living the self-centered life, we are losing a glorious life of fulfillment and joy which stretches into eternity, a full, abundant, rich meaningful life.  These words are recorded in John 12:25.  “The man who loves his life will lose it while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”  The self-centered life fails, then, with not the remotest chance of success.  

     The God-centered life, on the other hand, succeeds without the remotest chance of failure.  This life is characterized by surrender to the Person of Christ.  It is described by G. Campbell Morgan in the following manner.  “‘I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.‘  I deliberately adopt the marginal reading there.  That is a wonderful verse.  Study its psychology.  ‘I beseech you.….to present your bodies.‘  Your body is not you.  The apostle is not dealing with the body, he is dealing with the essential man.  Or in the Corinthian epistle, ‘your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you…..glorify God therefore in your body.‘  You glorify God in it:  you are not it:  you indwell it.  The body is the tabernacle, the tent of the man, not the man.  I pray you mark the significance of this, and see the reason for laying emphasis on these two passages.  What is surrender?  To give myself over to the Lord.  That is, all my spiritual life.  How am I to do that, or demonstrate that I have done it?  By presenting the body in which I dwell.  That is spiritual worship.  We thought spiritual worship consisted in singing hymns and praying.   All these things are spiritual, or should be, but spiritual worship is the body dedicated to the Lord.  

                                     Take my hands, and let them move                                                                               

                                          At the impulse of Thy love;   

                                         Take my feet and let them be 

                                         Swift and beautiful for Thee.

That is surrender.  That is not merely that my hands and feet are at His disposal, but that I am His, and that I indicate to Him and to the world my abandonment by putting the members of my body at His disposal and refusing to allow brain, or heart, or head, or hands, or feet to act save under His command and in His sacred service.  The intellect, emotion, will surrendered, and consequently the whole body acting under His direction.”

The Westminster Pulpit, Baker Book House, Volume III, pages 313-314.

     Having abandoned oneself to the Lord, then, the recognition offered by the world has no meaning.  The God-centered life finds its confidence in the assurance of                    I Corinthians 15:58.  “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  No effort or expenditure of time or resources is wasted.  All is remembered and rewarded, “even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones.” (Matthew 10:42)  The God-centered life is one which “will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25)  It succeeds without the remotest chance of failure.  

     In light of the above, then, the most pressing question to be asked is “How can I change the center of my life?”  This question is but to repeat in a different form the one asked of the Lord in John 6:28.  “What must we do to do the works God requires?”  Jesus’ answer to them, and likewise in answer to the question we pose is the same.  “The work of God is this:  to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)  This belief is described more fully by G. Campbell Morgan as follows.  “The faith that saves, faith in the initial stages of the Christian life and all the process of discipline of Christian life is not conviction merely; but yielding to, obedience to, abandonment to conviction.  Where conviction is answered by active obedience, there you have faith that brings into living contact with all the resources of power.  The faith that saves is not faith about, but faith into.  Belief is more than belief about.  Belief about is conviction.  Belief into is conviction compelling activity.  Belief about is conviction of the light.  Belief into is walking in the light.”  The Westminster Pulpit, Baker Book House, Volume III, Page 308. 

     God has come and lived among us (John 1:14) and has now by His death and Resurrection, made available to us His Life that we may live moment by moment in fellowship with Him.  It is by trusting Him fully to manifest His presence, His power and His purpose in and through your life that you may rest assured that your life is         God-centered.  He desires that you know this and assures you that such a life has not the remotest chance of failure.  

In Christ, Richard Spann 

     

God does not tell us to break habits

Speaker:

                                God Does Not Tell Us To Break Habits,

                                       He Tell Us To Replace Them.

                                                   Jay Adams

     Whether we realize it or not, our lives are based on habits.  These determine our morning activities, such as having a cup of coffee, and the first thing we read during the day.  Our habits determine how we relate to our employer and employees, to our families, and to our hobbies.  They influence, to a significant extent, how we spend discretionary time and finances.  Our thought life is additionally largely governed by our habits. 

     In the scriptures we read of the life of our Lord in regard to habits as they influenced His life.  “When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom (Luke 2:42).  “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.  And he stood up to read” (Luke 4:16).  We also see how habits (customs) influenced the life of the Apostle Paul.  “As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the scriptures” (Acts 17:2).  

     Perhaps the clearest description of how to respond to our habits is found in Ephesians chapter four.  “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.  ‘In your anger do not sin’:  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.  He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.  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.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”  (Ephesians 4: 22-32).  

     In each of the examples given to us of the “old self,” we are told that it must be replaced by the “new self.”  The old habits are not merely to be broken; we are to establish new habits.  Jay Adams asks the following questions.  “When is a thief not a thief?  When he stops stealing?  No!  He is simply an unemployed thief!”  He is not a thief when he does something useful with his hands so that he may share with others in need.  Similarly, falsehood must be replaced by the truth.  Unwholesome talk must be replaced by speaking what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.  Bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander must be replaced with kindness, compassion and forgiveness.  If there is no replacement of the old with the new, we are like the man described in Matthew 12:43-45.  “When a evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.  Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.‘  When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.  Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there.  And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.  That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”   Our “house” must be occupied by new habits, lest we return to the condition in which we lived in our “old self.”   

     Ephesians chapter four deals with habits that are immoral.  Many of our habits, however, are amoral, that is, not wrong in and of themselves.  Jay Adams makes this remark about those habits.  “Every habit in life needs to come under review.  Check your habits regularly.”  Some habits simply utilize time and resources.  Other habits, under the Lord’s direction, will redeem the time and make an eternal difference in our lives as well as the lives of others.  We are told the following in Ephesians 5:15-17.  “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”  There are three verses in I Corinthians that are helpful in checking habits as recommended by Jay Adams.  They are as follows.  “‘Everything is permissible for me’—but not everything is beneficial.  ‘Everything is permissible for me’—but I will not be mastered by anything” (I Corinthians 6:12).  “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall” (I Corinthians 8:13).  “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31).  These verses frame four questions that are beneficial in review of our habits.  Are they beneficial?  Am I mastered by them?  How do they affect others?  Do they glorify God?  

     Most of us are familiar with the saying as follows.  “Sow a thought, reap an act.  Sow an act, reap a habit.  Sow a habit, reap a character.  Sow a character, reap a destiny.”  The above quote is often used to emphasize the importance of our thoughts.  It is also helpful to consider it in reference to our habits.  II Corinthians 10:5 tells us that we must “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  If this is true of our thoughts, it is likewise true of our habits.   

     Do we have any habits that need to be brought to the Lord?  Should some be replaced with other habits that redeem the time rather than simply use time?  To sow a habit means that we are reaping a character.  Are our current habits forming the character that the Lord desires for our lives?  It is my prayer that your habits would bring glory to Him as they increasingly reflect the character of our Lord.  

In Christ, Richard Spann           

            

      

If you don’t believe in sovereignty of God

Speaker:

                               If You Don’t Believe in the Sovereignty of God,

                                      the Only Alternative is Bitterness.

                                                                                        Skip Gray

     The seeds of bitterness are sown in the soil of self absorption.  We read in the first half of Psalm seventy seven about the bitterness of heart which Asaph experienced.  His self absorption is revealed with twenty two personal references to himself and only eleven words having reference to God.  When he sought the Lord (verse two) his soul refused to be comforted.  His remembrance of God caused him only to groan (verse three).  Verse four related that he was too troubled to speak or even sleep.  His questions of God in verses eight and nine are as follows.  Has your love vanished?  Has your promise failed?  Has mercy been forgotten?  Has your compassion been withheld?  Asaph is looking for answers in himself and finding only a spirit of bitterness.  

     In verse ten, we see the result of the Holy Spirit’s work in his heart.  He states “This is my infirmity” (KJV).  What does he mean by this?  He is relating that the condition of mind which causes him to have bitterness (expressed in verses 1-9) is his infirmity.  What is the answer? The answer is in remembering that these are “The years of the right hand of the Most High.” (KJV)  G. Campbell Morgan makes this comment regarding these years.  “They are the years of the right hand of the Most High, the years that are held within the hand of God, the years that are molded, conditioned, and made by that hand.  Nothing in the years of the Psalmist’s own life is outside the hand of God.  The right hand is a symbol peculiar to Hebrew thought and literature, and is used perpetually to mark some great fact in the character and person of God.  Law and righteousness (Psalm 48:10), salvation and strength (Psalm 17:7, 20:6), action and love (Psalm 118:16, Song of Solomon 2:6), and the deep, full satisfaction of every necessity of human life in pleasure forevermore (Psalm 16:11)-all these things, to the mind of the Hebrew, were wrapped up in that magnificent figure of the right hand of the Most High.  The years of my life, now says the Psalmist, are years conditioned in law and righteousness-years in which there is the perpetual outworking of salvation and the unceasing manifestation of strength; they are years in which God is active for me, years in which I am perpetually caressed by the love and tenderness of the Divine heart, years which, because they come from the hand of God, are years of the making of eternal and undying pleasure.”  The Westminster Pulpit, Volume III, Baker Book House 1954-55, Pages 14-15.

  

     What effect do these “Years of the right hand of the Most High” have on Asaph?  In the last half of the Psalm we find only three personal references and twenty four to God.  Self consciousness is absorbed by God consciousness and His sorrow is replaced by the Lord’s strength.  His bitterness vanishes and is replaced by praise and worship.  It is the revelation of the splendor and majesty of God that transforms the bitter self absorbed heart into a God conscious heart.  The consciousness of God’s sovereignty in all His dealings with the Psalmist has removed all bitterness.    

     The Glory and Might of God are similarly revealed to others in Scripture, declaring His Sovereign rule and removing bitterness.  In appealing to the bitterness of His servant Job, the Lord revealed the riches of His knowledge and power.  (Job Chapters 38-41)  It was this revelation that changed the self consciousness of Job into God consciousness which stated “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” (Job 42:3) 

     Each of us has experienced, or will experience, years which Asaph describes in the first nine verses of Psalm seventy seven.  They may involve personal, family, church, or community issues.  Health concerns, financial struggles, job difficulties, loneliness or unresolved interpersonal conflicts are problems which are commonly encountered.  The last three years of our lives have been “Years of the right hand of the Most High.”  In the space of eighteen months, from June 2016 to January 2018, all four members of our family underwent major surgery.  In one of our daughters, it was to prevent the occurrence of cancer.  The other three of us had cancer which was not able to be entirely removed by surgical excision.  Months of chemotherapy followed for the three of us, with days of nausea, poor appetite, loss of taste and lack of sleep.  The chemotherapy has caused a continuing neuropathy in my wife. Thankfully, both my wife and I are in remission at the present time.  Our oldest daughter, however, is still dealing with the presence of cancer and requiring continuing treatments.  Many people have come to our support with their encouragement and prayers.  Through their continued ministry to us, we have remembered that our Sovereign Lord is in charge of each detail of our lives and that we can rest assured in His loving care.  The Lord has been faithful throughout our journey to enable us to remember that all these days are being held in His loving right hand.  When someone remarks, “You probably feel like the rug is pulled out from underneath you,” we can recall Deuteronomy 33:27.  “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”  When the rug is pulled out and we hit the absolute bottom, there we find the everlasting arms!  These are the sovereign arms of our loving Lord wrapping around us in tenderness and assuring us that His infinite love and His unfathomable knowledge are in total control of our lives.  

      His might, His power, His splendor and His glory change all self consciousness to God consciousness.  It is the consciousness of God’s Sovereignty that will remove all bitterness from the hearts of those who are afflicted.  It is my prayer that when “The years of the right hand of the Most High” come into your life that you will remember that you are being held by the everlasting arms of our Sovereign Loving Lord.  

In Christ, Richard Spann

Deep Down in Your Soul

Speaker:

                If Deep Down In Your Soul You Do Not Believe That God Is Good,

                           Then Jesus Will Never Be Lord Of Your Life.

                                                   Jerry Bridges

     Walt Henrichsen, author of Disciples Are Made, Not Born, once stated that both God and man want the same thing.  They both desire what is best for mankind.  Their difference lies in the fact that mankind trusts in himself to achieve what is best, whereas God knows that only by trusting Him will mankind achieve that which is best.  Why does man trust himself rather than God?  The answer is found in Genesis chapter three.  The evil one posed a question to Eve.  “Did God really say ‘You must not eat from any tree in the Garden?’” (Genesis 3:1)  The evil one also said “You will not surely die,”  “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)  G. Campbell Morgan states that the devil introduced three thoughts to mankind with his question and statements.  He deceived them by causing them to “question the goodness of God,” to “slander the motive of God,” and to “deny the severity of God.”  In its rebellion, mankind lost its conception of the true God and of goodness itself.  Yet, the cry of the human heart continually was to find goodness.  This was expressed by David in Psalm 4:6.  “Many are asking, ‘who can show us any good?’”  G. Campbell Morgan, in The Crises Of The Christ, Hardpress Publishing, Page 23 states the following.  “Man, having fallen, demanded a god, and having lost the knowledge of the true God, has projected into immensity the lines of his own personality, and thus has created as objects of worship the awful monsters, the service of which, in process of time, has resulted in the still deeper degradation of the worshipper.”     

     The cry for goodness proceeded over the centuries until we see it reflected in the question posed by Nathaniel in John 1:46.  “Nazareth!  Can anything good come from there?”  G. Campbell Morgan relates the following in The Crises Of The Christ, Hardpress Publishing, Page 65.  “Man’s ruin was so terrible, and so profound, as witness the darkened intelligence, the deadened emotion, and the degraded will, that there was but one alternative open to the Eternal God.  Either he must sweep out and destroy utterly the race, or else in infinite patience, and through long processes, lead it back to Himself.  He chose the pathway of reconciliation in His infinite grace, at what cost the story of the Christ alone perfectly reveals.”  

     Scripture records various reasons for the appearing of the Son of Man.  These include “To destroy the works of the devil,” (I John 3:8) “To take away sins,” (I John 3:5) and “To testify to the truth.” (John 18:37)  It also states that one purpose was to reveal the Father.  “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)  The true picture of what God was like was seen in the person of Jesus Christ.  His Goodness was recorded in John chapter ten, where in two verses (eleven and fourteen)  he refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd.  In Mark 10:18 his question of the rich young ruler “Why do you call me good?”  and His statement  “No one is good-except God alone”  declare not only the character of God, but affirm His identity with the Father.   It is also recorded in Acts 10:38 that “He went around doing good.” Campbell Morgan again addresses this subject with the following comments.  “The God-man then is the gateway between God and man.  Through Him God has found His way back to man, from whom He had been excluded by his rebellion.  In Him man finds his way back to God from whom he had been alienated by the darkening of his intelligence, the death of his love, and the disobedience of his will.  God finds Himself in this person and is with men.  Man finds himself in this person, and is with God.  Through the God-man, Deity takes hold upon humanity.  Through the God-man, humanity takes hold upon Deity.”  The Crises Of The Christ, Hardpress Publishing, page 67. 

     Since Deity has taken hold of humanity, then, we can rest secure in the Lordship of Christ.  We can know and experience the truth of Romans 8:28.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  J. I. Packer makes the following comments about this verse in regard to His Lordship in our lives.  Knowing God, Intervarsity Press 1973, page 111.  

“Not just some things, note, but all things!  Every single thing that happens to him expresses God’s love to him, and comes to him for the furthering of God’s purpose for him.  Thus, so far as he is concerned, God is love to him-holy, omnipotent love-at every moment and in every event of every day’s life.  Even when he cannot see the why and the wherefore of God’s dealings, he knows that there is love in and behind them, and so he can rejoice always, even when, humanly speaking, things are going wrong.  He knows that the true story of his life, when known, will prove to be, as the hymn says, ‘mercy from first to last’-and he is content.”  

     The Lord also assures us of His care as our Lord in Romans 8:32.  “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”  J. I. Packer describes this verse as follows.  “The meaning of ‘He will give us all things’ can be put thus:  One day we shall see that nothing-literally nothing-which could have increased our eternal happiness has been denied us, and that nothing-literally nothing-that could have reduced that happiness has been left with us.  What higher assurance do we want than that?”  Knowing God Intervarsity Press, 1973, page 246.  

     When I was fourteen years of age, I was called into a room where my mother was lying in bed.  She was in the last stages of widespread cancer and had become so weak that she was no longer able to walk.  She looked at me and said “Richard, be good.”  Those were her last words to me.  Several days later she went to be with the Lord while in the hospital.  I think about those words occasionally and I wonder to myself what she  was really desiring to communicate.  Was I simply to stop doing bad things?  Did she want me to try to do good things?  Was her desire that which related to my conduct?  Was she, perhaps, referring to the formation of my character?  Since goodness is found in God alone, was she asking me to let Jesus be Lord of my life so that His Goodness would be made manifest?  As the Lord has said, there is only One who is Good.  This One is seen in the Trinitarian expression of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  It is only in the measure that Christ Jesus is Lord of my life that I am able to enjoy His Goodness, praise Him for His Goodness, and and allow His Goodness to be made visible in my life.  God is infinitely Good beyond any capacity of mankind to measure.  As eternity unfolds before us, we will be led into untold riches of His Goodness which will be beyond our comprehension even at that time.  During this brief window of what we call “time,” however, we are given but a moment, which James calls “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)  It is to your eternal benefit and His eternal Glory that you use this moment to acknowledge Him as the Lord of your life.  May the Lord manifest His Goodness to you and through you so that His Lordship of your life is increasingly made manifest until the day of His coming.  

In Christ,  Richard Spann                    

Your Leadership is Not Determined

Speaker:

                      Your Leadership Is Not Determined By How Many People 

                            Serve You, But By How Many People You Serve. 

                                                       Lorne Sanny 

     Each one of us has been employed by others whom we have served.  We were required to be a part of the objective and goals of their company or corporation.  Our opinion was not solicited.  Our needs were immaterial to those in charge.  There was a daily expectation that we meet their demands for production, delivery or in other ways contribute to the success and benefit of those for whom we were working.  Our very livelihood depended upon our submission to whatever they asked us to do.  Many have felt like a cog in a wheel, looking at the paycheck as the only gratification of a job well done.  This type of leadership in which we were used, or, at times, abused, is described in Mark 10:42.  “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.’”  He was describing, in that verse, the condition mentioned initially by Lorne Sanny in his comment as quoted.  “Your leadership is not determined by how many people serve you.” 

     What was Jesus‘ definition of leadership?  He continues with the following statements in Mark 10:43-44.  “Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”  As Lorne Sanny has phrased it:  “Your leadership is determined by how many people you serve.”

     We are all given opportunities to demonstrate leadership by serving others.  This includes family relationships, communities, churches, our areas of employment, and in the case of some, national and international responsibilities.  In each of these we must choose to serve others primarily rather than require them to serve us.  Husbands must ask “How can I best serve my wife and my children?”  Employers must choose to address the needs of each employee.  “How can I best serve them to meet their physical and spiritual needs?”  Those in positions of power and authority in national and international spheres must choose, not the choices that will advance their careers or obtain re-election, but rather the actions and legislation that will further the spiritual development and meet the physical needs of those whom they represent.  What activities, then, may be required in such acts of service?  We see these portrayed most accurately in the life of Christ.  It is in His life that we see the God-man serve us.  “For even the Son of Man did not come to be serve, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (Mark 10:45)  

     On multiple occasions it was noted that our Lord was in prayer for those He came to serve.  (Luke 6:12, Luke 22:32, John 17)  As Jesus looked to His Father in prayers for us, we need to continually bring others before Him as well.  This is the most critical act of service that we can offer to them.  It is in remembering this, the most important way we serve, that we are reminded by our Lord to serve in other ways as well.  

     The Lord clearly indicated to us that He was the example for our lives in our service to others.  “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:13)  We serve others, likewise, by being an example for their lives.  We must be a model for others of what we want them to become.  Other than prayer, this is the most powerful way in which we serve others.  Paul saw the importance of this when he instructed Timothy in II Timothy 3:10-11.  “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings-what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured.  Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.”  Those we serve in our families, our church, and in our business will become like us, not from what we tell them ultimately, but from our example to them.  

     Leadership requires careful instruction, (Luke 10:1-12) as well as correction.  (Mark 9:33-41)  Both are needed if we are to be a leader who serves others.  My first task after I joined the Air Force was at McConnell AFB in Wichita, Kansas.  I was given a job as an aircraft electrical mechanic and sent to repair a gun switch on an F-86 aircraft.  I discovered later that I had wired it backwards!  I was given neither instruction nor correction!  If we are to serve others by our leadership, we need to give clear instruction as well as follow up recommendations.  

     Jesus was an encourager!  We see this in His interaction with Peter in John 1:42, assuring him of what he, through God’s grace, was to become.  In John chapters thirteen through seventeen, the Lord gives continual encouragement to his disciples.  If our leadership truly serves others, we must learn to encourage others.  The world around us brings constant discouragement.  Words of encouragement from others are rare.  How many of us can remember the last time we heard a word of encouragement?  Hebrews 3:13 tells us that words of encouragement should be given to others daily so that “None of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  Proverbs 12:25 says that “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”  As a leader, then, we must develop the habit of speaking words of encouragement to those we serve.  

     The last activity to which we will bring reference in regard to serving others is that of making our lives available to them.  Jesus majored in making His life available to us.  In Mark 3:14 it is stated that “He appointed twelve-designating them apostles-that they might be with him…”   The Apostle John recalls the following in I John 1:1.  “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim concerning the word of life.”  An absentee parent, employer or CEO cannot serve those whom he leads without being available to them.  You will not be able to lead and serve those you do not know.  

     As we seek to serve others whom we are given opportunity to lead, we must keep our eyes on our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is not a model which we are to emulate.  He is a gift we are to receive.  His Righteousness and Holiness are ours as a gift of His grace    (I Corinthians 1:30)  He is our life. (Colossians 3:4)  As we look to Him to serve those whom we lead, we may rest assured that His work will continue in their lives for His glory.  

In Christ, Richard Spann