As Close to God As We Choose


We are as close to God,

not as we wish we would be,

but as close as we choose to be.

Howard Hendricks

     These words produce an immediate conviction to our hearts.  They clarify what we know to be true.  There are times when we are aware of our closeness to the Lord, but the times are many as well when we are not as close as we once were, or as close as we wish we would be.  Although convicting, it is also reassuring that we can, indeed, be as close as we choose to be.  Does the Lord not say “Come near to God and he will come near to you?” (James 4:8)  Do we not read in Jeremiah that “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart?” (Jeremiah 29:13)  And Proverbs 2:3-5 says “And if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”

Many have undertaken to instruct us in walking closer to God.  Scripture itself instructs us in Psalm 24:3-4.  “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?  Who may stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.”  We understand by this that it is the fear of God demonstrated by walking in His ways that brings us close to Him.  Many expositors state that much time spent with God is also necessary to experiencing closeness to Him.  Chuck Swindoll in his book “Intimacy with the Almighty,” points to simplicity, solitude, silence and surrender as being keys to drawing close to God.

As I examine my own life I find that any lack of closeness to God is due to satisfaction with my current distance from Him.  This satisfaction is created, I think, by a reliance on self rather than on Him.  I cry out to Him in times of need, but other days are characterized by some degree of dependence upon my own resources.  Am I looking to my own experience and training for any adequacy?  Is my daily agenda a matter of my choosing, rather than His?  Am I concerned about my own accomplishments rather than His?  If I would walk close to God, I must repent of this independence.  G. Campbell Morgan describes repentance in “The Westminster Pulpit” as follows.  “The repentance that Christ preached, and His Apostles preached, the repentance which is demanded of every man is always indicated by the use of the word that means a change of mind.  When Christ used that word, and when, as I have no doubt in the hearing of the men who listened to Him, it had exactly that meaning of change of mind, He had passed beyond the outer circumference of things into the inner center of a man’s life.  He began by declaring to men that their thought was wrong, that their conception of life was wrong.  Now we say to a man, alas, too often, change your conduct.  Jesus never began by telling a man to change his conduct.  That is to begin in the externalities of human life.  He comes to a man, and says, change your mind, and by that word He means that men hold wrong views at the very center of their being.  The word ”repent” passes into the fundamental realm, the thought of a man’s life.”  The wrong view, of which I need to repent, and change my mind, is that of my independence from Him.  My thinking needs to be changed to reflect that it is in Him, and Him alone, that I find my adequacy for any situation in life, (II Corinthians 3:5-6) that I have no ability, nor do I have the right, as a servant (doulos,-better translated slave) to establish my own agenda, and that I was never intended to find satisfaction in my own achievements which were not a ppart of His plan for my life.  I need repentance, a change of mind, which results in confidence in His adequacy, a commitment to His agenda, and concern for what He desires to accomplish.  This change of mind, from independence to dependence, brings me closer to Him daily as I look to Him for all that I need.

In Genesis 15:1, God states that He wants us not only to know Him as the One who will meet all our needs (a shield); He also wants us to know and experience Him as a reward.  He describes His gift of Himself to us as “your very great reward.”  Psalm 16:5 states that “The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup:  thou maintainest my lot.” (KJV)  Psalms 73:26 tells us that “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  And again in Lamentations 3:24, we read the following.  “I say to myself, the LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  What does it mean to know Him as a reward or portion?  It means that we can go beyond knowing and worshipping Him as our provider, we can know and worship Him as our portion.  We can experience a closeness to the One who we worship and serve not only for what He does for us, but for what He is in Himself; not solely because of His gracious provision, but because of His Glorious Person.

Walt Henrichsen, author of “Disciples are made, not born,” commented on this closeness to God by drawing an example from the book of Job.  His words in a personal note were as follows.  “Job opens with Satan taunting God over the faithfulness of Job, stating that Job served God because of God’s generosity.  If, however, God withdrew His favor, Job would curse God.  The book of Job tests this theory.  Satan’s estimate is based on weaker characters, exemplified by Job’s wife, who would have Job do what Satan had counted on his doing; but Job rejects the advice of his wife in words which are tantamount to saying:  ‘to curse God now would be to prove that I have served Him hitherto not for who He is, but for the blessings He has bestowed upon me; now that ill-fortune has befallen me I can show that I serve him for who He is.’”

Job’s worship of God for who He is was due to a close walk with Him.  The Lord has not restricted this close knowledge of himself to only a few. (like Job)  He opens His Heart to all who would come.  To know Him more deeply is the work of the unfolded ages which are before us.  “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (KJV)  This journey of drawing close to Him need not wait until we are with Him in heaven.  It can begin today, as we turn from independence to dependence, look to the LORD as our portion, and worship Him, not only for what He does for us, but for who He is.

In Christ, Richard Spann

The Lifeline Illustration


The Lifeline Illustration

Jim Morris

     This illustration, as outlined below, was developed by Jim Morris in the early 1970’s.  It was organized, in part, to be able to more clearly communicate to people what God’s will is for their lives.  He stated to me at one time that he often dealt with those who wanted to know what God’s will was for them in many areas of their lives.  He would tell them, to their amazement, that over ninety percent of God’s will for their lives was already revealed in scripture.  He would then relate to them these truths found in the scriptures chosen to illustrate God’s purpose for man.

The Lifeline Illustration

 God’s Purpose for Man:  Genesis 1:27  (Fellowship with Him)
Isaiah 43:7 (His Own Glory)


 First Objective  The Christian Life  Final Objective
 Our life NOW in Christ
 2 Peter 3:9

1 Timothy 2:4

(Be regenerated: Born Again)

1. His desire: 2 Cor. 5:15, 1 Peter 2:24 (Holy Life)  Romans 8:29;

1 John 3:2

(His image: Like Him)

 2. His method: Ephesians 4:23-24, Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:9-10 (Renewed Mind)
 3. His means: 2 Cor. 3:18, Eph. 5:18 (Holy Spirit)
 Colossians 1:25-27 (Living Bible)  4. How? 1 John 1:9, Hebrews 11:6 (Confess and believe)  Colossians 1:28-29 (Phillips version)
 Romans 12:1 (Present body, affirm His control)
 For every unregenerated person, my goal should be the same as God’s.  For every regenerated person, my goal should be the same as God’s.


I was first introduced to Jim’s illustration in December, 1972 and was encouraged to memorize these verses as well as the illustration itself.  It became a regular part of the teaching in Memorize the Word courses and many were exposed to its presentation.  All of us who became familiar with these passages of scripture have had opportunities to apply them to our own lives over the years.  There are several applications in my own life to which I will briefly refer.

The first two verses related in the illustration are Genesis 1:27 (where God states we were created for fellowship with Him), and Isaiah 43:7 (where the Lord tells us that we were created for His Glory.)  Since this is the Lord’s declared desire, I can always be on firm ground with the prayer that the Lord would grant fellowship with Him and that He would be glorified in my life, knowing that these prayers are a part of His will and that they will surely be answered.  Such prayers have become my daily habit for many years.

I have also been challenged by the verses chosen in Colossians 1:25-27 (LB)  “God has sent me to help his church and to tell his secret plan to you Gentiles.  He has kept this secret for centuries and generations past, but now at last it has pleased him to tell it to those who love him and live for him, and the riches and glory of his plan are for you Gentiles too.  And this is the secret:  that Christ in your hearts is your only hope of glory,” and Colossians 1:28-29.  “So, naturally, we proclaim Christ!  We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about Him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ.  This is what I am working at all the time, with all the strength that God gives me.” (Phillips Version)  These were memorized years ago and serve as a reminder of that to which Paul had committed his life:   specifically his goal for those who did not know Christ was that they would come to know Him, and his goal for those who already knew Christ was that they would know Him better.  Through these verses and the example of Paul’s life, the Lord has given me a life long purpose; helping others come to know Christ and to help them grow in their relationship with Him.

In this illustration I have also witnessed how God’s power becomes evident in the lives of others.  Some years ago I was treating a patient who had a lung disease for which there was no cure.  She had struggled with her symptoms for a few years but despite all that could be done for her, she steadily grew more short of breath every year.  She took early retirement from her teaching job and became more and more depressed.  On one office visit she stated that she was tired of living and had discovered no purpose for her life.  Her terminology immediately reminded me of Jim’s illustration and I asked her if she would be interested in learning the purpose for her life.  After an affirmative response, I returned from my office to the exam room with a Bible and we began going through the verses one by one.  Before the day was over, she came to faith in Christ and discovered His purpose for her life, His power to see her through her adversity, and His presence to provide comfort and peace for the months ahead.  The Lord also used her life to transform the life of her husband, who came to faith some months later.

In the accounts above, I have chronicled only a few ways in which I have seen the Lord use these verses.  Through them He has provided direction in prayer, a determination of purpose and demonstration of His power.  Many of us who remember Jim’s illustration are able to relate how these verses have been used by the Lord in their lives as well.  I would encourage those who are familiar with them to continue to review them.  For those of you to whom these verses and the illustration they contain are new, I would recommend careful review of them with a regard to application in your lives.  It is my desire, and I am sure that it is also that of Jim’s that the Lord would use this illustration in your lives, that you would be drawn into deeper fellowship with Him, and that the Lord would be glorified in your lives.

In Christ, Richard Spann

We have found the enemy


We have found the enemy, and it is us.


     Few remember the cartoons of yesteryear.  Pogo was as commonly read in the 1940’s and 1950’s as the Dagwood cartoon is today.  It depicted characters commenting on themselves and their situations in life.  The comment above which is attributed to Pogo, one of the cartoon characters, struck a chord with me then and has had numerous applications in my life since!

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have been given a commission to make disciples. (Matthew 28:19-20)  This involves going (literally, as you go), bringing others into identification with Christ and teaching them to observe his commands.  Some have used the three words; evangelizing, establishing, and equipping to describe this process.  Our success in doing this is contingent, however, on what the Lord asks of us in Matthew 4:19.  “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Our responsibility is to follow Him.  It is His responsibility to make us fishers of men.  If we are a fisher of men, it is because we are following Him.  If we are not a fisher of men, it is because we are, in some way, not following Him.  Before we follow Him, however, there are two critical steps we must take.  He describes these in Luke 9:23. “And he said to them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  There is a progression of three items in this verse.  Before we can follow Him, we must take up our cross daily.  Before we take up our cross, we must deny self.  We have, finally, found our enemy and it is us (self)!  (We have, in fact, three enemies in our Christian lives.  These are the devil, whom we are to resist (James 4:7), the world, which we are told not to love (I John 2:15-16), and the flesh, or self.  These three always act in concert, not alone.  It is about this last enemy, self, for which these comments are addressed.)

G. Campbell Morgan’s words in the Westminster Pulpit regarding denial of self are as follows.  “Denial of self is the hidden and internal process, the taking up of the cross is the outward and external manifestation.  If I may adapt and use in this connection old and familiar words, I would say that the taking up of the cross is the outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace of self-denial.  What is self-denial?  Jesus says everything when he speaks, and there is nothing more to be said; our danger is that we minimize when we explain.  To deny self is to say no to every wish that comes out of the personal life. To deny self is radical; it goes down to the root of things.  A man may practice self-denial all his life and never deny himself.  A man may practice self-denial in this and that respect and all the while his self- centeredness is strengthened.  Jesus did not say, Exercise self-denial in externalities.  He said, Deny self.  Have done with choosing, wishing, planning, arranging for self  Choose no more; will no more, except to will that God shall will.  I deny self when I hand over the keys of the citadel to the King and say, Enter and reign in every chamber of the being, in all the possibilities of the soul.”

The following words are written anonymously and serve as a reminder to us of what dying to self looks like in our lives.  I never read them without coming away with a conviction that I have yet a long journey ahead in the path of self-denial.  May they, as well, guide your steps in the paths of dying to our enemy, which is self.



When you are forgotten, or neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don’t sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient, loving silence, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any impunctuality, any annoyance; when you stand face-to-race with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility-and endure it as Jesus endured- THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you are content with any food, any offering, any climate, any society, any solitude, any raiment, any interruption by the Will of God, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good words, or itch after commendations, when you can truly love to be unknown, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature that yourself and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart, THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

Are you dead yet?  In these last days, the Spirit would bring us to the cross.  “That I may know him….being made conformable unto His death.”  Phil. 3:10

In Christ, Richard Spann



Righteousness, Peace and Joy


Righteousness.  (Doing what is right)

Peace. (with peace in your heart)

Joy.  (and a smile on your face)

Lorne Sanny

     With the above words, Lorne addressed our group, reminding us that it is possible to know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.  The three key words he used were righteousness, peace and joy.

In the Old Testament, we see descriptions of the righteousness that is able to approach the Lord and do what is right.  In Psalm 24:3-4 we read the following.  “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?  Who may stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.”  In Micah 6:8 we see the Lord’s declaration of the righteousness that He requires.  “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  In the old covenant, however, with everything coming from man, it was impossible for man to fulfill this righteousness.  In Psalm 53:2-3 we see that “God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”  In the new covenant, with everything coming from God, we see a righteousness that is ours in Christ.  “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.”  (I Corinthians 1:30)  Alistair Begg once remarked that “our identity with Him is not an achieved identity, it is a received identity.”  We receive His righteousness moment by moment, manifested by the power of the Holy Spirit, to meet the demands of each situation we face every day.  We can experience His righteousness by faith as we look to Him to always do what is right.

The scriptures address peace in several different ways.  There is, first, the peace with God described in Romans 5:1.  “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  This peace comes through the work of Christ and declares that we are accepted in Him, adopted, and given the Holy Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing our inheritance in Him.  We also see peace referred to in Philippians 4:6-7.  “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  This peace comes to us through the knowledge of Christ.  As we grow in our understanding of Him, we come to an increasing comprehension of the depth, the height, the length and the width of His love, to a conviction that His knowledge concerning us is perfect, and to a confidence that He, alone, controls everything that affects our lives.  There is, also, the peace that repeatedly is declared to us as coming “from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Ephesians 1:2.  This peace comes, if you will, through our communion with Christ.  G. Campbell Morgan describes this peace as “the quietness that comes into the life when man knows that God is pleased.”  We are told in Colossians 3:15 to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”  Lorne related that this peace enabled us to know “when” we were to do what Christ would have us to do.  We see an example of how the Apostle Paul was directed by this lack of peace in II Corinthians 2:12-13.  “Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there.  So I said goodby to them and went on to Macedonia.”  It is this peace, together with God’s word, circumstances and the advice of others that the Lord uses to provide His direction in our lives.

Joy, Lorne describes, can be witnessed by others as “a smile on your face.”  This joy, of course, is not external in manifestation only, but comes, as does righteousness and peace, from the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  It is of more than passing interest to discover that the Holy Spirit’s development of joy in our lives bears a marked resemblance to the Navigator wheel.  For those who are unfamiliar with the wheel illustration, it was used by Dawson Trotman to describe some of the key elements of the Christian life, with Christ being the center, or hub, from which we derive our direction and power, and the outer rim represents the obedient Christian in action.  The rim and the hub are connected by two vertical spokes, (the word and prayer) and two horizontal spokes. (fellowship and witnessing)  Joy comes from the word.  “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”  (John 15:11)  It also comes as a result of prayer.  “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”  (John 16:24)  These two represent the vertical spokes of the wheel.  The horizontal spokes are seen in Psalm 126:6.  “He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him,” and I John 1:3-4 “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us:  and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son jesus Christ.  And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”  (KJV)  The source of joy which is most needful and powerful in our lives comes, however, from what we describe as the hub of the wheel, Christ Himself.  As G. Campbell Morgan states in “The Westminster Pulpit,”  “Our joy is in proportion to our trust.  Our trust is in proportion to our knowledge of God.  To know Him is to trust Him.  To trust Him is to triumph and excel.  May we be led into fuller knowledge and so find fuller faith and so enter the fuller joy.”

We see the relationship of these three words in the following verse in Romans 14:17.  “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.”  May the Holy Spirit direct you in His righteousness, peace and joy so that you will be enabled to know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.

In Christ, Richard Spann

Rest, Remember, Refresh


Rest, Remember, Refresh

Lorne Sanny

     Fatigued.  Overworked.  Exhausted.  Stressed Out.  These words and others similar to them describe the human condition in which many people live.  Day after day, work and toil take precedence in the lives of many.  They fail to take advantage of the provision the Lord made for us at the completion of His creation-the Sabbath day of rest.  He rested after the completion of His work and that day was set apart for mankind to find rest as well.  The early new testament church celebrated this day of rest  following the completion of the work of Christ, thus marking Sunday as the day of rest under the new covenant.  Over the years since then, various attempts have been made to alter this day given to us by the Lord.  The communist regime abolished Sunday as a day of rest, but conditions deteriorated so severely that it was reinstated by Stalin.  Napoleon established a ten day work week but had to go back to a six day work week.  I was privileged, along with seven other men, to listen to Loren’s thoughts on this day at a retreat in Colorado Springs some years ago.  The three things that he mentioned about this day was that it was a day to rest, to remember, and to refresh.

Rest involves a cessation of usual activities.  It may, and often does, include other activities, but those in which we may find relaxation and enjoyment.  It is a time set apart for mankind to leave what it normally does the other six days-regarded as work-and participate in that which is restorative to the body and spirit.  It implies not only physical rest, but emotional and spiritual rest as well.  People differ in what is restful and restorative for them.  There are, for example, some things which I regard as work and in which I do not participate on Sunday.  These include mowing the lawn, paying bills, and going shopping.  As our young girls grew up, they noticed that we did not do some things that others did on Sunday and asked how we determined what we did on that day.  We looked together at Mark chapter two where the Lord permitted his disciples to rub heads of grain and eat because it was a necessity that they have something to eat.  We also looked at chapter three where acts of mercy were permitted in providing healing for the man with the shriveled hand.  I did not realize how well they learned this until a few years later when we were on vacation for a week in the Ozarks.  We had forgotten to pack any extra socks for me in our suitcase and after several days my wife asked me why I was wearing those red socks which didn’t match the outfit I was wearing that day.  I replied that these were the only socks that I had.  Over the next several days, our young daughters became increasingly grossed out by my wearing those socks day after day.  We arrived at the plaza in Kansas City, Missouri on our way back on Sunday morning and I was promptly urged by our youngest daughter(about ten at the time) to go into a department store and buy some socks.  When I replied that we didn’t shop on Sunday, she immediately said “Dad, you’ve got to buy some socks!  For you it’s a necessity.  For us, it’s an act of mercy!”

Lorne also commented that this day given to us was one in which we were to remember.  The ten commandments were given twice, once in Exodus and again in Deuteronomy.  In Exodus 20:8, we are told to rest because of creation.  This day is set apart for us so that we may remember to worship and praise because of creation.  Revelation 4:11 states “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”  The practice of getting apart with our Bibles, acknowledging Him as our Elohim-the One who designed and created us along with all things-will bring rest as we remember all He has done.  In Deuteronomy 5:12, we are told to rest because of redemption.  Revelation 5:9-10 relates the following.  “And they sang a new song:  ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and they will reign on the earth.’”  We find rest when we remember, review and contemplate all that Christ has done for us.

Lorne continued his remarks, stating that we were not only to rest, and to remember, but that it was also a day given to us that we may refresh .  Exodus 23:12 states “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do no work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed.”  How did the Lord spend the day of resurrection?  He refreshed them!  Who would the Lord want you to refresh on this day?  Those in your own household?   Are there those who would be refreshed by a phone call, or even a text message?  Is there someone who would be refreshed by writing them a personal note?

Rest.  Remember.  Refresh.  These are the words by which Lorne would have us understand the gift the Lord has given in setting apart this day for us.  The Lord says to us in Mark 2:27.  “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”  It is in our rest that we experience His rest.  It is in our remembering the glory of His creation and redemption that we know that He also remembers us.  It is in refreshing others that we ourselves are refreshed.  The Lord desires that we experience each week the full benefits of this day as He describes in Isaiah 58:13-14.  “If you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”

In Christ, Richard Spann

Two Kinds of People


There are two kinds of people in the world.

Those who need to know Christ, and

those who need to know Him better.

Jim Morris

Mankind has always had a desire to label people, to understand, and to relate to them differently depending upon the label chosen.  The obvious differences are those of nationality, race and gender.  In addition to these, temperament theory found its expression in the Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC), and in Galen (AD 129-200).  The latter differentiated people into four types:  sanguine (optimistic and social), choleric (short-tempered or irritable), melancholic (analytical and quiet), and phlegmatic (relaxed and peaceful).  In our modern times, Dr. Gary Smalley used animal characteristics to define individuals as being beavers, otters, lions or golden retrievers.  The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MPTI) gives us sixteen personality types such as the idealist, and the performer etc. Perhaps the most interesting one I have heard, however, is one coined by one of my medical partners.  He stated that, in his opinion, there were two kinds of people in the world, those who have headaches and those who give other people headaches!

Returning again to Jim’s statement, I am impressed with the importance of how we view others.  Our assessment of who they are and what they are like is a strong determinant of how we interact with them.  Viewing people as either needing to know Christ or needing to know Him better will produce intentionality in our relationships with them.  As we keep this question “Does this person know Christ?” before us daily, we are better able to discern the Lord’s will in our interaction with them.

The call of Christ to those who did not yet know Him is found in Matthew 11:28.  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  This process of others coming to Christ is significantly enhanced when the invisible Christ is made visible in our lives.  He should be demonstrated before he is declared.  His Grace needs to reach through our lives to others.  In describing this Grace, Ken Bailey refers to it as the “the costly demonstration of unexpected love.”  Their response to love extended to them not only helps our understanding of where they are spiritually but usually provides a fertile soil in which the seed of the Gospel may grow.  As an example of this, I recall a house in our neighborhood which had stood empty all spring and well into the summer.  The lawn, in which the former owner had a great deal of pride, was a well manicured blue grass lawn.  It was a spot of beauty on our street.  As the summer progressed, however, it began to dry up and turn brown.  The house had not yet been sold and no one knew who would move into the house.  One of the neighbors, out of concern for the new owners, extended a hose from their house and began to water the lawn regularly.  When the newcomers arrived and learned of this, they were deeply thankful and surprised that anyone would run up their own water bill to water the lawn of someone they had never met!  Their response to this grace extended to them developed into an openness to their involvement in a Bible study the following year.  Although the example of watering the lawn was a very small deed, it was used by the Lord to clarify where the new owners were spiritually and to help them on their journey with Him.

Not only the demonstration, but the declaration of our relationship with Christ will become more natural as we view others from a standpoint of whether they need to know Him or to know him better.  It should motivate us to be open and vulnerable with others, sharing naturally what the Lord has done for us, His answers to prayer and the encouragement and peace that walking with Him provides each day.  As John Ridgway states, “If your natural life is spiritual, then you can let your spiritual life be natural.”  Sharing answers to prayer or offering to pray for them will often give us a clue as to where they are spiritually.

We may not always be able to discern where people are in their spiritual understanding but that does not prevent us from providing what they need in their lives.  A patient of mine returned to our city following extensive surgery in another part of the country.  I had heard that he had “a spiritual experience” of some type while he was away but in my conversations with him I was unable to tell if he had come to know Christ.  We invited him and his wife to a series of Bible studies in which we were involved at the time and for the next several years we were able to see spiritual growth made evident in their lives.   Romans 10:17 states “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (KJV)  This verse points to the value of exposing those who do not yet know Christ to the word of God.  Acts 20:32 points out that the word of God is also of paramount importance in enabling us to know Him better.  “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”  Although it is helpful to know where people are spiritually in their understanding of Christ and in their response to Him, it is also of benefit to realize that the Holy Spirit uses the same tools to bring people to Christ that He does to provide growth in their lives.  These are the word of God, prayer, individual lives, the body of Christ and circumstances.  The one difference, of course, is that the non-believer does not, as yet, have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them.

Knowing that everyone we meet either needs to know Christ or to know Him better enables us to focus on the word of God, prayer, and our relationships with these individuals to the end that we are able to say the following with the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:28-29. (Phillips Translation)  “So naturally we proclaim Christ!  We warn everyone we meet, and  we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ.  This is what I am working at all the time, with all the strength that God gives me.”

In Christ, Richard Spann

What is that to you?


What is that to you?

You must follow me.

John 21:22

     The words quoted above are taken from a discussion that our Lord had with the apostle Peter.  We are familiar with the context.  When told about the future of his own life, Peter immediately inquired about the Lord’s plans for John.  The desire to consider the calling of others and to contrast it with his own characterized his initial response.  This tendency seems to still be common among followers of Christ.  It finds expression in the comparison not only of the varying gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit, but in the effectiveness (to our own eyes) of the use of those gifts.

It is not unusual to hear someone say “If only I had their gifts or their talents.”  It is a more common thing for people to think those thoughts without ever expressing them.  They may consider themselves disadvantaged by having a gift (in their own eyes) which is less prominent or visible .  By focusing on others, they may fail to allow the Holy Spirit to fully develop and use their own gift.  In addition, they may regard themselves as a second class citizen in God’s Kingdom, thereby producing an incorrect view of God’s sovereignty and His love.

More common than the above, however, is the nagging thought that we somehow don’t measure up to others who have the same gift with which we have been endowed.  We struggle to make an impact with others and find it very slow going.  In the midst of our labor we may attend a conference in which the speaker gives glowing reports about a ministry which seems similar to ours but which is characterized by apparent success.  We read different books and use other methods but change in the lives of others seems to progress so slowly.  It is well for us to remember the Lord’s words “What is that to you, you must follow me.”

What does it mean to follow Him?  The scriptures give us clear answers to that question.  These answers were emphasized to me by an experience I had years ago while hiking in Colorado.  For many years we had the opportunity to attend the Kansas Navigator summer conference at Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs .  The afternoons were often free time and we enjoyed hiking the abundant trails nearby.  One trail in particular was about eleven miles in length and required transport to Eagle lake near Woodland, Colorado.  This trail descended initially through lush flower filled meadows but quickly became a narrow trail descending rapidly into brush lined paths traversing cliffs and boulders.  At one point our guide stopped and said “Listen carefully.  In the next hundred yards the trail will divide two times.  In each case, the trail to the right looks like it might be the correct one to follow.  It is not.  One leads to a dead end.  The other leads to a sudden blind drop off of seventy five feet straight down.  You will need to stay to the left.    Trust me.  I have been this way before.  Follow me.”  Our group was large enough and the path was so narrowed with brush so that we were not always able to keep our guide in view.  But we did what he said.  We listened.  We trusted.  We obeyed.  (Years later when I was the guide, I personally verified carefully what our guide said about the paths to the right. He was correct about both of them.)

The above experience underlines to me what the Lord desires me to do as I follow Him.  He desires that I listen, not only to His voice in the scriptures but to the gently nudging of His voice to my inner spirit as I wait before Him.  He desires that I trust Him, and that I obey Him.  The Hymn that we sing so often is yet so true.  “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

The alternative to following Christ and keeping our eyes on Him is to allow our eyes to focus elsewhere.  If our eyes, our minds, or our hearts deviate from Him they will find themselves contemplating ourselves, others, or our circumstances.  To allow them to do so produces one of two results, both of which are close cousins, namely either pride or discouragement.  Their roots are the same.  They both come from comparing ourselves and our circumstances with others and their circumstances.  If we think we compare favorably, then we sow the seeds of pride.  If we compare unfavorably, the seeds of discouragement are sown.

The perils of not following our Lord and keeping our eyes on Him are no less deadly than a seventy five foot fall would have been had I not listened to the guide at Glen Eyrie.  The Lord knows this, and that is why He said to Peter, and also says to us “What is that to you, you must follow me.”

In Christ, Richard Spann

If My People …


If My People….

     Three decades ago, Francis Schaeffer authored a book entitled “How Should We Then Live.”  It depicted the history of the world and our country in its progressive departure from God in all areas of life over the last several centuries.  He chronicled the stages that occurred showing that each generation was more decadent than the preceding one.  Since his time, our country has not slowed in its downward spiral.  Two decades ago, our country was shamed and startled by flagrant immorality in the oval office.  The judicial part of the government has determined that it is just and acceptable to murder our unborn.  The legislative branch of our country has declared sinful lifestyles to be acceptable.  The educational system is doing its best to deny the existence of God.  The word tolerant is being redefined to mean that any one else’s viewpoint is as valid as our own.  As we consider the current presidential candidates there seems to be little hope for leadership with any integrity.  We may well cry out with the psalmist “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)  It is to such a cry that the Lord responds in II Chronicles 7:14.  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

The healing of our land, then, according to this passage, must be initiated by God’s people.  It begins with the instruction to humble ourselves.  Deuteronomy 8:2-3 describes this process of humbling.  “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.  He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”  This humbling was initiated by the Lord in order for them to realize that the Lord was their only resource and that He was the only resource that they needed.  To humble themselves they must recognize and rejoice in the realization that the Lord always knows what is needed, will supply it at the perfect moment, and may use sources and means that may be beyond their comprehension.  This humbling of themselves was to become so complete that it would refuse to satisfy needs or wants outside His will, knowing that it is “his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  (Romans 12:2)

Humbling of ourselves find its fullest expression in prayer.  The recognition of our need and His supply should produce a never ending symphony of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.  It expresses a recognition of our weakness and of His strength.  It is the prayer that looks to the Lord moment by moment for His supply whether that need be emotional, physical or spiritual.  Our deepening recognition of His gracious providence leads to a desire to know Him more deeply, as expressed in Hosea 6:3.  “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.  His going forth is as certain as the dawn and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.” (NASB)  David expresses this desire in Psalm 27:4.  “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek:  that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”  In this same psalm David relates that this desire culminates in verse eight, where he states.  “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!‘  Your face, LORD, I will seek.”

The experience of seeking the face of the Lord and actually having a vision of His glory had a universal effect on those to whom this vision was permitted.  This effect is described in Isaiah 6:5.  “‘Woe to me!’  I cried.  ‘I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”‘  In the light of His Glory, all that is unlike Him is made visible, and laid bare for our eyes to behold.  The greater the consciousness of His Holiness, the greater the consciousness of our sin.  It is in coming into the presence of perfect Light that our uncleanness may be discovered.  It is in seeking His face that we become conscious of all in our lives that is unlike Him, all of that over which we have retained control, and all the parts of our lives in which we have never consulted Him.  These are without God’s control or direction which is another way of saying that they are ungodly.  The word “ungodly” is used repeatedly in Psalm 1 for which the NIV substitutes the word “wicked.”

What, then, are the wicked ways described in II Chronicles 7:14?   These ways, (ungodly or wicked) need not be areas of noticeable sinful behavior.  They may be, on the contrary, unnoticed and unobservable to anyone except God Himself.  They are  ungodly because God is excluded.  To conduct our business, our home, and any other relationship without reference to His purpose, without recognition of His presence, and without reliance on his power is to be ungodly in those aspects of our lives.  It is to live our lives in Philippians 2:21, “For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ,” rather than in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.”

II Chronicles 7:14 was written to God’s people, to those called by His name.  If they were to humble themselves, pray, seek His face and turn from their wicked ways, then the Lord would hear, forgive their sin and heal their land.  They were written long ago to a nation which had its beginnings as a theocracy.  Do these words not also contain truth that applies to God’s people in other nations at other times, those who claim to be “one nation, under God?”   His promise is that He will “hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  It is dependent upon humbling ourselves, prayer, seeking his face and turning from our wicked ways.  God has declared His terms of deliverance and the response is up to God’s people.  It was an open ended statement to them and it, likewise, is an open ended statement to us.  We will, as they did, determine the future of our land by our response to the Lord’s words as given in this passage of scripture.  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  “If my people”….   “If”…

In Christ, Richard Spann

Is Jesus Enough?


Is Jesus Enough?

     This is not a question that we hear discussed in the taverns of our city, nor in the country clubs after a round of golf.  It is, rather, a question that comes to the hearts and minds of those who have begun the journey of following Christ.  Last year, Beverly and I attended a conference in which one of the speakers described some extremely difficult times in his life and yet concluded that in all of them, simply having Jesus was enough for him.  In thinking about his statement since that time, I am reminded of Jesus’ words to us in Hebrews 13:5.  “Keep yourselves from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said ‘Never will I leave you.  Never will I forsake you.’”  Surely these words were given to us for such times as our speaker described and such times as all of us, sooner or later, will experience.  The reference here is to Deuteronomy 31:6, where the children of Israel were told not to be terrified or afraid of the people on the other side of the Jordan.  Their insecurity about the future was to be answered by the fact that God was with them.  The writer to the Hebrews uses this reference to instruct his readers (and us) that the presence of the Lord is adequate to meet the needs of the future (as opposed to attempting to meet our own needs in the future by the love of money) and the needs of the present. (contentment)  In this passage, Jesus is saying that He will never, never, never leave us and that He is enough!  Despite this assurance, however, there are times when our gaze is directed from the Lord to ourselves, to others or to our circumstances.  If we do not have the possessions, the position, or the prominence that we desire, is Jesus enough?  If we struggle to find employment, or find ourselves in a dead end job, is Jesus enough?  If we are treated unfairly in business, criticized by others, suffer unjust financial loss, have continuing struggles in our marriages or families, or are in the midst of severe health issues, is Jesus enough?

Many have had severe, and at times, lifelong adversity.  The experience that I describe is slight by comparison, but nevertheless was used by the Lord to help me better answer this question in my own life.  Several years ago, I was admitted to the hospital with bladder cancer.  The biopsies revealed an aggressive form of bladder cancer which had a poor likelihood of control.  Was Jesus going to be enough to see us through the unknown future?  To answer this question arising in my heart and mind I decided to evaluate more deeply His love, His power, and His ultimate plans for me.  Paul says in Ephesians 3:17-18  “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”  The width of God’s love in Christ is displayed in an infinite variety of ways throughout the universe.  The length of His love was described as beginning before the creation of the world in His reference to the “Lamb slain before the creation of the world.”  This length will extend throughout eternity.  The height of God’s love will be expressed to us throughout the ages to come.  “That in the ages to come, He might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7)  When God wants to define His love toward us, however, He directs us to the depth of His love in I John 4:10.  “This is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  The human agony was reflected in the words “I thirst” and included the scourging, the crucifixion and all that went before it that evening.  The deepest darkness was spiritual and reflected by the words “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?”  G. Campbell Morgan comments on these words in his book, Crisis of the Christ.  “The words are recorded, not to finally reveal, but to reveal so much as it is possible to man to know, and to set a limit at the point where men may never know.  It is the cry of One who has reached the final issue of sin.  It is the cry of One who has fathomed the deepest depth of sorrow.  It is the cry of One Himself overwhelmed in the mystery of silence.  The pains of hell that were man’s portion, gat hold of Him, and man passes into the light of the heaven which was His by right, and which He brings to him.”  In the light of this love, I am compelled to answer that Jesus‘ love is enough!

Turning to the book of Job, I began looking at, not Job’s questions to Jesus, but Jesus‘ answers to Job.  They are contained in Job chapters 38-41.  I read through the verses in these four chapters multiple times finding His wisdom and might displayed in an infinite variety of ways.  Surely, Jesus‘ power is enough!  Jesus‘ plans are described in II Corinthians 4:17.  “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all, “ and in II Corinthians 5:1,  “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands,” and in II Corinthians 5:5,  “ Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come.”  If these are His plans for me, then I am able to trust Him to use everything He allows in my life for His glory and for my good.  Yes, Jesus’ plans are enough!

All of us are permitted to experience situations in life when we confront the question “Is Jesus enough?”  Part of the reason is that we may deepen our understanding of Him and grow in dependence upon Him.  It is in answering that question that we enter into the work of the ages-eternal life- the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  John 17:3 states.  “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (KJV)  We conclude, then, that not only is Jesus enough, but He is infinitely more than we will ever be able to measure, contain or understand.  Throughout the ages to come, He will continue to unfold the glory and beauty of His Person in new ways to His bride, the church.

May the Lord grant us His Grace so that in these passing hours of our earthly life, we may even now make a practice of declaring that  “Yes, Jesus is enough.”

In Christ, Richard Spann

Resentment Destroys Its Own Container


Resentment is the only Substance that

Destroys its own Container

     Resentment is described by Webster’s dictionary as a feeling of indignant displeasure because of something regarded as a wrong or insult.  Resentment is not static.  It smolders.  It grows.  It claims idle thoughts.  It spreads into the whole personality.  Like a malignant growth in the body, it saps strength, vitality and produces frailty and weakness.  It is, indeed, a cancer of the soul.  And like a cancer of the body, it may grow and remain undetected by others for some time.  Only the person harboring the resentment is so affected.  It is true, however, that outbursts from a sharp tongue, anger, or gossip may reveal the iceberg of resentment that hides beneath the surface.  This destructive force, if not checked and dealt with will result in the destruction of its container, the separation of individuals from one another, division in families, communities and even in our churches.  This is why the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”  Whether the perceived wrong or insult is actual or imaginary it will have destructive results first on those harboring resentment and eventually on others.  How are we, then, to prevent and deal with resentments before they destroy us from the inside out?

Ken Bailey, in his book “The Good Shepherd” makes this statement.  “We are what we remember.”  He illustrates this with the following story.  “A family has a serious automobile accident involving a drunk driver and some members of the family are killed.  Then out of nowhere a total stranger at risk to herself stops, picks them up and takes them to the nearest hospital, saving the lives of other family members.  Their losses will never be forgotten, but what will dominate their memories as a family?  Will it be the horrors of the accident and its cause, or the extraordinary grace of their ‘good Samaritan?’  Their choice of dominant memory will influence the inner core of their being for the rest of their lives.”

I was in a medical practice of Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine for more than forty one years.  I was given opportunities to practice with outstanding partners and have access to the best consultations available for my patients.  The hospitals and their personnel were always desirous of not only meeting the needs of my patients but mine as well.  Those years, however, also included cancellation of my employment contract on two occasions with only a few weeks notification, and a long standing contract dispute at a different time.   A failure to communicate about available funds to be transferred when I changed responsibilities resulted in the loss of a moderate amount of income.   When I was out of town for a week, my partnership dissolved leaving me with no one with whom to share responsibility for the patients on weekends.  The dominant theme, however, and one that I have chosen to remember and thank the Lord for daily is His constant care during those times, not only abundantly taking care of me professionally and my family financially, but in each instance revealing more of Himself to me, which has been and will continue to be of immeasurable value both now and in the ages to come.  I can truly thank Him and praise Him for His care each and every day throughout all the years of my medical practice.  Romans 8:37 says “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  To be a conqueror is simply to regain what was lost.  To be more than a conqueror is to have gained something from that experience that had it not been for the experience, you would never have been able to appreciate.

Have there been some nagging wrongs or insults which you have experienced in your life that periodically come to the surface?  Such was the case years ago in my medical practice.  Another physician had spoken critically of my relationship with Christ and had attempted to bring discredit on me professionally.  After hearing about this from a third party, it would periodically come to my mind.  I knew that I needed to seek the Lord’s direction about how to deal with this.  The fourth chapter of Ephesians speaks to us about the process of change in our lives.  For example in Ephesians 4:28 it says that the thief must not only stop stealing, but he must work with his hands so that he may have something to give to those in need.  In other words, if he only stops stealing, he is simply an unemployed thief!  The lesson here is that change takes place in our lives not simply by stopping an activity (trying not to resent his resentment!) but by replacing it with another activity that would be of benefit.  The application to my life was straight forward.  I began to pray for him and sought for ways to serve him in his medical practice.  After a few years he became a friend and we actually had opportunities to attend several Bible study groups together.  The Lord, through His word in Ephesians, had brought healing and restoration in the relationship.

With the many relationships we develop in this world, it would be unusual for us not to have felt that we were wronged or insulted at some point by someone.  May the Lord give us His Grace to remember what He desires that we remember about those times.  May He also give us His wisdom to do what is needed to allow healing to take place in our lives.

In Christ, Richard Spann