Forgetting what is behind

Speaker:

                                                     Forgetting what is behind

      The above is a portion of the Apostle Paul’s words to us in Philippians 3:12-14.  “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  What was it about the past in Paul’s life and in ours as well that needs to be forgotten if we are to press on toward the goal to win the prize?  As I have considered my own life and those of others, i have observed two things that are a detriment to our future progress in our life and ministry with Christ.  They have different names, but they are what we all have experienced in the past.  They are known by the names of success and failure.  They may have been areas that we conquered, or that conquered us.  There were times of encouragement, and those of discouragement.  There were situations in which we received some measure of acclaim and also those when we seemed to be ignored.  We have had moments when everything was in control as well as those of disarray.  We have all seen areas in which we have achieved our objectives as well as those where we could see nothing accomplished.  The above list is only partial, but I am sure that you can relate to these statements.  

     I have seen success effect others in various ways.  Some look with satisfaction on what the Lord has accomplished through their lives.  They contemplate the good outcome from their investment of time and resources and think they have accomplished all that the Lord had for them to do.  My wife and I once took a tour through an English village featuring castles , museums and cathedrals.  Our guide, noticing that we were from America, commented that England, as a country, looked to the past, while America looked to the future.  This statement was true.  Unfortunately, there are some in ministry as well who have created memories to efforts in the past and are content to merely remember them.

     I recall others who have looked with nostalgia on former days of their ministry.  They have wished to alter the seeming failure with ministry in the present by reinstitution of methods and activities of the past.  What was “good” at that time, however, is not what God desired for the future.  The “good” in the past was meant to prepare us to walk by faith in the future.  We are to seek the Lord, not the experiences of the past.   

     The Lord tells us that “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)   Was Demas one of those who looked back?  Paul says that “Demas, having loved the present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”  (II Timothy 4:10)  The world beckoned him.  It was alluring.  Gradually, not suddenly,  as he contemplated the ease of a former life, with its attractions and benefits, he deserted Paul and the ministry.  He had not forgotten what was behind.   

     The most destructive effect of success, however, is the development of pride. It is written in James 4:6 that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  If God opposes us in our work we have a mighty adversary!  We might try to hide how proud we are of what God has done through us, but Luke 1:51 tells us that “He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.”  We would do well to remember the Psalmist in Psalm 109:26-27.  “Help me O LORD my God; save me in accordance with your love.  Let them know that it is your hand, that you, O LORD, have done it.”  Isaiah 26:12 also speaks to us with these words.  “LORD, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.”  Paul had chosen to forget those things of the past that might produce pride, and so must we. 

     The failures of the past need to be forgotten as well.  The time spent with others will not have the impact in some that we desired.  There will be differences of opinion that come up on spiritual topics that separate relationships.  In some of those in whom we invest our lives, the “worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things come in and  choke the word, making it unfruitful.”  (Mark 4:19)  Those whom we anticipate as leaders in the future develop health crisis, family issues or move out of town.  Funds to support the ministry diminish.  The replacement of aging workers in the harvest field by younger ones does not occur as anticipated.  Those from men’s ministries developed in the church transfer to other churches.  The above is only a partial list of failures which I have experienced.  Paul says, however, that we should forget these things.  Why?  Luke 9:62 applies to the dissatisfied as well as those who are satisfied with the past.  If we are looking back, we are not fit for service in His kingdom.  Whether encouraged or discouraged, our eyes must be directed ahead, not behind us.  This is why Paul said that we must press on toward the goal.  Forgetting what lies behind is not enough!  We must replace remembering the past by remembering the prize set before us.  This prize is not based on success or failure.  It is based on faithfulness! 

     I remember attending a service in our church many years ago.  I was working in the hospital that weekend and had a busy Sunday morning.  The service was almost over when I arrived at the church.  I crept into the back row and sat down just as the Pastor was finishing the sermon.  His words were “Remember, God has not called you to be successful, He has called you to be faithful!“   

     Regardless of our past, whether there was success or failure, it should not occupy our mind.  We are to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me (us) heavenward in Christ Jesus”   (Philippians 3:14).  We are certain to obtain this prize because of the following promise He has given to us.  “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.” (I Corinthians 15:58) 

In Christ,  Richard Spann      

                  

What’s the Hurry?

Speaker:

 Howard Hendricks once commented that we live our lives in such a tight spiral that we honk at our own taillights!  That is an apt description of our times.  When our grandparents missed the stage, they knew that there would be another one next month.  I have literally noticed people who are upset because they missed one section of a revolving door!  This mindset carries over from travel to the totality of our lives.  A father’s day is too crowded to have breakfast with his children.  When he comes home late from work, as is often the case, he hurries off to other activities.  He leaves undone that which he should have done.  Hurry has claimed that which is urgent rather than that which is important.  Many families pass a “genetic” code of hurrying on to their children.  Music lessons, baseball, volleyball, soccer, and dance lessons are all introduced to our children at an early age, commanding evenings and weekends.  They learn, like their parents, to hurry from one thing to the next.  There is little family time and limited meaningful interaction with the parents.  Time with the Lord is often left out altogether.  There is no daily spiritual interaction between parents and children.  The parents send their children to church or enroll them in a Christian school, hoping that those measures will suffice.  In fact, it results in a colossal failure.

     The causes of a hurried lifestyle are multiple.  We may simply be doing the wrong thing.  Once we are involved in an activity that takes our time it may be hard to stop.  There may be pressure from others to continue an activity or relationship.  Even knowing that what we are doing is wrong, there may be enough satisfaction or enjoyment that we continue anyway.  More commonly, we are involved in too many activities, hobbies or relationships and have no margin in our lives.  We have replaced that which is essential in our lives for that which we should eliminate or delegate.  The root cause for hurry, in most cases, is trying to take care of our own lives and manage them ourselves. We are not designed to do this.  We do not have the capacity to control ourselves.  Only the Lord can do this.  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6) 

     The results of hurry in our lives are familiar to us all.  Mistakes are made in judgment.  We are often frustrated, anxious and commonly irritated with others.  Those, who, with an agenda involving spiritual growth and activity, try to hurry things along in that realm may find themselves irritated with God.  Their efforts only serve to delay the work of God in their own lives as well as in the lives of others.  Abraham decided to hurry God’s agenda along by having a son with Hagar.  History amply tells the story of how Ishmael and his descendants have hindered the work of the Lord.  Likewise Moses, in his attempts to hurry God’s timing, led to his herding sheep for another forty years before he was of use to the Lord.

     To hurry the work of God in our lives and others is to be out of step with God.  When we try to “help Him out” we are taking over God’s work from Him.  Hurry is wanting our agenda, not His.  It is wanting to be in charge ourselves.  It is wanting control.  Hurry reflects our impatience with God.  It results in impatience with others as well.  Hurry accuses God of mismanagement.  It is an affront to His character.  Hurry looks to ourselves and is a reliance on self.  When we live a hurried lifestyle, self is asserting its own authority.  Hurry must die, because self must die. 

     It is the Lord’s work to prepare us for eternity, not our own work.  He works from eternity for eternity.  He is never in a hurry.  Our hurry focuses on events, situations, and circumstances.  His work focuses on character.  Only He knows how far we have to go, what is needed, how long it will take, and how to get there.  We will never get rid of hurry by trying to get rid of hurry.  We must get at the root cause.  Hurry is but a symptom, a symptom of lack of trust in God, which comes from a lack of knowledge of God.  To know Him is to trust Him.  Jesus is the only person who was never in a hurry.  Why was this?  He was the only person who knew God perfectly.  To know Him perfectly is to trust Him perfectly.  We are given by virtue of the resurrection, the life of the One who never needed to hurry.  This is because He had perfect trust in God to control each aspect of His life.  It is through immersion of our life with His that we are willing to surrender to His love and turn over the control of our lives to Him.  There is no longer any need for hurry for those who trust Him fully.    

Matthew 9:36-38

Speaker:

                                The Harvest is Plentiful, The Workers are Few.

                                                                                   Matthew 9:37

     The harvest is plentiful.  Do we believe this?  More specifically, do I believe this?  Am I optimistic about meeting new people, convinced that in time, as we build our relationship, they will have an interest in the Gospel?   Have I despaired of others after no interest has been shown for years?  Have I consigned a number of others to a “they probably won’t be interested anyway so why bother troubling myself by getting to know them” category?  Jesus goes on record on three separate occasions saying that the harvest is plentiful.   He said this in Samaria regarding those considered as half breeds, (John 4:35) in Galilee to those who were despised, (Mathew 9:36-38) and in Perea regarding foreigners. (Luke 10:2)  The crowds are no different today than they were then.  What is it about our Lord that makes His viewpoint different from mine?  In the passage in Matthew 9:36-38 there are three items mentioned that make the difference!  1)  He opened His eyes. (When He saw the crowds)  2)  He opened His heart.  (He had compassion on them.)  3)  He commanded us to open our mouth.  (Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.)  

     Do I really see people in my daily routine of activities, or are they faceless, nameless persons that are there to assist me with my needs?  Do I only see neighbors and acquaintances as those to whom I need to make an obligatory comment while coming and going?  Do I see people as getting in my way when I am in a line at the store or drive through? If so, then I need to see them as Jesus saw them.  He saw each one as a unique creation in God’s image and created for His glory.  He saw the worth of each individual as the reason for His cross.  He saw the potential and possibilities of that life when governed and led by the Holy Spirit.  He saw them as a member of an entirely new race, part of His bride to be in the new heavens and new earth.  

     The opening of the heart and the pouring forth of compassion is seen most clearly in the accounts where it is said that He wept.  The first of these is in John 11:35.  The word for wept here is in contrast to that of Mary and her friends.  The word describing their weeping referred to loud wailing.  The word used of Jesus in this passage refers to tears flooding down His face.  Here, in the face of the tragedy of death as a result of original sin and subsequent fall and misery in the human race, He wept.   Uncontrollable tears fell down His face.  The emotion triggered by His compassion for our condition produced those tears.  Sometime later, it is said that as He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it. (Luke 19:41)   G. Campbell Morgan states that “The word for weeping there does not mean merely that tears forced themselves up and down his face.  It suggests rather the heaving of the bosom, and the sob and cry of a soul in agony.”  The Gospel according to Luke, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1931, page 221.  Has my soul ever been in agony like this?   Have tears ever streamed down my face?  It is His heart of compassion that I must seek if I would see that the harvest is plentiful. 

     Finally, He commanded us to open our mouths and ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.  Asking precedes and is directly linked to our availability as workers.  Immediately after Matthew 9:36-38 He sends out the twelve disciples into the villages to preach the message that “The kingdom of heaven is near.”  I have noticed in my life for many years that faithful prayer for others leads to opportunities for relationships and conversations.  Neglect of prayer leads to neglect of others.     

     The workers are few.  No one disagrees with this statement.  The reasons the workers are few are due to the enemies of our Christian walk, namely the world, the flesh and the devil.  The world presents many opportunities for us to invest our time.  Our many interests and responsibilities decrease our availability to the Lord and others.  The scriptures say, however, that “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs- he wants to please his commanding officer. (II Timothy 2:4)  The world also would have us be a slave to our occupation, despite the fact that the Lord tells us that He is responsible to meet our needs.  (Philippians 4:19)  In addition the world wants us to place our treasure here which is in contrast to our Lord’s direction in Matthew 6:21. (to lay up treasure in heaven)   The world desires to consume our heart.  It is successful by appealing to self purpose.  Where there is purpose outside the will of God for my life, the world will appeal to it.  Self wants the prestige and possessions that the world offers.    

     In John 12:42-43 we see an example of how the flesh attacks us by causing us to fear others.  In II Timothy 1:7, however, we are told that we are not given a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and a sound mind.  The flesh says to us that we may be disliked, ostracized, and that our reputation may suffer as result of identifying with Christ.  Why do we let the flesh have power over us?  We have a subtle desire for self glory.  We want to be liked, to be respected and to look good.    

     The evil one uses not only the world and the flesh to attack us.  He attacks us directly by planting the following thoughts in our minds.  “You do not know the gospel truths well enough to be a witness.” “Your life is too messed up!  How would anyone believe you?”  You need to wait to develop a  better relationship before you tell others about Christ.”   “You have waited too long.  They are too close a friend now and you might lose them as a friend.”   Why does the evil one stop us with these suggested thoughts?  We have a problem with self sufficiency.  We try to find answers and adequacy for our uncertainties within ourselves instead of looking to the Lord.  He says that we walk by faith, not by sight.   (II Corinthians 5:7)  

     The workers are few due to the world influencing us in the area of self purpose, the flesh involving us in self glory, and the evil one inducing us to do battle in the realm of self sufficiency.  The problem in the last analysis, then, is self.  We pray, “Lord, do something about the harvest!”.  His answer to us is “Do something about the self!”  “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.”  (LuKe 9:23)  

     May the Lord enable you to see with His eyes, embrace the compassion that comes from His heart, and be faithful in praying for workers for His harvest.  May He then empower you with His presence and manifest Himself as salt and light through you as you labor in the harvest field.  

In Christ, Richard Spann                       

 

                                                       

     

Embraced by the Infinite Love of God

Speaker:

                                      Embraced by the Infinite Love of God

     It was nearly twenty years ago that the Lord miraculously demonstrated His infinite love in a manner I will never forget.  I remember it daily and it is a constant reminder of who He is as El Roi,, El Elyon, and El Shaddai.  Every Friday morning that Spring began with a six AM meeting for Bible study and prayer with a close friend, followed by a men’s study at 7 AM that we led together.  At 8AM I would meet my wife Bev for breakfast at McDonalds and go to the Hospital for rounds and then to the office at 10 AM.  My friend did not come that morning, which had never happened before.  I went into the church library and “happened” to pick up a book entitled “To Know Him by Name” written by Kay Arthur.  I was deeply moved by her description of the Lord through these three names, El Roi,(The God who Sees) El ELyon, (God Most High (Who is in control of each aspect of my life) and El Shaddai, (the All-Sufficient One).  7 AM came and went and the four men who were regular attendees were also absent that day.  This also was most unusual!  I read and prayed through those pages until time to meet Bev at 8AM.    Following hospital rounds I went to my office where I found an envelope on my desk.  After opening and reading the letter enclosed, I immediately understood, not only the unusual events of the day but of the entire week.  Four days earlier I had a strong impression as I sat down to breakfast that I should not eat, but rather get some lab tests.  (It had been two-three years since any routine test had been done.)  I dismissed the mental impression I had been given that morning and had my usual McDonald egg and biscuit.  The next day, as I was entering McDonalds, the same impression was implanted in my mind but only much stronger than before.  As a result, I had water only and ate following the lab test drawn in the office.  Until I opened the letter, I had forgotten all about the tests!  Enclosed with the normal results was a slightly elevated PSA, indicative of a possibility of prostate cancer.  Subsequent biopsies confirmed its presence.  At surgery it was found to be plastered against the outer lining of the prostate poised to break through and spread through the body at any moment.  El Roi saw all this, El Elyon impressed me strongly to get a test, and prepared me the morning I saw the lab test by canceling my morning activities, leading me to Kay Arthur’s book and revealing Himself to me as El Roi, El Elyon and El Shaddai.  The significance of that day in retrospect is largely in the revelation gained of God’s infinite love and secondarily of the healing from prostate cancer.  It was a day given to me by His loving hand to reveal who He is, the depth of His knowledge concerning me, and His unlimited ability to pour forth His healing and blessing in my life. 

     He has also given other days.  One of these “other days” was just last week.  I awoke at 6 AM, prepared to drive to Eugene, Oregon for a 9 AM flight, drop off my rental car and return to Wichita in the early afternoon.  There was a message on my phone saying that the flight was canceled and I was rescheduled to leave at 5 AM the following day!  I called United Airlines, hoping to make arrangements to leave that day, rather than to wait another day.  I finally reached a person who spoke with a heavy non understandable accent.  After multiple pauses, he said that he could get me to Denver.  I couldn’t make him understand I wanted to go to Wichita!  After a half hour, he finally wished me well and hung up!  Being stuck in Oregon another day meant another $97 for car rental.  My daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren all  had to go back to work.  That meant that I had to spend the day with various cats, chickens and the family dog by the name of Curdie.  He and I have a similar relationship with one another.  We accept that each of us has a right to exist somewhere on the planet.  We don’t bite or bark at one another, but we don’t relish any affection either.  After only three hours sleep I awakened at 2:30 and drove in the night to the Eugene Airport, praying that perhaps the Airlines would be partially repentant and upgrade my economy plus ticket to first class.  When I checked in at the desk I was delighted to see that I was upgraded to seat A3!  My prayers were answered!  God was so awesome to see I was transferred to first class!  I was rejoicing all the way through security and up to the gate assigned to the flight.  It was then that I noticed that the A3 referred to the gate number, not my seat assignment!  My seat was B38.   I didn’t know there were that many aisles on airplanes!  As I entered the plane I kept walking until, you guessed it, i reached the last aisle, and, of course, I had the middle seat.  An oversized man was already in seat A, lopping over into the B space and leaving little room.  That seat, of course, being at the back, would not recline.  A similar sized individual then sat down in C38, compressing me even further.  At 6 feet 6 inches of height, there was no room for my legs either.  There was hardly room to breathe.  I began to be a little claustrophobic.  I don’t mean to imply that the seat itself was defective.  It would have been perfect, say, for a horse jockey weighing 106 pounds, or perhaps someone in the end stages of severe malnutrition.  My thoughts turned to the Apostle Paul, who described himself as being in a similar position to mine. (Although in an entirely different context!)   In II Corinthians 4:8, he refers to himself as being “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.”  That was the way I felt!  The noise from the rear engine had an unbearable whine broken only by the sound of the toilet flushing behind my seat every few minutes.  I had paid extra for economy plus on this flight and ended up with economy minus!  

     Having safely returned to Wichita, I was reading the Bible and praying the next morning.  I began to thank the Lord for various things he had done in the past for me and my family.  As I remembered the previous day, I hesitated and asked Him what significance there was in that day for me.  Was there a message there for me?  I had just been thanking Him for His deliverance from cancer twenty years earlier.  As I waited I had the distinct impression that He wanted me to know that He was the same God yesterday that I had experienced twenty years earlier.  He is the One who is too loving to be unkind and too wise to ever make a mistake.  He was the One who prepared a day for me with the animals and woke me up in the middle of the night.  He was in charge of the Airlines and had picked out my seat personally along with my two seat mates.  In fact, because of who He is, it is impossible to escape the center of His love.  Because He is infinite love, He cannot help but to do the most loving thing continually in my life.  He calls me to trust hIm, not to understand Him.  Some things I will later understand, and some I will never understand.  As I contemplated these recent events I wondered if I had begun to drift toward worshipping and praising God for outcomes rather than for who He is.  If I were to do this, then I would begin to doubt His love when things were not what I wished them to be.  

     I can recall a time when the Lord revealed to me what doubting His love does to Him.  A friend and I had agreed on how to manage a certain situation that occurred in their life.  The next day, they said to me in a conversation “If you had cared for me at all you would not have agreed to handling the situation that way”!  I was deeply hurt.  This was a dear friend, whom I cared for deeply.  To be accused of not caring about them, and in effect not loving them, was a deep wound to me.  I awakened in the middle of the next night and I remember asking the Lord about this in the night.  As I waited for Him to supply some comfort or wisdom, He impressed me with the realization that this is what people do to Him continually.  They doubt His love.  The more you love and care for a person the greater they may wound you by doubting or denying your love for them. The greater the love you have for them, the greater is the pain you may suffer.  He who loves us with infinite love suffers immeasurable pain when His love is doubted.   

     How, then, do we come to a place in our lives where His love in not doubted?   David Benner has the following comments in answer to that question.  “What we need is a knowing that is deeper than belief.  It must be based on experience.  Only knowing love is sufficiently strong to cast out fear.  Only knowing love is sufficiently strong to resist doubt.  It comes from sitting at the feet of Jesus, gazing into his face and listening to his assurances of love for me.  It comes from letting God’s love wash over me, not simply trying to believe it.  It comes from soaking in the scriptural assurances of such love, not simply reading them and trying to remember or believe them.  It comes from spending time with God, observing how he looks at me.  It comes from watching his watchfulness over me and listening to his protestations of love for me.”

     “Because such knowing is beyond faith it is more immune to doubt.  Just as the child who regularly meets her mother’s love in the core of her being knows that love without any effort to believe it to be true, so we may know God’s love in a way that is deeper and more durable than knowing based on belief.  Contemplative or existential knowing may be supported by belief, but it is never reducible to it.  It is based in experience, the direct personal encounter with divine love.  The goal is, as stated by Paul, that we might know the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, and so be filled with the utter fullness of God.”  (Ephesians 3:16-19) 

     “The point of God’s love is to remake us in his image of love.  God wants to make his life ours, his heart ours, his love ours.  He wants us to be -like him- characterized by love.”    Surrender to Love-Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality  Intervarsity Press, Expanded Edition 2015, Pages 76-77, 85.  

     This, then, is the purpose for which we are embraced by the infinite love of our Lord, to be remade in His image of love.  He wants to make his life ours, his heart ours, and his love ours.    May the Lord progressively fulfill this purpose in your lives as you follow Him.  

In Christ, Richard Spann              

Living By Faith

Speaker:

                                                             Living by Faith

    “We live by faith, not by sight.”  (II Corinthians 5:7)  Jesus Christ came into the world, living with perfect knowledge of the Father and perfect trust in the Father.  His life was lived by faith from beginning to end.  What was natural for Him is unnatural for us.  I can only recall (dimly) one time in my life when I lived totally by faith.  I was not worried about where my next meal would come from.  I had no concerns about what I was going to wear.  There were no anxieties about what the next day would bring.  The thought of worrying about school work, a career choice, eventual marriage and family responsibilities never crossed my mind.  I lived a life of trust and dependence.  Sadly, in some regards, these days of early childhood slipped away and I joined the rest of fallen adult humanity.   Humanity assumes it must take responsibility for itself and find its own way in life.  It is no wonder that Christ says we must become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven!  When our forefather (Adam) chose independence from God as a lifestyle he set himself up to be his own God.  He said, in effect, “I know better how to run my own life that you do”  As David Benner notes, there are only two prayers offered by mankind.  These are often unspoken, non verbalized prayers expressing two alternative desires of mankind.  One is supernatural, the other is natural.  One is “Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”  The natural one, the one we are born with is “Hallowed be my name, my kingdom come, my will be done!”   Desiring God’s Will, Intervarsity Press, 2015, pg 33.  Jesus says to those who unconsciously or consciously pray the natural prayer, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  The burden of running our own lives is a heavy one.  Christ offers us His burden, the will of God, telling us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  (Mathew 11: 28-30)   

     St. Ignatius notes that “Sin consists of our unwillingness to trust that what God wants for us is our deepest happiness.”  If we really knew God fully we would trust Him fully.  To live by faith does not mean that we need more faith.  It means that we need greater knowledge of the object of our faith.  I John 4:19 says that “We love because he first loved us.”  To immerse our lives in a study of His love for us would overwhelm us with the truth Paul describes in Romans 8:38-39.   “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  If we knew what Christ knew about the Father when He was on earth, we would surrender to His love, and willingly turn the control of our lives over to Him.  “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  (Philippians 2:13)  The apostle Paul further describes his experience in allowing the Lord to control the events of his life.  “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”   (Philippians 4.11b-12)  To live by faith, then, is to relinquish control of our lives to Him.   

     Isaiah characterizes another aspect of living by faith.  In his reply to the Lord in Isaiah 6:8 “Whom shall I send?”, and “Who will go for us?”, he says “Here am I.  Send me.”  G. Campbell Morgan describes this response as abandonment and readiness.  Isaiah has abandoned himself to God!  Oswald Chambers has these comments to say about what it means to abandon.  “Are you prepared to abandon entirely and let go?  The test of abandonment is in refusing to say—“Well, what about this?”  Beware of suppositions.   Immediately you allow—-What about this?—- It means you have not abandoned, you do not really trust God.  Immediately you do abandon you think no more about what God is going to do.  Abandon means to refuse yourself the luxury of asking any questions.”  To abandon is to live by faith.  The opposite of this is to live by sight, as three men in Luke 9:57-62 demonstrate by their (hypothetical) questions.  Where are we going to sleep tonight?  Can I bury my father first?  Can I say goodbye to my family first? 

     To live by faith also means continued waiting on God.  We must be attentive and responsive.  We wait on His agenda and timetable for our lives and ministry, not on our own.  If He chooses to set us aside from our work for Him, are we able to wait patiently for what He wants?  Waiting on Him implies that what we want is what He wants for us.  Do we want blessings, active service for him, and success in what we are doing, or do we want Him?  Living by faith is waiting for  Him to be glorified in our lives regardless of the path and its detours.  

     Finally, living by faith means that we have not yet attained that for which we were created.  We continue to thirst and hunger for deeper knowledge of our Lord.  We are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.  (II Corinthians 3:18)  Paul has this thought in view in Philippians 3:12-14.  “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  We must always have the vision of the person of God before us.  Our satisfaction is not to be granted during this probationary existence.  It awaits for us when we are with Him.  “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness.  I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”  (Psalm 17:15)  KJV 

     I am reminded of an illustration I heard a few years ago describing living by faith.  Imagine a river flowing from His throne of grace.  This river of grace flows throughout the whole world, touching and redeeming the lives of multitudes of people.  Picture yourself going down to the river with an empty pail which you fill and then dispense to others throughout the day.  You have carried His grace to minister to others.  Now imagine going down to the river and actually jumping into the river!  You are now allowing His grace to carry you!   Do you appreciate the difference?  Allowing His grace to carry you rather than you carrying His grace relinquishes your control, abandons yourself to Him, waits fully on Him, and has a clear vision of God and His glory before you!  May His grace carry you as you live by faith in Him. 

In Christ,  Richard Spann      

     

                 

He Must Become Greater

Speaker:

                                   He must become greater;  I must become less.  

                                                                                             John 3:30

     John the Baptist had clarity concerning his calling.  It was not to draw attention to his own ministry, but to the person of Christ.  HIs role was defined as follows.  “The bride belongs to the bridegroom.  The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegrooms voice.  That joy is mine, and it is now complete.  He must become greater; I must become less.”  (John 3:29-30).

     Our task, like that of John the Baptist, is one of introduction.  Our relationship with others should enable them to fall more and more in love with Jesus Christ.  We wait upon the Holy Spirit to manifest the bridegroom’s voice in their lives.  Our joy is in seeing His voice become increasingly manifest in their lives.  We need to be available to them as long as it takes to see God’s work accomplished in their lives.  At some point, however, we must be willing to become unnecessary to them.  As He becomes greater, we must become less.  As Oswald Chambers relates, “If you become a necessity to a soul, you are out of God’s order.  Your great responsibility is to be a friend of the bridegroom.”  My Utmost for his Highest, March 24. 

     In our relationship with others, we must always emphasize what Christ has done for us, not what we have done for Him.  Their gaze needs to be continually directed away from us toward Christ.  Although we may be channels of God’s blessings and introduction, it should be clear to them that we are not the source.  Our lives must be lived with enough transparency that they can see the light of God shining through the cracks in our clay pots!  “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 must be convinced in our own lives that Christ has done all that we need and that He is all that we need.  If they see that we are looking to anyone or anything but Christ, then we will have become a stumbling block to them.   We will have diverted their trust and dependence away from Christ.  

     In some business ventures, I have known some who would not teach others fully, holding back some information or needed skill from new employees.  They wanted their own position to always be a little superior to others.  They withheld knowledge of the job from others in order to keep their own standing as a leader or supervisor.  Our goal with others, however, is to see Christ increase in the lives of others to the fullest extent possible.  Paul says the following about this ministry in Colossians 1:28-29.  So naturally, we proclaim Christ.  We warn everyone we meet.  We teach everyone we can all that we know about Him, so that if possible, we might bring everyone up to his full maturity in Christ.”  Paul holds nothing back in his teaching.  He also mentions this in Ephesians 4:11-13.  “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” 

             None of us have all the gifts needed fo fully impact others for Christ.  We need the gifts of others.  To continue to minister to another person without the help of others will foster dependence.  In order for Christ to increase His prominence in their lives, we must be willing to introduce them to other individuals, groups and ministries.  The Holy Spirit uses the body of Christ, not just an individual.  In addition, we need to remember that we transmit our weaknesses as well as our strengths.  The presence of other individuals impacting the lives of those with whom we work will lessen this effect.  As they broaden and widen their relationships with others, any dependence they have on us will naturally diminish.  This is part of what It means when John the Baptist says “I must decrease.” 

     Some years ago, I had a conversation with a relative about his son.  He was discussing some of his desires for his child.  He went through a few items that he was hoping to accomplish and at the end of his list made the following statement.  “My main goal is that he will become independently dependent upon Christ.”  Independently dependent!  Having heard this from him, my wife and I then decided that this should be a prayer for our two daughters as well.  We knew that there would be an end to what we would be able to say and do.  Our influence would diminish and our impact would lessen over time.  As this occurred, our hearts were gladdened and encouraged as we saw both of our daughters manifest dependence upon the Lord independently of us!  We were full of joy when we heard the bridegroom’s voice expressed through their lives!   

     Time, distance and other ministry pursuits often separate us from those we have ministered to over the years.  We no longer play any role in their Christian walk and service.  We have become unnecessary to them.  We may wonder if our impact was sufficient to make a significant difference in their life and ministry.  The apostle John, near the end of his life, had the occasion to look back on those to whom he had previously ministered as well.  In many cases, his influence and input had long since ceased.  They had become independently dependent upon Christ.  After hearing that the bridegroom’s voice was still being heard through their lives, he described his joy in these words.  “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth.  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  (3 John 3-4)  May this joy be yours as well as by God’s Grace you hear the bridegroom’s voice in the lives of those in whom you have invested your own life.  

In Christ, Richard Spann  

Not by Bread Alone

Speaker:

      Several years ago, I was reading about the temptations of Christ as recorded in Matthew chapter 4 and Luke chapter 4.  One of the verses He used to refute the devil was Deuteronomy 8:3.  I was interested to read Jerry Bridges comments on this verse in one of his writings.  His opinion was that “every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3) included more than just the scriptures.  It embraced His creative decisions, “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth, (Psalm 33:6) as well as His providential care of all of His creation.  (Isaiah 55:11)  I came across this same opinion from Dallas Willard in his book “Hearing God.”  These thoughts began to widen my understanding about God’s care and directions for His people.  They include bread, but also manna, which was supplied by the “word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  “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.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

     Bread is that with which we are familiar.  We can see it.  We watch it grow in the stalk, whether it be wheat, barley or oats.  It is also a substance over which we have some control.  We harvest it, (the wheat for example) and mix it together with yeast and other products to produce our bread.  It is a process which we comprehend.  We understand how our body processes the bread and provides the nutrients we need.  Manna, on the other hand, was a substance with which the Israelites were unfamiliar.  Daily by faith they picked it up from the ground.  They had no control over when and how much appeared.  They could not even control how long it lasted. (On the day before the Sabbath it lasted two days compared to one day the other days.)  They had no ability to comprehend how it appeared and how it was used to supply their nutritional needs during the forty years in the wilderness.   

     From this example it is clear that the Lord will guide us in both the familiar and unfamiliar, in matters over which we have some control and that over which we have none, and in ventures which we may understand his leading as well as by paths that are inscrutable to us.  It includes a walk by faith, not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7), taking risks, getting out of our comfort zone, and leaving the outcomes of what He calls us to do in His hands.  

     I was in the process of memorizing this verse (Deuteronomy 8:3) when I was admitted to the hospital for the fourth of five surgeries I have had in my life (so far!) for the removal of a cancerous growth.  The surgery went well and I returned to my room later that afternoon.  In the evening the pain from the incision significantly worsened despite the medication they were giving and I asked for more pain relief.  At 9:00 PM they gave me four mgm. of Morphine which did not relieve the pain.  I was given another eight mgm. of Morphine at 10:00 PM but again with no benefit.  At 11:00 PM they tried an intravenous injection of Toradol (another strong pain reliever) with no benefit either.  At midnight she went back to more Morphine with still no relief of the pain.  I knew that Percocet had helped pain like this before from previous surgeries but they would not give me that drug because I was not to take anything by mouth until morning.  My wife, Beverly, had stayed in my room overnight and would be available, should I awaken her, to leave the hospital and go to our home and bring back the Percocet I had on hand.  As I considered this option, my mind turned to Deuteronomy 8:3 and I was reminded of the Lord’s opportunity to turn the stones into bread.  There was a legitimate need before Him and he had the means to take care of it by saying the word, but He would have stepped out of the Father’s will for His life.  I was reminded that to take my own medication against hospital advice, even though it would have relieved the pain, was not what the Lord wanted me to do.  Having rejected this option I was given the thought that I should take both hands, and press them into the left aide of the abdomen next to the incision and roll over on my left side.  Within a few minutes I was asleep and slept until the nurse came in at 6:00AM!  By faith I responded to the thought the Lord had given.  The control of the pain was up to Him, not me.  It was beyond my understanding as to how He accomplished this!  The pain relief itself was profound and I was exceedingly grateful for it.  What was even more profound, however, was the lesson that the Lord taught me then and has been teaching me since.  

     We go along in our daily lives walking by sight, in control of most things that concern us and able to comprehend the path ahead of us.  Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are in the Lord’s hands, being sustained by His mighty hand of Grace.  To walk by sight, however, is to live by bread alone.  It is doing what we usually do each day with familiar surroundings and with people we know and with whom we are comfortable being around.  The Lord, however, does not want us to live by bread alone.  He desires that we also walk by faith.  He asks us to take risks with the use of our time, our talents, and our resources.  He desires that we leave our comfort zone of activities and trust Him to use our lives, leaving our future in His hands, or, as the title of John Ortberg’s book states, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get out of the Boat!  He asks that we befriend others of different religions, cultures, races, lifestyles and that we spend time with them and minister to their needs.  By faith, He asks that we accept them and seek their good.  We have no control over whether they will respond to the Gospel but we are to love them just the same, uncertain of how the Lord will use our lives and uncertain of the outcome itself.  We are unable to comprehend what He plans to develop in the lives of others by our simple steps of faith as we follow Him.  This is living by His word,  which supplied the manna, not just by bread alone.     

     His word, His providential care and direction of our lives leads us to a venture of faith, relinquishing control of outcomes, trusting His sovereign judgment to use our lives as He desires.  Living by faith we are called to make a difference, not just a living.  Our lives, lived by faith, will then make a mark, not a blur.  It is my desire that His word will direct your lives into a life that is is not lived by bread alone, making a difference for eternity, not just for this life.  

In Christ, Richard Spann           

Running the Race

Speaker:

                                                     Running The Race

     The winter Olympics have started.  Last night I watched curling.  It is truly a sport that could only have been invented in the frozen wasteland of our planet!  Skiing was also featured as were previews of other competitions to come.  Over the next month many contestants will stand shoulder to shoulder with others at the starting line, all with a desire to be the first one to cross the finish line.  We all enjoy watching these scenes unfold.  What we seldom realize, however, is how similar our lives are to the Olympics.  We have many contestants clamoring for first place in our lives.  They each one want to be first.  These include our jobs, hobbies, relationships with others, our career advancement, accumulation of possessions, plans for retirement, and, oh yes, our relationship with God. 

     I recall with amusement, and some conviction, an ongoing description of a race described by Leroy Eims, a Navigator mentor to many people over the years.  His comments were as follows.  “They are at the Gate!  God jumps out in front and takes an early lead, but career, hobbies and friends are close behind!  At the turn hobbies is closing fast, while career is advancing along the rail!  Friends is coming up along the outside and God and friends are neck to neck as they make the turn!  Career advances to the front on the backstretch and God falls two lengths behind!  As they round the final turn all four are neck and neck!  God makes a final lunge at the end and wins by a nose!    

     Have you ever had days like that?  You were running ragged with too many irons in the fire.  You remember after dinner that you neglected your relationship with God most of the day so you grab a devotional book or read a chapter in the Bible, pray for a few minutes and go off to sleep, thinking to yourself,  “Well, at least God won by a nose!” 

     Leroy brings home his point even more clearly with the following hypothetical scene.  He describes it as follows.  “Let’s say that I travel on a business trip to New Orleans to spend several days there with various people.  As is my habit, I call my wife Virginia every night to let her know how I am getting along.  The first night I call to tell her that the meetings are going well and that I have met a young lady that I am having breakfast with the next morning.  The next evening I call again and tell her that all the projects are going well and that I have really enjoyed meeting this lady, so much so in fact that I had lunch and dinner with her as well.  I then added ‘But don’t worry, Virginia.  Your’e still number one!’”  Still number one , indeed!  How do you think Virginia would react?  How would you react to this?  More importantly how do you think God reacts when we do this to Him?  What Leroy is telling us is that no one else, and nothing else, should even be in the race! 

     God, in fact, tells us the same thing in Luke 14:26, 27 and 33.  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-yes, even his own life-he cannot be my disciple.”(verse 26)  “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (verse 27)  “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (verse 33)  Our Lord states here that relationships with others, self interest and possessions are not to enter the race.  Our relationships with others, not permitting them to even enter the race, may even be regarded by hate in comparison with the love we have for Christ.  Self interest is denied entry in the race by carrying our cross and following Him.  Possessions, likewise, do not gain entrance because they are given up to Christ for His use. 

     If our race does not include others, self or possessions, then what is the purpose of the race?   What does it mean to run the race with perseverance, (Hebrews 12:1) or to run in such a way as to get the prize? (I Corinthians 9:24)  There is one race I love to watch and that is in the movie Secretariat.  In the Belmont Stakes, all the other horses but one withdrew, and that one was really not a challenger.  The race was essentially a demonstration of the beauty, strength and glory of the horse Secretariat.  He created wonder, amazement and praise from the onlookers and admirers.   All eyes were on him as he continued to accelerate around the course.  

     In many respects, it reminds me of the race that we are to run.  There are no competitors.  We run with the purpose of demonstrating the glory, strength and might of Christ Jesus.  “We have been given fullness in Christ.”(Colossians 2:10)  “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (II Corinthians 3:18)  Paul says “For to me, to live is Christ.” (Philippians 1:21)  He will, Himself, by His presence produce wonder and bring praise to His name.  “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)  As we run the race united to our Lord and Savor Jesus Christ, even the defects and problems in our lives (cracks in our jar that let His light out!) serve but to show others that it is Christ within and not our lives that contain the power that is seen.  “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)  

     This is the race that Paul was referring to in I Corinthians 9:24 and which he himself was to complete.  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (II Timothy 4:7)  This is the race that we are called to complete as well, making the invisible Christ visible to others so that they may see His Glory.  It is my prayer that your race will glorify Him and bring praise to His name!                    

In Christ, Richard Spann

God will become all you need Him to be

Speaker:

                                     God will become all you need Him to be 

                                  when you need Him to be all that you need. 

                                                                                     Jill Briscoe

     God created man in His likeness and to live in such a relationship with Him that all of its needs would be met in Him.  Mankind, having rebelled through its spokesman in Adam, has become so distanced from God that there is no realization of the need for Him.  It goes its own way, oblivious to the infinite resources at its disposal.  Even those who have been drawn near to Him seldom realize the supply that He desires to bring to their lives.  The need of God for part of their lives is acknowledged, but they are quite content to seek other sources for what they desire or consider useful.  There is a tendency to compartmentalize Him in our thinking, regarding Him as useful for salvation when the end of physical life comes, but desirous of having other needs met elsewhere.  The need of Him is only partial, not total.  They do not realize that even the needs that are met elsewhere than Him are ultimately supplied by Him as well.  The food, the clothes, the homes, the relationships with others are all ultimately supplied from His Gracious hand.  Every provision we experience is His gift to us.  Accepting provisions from Him without seeking Him as the primary One to be desired actually serves only to turn our hearts away from Him.  We see this in Hosea 13:6.  “When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.”  To seek and depend upon the provisions of God rather than the person of God is to ultimately turn away from God.  Our dependence must rest on Him and Him alone. 

     The tragedy of dependence upon what God has given us rather than God Himself is brought home to us multiple times in the scriptures.  The most notable of these is a man’s story with which we are all familiar.  He was set apart from birth to be used mightily by the Lord.  It is recorded that he grew and the Lord blessed him.  His dependence was ultimately revealed to be, not in the Almighty God who had given him his strength, but in his strength alone.  Judges 16:20 tells us the story of his failure. “Then she called, ‘Samson, The Philistines are upon you!’  He awoke from his sleep and thought, ‘I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.’  But he did not know that the Lord God left him.”  These words, “not knowing that the Lord God left him” are some of the most sobering in all of scripture.  Oswald Chambers has this comment about our relationship with God.  “If you are depending upon anything but Him, you will never know when He is gone.” 

     The Psalmist captures the thought behind Jill Briscoe’s statement with these words in Psalm 62:1-2.  “My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”  David is declaring here his dependence upon God alone, not His provision, His gifts, the experiences he has had with God, but God himself.  He is declaring that God Himself is all that He needs.  The Old Testament is replete with the words of the Lord guaranteeing this to us with the very name He has given to us, Jehovah, the becoming One.  Jehovah, which means “I am becoming all you need me to be” is the One who will become all we need Him to be when we need Him to be all that we need.  He illustrates this by including other names along with His name Jehovah, Jehovah Jireh, “I am the One who provides for you”, Jehovah Nissi, “I am your banner,”  Jehovah Raah, “I am your shepherd,” Jehovah Rophe, “I am your healer,” Jehovah Tsidkenu, “I am your righteousness,” Jehovah Shalom, “I am your peace.”   This is only a partial list, illustrative rather than exhaustive, of all He will become for us. 

     My wife of 56 years, Beverly, went to be with the Lord in September 2021.  With the start of the year 2022, I purposed to read through her Bible, in which I found copious notes along the edges of the text!  In Exodus chapter 14, she had underlined the story where the cloud (for guidance) moved around the Israelites and became a pillar of fire (for protection).  (Exodus 14:19-20)  She had pencilled the following comment in the margin.  God becomes whatever I need”  This is what she believed and this is what she experienced in her life.  Hannah Whitall Smith has the following comment about the belief that God becomes whatever is needed.  

     “The last and greatest lesson that the soul has to learn is the fact that God, and God alone, is enough for all its needs.  This is the lesson that all His dealings with us are meant to teach; and this is the crowning discovery of our whole Christian life.  God is enough!   

     No soul can be really at rest until it has given up all dependence on every thing else and has been forced to depend on the Lord alone.  As long as our expectation is from other things, nothing but disappointment awaits us.  Feelings may change, and will change with our changing circumstances; doctrines and dogmas may be upset; christian work may come to naught; prayers may seem to lose their fervency; promises may seem to fail; everything that we have believed in or depended upon may seem to be swept away, and only God is left, just God, the bare God, if I may be allowed the expression; simply and only God.”  The God of All Comfort.  Moody Press 1956, Pages 241,243.      

     Have you come to the conclusion that God becomes whatever you need?  Is your dependence placed solely in Him?  The rest that God has for us is only to be found when it is in Him alone.  May the Lord lead you to find your soul refreshed daily as you discover that God, and God alone, is enough.  

In Christ, Richard Spann                       

Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?

Speaker:

                             Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?

                                                                                                    Del Tackett

     The question as related above was asked by Del Tackett during the presentation of the Truth Project.  The Project was initiated 12 years ago by Focus on the Family, a Christian organization located in Colorado Springs, CO.  Del Tackett was the spokesman for the project that became a widely used seminar which related the truth of the scriptures to every day life.  Although having reference to the teaching of the seminar, his question has a deeper relevance that impacts the totality of our lives.  His question in actuality includes two questions.  The first of these, “What do you believe?”, is then followed by the second, “Do you really believe it is really real?”

     To fully answer the first question would take volumes so let me summarize in a few sentences.  If we are born again the old has gone, the new has come.  The old man is buried with Christ (Romans 6:3) and the life we now live is by faith in the life of Christ given to us. (Galatians 2:20)  We are sealed by the Holy Spirit, given the consciousness of God and the assurance that the Lord is our security and our significance. (Genesis 15:1)  Our Lord is in charge of each day, guarding us each second and preparing us with perfect knowledge and infinite power to celebrate Him, enjoy Him, worship and serve Him for all eternity.  He is in charge of all that pertains to us and all His governance is guided by the eye of infinite eternal love.  He supplies all we need physically and spiritually and tells us that we have no need to be afraid or worried. (Deuteronomy 31:8)  

     The second question to consider, then, is this.  Do we really believe this?  Is it really real?  In the case of many there is a wish and a hope, but the circumstances of life cause us to question the reality of what we believe at times.  We face many difficulties in life and the disappointments, the loss of health, family concerns and financial burdens all combine to cause doubts and anxieties.  Looking at our circumstances may cause us to doubt our relationship to Him, or to doubt His promises.  We may even wonder how our lives are to be different from the unbelieving world around us.  What are the distinctives?  What differences should be present in our lives that characterize us as really believing that what we believe is really real?  

     The scriptures are not silent as to the expected response of the believer to all one has in Christ.  If we really believe that what we believe is really real then we will have the response described in Colossians 3:1,2.  “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  These verses introduce the topic of “things above.”  What are these “things above?”  What activities are continuously taking place in the realm above?  I believe there are three of these in number, in each of which we are invited to have a part.     

     The first of these is prayer.  In Hebrews 7:25 we read that our Lord continues to pray for us.  Those of the redeemed who are with Him are likewise joining Him in prayer.  The reminders that our lives are to be centered in prayer are many in the scriptures.  Luke 18:1b states…”men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”  I Thessalonians 5:17 says “pray without ceasing,” and Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us to “Be careful for nothing;  but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  In prayer we are reminded that our need is not partial, it is total. 

     The second of “things above” is seen in Revelations 19:4.  “The twenty four elders and the living creatures fell down and worshipped God who was seated on the throne.  And they cried: ‘Amen, Hallelujah.’”  These two words epitomize praise to the Lord for who He is as well as for what He does:  Hallelujah-Praise the Lord!, and Amen-Let it be so!  If we really believe that what we believe is really real, that our lives will be characterized by praise, and specifically these two words of praise, Hallelujah and Amen.  

     The third activity taking place above is proclamation, the declaring of the person of Christ and what He has done.  Revelations 5:9-10 is as follows:  “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.”  If we really believe that what you believe is really real, then you cannot help telling others, proclaiming its truth first through your life, and then through your words.  

     Finally, we need to remember that we are not left to ourselves to manifest a life of prayer, praise and proclamation.  We have been given Christ, not as a model to emulate, nor as an example to study, but as a Life to be expressed in our lives.  It is His triumph in life in which we join.  His victory over all the circumstances of life is transmitted to us.  His Person given to us has already been manifest in prayer, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16)  His life is seen in praise, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.  Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”  (Luke 10 21)  Finally, we see that His life in which we share is declared to be one of proclamation.  “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”  (Luke 19:10)                       

     There is no reason to doubt what we believe.  It is really real!  There is, furthermore, no reason to doubt that the Risen Christ will not be manifest in our lives with prayer, praise and proclamation as well.  As we constantly look to Him to manifest Himself in and through our lives, He Himself will demonstrate the reality of His truth through our lives.  

In Christ, Richard Spann