Two Steps in Making Disciples


                     There are Two Steps in the Process of making Disciples

                              1)  Determine what you want to Develop

                               2) Develop what you have Determined

                                                               Howard Hendricks

     Many organizations and churches have an interest in Discipleship.  Most of these will even include some mention of the word “disciple” in their vision statement.  The understanding of what a disciple is, however, varies widely.  It is critical, as Howard Hendricks points out, to determine what we want to develop.  Would it be better, for example, to have one hundred people who are ninety-percent committed or to have ten people who are one hundred percent committed?  Is it enough to simply populate our pews and fill the seats at our conferences?  Or do we wish to penetrate our neighborhoods and workplaces with the Gospel?  Are we satisfied with emotion and activity, or is it reproduction we have as our target?  Do we want to develop those who are flawless in their recitation of their creeds, or those who are being transformed into the likeness of Christ by the Holy Spirit?   Our Lord had much to say about discipleship.  His comments center around the disciples’ relationship to Him, to His word, to His love for others and to His work.  

     A disciples’ relationship to their Lord is seen in Luke 14:25-33.  On three occasions our Lord declared that a relationship to Him takes precedence over our possessions, our own will and any other relationship which we have.   To fail in any of these three is to result in the forsaking of our first love. (Revelation 2:4)  It will lead to disqualification as His disciple. 

      In regard to His word, He says the following in John 8:31b.  “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.”  To hold to His teaching we must let our roots go down deep into the word of God as we read, study and memorize His word.  The intent is not to merely have a better grip on God’s word, but that it will have a better grip on us.  

      Our Lord demonstrated His love to His disciples in the upper room as He washed their feet.  In that same chapter He gave them a new command.  “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)  Love for others is a foundation stone of our fellowship and witness to the world.  The absence of love in our fellowship limits our penetration into that world with the Gospel message.  

     The work of Christ is described in Luke 19:10.  “For the son of man came to seek and to save what was lost.”  He shares this same work with His disciples as we see in the Great Commission.  (Matthew 28:18-20  

     From these scriptures we are able to determine that we want as a disciple one who is devoted to the person of Christ, governed by the word of Christ, mastered by the love of Christ, and committed to the work of Christ.  

     Having determined what we want to develop, then, we must develop what we have determined.  This is, of course, the work of the Holy Spirit.  He works in our lives by circumstances and in ways that are beyond our comprehension.   Some of the methods by which He works are readily discernible and it is to these that we will direct our attention.  These include prayer, the word of God, the Body of Christ (The church), and individual personal relationships.  

     The Apostle Paul demonstrated the importance of prayer in the formation of disciples on numerous occasions:  In Colossians 1:9-14, Ephesians 1:15-23, and Philippians 1:9-11.  We see Paul praying for others throughout the book of Acts.  Prayer places our desire for the spiritual growth of others before the throne of our Lord God, trusting Him to so act that many laborers for the kingdom would come from the lives of those for whom we are praying.    

     Paul also recognized the effect that the word of God has in our lives. He states in Acts 20:32.  “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 being sanctified.” The role of the word of God in our lives is included in the High Priestly prayer of our Lord.  “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”  (John17:17)  There is no growth in the spiritual realm apart from the word of God.  If we sink our roots deep into His word, we will experience a firm foundation for our walk with Him.  

     It is impossible to disciple others individually apart from the body of Christ, that is, the church.  An old African proverb states that “It takes a whole village to raise a child.”  Our Christian faith is no different.  We all need continuous counsel, encouragement by others, a place where we are accepted, one in which we are challenged, comforted and have opportunity to use the gifts which He has supplied.  

     In addition to the body of Christ, there is additional benefit to meeting with others individually to obtain maximum growth in Christ.  As the Scriptures relate to us, “a cord of three strands is not easily broken.”  We see this modeled throughout Scripture:  Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Barnabas and Paul, and Paul and Timothy.  The Apostle Paul describes the importance of learning individually from others in his letter to Timothy as follows  “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecution, sufferings-what kind of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, the persecutions I endured.”  In this list, Paul enumerated what he felt was important for Timothy to model in his own life.  Paul did not shrink from exposing Timothy to problems, concerns of various sorts, and ever present danger.  How, we may ask, are we discipling others today?  Do we live, work and spend enough time with them so that they may see and benefit from our example; our low points as well as the high points?  Do we relate to them our discouragements and our failures?  It is only as we enable them to see that the treasure in our jars of clay is from the Lord that they are taught to look to the Lord in their lives.   

     Aristotle was once quoted as saying, “We can hit our target more accurately if we can see it.”  In making disciples we need a target.  Our Lord has given us numerous ways by which we can assess the growth and development of others for whom he has given us oversight.   It is my prayer that as you look to the scriptures for His guidance, He will enable you, also, to determine what He wants you to develop and to develop what you have determined. 

In Christ,  Richard Spann               

Matthew 6:33


                           But seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness,

                             and all these things will be given to you as well.

                                                                                   Matthew 6:33

     The Sermon on the Mount contains much significant instruction for our Christian walk.  Chapter five deals chiefly with interpersonal relationships.  The first part of chapter six stresses some fundamentals of our relationship with God, while the last part of chapter six describes the proper relationships we should have toward material things.  In regard to wealth, it is to be used to advance the Kingdom.  In regard to the necessary material things of this life, there is to be no anxiety.  Our Lord underscores this directive as He states to us what we are to seek, namely His Kingdom and His Righteousness, knowing that we can rest assured that He will supply that which is needful for our lives.

     To seek His Kingdom implies initially that we must be in His Kingdom,  (John 3:5)  and that we are praying for the coming of His Kingdom.  (Matthew 6:10  “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”)   N.T. Wright summarizes this prayer with the following comments.  “Thy kingdom come, we pray, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  God’s space and ours are finally married, integrated at last.  That is what we pray for, when we pray ‘thy kingdom come.‘  We are praying, as Jesus was praying and acting, for the redemption of the world; for the radical defeat and uprooting of evil; and for heaven and earth to be married at last, for God to be all in all.  And if we pray this way, we must of course be prepared to live this way.  We can only pray this prayer for the church if we are prepared to mean and make us Kingdom-bearers!  Make us a community of healed healers; make us a retuned orchestra to play the Kingdom-music until the world takes up the song.  Make us in turn, Servants of the Lord, the few with the message for the many.”   (The Lord and His Prayer, Eerdmans Publishing Company 1996 pg 13,19)

     How do we seek His Righteousness?  II Corinthians 5:21 tells us that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  We also read in I Corinthians 1:30 that “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.”  Romans 1:17 says that this is “a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.”   As we, by faith, spend time with Him in His word and in prayer, His life is being increasingly manifest in and through our lives.  This is what is stated in II Corinthians 3:18 (KJV).  “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  Increasingly, then, as we seek Him, His Righteousness becomes more and more evident in our lives.  

     In the first year of my medical practice in Wichita, I found myself with a busy practice, a comfortable working schedule, and with successful completion of Internal Medicine and Pulmonary Disease medical board exams.  It was then that the Lord placed into my heart a desire to become more actively involved in seeking His Kingdom and Righteousness.  I adjusted my schedule to spend more time with Him and with those who were lost spiritually.  I began to share Christ with others, not only in the church and neighborhood, but in the office and hospital as well.  After some months went by, I was approached by two of my senior partners.  They told me that I was ruining my medical practice and reputation by talking to people about Jesus.  They related to me that my patient numbers would diminish by the lack of referrals from other doctors and that my medical practice would suffer as a result.  I also gathered from their conversation that they were concerned about how my sharing Christ with others would affect their reputation as well.  As I recall that conversation, I remember relating to them that I was convinced of the importance of the Gospel for my life and others.  They seemed to accept those words, however, but again warned me that I would not have a successful business as a result. 

     Despite the forecast of my partners, however, I began to see an increase in the number of patients in my office and in the hospital.  I continued to share the Gospel with those who had an interest in spiritual topics and the number of the patients desiring to be on my schedule were far more than I had time to see.   Our partners began looking for another partner in my subspecialty of Internal Medicine to join our practice.  Even with his arrival a few years later, the medical practice continued to expand.  I began to limit my hours during the day to make room for additional work in patients that required immediate care.  The Lord’s promise in Matthew 6:33 was abundantly fulfilled!  

     The Lord’s methods of achieving His promises to us are usually hidden.  We are to trust Him, not His methods.  Our eyes are meant to remain on Him, not on His supply to meet our needs.  Occasionally, it seems, the Lord will draw back the curtain and let us have a brief glimpse of His work which is usually beyond our comprehension.  Such a glimpse was permitted in my life on one occasion.  Thirty-four years had gone by since I had started sharing Christ in my practice.  I had left my office practice and started working in the Intensive Care units of several local hospitals.  One of these was a hospital which was started by an order of Catholic sisters nearly a century earlier.  After working at that location for several weeks, I was asked by one of the sisters if I still worked for Campus Crusade for Christ.  I related that I never did work for them, although I had used their materials extensively in the past.  She then said that in the early 1970’s, her order of sisters became aware of a young doctor in town who was telling his patients about Jesus.  They heard that I had an office across the street from another hospital several miles away.  She then stated that “I sent all the patients I could possibly send to your office.”  Incredible!   I was a stranger in town and practicing at a different hospital from the one at which she worked.  She knew nothing about me except that I professed the Name of Jesus.  That was enough for her!   The Lord motivated her to send more than an abundant supply of patients to the office.  It was amazing to realize how the Hand of God had been at work some thirty-four years earlier! 

     Matthew 6:33 contains a promise.  It is a promise that many have claimed over the years.  Mutua Mahiaini, the International President of The Navigators was a recent speaker at one of our Navigator conferences in Wichita, Kansas.  In speaking about God’s promises, he related that we can take a small glass, dip it into the river of God’s promises, and then carry that promise home with us and apply it to isolated needs in our life.  But he also said this.  Rather than claiming God’s promises, let them claim you.  Do not simply carry God’s promises with you.  Jump into the river of God’s promises and let them carry you!  Abandon yourself to Him and His purposes as did Isaiah when he said “Here am I, send me.”  (Isaiah 6:8)  He is worthy of our trust.  He will prove faithful.  His ability to provide abundantly above all measure is limitless.  May the Lord so lead you into His promises so that you may rejoice, as have many others, in the abundance of His supply.  

In Christ, Richard Spann                               

Why Memorize Scripture?



     Most of us memorized Scripture during our childhood.  Regardless of the church denomination, we were at least taught John 3:16, or remember the shortest verse in the Bible. (Jesus wept)  Most adults come to the opinion that, although beneficial while growing up in the church and having the value of introducing us to some truths, it is not necessary to memorize Scripture later in life.  Many are content with simply hearing the word preached from the pulpit.  Multiple efforts to encourage people to read their Bibles have met with success and some even study the Bible as individuals or in groups.  Few, however, regularly memorize Scripture itself.  In my childhood, I was started on Scripture memory when I was ten years of age.  This continued only a short time, however, and I did not begin to memorize Scripture again until I was thirty two years of age.  Even when repeatedly challenged to join a Scripture memory group, I delayed doing so for six weeks.  What reasons are there to explain this reluctance to hide the Scripture in our hearts?  

     The most obvious reason is that we have enemies in this world who oppose any spiritual activity that would draw us closer to the Lord.  The world, for example, always presents more alluring and pleasurable things to do with our time.  The flesh, another enemy, rises up to say “I am sufficient, and doing quite well without that activity, Thank you very much!”  Such was the case in my life.  Our third enemy, the devil, has many lies with which he may distract and prevent us from laying up Scripture in our hearts.  The Bible tells us not to be ignorant of his devices.  Three lies which I have heard from others recently which illustrate his activity are as follows:  1) “The Pharisees memorized Scripture but a lot of good it did them!”  2) “All we really need to do is to trust Christ.  Any effort to read, study or memorize the Bible is unnecessary.  We already have everything we need if we simply trust Him.”   3)  If we truly have a heart for His word, then the devil may subtly suggest that “Any effort we make is an attempt to earn God’s love and favor.”  Jerry Bridges once stated, however, that “our effort is simply to avail ourselves of His means of Grace.”  

     Although the above enemies are active in their opposition to us, another significant reason preventing our memorization of Scripture is that we do not understand the Scriptural basis for memorization of His word.  Although numerous reasons might be given scripturally to support memorization, I will cite only six of these for our review. 

     The first of these is related to the Lordship of Christ.  He says in Luke 6:46.  “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”  If we call Him “Lord,” then we must be attentive and responsive to His voice, as described in John 10:27.  “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  Where, then, do we listen to His voice if not in His Holy word, the Scriptures?  How can we follow Him if we do not know specifically what He says?  This is the most obvious and compelling reason for laying up His words in our heart. 

     The second reason for memorizing His word is that it is the most effective way of exposing our lives to the Scriptures.  Hearing the word preached and taught is mentioned in Jeremiah 23:22 and again in Luke 11:28.  Within twenty-four hours, however, we forget ninety-five percent of what we have heard.  Reading is commended in Deuteronomy 17:19 and in Revelation 1:3.  That practice, by itself, only results in fifteen-percent recall in twenty four hours.  Studying the Scriptures is both commended and commanded in Acts 17:19 and in II Timothy 2:15.  Only forty-percent recall, however, is noted over the next twenty four hours.  Only memorization, with review, will result in one hundred-percent recall of His word.  This practice allows the Holy Spirit access to our hearts and minds as He uses the word of God in and through our lives.  Psalm 119:11, Deuteronomy 6:6-7 and 11:18 speak to its importance.  As we do this, we can have the opportunity to meditate on memorized verses as related in Psalm 1:2-3 and Joshua 1:8.   

     Memorized Scripture also keeps us from error.  The Lord says in Matthew 22:29, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”  It is only when we have the knowledge of God’s word in our hearts that the Holy Spirit is able to keep us from error in our thinking, our words and our deeds. 

     Additionally, Hebrews 4:12 relates to us that Scripture is a sword.  “For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”   It is the thoughts and attitudes of our heart that determine the course of our lives.  If we desire to follow our Lord as His disciple we must have constant guidance in these areas.  The Holy Spirit uses memorized Scripture as a living, active means to penetrate, to divide and to judge so that we may say with the psalmist in Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” 

     The last reason to be mentioned regarding the Scriptural basis for memorization of His word is that of the example of Jesus Christ.  Matthew chapter four, as well as Luke chapter four describe the temptation of Christ by the devil.  In all of these, He was triumphant over temptation through His dependence upon and use of scriptures which were memorized.  In Luke 24:27, it was additionally recorded that, “… beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”  Well over several hundred memorized scriptures were recalled and used in that conversation.  I would like to have a record of that conversation!  Our Lord was dependent upon Scripture for His own life and the communication of that life to others.  How can we hope to live our life, then, without the resources that He chose for Himself? 

     All of the above six reasons to memorize God’s word have been used by the Holy Spirit in my life.  As a result of exposure to His word over the years, I have increasingly been aware of the truth of II Timothy 3:16-17.  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”  It is my desire that His Scripture hidden in your heart will so transform your life that you, also, will be thoroughly equipped for every good work in which you are led by the Holy Spirit. 

In Christ, Richard Spann                  

Interruptions-Obstacles or Opportunities?



Are they Obstacles or Opportunities?

Some years ago I met a man working at a local hospital.  He was a physician and involved with the care of patients in his office as well as in the hospital.  His day was carefully organized with commitments in both locations.  He confided in me that the one thing he dreaded and that ruined his day was any interruption in his schedule.  He carefully worked out the time to appear different places, where to park, and even the hallways to avoid in order to avoid meeting others and having conversations with them!  Few of us may go to these lengths to avoid the unplanned encounters with others in our day but we can all identify with the stress that comes when the unexpected meeting claims part of our day.  We  typically fill our days with work, as well as other meetings and obligations, leaving little room for any outside additions to our schedule.  When these do occur, and most days have these interruptions, we may respond with anxiety, and complain to anyone who will listen, including God, and are ill suited to meet the needs of the person whom the LORD has introduced into our schedule that day!

It has been helpful for me to study the life of our LORD during His earthly ministry.  He was never in a hurry.  He never turned down an opportunity to heal, or to speak to others because He had a pressing time commitment on His calendar.  He never complained to His Father or to others about the demands of His work load.  Interestingly when we look at His life and ministry it chronicles many such interruptions!  These include encounters with the whole town (Mark 1:33), a man with leprosy (Mark 1:40), and the paralytic in Mark 2:3.  The whole of chapter five in Mark is devoted to interruptions.  These include the demon possessed man, a sick woman and a dead girl.  Whether it was the Pharisees with their questions and condemning attitude, the rich young man, Bartimaeus or Zaccheus, He always was fully available to them to meet their needs.  Why did He manifest such peace and contentment?  One reason is that He was convinced that His life was under the guidance of His Father.  He was continually doing the work of the Father, dependent upon His Father to provide the opportunities for His work to be manifest.  He knew also that the timetable of His life was under the Father’s control.  On several occasions, he stated that His time had not yet come.

We, likewise, are given many assurances that our lives, like that of Christ, are under the control of the Father.  We are told the following in Ephesians 2:10.   “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Our LORD not only prepares us for each opportunity, He prepares each opportunity for us.  In Psalm 139:16 we read that “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  This includes not only the number of days, but everything that each day brings to our lives!  The Living Bible states it this way.  “You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe.  Every day was recorded in your Book!”   These are not just days of activity which He plans for us.  He knows that we need time to get apart and rest.  He even plans that for us as well!  It is recorded in Psalms 139:3 that “You chart the path ahead of me, and tell me where to stop and rest.”  How do we know that we are sufficient to handle all He brings?  We have His promise to us in II Corinthians 3:5.  “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” In light of His great promises to us and equipped with His abundant provision, how, then, should we prepare ourselves for interruptions that come our way?

Let me suggest two words which have been helpful in my life.  These are anticipate and listen.  We need to anticipate that the Lord will bring unexpected opportunities for us to interact with others.  Our days are, after all, to be filled with His agenda, not ours.  If we are to anticipate interruptions, we need to live with a margin in our day.  I remember a story of a study done on a college campus years ago.  Ten students were told that their next class was starting in ten minutes on the other side of the campus.  They were told that they had little extra time in order to get to the class and remain on schedule for the day.  Situated along the path was a person who was sitting on the ground, in obvious need, with a bent wheel on his bicycle.  The situation was staged to simulate a recent accident.  Only one of the students stopped to render aid.  The study was then repeated with another group of ten students.  This time they were told that there was plenty of time to get to their next class.  In this group, nine of the ten students stopped to provide assistance.  When my schedule is packed and I am running behind, my thoughts are on my agenda and not open to anyone the LORD might bring in my path.  For this reason I have found it helpful to leave unscheduled time in both the morning and afternoon  hours during my years of medical practice.  Nearly every day, unscheduled opportunities to visit with others,  to provide medical care, or to pray for them would arise.

When given these opportunities from the LORD, my task is to listen to the Holy Spirit as He provides guidance in each individual situation.  Why was this person introduced into my day?  Was it just medical care?  Are there other needs?  Do they know the LORD?  How should I pray for them?  Is there some booklet that may help them in their journey to Christ?  Is this someone with whom the LORD desires me to establish a friendship?  The LORD foresees all of our days (Jehovah-Jireh) and thus will provide these answers as we listen to Him.  He knows, plans, and provides for each day of our lives in advance.  If we are to make our lives available to His plans, not just our own, we need to anticipate these opportunities and listen to Him as He provides direction for each encounter.  On several occasions over the years He has used these opportunities in my life to help others in their spiritual journey.

Our LORD says the following in John 12:26.  “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.”  Our LORDS’s life was always available to interruptions from others.  Is your life also available to others who interrupt your day?  If we anticipate these interruptions, and listen to the Holy Spirit, we will likewise be available to those he sends to us.  We, then, will be with Him in His ministry to those who are not obstacles, but opportunities for His Grace to touch their lives.

In Christ, Richard Spann

The Urgent and the Important


The Urgent is seldom Important.  The Important is seldom Urgent.

Not long ago I started a day with several important items to do.  The urgent, however, continued to crowd these out until the afternoon.  That day reinforced the thoughts expressed in the above title.  What is it about the “urgent” things in our lives that almost compels us to pay attention to them rather than to the “important” issues.  It seems that they usually deal only with the things of the world.  They involve primarily the cares and concerns of that which is material only.  They also seem to be those things which make one “feel” better.  They improve our image, our home, our yard, our employment situation, or our financial security giving us a feeling of accomplishment or self satisfaction.  From where do you think these ideas about how to spend our time come?  In all of these the effect is transient, and more time will always need to be given to these items that compel our attention.  Add to this list our current generation’s fascination and involvement with E-mail, Facebook, Messenger, Twitter etc. and we have no margin for the important in our lives.  I recall conversations with some whose attention was distracted each time a new E-mail came up on their mobile device.  It was difficult to carry on a meaningful conversation due to the distractions.  All of these seemingly “urgent” items are seldom important.

The “important,” on the other hand, is seldom urgent.  A  commitment to pray for others in need is easily pushed to the end of our day, getting only a cursory mention in our evening prayers.  Our neighbor, who is in need of a relationship with Christ, is seldom given any thought, as we bustle about our neighborhoods with our to-do list.  We have a haunting realization that we need to spend more time in God’s word throughout the day, but it often gets eliminated entirely only to be replaced by a quick glance at the Bible before we go to bed.  Our friend has been in trouble and has given us a call regarding his needs.  We easily say that we can be available to see him this week, but our schedule of “urgent” matters may delay our contact with him for some time.  We know down deep that Christ is the center of our lives and that our focus daily must be to worship and praise Him.  The time to do this, however, is easily delayed by starting our day addressing the “urgent” rather than the “important.”

The “urgent” things in our lives are issues primarily of this world which have no bearing on eternity.  The “important” things are those which will make a difference in eternity-to our lives and to those of others.  How, then, do we begin to focus on the “important” rather than the “urgent?”  The “urgent” is most often determined by our agenda or that of others.  The “important” is usually the Lord’s agenda.  We begin, then, by seeking His will for each day, each decision and each activity.  Rather than planning our day, we look to the Holy Spirit to lead us in His will, dependent on Him to do it through us, and in His way.  As we look to Him and as we wait on Him, He will manifest His agenda, the “important.”  Having undertaken our day in this manner, it follows that we must address His agenda first and foremost.  Matthew 6:33 states “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  That which He  has shown us to do must be the primary focus of that day.  All other things must give way to His desire.  Having done so, He  promises us that He will take care of everything else as well.  Additionally, our ability to seek and respond to His will is aided significantly by providing “margin” in our day.  The practice of filling our days with endless commitments, activities and responsibilities prevents to a large degree our sensitivity to and response to the Holy Spirit.  While in medical practice, I routinely left at least one hour unscheduled during the day.  The Lord typically used this time to enable me to spend time with Him or with others who had spiritual needs.  This unscheduled time provided the margin in my day to help remove the stress of being over committed.

Our commitment to the “important” rather than the urgent is captured succinctly by Romans 12:2.  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (The “urgent”), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.

(The “important”)

May the Lord so transform your lives so that you daily seek His agenda. (The “important”)  Then you will be able to test and approve of what God has shown you to do, finding that it is good, pleasing and perfect.

In Christ, Richard Spann




— Jim Morris

     Most organizations have developed what is called a “Mission Statement.”  This statement provides clarity of purpose that should govern all their activities.  It is less often that we see these entities declare “How” they are going to accomplish their mission.  Their method is often obscure and ill defined.  Even more rare is the explanation of “Why” they are doing what they are doing.  Their motive is rarely seen on their logo and is often poorly understood.

When Jim organized the Kansas Navigator Ministry he wanted our mission, method and motive to be clearly understood.  Not only were we to understand “what” to do, we were to know “how” to do it, and “why” we were doing it.  To solidify our understanding, three verses were chosen to delineate each of these words.  The mission is found in Matthew 28:18-20.  “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ ”  The method is in II Timothy 2:1-2.  “ You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  The motive is located in II Corinthians 5:14. (Wuest Translation)  “For the love which Christ has for me presses on me from all sides, holding me to one end and prohibiting me from considering any other, wrapping itself around me in tenderness, giving me an impelling motive.”

The mission we are given by our Lord is that of making disciples.  We are grateful when we see people respond to the Holy Spirit’s work and transfer their trust to Christ Jesus to make them at peace with God.  But are we satisfied?  No!  We also desire that they have an active participation with the body of Christ and regularly participate in church attendance and worship.  Are we satisfied with that step?  No!  What if they contribute financially to ministries, sing in the choir and serve on committees?  All these are good, but are these the goals defined in Matthew 28:18-20?  The Lord had much to say about discipleship.  In Luke 9:23 He related the following.  “Then he said to them all:   “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”  It is the inward decision to reject self, the outward enthroning of Christ, manifesting continued trust and obedience that characterizes a disciple.  Our Lord further states that His disciple’s lives are to be governed by His word.  In John 8:31-32 we read the following.  “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.‘ “  Their lives, further, are not only to be governed by His word, but to be a manifestation of His love.  John 13:34-35 tells us.  “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”   Our lives, then, need to interact with others in such a way that they are transformed by His word and His love.  Only then can we be assured that we have been true to our mission.

Followers of God are always one generation away from extinction.  This is why the Israelites were told in Deuteronomy 6:6-7.  “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  Sadly, they were not faithful in what God had asked them to do for we read the following in Judges 2:10.  “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.”   This passage is a reminder that our work is not finished when someone becomes a disciple. We must disciple them in such a way that they are able to disciple others who in turn disciple others as well.  This is the method described in II Timothy 2:2.  “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  This method of discipleship addresses not only the needs of the individual with whom we meet, it also seeks to prepare them for those that they will disciple in the future.  It contains a vision that sees an entire family, a neighborhood, or a workplace coming to Christ and being discipled as a result of our work with one individual.  It embraces the thought that although one is able to count all the seeds in an apple, they will never be able to count the number of apples in one seed!  This method requires much prayer, personal time, partnership with others and perseverance.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, admonishes them in his prayer “that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;  And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.” (KJV)  Here we are instructed to comprehend the incomprehensible–to know the unknowable.  It is in the journey of learning to know His love for us that we begin to experience II Corinthians 5:14 in our lives.  It presses on us from all sides, holding us to one end, and prohibiting us from considering any other, wrapping around us in tenderness and giving us an impelling motive.  This motive, then, does not begin with our love for HIm.  It begins with His love for us!  It is His love, poured out in our hears (Romans 5:5) that presses upon us, wraps around us and impels us.  His love has no limit.  His love is not discouraged.  His love does not cease.  His love does not vary from individual to individual.  His love accomplishes all that He desires to do.  This love does not look at self, it looks at Christ.  It finds its adequacy in Him, not in ourselves.

In our life we will encounter many mission statements, and a variety of methods and motives.  It is my prayer that the mission, method and motive given to us by the Lord will so captivate your heart and mind that they will become your mission, your method and motive as well.

In Christ, Richard Spann



Knowing the Outcome


Knowing the Outcome Transforms the Waiting

Paul Brooks

     We knew it was going to be a close game before we turned on the television set.  West Virginia had beaten Kansas University in basketball earlier in the year and this game was to be on the Kansas court this time.  KU played a mediocre first half and was down by six points at the half.  The second half went from bad to worse.  Questionable referee calls and repeatedly missed layups shots added to our dismay.  We reached a period of dejection late in the second half when even Dick Vitale, the sports broadcaster, declared that the game clearly belonged to West Virginia.  Fans started leaving the arena (which never happens at Allen Field House!) when KU was behind fourteen points with two minutes and forty five seconds left to play.  They had given up hope and Bev and I, watching from our chairs, had given up hope as well.  We moped about the room, glum and saddened by the turn of events.  To our surprise, KU began to come back and hit a few shots.  They stole the ball twice and started making their shots.  Our mood changed from one of despair to one of anxiety.  Tension filled the air of our room as we watched KU tie the game and extend it into overtime.  Our anxious hardly daring to hope demeanor continued up until the last few seconds when KU was declared the winner by a score of eighty four to eighty.

The next night we were looking for a certain show and happened to see that the game was being rebroadcast on one of the channels.  I told Bev as I turned on the channel that she might enjoy watching the rebroadcast.  We started watching the game in the second half as KU was playing its worst.  We poured ourselves some ice tea and sat down for what we knew would be fifteen minutes of enjoyable entertainment.  We joyfully pointed out the great shots that were made and were not dismayed by KU missing free throws and even throwing the ball away during the overtime.  We had a relaxing, restful fifteen minutes knowing that there would be rejoicing at the finish.  We knew the outcome and it had transformed the waiting.

Paul and Kay Brooks have been friends for many years.  It was about six months ago that Paul mentioned to me that “Knowing the outcome transforms the waiting.”  He related that his pastor had used this comment in one of his sermons with a similar illustration to the one I referred to earlier.  Paul mentioned it in reference to our lives in view of the ongoing cancer treatment one of our daughters was undergoing at the time.  He also said, which was true, that “there is an eternal purpose in this.”  For those of you who do not know Paul and Kay, you can read more about their ministry on the “Institute for Faith, Work and Economics” web site.

As believers traveling through this fallen world we need to keep our eyes fixed on the outcome.  What is the outcome?  Let me describe but a few verses to bring our attention to all that God has planned for us.

  1. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  II Corinthians 4:17-18
  2.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brothers.”  Romans 8:28-29
  3. “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  I John 3:2
  4. “In order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”   Ephesians 2:7
  5. “No longer will there be any curse.  The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.  They will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night.  They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun for the Lord God will give them light.  And they will reign for ever and ever.”  Revelation 22:3-5

Although part of the new race in Christ, born of His Spirit and His Holy dwelling, we live our lives in a broken world.  We are subject to hunger, thirst, and bodily disease. Some labor for their daily bread struggling to make ends meet.  We try to take one day at a time, but some times several days attack us at once!  Some live lives of loneliness while others are seemingly consumed by never ending responsibilities.  We can, at times, identify with the Apostle Paul when he states the following in II Corinthians 4:8-9.  “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

As I review some of these verses I realize that I have not yet arrived in my ability to “consider it pure joy” as James describes in James 1:2.  I do think, however, that it is worthwhile to focus on the truth that each one of us is being prepared for a vast area of eternal service and worship far beyond our present ability to comprehend.  Nothing God allows in our lives is ever wasted.  Each pain, each sorrow, each disappointment, each struggle, each loss, each period of seeming silence as we wait before Him is but to prepare us for unending service in His presence throughout all eternity.  Paul says in Romans 8:18 that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  Much as a bridge is tested by heavy equipment and stress placed on it to measure its capacity to handle traffic in the future, so our lives are being prepared for the eternal service for which we were created, that, as a part of Christ‘s Glorified Body, that is, the Church, we might become the expression of God to all creation throughout countless ages to come.  This is our outcome, and by God’s Grace, it will transform our waiting.


In Christ,  Richard Spann


Float Your Boat in Deep Waters


 I have learned to float my boat in the

 deep waters of the Christian faith.

 Mike Treneer

     During a coffee break at our fall conference one year I was visiting with our speaker, Mike Treneer.  We discussed several topics during that conversation.  His remark, as quoted above, has been in my mind since, prompting me to think further about the importance of floating my own boat in the deep waters of the Christian faith.  For me that has been a journey in which I am still traveling.  I recall the times when my “spiritual boat” wanted to travel in the tributaries or shallow waters of the Christian faith.  These times over the years, as well as observing the lives and ministries of both those who traveled in the deep waters as well as the shallow waters, have convinced me of the importance of Mike’s statement.  I am, by God’s Grace, continuing to learn how to keep my boat in the deep waters!

The spiritual waters that we traverse in life are comprised of deep waters as well as the shallow areas.  What may we ask, are these deep waters?  The Reverend Dr. Don L. Davis defines them as follows in his book, “Sacred Roots.”  They consist of “That which has always been believed, everywhere, and by all.”  (Vincent of Lerins)  This “Rule of St. Vincent” leans upon the Ecumenical Councils and Creeds, especially the Nicene Creed.  Moving forward some seventeen hundred years we may still find this unity of belief and practice in many ministries today.  In a number of these their attention is directed to the deep waters as illustrated by the motto of The Navigators, “To know Christ and to make Him known.”  Does this mean that we are not to pursue the study and understanding of all areas of the Bible?  By no means!  We should pursue all things in all of scripture, examining and applying them to our lives with the help of pastors and other expositors.  Such studies are commended and commanded.  (II Timothy 2:15)  What it does mean, however, is that the focus of our mission and investment of time with others should center on deepening their relationship with Christ and helping them to model the Great Commandment and to become actively involved in the Great Commission.

Over the years I have observed some individuals whose ministry seems to be centered in shallow spiritual waters.  They build a box around themselves and only allow input to their lives from a narrow list of people and doctrines.  Similarly, the output and ministry from their lives is limited to a select few-those whose doctrinal positions on all sorts of issues align exactly with their own.  They, in effect, have limited the width of God’s Grace to them and its expression through their lives as well.  I have been aware of others whose chief “ministry” to others is not to deepen their walk with Christ, nor to equip them for ministry.  Rather, their focus is to change the belief system of others regarding an issue in the shallow waters of the Christian faith.  In a similar way I have been aware of ministries and churches who seem to intentionally limit their outreach by choosing shallow waters.  One such church states not only its doctrinal position on its sign, but also declares that it will only accept one translation of the Bible as authoritative!

It seems that we most commonly build our fellowships and churches based primarily on our “knowledge.”  Unfortunately, even in churches with well delineated doctrinal statement about various issues, there may be a wide divergence of opinion about different areas of “knowledge.”  Only a few may have the exact same “knowledge” in any congregation about all the various items that exist in the shallow waters of our faith.  I Corinthians 8:1b tells us that “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”  If we are puffed up by our “knowledge,” it is easy to disregard others whose “knowledge” is not identical with our own.  If our fellowship or church is based primarily on knowledge, instead of love, then ultimately we find that our churches are split, our ministries are fragmented, and we experience separation of friendships.

Additionally, can we be absolutely certain that our particular knowledge about all the intricate details of the scripture is the only correct one?  Are we not able to leave the possibility open that we may be mistaken on some of these minor points of scripture?  Is it really possible that we, alone of all people, have the complete and accurate knowledge of all the points in which we differ with others?  Shall we not, rather, keep to ourselves our thoughts and opinions regarding the shallow waters as we focus on guiding others through the deep waters?

The three verses that were chosen by Jim Morris on which to base our Kansas Navigator ministry were Philippians 3:10, Matthew 28:18-20, and John 15:8.  These focus on the knowledge of Christ, making disciples, and bearing much fruit for His Kingdom.  These are the deep waters in which we may safely travel, confident that the Lord will use our lives for His Glory to the maximum extent possible.  These waters provide room for the maximum input of His Grace into our lives, and the maximum output of His Grace through our lives.  May His Grace guide “your boat” in these waters as you labor for Him.

In Christ, Richard Spann

Deliver Me? or Glorify Yourself!


Deliver me?………or………Glorify Yourself!

Ray Hoo

     One morning I was sitting across from Ray in a local restaurant.  As we discussed various issues in our community and ministry we came to the subject of the trials that are common to all of us.  Ray then asked the question “What is our response to trial?  Is it deliver me?  Or is it Glorify Yourself?  He then related the passage of scripture in John 12:27-28.  “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say?  ‘Father, save me from this hour?’  No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!”

There are many situations in life where our hearts are troubled.  It may be in facing the reality of a trial in the future or in the trial itself.  It may be due to the failure or impending failure of a relationship, lack of employment, or job uncertainty.  It may arise from severe health issues, financial burdens and even the seemingly overwhelming demands on our time.  What is our first response to these trials?  Is it deliver me?  Or is it Glorify Yourself?

Jesus recognized that the trial He was facing was from the Father, and that all aspects of the trial were under the Father’s control.  He knew, furthermore, that the trial had a purpose.  That purpose was for the Father’s Glory.  He says in John 17:4  “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”  In Isaiah 43:7 we read that we were created for the Father’s glory.  All His work in and through us, including our trials and troubles are for this purpose.  And how is He glorified in these trials?  We read in John 15:8 the following.  “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear  much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (KJV)  The Lord leads us into situations in life where there are opportunities for His Spirit to transform the lives of others.  We read about this in II Corinthians 4:11.  “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus‘ sake, so that his life may  be revealed in our mortal body.”  This is the activity of His Spirit.  The attitude of our spirit in agreement with this is found in the preceding verse, II Corinthians 4:10.  “ We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”  This attitude does not primarily declare “Deliver me,” but rather declares “Glorify Yourself!”

It was my opportunity to see God glorified in the life of a friend and his family within the last year.  Despite an overwhelming infection with severe pain, his attitude was one of total dependence upon the Lord.  He and his family used every opportunity to visit with nurses, doctors, as well as with other patients.  The resultant disability led them to a Rehabilitation Hospital, where they continued to minister to all who came to see them.  It was my privilege to be ministered to by them on numerous occasions.  Their testimony of God’s continued Grace in their lives had an impact on many.  Ultimately, after a number of months, the Lord did provide deliverance from the infection and its complications.  Psalm 50:15 (KJV) states.  “And call upon me in the day of trouble:  I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”  Their remembrance of this prolonged course of illness was not centered, however, on the pain and disability.  It was focused on the lives that the Lord had touched during those months.  The Lord had been glorified through their trust in Him.

I also recall a young man whom I initially met as a patient and who later became a friend.  He was paralyzed from the neck down while serving as a youth counselor.  His dreams and aspirations of being a pastor and full time Christian worker were shattered.  As he shared the story with me, he related that a few days following the accident he was told that he would never be able to walk again, or be able to have any feeling below the upper chest area.  He would have limited shoulder motion but no ability to use his hands.  Throughout those early days there had been hope and prayer for deliverance from the result of the injury.  But as the news sunk in that night he said that he asked the Lord, “How is it possible to serve you when I am like this for the rest of my life?”  “What do I do now?”  He then related that the Lord immediately reminded him of three verses in I Thessalonians which are as follows.  “Rejoice evermore.  Pray without ceasing.  In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  (I Thessalonians 5:16-18 KJV)  As he told me this story, I thought to myself “Wow, that is a tall order!”  But as he explained his life since that time, he told how the Lord had patiently, and lovingly given him opportunities daily to rejoice, to pray, and to give thanks.  God was being glorified in his life.  He later became a Christian counselor and served the Lord for many years.  His life was a living testimony that glorifying the Lord was not dependent upon his own deliverance.

Our oldest daughter was diagnosed last year with an aggressive malignancy requiring extensive surgery and a prolonged course of chemotherapy every three weeks.  Shortly before the last chemotherapy treatment she sat down near us and said that there were so many needs to pray for regarding herself, her family and her future that she did not know where to begin.  She then stated that she had determined to pray “that God would be glorified in this,” “I can’t go wrong there!”

We will all come to situations in our lives that are distressful, painful, trying, or troubling to us.  It is not wrong to pray that God would deliver us.  Indeed, He expects us to look  to Him for deliverance from any trial or trouble we face.  But is that all we pray for?  Are we able to look beyond the temporal to that which is unseen where God is working in our lives and the lives of others to Glorify Himself?  By His Grace, may He help us to also pray “Glorify Yourself!” as we face the trials and troubles of this life.

In Christ, Richard Spann

Faithful, Available, Teachable


Faithful, Available, Teachable

Jim Morris

     In my early exposure to the Navigators, I learned the importance of being faithful, available and teachable.  I was told that these are the characteristics of those whom the Lord uses in His Ministry.  In addition, it was impressed upon me that these are the hallmarks of those with whom we should spend time, knowing that such an investment will be fruitful for many generations in the future.  This is expressed in the verse in II Timothy 2:2, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.” (KJV)

Webster’s dictionary describes faithful in the following ways:  “Firm in adherence to promises, contracts, treaties; loyal; true in affection or allegiance; and worthy of confidence and belief.”   Is the person with whom I am meeting and discipling described in this definition?  Am I able to depend upon them for commitments they have made to me and to others?  Are they true in allegiance to the Lord, to His word and in their relationships with others?  Can I have confidence in them to adhere to promises they have made in their own lives as well as in their ministry to others?  More importantly, does my life measure up to this definition of a faithful person?  I cannot lead others where I have not been before.  Paul’s words, ”Follow me, as I follow Christ,” are descriptive of where our lives should be if we expect others to be faithful in their lives as well.

Available is the second word used to describe someone whom the Lord is able to use in His Mission.  If I am to spend time with them, they must be available not only to me, but available to the Lord and to His word, as well as to the body of Christ. (The church)  One of our friends wanted me to spend time with her husband years ago, but after several months went by, I realized that despite repeated efforts to accommodate my schedule to his that he was never able to meet.   Another man called our Navigator office some years ago from a local church.  He was placed in charge of the men’s ministry in that church and quickly realized that he needed some help.  After meeting with him on several occasions, we agreed to do a study of Ephesians together as a model of what a ministry should look like to others.  We were to write down our observations, interpretations, and applications of the passage to our life, as well as to memorize one verse from the passage.  As we met the following week, he related that he did not have ”the time” to do our agreed upon assignment.  The second week he arrived with yet a different excuse for not making any part of his week available to the Lord and His word.  We discussed various scripture references and I shared illustrations from my own life that I hoped would help him to be available to the Lord on a regular basis.  Despite encouragement, however, he never chose to be available to the Lord on a regular basis and I concluded that further investment in his life would not be fruitful at that time.

The third area of availability in a person’s life must be to a local church.  It is impossible to see growth achieved in a person‘s life unless they are committed to church fellowship.  I have had the difficult experience of trying to help others grow spiritually when they were not willing to be a part of a local church fellowship.  Meeting with me and with the Lord is not enough.   They must have the input and the fellowship  of the body of Christ.  Without this, Christian growth is severely stunted and little will be accomplished in and through their lives.  Augustine goes so far as to say that it was impossible for anyone “to regard God as a merciful Father unless he is prepared to honor the Church as his mother.”

For many of us, it is difficult to be remain teachable.  The knowledge that we already possess regarding a topic, a scripture passage, or an area to be developed in our life crowds out any receptivity to different ideas.  I am always challenged in my own life by a statement made by Howard Hendricks that “Hardening of the viewpoint is more serious than hardening of the arteries!”  Although there are a number of ways of describing the characteristics of a teachable spirit only three will be referenced here.  The first of these is to simply admit a need, or to be desirous of a change in your life.  This may arise as a result of a problem in one’s life or it may be due to an enlargement of vision for that person’s life made evident to them by the Holy Spirit.   A second manifestation of teachability is evident when they are willing to look at the scriptures for the answers they need in their lives.  They not only look to the scriptures, but they are applying them regularly.   The third, and most conclusive evidence, of teachability is  a transformed life in which a change in character and conduct is becoming evident to others.  As a result, individuals are beginning to seek them out for advice and counsel.

In our own lives, then, we need to be faithful, available, and teachable if we are to guide others along these same paths.  It will require being faithful in our commitment to them despite areas of initial unfaithfulness in their lives.  It will demand our availability to them when it is, at times, inconvenient to do so.  It will necessitate patience on our part as we await the transformation that signifies a teachable spirit in their lives.  If we continue, by God‘ grace, to labor with these qualities in mind we will be able to say with the apostle Paul the words he wrote in I Thessalonians 2:19-20, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?  Is it not you?  Indeed you are our glory and joy.”

In  Christ, Richard Spann