Category: Lessons on Walking with the Lord

Turn to the Lord First

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)

We all have issues coming into our lives daily. Family issues, work issues, car issues, money issues, church issues, etc.

How many of you are like me? As these issues come into my life, I immediately go into my ‘fix it’ mode. I do my best to consider all the resources and options I have to ‘fix’ the issue. Problem is, I am looking forward to fixing the issue, many times without considering what God has done in my past to walk me through my issues.

Most times I turn to God once I realize the issue is either too big or the issue is out of my control. In other words, I just don’t know where this issue is going and I don’t know how this issue is going to be solved. Why do I have to get to that point before I hand it over to the Lord? Why can’t I give it to the Lord when the issue presents itself? Why can’t I remember the way the Lord walked me through the issues in the past?

Lord, help me to give these issues to you when they make themselves apparent. Help me to walk through the issue with you, help me understand what you would have me do, help me be still and know you are God. Amen

– Lynn Stephens

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Humility as a Synonym for Honesty

What is the root of sin? Is it pride? Oh certainly a prideful heart could be the source but as I was reading the account of the Passion Week again this year it occurred to me there could be something motivating me at an even deeper level. What if it’s fear?

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1Jn 4:18

Fear breads an anxiety driving us to grab the controls. It’s a fear of not having a deep instinctive need met. It’s an overwhelming fear and insecurity of being found out. Of being exposed. We look at ourselves and feel that longing to overcome our inadequacy and incompetency. A fear of rejection and sense the floor may give way bringing on a rush of blinding pride. Instead of an honest inward look of self recognition we quickly turn away and in our pride we launch a desperate plan of salvation. These commitments run deep. When they don’t deliver they are the stuff that drives us to impulsively run or hide, fight or flight. Think Judas. Think Pilate. Think Peter. (read Mt 26-27; Jn 18-19, “The Man Born to be King”—Dorothy Sayers)

This is all review. It’s as old as the garden. We exert our autonomy much like the very first couple who became convinced God was holding back and the longing for comfort and pleasure could only be theirs if they seized that piece of fruit.

We will do almost anything to prop up and salvage what’s left. Sin makes us crazy people. We are in need of a radical grace fueled intervention to even begin to see things the way they really are. “The saddest condition to exist in is to reject God’s love or to live like it does not matter”, C.S. Lewis. The deception runs so deep that once our ultimate commitment is made to our own plan it will take an earthquake to shake us loose from it.

“When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.” — from Mere Christianity

What can open our eyes? What can bring that moment of discovery? What can give us the self-awareness we are all so desperately in need of?

“Humility is nothing else but a true knowledge and awareness of oneself as one really is. For surely whoever truly saw and felt himself as he is, would truly be humble. Two things cause humility. One is the degradation, wretchedness, and weakness of man to which by sin he has fallen: he ought to be aware of this, partially at any rate, all the time he lives, however holy he may be. The other is by a superabundant love and worth of God in himself: gazing on which all nature trembles, all scholars are fools, all saints and angels are blind.” [From “The Cloud of Unknowing” by an anonymous monk in the Middle Ages]

1Peter 5:5b-7 — “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

“Humility is a synonym for honesty and it is built on the deep foundation of the love of God.” (Jerry Root)

– David Ortiz

To Whom Shall We Go?

I came to know the Lord at the age of 21. Among the first who professed the name of Christ that I came to know was a man who seemed to exemplify all that it meant to be a Christian. He was always encouraging and excited for the things of God, and he spent a great deal of time helping others. A number of us young believers looked up to him as a sort of “big brother” in the Lord.

Then he fell. And he fell badly. He started drinking to excess. He began to mistreat his wife. His whole manner and the language he used changed. He displayed a bitterness that he insisted was against men and not against God. But it was obvious he was disappointed that all of his zeal and good works did not produce more or specific blessings from God that he felt entitled to.

His fall sent a shock wave among his “little brothers.” I remember specifically being at work praying and meditating on what had happened. I had to ask myself: “If this man, who was so vibrant and dedicated to God, could not remain faithful to Him, who was I to think that I would be?”

Then I thought of John 6. Jesus had just said some hard things to His followers, and many of them were offended by them and stopped following Him. Jesus then turned and asked the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter answered Him by saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life?”

I found myself agreeing with Peter. Jesus was the one who spoke words of eternal life. I knew there was no where else I could go to hear the truth and to find hope. Even if all hell were to break out around me, even if every dream I had were to be shattered, even if I lost everything – Jesus, and He alone, had the words of eternal life. Nothing would be improved by deserting the worship of the One who had given me salvation.

I have certainly been blessed beyond what I deserve. But, like all of us I have had disappointments. I have been disillusioned and suffered unjustly. I have had good friends turn their backs on me and betray me. But I have, by God’s grace, never entertained the temptation to turn from Jesus. To whom would I go?

An excellent book that helped me in those early years, and one that still encourages me to this day, is J. I. Packer’s Knowing God. It is a great resource in helping us to understand the glory, wonder and love of God.

– Frank Ulle

Choose Discipline to Penetrate the Stony Heart

Last year Mark called us to develop our spiritual discipline. I tried.

This is a tough task. It goes against every fiber of my being to choose to live a disciplined lifestyle. Whether it be diet, exercise, reading, regular prayer or Bible study, it is increasingly difficult to stay focused and on track. True confessions of a Y guy.

I think of discipline too often as punishment, not as training. I tend to forget it is “an activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training” (dictionary.com)

Here’s the question that I don’t like to answer for myself … how’s my spiritual discipline? How am I doing in my daily walk with the Lord? Is it a glorious journey of worship and sanctification that increases my affections for Christ? Or is it a topic that is raised periodically at church that makes me feel guilt and shame for the moment and then say, “this too shall pass?”

I embarked on the road of journaling last year via my laptop. Embarrassingly, six entries can be found for 2014. My devotional life seemed to mirror this reality. Not a good year if brutally honest.

2015 would be different and to date, it has been, but it is early! I am slowly working through Ephesians and just taking my time enjoying the richness of God’s Word. Each day that I purposefully go before the Lord and let His Word penetrate my stony heart, I enjoy the peace that Jeff Peirce shared last week. Trouble still finds me (and I do a fine job pursuing it), but it is somehow reduced when dealt with by our glorious God and Savior through the power of the Spirit.

Please don’t misunderstand. My devotional life is still woeful in terms of my discipline. The Lord is not done pursuing me and drawing me into His heavenly light. He gives me the power to discipline myself when I would rather chase after some creature comfort. I prayed boldly that He would not let me off the hook. He hasn’t! Please pray that prayer.

You won’t be sorry!

– Dick Bennett

Rest in the Crazy

Welcome to Pastor Jeff’s “crazy”… in 352 words.

What do all these things have in common: bad news, change, conflict. Answer: they make me pace at night. Why? They all leave me feeling unstable and insecure. They take me into the realm of “out of control.” And if I’m brutally honest, that scares me. I don’t like it. It’s painful. Please make it go away; give me my stability!

But here’s the thing: when it doesn’t just go away, how will I “cope”?

For me, if I am not doing well, if I am quick and careless, I tend to cope in two extremes: I dive in and try to fix it or I run from it. Somehow, I want the pain to go away! I get busy making it go away, or I get busy running away. But it doesn’t take long before I realize my “out of control” issue is not going away; I can’t fix it or run from it. And when I lay my head on my pillow at night, my unstable, insecure heart has followed me. I feel like the doubting, double-minded man of James 1; unstable in all my ways

Before you call the Elders, listen to this: I’ve learned about rest in the crazy. There are sweet times in crazy where the Spirit of God uses His word in my heart and it looks more like Psalm 4:8, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

What makes the difference? Consider these observations from Psalm 4:8:

  • The picture is not of a man scheming to fix or run away, but a man who wisely slows down and even sleeps in the midst of turmoil. A man who thinks clearly about the “out of control” and is at peace. Why?
  • This man has only one source to “cope” with his unstable heart. The Lord and all that he brings to the turmoil is more than enough to make him feel

Lord, teach us to rest in your sovereign care in the crazy of our lives.

– Jeff Pierce

Unanswered Prayer isn’t Unloving

So good to be back from my sabbatical, thanks again for your prayers for me.  I did a lot of reading and a lot of praying over the month away.  You can’t help but think about prayer when you pray a lot … Am I doing it right? Am I asking the right things the right way? Am I asking too much, not enough? And of course the age old dilemma – Why isn’t God answering my God-honoring, rightly-motivated prayers?  Here are some of my musings …

I love to give good gifts to my kids because I love them, but I don’t give them everything they ask for, even the good things they ask for.  Sometimes because I don’t think they are ready for it, sometimes because I don’t think it would be good for them, and well … sometimes just because I can’t give them (due to money, access, and ability).  But when I say no to them I’m not also saying – “I don’t love you.”  Actually as best I can determine I am saying no because I love them.  Why do we so quickly draw the conclusion to our unanswered prayer that God doesn’t love me, isn’t faithful, or just plain doesn’t need me in His scheme of things?  I don’t want my kids to stop coming to me for help, their needs, or even their wishes and dreams anymore than our Heavenly Father wants us to stop coming to Him simply because we didn’t get what we want.  Prayer is certainly about relationship, but it’s also about action.  I relationally love my kids, but I also do things for them.  Don’t let your unanswered prayers lead you to unBiblical conclusions like God must not care or His sovereign plan must just be winning out and I got it wrong.  NO, pray knowing you are loved, and pray like you actually want God to do something … then sit back and rest in your Father who loves you perfectly, lacks no wisdom or strength to rule the world, and will accomplish His glorious eternal purposes according to His sovereign plans AND your fervent prayers!

– Mark Spansel

Biblical Brain Training

I am almost 60 and I, too, was once a lost youth …

In 1973, I was a devout young person, reared in a Christian home; headed off to college where I experienced serious damage to my faith. What I would have given for a Biblical Worldview, as I left home. I was a Christian and had my sanitized list of religious and personal convictions but I had no invested belief system to set my moorings.

As I reflect back, something that contributed to my “poor secular showing” was that every time I saw a figure, chart or graph, used as a church training illustration, it included the heart as the center of life, spirituality and devotion to God. Rarely, do I remember an illustration that spoke to the heart and mind continuum, as necessary elements for the Gospel. I retained my Christian understanding to the domain of the heart, alone. The real danger, I was not prepared to deal with the myriad of ideas that invade the mind of a collegiate. When it came to understanding the consequence of ideas, as my instructors presented them, I buckled and conformed to false truths. I needed Biblical “brain” training – training in worldview and apologetics.

By the end of my sophomore year, I concluded that the heart was for faith and my mind was for science, math, history, philosophy etc. I was certain that I needed to use my heart for sincerity in matters of faith and use my mind for sincerity to the sciences. My heart was private and my mind was public and I concluded that the clue to life was knowing when to switch between the two – I obviously missed Pastor Mark’s sermon on I Corinthians 14: 13-19.

More than forty years later, I truly rejoice in the sovereignty of my God. He saved me; He rescued me; He pursued me, again and again; and in time, my feet were no longer on shifting sand but on the solid rock of Christ. It was not instantaneous change. It took years. He put strong believers in my path, skilled artisans, who chiseled the sharp and rough edges to my worldview, always based on the inerrant Word of God. To be honest I am still refining my worldview, “like Mary,” at the knee of Jesus and His Word.

-Selby Brannon