Dear Shannon

I have dear friends who are in the midst of separating, I listened to Chad and Lisa give testimony of God’s great work of restoration in their marriage yesterday and was burdened for my friend Shannon to not leave her husband.  I pray any inside or outside our church body thinking they are “done” will reconsider and invite God’s work into their lives.

“Dear Shannon,  I’ve prayed so much for you over the past months.  My heart aches for your pain and what you appear to be going through.  I’m sure I don’t understand all that you are feeling and I certainly don’t have all the answers to what feels all mixed up to you, but I simply offer my love, friendship, and the grace of God that changes people’s lives.  I listened to a young woman in our church yesterday morning give testimony of God’s radical work in her life and thought of you.  She started by saying – “I was done … I was ready to call it quits, I’d had enough.”  And with tears in her eyes she spoke of how God began to show her the sin in her own heart.  She was able to talk about how she stopped basing her behavior or choices on what her husband did or didn’t do and began to see her own soul.  She read from Proverbs about how “the wise woman builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down” (Proverbs 14:1)  She said, “I was that fool, I was tearing down my own house by holding offenses against my husband.”  You could hear her honesty, her humility, and her pain … and then you could hear the unmistakable work of the Spirit that brought her joy she could never have imagined could be there.  She looked at her husband with delight, with sincerity, and with hope for the future.  He confessed his sin, his harsh speech, his unrealistic expectations of her, his failure to lead his home.  She embraced his failure and accepted his realistic pursuit of God and her.  It wasn’t manufactured or forced, it was REAL.  As real as the Red Sea parting or 5 loaves and 2 fish feeding thousands.  This Gospel stuff is no fairy-tale, its the real-deal, real-er than any hope of enjoyment you think the world is holding out for you.  There is a path of pain and repentance that leads to joy and honest hope that is far harder and less worn than the ever popular path of pleasure and “I deserve to be happy” that only leads to more pain and no hope of rest.  My sister, there is no joy to be found there!  You are not alone, not the first or the last woman who thinks she’s put in her time and deserves something more, but this isn’t the path of finding it.  Please see the big picture of your choices, the big picture of God’s glory, of His Gospel, of your family, your deceived heart … and listen to those who speak grace and truth to you.  It’s not too late to turn from your sin.  Everything won’t change overnight or in a few months, but I promise the joy of obedience is far greater than the fakey-joy you’re looking for outside of Jesus.  Don’t be the fool of Proverbs, don’t tear down your house – choose to be the wise woman who builds her house even when the work is hard.  I wish you could have heard my friend Lisa share yesterday, but I think this I what she would say to you, and she would say – It’s worth it, and she would offer you the hope of grace that changes lives.  I beg you – Repent, love jesus, engage in the grace of God who heals broken people.  I love you and will not stop praying for you and that family that I love so much!”

Thanks Lisa and Chad, may your example minister to many who need what you’ve experienced.  And may you never stop growing in grace for your family and your Church family to see!  Love you both too!

Pastor Mark

The Church in Troubled Times

Yes, we are living in difficult economic times, this is unquestioned.  But is the Church in troubled times?  Or maybe the better question is how do we know if the Church is in troubled times?  Let me answer a few ways, but all of which are completely independent of economic hardship, or the cultural issues we may face in any given community.

1- Is Christ being preached?  When the Church moves away from the message of the cross, troubled times are upon us.  When the Church feels the need to be “relevant” over being “right” we’ve headed down a dangerous road.  We are only as “right” as we keep Jesus central in the teaching of the Church.  In a time when messages abound for “recovery” and “bailout”, our message rings constant and hopeful.

2- Are people being cared for?  When the Church moves away from the “one-anothers”, troubled times are upon us.  If people start looking out for themselves, keeping back for themselves, and trusting in their own resources rather than the limitless resources of God, trouble is upon us.  We are never, never called to hold back from giving to others, even when we have needs perhaps going unmet.  This is a time where the Church gets to stand out as very different from the messages of the day.

3- Is the Church moving forward in its Mission?  When the Church hesitates, or stops reaching out, troubled times are upon us.  We are called to the Great Commission, period.  And the reality of Church History is that often times her mission advanced greatly when troubled times were upon her.  So if anything, these days should be rich mission-directed times for the Gospel to advance through the Bride to the World.  

Let’s not change our message, stop our giving to others, or falter in pushing the mission forward.  This is faith in action, trusting God over trusting men, and being influencers of our culture, not scared of it!  

Join me in the Mission,

Pastor Mark

Dealing With Conflict for the Benefit of Others

I quoted these yesterday in my sermon, but thought they were worth posting and pondering some more:

“To some, conflict is a hazard that threatens to sweep them off their feet and leave them bruised and hurting.  To others, it is an obstacle that they should conquer quickly and firmly, regardless of the consequences.  But some people have learned that conflict is an opportunity to solve common problems in a way that honors God and offers benefits to those involved.”   Ken Sande

“Time heals things. We’ve heard that many times. And occasionally it is true that people’s emotions die down and they lose the heart to disagree or fight. But to depend on time alone in the body of Christ to mend church problems is a very dangerous path.  More often than not the problems only fester, become more serious, and then explode.”  Curtis C. Thomas

Oh, to be like Paul in his pursuit of his brother Peter, as we pursue living persistently before God and consistently before men!

Seeking Your Good,

Pastor Mark


Meeting Paul at Panera

It’s really easy to forget the Early Church was made up of normal people like us.  Sure, we read of their sins and screw-ups, but miss some of the relational nature of their existence.  Preaching in Galatians 2 this week I got to sit down with Paul at Panera and ask him about his relationship with Cephas (I prefer calling him Peter).

MS (Mark Spansel): Paul, good to get some time with you this morning, can I get you a cup of coffee?

AP (Apostle Paul): No thanks, I prefer tea … and one of those big non-kosher, really sugary cinnamon rolls.

MS: Got it, be right back.

MS: Tell me about the time you sat down with Peter in Jerusalem to talk circumcision.  What was that like?

AP: Well, Mark, it’s always hard to communicate everything on paper, so thanks for asking more than what I got a chance to write in chapter 2 to the Galatian churches.  I love Peter, I love that a fisherman and a guy like me could sit down and talk honestly about life, ministry, and theology.  You know we were working hard those days to figure everything out and make sure we didn’t split the church.  People were talking, those Judizers spying out our freedom made things difficult and we knew we needed to just talk things out.  So he cleared his busy schedule as I was in town and we hammered things out.

MS: Did he take some convincing?

AP: Sure, he’s a stubborn guy like me.  He has the baggage of his experiences and his traditions, but don’t we all.  I think once he realized I wasn’t interested in making him like me, but making sure we were on the exact same page about Jesus, the conversation got a lot clearer.  It’s a funny thing, when you actually treat people with respect and the honor they deserve how much hostility is taken out of the conversation.  The bottom line Mark, is that we both greatly respect each other and greatly love the work of Jesus in our own lives.  We want everyone to hear about the Messiah who fulfilled the law.

MS: But it gets tricky working out all the law stuff with Jews and Gentiles, doesn’t it?

AP:  That’s an understatement.  In many respects we were trying to mix oil and water.  Outside of Jesus, these two groups didn’t want anything to do with each other.  But I suppose that’s what I love watching God do – take differences and make one body.  It’s a pretty amazing thing to watch. Anyway, we knew we needed to make sure these issues were surfaced, talked about honestly and openly, and that we made a commitment to keep at it.

MS: What do you mean by keep at it?

AP: Well, we knew we’d have to have more conversations about this issue.  It was obvious it would get complicated and personal.  We vowed to not shoving this under the rug, not letting the enemies tear us apart, and invited each other to speak truth to one another.

MS: Paul, that fires me up.  It’s cool to see your commitment to the Gospel and to each other, we need more of that going on, for sure!

AP: Yeah, I guess the bottom line is this – Not one of us has it all figured out, BUT we do know that it all comes back to the cross.  It took me a little while to get it, in fact I didn’t get it, God made me get it.  Peter, he was impulsive, around Jesus a lot, but still head-strong and felt like a big failure.  He thought he was done, but God is so gracious to take a couple guys like us and commission us for such great Kingdom work.  You know, Peter invites me every year to come to his house and celebrate Passover.  We don’t do the blood over the door thing, we just sing and celebrate the blood that was once for all shed for us.  We have a sweet party rejoicing in the completed work of Jesus, the fulfillment of the law, and the lover of our souls.  And you know what?  For all our differences, we know the one thing that matters most – Jesus saved, Jesus saves, and we get to be a part of it.  Well, I’m starting to preach now, but thanks for taking the time to ask … I love talking about this stuff.  God bless my brother, and never move on from the cross.

MS: Brother, your words are sweet to my soul, I’ll never forget them … and thanks for speaking truth to me every time I pick up your letters.  They always point me to Jesus!

** This conversation is completely factual, and it may be reproduced in its entirety free of charge.

Set Free Celebrations

I always want to accomplish so much on a Sunday morning.  I want time to soak in the Word, time to rejoice in song, time for intercession, time for reflection and sober-mindedness, time for confession and repentance, time for testimonies, time for silence, time for vision and mission, time for local and time for global, time for individual and time for corporate … I find that on Sunday there just isn’t time for everything under the sun, or even everything we “ought” to be doing, so what wins?  Well, my simple answer is the Gospel wins, if we don’t focus our hearts on the cross – through the Word, prayer, and spiritual songs, then we lose.  Everything else flows from that, and often times it fits and “feels right” to move into a time of personal confession, other times to seamlessly flow into vision-casting and direction for mission, and sometimes we just come to the place of silence to pray.  All these are needed and all of them are worship if we come to them with hearts of love for our great God.  Well, it just fits that as we come to this book of Galatians and the call of God to not submit to a yoke of slavery, but live in the freedom for which we’ve been set free (Galatians 5:1) that we celebrate the work of God in setting us free together!  

We’d love for you to use the “tab” that says “Transformation Testimonies” on the front page of my blog to post a “comment” that celebrates your “set free testimony”, this will stand as an ongoing journal of God’s work in our lives at Leroy Chapel.  Then through the series we want some of you to share these in our services so part of our corporate time is focused on the glorifying of God as we affirm His work in other people’s lives (Galatians 1:24).  Remember this is worship, this gives glory to God, so there is no need to be shy or feel embarrassed, let us rejoice in God for answered prayer and His powerful work!

 

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Pastor Mark