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Faithwalkers Conference

Posted by Tim :: Ministry News

I had the opportunity to bring in the new year at Tan-Tar-A Resort in the Lake of the Ozarks, MO. I and about 65 other Stonebrook and The Rock members were at a conference called Faithwalkers.

It was a tremendous time of 3 ½ days of worship, prayer, and sitting at the feet of men who have faithfully followed Christ for over 25 years. It was powerful to spend New Years eve with over 400 faithwalkers pouring out our hearts to God in worship and prayer. It really was like a glimpse of heaven.

I’d like to share with you what I got out of the Faithwalkers conference. You see, this conference was unique in the sense that it was the brainchild of Mark Darling who was burdened to provide a time when tested and proven faithwalkers could share the secrets they have learned along the way with the next generation of believers. So he called in a Great Commission all-star line up with such spiritual giants as Herschel Martindale, Dennis Clark, Rick Whitney, and Brent Knox. It was incredible. Of course, a key element of being a faith walker is faith.

Brent Knox called faith the Seventh Sense. The Sixth Sense is the ability to see dead people walking around you. The Seventh Sense is the ability to see God working around you. It’s a rare sense these days, because America is so experience driven. We live for the moment, the sights, the sounds, the feelings. But faith is not an experience. It results in experiences, but faith is not a feeling, it’s not a buzz.

Hebrews 11:1-2 (NIV) Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

It’s a snare to look for some emotional rush as evidence of faith, because that’s not what faith is. Faith is something you are sure of even though you cannot detect it. You can’t experience it, and yet if you walk by faith you will have stories to tell of exploits for God and miracles by God. After Paul tell us in 2 Corinthians 5:7 to “walk or live by faith, not by sight”, he goes on to talk about how we have been given a ministry of reconciliation where we live this crazy life persuading, compelling, and living to connect other people with God. That’s a fascinating life. So faith is not an experience, but it will take you on a ride of experiences that you will never forget or regret because faith is our #1 response to God.

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV) ”And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

The world says, “Image is everything”. Image is temporary. It won’t last. It’s gonna burn. God says, “Faith is everything.” A life of faith results in eternal rewards that will be yours to enjoy forever. That’s the kind of life I want: A life that lasts; a life of meaning; a life of a faithwalker. Now, that’s easier said than done. You can’t see faith, feel it, or experience it. So how do you get it or grow in it. Where does faith come from?

The only thing that got more airtime than The Lord of the Rings at this conference was the repeated admonishments to daily access our source of faith- the Word of God. There was no escaping the fact that faith comes from reading, memorizing and obeying the truth of God as contained in the Bible. As Romans 10:17 tells us, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”

An interesting situation occurred at the conference that set me up to show me that I needed to pay attention to this message. I was goofing around with some of the Rock guys at the end of the first day of the conference. We were hanging out by a door that led to the hallway where all the Stonebrook people were staying. As people walked by, we thought it would be fun to quote a proverb to them. As we were doing this, I started getting a little embarrassed. I couldn’t think of very many Proverbs to quote. In fact, after a little while, all the ones I had tucked away were either already shared or I couldn’t remember how they started. To make matters worse, later on during the conference Dennis Clark asked us to think of how many promises of God could we write down in 1 minute. Um… You know, Jesus fought off Satan by quoting Scripture. What do you think you and I should use to resist him? I was convicted, so the following day I started reading a Proverb a day. You see there’s 31 chapters in Proverbs and so you can read one chapter a day and get through the book in a month. I used to do this all the time, but I figured I had it down. I didn’t need to read it each month anymore, because I graduated from all that into bigger truths. You know that kind of thinking was addressed at the conference too: Prideful, arrogant thinking.

Doug Brown said there is no place for pride in the walk of faith. He took us to Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NIV): This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. (Have you felt like that at times in your life? Like God is a million miles away and he has left you out to dry. You might want to search your heart for pride.) “But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” WHAT A STARK CONTRAST! Doug shared that God knows how to humble the proud. You know that you are at a critical moment in your life when what you are trusting in breaks or is taken away.

Mark D. wrapped up this talk by sharing that to live this way you have to submit and humble yourself to others. That was so good for me. One of my two life verses is 1 Peter 5:5-7 (NIV) ”Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (God opposes you by withholding his grace.) Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” You never graduate from that! So the very next day I read Proverbs 29… it was Dec. 29. No sooner had I read that chapter than my brother called. He told me that his son, my nephew, had just been sentence for 6-8 years in prison for statutory rape of a minor. What was I to say? How could I possibly comfort my brother? I shared Proverbs 29: 23 with him A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor. I told him that this situation is not outside God’s control. God wants this young man’s life and he will use whatever means available to win it. If he humbles himself now, God will grant him honor later. This could be the best thing that’s ever happened in his life. My brother voiced great concern for how he will be treated because people with his kind of crime are targeted and brutalized. Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” I’ve been reading a proverb a day and the rest of the Bible ever since.

There’s no better example of faithfully reading God’s Word than Tom Short. He shared with us his commitment to read the Bible everyday and how he has kept it for some 25 years. He cited Jesus in Matthew 4:4 when he said, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” If you only ate once a week, you would be a weak, anemic human being. As it is with your physical life, so it is with your spiritual life. If you only eat spiritual truth once a week, you will be a weak, anemic Christian. That would make you fair game for Satan who is a lion seeking whom he may devour. What we need to be is spiritually healthy faithwalkers; not couch potato faithwatchers. A faithwatcher can warm a seat cushion real good whether at church, or lifegroup, or in front of the TV. Always watching someone else share a verse and talk of great things God has done. A faithwalker, on the other hand, gets up everyday, reads the Bible with a spirit of obedience, and gets out there and does it. And that was the other big message during the conference: obedience! James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Dennis Clark said that his definition of faith is knowing what God has said, and then acting on it. He said faith is like a muscle. In order for it to grow it needs to be exercised. Brent Knox said our faith grows as our confidence is who God is grows. Doug Brown looked at Mark 4 where the disciples were caught in a squall while crossing the sea of Galilee, he reiterated the question that the disciples asked after Jesus calmed the storm, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

If you don’t know God and if you don’t have confidence in him, you will always struggle in your faith in him. Many people have told me that they simply cannot believe; they just don’t have faith. The reason is they don’t know God. Well, how can you meet God. One is by reading about others encounter with him such as the disciples in the gospels or when Isaiah met God in Isaiah 6:1-3. But as an experience-driven American, I liked how Brent Knox and Dennis Clark showed us we can encounter God ourselves as we trust and obey the promises of God. 2 Peter 1:4 (NIV) says: “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” Brent took us through promise after promise and asked us two questions- What’s the promise? What is our responsibility?

Let’s look at one example: James 1:2-5 (NIV) Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." The Bible is filled with this kind of stuff. As you read them, believe them, and put them into practice you’ll discover as millions of others have over the course of history that God is real, he’s knows what’s going on in your life, and he is faithful to you. But that conclusion won’t come without some serious testing of your faith.

Dennis Clark said that God tests our faith because he loves us too much to leave it where it is. Hershel Martindale shared about how all the spiritual heroes of the past all went through a crisis of faith: Elijah with Jezebel, David with Saul, Peter with Jesus. In every case there was a dilemma of holding onto your own life or letting it go into God’s hands. Hershel, a man of faith at age 74 speaking after having just been released from the hospital for dizzy spells, said, “The one who holds onto his life is a loser.” He quoted Jesus in John 12 when he said, “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” If all you have to live off of is some wheat the last thing you want to do is drop it onto the ground. “That’s my wheat. I need that to live. I’ll die without it.” But you must let go of it and even bury it for you to enjoy the kind of abundant life that only God can give you. Hershel said, “When you yield up your one life to God, you begin to discover what your one life can really accomplish.” IT TAKES OBEDIENCE!

This man was 40 years old and was a successful pastor when he met up with the radical band of juvenile believers that was to become the Great Commission. He had to let go of the comfortable, secure life he had, because he was haunted by the question of obedience, “Do you really believe that God wants to reach this world in our generation?” I guess that’s the difficult part of every truth encounter - putting it into practice once you return back to reality. Everyone who went to faithwalkers has been faced with that since the day they returned.

On the day people got back from the conference, many were tired and had no significant responsibilities facing them, and so they decided to get some people together and watch a couple movies. Of course, there was nothing wrong with that, I relaxed in front of a movie myself. But when a couple of brothers were invited to join, it became clear to them that they were faced with a decision that was bigger than whether to watch a movie or not.

It was like the time after Jesus had risen from the dead and there was a great sense of wonder and joy in the disciple’s lives. Their savior is alive! But after a couple of days, the excitement waned and they realized that they had to face reality… as it were. So in John 21 Peter said to 6 other disciples who were with him, “I’m going out to fish”. And they said, “We’ll go with you.” Now I don’t know all the implications of this situation, but it is clear to me that they were making a decision to go back to a life that was familiar, that was no different than what they were doing before Jesus came along. Such is the case for every faithwalker, those that went to the conference and those in this room right now. What will I do with this truth that has been entrusted to me? Will I shake it off and go back to life as usual… the familiar… the safe? You can. You can leave this building or a powerful conference and not be genuinely changed a bit, but know this: doing so will only leave you empty. John 21:3-6 (NIV) So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Will we go back to the old way of life or will we decide to do something different? Will we listen to God and heed his voice and follow Him?

These brothers called others back and said, “Hey, I’ve got an alternative. Let’s get together and discuss what God impressed upon our hearts and how we can apply these things to our lives.” And so some of them did and I heard that it was a powerful time. We’re faced with those kinds of decisions every day… even an hour from now. John Hopler said the real evidence of faith is not seen on the day of our salvation (on days gone by, past deeds of faith), but the day of our death. When we live a life filled with faith and love until the day you die. Now that’s faith. It would make 2004 worth living for.


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