Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Cross, Part I - April 13, 2014

Galatians 2:20 - I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

What is the meaning of the cross? While most of the world will never truly know its profound significance, it is generally agreed upon as the most universally recognized symbol. For devout followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, it has much more meaning than merely a "symbol". For in the cross, there is the true identification for every believer with the Lord's death. And, if identified in His death, than also partakers in His resurrection. As declared in our opening scripture, Paul as well as all humankind died with Christ in that most momentous event nearly 2,000 years ago . However, the scripture states that only few in comparison with the totality of mankind will ever accept the Savior and know the power of the cross through His resurrected life. Christ shedding His blood for the forgiveness of our sins was truly the way into the Most Holy Place where His blood made that "new and living way" possible (Hebrews 10:19-21). Through His forgiveness of sins, we can go beyond that simple understanding into the realization that we have been crucified with our Savior -- that He has dealt a death blow to our old nature through the work of the cross. Like Paul, we can acknowledge our union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Only when we know this fact by the revelation of the Holy Spirit may we live the life that Christ bought for us all with His spent, mortal life.

While the cross is the most universally recognized symbol throughout the world, it is also the most despised. While the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) uses our court systems to remove symbols such as the cross from all public and government institutions, many Muslim nations threaten and impose imprisonment on their own countrymen and women for wearing a crucifix. The cross is a direct affront to secular, atheistic organizations such as the ACLU and likewise to Satanically-inspired religions such as radical Islam. Most Muslims will tell you that Jesus was one prophet of many that the Qur'an embraces. Then why do radical Muslims persecute Christians? I believe it is because they are filled with the spirit of hate and divisiveness -- they are sons and daughters of their father the devil! And, as sons and daughters of darkness, they hate the cross of Christ as much as their father! They may not consciously understand why they hate Christians as they do, yet they do just the same. The same can be said for radical Secular Humanists. Their hate comes across as mocking the so-called uneducated "rubes" that continue to believe in a resurrected Lord. They act in a more "civilized" approach, seeking to convince others of the sheer implausibility and lunacy of Christian belief. While Muslims and Secular Humanists seem worlds apart, both of these example groups are working toward one end and that is to exterminate the cross and its influence over all spheres of public AND private life. However, it is impossible to eradicate the cross's power by removing its symbolism, whether it is worn around a believer's neck or it is sculpted into a courthouse facade. In either case, if the devil can't get rid of the power of the cross, he will just as determinably attempt to remove any reminder thereof. For truly, if the prince of darkness had known ... the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (I Corinthians 2:8). Just as the devil is incapable of destroying the power of the cross, he will seek every opportunity to weaken its influence.

Paul spoke to both the hyper-religious and to the Secular Humanists of his day when he wrote to the Corinthians. In some ways, the Jews of Paul's day were as rabid and zealous as today's radical Muslims concerning their religion, that it ultimately filled them with hate for all others. Likewise, there was an arrogance and intolerance by the Greek stoics of Paul's day that resonates with today's Secular Humanist believers. Paul states in I Corinthians 1:22-24: For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. First century Jews sought continually to stone Paul because of their demonic hate toward his devotion towards Christ. Likewise, the Greeks scoffed at Paul (as on Mars Hill during his visit Athens [Acts 17:18]) much the same way as many secular liberals do today toward the Christian faith. Regardless, both groups possessed the underlying hate of the finished work of the cross. The devil continues to rage and will so until he is thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). Until that time, he will do his best to incite murderous "riot" in some of his followers toward those who cling to the cross and to its power. In others, he will continue to wage a "civilized" war, hammering away at the very foundation of Christianity through mockery and a dismissive attitude by trivializing the Christian faith. Either way, Satan is determined to make the cross impotent because he hates that it is the symbol of his defeat.

Whether we choose to believe that the cross of Calvary defeated Satan and the power of sin is irrelevant to its reality. Christ died for everyone who has ever been born or will ever be born into this world. As Paul states in Galatians 2:20 and also in Romans 6:6, all of humankind was crucified with Christ. Therefore, it is our choice as individuals whether to identify ourselves with this historical fact and to believe that we have been crucified and resurrected with our Lord, or to deny the power of his appearing to render sin of no effect (Romans 6:11). The explosive power that was able to defeat all darkness is the reason the world hates the cross! Whether it is the religion of Secular Humanism or Satanic radical Islam, the enemy of Calvary will either seek to discredit the cross through absorption into the world's intellectual compromises, or to destroy it though a false religion in the "name of God'. While the cross may be marginalized by the enemy of our souls in his end time push to enslave as many souls as possible, for many its revelation will continue to usher new believers into God's kingdom. While some may refer to us as "infidels" and others may view us as "uneducated fools", the power of the cross continues to empower true believers in the Risen Lord to live resurrected lives. May we all know the power of the cross as we triumph in Christ's victory, once and for all, over sin!

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to be nailed to a cross -- to bleed and die for our sins and to remove the power of sin from our lives. No longer must we walk in the power of the enemy for we have been raised into newness of life with Your Son. Thank you, Lord, for the cross. Thank You that You have defeated our foes -- sin and Satan! No power on earth can overwhelm us for we are more than conquerors through Your Son. We praise You! In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, April 6, 2014

God's Workmanship - April 6, 2014


Ephesians 2:10 - For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

When God rested from his creation labors after the sixth day, He meant it. He saw that all which He had created was GOOD, especially humankind. Truly, the wondrous detail of His creation is seen in no greater splendor as that of man. Nature gives us a myriad of examples of His loving nature and how He reveals Himself through that which He has made. However, humans are the zenith of His handiwork. The bible tells us that the hairs of our heads are all numbered (Matthew 10:30). Extraordinarily, the average head has over 100, 000 hair follicles. That is nothing compared to the other complexities of the human being. It is estimated that the skin contains approximately 640,000 sense receptors, scattered unevenly over the body's surface. There are about 9,000 taste buds on the surface of the tongue, in the throat, and on the roof of the mouth. Also, the body carries approximately 25 trillion red blood cells, creating life giving oxygen to our vital organs. In total, the human body contains over 100 trillion cells. These are just a few examples of the magnificent work of the Almighty when He created you and me. The list goes on and on. If God numbers the hairs of our head, He is well aware of every atom that makes up our existence. The eternal God knows EVERYTHING about our seeming limitless structures.

It is understandable that God desires for us to be perfect, even as He is perfect and holy (Matthew 5:48; Hebrews 10:14). After all, He created perfect human beings and gave them a garden to tend in Eden. But something sinister happened -- the Fall of Mankind. What was once perfect became "soulish" and devoid of God's Spirit. When man and woman sinned, God had to depart this perfect union with humankind's spirit, for a holy perfect God cannot live in a compromised position with man. The redemption of Jesus Christ made it possible once again for mankind to be "perfect" in the sight of God through the shedding of Christ's blood and His death, burial, and resurrection. He became the One to restore us to that state of perfect reconciliation with the Father. When Jesus stated emphatically on the cross, "It is finished", He was entering into a state of reclamation, taking back what His Father had done and finished on the sixth day of creation. That is why it is so important to know the significance of the SEVENTH day of creation, for God rested from all His works on this glorious day (Genesis 2:2). That is why Christians claim the seventh day of the week as Sunday, because this was the day that Jesus rose from the dead to rest from all His works. There was no more that He could do for you or me after that glorious day. He defeated hell, taking back the deed to this world and all its contains from the devil. In so doing, he gave us everything pertaining to life and godliness through His victory (II Peter 1:3; Ephesians 4:8).

It is ludicrous for us to believe that since God the Father and God the Son have rested from their works, that we can do anything for God by our own works. Our lead scripture in Ephesians states that ... we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. God made us all perfect in the beginning of time through our father Adam, and then recreated us through His Son (I Corinthians 15:45). The "good works" that we are privileged to live out are those that come from our relationship with God and our understanding of who we are in Christ. Jesus Christ has come to indwell all who would but trust in Him, giving us the power to turn away from the "soulish" existence that our father and mother Adam and Eve possessed after the Fall. As we embrace Christ, more and more, through the understanding that he truly dwells within (Ephesians 1:17-19), then we will love the Restorer of our souls as we grow in truly living under His gentle prodding. We delight to follow the inner inclinations that He tells us to do. This, beloved, is working the works of God (John 6:28-29). To be obedient to God in all things is the greatest calling that any of us will ever have as believers. Once we understand His deep love for us in how He created us and then redeemed us, we will follow Him and trust Him to take us to the ends of the earth.

People often get confused regarding whether they are doing God's works or their own. It is really very simple to know the difference. Has the realization of who you are, how you were created, and then redeemed captured your imagination? Have you come into such a place of gratitude toward the Most High that you are love struck with heart palpitations whenever the name "Jesus" is mentioned? Beloved, I guarantee if this is your disposition and you are ever seeking to do His will in every aspect of your life, then you are doing the works of God. The vocation of the Lord can never be divorced from His relationship. Once that happens, dryness and religiosity sets in. We must all find that place of understanding -- that we are His workmanship both through creation and redemption -- and then walk in a devotion that is ever longing for more of Him. If this is your present situation, rejoice! If not, I pray that you would look to Him, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) and beseech the Lord for a heart that would be melded to His. He has finished His work. He only desires that we would enter into relationship with Him to become co-laborers in His rest until that day when He calls us home.

Holy Father, what more can you give? You've given us everything in a perfect creation and a holy redemption. May we enter into your rest by understanding that your works are finished and that we must simply trust in You. Anything that we might do for You in obedience is an act of restful trust. What a glorious relationship, Lord, as we yoke together with You in passionate love! In Jesus Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, March 30, 2014

True Worshipers - March 30, 2014

John 4:24 - God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

What does it mean to become a true worshipper of God? Jesus stated unequivocally that those who worship God must worship Him in both spirit and truth. Many fail to understand how to commune with God on this supernatural "footing" because many don't understand what it is to worship the Father. Pass by most mainline denominational churches and many will invariably display their "times of worship", whether Sunday morning, Sunday evening, or Wednesday evening. A large part of Western Christendom has become comfortable with the idea of giving God an hour or two on Sunday, and for the more devoted, even a Wednesday evening from time to time. Even those who are regular members, who tithe and are busy with church activities, may oftentimes not truly understand what it means to be a worshipper of God. I think I have a decent description of a true worshipper of God. Many use the example of falling in love with their mate, how they couldn't stand being apart and where they would spend every waking moment thinking about their true love. While this is romantic and a passionate example, it is also sentimental and unrealistic for the "long haul". What must develop from this passionate longing are times of loving trust and confidence. Just as a couple who has been married for decades can ascribe, there must be a mutual love that has the underlying spark of passion but more importantly the fires of undying love that keep the furnaces of love burning. This, beloved, is a contentment that is honest and forthright. Even so, this is the type of worshippers God desires -- those who will trust in Him no matter the intensity.

It is impossible to be a true worshipper of God on selective days. Hebrews tells us that we must come boldly before the throne of grace, displaying great confidence in the One whom we've believed (Hebrews 4:16). The author of this book to Jewish believers points out that we must seek Him in this regard in our time of need. However, as the sanctified believer knows, our days of need are daily without abate. When we come into relationship with the Father through the Son, then we truly understand that to stand aloof is an attitude of infidelity and sub sequential idolatry. For if we are not relying on His throne of grace, and worshipping Him face to face, then we will not be capable of worshipping Him from afar. If we are not captivated by His presence then we are held captive by another. In order for our spirits to commune with the Father, we must first accept His Son as our Savior and know that He paid the price for our sin. Once this contractual understanding has occurred, then you or I have the same rights as those of every godly man and woman that have gone before us. We can join our spirit with His in faith, rejecting the world and all its fleshly attachments. If we are communing with the Father in faith, and have humbly given ALL of our lives to Him, then we have become worshippers in spirit and in truth. It is impossible to divorce either spirit or truth in the equation to be God's worshipper. For without His Spirit, we will never know the truth about ourselves. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16), but He also convicts us to help us grow to be men and women of God (John 16:8).

One might say, "It is impossible to be a worshipper of God every minute of the day." If God gave us the command to be holy as He is holy (I Peter 1:16), it means He has given us everything to become holy, worshippers of God. Failing to do otherwise is our fault. To the level that we will trust and obey His Spirit (who lives within those of us who call Christ our Savior), is the degree that we will satisfy the Father's hearts. In John 4:23, Jesus states that the Father is looking for true worshippers that would worship Him in spirit and in truth. II Chronicles 16:9 states: For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His ... . Beloved, worshipping the Father with a whole heart is not a one way street! He desires to STRONGLY SUPPORT all those who would come to Him as worshippers, with spirits totally yielded to the Almighty. He promises through the prophet Malachi that if we worship Him with our tithe that He will open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings (Malachi 3:9-11). How much more if we worship Him with our entire lives! If God gives an abundance from giving Him a tenth of our wealth, how much more when we surrender all to Him? If we are truthful with our God, allowing the Spirit to rule within us and not giving any opportunity for the flesh to usurp His sovereignty, then we will know an abundance of His presence that will fill us continually with the fruit of His precious Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Do we really desire to be true worshippers? We will not experience true worship of the Father until we are truly His. Only as we lay down our lives before Him, will He then allow us to come before His throne of grace with boldness and confidence. He would have no greater delight than if we did so unreservedly. However, He knows we are but flesh and that often times the spirit is weak in its present state (Matthew 26:41). That is why He tells us to come, and to keep coming. Give to Him, and keep giving until there is no more to give. Expend what you can this day on the Father's behalf, and He will give you grace to give more tomorrow. We must always seek to become true worshippers by continually giving back to the One who gave us everything. For He is truly worthy of all our worship. May He find true worshippers in us all, as He continually draws us to Himself through His eternal mercy and grace!

Father, help us. Give us the desire to become sold-out, passionate, worshippers of You. Give us the fire within that will not be quenched as we seek You with all our hearts to give You the worship You deserve. We ask You to continue to draw us into Your presence. We love and thank You! In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Divine Appointments - March 23, 2014

Acts 8:26 - But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, "Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza." (This is a desert road.)

Philip the Evangelist was an ordinary fellow made extraordinary by his obedience to God. A good part of Acts chapter eight gives us a glimpse into the life of Philip as he ministered the gospel. To understand his effectiveness, one should first look at the scripture references to Philip up until the time of his being sent forth. The "Philip" spoken of here should not be confused with Philip who was one of the twelve apostles. Scripture clearly shows that this Philip, who later became known as Philip the Evangelist (Acts 21:8), was one chosen by the twelve to help serve the Hellenistic Jewish widows (Acts 1:6). Which begs the question regarding how Philip became known as "the Evangelist". It would be quite easy to read over these passages and not really understand the preparation of heart that this disciple of Christ undoubtedly submitted himself to before demonstrating his evangelical anointing. We read that Philip was commissioned to help these widows then we see nothing of him in scripture until the Great Persecution arises as a result of his fellow servant, Stephan (see Acts chapter 7 and the beginning of chapter 8). At this juncture, the twelve apostles are the only stalwarts to remain in Jerusalem and the rest of the church is scattered throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1). Everyone including Philip, the soon to be evangelist.

Philip's character is only spoken of in regard to the other seven and their criteria for selection. However, these traits were paramount in shaping the destinies of at least two of the seven which we read about from chapters 6 through 8 of the Acts of the Apostles. Acts 6:3 states: Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. Through the simple appointments to wait on widow's, one man's destiny would bring him to a death by stoning as the first martyr of the early church (Acts 7:58). The other man, Philip, would take the things he learned as a disciple and would spread the Gospel throughout ancient Palestine. He came to a place where he had grown in such an intimate relationship with His Savior that he was compelled to testify of His grace. This anointing came by what we see in verse 3 of Acts chapter 6. First of all, Philip was one of these that had a good reputation. Character is different than reputation. Character is who a person really is, deep down. Reputation is how others perceive one's reputation. Philip undoubtedly had a life that was unquestionably upright in the sight of all. Was he human and did he have failings? Most assuredly he did. However, a good reputation is often perceived by how honest a person might be, whether they were always right or not. A person of good reputation in God's sight will admit their failings yet give God the glory regarding the man or woman they've become. This is the outward manifestation of an inward work that can only come by the second criterion, being filled with the Spirit. Only by the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit, can one develop the good reputation that the seven possessed. And how does one stay filled with the Spirit? Obedience! Jesus said that we are His friends if we keep His commandments (John 15:14). (This, we shall see will be critical in the development of Philip for his life-calling.) And lastly we see in Acts 6:3, that being filled with the Spirit is not enough but one must be filled with wisdom. This is critical in knowing how to deal with situations that would baffle most worldly-minded people but clearly shows the working of God as it is demonstrated.

From what we have discussed, we now can see Philip as an anointed servant that has been brought up at the apostles feet in a life of obedience and love toward the Lord Jesus. So, when the persecution arises, we see a fully-equipped disciple set upon the path of evangelism to tell others of what God has done for him. Philip is rife for divine appointments. And that is exactly what happens when he meets the Ethiopian eunuch. But before we discuss that encounter, let us look once again at our lead verse. Luke the author of Acts makes a point to tell us that Philip was so in tune with the Spirit of God that he heard an angel give him a command. Now, if Philip (or you or me) were not walking closely with God, he might have dismissed this as a demon from hell or even his own mind in trying to trick him. Luke also tells us as a piece of background information that where Philip was commanded to go was a desert road. Many might have considered this ludicrous and dismissed this "angel" as a figment of their imagination. For, after all, why would God want this disciple of His to go out and evangelize on a desert road? If it was today, one might say, "It doesn't make sense. I know that God wants me to have this high-profile ministry and speak to hundreds and thousands of people. Surely, God does not want me to go out to some proverbial "desert road"?" However, what Philip found on this barren expanse was an Ethiopian eunuch that would forever change both of their lives. This extraordinary event is detailed in Acts chapter 8, verses 25 through 40. As we know, the eunuch is part of the royal palace of Candace, queen of Ethiopia. Through Philip's obedience and leading this eunuch to the Lord, it undoubtedly sparked a move of the Holy Spirit that is still being felt in that African nation. (Many Ethiopians today say that they can trace their spiritual lineage back to this eunuch.) The point is that through one man's obedience a whole nation was touched. And it came from the heart of a humble servant who waited tables and who eventually turned a nation upside down for the Gospel.

Philip is one of these touchstone characters in scripture that show us how God can create divine appointments through simple obedience. God is not looking for supermen or women. However, He is looking for that man or woman of good reputation, those that are not "perfect", but are people of character that would demonstrate that to others. This, of course, comes from being filled often and repeatedly by the Holy Spirit, ever allowing God to shape the character within. And finally, to have God's wisdom to know when He is speaking and to act upon it with His words to set the captive free. This, beloved, is possessing a life like those seven. While Stephen had his divine appointment with death, Philip lived for years spreading the gospel to a dying world. Will we be as Philip, people of high repute, filled with the Spirit and the wisdom of the Lord? If so, I can promise that we too will experience the adventure of a life-time -- a life filled with divine appointments orchestrated by heaven itself!

Holy Father, make us a people that heeds your voice, shaping our characters so that our good reputations would be known to all. Fill us with your Spirit and give us the wisdom to encounter those whom you've ordained for life eternal. Thank you Lord! In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Light of the World - March 16, 2014

Isaiah 60:1 - Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

If we know Christ, and we are one of His, then we all possess the light of God. As the scripture states, we have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of light (I Peter 2:9). While this may not be evident in many believers lives it is nonetheless a true statement. It is ultimately our choice whether we decide to let His light shine or not. Jesus Christ's redemption is certainly the free gift of God (Romans 6:23), however the word of God is also very clear that we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Forgiveness of sin through justification is the bedrock of the Christian faith, and without it there can be no salvation. We accept the finished work of Jesus on the cross when we come to the Lord in humility and accept His free gift. Many stop at this juncture and merely use the gift for themselves and their eternal well-being. They either don't understand or refuse to yield to the Holy Spirit who desires to allow the light within them to shine to others. The sanctifying work of the Spirit of God is ordained for all believers to manifest first within their hearts and then to broadcast to a dying world. Manifestation of the Person of Jesus in a believer's life is dependent on so little yet so much. The simplicity of the gospel and the sanctifying power therein can be surmised in one word -- obedience. Without it there is no possibility of shining forth His glory.

Are we manifesting Christ? Everything according to life and godliness has been given to us (II Peter 1:3). However, as previously stated, we still need to work out our salvation from the inner man to our outward life. In one of His parables, Jesus taught that those who trusted in Him were lights to the world (Matthew 5:14-16). Jesus drew upon an example for lighting their homes that everyone would understand. Lamps in ancient Palestine were dependent not only on oil as their source of fuel, but also the wick. Oil lamps as used in Jesus' day have not changed much throughout the millennia. A pottery bowl with an opening for an oil reservoir and a wick were fairly standard. One would fill the bowl with olive oil and make sure that the wick was touching the oil. However, one thing was very important. Before inserting the cotton wick into the opening to touch the oil, it needed to be immersed in oil in order for the oil to be drawn up through its fibers to create a continuous light. This is what Jesus was telling the crowd on that day by not telling them the obvious and something they already understood. Those with "ears to hear" comprehended that He was telling them that it was not enough to be in contact with God and to be "dry" within -- lacking the manifest presence of His being. But Jesus was telling them through this analogy that they must immerse themselves in God, in the very oil of the Holy Spirit so that they might draw on His light to make even more light for all.

Paul tells us that we are like earthenware vessels that carry about within us the life of Jesus Christ (II Timothy 2:20). How much more so are we all like pottery lamps that God has entrusted the Holy Spirit to live within? Those in Jesus' day understood that when the Savior referred to them as "lights and lamps to the world" that He spoke a metaphoric lesson with trichotic implications. The triune elements of the olive oil lamp and those of the body, spirit, and soul of the human being were not accidental similarities to those who understood Christ's teaching. Just as the lamp represented the body, so the oil represents how the Holy Spirit and our human spirit become joined when we come to know Christ. The wick, or the soul of man, is the crucial element in how Christ becomes manifest in a person's life. Will that man, woman, or child allow themselves to be immersed in the obedience of the Holy Spirit? For in so doing, one is truly baptized in the Spirit of God. Will one allow their soul or their "life wick" to become submitted and immersed in the oil of the spirit that their lamp will burn clear and bright? This is the dilemma, beloved, whether a mans mind, emotion, and will (which is their soul) can be brought under the rule of God. When we have immersed our proverbial "wicks" into the oil of His Spirit, then great things can truly happen as we burn for Him. However, it won't happen unless we are fully immersed in God. Olive oil has one of the highest flash points of any fuel (550 degrees Fahrenheit). Likewise, unless one is totally given to God they may burn with a flicker for a short season and then their flame will be extinguished. That is why it is imperative to be soaked in His Holy Spirit before we can burn as He desires.

It was Christ's great sacrifice that gave us salvation, but it is now our responsibility to burn for Him in obedience and lighting the way for others. It will all depend on how we submit ourselves to this task. We must align ourselves with His purposes, His desires, and ultimately His will in all things. As we do so, we will be immersing ourselves in the oil of His Spirit, allowing us to burn as few do in this dark world. Jesus told us to trim our lamps, to take the necessary steps in order to make ourselves holy while on this earth. We have no power within our proverbial "wick" or within our own soul to do this. However, as we draw upon the Holy Spirit and His precious oil then we too can walk as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the light of Your Son, who teaches us how to shine on this earth -- to draw upon Your Holy Spirit and to bring life and hope to others. Help us to be "wicks" totally immersed in Your oil, ever ready to obey and submit to You in all things. May You be glorified by the light within our hearts. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, March 9, 2014

God's Ownership - March 9, 2014


I Corinthians 6:19 - Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

Ownership of large ticket items such as property, houses, or cars are easily taken for granted in our western civilization. Advertisements bombard consumers via all forms of media, telling us to enjoy life to the fullest and pay later. Many "WE FINANCE" auto dealers claim that all you need is a job and they will ensure your immediate credit approval. Promises of enjoying life's pleasures cause many to be drawn in by this seduction to "buy now and pay later". The fallacy of this mindset is that nothing ever gets paid off. For the self-absorbed, a new car or house will be the panacea for the vehicle that might not be quite as shiny as a couple of years prior, or the new house one financed a few years earlier which is now showing signs of aging. For one to flash their new sports car or to welcome friends into their new 10,000 square foot home is merely an illusion for some folks. Most live beyond their means and don't truly own anything, but have become stewards for their financial institutions. As Proverbs states, the borrower becomes the lender's slave (Proverbs 22:7). Many think they own their possessions, however they are merely paying for them over and over again through interest payment, thereby creating wealth for those who truly DO own their assets.

What is often true in the material, is true in the spiritual. If most westerners have this attitude of fulfilling every desire in the present and not worrying about the future, then how much more so will they consider their most important asset? If they consider that life is to be enjoyed and the after-life is something to not concern oneself with in the present, then how will they ever understand that which they thought they owned wasn't theirs in the first place? While it is understandable that most unsaved persons know only self-indulgence without a care for God, many so-called Christians live this way under the pretense of Christianity. In our hedonistic western society, Christians are often looked at as "kooks" if they can't carry on a conversation with their worldly counterparts about the latest episode of "Sex in the City" or who will be bumped off the latest "American Idol". Beloved, if you call yourself a believer and know as much about current entertainment as unbelievers, then you might want to check where your devotion lies. Your ownership might have changed hands, or then again, may have NEVER changed hands. For truly, we all belong to one spiritual entity or the other. We either belong to God, or we belong to the devil. If we belong to God, do we shine in such a way as for all men to see our good works? (Matthew 5:16) Or, do we we shine with the effervescence of neon and marquis lights of Broadway and Hollywood? It will all depend on who truly owns us.

As stated, many have grown accustomed to owing and not taking ownership for their finances, not to mention their entire lives. In the past several years, we have seen millions in the US live well beyond their means and then walk away from their creditors when they couldn't pay. Foreclosures were rampant in 2008 as well as record numbers of auto repossessions. Once again, what is true in the material is also true in the spiritual. There are spiritual principles at work that know and understand their right of ownership. God knows His for certain, and will take possession of His own in one way or another. In both his letters, Paul spoke to the Corinthians telling them that carnal or fleshly living would only result in a life wasted and burnt up in the fire to be revealed at Christ's Judgment Seat (I Corinthians 3:12; II Corinthians 5:10). The sowing and reaping factor will be a factor not only in believers lives but also for the unbeliever, for Satan knows his rights of ownership also. There will come a day when the "Repo Man from Hell" will come knocking on the door of the heart of everyone who is not Christ's. Whomever did not heed to the Savior and His knocking will truly know the pounding and the door breaking strength of that cruel master as he takes possession of what is rightfully his. There will be no more time to accept the "installments" that Christ has already paid for this doomed life. The true owner has come for what is his and he will have it forever.

God spoke through the psalmist most poignantly in the 50th Psalm regarding His ownership here on earth: For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:10) While God may own all the cattle, He does not own all the hearts of men. However, His greatest desire is to captivate the hearts of mankind in such a way as to allow Him to take His rightful place of ownership. Christ's death purchased ALL humankind, redeeming us from the devil's cruel possession. Sadly, most will never accept Him as the Great Redeemer. Many will not know until that day when they step into eternity that they had borrowed WAY more than they could ever repay by assuming their lives were their own. If only they had trusted in the Savior. Their lives, just like all of our lives, are not our own. We have been bought with a price. A price so incalculably high that we will not understand its true cost until we too step through the veil to that place of eternity. We will know then what the "bank of heaven" spent to ensure that we might be wise stewards of this earthly tent he gave us to watch over. Beloved, the decision is ours -- to live a life that delights in seeing our true owner take rightful possession of His property. Or, to delude ourselves into believing that our lives are our own and that we will answer to none. My prayer is that we would all know and love Him who paid the supreme price for our hearts and give to Him the ownership He so greatly deserves!

Heavenly Father, thank you that we are not our own, but that your Son bought and paid for us through His blood. Help us to shine as lamps filled with Your oil, showing others that friendship with the world is broadcasting to all who truly owns our soul. Give us wisdom and revelation to know who truly possesses us and help us to snatch others away from the cruel one's clutches. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Living Words - March 2, 2014

John 6:68 - Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life."

Peter revealed the profundity of the disciples position in this passage in the Gospel of John. They were quite literally between the proverbial "Rock and the hard place". On one hand, they saw their "Rock" - their Friend, Teacher, and eventual Savior alienating both common people along with the Pharisees and religious folks of the day. On the other, no one knew Jesus as they did. They understood that there was no one else who spoke or did the things of God as their loving teacher. They had put themselves in the position to follow Christ, no matter what He might do or say, simply because they understood that He possessed life giving words. Peter merely voiced what the other disciples felt in our lead verse. They had come to know their friend Jesus enough to trust that He would not lead them astray. Yet, at the same time, they understood little where they might be headed. Only after they themselves were indwelt by the Spirit of Christ post-Pentecost did they truly understand what it meant to possess words that could bring forth both life and death. For some, as those 3,000 souls on that fateful day discovered, there was life in the words of the Apostle Peter as he instrumentally snatched these persons from the bowels of hell. But what of the others who heard but did not yield? For these that did not repent on that day or any other, the same words sealed their fate for eternity.

Words carry the weight of our eternal fate. Depending on what we hear, and what we say, these will ultimately determine where we spend eternity. Jesus told us that we would give an account of every careless word that we speak (Matthew 12:36). Proverbs 18:21 tells us, Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Without exception, we will either confess Jesus Christ as Lord with humility on this side of eternity and be saved (Romans 10:9-10), or we will deny his existence by our abeyance to confess Him as Lord yet at the same time "idolizing" every worldly pleasure by our constant worldly chatter. It all depends on how we receive the words of eternal life. If we receive them implanted, then they are able to save our souls (James 1:21). If we, along with the fool, say there is no God (Psalm 14:1), then we have hardened the soil of our heart to the point where God's eternal seed can find no place to grow (Luke 8:5). The road is broad to destruction and many are on this super-highway to hell (Matthew 7:13). The exception will be those who yearn after righteousness and will not retreat from the path of life, no matter what. Peter and his cohorts understood this. The patriarch Job also understood that there was nothing in what his friends offered, no matter whether they had the best intentions in their misplaced sympathies. Job declared that even if God should slay him, he would continue to trust only Him and to put forth his case before his Maker and no other (Job 13:15). Beloved, have we come to that place in our respective walk with the Lord? Have we made a covenant with God that we shall not betray Him no matter what the cost? Friends may say that our faith is insanity, that we are trusting in archaic "fairy tales". Have we acknowledged that we too are between that "Rock and hard place" and desire no other?

Pentecost changed everything for the disciples. Likewise, God's indwelling in a manifest way will change ANY man, woman, or child. We merely have to want it and to wait for it until it comes. While God has most certainly given us all things including the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, the understanding and the actualization are often disconnected from the daily experience for many of us. That's why it is paramount to continue to pray for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation as outlined in Ephesians 1:17-19. Many of us are where Christ's disciples were in the sixth chapter of John when the Lord asked that probing question, ... You do not want to go away also, do you? (John 6:67). We must be honest and forthright at this juncture and say to the Lover of our souls, Lord reveal to me the words of eternal life that will truly make me free! Jesus did not tell us to become experts at quoting scripture or knowing the Bible, but to hear His voice and to be changed by its revelation (John 10:3, John 10:16). The more we hear His words and act upon them the more we will be changed according to His image, for faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of His testimony (Romans 10:17). From faith to faith we WILL be changed if we continue to cry out for wisdom and understanding of Christ. Then, we too will understand the power of Pentecost. The recipe is simple -- watching and waiting with humility, weeping and wailing for more wisdom and understanding, and witnessing the wonderful experience when He sheds His Spirit in us and through us to others.

Beloved of God, there is no greater joy that the Lord desires to give to us then to experience more of Him through His life-giving words. We must understand, however, that these are not given glibly or without meaning. When God gives Himself in full measure, it is because a man, woman, or child has emptied themselves of any possible retreat into the world. There is a determination in their souls that they will have more of God or else they will die trying. Just as God will not share His glory with another, neither should we share ourselves with anything less than eternal words -- words that will ultimately cause a finality of decisions to the hearers. It is our responsibility as Christ's ambassadors on this earth to live lives as nothing less than those that speak the language of heaven to a dying world. May we all cry out to our Heavenly Father for MORE revelation of who He is within us all in order to change this world around us.

Lord Jesus, thank you for Your words of eternal life. Teach us the language of angels and of Your heavenly abode, convincing some of Your love for them by Your supreme sacrifice. Allow all who hear Your words to be changed forever. In Your Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick