Sunday, July 20, 2014

Intercessory Praise, Part II - July 20, 2014

Job 42:10 - The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold.

Most of us have heard the expression "desperate times call for desperate measures". From the very underbelly of a dire situation can often spring the greatest triumphs. It can be a heart-wrenching moment when we hear about someone's tremendous loss. For example, how tragic it is when we hear a news report of an entire family losing all their children to a house fire. Horatio Spafford comes to mind as a modern man's illustration of extreme loss while Job is certainly the quintessential biblical example. Spafford and his wife lost a son in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. A short two years later, Spafford sent his wife and daughters on ahead of him to Europe. They were to meet up shortly after his arrival to help with evangelistic efforts on the continent. Tragically, the S.S. Ville Du Havre sank after striking another vessel at sea. His wife telegrammed her husband after her rescue saying, "Saved Alone". Later, when the ship he had booked passage came near to the spot where his daughters lie on the ocean floor, he penned the words of the famous hymn, It Is Well With My Soul. In this place of extreme loss, Spafford was able to praise His Creator regardless what life had dealt. By him penning these most poignant verses, he inadvertently became a witness and most importantly one who intercedes on behalf of many. By his example, countless Christians have been strengthened in their faith by Spafford as he stood between heaven and earth and praised the Almighty. He quite literally stood as an intercessory worshipper between God and man (for more see The Bare Soul - It is Well With My Soul - June 1, 2008).

Horatio Spafford had probably read of God's dealings with Job many times before that fateful day. Though millennia separated these two men, both experienced tremendous loss but likewise magnificent grace to deal with their given situations. Those familiar with the story know that Job was a God-fearing man that Satan demanded permission from God to tempt. Satan believed that any man, including Job, would forfeit their relationship with God to save their own skin. Job chapters one and two tell of how the devil caused great calamity to overtake the patriarch's household, first by destroying his children and his possessions and then by inflicting Job with severe bodily afflictions. From the subsequent chapters we read of Job's metamorphosis as a God-fearing worshipper to a man filled with the wisdom and revelation of His Maker. At one point, Job makes the declaration: Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him. (Job 13:15) Though his worship and praise of His Creator was unfaltering, he still questioned God's wisdom in allowing someone like himself who walked uprightly to be subjected to what appeared to be a cruel outcome. Only when Job truly heard and saw God (see Job chapters 38 through 41), did he understand that God is so much bigger than his feeble attempts to understand Him. In this instance, as well as countless others, God must merely be trusted without complaint or argument regarding His dealings with mankind. God's sovereignty and man's inability to understand God's ways is poignantly expressed in the following:
Job 42:1-6 - Then Job answered the LORD and said, "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes."
 After Job humbled himself appropriately before God, the Lord's attention then turned toward Job's friends (Job 42:7-9). Because of his newly gained perspective through worship and praise, Job was then able to be the instrument that God used to heal his friends. Job learned to be an intercessor by coming into a right relationship with God and thereby understanding the Almighty's omnipotent and omniscient power through his worship and praise. This was the catalyst to Job's own spiritual, physical, and material healing which therefore empowered him to pray for his friends restoration. Job obviously knew God before his calamities. Job 29 is all about his glorious past and how he was regarded as a man of God that delivered justice for those less fortunate. However, Job 42 is where we see a broken and contrite man who learns to pray for God's restoration rather than using his own abilities. We see a man equipped with the humility of God who is able to intercede for his friends through a heart of worship and praise to God.

Nowhere in scripture are we given such an intimate look of a man (of like character as us) who is transformed from a God-fearing believer to a man full of the wisdom and revelation of God. Job became that one who was not only a "good" man but a man who shared in the secret counsel of the Lord. By the epiphany of God's revelation through intercessory praise and worship, his prayers for his friends led to Job receiving back two-fold of what he formerly possessed (Job 42:10). Beloved, God has given us this portrait of Job not for good storytelling or nice poetry. He has allowed us to see that merely being a nominal Christian that loves God and does what is right is not near enough. The Lord is desirous that we would sit before him daily, crying out to Him for understanding until He would give us that same wisdom and revelation as Job. Through tremendous loss, God was able to take men like Horatio Spafford and the patriarch Job and transform them through what seemed like unbearable circumstances. Likewise, if we allow God to have His way with us, we will see that the world is much bigger than ourselves or our family's well-being. We will see God for who He is, praising and worshipping Him no longer for what He can do but for who He is. This wisdom will duly reveal Christ's mind and heart for those that so desperately need Him. Once we learn the secret of intercession, that it is an attitude first of worship and praise, then we can effectively bring others close to the Lord for His glory despite our experiences.

Lord Jesus, reveal to us Your wisdom and insight that we might intercede for others with hearts of praise and worship toward You, and hearts on fire for the souls of others. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Intercessory Praise, Part I - July 13, 2014


II Chronicles 20:22 - When they began singing and praising, the LORD set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed.

What happens when a believer lives their life in all the light and revelation that the Lord has given, and then all of a sudden it seems like all hell comes against them? The inevitable result will always be fear. However, the type of fear will determine the outcome. If we fear the circumstances and shrink back in unbelief, then our predicaments will own us and defeat us. But, if we turn our faith to the Lord to fear Him and reverence Him for the outcome, then we have tapped into the springs of praise that will eliminate our enemies one by one. Jehoshaphat's life and subsequent defining battle with the enemies of Judah is a striking example regarding how the Lord can turn insurmountable difficulties into victories. Through this poignant encounter, the king learned the secret of how intercessory praise commands success through a rightly related king and kingdom to the Most High God.

II Chronicles chapters 17-19 gives an overview of the life of Jehoshaphat as he ruled and reigned in 8th century B.C. Israel. In II Chronicles 17:3-6, we see that the king sought the Lord God and strived to follow all the commandments of God. He expected no less from Judah, as he tore down the houses of worship of the Canaanite gods Baal and Ashtoreth. Not only was he a moral and spiritual crusader for his people, but other kingdoms saw that the favor of God was upon Israel so they would in turn bring tribute and gifts to the king in Jerusalem (II Chronicles 17:10-11). As a result, Jehoshaphat and the Judeans lived in relative peace until they heard the bad omen of a "great multitude" coming against them out of the land of Aram (II Chronicles 20:2). Naturally, the king was afraid when he heard this news (II Chronicles 20:3). At this point, the king could have done several things. He could have tried to make peace with the Ammonites and the Moabites, thereby sending them tribute and trying to appease them. He might have sent emissaries to Egypt or to the Philistines to try to hire an army to fight for Judah. Or, he might have decided to muster as many Judeans as possible and to go out against his foes, hoping for the best. He did none of these. Jehoshaphat instead did what would seem absurd to other kings of his time and turned to the Lord God in prayer and fasting (II Chronicles 20:3-13). The welfare of his people were at stake and so the king deliberately involved all the people to join him as they cried to the Lord for a solution to their dilemma. And, through the prophet Jahaziel, their answer came. The message from the Lord was not one of brilliant maneuvers or battle strategy to overcome their enemy by military force, but it was a simple yet terrifying prospect of "standing, and seeing the salvation of God" (II Chronicles 20:17). The next day, Judah went out to "battle" against their foes. Apparently, Jehoshaphat received some added direction from the Lord as he stationed the singers and musicians in front of their army to worship the Lord. If this wasn't sheer madness in the eyes of the rest of the world, the king then declared that they were to rejoice before the Lord saying "Give thanks to the LORD, for His lovingkindness is everlasting." (II Chronicles 20:21) Not only was he leaving his frontal attack defenseless, he was also giving away his position. However, the most remarkable thing occurred because of the king's obedience. We are told that the sons of Ammon and the sons of Moab destroyed themselves until there was not a single survivor (II Chronicles 20:22-24). Because of this remarkable victory, II Chronicles 20:30 tells us that for the rest of Jehoshaphat's reign his kingdom was at peace.

As it was in 8th century B.C. Israel, so it is today in the 21st century A.D. God is still looking for those whom He can show Himself strong on their behalf (II Chronicles 16:9). We don't need to be a king in order for God to show us a great deliverance. We only need to be, first and foremost, rightly related to Him. When we come to the Lord and we lay down our lives of sin, He then partners with us to destroy those "houses of Baal" in our hearts -- temples of self worship, greed, malice, envy, sloth, etc. When we become rightly related to God, then He allows us to help build His kingdom within the influence He gives us. We might see some helped by the ministry we give them, while others may be coming to the knowledge of the Lord through His grace in our lives. As our favor with God and man is on the rise, there is another who takes notice. The enemy of our soul will often acquiesce to our new found favor with God, but only for a season. He may even try to tell us that we're doing "really good" so that he can make us stumble in pride. But if that doesn't work, then he will inevitably send what seems like a multitude against us to defeat our standing in God and to try to destroy our credibility in God's kingdom. At this critical juncture, we will undoubtedly fear much like King Jehoshaphat. But that is okay, as long as we turn our fear to the Lord and reverence Him for how he is going to orchestrate His victory in this matter. As we have grown in God, the outcome of this battle not only affects us, but those whom we love and minister to. It has truly become an intercessory battle as we "stand in the gap" for the kingdom of God all around us. We have matured to not only be concerned with our welfare but that of others. Whether we are praying for God to heal a cancerous growth in a beloved sister in the Lord, or for a brother who is being audited by the IRS, we have learned to look beyond ourselves to praise God for the victory in the midst of the battle. We have learned that it is not our might or our strength or often anything on earth that can help in a given situation, other than the grace of God. We believe that saying to the problem "Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting" is the only sensible solution to a world that believes we've gone mad for our assurance to do so.

To live a life of intercessory praise means we have first moved beyond simply praising God for His outcome in our lives and we've moved to a higher plain of doing so for others. If we are practicing this, we have taken on the very character of our Lord and Savior as He intercedes daily for us (Romans 8:34). Beloved, God wants us to first trust in Him for all our needs, and then to trust Him for all those whom He has given us within the "holy fiefdoms" He has entrusted to us. Whether it is our families or entire congregations, God desires that we entrust to Him the outcome of every situation with an attitude of praise. As we learn to intercede effectively for others, He will continue to expand our hearts and influence over His kingdom here on earth. That, my friends, is the way to create heaven on earth -- by thanking Him and praising Him for the victory while the battle looms ever present and menacing. It is then, that we will see the greatest miracles in our weakness as we give thanks to Him for His strength.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of intercessory praise. Only as we confess our weakness, do we allow You to be strong. Through this strength, help us -- along with those You have entrusted to us that they might encounter Your triumph in the midst of what seems like overwhelming odds. Thank you that we are always victorious in You. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick



Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Prayer of Praise - July 6, 2014


Luke 18:11-14 - The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: "God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get." But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Many have considered this passage a model prayer for penitent sinners. Herein we see two diametrically different personalities -- one haughty and self-righteous -- the other humble and contrite as they both receive their respective rewards. While the Pharisee bolsters his ego with an empty commendation as the result of his religiosity, we are told the tax collector receives the gift of justification from God. This man, according to Christ, came into relationship with the Lord through his repentance, knowing that the atonement of Christ had lifted the burden of sin from his heart forever. While this certainly is an ideal example for how a person comes to the Lord, it should not necessarily be the prayer to perfect holiness or to mature a saint in sanctification. To be sure, if we sin after we have accepted the Lord as our Savior, we should ask for forgiveness and He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (I John 1:9). However, I am convinced that the devil would like nothing better than to first inflict condemnation over a sin in the believer's life, and then make that poor hapless soul to wallow in this sad state as they cry out for mercy. Of course, Jesus Christ has forever given us mercy and not condemnation through His redemption. His justification deflated the power of sin in our lives, stripping away all power once held over us by the enemy of our souls. Our God wants us to merely confess our sin and then turn to Him in a prayer of praise, acknowledging the completed work of the blood of His Son on Calvary's cross.

This "woe is me" theology runs rampant in many churches today, especially those who center on holiness teaching. As before mentioned, we should always confess our sins when we commit them. However, I believe the universal Church lacks a deeper understanding of our true position in Christ, otherwise there would be much more praise over our deliverance from both our sin nature and individual sins then what's currently the case. The enemy has made many believers think and act like the tax gatherer on a continual basis. Some might say, "Oh, that my life was filled with the presence of God ... oh, that I had more love and joy in my life. It must be because I still have sin in my life!" This may be the case and if it is true then that person should repent and set their life right with God. More often, however, I believe the true sin in a Christian's life is not individual sins that continue to crop up but a foundation of unbelief. They have either lost the understanding through the enemy's deception, or they have never really possessed a strong conviction of Christ living in them. As we see from our lead scripture, Jesus was dealing with eternal salvation. However, once we are saved and redeemed it is inappropriate for us to approach His Throne of Grace with anything but assurance that He has cleansed us from all sin (Hebrews 4:16). There is nothing more gratifying to the devil then for us to yield to groveling before the Majesty on High who has amply supplied all the mercy and grace we shall ever need. We see an excellent example of how Jesus corrects this erroneous thinking in the story of the prodigal son. When the son was still a long way off, the Father ran to him and embraced him (Luke 15:20). The son then stated: Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son. (Luke 15:21) You see, this young man had a very wrong understanding of his father and his love and grace. What we read next is exactly the heart of the Heavenly Father toward His children. There was no further discussion, but the son was restored IMMEDIATELY to his place of sonship (Luke 15:22-24). We see and hear no discussion from the son saying, "No father, for I am truly unworthy and I must continue to ask for your forgiveness". There was none of that because the son accepted his father's mercy. How much more should we as sons and daughters of our gracious Heavenly Father accept His instantaneous forgiveness?

Many believer's think that by laboring through daily repentance over their carnality and by looking for some "breakthrough" that results in indescribable joy is the end all in the pursuit of sanctification. If that happens in our daily prayer either for ourselves, others, or our nation then rejoice! It is a gift of God! However, if it doesn't there is no reason to believe that God has not answered our prayers and likewise gifted us with the same splendid results as if we did "feel" His presence. Remember, we walk by faith and not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). The devil continues to defraud the church with this lie that we have to call down heaven on earth. Beloved, the kingdom of God is in our midst! Everything has already been given to us pertaining to life and godliness (II Peter 1:3). We must merely have eyes to see it! That's why Paul continually prayed in his apostolic prayers that the eyes of the churches would be enlightened to all that had already been given to them (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:17-19; Colossians 1:9-12; Ephesians 4:14-19; Philippians 1:9-11). I believe Paul's intent was to say that believers need to be doing a lot more accepting of what Christ has already done for them rather than continual beseeching for what they already possess. How it must grieve the Father's heart to hear His children continually crying out for something that He has already given. It truly is as simple as thanking Him for eyes to see and for hearts that are continually open to His divine revelation and wisdom. To go on asking without thanking Him for what He has already given is rude and disrespectful to the bounty He has so lavishly provided.

So what should be our attitude to God in prayer? I believe that the Lord has given us WAY more than we could ever express in thanksgiving to Him. And, if we continue to accept in faith what He gives us then we allow Him to reveal more in us. But this is not the end all. With revelation comes responsibility. Even as the father "gave" to his prodigal son, we too must continue to give away what He has so graciously bestowed in us. Then, it is full circle of receiving by faith, praising in faith, and then finally giving through faith. The circle becomes an ever-widening sphere as we receive more and more through His delightful revelation and we in turn praise him in prayer and then give it others. This, beloved, is God's plan for mankind. Not that we would be forever waiting for sanctification, but living and moving in it through His divine grace already bestowed upon you and me. Let us all learn to live in what He has completed through His Son's death. Our justification is already secure through our repentance. And, our sanctification is likewise accomplished through our acceptance of the finished work of our Savior. May God open our eyes and hearts to see and understand the depth of His love for us.

Holy Father, we delight to know You through the revelation of Your Son within us. Continue to manifest Yourself in us and through us, for we know that it is impossible to please You but through faith. Help us to walk hand in hand with You, our loving Father, accepting all from You and praising You for the bounty of Your love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, June 29, 2014

God's Freedom - June 29, 2014

Galatians 5:1 - It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

Much is spoken regarding our individual freedoms in western civilization. Probably no other day is quite like America's Independence Day, when we celebrate both our country's liberty from tyranny and our own individual emancipation from oppressive government. Even our songs herald this great land as the "Home of the Free and the Brave". However, day by day we see these freedoms being encroached upon by secular socialist agendas that would seek to drown us in a sea of government restraints. Taxation is at its highest level in most states of the Union, while fringe groups who insist upon their "rights" infringe upon the moral majority's rights to live as godly, respectable citizens. Never before in the history of this nation have we seen the rights of the godless upheld in such a demonstrative manner, while the lives of the innocent continue to be exploited through mass murder. As the greatest genocide ever perpetrated on American soil continues (nearing the 50 million mark of murdered babies since Roe v Wade), homosexuals continue to chip away at the American fabric by insisting on the same familial rights as heterosexuals. God weeps as the devil rejoices over making a mockery of the Almighty's design for humans on planet earth, and particularly in the United States. We have fallen from the height of arrogance in believing that tolerance towards the ungodly is granting them individual freedoms. As we succumb to the desires of those who mock and jeer at a holy God, we only share in their sin. The fall of America continues while we don't even know we are falling. The ultimate impact, however, will be heard around the world.

Slavery comes in various ways and forms. The national disgrace of this country's pre-civil war was slavery. Today, there is a more subtle bondage. The sad reality is that man will always try to enslave or he will be enslaved by others, outside of the grace of God. Only through humble submission to the Lord God will someone find a place of sonship, rather than slavery. As Paul told the Galatians, the whole reason that Christ set humankind free was so they could experience true freedom. While atheists spout continually the need for the separation of church and state (which, by the way, is NOT in the Constitution but was penned in a letter expressing an opinion by Thomas Jefferson to John Adams in 1814), they don't comprehend that true freedom ONLY comes through the unity created by a strong church that influences the tenants of government. A nation is never greater than what we are collectively. If we continue to force the issues of supposed individual liberties in this nation, we will soon see its demise. More than self actualization of liberties, we desperately need individual revival -- an understanding of who God is and what He desires to free within us all. Only as we come into relationship with Jesus Christ, one soul at a time, will this country once again know the freedom that it touts. As long as self-serving agenda-seeking splinter groups are allowed to function as the voice of America, we will continue to see the downward spiral of wickedness and depravity that is overtaking this nation.

Outward, individual freedom can only come from the inside as God has His way with a man, woman, or child. To the degree that we are free inside from the tyranny of sin is the degree that we can be free in all areas of our lives. To attempt to impose freedom, whether it is Socialism on the left or Fascism on the right, is attempting to legislate morality. It will never work, from either side of the proverbial sphere. What will work, however, is men and women sold out to Christ and not subjecting themselves to the bondage of idealism. Man's vision will always be full of corruption and self-serving, but God's vision and desires for humankind will be full of moral restraint that is born in heaven. It will be guidance through the Holy Spirit that will be full of love and compassion toward others, but at the same time not bending to any that would seek to usurp God's perfect plan. Even as the Galatians were led astray by a spirit of legalism, believing they could DO something for their salvation, we must be careful in this great nation to not attempt to save ourselves. Conservatives, as well as liberals, are subject to massive failure without the Spirit of God upon their lives. We have seen both parties in this country succumb to ungodliness as they rejected God's leading. We must have revival! We must cry for it even as Rachel cried for offspring, saying that she despised living unless God would grant her request (Genesis 30:1). That, beloved, should be our attitude as believers. We should desire that at all costs we would know the freedom of God within, so that we can collectively change our nation as an army of the Lord that will not be denied. Passing legislation to thwart an onslaught of godliness is commendable, but it is only a Band-Aid on gangrene that will eventually kill us. What we desperately need is a body of believers that will first reconcile within their souls their own freedoms and liberties granted to them by Jesus Christ. Then, we need to rise up and invoke His freedom by a wide-spread revival within this glorious land. Only as we see and understand through His glorious revelation (Ephesians 1:17-19), will we be able to "be fruitful and to multiply" His freedom to a nation.

As stated, slavery comes in many forms, both inward and outward. The Galatians were deluded into thinking that working hard for their salvation meant they would secure it. Paul was quick to point out that true freedom comes ONLY in trusting the Savior's completed work. Are we ready to stand up for Jesus in this perilous time? Are we ready to declare the freedom of the Lord to a nation that is quickly despairing of life? The abundant liberty is only for those who wish to give up their own self-seeking and follow Him that gave them true freedom. It is up to us this day -- shall we continue to give ourselves to "me" or shall we give ourselves to "Thee"? There will be no lasting freedom without making the right choice, in this land we call the "Home of the Free and the Brave". God help us to be free through our courage to give ourselves unreservedly to Him.

O Lord, "Our Country 'tis of Thee", even as the song states. But we have fallen so far from You, Lord. Give us hearts of fire that yearn after You. Then, help us to take these hearts aflame and to awaken a country that is on the precipice of destruction. Give us hearts of freedom that we can awaken the hearts of others and cause a great revival that will indeed change not only the government but the very fabric of our society. Help us, Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Fear of the Lord, Part III - June 22, 2014


Proverbs 9:10 - The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Children are often our greatest examples of how to approach God. The wide-eyed wonder of a child when they are learning about their world warms the hearts of parents and grandparents. Our grandson continues to bring joy to our lives as he is full of discovery with an overarching sense of innocence. His fascination with something as innocuous as a long blade of grass or a beetle in the garden makes us "old folks" appreciate his awe-struck expressions during these times of discovery. There is somehow a reverence for life that adults seem to lose as we learn to take our surroundings for granted. Not so with children. It is though the Spirit of God is leading and guiding them with eyes grateful for what they behold. As we look on the young ones the Lord has blessed us with, it is not hard to see they have a wisdom of innocence probably much like Adam and Eve's innocence in the Garden. Even as the first man and woman walked with God in Paradise, they too must have possessed eyes full of wonder toward their Creator and His creation.

While it is impossible to regain that place of innocence that our original father and mother possessed in the Garden, it is possible to live in the righteousness of wisdom as imparted by the Godhead. For us, it can truly be "Paradise Regained" through the wonder that the Almighty desires to impart to our souls. However, to arrive at this place where we become the receivers of wisdom, we must first walk in the fear of the Lord. As previously discussed in Part I and Part II, the fear of the Lord keeps us from evil and allows us to join hands with our Father while learning from Him. When we fear Him and walk with Him in reverence, we reestablish that Parent/child relationship that allows us to once again become as children thereby relearning all the things we thought we knew. For example, a jaded view of mankind that we might have possessed in our unregenerate life becomes one of hopefulness after we are born again. We begin to look at the plight of humankind with the love of the Savior, desiring that the scales would be removed from their eyes much in the same way that happened to ours. As born again children of the Most High, we are more accepting of others' failures, yet at the same time we have a mature attitude toward iniquity. We become unyielding to compromise our stated position if others desire to remain in their sin. Thus, we possess not only the wisdom of innocence that Adam and Eve lived in, but we also are clothed in the wisdom of righteousness which is able to judge with love and equity in all situations.

As Proverbs 9:10 tells us, the fear of the Lord is only the beginning of wisdom. To continue to cultivate God's wisdom and knowledge and to bring it to a place of maturity, one must live in the fear of the Lord. Without it, wisdom cannot and will not flourish. Solomon discovered this more poignantly than most as he proceeded to give himself to folly in later years. There came a time in the sovereign's life that he no longer trusted in God. One might conjecture that the king became bored with God's discovery and therefore sought to stimulate himself in sinful ways (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11). The wide-eyed wonder that only God's wisdom can give was lost as Solomon once again revisited Eden. Rather than choosing the Tree of Life full of the wisdom of God he chose instead the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. A careful reading of the book of Ecclesiastes shows that this did not bode well for the once wise ruler. His insistence to explore the depths of depravity led to moral bankruptcy resulting in hopelessness (Ecclesiastes 2:12-17). His once enlightened state became one of a broken down skeptic of all that he once held dear. However, Solomon's lost paradise would be regained in the end when he once again acknowledged God. In Ecclesiastes 12:13 we read: The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. With his wisdom reinstated by the mercy of God, Solomon declared that the fear of the Lord is the wisest thing a person can do in this lifetime. It is both the beginning and the end of wisdom itself.

Jesus answered and said to him (Nicodemus), "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) Nearly 900 years after the death of Solomon, Jesus Himself proclaimed a similar wisdom to the Pharisee Nicodemus as he visited Him by night. Like Solomon, Jesus stated that unless we humble ourselves to God and accept Him as our righteousness and as our wisdom, we will never become sons of the Most High God. Unless we declare by our submission to Him that we know nothing in our own so-called knowledge, then we can never begin to know the wisdom of God. The Father desires to take everyone of us by the hand, leading us and guiding us and giving us His eyes to see as He sees. Just as a toddler views his or her world with wonder and amazement, the Lord God desires for us to see the life he has given us with that same spiritual clarity. It takes a bowing of the heart and an admission that we know not as we should, and an acknowledgement that He knows best. That, beloved, is how we fear the Lord. And, that is how we can live and grow in His wisdom both in this life and in the one to come. May we all live continually in the loving fear of our Great and Loving King, longing for His continued revelation to both our hearts and minds!

Heavenly Father, thank you for the fear of the Lord for it truly is the beginning of wisdom -- a wisdom that allows us to experience the depths of Your love toward all who would but believe. Help us to know You more and more as we put our hand in Yours as the children we are. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Fear of the Lord, Part II - June 15, 2014


Psalm 19:9a - The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever ...

When most of us hear the word "fear" it frequently brings up a negative connotation. This is often the case because fear drives less than desirable consequences as its result. We might think of all the lost opportunities because of a lack of confidence and faith in ourselves. Or, we might remember the times when we compromised ourselves because of what others were thinking about us. Then, there was that occasion when the boss told the off-color joke and we laughed along with everyone else, knowing the moment we were doing so that we had grieved the Spirit of the Lord. Or, the time when we didn't speak up to defend someone who was falsely accused when we knew they were not at fault. When we live beneath the standard which the Lord has given us to live out, we can feel defiled or "dirty" within our respective souls. However, when we conversely live uncompromisingly we experience a purity and cleanness of life that is unparalleled by worldly standards. Purity is not our goal or even so-called clean living -- our goal is to abide in Christ and to allow His life to exude from us. If we seek consecration and eventual sanctification as the end-all, then we have made it our god rather than Jesus Christ. Consequently, cleanness created by a walk with the Lord is merely a result of a life yielded to God in the fear of the Lord. Once we have accepted the Lord and the work of His blood, we find that fearing God rather than man provides the catalyst to live an uncensored existence before the Almighty.

Fear is a God-given emotion much the same as any of our other emotions. Humankind has an innate need to fear much the same as the need to love. If man cannot satisfy this basic need through the fear and reverence of God, he will seek it out in other ways. And, most of these ways are a type of regulated fear where the person still feels they possess some control. Billions of dollars are spent annually on the horror entertainment industry. Horror films, haunted tours, or Halloween itself with its plethora of haunted venues are geared to evoke fear. However, most people who study the phenomena of fear tell us that the payoff is not the shock and awe of the fright but the relief that comes afterward when we regain control. However, there is a Catch-22 with this type of scare. Fear of this sort is fleshly and of this world and will always lead to dejection of heart. However, the fear of the Lord and that which is born from the wonder and awe of the revelation of God always leads to further love and an uplifting of the soul and spirit to the Lord. While the fear of the Lord leads to continual and ongoing life, the fear instilled through this world leads to continual and prolonged death. (Imagine what those in hell are experiencing as their horror story is without end and continually frightening beyond earthly comprehension!)

The Apostle John contrasts the fear that is born from this earth and that which is born from above in his first letter. In I John 4:18 he writes about how one cannot mix love with fear that is born from this world -- it is an impossibility. Just as transplant patients often run the risk of their body rejecting a foreign organ, so also love will always reject fleshly fear because it is not born from above. However, love's counterpart, hate, will always embrace fear because it originates from its father the devil. It was born in hell and that is why there is always a feeling of "dirty" guilt attached to the outcome. John writes that perfect love casts out all fear. So, what remains? The fear of the Lord is then perfected in love and the holiness of the Most High (II Corinthians 7:1). We know that John was speaking of an absence of fleshly fear, for we are told that Jesus Christ lived continually in the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2-3). Just like Jesus, we are given the opportunity through His life to live free of guilt and shame that is born in fear and punishment. That is the purpose of the blood of Jesus Christ -- it washes us clean from sin (I John 1:7). But what keeps us cleansed is first our understanding of the work of Calvary, and then second the fear of the Lord which continues to draw upon Christ's gift. Our greatest joy should be to abide in the Savior who gives us all the power to live in purity on this earth. May our lives be consumed with this pursuit, beloved, for without it we may one day tremble before Him in terror if we have failed to do so while upon this earth.

As previously stated, we all have the need to fear. However, our flesh through the devil has corrupted this God-given attribute and brought guilt and punishment as the reward for its suffering. However, Jesus Christ paid the price for us all -- through His pain and suffering -- to share in the wisdom and insight of His Father. He allows us to see with spiritual eyes the wonder and the majesty of God thereby granting us the cleansing power of His blood. This humility born through Christ's sacrifice gives everyone the gift of cleansing, to be purified in the fear of the Lord. While the world will persist to defile and prepare themselves for their eternal home by functioning in a place of fear, those chosen of God will continue to cleanse themselves through the fear of the Lord. And, ultimately, the redeemed shall stand in His presence one day as a bride prepared for her Groom. Beloved, may we continue to equip ourselves by perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord. Only then, will we be "clean" and pure for that marvelous day when we will be consummated in matrimony with the Lover of our Souls. Come Lord, Jesus, come!

Heavenly Father, thank you for the blood that has cleansed us from all sin. And, thank you that the fear of the Lord that continues to cleanse us for both this life and the one to come. May we be consecrated, sanctified, and ultimately glorified for your pleasure. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Fear of the Lord, Part I - June 8, 2014


Proverbs 8:13 - The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.

What does it mean to hate evil? Much of the world has lost the ability to discern this most basic, God-given knowledge. Sadly, when we hear of some debating whether Muslim extremists blowing up innocent people are evil terrorists or "freedom fighters" then there is cause for alarm regarding basic discernment. This is just one example in a world racked with evil. Unfortunately, the majority of mankind has likewise diminished the definition of wickedness to the point where it is unidentifiable. And, if you can't put a tag on it and call something what it is, then you surely can't hate it. Conversely, by ignoring evil in all its forms, the world has inadvertently embraced it and loved it. Modern society accepts all lifestyles without placing judgment on any. To do so, in their mind, would perpetuate a world of intolerance. Instead, it has created a world of relativity minus any absolutes which is a passive yet powerful strategy of the enemy to entrap the souls of humankind. Unless there is a violent reaction to evil in this world, it is impossible for collective mankind to draw near to God. Those who would go to church on Sunday and fulfill all their worldly desires the rest of the week are wasting both their time and God's. What He seeks is a people that would fear Him in all of His splendor and omnipotent power, for in so doing it expresses a love for his majesty. As we come to the Father through Jesus Christ, then we will begin to hate sin that separates all men from eternal salvation. We will grow in hatred toward iniquity by simply growing closer to God, much in the same way that the majority of the world grows closer to the evil they love and inevitably to the one who hates their souls with an eternal hatred.

Some might say, "God is not to be feared for He is a God of love". Often, these are folks that somehow equate a God of judgment as related by their Sunday pastor. They have never known God, so they seek to justify their own shortcomings by stating that God is some mushy, feel-good deity that is only interested in wrapping His big powerful arms of love around all humankind. However, the Father would not be a loving God if He betrayed His nature and compromised who He is. They fail to realize that without the judgment of God there can be no mercy. These juxtapose one another making their counterpart possible. What these naysayers are really stating is they have never experienced the mercy of God and all they know is the guilt of their own soul, which they rightly equate to God's anger. And, probably for good reason as these have probably never submitted themselves to God to allow His Majesty to have His way in their lives. Therefore, they could not know that God is an awesome God, full of power and might, that upholds them by the word of His mouth (Colossians 1:17). When we begin to grasp God's totality and our own insignificance, we start to see and understand the Holy One for who He is. Another way to state this is that we come into agreement with the character of the Sovereign Lord. Once we see the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for who they are, we can begin to stand in agreement regarding those He loves and that which He hates. Most of us have undoubtedly heard the expression "Hate the sin but love the sinner". The catalyst for this is the fear of the Lord, for He tells us that this is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). It catapults us into a new dimension of understanding because we begin to see with His eyes and feel with His heart. Likewise, fools are educated in folly by their continual dismissal of the fear of the Lord and accepting His life. As their foolish hearts become more darkened to the truth (Romans 1:21), they earn lower degrees of depravity until they graduate with dishonor to hell itself.

The standard, or the plumb line if you will, whether we truly fear the Lord is quite straightforward according to the second part of our lead verse. Solomon mentions pride and arrogance, the evil way and the perverted mouth as those which the Lord hates (Proverbs 8:13). The first two, pride and arrogance, are the condition of the unregenerate heart. The evil way is the outworking of the same (Proverbs 1:16), and the perverted mouth speaks from what fills the heart (Matthew 12:34). Just as the mouth speaks and testifies of God leading a soul to salvation (Romans 10:10), so also it confirms what is in a wicked heart leading to destruction. Are our lives filled with pride and arrogance? If so, we will be manifesting "evil ways" of anger, lust, deceit, hatred toward men, gossip, or any other lawless expression against God's holy way. Beyond that, we will be testifying of these evil ways by our arrogant speech that disregards God's order. However, if we are fearing the Lord and walking in His ways, we will be testifying of His goodness and love. Both our behavior and speech will markedly hate evil by our love for the Lord.

Beloved, if we are truly hating evil in our lives and the world at large, then we are fearing God. And, with that fear there is no judgment because the one who seeks to bring a charge against God's elect has been cast down (Revelation 12:10). Mercy will always triumph over judgment if we will but yield (James 2:13). Once we understand from a place of humility who God is, and what He truly loves and hates, then we too will share in His passion. The determiner will be whether we dare to give ourselves to Him, fearing Him as the all-powerful One that holds the universe in His hands. In all of His splendor and awesome wonder, He still desires to share His life with you and me. We must only answer one question: Whom shall we fear? Shall we fear God out of respect and love, thereby hating sin? Or, shall we fear and bow down to the world and embrace evil? Friends, we shall either fear Him with love in this lifetime, or fear Him in the one to come as vessels of wrath. The choice is ours this day.

Heavenly Father, help us to loathe evil by loving You. Help us to draw near to You, thereby driving evil far from our hearts and our lips. Give us the desire to fear You, to love You, and to worship You always. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick