Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Beatitudes - Poor in Spirit - May 24, 2015

Matthew 5:3 - Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus was a master orator, regardless whether He meant to use a "grabber" (as He did) in His opening remarks on the Sermon on the Mount. With a just few short words, He was about to turn all the Pharisaical teaching of the last 400 years on its ear by blowing the minds of His audience. Christ did not say "Blessed are those with impressive knowledge of the Law of Moses, because they are the ones who will be heralded into Paradise". No, He spoke diametrically to everything the common people had heard up to this point regarding what it meant to be right with God. Jesus stated in a matter of fact way that one must be poor or poverty-stricken in spirit. And, if this was the case, then they would be ensured entrance into the heavenly realms. This was a mind-boggling proposition to the masses that crowded about to hear the teachings of this itinerant preacher from Galilee! Jesus was saying that the arrogance and pride of the religious order of the day not only hindered them entry to heaven but that it would ultimately disqualify them. Jesus' saying must have spoken to many of their hearts with the razor sharpness of a surgeon's scalpel. Those with ears to hear understood that those who were crushed under the realization of their own sin and their inability to justify themselves before a holy and just God -- this is the very thing that provided an open door to the heavenly realm. However, not everyone was willing to embrace Christ's teaching of humility of soul. To many, this was a subservient attitude that many sought to relinquish in their oppressed lives.

Poverty in spirit in Jesus' day had a bad connotation with many in first-century Palestine. The land of Israel had known its share of oppressors throughout its history -- from the slavery of Pharaoh and the Egyptians to their present occupier, Rome. To some gathered that day listening to Jesus on the Mount, the implication that one must be "poor in spirit" must have smacked of anti-Semitism and downright betrayal of everything it meant to be a Jew. However, Jesus was not interested in tickling the ears of the radical zealots and Zionists of his day by telling them to be resistant against the oppressors, past and present. The Lord was concerned with redeeming a people for His own possession that were not suited for the kingdoms of this earth, but for the heavenly realms. Jesus taught that to be totally emptied of the spiritual pride that was so symptomatic of the religious ruling class of His day was the admission price for Glory. Not only did Jesus preach this radical message, but He also lived it out with perfect humility. Christ, by word and deed, established the impossible standard for mortal humans to live up to in order to be accepted by the Father. Paul stated in Philippians 2:5-11 (please read these scriptures for context) the metamorphosis that Jesus underwent in order to redeem humankind and to empower us to live as He lived while on this earth. The apostle tells us to "Have this attitude in ourselves which was also in Christ ...", which was a poverty of spirit bereft of anything except the Father's will. Paul's command to us would be nothing short of insanity if we did not have the power to complete it. The inability for humankind to live as Jesus Christ lived was resolved by the cross. The Lord's death, burial, and resurrection resulted in closing the huge chasm of separation caused by sin. By the Lord's sacrifice, we all could finally live as poverty-stricken creatures regarding the things of this earth. Ironically, this ALWAYS produces a joy of living that is lived out in this life, preparing us for the one to come.

Pure joy is the benchmark of this emptied life as typified by Christ. David wrote in Psalm 16:11: You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Beloved, God the Father and the Lord Jesus' desire for us is to yield to the Holy Spirit as He empties our lives of all pride, selfishness, and all sin which ultimately keeps us from living a life of overcoming victory. God through His Holy Spirit is a joyful Being that desires to express Himself through us in this remarkable way. Do you seek to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might? Allow yourself to be emptied of the world, and He will be your strength (Nehemiah 8:10)! Or, to be so filled with His presence that His joy becomes something so wonderful that words can't describe it (I Peter 1:8)? To the degree that we relinquish our own desires and wants and walk in His Spirit daily confessing -- Your will be done -- to that degree will we live in a place of eternal joy both now and for eternity.

As in Jesus' day, there are many who would say that the Lord requires too much of us in this beatitude. To empty our lives before Him, becoming destitute of who we are is a frightening prospect to many. Just as those in ancient Palestine had the breath knocked out of them by Jesus' sayings, so it is true in our present world. There are those today who are so mired in the selfishness of their own lives, whether it be wealth or prestige or merely thinking of themselves as the god of their own destiny. However, Jesus Christ's promise to all is to fill us to overflowing with His "streams of rejoicing" if we will but yield to Him (Psalm 36:8). This is not a ruse that He has concocted to try to get us to live some burdensome life filled with perpetual moans of "woe is me"! On the contrary, this is the life set free from worry, doubt, fear, and depression because Christ has first of all fill granted the willing heart the love and desire to obey Him, and secondly His fullness of joy as we live continually in His presence. To be a pauper in God's economy means that we are far richer than any that might seek to put their faith in their own "richness of spirit". The latter will never know true wealth, either in this lifetime or the one to come. Only as we become poor in spirit will we be filled to overflowing with the riches from above!

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus and how He gave His life for us so that we too might walk as paupers in the eyes of this world. Through His wonderful gift, we can truly live as heirs of Your kingdom, far richer than anything we could ask or think. We rejoice in our poverty of spirit because by this we experience the indwelling of You through Your Spirit. Thank you O Holy God. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, May 17, 2015

God's Fires - May 17, 2015


Psalm 97:2-3 - Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. Fire goes before Him and burns up His adversaries round about.

While fire has for millennia offered to humankind an energy source to both light and warm our respective lives, most either learn or instinctively know a safe distance to keep from its incandescent glow. A "burn barrel" set up on a cold day at a frozen lake or a snow-laden sledding hill is a pretty good indicator of the degree of daring individuals might have toward approaching its warmth. As a child, we all collected brush wood to feed the flame as we sledded or skated, returning to the warmth of the roaring fire to unthaw throughout the day. Some of us had sense to stay away from the direct flames and the heat of the 55 gallon steel drum. Others got too close and ended up either singing their hair or eyebrows, or melting a pair of nylon gloves or mittens by drying them too close to the heat. A "normal" reaction to fire should generate a healthy respect in most people. However, some might have an irrational desire to be around fire, hence they might be classified as having pyromaniac tendencies . On the other end of the proverbial spectrum are those that have a morbid fear of fire. Dictionary.com defines the word pyrophobia as "... an excessive or abnormal fear of fire". Panic-stricken individuals that run from its relatively safe illumination may have experienced a traumatic experience earlier in life that might cause them to retreat with such vehement fear. Witnessing a loved one that lost their life in a house fire can often traumatize an individual to the point of phobic episodes. While a healthy fear and respect for fire is a normal reaction, irrational and terrorized behavior toward fire are not. Phobias such as this are not easily reversed and often take years of constructive counseling to overcome. Unless, of course, God intervenes.

A normal respect for fire would include not getting too close to the flame, nor too far away in order to enjoy its comfort. God has given us all natural understanding in this regard. However, how much of His wisdom do we possess concerning the nature of God as the Living Fire to both the righteous and the wicked? For surely, scripture states that His nature is as a consuming fire to both sinners and saints (Hebrews 12:28-29). The question that every man, woman, girl, and boy must ask themselves is this: Do I wish to embrace His flame, or shall I run from it in terror? For with God's fire, there really is no "middle-of-the-road, living in the comfort of His glow" existence. One might say, "Let my preacher burn brightly for God ... that's his job, right? As for me and my house, well, we'll just enjoy the warmth of Sunday morning services. After all, don't want anyone to think I'm a fanatic or anything. That's just not my style!" Beloved, God will burn all of us up one way or another. We will either burn for Him in this lifetime, or we will burn without Him in the life to come. Certainly, there will be some saved by the skin of their teeth, so to speak. Paul talks about these in his letter to the Corinthians when he states all men's works will be revealed by fire.

Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. - I Corinthians 3:12-15

If there is indeed nothing left that is built on the foundation of Christ's redemption, then the scripture is clear that these will indeed inherit eternal life. However, on that glorious day when standing in His presence, they will have nothing to offer Him but their own selfish lives. Having resisted the sanctifying fires of His presence in their earthly existence, they are now saved only through God's mercy as He sanctifies and glorifies them on that last day. Yet, what is the price to pay if one has lived a selfish life and has in reality deceived themselves regarding their eternal position? Is warming oneself by the "fires of this world" worth the gamble of jeopardizing where they will spend eternity? His Spirit is ours today to both sanctify and purge, creating a vessel that is surrendered for His use (Ephesians 2:10).

In reality, there is far less burning for God in our present world than burning for sin's passions. There will always be one that will prevail at any given time and place in human history. Sin has been allowed to burn out of control because the church has not burned in prayer for a lost world. While homosexuals march in the streets for equal rights, and baby killers speak about the rights of a woman, God grieves that there is no one to stand in the gap and burn with a holy fervor over these blatant expressions of sin that parade through our land. For these are only symptomatic of a much deeper and deadly rebellion towards a holy God. The crux of the problem is this -- THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES! They no longer fear the fires of passion that desire to consume them in this life, nor the fires that will consume them in the one to come. Instead, they should be reverentially giving themselves to a loving God that will consume them with His holy fire in this life and cause them to burn with the brightest of the sun in the next (Revelation 1:16; Romans 6:5). If there were more saints burning for God to send revival to this earth in a global way, then we would hear the words of Isaiah the prophet once again, stating: Sinners in Zion are terrified; Trembling has seized the godless "Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?" (Isaiah 33:14). Beloved, when the lost are saying in a wholesale manner once again as the Philippian jailer: What must I do to be saved? (Acts 16:30), then we will know that the Spirit of Burning has been loosed upon this world through the power of men and women burning in prayer (Isaiah 4:4).

There are defined moments for every living person to make a decision for Christ. These decisions will dictate how we are to burn for the Lord, for as stated earlier, we will burn for Him one way or another. Some may think of us as being "pyromaniac" for God, intent on burning for Him and nothing else. Many will think that this behavior is socio-imbalanced or psychotic in behavior. Others, may view those with a terror or an angst toward God as those who might be diagnosed as "Theopyrophobic" (fear of the fire of God). These could be atheist or agnostics who subliminally or subconsciously use their supposed denial of God as a cover for their deep-seated fear of the unknown. Then, there are those who try to hover between the comfort of the fires of this world and the Fires of the Lord. This is a most precarious position. While this is normalcy when dealing with natural fire, it is lunacy and a bad gamble when dealing with a God who is a consuming fire. Our first desire should be to give ourselves to Him in this lifetime -- to allow Him to purge and remove from us anything that might hinder His Spirit. Our ongoing desire should be to burn long and bright in this life for His purposes, allowing us the right to shine with Him throughout eternity.

John answered and said to them all, "As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." - Luke 3:16

Lord Jesus, May we all burn with You and for You!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Embracing Judgment For Mercy's Sake - May 11, 2015

This is the sermon text delivered at the National Day of Prayer by Pastor Rick Roeber at City Hall of Lee's Summit Missouri on May 7, 2015. 
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Forty five years ago our country was in complete turmoil. We were a war weary nation. This week marks the 45th anniversary of four college students that were gunned down at Kent State University by National Guard seeking to “keep the peace.” This tragedy was merely symptomatic of the mass confusion happening in our land at that time.

Three months earlier to this tragic event, on February 3, 1970, something else erupted on a college campus 350 miles south of Kent State. In the small college town of Wilmore KY, it was just another Tuesday morning where students from Asbury Seminary would meet for their 50 minute prayer chapel. What should have been just a 50 minute gathering turned into something extraordinary and remarkable. Confession of sin by one student resulted in more confession by others, then more, until there was a weeping and repentance of sin that was totally unexpected. Suddenly, there was a long line of penitents lined up to confess their sins at the microphone. What should have been a 50 minute chapel service turned into a 185 hour (over a week long) outpouring of God’s Spirit. Arguably, many believe from this outpouring the Jesus Movement of the early 1970s resulted in sweeping our nation which brought about millions of youth turning to Jesus not only in our country but around the world.

Isaiah tells us in the 26th chapter, verse 9: “With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” In 1970 our country was under severe judgment. The sexual revolution had taken its toll on our youth. The drug culture was being winked at causing ramifications still being felt today. The Vietnam War, as previously mentioned, had divided our country and put us at odds with one another. Yet, in the midst of these judgments, God had incredible mercy by sending His Spirit and saving millions through His awakening.

Why is this significant for today? As Isaiah said, the promise is that where there is judgment, there is also a display of God’s righteousness. People more often learn mercy and righteousness through judgment. Peter tells us in I Peter 4:17 that judgment begins with the household of God. As in 1970, as well as today, if the church had judged themselves in a proper manner and embraced confession and repentance, then God’s judgments on a nation would not be necessary. I believe that if the church judges themselves properly then judgment of the nation becomes moot, because the nation will then follow the church. The answer is not in the White House but from the church house.

As the church, we must judge ourselves correctly because the world is judging us every day. How do we look differently than the world? Believe me, there are not “Fifty Shades of Grey” in this area. There is God’s plumb line and he has told His church that we have come up short. It is time once again to not only confess the sins of our nation but more importantly the sins of the Body of Christ. As Isaiah promises and Peter point out, judgment is vital and necessary. It is our choice how it is delivered. None of us here desire to see God’s judgment on our land. If that is the case, let us pray that we learn righteousness by embracing judgment – first for ourselves, then our local churches, then for the Body of Christ at large in this nation.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sin's Separation - May 3, 2015

Isaiah 59:2 - But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.

Many of us who have been around Christian circles for any length of time have heard our share of sermons on prayer. A favorite saying that many preachers will interject into their message is "... God ALWAYS answers prayers. It may not be on our time-table, but God always answers prayers!" I believe this emphatically. However, I also see how this can be a cop out. It is easy to say that God always answers prayers when nothing demonstrably happens once a so-called man or woman of God pray. How often have we seen a television evangelist pray over someone and then when the miracle doesn't materialize, they simply tell the person being prayed for to keep believing in the miracle and that it will come in due time. They loose themselves from all responsibility of the miraculous occurring by putting the fault back on the one being prayed for if it doesn't happen. After all, the "pray-ee" just didn't have faith to receive the miracle, right? Hogwash! My soul feels revulsion for the lack of power in prayer by so-called healers and workers of miracles, telling those being prayed for that they must provide all the faith for the miracle to manifest. In only two instances in the Gospels were Jesus' healings contingent on the faith of those receiving prayer (Matthew 13:58; Mark 9:23-24). Preachers and healers love to quote these scriptures when there are no demonstrable results from their petitions. However, the vast majority of the time Jesus is chronicled as healing people indiscriminately, whether they had faith or not. Without a doubt, it pleased the Lord when those He prayed for possessed faith. The scriptures show several examples including the Centurion's son (Matthew 8:5-14) or the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:23-28) but it was not the determining factor in most instances. The Gospels are clear that Jesus went into areas and did "wholesale" healing, if you will, laying hands on all and healing them with His immediate touch (Matthew 4:24; Matthew 8:16; Mark 1:34; Luke 4:40; Luke 5:15).

Jesus stated in the Gospel of John: Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father (John 14:12). His promise to His beloved are works or manifestations of His power greater than what He did as a sojourner on this earth. So what is the problem? Why do we not see more immediate answers to prayer as Christ demonstrated in His ministry? Personally, I believe the answer is much simpler than most would feel comfortable believing. The scripture tells us point blank why God does not hear our prayers ... we STILL have a sin problem! I'm not talking about our position in Christ because clearly all who know the Risen Lord and have trusted in Him for salvation have died to sin, POSITIONALLY that is. Too many, I fear, have not taken Paul's admonition to heart when he instructed us to die to sin CONDITIONALLY, once and for all (Romans 6:11). As our opening scripture states, God has hidden His face from us because of sin (Isaiah 59:2). Most have not allowed God to truly sanctify them, to live lives of 100% obedience which would first mean a time of deep introspection and confession of sin. James the brother of Jesus is very clear on the progression of steps to command fervent, effectual prayer. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16). Beloved, first we must confess our SINS to one another. I'm not talking about SIN which was what we confessed to Jesus Christ when we acknowledged that we were sinners in need of His grace. But James is stating that we need to "clean house" and sweep away every thing that is not of Jesus. It must be destroyed. According to this scripture and many others like it, we can only find healing as we confess our sins to another human being. This will allow the Holy Spirit to come in and fill our hearts and lives as never before. Then, our prayers will begin to take on a power that we never dreamed. It is not by happenstance that James goes on in the following verses to compare effective prayer with that of Elijah. This prophet prayed for the sky to be shut up for three and half years and it happened according to his word (James 5:17-18). The apostle is not merely making a comparison here in the attempt to give a flourish to his writing, but he genuinely believed that those who live clean and obedient lives can invoke heaven in much the same way as the Old Testament prophet.

A remarkable instance of God coming in an extraordinary way through confession happened on February 3, 1970 at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky. What was supposed to be a 50 minute chapel service on a Tuesday morning turned into a 185 hour manifestation of God's revival power -- a 24 hour prayer and praise meeting that would be the spark for the Jesus Movement of the early '70s. And, it all started from a deep sense of conviction (John 16:8) and then a confession of sin(s). Before long, students and faculty were lined up to come to the microphone, confessing their sins and testifying of the Lord's goodness through their repentance. (An account of the Asbury Revival is available on video here.) Asbury is just one example. Every revival or manifestation of God's power was predicated by a deep conviction of both SIN for the unsaved and SINS for those who knew the Savior. No matter if it was during the Great Awakening in John Wesley's day, or Charles Finney during the Second Great Awakening of pre-Civil War America, or the more recent Azusa Street Revival of Los Angeles in 1906, these all characteristically began with the Spirit of Conviction regarding sin resting on those God both moved on and through during these momentous manifestations.

Beloved, many of us who desire to see God move in our time as He has done so faithfully in the past can only concur with God's desire to move in like fashion. I say this with an assurance given to me by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit and by His holy scriptures that God will move once again on our darkened world when we cry out from hearts that are completely His. What we see in many parts of the world with the Global Prayer Movement is an awesome thing! Many of these prayer meetings have been going strong for years, covenanting with God on a 24/7 basis. God is going to move in a powerful way through prayer as it births world-wide revival. However, there must come a holy conviction first that we have yet to see in order for God's Spirit to be poured forth. Once God grants us the Spirit of Conviction that convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8), THEN we will begin to see and hear the fervent and effectual prayers of righteous men and women as they invoke the fire of God upon this dying world. No longer will He be hiding His face from His beloved, but He will be rapturous with expectation along with His Bride regarding the workings of His Spirit within our midst.

Come Lord ... come and bring to us conviction of sin both to the sinner and to the saint. We confess our sins to you, O Lord, and to one another. May You move with a power and an unction we have never imagined. In Jesus' Precious Holy Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Holy Groaning - April 26, 2015

John 16:21 - Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.

Pregnancy is such an awesome wonder to behold. As a man, I am bereft of any real understanding regarding what a woman goes through during her time of incubating another life within her womb. (Bear with me, ladies, as I state the obvious!) The nuances of two human lives developing a relationship from the moment of conception is an extraordinary thing to ponder. However, I do know what it is like as a father to wait with expectancy as the time of birth draws near. It is an assurance of not IF it will happen but WHEN! It is a mix of excitement and tension as the exact time of birth can be hard to pin down. While I have been told repeatedly that a pregnant woman does not want to be told she is "glowing", it is a true statement whether they like the acknowledgement or not. Women seem to accept this more in the beginning of their pregnancy, but toward the end of the third trimester they are just ready to have their child. They don't want to be told that they look beatific in their maternal way, as many feel tired and "ugly", if you will. Until they shed this "precious poundage" that has dominated their lives for the past several months, there is an inner groaning and an outward discomfort until the birth of their child is finally realized.

In a very real sense (and just as a woman's pregnancy), the church is beginning to witness the early signs of a spiritual pregnancy that will culminate with Christ's return and the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23). The church is beginning to radiate a modest glow and an ever-so-slight witness, if you will, that would be demonstrative of a spiritual pregnancy. The expectant church has been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit in these latter days much in the same way as Mary the mother of Jesus was impregnated as she submitted to God's will. For this to be reality in the church collectively, it has first to be a reality in believers singularly. God has called out many saints in their respective church bodies first and foremost to become holy vessels through obedience and the fear of the Lord (II Corinthians 7:1). As set apart believers that are intent on His will, the Lord God is raising these up as intercessors who will continue to plead the Court of Heaven until the Eternal Judge sends forth both His mercy and justice upon a dying world. We are in the beginning days of God raising up a mighty team who would travail -- a veritable Garrison of Groaners that would not rest night or day until God's will is done on this earth (Isaiah 62:6-7). There is much at stake as men and women join with others to petition heaven. It is the very beginning of the end of days -- the great end-time ingathering of souls (Revelation 14:14-16).

While many believe that the Lord's return might occur at any time, I believe that this is incongruent with scripture. While there are several things that have indeed occurred that would point to Christ's return, there are just as many that have as yet to happen. (One of these, for example, is the need for the Jerusalem Temple to be reconstructed. [Acts 15:13-18; Revelation 11:1-2; Daniel 9:24-27]) The beauty of the Lord delaying His return allows His bride to ready herself, adorning her vestige with holiness which is befitting of a chaste virgin. Even as Mary told the angel Gabriel, may it be done to me according to your word (Luke 1:38), even so there are those who are submitting to the Lord for what might seem a long pregnancy. I can assure you, beloved, that this will be a gestation not of months but of years. It will require a continued birthing of prayer meetings, global prayer rooms, intercessory halls, and every other form of gathering for night and day prayer until God breaks forth upon this earth and reaps His greatest desire -- the hearts and lives of men, women, and children. However, we should not grow faint at heart in our waiting. As long as we prepare ourselves, even as the five prudent virgins in Jesus' parable (Matthew 25:1-13), then we will be full of the oil of His Spirit. The oil of gladness (Isaiah 61:3) will keep us expectant, longing with a fortitude that will not be denied no matter how long He delays.

We should all be asking ourselves particular questions if we truly believe we are in the last days. For if we are in the end time, it means our redemption is drawing near and we should be rapturous with expectation (Luke 21:28). Has God given you a joy of expectancy in your life? Have you the flush of being of pregnant with what the Spirit of God is doing in our generation? Is He brooding over you to bring forth an outpouring of His Spirit not seen since the days of Pentecost? In all honesty, beloved, I have witnessed very little of the brooding Spirit of the Holy God in our present time. Even in our respective prayer groups in the midst of the burgeoning global prayer movement, we see enthusiasm and fervor but the majority of it can often appear as repetitious rote. However, before you think I am coming down on the present day prayer movement, understand that I believe we are doing all that God is asking us to do. In the midst of our apparent deadness, there is a wonderful life that has begun to grow and to be nurtured in the very womb of His Body, the church. Its life and sustenance is the prayer room as men, women, and children groan for a birthing of Holy Ghost power the world has yet to see. The pregnancy is not noticeable on a wholesale manner, and especially to the world -- yet. However, the beginnings are already starting to reach out and arrest those God has called to become intercessors to help birth this great movement. It will take a collective body, a chaste virgin that first glows with anticipation and then groans for its completion. Shall we be counted worthy to be part of such a marvelous work? May God give us all the grace to be that man or woman to join hands with others in this joyous labor of love.

Once again and a million times over, Lord, we cry out with John the Revelator, The Spirit and the bride say come! (Revelation 22:17). May Your kingdom come as we join hands and hearts to birth the greatest awakening ever known to humankind. We humbly submit to this awesome endeavor. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Prisoner Exchange - April 19, 2015

James 4:8 - Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Many of us have probably seen movies where one prisoner has been exchanged for another. I can remember a couple of East/West German exchanges in some old black and white movies from the 50s or 60s. The respective powers were swapping one high-profile prisoner on one side for another on the opposing side. On a trip to the German capitol several years ago, I saw this first-hand in photographs and video clips at the Check Point Charlie Museum in what was previously communist-controlled East Berlin. Somber, focused individuals that were extremely business-like made the handoffs with calculated coolness. The tension mounted as the prisoners walked toward their respective borders until finally reaching the safety of their comrades. Finally, there was noticeable relief on both sides as the prisoner swaps were completed. Both sides felt they now had their prize in hand. Bottom line, the stakeholder countries possessed something the other side wanted. Therefore, there were terms drawn up long before they ever "toed the line" on the actual day of the exchange.

Similarly, there is a type of prisoner exchange that occurs when we decide that we are done playing games with God and when we finally wish to get on with dying to self and living for the Almighty. The terms for this spiritual "prisoner swap" were determined millennia before the current conflicts we may have seen in museums or in film. Jesus Christ, Son of the Almighty God, determined to give Himself ages ago for the sin of humankind. Our treasonous betrayal of God was the catalyst that set Him on a course of sacrifice for the human race. So, when James, the brother of our Lord tells us to ... draw near to God and He will draw near to you ... this is describing a legal, spiritual-political contract that has been secured against the powers of darkness by the resurrection power of Jehovah on behalf of His beloved Son. When this agreement was being worked out in the heavenlies nearly 2,000 years ago, the enemy of our soul undoubtedly misunderstood the terms of the contract. Otherwise, those hell-bent on destroying the Savior would have thought otherwise. (I Corinthians 2:8) That is why Satan works tirelessly to cause the redeemed to forget their legal position in Christ Jesus. His strategy has always been to first keep human beings from drawing close to God in humility, accepting their Creator's forgiveness. Of paramount importance to the devil regarding those whom have already come to the Lord and accepted His salvation is to cause a proverbial wall to exist between God and man. This comes through the lies and deception of the enemy, telling us that we are unworthy of Christ's salvation and that we need to earn His favor somehow to be accepted in the Beloved. That spiritual separation that once existed before we knew the Lord is Satan's plan to keep us away from the Father's love. A contemporary example would be if Germans decided to once again erect a wall separating East and West Berlin. To do this, there would have to be some ludicrous understanding that communism is still in effect, and that German solidarity is some type of a myth. When we consider this, it seems silly to those of us with rational thinking. However, many make the decision to re-erect the wall separating themselves from the love of God. Then, we have to be reminded, once again, of the prisoner exchange provided on our behalf -- how Jesus loved the human race with an eternal love and walked that lonely distance to exchange His life for ours.

Whether it concerns our initial salvation, when we come to the Lord to accept His gift of redemption, or once we relinquish the deception that might keep us from His presence, then we are in the position to change our condition. Drawing close to our Lord is our responsibility -- God's promise of His closeness is then His promise to those who would do such. Only when we have given ourselves to Him in humble submission can He regenerate us according to His Son's image. THEN, we begin to see the promise of salvation manifested in our respective lives. Once we draw close to our Maker and He draws close to us, this catalyst causes the other elements of this verse to begin to emerge. We are then given the grace to set ourselves apart for God's purposes. The action verbs in this scripture are largely dependent upon the other. A chain of events begin to occur once we accept that we are no longer prisoners of an evil regime. We begin LEARNING to sanitize (or consecrate) our actions by TURNING our minds toward the things of God, while we inevitably YEARN for Him from our hearts. This exchanged life therefore allows us not BURN in our affections for the things of this world but for the things of the Lord.

This, beloved, is simply the normal Christian life -- a life that is sanctified and set apart for the Lord. And, it all starts by believing that He has provided this new life if we will but only accept it. We can continue to live behind the walls of doubt or selfishness. If we do, we will never experience the closeness that He desires for His children. The exchanged life is a fact, a reality that will not be changed regardless what lies the enemy tries to throw our way. Christ Jesus walked that lonely path to provide us His life in place of our sinful existence. None of us could have taken that walk between the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness. Only One, the Perfect Man, Christ Jesus, was able to die for a race of people that He valued more than His own earthly existence. He has given us the power to become the sons and daughters of God by His magnificent gift. (John 1:12) It is therefore our responsibility to reconcile this fact and draw near to our Savior without doubt. While Satan would have us believe that we need to continue to try to exchange ourselves for our own salvation, Christ has forever smashed that lie by the truth of the Gospel. May we all seek only to walk together with our Lord and to never try to walk out our salvation through our own efforts.

Gracious Father, thank You for sending Your Son as the greatest example of a prisoner exchange ever known to mankind. We accept Your gracious substitution that will forever secure us a place of reconciliation to You. May we never doubt that the Man, Christ Jesus, gave His own life that we might be set free from the prison that held us in its eternal grip. We praise You! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Everlasting Arms - April 12, 2015


Hebrews 10:31 - It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

What do we think of when we consider the Lord's "Everlasting Arms"? Many of us hearken to the chorus of that old hymn of the same name:

Leaning, leaning, 
safe and secure from all alarms
Leaning, leaning, 
leaning on the everlasting arms!

The first line of the first stanza declares, What a fellowship, What a joy divine ... which sets the tone of God's loving joy and security as we rest in the Father's arms. For truly, in his presence there is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11) If we know the Lord, it is our heritage as born-again, blood-bought believers to lean ever-so securely against the chest of our "Papa", knowing that He will cradle us in His love. In so doing, we know that He will protect us from all evil. Probably no scripture depicts this better than in the thirty-third chapter of Deuteronomy: The eternal God is a dwelling place, And underneath are the everlasting arms; And He drove out the enemy from before you, And said, "Destroy!" (Deuteronomy 33:27) The Lord is certainly our hiding place when the enemy of our soul besieges us.

While this is a wondrous word picture for the redeemed, we see the strength of those same loving arms manifested through His divine hands less approachable concerning those who reject Christ's salvation. The omnipotent strength of those mighty arms become formidable and terrifying instruments of justice to those who would spurn His great love. The figure of speech "to fall into someone's hands", in Middle Eastern culture, meant to succumb as the vanquished to one's conqueror. For the victor to place their foot on the neck of their captive was the most humiliating position for a defeated foe. (Joshua 10:24) At this point, they were totally helpless and subject to any sort of torture or death at the hands of their new masters. The Lord prophesied through His servant Moses regarding the future state of Israel after centuries of apostasy and idolatry. He stated that the day would come when Israel would be delivered into their enemies' hands much in the same way as He would deliver the Canaanites into Joshua's hands after Moses' death. (Leviticus 26:25) Then, God's chosen people would understand the terror first-hand they had centuries before inflicted when they conquered the land. His hands would become those horrific implements of their own destruction because they had forsaken God their Savior.

The children of Israel were not unique to apostasy. Countless others since the time of Israel's idolatry have followed in similar ways. During the early 18th century in New England America, there was a similar falling away from the faith and a subsequent correction. As more New Englanders moved from a rural to urban lifestyles, communities were often bereft of devout church-goers instituted by the Puritan way of life. People, in general, often became more interested in making money than observing the Sabbath and attending church. Because people were living in more concentrated areas, diseases such as Diphtheria were allowed to spread with rapid fluency. As thousands died from such outbreaks, many were driven back to the churches in a sort of desperation. Surely, the enemy had placed his foot on their necks and they were mercilessly held captive in the hands of sin and disease. During this time, revivalists such as Jonathan Edwards rose up with prophetic unction to minister God's pronouncement of their current situation in a two-fold manner. Number one ... that they were rebels of God and had acted with high treason against the Son of God and His eternal gift of salvation. Furthermore, they were nothing but insects before God that dangled over the flames of hell and were only kept from the eternal torment by the mercy of God. And number two ... that only through God's mercy and grace could they ever hope to be delivered from the deserved fate. In Edward's sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, he describes his congregation's present horror in the Almighty's hands, and their only salvation in His everlasting arms:
... The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.

... And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.
Today, many are in the same lackadaisical mindset of those in ancient Israel, and, more recently, the Congregationalists of Edward's day. Salvation and eternal condemnation has never been nearer for any of us as it is at this very moment. Some may believe that their "fire insurance policy" is paid up and that they will never have to worry about the eternal flames lapping upon their eternal flesh. While salvation is a done deal for those who are truly saved, it is an uncertainty for those who choose to rest in the arms of this world instead of the everlasting arms. The scripture is clear that those who don't remain passionately in the arms of their Savior were possibly never truly saved. (I John 2:19) Beloved, we all have the choice to either lean upon the arms and the breast of God, or to embrace this adulteress world. The latter promises us to be thrown into hands that will terrify us when we step into eternity. We all have the chance to choose mercy and His perfect love in this life, so we will not have to partake in the judgment to come. May we all rest in His arms of love so we don't have to experience His hands of judgment in this life and the one to come.

Heavenly Father, we know You don't desire to terrify anyone. You desire that we all respond to Your great gift of salvation that You've most graciously given through the death of Jesus. May we rest in those everlasting arms in this life and the one to come. May you draw all who pray this prayer into that eternal relationship with You. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick