Sunday, August 31, 2014

Seeing is Believing - August 31, 2014

II Corinthians 4:17-18 - For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

What do we choose to see and believe? Interview ten individuals who witness an automobile crash and you might get ten different accounts. While some might give a detailed report of what happened from their point of view, others who were on the opposite side of the street might have a totally different story. They might notice something that the others had not, merely because of their proximity and perspective. It would behoove those making an accident report to draw from all the information at hand rather than merely accepting just a couple witness testimonies. Similarly, as we grow in God we gain the benefit of perspective that allows us to assess a situation, or to appraise it with spiritual understanding as Paul states in I Corinthians 2:14-15. This is a multi-dimensional outlook regarding the world that is seen, and of equal or more importance, that one which is not.

When we were new born babes in Christ, our lives were relatively simple. We sensed the presence of Christ in our lives, joy was the hallmark of our day to day existence, and life was full of the peace of God. We believed that nothing could ever disrupt us from the sweet fellowship that we enjoyed with our Savior. However, as we matured in the Lord, we found Him strangely distant at times and we groped and searched for Him during times of desperate darkness. We may have thought that His hand would never hold us in that dear place we once enjoyed. In a very real sense, that is true. However, what became of that was instead a deeper and more lasting friendship then what could have ever been the case in our spiritual infancy. By searching for Him in the darkness, something had happened to our spiritual vision -- we had grown sensitive to the absence of His light and had learned to know that He was in the midst of the seeming darkness. Not only had we learned the joy of His light but now we were beginning to understand the joy of His seeming absence. The bride speaks about this lesson of maturity in the "night of the soul". In Song of Solomon 3:1-2 we read how the bride searches desperately for her bridegroom and quickly finds him. However, in Song of Solomon 5:6-7 we read about a similar separation but this time there is no quick reunion. In addition, we are told in verse 7 that the watchmen (metaphor for the Holy Spirit) wounded the bride in her distress. Now, why would God harm is beloved in this way? Simply as a reminder that the Lord chastens those whom He loves. He disciplines us as sons and daughters to cause us to see always from His perspective (Hebrews 12:6). He wants us to see Him with eyes of faith even when He does not seem to be present. From this relationship of trust, a river of love begins to grow wider and deeper in the believer's heart towards their Lord.

Once we begin to mature and to see as Jesus desires us to see, then we are allowed the privilege of leading and training others in like manner. Jesus told us to not to save souls or to win the heathen for the Lord, but to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). It is ALWAYS the job of the Holy Spirit to save souls through His conviction. He has been doing this most effectively for the past 2000 years. However, God will use us to preach the Gospel and souls will be saved, and then what? We are told to "disciple" which plainly means to bring the same "discipline" into these new babes in Christ which God has been working in and through us. We must afford them their time to walk joyously with God and then also to learn in maturity that God withdraws His presence to teach them to trust in Him. This "discipline" does not end with merely discerning God's presence in our lives and those whom we disciple. It is of upmost importance when we learn that we must be holy in all our behavior, to keep ourselves unstained from the filth of this world. (I Peter 1:15-16; James 1:27) This , beloved, is what will keep our spiritual eyesight clear and penetrating, able to discern between all good and evil. Just as Jesus told the church in Laodicea to purchase for themselves eye salve in order for them to see (Revelation 3:18), so must we also continually apply this godly balm to the eyes of our hearts through the discipline of holy living. For without holiness and the sanctification that comes through lives given to Him, we will be short-sighted and without God's perspective to live a life totally surrendered to Him. (Hebrews 12:14)

Without spiritual sight, how can we ever hope to believe that our perspective on anything is true and honest? If we cannot discern with our spiritual eyes, how can we believe that what we judge with our physical eyes is furthering God's kingdom here on earth? Paul stated in our lead verse that the things "... not seen are eternal". These are the things that we should all be earnestly desiring to see, beloved. And, we can see them in this lifetime. Jesus teaches us to see Him even when He is not easily seen. How much more does He want us to see by faith everything that He has given us in the spiritual realm? (Ephesians 1:3) As we train the eyes of our hearts to see Him who is not seen, and the eternal as though it was present, then we will be overwhelmingly conquerors in the temporal world which we do see with our physical eyes. Jesus poignantly stated in Matthew 6:22: The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. The eye will not betray what is within and what more importantly shines through the eyes of our heart. We must seek Him, believe He has given us everything unreservedly, and then walk His life out in faith. This will give us the truest perspective on life and wisdom to lead others to find the same.

Heavenly Father, we pray to see those things unseen, those things which are eternal. Most of all, we desire to see Jesus because in so doing we know that our sight will be perfectly adapted for not only this life but the one to come. We pray this in Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Pastor Rick

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Worthy is the Lamb - August 24, 2014

Revelation 5:11-12 - Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."

To understand the worth of something is often to comprehend who is deserving of its value. My parents instructed me as a child to appreciate what I received from both their hand and that of others. They taught me the value of working for something that I wanted, and saving until the time I could afford to pay for it with cash. This was an invaluable lesson that I believe is lacking with many today. The endemic idea in our present society to "buy now and pay later" has trained generations in how not to understand the value of costly investments. Rather than purchase a vehicle that is within their budget, many would rather sign a contract for the "easy payment plan". This sort of instant gratification has dumbed-down any idea of the value of their so-called possession. Truly, they own nothing in this regard but have become the lender's slave (Proverbs 22:7).

In the redemptive sense, Jesus Christ paid every installment for our salvation. We can all experience His forgiveness if we will but accept His finished work on Calvary. However, not everyone sees the gift of salvation in the same way. This is easy to understand as we see how people treat their salvation. If it is something they only pull out on Sundays to make a good showing to their fellow parishioners, then it is probably something they don't value much. Many believe a certain way because their parents believed a certain creed. Some might only believe because they hope for a "get out of hell free" card that they can show to the Savior on that last day. (Many who are counting on this "fire insurance" may be disappointed when that final day comes.) As the hymn states, Jesus paid it all ... but how many of us really believe ... all to Him we owe? Do we really understand the worth of His sacrifice? Scripture tells us that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:11). "Every" implies both saved and unsaved will bow the knee in abject adoration to Jesus Christ's Lordship. However, there will also be a group as our lead verse states where a multitude will be around the throne extolling Christ as King. The scripture in Revelation 5:12 tells us that their proclamation is not one done in a whisper, but that it is full of a "loud voice". Praise be to God that heaven will be full of loud rejoicing concerning the Lamb and His Father! Paul tells us in II Timothy 1:7 that God has not given us a spirit of timidity but of power. However, this confidence and power comes at a price that only we can pay. True, Christ paid for our eternal security through His blood, but there is still something He requires from us.

We will only truly understand the worth of Christ's sacrifice through revelation. First of all, to the depth of understanding of what He saved us from will equal our degree of appreciation regarding His priceless gift. Jesus told a simple parable to Simon the Pharisee regarding to what degree redemption will be embraced in Luke 7:30-40. The harlot who understood the depth of Jesus' love for her and others was overcome with expressive sorrow as she bathed His feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair. Jesus very poignantly told Simon that those who are forgiven much will love much. Of course, the reality is that we have all been forgiven much. However, some of our sins are more blatant and glaring than others. The woman understood through a point of revelation that there was no way she could redeem herself -- that only the Lord through His mercy could touch her and eliminate her guilt and sin. The key to her transformation most simply stated was revelation of herself and equally that of Jesus the Redeemer. She had come to a point of realization and unfortunately Simon had not regarding his own sin. Though unstated, Jesus' message to Simon was to gain revelation of his own sinfulness so that he could also receive forgiveness. This is what we all must possess to approach Jesus and His salvation -- a heart of wisdom and understanding that only comes through a revelation of who we are and who He is. Solomon states: For if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:3-5)

We will never have perfect vision on this side of eternity regarding what Christ has done for us by shedding His blood. As those loudly proclaim Jesus' worthiness around the throne of God, someday we too will have "heavenly vision" regarding what He did for humankind. However, we must still continue to pray and to seek His understanding on this side of Glory to begin to comprehend His indescribable gift. Some will not care, and will continue to live lives that are self-gratifying throughout the week hoping that their presence in church on Sunday gets them a free pass to heaven. However, heaven may be somewhat boring and "loud" for these that have avoided Jesus here on earth. For those that choose instead to seek His face in this lifetime, these will continue to be amazed at what He reveals. Jesus surely paid all the installments on our salvation, but He also wants us to continue to seek Him and worship Him for the price He paid. Instant gratification is something the Lord never promised us. What He did say is that if we continue to long after and pursue Him in our temporal home that He would reveal Himself in all His glory in that eternal home to come. All He desires is that we would accept Him for who He is and to look to ourselves for what He desires to do within us. He WILL reveal Himself to us if we will but ask. Only then will we start to see that He truly is worthy to be praised both now and forevermore.

Lord Jesus, we long for the day to stand with myriads of the faithful and to sing Your praises with a loud voice proclaiming, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing". But allow us to join that heavenly throng even now. Give us revelation of who we are and what You have done. Help us to see Your glorious gift in all its splendor. For we pray this in Your name and for Your glory, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Living Dangerously for God - August 17, 2014


I Corinthians 15:30 (Amplified Bible) - [For that matter], why do I live [dangerously as I do, running such risks that I am] in peril every hour?

Most of us have heard the saying: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We would probably concede to the notion that life is full of risks. Some of us are better than others when it comes to weighing out our particular options, for instance, whether it is better to make a wager or not. Many of us probably know someone who seems to have a knack for judging a business opportunity whether it is a good risk or not. Often, we look on with amusement as they more than likely make the right decision and come out smelling like the proverbial rose. For most of us, this "high-wheeling" lifestyle is a foreign concept. However, some have learned the secret of trusting in their own instincts to carry them through to success. We often regard these as "risk takers" but if you asked them they would say that the real risk is not in action but rather inaction. They have learned that through their mistakes they've made a way to success. For them, winning comes through failures and how they're reacted to and mitigated over time.

Paul was certainly one who knew how to take risks for God, and some might say that he encountered more failure than he did success. Festus the governor of ancient Palestine made such assertions, calling the prisoner Paul a lunatic who had wasted his life propagating a false religion about a dead Man crucified by the Roman government whom Paul claimed was now alive (Acts 26:24). However, Paul was so certain whom he had believed that it didn't matter one iota what others thought or said regarding his faith. The apostle understood that to risk his life for the Gospel meant that he would appear carelessly reckless and dangerous to many. The truth, however, is that he was carefully abandoned to the Keeper of his eternal fate, so there was little that man or devil could do to shake him from his divine mission. As an apostle who had been commissioned by the Lord Himself on that fateful day while nearing Damascus (Acts 9:3-6), Paul understood that he must abandon himself to the Lord and His calling. In so doing, he allowed himself to become the "scum of the world" in order to fulfill Christ's Great Commission. He deliberately hurled himself in harm's way to walk the path the Lord Jesus Christ had ordained on his behalf. This missionary who "turned the world upside down" in Asia Minor tells us specifically what it takes to do so as he maps out his personal "risk analysis" for the Corinthian church. Risk and danger, to Paul's understanding, were his greatest credentials as an apostle. In his first letter to the church at Corinth he writes:

For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. (I Corinthians 4:9-13)
Paul must have felt that the Corinthians needed some more convincing regarding his apostleship. Apparently, they didn't equate his hardships on their behalf to be proof of his love toward them, and equally important, his clout as the apostle who fathered them in the faith. Defending himself against "imposters" that were trying to raise themselves up in the Corinthian's esteem, Paul reveals his apostolic resume' with proof of his love for the church. In the 11th chapter of II Corinthians Paul states:


Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ?--I speak as if insane--I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. (II Corinthians 11:22-28)
In the space of a few short verses, Paul not only tells us about the beatings, the imprisonments, the shipwrecks and such, but he also mentions eight times the various dangers that were continually plaguing his journeys. In short, he was telling the Corinthian church that persecutions, danger, and risk were the true credentials of anyone calling themselves an apostle. No other apostle in scripture gives us such a look at what it really means to live so dangerously for God. Paul set the benchmark high, but not out of reach. He was merely confirming his own words to Timothy his beloved son in the faith: Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (II Timothy 3:12)


So is Paul's faith anything like any of us can ever hope to attain? From what is shown in scripture, I believe that a life that is sold out for Jesus -- one lived dangerously for God -- can only start through a revelation of Jesus Christ. As Isaiah saw the Lord, high and lifted up (Isaiah 6), and Paul saw the Lord on the road to Damascus, so also others can find that starting point to begin living a life of fraught with danger through revelation. We may not have that "burning bush" moment that many of the patriarchs and prophets experienced. However, God has given us another way. Paul understood the paramount importance of the revelation of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, he gave us instance after instance throughout his letters teaching us to keep asking for revelation and the knowledge of God (Ephesians 1:17-19; Ephesians 3:19; Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9). To the depth of revelation will come the careful, calculated risk of giving ourselves to Him who gave everything on our behalf. When we surrender all through the knowledge of His surrender on the cross and His risen life within us, then we too can begin to live in a way that seems dangerous and full of unnecessary risk to the unbelieving. Ironically, what appears dangerous to the world is in actuality the safest place to dwell. The risk and the danger has all been mitigated by His divine plan for our lives. All we have to do is hear and obey: Your ears will hear a word behind you, "This is the way, walk in it," whenever you turn to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:21)

Heavenly Father, give us eyes to see You, hearts to believe in You. Then, allow us to live recklessly abandoned to you, ready for every danger that might come our way as we submit to Your perfect will. Give us courage and strength to seek You in a new way with new passion. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Everlasting Love - August 10, 2014

Jeremiah 31:3 - The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness."

To find that someone special to share your life with is a magnificent thing. When we fall in love with our respective soul mates, we no doubt promise to love them forever and ever. While love between a man and a woman may sometimes falter, God's love and fidelity is never in question. He embodies eternal love that has always existed for His beloved. While our love will certainly deepen for our spouses as the years go by through a nurturing relationship, so also those who know Christ and His affection will continue to grow in love. Love is a creative power that will not be diminished over time but will continue to flourish through mutual relationship. So therefore, why shouldn't love grow throughout eternity? We are told in Psalms 89:2 that "lovingkindness will be built up forever". What a marvelous thought, that God's love will continue to deepen throughout the borderless realm of timelessness! As love on earth is dynamic and always growing, we have the opportunity to continue to grow in the very nature of God throughout everlasting. Just as God is love (I John 4:8), so we too have become heirs of His nature and will partake in His heritage of continually growing in the love that flows from His Divine Nature through time and eternity.

Unlike humans who find the love of their lives in a variety of ways, God Almighty never "fell in love" with us. The Lord has always loved us from all eternity. There was never a time when He did not think about us or yearn for our love. God has always held us with the greatest affection in His heart, loving us with an everlasting love. The Triune God has looked forward to this moment throughout eternity, when we are now alive and being turned into the likeness of His Son. There was never a time when God did not know that we would be brought forth as a son or a daughter. One might conjecture, "Why did God wait so long to bring forth a people that love Him? He has been in eternity waiting for this time to manifest, so why now?". One thing we know about God, is that He is patient. We are told in I Corinthians 13:4 that God's nature is patient as well as possessing the nature of love. The Lord knew the perfect time to bring forth sons and daughters and He waited patiently to do so. His nature would not allow Him to behave otherwise.

Not only did God know those who would accept His Son's redemption, but He also knew the struggle many of us would have in getting to that place of surrender. He has forever known which of us would rebel most doggedly against His lovingkindness. Throughout eternity, He has always known how we would live lives in self-absorbed sin, constantly rejecting His merciful hand as He stretched it out to us in love. (He saw me in my alcoholism and my drug addiction, through those years of overt hedonism that resulted in my complete moral, spiritual, and physical bankruptcy.) He hand-picked people like you and me, no matter what our past lives resembled, and gave us His love in an unremitting manner. Beloved, his love for us had neither beginning nor will it have an end. I believe from the testimony of God in scripture that He is delighted beyond words that those of us who call Jesus as Lord are participators in His love. Isaiah tells us that He is continually looking down from heaven and longing to engage the sons of men with His loving nature (Isaiah 30:18). Truly, God is a lover, looking for a lover. He patiently waits for us to be found by Him.

What is our destiny beloved? What is our calling in this life and the one to come? Clearly, from scripture we can see that we are to grow in love and to share it with all those we might come into contact with. That is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, sharing the everlasting love of God that He has patiently been waiting to bestow on you and me. The marvelous reality of experiencing His love is that it will first of all never end, and secondly that it will continue to grow. Oh, that we would continue to pray that God would reveal His love to our souls! That we would experience the Spirit of Revelation as He reveals the very nature of love within the Father's heart toward His beloved. God has patiently done all the waiting for this very day -- the day when we can experience His everlasting love that has been stored up for all eternity. May we all rejoice in our high ranking regarding His eternal plan!

Heavenly Father, thank you for Your everlasting love. Thank you that You patiently waited for this very day when we might seize Your hand and Your heart through the love You've bestowed on us all through Your Son's redemption. Thank You Lord! In Jesus Name, Amen!

For God is a Lover
Looking for a lover so He fashioned me
God is a Lover
Looking for a lover so
He formed my heart
(From lyrics "See the Way" by Misty Edwards)

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Negotiating With God - August 3, 2014

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

Many people try to make so-called "deals" with God. Invariably, these are self-centered attempts to improve one's life by a supernatural intervention. When I drank alcoholically and would create frequent messes in my life and in others', I would often try to bargain with God. "If you just get me out of this scrape", I would plead, "then I'll sober up and do this or that and so on and so forth!" Well, seldom did these promises ever reach fruition. They were simply ego-driven efforts to improve a seemingly hopeless situation that I had engineered out of my own self-indulgent lifestyle. Generally speaking, God does not bargain with selfish individuals. However, it is scripturally sound that He does negotiate with selfless believers. If the negotiation touches self-interest, I believe that God is not interested in it unless it will affect His larger purpose. If, however, it is about others and their eternal welfare then God is profoundly interested in listening to an argument that will enlarge His kingdom for those He loves. Two such biblical examples that epitomize those who negotiated with God are Moses and Abraham.

Moses became a self-imposed fugitive after murdering an Egyptian and going on the lam somewhere in the land of Midian (Exodus 2:15). We know little about this man for the next 40 years as he shepherds his father-in-law Jethro's flocks in the barren desert of the Sinai. But then something happens. Moses encounters the Living God in the burning bush and becomes a changed man (Exodus 3). As an exile returning to the scene of his crime, Moses goes boldly before Pharaoh and secures the release of his people through many signs and wonders. However, once on the move and away from the relative security of Egypt, Moses finds that he has inherited an obstinate, sinful people. When he descends from Mount Sinai with the stone tablets, the Lord tells Moses that the people have quickly turned away from their devotion to the Most High. In Exodus 32:9-10 we read: The LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation." However, Moses would not take this as God's last word. He had grown in such a relationship with God that his heart became consumed with love for both his Creator and His created. What follows is probably one of the greatest examples of turning God's heart and intention due to the selfless intercession of Moses:

Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, "O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, 'With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth'? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'" So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people. (Exodus 32:11-14)
Often critics focus on the fact that God changed His mind and ascribe this to weakness of character. I believe it demonstrates just the opposite. The Almighty is desirous to do good for His children. Isaiah tells us that "He longs to have compassion on us" (Isaiah 30:18). The Lord God is bound by two great forces of His character that are both driven in love. The first is justice and the other is mercy. God will always function from either of these two dynamics as they are fueled by love. He looks for those that would stand in the gap (Ezekiel 22:30), much like Moses did, so that He would be moved to mercy. That, beloved, is what he desires to do, but He needs men and women with passionate hearts for others to move Him in that direction.

Abraham's intercession on behalf of Sodom is not unlike that of Moses. However, with Abraham we get the privilege of witnessing this remarkable dialogue between Abraham and God regarding the fate of this doomed city. In Genesis 18:17 we read that God had decided to reveal the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to his friend Abraham. In the following verses, we see a spiritual, heavenly negotiation being played out in the natural as Abraham bargains with God for those in the valley below. The patriarch beseeches God, saying that if there are 50 righteous in Sodom then He surely wouldn't sweep away the just with the wicked? The Lord agrees and does so again and again until Abraham reduces the number of the righteous to ten (Genesis 18:24-32). We know from the following chapter that the Lord does bring down His judgment upon Sodom, for there was only righteous Lot (II Peter 2:7) and his family which accounted for less than the agreed upon number of ten. What if Abraham would have asked God to spare Sodom for five souls? Would it still be standing today? We are not to know. However, Abraham does show us how a life surrendered to God can move the heart of God to mercy. Unfortunately for Sodom and Gomorrah, their sin fell to God's justice. One can speculate that by this act of justice, it led to the salvation of many who recognized God's mercy for not destroying them likewise.

We have all been bought with a price -- the very blood of Jesus Christ who died for us all. We can either choose to live selfish lives that seek to bargain with God for our own ends, or we can die to self and negotiate for others. As Paul said, if we are believers and we call Jesus our Lord, then we are not our own. We have become temples of the Holy Spirit to allow God to intercede through us on behalf of others. There are no loop holes in God's word and no room for making a deal with our Creator. The only "deals" He wants are the ones we engineer for others in prayer and deeds. If we are living for ourselves, we too will die in our respective wilderness of Sinai or be consumed by proverbial fire and brimstone. If, however, we are living for Him and others, we will be consumed in the brightness of His fiery love that will never be quenched, either in this life or the one to come.

Holy Father, thank you for the Spirit who dwells with us and in us. Help us to see that any bargaining with You must be a pact for others -- to bring them to You. Give us hearts that spurn any deals with the flesh or the world but souls on fire to plead with You for the lives of others. We ask this in Jesus Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Intercessory Praise, Part III - July 27, 2014

Psalm 51:12-13 - Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You.

David's life was one steeped in prayer and praise. Jewish history ascribes 73 of the 150 psalms to this King of Israel. These are a rich library of his many conversations with the Lord Jehovah including melodic prayers of petition, supplication, and intercession. David's tender soul resonates in the poetic verses of one psalm as he rejoices in God's victory, and then in another he is in the depths of despair. Although David arguably ruled the most powerful Middle Eastern nation in 1000 B.C., the humanity he displayed in his writings becomes something very real to most of us who can relate with the everyday struggles that beset mankind. His brutal honesty is probably not equaled elsewhere in his writings as it is in Psalm 51 where he pleads for God's forgiveness after his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. The prophet Nathan exposes his king to the injustice he has created by first sinning with this married woman and then having her husband put to death by proxy (II Samuel 11). In this psalm, David seeks forgiveness for himself, but also for what he has done to the trust between God, himself, and those of his kingdom.

In the first nine verses of Psalm 51, David outlines his defense to the Lord which is a case for mercy. He knows that he has sinned and asks the Lord to forgive him for his iniquity. Psalm 51:10-13 becomes David's request to God for complete emancipation from sin's effect which will ultimately lead to God's glorification. In verse 10 he first implores his Maker for a clean heart, to disown any remnants of the sin that he once harbored. Also, the penitent king asks that God renew a steadfast spirit within, to enable him to remain focused on his fidelity toward God. In verse 11, he does not assume that just because his spirit is right that God will desire fellowship with him. He specifically states: Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Finally, in verse 12 we see that David understands that forgiveness without restoration is moot if he is to rule effectively as king. He knew better than anyone that in God's presence there was fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11) which would give him the strength and the ability to stay focused to turn from future sin. At the beginning of verse 13, we see the remarkable conjunction "then". At this juncture, David knows that if the Lord grants his request he would once again be in that position to intercede for others through the testimony of his life as an intercessory worshipper. He would be restored in the eyes of his nation to lead them as one who had failed but was now a living example of God's redemption. The King of Israel would no longer be a hypocrite in their eyes but someone who praised God for delivering him from the pit of sin and despair. His praise to God would once again resonate between earth and heaven for his kingdom.

Chronological to Psalm 51, King David's next psalm was probably written shortly after the Bathsheba affair. The overall theme of Psalm 32 is one of reflection concerning the mercy of God for his sin and forgiveness. This is particularly evidenced in the first seven verses. David opens the psalm with a declaration of God's love and redeeming grace, stating: How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit! (Psalm 32:1-2) In the next five verses, he tells how hard it was to conceal his sin. However, once he confessed it he was filled once again with the presence of the Lord. Once again, God had become David's hiding place (Psalm 32:7) as he had been so many times in the past. One might assume that the king had forgotten how close the Lord was to him as he hid him from Saul's wrath when he pursued young David. Now, he could once again find God in that secret place of "hiding" that kept him safe from the onslaught of the enemy's lies. For surely, the devil came to him and told David that his sin really wasn't forgiven and that he didn't deserve to be king. The restored king could turn from Satan's accusations and look in the face of his Redeemer with great joy of redemption and say: You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah. (Psalm 32:7) What follows in verses eight through eleven is a vivid example of David's restored position as an intercessory praise and worshipper. He instructs the wicked to not be as he was but to be set free by obeying God in all things. To continue in wickedness, he states, is to continue in sorrow; but the righteous, David says, are "surrounded" by lovingkindness. His intercessory worship for others comes to a crescendo as he ends this psalm with the high praises of God: Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones; and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart. (Psalm 32:11)

Beloved, if we call Jesus Christ our Lord then we should recognize that we are made of the same stuff as David. The only thing that sets us apart from this ancient king is our ability to arrest our sin through humility and ask forgiveness as he did. If we walk in the light as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with God and man and the Lord is faithful to forgive and cleanse us (I John 1:7). The devil would desire that we hide our sin as David, because then we will not be effective as intercessory worshippers. If we can't praise God for his deliverance in our lives and others, then the devil has won the victory. If, however, we can lift up the Name of Jesus in thanksgiving and praise for not only our salvation but for others, then we put the enemy to flight. Everyone of us who call ourselves Christians have this responsibility, to praise God for the finished work of Calvary with hearts that are free from sin. Through that applied revelation, we will see the power of the evil one crushed and the high praises of God accomplishing great things all around us. May the Lord do so in all of us this day as we submit to Him!

Lord Jesus, thank you for the redemptive power of Your blood that makes us mighty to do intercessory battle. May the high praises of God be on our lips as we set the captive free through the intercessory praise You have ordained for all of us who call You Lord. In Your Name Most Holy Jesus Christ, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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