Sunday, April 24, 2016

His Mercy - April 24, 2016

Luke 18:9-14 - And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 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."

Jesus' desire is that we never forget where we came from, regarding our sin. Many of us can relate to the tax collector in Luke 18 and his feeling of utter shame and bankruptcy as he cried out to God for mercy. Conversely, we hear a different message from the Pharisee -- one of self-righteousness and judgment against his fellow man. The scripture tells us nothing of this particular Pharisee up until this point in time. Possibly he began as a true seeker after God, yet through time he became arrogant and conceited regarding his so-called relationship with God. As he became more and more consumed in his own self-interest of an outwardly righteous life, more and more he died within, divorcing himself from any relationship that he might have started with God in days gone by. Today, this Pharisee might be any one in the church that seeks to set themselves above their brother or sister in so-called spirituality. Not only has their self-righteousness driven them away from God but it has also isolated them from any understanding of loving their spiritual siblings. As stated in I John 4:20, it is impossible to love God and to hate your brother. In the instance of the Pharisee and the tax-collector, the former had long ago lost any affection toward the latter thereby nullifying any relationship with the Father.

Jesus told parables for very clear reasons and purposes. His desire was for the hearers to relate themselves to the particular circumstances of the life lesson. In this case, He is beckoning for the hearer to either take one or two positions -- to understand that they are related to eeither the Pharisee or the tax-gatherer. God is telling us that it is good to be related to one or the other. It is actually a travesty if one can not relate themselves to either. (As Jesus stated in Revelations 3:16, He wished that the church at Laodicea were either hot or cold but because of their indifference that they were in peril of God's rejection.) If one identifies themselves as one that has been self-righteous and judgmental of others, then there is the grace and mercy of God that he extends to all that would but humble themselves. That is the first step toward understanding that we all truly are no better than a tax-gatherer.

However, for those who might not believe or understand that they are plagued by self-righteous destruction, here are a couple of clues that should work as a litmus test to determine whether one regards themselves as "righteous":
1) God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. -- The Pharisee (or the self-righteous church-goer) prays to God, masquerading their contempt for others with thanksgiving that he or she is not like "other" people. They can easily mask their inner disdain and hatred for others in "religious" contexts. Rather than "praying the Word" over others in secrecy, the hypocrite would choose to "pray their gossip" over others! They justify this sort of behavior by their "concern" for the church body and its need to "get right with God".

2) I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get. -- Outward forms of so-called spirituality give carnal license for others to be hateful of those they judge. After all, fasting and giving tithes gives a so-called believer the "right" to talk about others since they are such a integral part of the church. In their reasoning, if "Aunt Betty" is cooking for every social that is on the church calendar, doesn't that give her the right to voice her opinion? With an attitude of concern about the "sinner", of course!
It's interesting to note that those who truly know they are wrong and needing God's mercy confer with no one nor judge anyone. They don't go to the self-righteous and make their case with them, seeking pardon. They don't even have the confidence to lift their eyes toward heaven, but they cry out to God saying, "Have mercy on me, O God, a sinner!". Without fail, this person will go up to their house justified as they pour out their hearts to God, where those who self-righteously attest to their own goodness have only deceived themselves. These await nothing but loneliness and eternal isolation, the very things they have created for themselves here on earth.

Jesus states that whoever shall humble themselves shall be exalted and whomever exalts themselves will be humbled. These are our choices, in the time that we have here with one another, which will decide how we will live or die throughout eternity.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Faith by Obedience - April 17, 2016

Luke 17:5-10 - The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you. Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come immediately and sit down to eat'? But will he not say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink'? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done."

This particular passage can be confusing unless one knows what the Lord is driving at. The apostles initially asked the Lord Jesus: "Increase our faith!" Jesus explains to them that they don't lack faith but only the wisdom and the understanding to apply it. The Lord uses an extreme, unbelievable example of commanding a mulberry tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea. What He is really getting at is His desire to show us how to listen and obey what the Heavenly Father is speaking so that we will be able to discern the most simple commands as well as what might be the most seemingly outlandish commands which He would give us.

At first glance, it would appear that Jesus has launched into a whole new topic when he begins relating the analogy of the servant and his master. However, understand that the Lord is detailing a particular way to relate to His Father, in order for the disciples to "increase their faith". One might say that there is no mention of faith in this passage except in the apostles plea to Jesus. What IS mentioned is the relationship between a servant and his master and how they interact. Jesus points out that a servant does not look out for his own interests first, but those of his master. The master does not say to the servant, "Come immediately and sit down and eat". Instead, the servant is taught day in and out that his purpose on this earth is first to satisfy the needs and desires of his master. Jesus' example gives explicit directions from the master to first "Prepare something for me to eat, and then properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink". Finally, after the needs of the master are fulfilled, then the servant can satisfy his own needs. Day after day the servant hears his master's commands. He listens for his voice and learns more and more about his master as the months and years go by. The servant learns the small nuances in his meal preparation that please his master. He learns how to serve his master in just the way that his master would desire. Within time, there is an unspoken fellowship of love and respect between the servant and his master. This only comes through time -- by listening and then obeying. The master in turn does not need to thank his servant. However, the servant knows the joy of his master and merely comments, "We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we have ought to have done".

Jesus knew that His apostles didn't need more faith. What they needed was to continue to listen and to obey what Jesus was teaching them about His Father. They needed ears to hear and hearts to believe when Jesus gave them a command. Whether it was their unquestioning trudging along after Jesus as He went from city to city, or His direction when feeding the multitudes, or even simple commands such as how to prepare for the Passover, his disciples were learning how to HEAR and to OBEY. They didn't need more faith -- they were learning that faith is the offspring of its mother obedience. What they were lacking was the assurance that they were incubating rich veins of faith in the deep caverns of their hearts through their habitual walking and talking with their Lord through loving obedience.

The dilemma for many of us when we feel that we have no faith is that we have not been walking with our Lord in an attitude of obedient surrender. If we had been walking in obedience to His still, small voice than we would hear and obey when He spoke. The situation might call for a laying on of hands and prayer for the healing of a loved one, or to offer a word of encouragement and love to one that is at the end of their rope. Or, possibly to even to do something as outlandish as to tell a tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea. The opportunity the Lord offers and the response to His voice will not matter because we have been following Him both explicitly and intimately. Only with this kind of relationship, will true faith be manifest through obedient love.

Father, give us hearts of obedience so that we might grow in faith. Help us to know that we can move mountains only if we have truly known the Mountain Mover of men's souls. Teach us to hear and obey, that Your faith would abound to those whom You desire to touch. In Jesus Christ's precious name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mighty Weak - April 10, 2016

Deuteronomy 32:36 - For the LORD will vindicate His people, and will have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their strength is gone,

God's promises to His people always include stipulations that require a response and ultimately an action. In the instance of Deuteronomy 32:36, God promises to not only vindicate (or show Himself strong) on behalf of His people, but He also states that He will have compassion on His servants. The operative word in this verse determining God's timeline to bestow these marvelous gifts is when -- or rather "... when He sees that their strength is gone, ... ." While a simple acknowledgement of weakness is an important first step, God desires to SEE an abating of strength and a true resignation to rely on Him for all things.

Some of us may have heard the analogy of the drowning swimmer as he or she relates to the lost sinner. The following not only typifies the sinner as lost and dying but it also shows how the Lord Jesus through His Father desires to save us from ourselves:
Although there were dangerous rip tide signs posted, a lone swimmer was in peril of being swept out to sea. As he began to drown, he screamed for help. Onlookers watched as a life guard flew into action and swam out to the drowning man. The small crowd that had gathered on the beach were all dumbfounded as the life guard circled the man several times, watching as the man bobbed up and down in the waves. Finally, the life guard swooped him up from behind and began dragging the helpless man toward the beach. The life guard brought the man out of harms way, administered CPR, and turned him over to paramedics that took the recovering man to a local hospital for observation. Finally, someone in the small crowd asked the question they all wanted to know: "Why did you circle the man several times before rescuing him?" The life guard replied, "The man was much bigger than me. I needed him to exhaust himself of trying to save himself, otherwise he might have pulled both of us under". Only when he was spent, was I sure that we both could make it back safely".
To continue with this analogy, the majority of the world will continue to play it safe in the tranquil waters around the beach. Many will only venture in ankle or knee deep. They don't consider themselves "sinners" needing salvation. We see these folks around us everyday. Many of these folks go to church every Sunday, they pay tithes, and some may even sing in the choir. They judge themselves by others stating, "I'm a pretty good person that doesn't do a whole lot of wrong!". These are not the people that the Lord can easily help. They are self-sufficient and have relied on themselves for years and years. Then, there are others who, for whatever reason, venture out from the safe confines of the tranquil waters around the beach. Before long, they feel the currents of this world wooing them into deeper waters. Around them they see the playful waves of sin that entice them to continue out where there is more and more excitement. Soon, however, they find themselves overcome by the surf as it pounds down around them. The foam and the mist that was playfully enticing a few moments earlier has now become a force to be reckoned with as it covers their heads and draws on their bodies to carry them further and further out to sea.

Many of us can relate to this dire situation. When all seems lost, we are now at the place where God can truly save us. We are over our heads in sin and without the power to resolve our own rescue. Then, our Savior can truly have His way with us, for He SEES that we are spent and despairing of any salvation other than what He can afford us. Until we are in that most untenable situation, there is little He can do. For truly, God is calling to the weak, not to the strong. He desires a person, a church, and a people that have despaired of living by their own power and have relinquished all thoughts of their own salvation. The Lord Jesus Christ's greatest desire is to pull all of us on to that proverbial beach and resuscitate us, giving us life once again that we had lost hope of ever enjoying. He seeks to REVIVE His people, first as individuals and then as the Body of Christ to send us forth as witnesses of God's saving power from the Ocean of Despair. Have you been resuscitated and revived by the Lord Jesus Christ? Or are you one that has never seen your own need of rescue? May those of us who find ourselves in the throes of the Sea of Despair, may we cry out to Him who SEES when our strength is gone. For only then, can we truly be saved!

Lord Jesus, You are the hope of our salvation from the tempest of sin. For truly, when our strength is gone, we need Your salvation. Have mercy on us and bring us safely to Your Shore of Deliverance. For only when we are weak are we truly strengthened by the might of your loving arms to carry us safely home. In Your Precious Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, April 3, 2016

God's Allowances - April 3, 2016

John 14:1 - Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.

As a child, there were certain tasks or chores I was expected to do around the house. Sometimes, if household finances were good, I would receive an allowance. Most of the time, it was thirty-five cents a week or if times were good my father would give me a half dollar piece. Mind you, this was in the 1960s when a family of four could live modestly on an income of $150 a week. Many weeks, we lived on half that much which made allowances a luxury and something my parents couldn't afford. However, I was still expected to do my chores and my dad and mom would treat my brother and I with an occasional treat when they could. In reality, allowances in our family weren't earned, they were just an expression of my parents' thoughtfulness when they COULD afford it. To "allow" us the money each week was a treat and I appreciated it when I did receive it. Many children today don't understand how to give back to the family unit without believing they should be compensated. I was one of the fortunate ones to know that my parents didn't owe me anything beyond their providing me the basic needs in addition to their love, which was always abundantly supplied.

Some may consider allowances as merely monetary expressions, however there are other meanings. We grant allowances, daily, with probably little thought. We "let" or "allow" others our time, especially if they are our friends. We allow others, such as telemarketers to go through their entire spiel before we say, "No thank you, not today". We also allow or let the worries of the day encroach upon us to the point where concerns and constant thinking on a particular matter can last well into the evening and haunt us as we retire to toss and turn. Everyone is a candidate for providing this type of allowance to occupy -- literally to take up residence in our minds and hearts. Jesus understood the concept of "allowing" or letting something consume the mind and heart to such a point that the life was paralyzed with fear. He understood that a bad "allowance" of fear and worry would ultimately take over the entire being. In the opening scripture, Jesus gives his disciples a command -- a life command that would allow them to be hopeful rather than consumed with fear and heartache. The Worldwide English Translation puts it this way: Jesus said, Do not let anything trouble your heart. You believe in God and you must believe in me also. Jesus implies not letting or allowing the mind and the heart to be overwhelmed, but to refuse this wasteful pre-occupation by turning over our anxieties to the Lord.

We are not ruled by committee, if we know the Lord Jesus. We don't have to listen to the constant banter back and forth in our minds and hearts of differing opinions, or this idea or that. We don't have to listen to the "committee in our heads" that is run by the flesh and the devil, seeking to distract us from God's holy purposes. When all we hear is the cacophony of one competing voice after another, we can merely silence the madness by allowing the Lord Jesus to take control of the situation. In the beginning it will be difficult, but in time we will begin to trust more and more that He will put everything at peace and rest in our soul. He will not compete with these other "committee voices". However, when we allow Him to have the floor, He will silence all and will not allow them to usurp His rightful place, as long as we insist that He does so.

My childhood allowances were something not necessarily earned, but they were accepted with gratitude when offered. They were expressions of my parent's love by giving us a small token of their love. Likewise, God only gives good allowances of righteousness, peace, and joy. We don't need to allow or let others rule over our hearts or minds. As sons and daughters of God, He has given us the power to accept his peace into our hearts: "Let not your hearts by troubled ..."

Lord Jesus, we allow you to once again rule over our fretful minds and hearts. Give us peace as we give ourselves to You. For only You give us true rest from this world and the demands we place upon ourselves, We thank You for allowing us your holy presence to dwell within. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Looking for Jesus - March 27, 2016


Matthew 28:5 - The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified."

Many today claim they are seekers after truth. Of these, some will say they are looking for something to believe in. Others might say that they've looked in churches or synagogues and they just can't find God. For these and all hoping to encounter truth, finding God and His Son the Lord Jesus Christ may be as simple as not where they look but how. Has the heart been tenderized so that humility fuels the search? Or, is it an intellectual endeavor that seeks persuasion of the mind before a so-called rational decision can be made? Looking for Jesus will generally result in a jaded outcome if powered by the mind. However, an honest search for Him through the heart will always result in finding Him and His Father above (Jeremiah 29:13). Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus gave their love not just to a "good" man nor to a woman's son, but to their Lord and Savior. Through this awakening of His true identity, they would find Him to be so much more after his crucifixion than they could possibly understand before that fateful day.

Matthew 28:1-15 juxtaposes presumably two or more Roman guards and two Israeli women in mourning. The scene in the garden that morning might have been as simple as one guard coming to relieve another at first watch. The women coming to the tomb would have been of no particular significance to those who might have beheld them in the early dawn light. However, the extraordinary exchange after a sudden earthquake undoubtedly made the guards take notice, not only of the supernatural manifestation taking place, but also the honor the angel bestowed on these women. Matthew 28:4 tells us that the guards shook with fear when they beheld the angel. However, the heavenly being had not come to speak to them but to the lowly, mournful women. God's word through this angelic being is first one of calming to those grieving the loss of their Lord, and most poignantly to not be afraid. The scripture is very clear that the angel spoke to the women exclusively, and not to the soldiers. Fear was an appropriate response for the guards and one they should have embraced in a long term manner. They would have been much better off had they seized the moment for its true significance, as we shall see. However, the angel first comforted and then consoled by revealing to Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus that God knew why they were at the tomb. That even in their extreme loss and seeming desperation, they had still sought out the love of their lives though their longing seemed hopeless. They had quite literally thrown off any expectation other than spending time mourning their loss over the broken body of their crucified Lord. But then the miraculous transpired! The angel announced that indeed Christ had risen and that He would meet them in Galilee (Matthew 28:6-7). As stated in the following verse (Matthew 28:8), the women held on to their fear with obvious reverence over what was happening while also the scripture tells us that they had great joy! What a marvelous turn of events as they hurried off to report these things to the disciples!

However, what of the guards? What was their response to being witnesses of the greatest event ever to happen to humankind? While the scripture is not clear, other than they were fearful at the sight of the angel, we can surmise their state of mind and heart by their final decisions regarding their angelic visitation. While Matthew 28:4 is the only verse describing the soldier's reaction at the tomb, their report and responses to the Jewish hierarchy is most telling. Matthew 28:11 tells us that the guards merely reported "all that had happened" to the Sanhedrin (Jewish Council). The events that follow are not surprising in light of the denial of the Pharisee rulers of Jesus' divinity. Instead of seeking and looking for Jesus themselves since they had first-hand information that He had indeed risen, they chose instead to gloss over it and deny this momentous event. They rationalized with their minds the consequences of admitting their wrong in crucifying the Savior of the world, and decided that the best thing to do would be to act like it never happened. Sadly, we read that the guards also joined in the Jew's complicity by taking a bribe and agreeing to say that they had fallen asleep while His body was stolen away in the night (Matthew 28:13-15). Having witnessed an empty tomb and an angelic proclamation, they disavowed their own integrity and sought Him not. They could have just as easily forsaken their post and followed the women to Galilee, but it was not to be. They had reasoned with their minds and allowed their covetous hearts to remain hard rather than allowing God to tenderize their hearts in the moment.

We all know people like the Roman guards. Many of us were once like them. Some of us may yet be. God has more than once encountered such as these in a supernatural, spiritual manner and yet their hearts remain hard to God's patient wooing. Many have dutifully shown up at church, week after week, and have listened to countless sermons on the resurrected power of Jesus and have left unchanged. They, like the soldiers, have not been looking for Jesus with their hearts but have been casual observers while God is in their very midst. All around them, God is saving, healing, encouraging, loving others yet they overlook the divine and the supernatural God because they are so self-absorbed in their own rationalizations. Their minds have allowed them to disseminate and "report" on what they have seen in a carnal manner, telling themselves that God may be moving in others but He can't or won't in their lives. As their minds and intellect report to their own Pharisaical heart, this hardened corrupt beast full of the nature of sin will blaspheme and deny the resurrection power of Jesus Christ every time. The unyielded heart will always be at enmity toward God. It is no wonder the Pharisees and the Roman guards did what they did in Christ time, just as there is little doubt what those will do who don't look for Jesus with all their heart. They are doomed to be casual observers as the soldiers, selling their souls for an opportunity to appease those in power over their lives. Beloved, if you are one of these that only knows Jesus from a far -- if you are one that can "report" on what God has said about Him yet you have not pursued Him, there is still time to change. Don't be like those who sought the approval of men but rather look for Jesus until you find Him. Decide right here and now, that life lived without the fullness and joy that only Jesus Christ can give is a wasted life -- it's nothing more than a sold out life to sin and eternal damnation. For only as we look for Jesus shall we find Him, and only as we search with our whole heart will we encounter the greatest, deepest, fullest relationship known to humankind. Blessed be His Name forever!

Lord Jesus, we all must come to the tomb of despair to look for You as the risen Lord. Let us not come with the evil beast of intellect, but let us come with open, tender hearts. There we will encounter the blessed assurance of Your resurrection. Lord, give us eyes to see as we look toward You and Your mighty saving power. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Seeing Jesus - March 20, 2016

John 12:20-21 - Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."

Seeing something whereas just hearing about it can totally change one's perspective. Most of us have undoubtedly heard the analogy of attempting to explain the Gospel to someone that doesn't have "ears to hear or eyes to see" -- that it is like trying to describe a sunset to a person that was born blind. Hearing about it is totally inadequate to the visual experience. While we can truly experience sensory delights through our hearing such as a loving voice of a mother or a melodic cantata performed by an accomplished ensemble, the visual experience coupled with the auditory enhances the experience ten-fold.

No other malady in the New Testament drew more derision as did blindness. In John 9:1-3, Jesus' disciples question Him regarding being born without sight. The disciples asked, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him." Later in this chapter (John 9:34), we find the Pharisees mocking this man who received his sight from Jesus saying, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?" There was a clear understanding from these texts that those born blind were considered as outcasts from the grace of God and excluded from His love. Undoubtedly, that is why John the Apostle dedicated an entire chapter to this important life lesson regarding who was truly blind and who truly could see. Jesus told the Pharisees that were following Him, at the end of this chapter (John 9:41), that ... "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains." However, there is an important distinction to make regarding who truly sees and who doesn't.

In Isaiah 6:1, the prophet had a vision that would forever change his life. "In the year of King Uzziah's death, I [Isaiah] saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple." The first words out of the prophets mouth were not, "Wow, this is incredible, God! I need to go tell that corrupt and rebellious nation Israel what an awesome and glorious God you are because I have truly seen who You are. Maybe I should start a TV ministry or write a book?" No, the first thing that Isaiah dealt with was his own understanding of his utter sinfulness: "Then I said, Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." (Isaiah 6:5) A few verses later, we hear from the prophet again when he volunteers for the prophetic ministry that the Lord God has destined for Isaiah. A true vision of who God is will inevitably change the beholder, for God will never reveal Himself to someone who is not ready for the revelation and for the calling to follow. (Even Jonah, although he at first resisted, heeded the calling after the revelation of who God wanted him to fulfill to the city of Nineveh [see the Book of Jonah]).

Seeing God or Jesus is paramount in order to become truly His in this lifetime. Many will be in heaven who have never truly experienced seeing God as Isaiah did, or as those who walked with Jesus in His lifetime. However, even as the Greeks who desired to see Him (as stated in the opening scripture), we should all desire to see Jesus in this lifetime for that is the thing that will truly change us for the life to come. God is overjoyed when a sinner comes to salvation and embraces the justification that His Son bought for the entire world by His shed blood. Luke 15:7-10 states that there is joy in heaven over one sinner that turns to the Lord and accepts His free gift of salvation. Beloved, there is so much more than merely accepting His wonderful gift and hoping that this takes care of our "fire insurance" premiums! There is so much more than merely escaping hell and waiting for Glory in the "sweet by and by"! The writer of Hebrews tells us to ... "Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord." (Hebrews 12:14) Sanctification or "to be set apart for His purposes" is not implicit of just the life to come, but is available to us all here on earth. There is opportunity for us all, through obedience to His Spirit, to be set apart for His pleasure while we wait for His appearing (whether we die or see Him in the sky!). We should all desire to give ourselves totally to Him in this lifetime, not only to partake of His nature (see the fruits of the spirit, Galatians 5:22,23) but for no other reason than He is worthy of our love and adoration because He gave us everything -- that is, the death of His Son for our redemption. Our utmost desire should be that of those who sought Jesus in ancient Jerusalem, "Lord, we desire to see you!" Only as we truly see Him will our lives be changed and readied for Glory in the "sweet here and now"!

Lord Jesus, we want to see you ... to be changed by You in Your magnificent presence. Even as Isaiah was changed in a moment of revelation, give us the "spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of You". Enlighten the eyes of our hearts that we may truly behold your majesty. Then, send us forth to change the world for which you died. In your glorious Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Hide and Seek - March 13, 2016

Colossians 2:3 - [Christ] in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

It is often painful for new believers to one day experience the seeming absence of the Lord in their lives. Everyday, up to this point had been filled with His closeness and His presence. There had been a rich fellowship between the child of God and their Creator. On that particular day when the Lord seemed to vanish out of their heart and mind, it left the believer gasping for spiritual air. They had been blind-sided by something that had never occurred to them -- that their sweet fellowship would end. The irony of this situation is that God has never been closer to the believer than at this time, and He is desirous to show His child the deeper meaning of the purpose of this seeming isolation.

God never withdraws his presence without reason. Once we have deliberated that it is not sin and that we are walking in obedience to Him, then it is our privilege and honor to seek Him out once again. God will often withdraw in order to see how much we desire Him and how far we will go to seek His presence. God knows that if He leaves us in a state of sublime love and fellowship with Him that we will never grow beyond this depth of love and will most likely begin to take for granted what love we know in Him. He has given each of us the desire, along with the tools, to become "treasure hunters" of the divine order. There is nothing God wants more than when we "feel" isolated from Him but to "dig" for the treasures of His Son. Simple prayers such as in Colossians 1:9 allow us to "mine out" the true riches: "... to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding ...". I challenge all who are reading this and who are feeling isolated from God to pray Colossians 1:9-10 several times daily for a month. I assure you, God will open up a truer understanding of who He is and His divine will for those who seek Him. I cannot promise that you will have greater comprehension of God's wisdom in how He plays a game of hide and seek with us. However, I will say that there will more peace and joy around understanding that it is God's way of dealing with those He loves.

There is not a book in the entire Bible that better illustrates this coming and going, this ebbing and flowing of the bride and the bridegroom's love then the Song of Solomon. Although this book is the story of Solomon and his Shulammite bride, it is clearly the celebration in metaphor of Christ and his bride, the church. This short poetic book of eight chapters embodies the heart of the Lover, the Lord Jesus Christ, as He woos his bride in a series of comings and goings that culminates in a secure and lasting relationship that is enthralled in mutual love. At one point, the bride (the church) becomes complacent when the bridegroom (Christ) is seeking her fellowship (Song of Solomon 5:1-9). She refuses to arise from her bed when he is calling. To her horror, she next finds that her lover has departed and she must then seek him out. In her seeking, she encounters the watchmen (symbolic of the Holy Spirit) who actually buffet her and appear to abuse her. However, when one truly understands the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer, we know that He is the one who disciplines us "as sons" (Hebrews 12:6) and wounds us faithfully as "friends" (Proverbs 27:6); (Job 5:17-18).

As believers, we must never be alarmed if the Lord is hiding His presence from us. As long as we know we are doing His will, then it should be accepted and embraced just as when we are basking in His presence and sensing His fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). The Lord will continually draw us near, for a season, and then retreat where we feel isolated and without His constant presence. Rejoice, when that happens my beloved! It is your Father in heaven, who having carefully selected and called you, has begun the beautification process that will create an eternal bride for His Son. Count yourself worthy that He has first shown His love to you and then has "seemingly" withdrawn it. Know, then, that you are truly blessed of the Lord!

Heavenly Father, we are so thankful that you are making us beautiful in spirit, soul, and body to become Your Son's Holy Bride. We totally surrender to You Lord, as You continue to show Yourself through your presence and more importantly Your "seeming" lack of presence in our lives. For only as you hide and we seek, do we learn the depths of Your Son's greatest treasure -- His love for us! In Jesus Christ's precious name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick