Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Bare Soul - Thanks-living! - November 22, 2015

Psalm 116:12-13 - How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.

The more I give, the more I am blessed. No matter if it is just a smile or a wave as I am out on one of my daily runs, or whether it is interacting with my family or friends. Sometimes, home life can be the most telling regarding how much and how graciously we actually give. Familiarity can often breed contempt if we allow it. Sometimes, those we love the most we can take for granted if we choose.

I am so grateful today for my wife. We just celebrated an anniversary and it is with joy I say that our love grows daily because we nurture it. Not to say that all has been harmonious the past 18 years. Attempting to "blend" families with three of mine and two of hers that were entering teenage years when we married was a series of attempts and mostly failures. It is a tough undertaking to raise children these days, let alone trying to create a solid family unit when three households are involved.

Nonetheless, I am grateful today for all that the Lord has brought us through. As with most of us, this time of year brings reflection regarding our families, especially when we come together on Thanksgiving Day and share a meal. We may have certain expectations of the day that are sometimes not the reality once the day of thanks has passed. Often, resentments and longings for a more "functional" family can set in. We hope for a Norman Rockwell gathering but prepare for Clark Griswold pandemonium. The reality, for most of us, is somewhere in the middle.

As stated, expectations can be totally unrealistic. There will always be those dysfunctional folks in any family (present company included!) that will beg for patience and perseverance, if not audibly then by their unseemly actions. These, my friends, are "opportunities" to allow the Lord to increase our patience and long-suffering by practiced giving which in turn blesses all.

Giving brings fullness of life. It is a universal fact called the Law of Reciprocity. God has written into the very fiber of existence that whatever a person sows, they will also reap. If I am a giver of criticism, anger, and malice then I will receive the fruits of those actions and be pretty miserable. If I sow love, joy, mercy, and hope then I will reap good things in my life. The GIVING is so important for the LIVING.

During this time of thanksgiving, let us remember who gave the most on our behalf -- the Lord Jesus Christ. The greatest Giver to ever grace our planet gave everything -- not holding back even His own life. The Psalmist recognized the greatness of God and His all encompassing goodness to humanity, knowing that NOTHING could we give back to God but our gratitude and our love [obedience]. It is our privilege to worship God daily by reminding ourselves and thanking our Heavenly Father for sending His Son to earth to live, die, and rise again. In this season of thanksgiving, may we all consider our Divine Giver who gave us everything that we might have life and have it more abundantly. The wonderful irony of all we have been given as believers is this -- that the more we give, the more we truly receive. Thank God this day for the reminder of Thanksgiving for truly then we can rejoice in Thanks-living!!

Your Barefoot Servant,


Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Bare Soul - Gravity - November 15, 2015

Genesis 5:24 - Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.

Infants are a joy to entertain. They often enjoy the simplest pleasures with glee while they give joy to those whom participate and observe. When my children were small, they loved for me to throw them skyward and catch them in my arms. They trusted me that I would always catch them, and then they would immediately say, "Do it again, Daddy!" They always wanted to go higher and stay up longer as they seemed to enjoy going up more than coming down. We spent hot summer afternoons in swimming pools as I would launch them into the air and they would try to make the biggest splash possible as they hit the water. I never had to teach them the concept that whatever goes up will come down. They instinctively knew it and anticipated the freefall. In pre-teen and teen years, a couple of my children still loved the sensation of freefall as they would always seek out those type rides at amusement parks. Their stomachs would drop as the sensation of gravity taking over would once again thrill their senses.

Gravity is something we all take for granted. But to someone from another planet who had never experienced it, gravity and its affects might seem "magical" or intoxicating as it did to my children in their innocence. This invisible law of physics is something that no one with any intellect would dispute, but it is indeed a scientific fact. A simple definition for gravity (or gravitation, if you like) is a naturally occurring phenomenon by which objects with mass attract one another. As we understand our earth's gravity, it is merely the downward force of gravitational energy against the earth itself, creating a constant pressure on all mass. Everything in the physical realm is bound to the constant force of the law of gravity. But what about the spiritual realm? What, if anything, is dominated by this physical law or how does the spiritual trump this law of perpetual downward force that none can seem to escape?

It is such a delight to read in scriptures when those in the past as well as those in the future defy the law of gravity by an even greater force. In our physical world, the only force that is stronger than gravity is magnetism. Just as the north and south poles are continually attracting magnetically, there is a constant magnetic charge coming from the poles seeking to capture and to pull toward their axis any and all iron-based particles. Theoretically, if one could build a large enough magnet and hang it in orbit to capture a large iron-oxide asteroid that was hurtling to earth to destroy our planet, one could offset gravity by preventing it from its downward gravitational pull. Consider for a moment that God is that "Almighty Magnet" that has the power and the force to not only to save us from destruction but to also sweep us away into His heavenly realm, both in the metaphoric and the literal sense. The bible is very clear about Enoch in Genesis 5:24, that God raptured him in his physical body to heaven to be with the Lord. The reason why is even clearer in Hebrews 11:5: By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; And he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. This man of God found out the "secret" of overcoming gravity on this earth, the kind of "spiritual gravity" that holds one to this world and the things of this world. Like the patriarch Enoch, we should all seek how NOT to be bound to this world in both a spiritual and physical sense. John tells us in I John 2:15 "... to love not the world nor the things of the world". This is played out daily in the mind of our spiritual being (what we think about and desire) and also in our bodies (what we choose to see, touch, taste, feel, etc.). Enoch found a way to walk before God that was so extremely pleasing and gratifying to the Most High that the magnetic force of attraction was much more powerful than Enoch's pull toward this earth. Elijah the Tishbite, God's fiery prophet was taken to heaven likewise in bodily form (II Kings 2:11). We aren't told why, however, it is easy to assume the template of Enoch's pleasing God as reason enough. Like Enoch, Elijah had cast off the things of this earth that would hold him down and that would try to keep him under its spiritual law. As his earlier counterpart, he was ready and willing when God called him to His Celestial City through the power of His Almighty attraction.

So what of us? Today, we all have the decision to either live our lives by the law of "spiritual gravity" that would seek to tie us to this carnal world and the lusts thereof. Or, we can use Enoch and Elijah as our models to aspire to -- models that show that one does not have to be bound to this earth but that we can truly fly away as our Father attracts us to Himself. No longer do we need to live our lives bound to this earth and its carnal laws, but if we know Jesus Christ we are truly seated with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:16) and we have all the rights and privileges to walk as citizens of heaven on this earth today. We should always know that He is pulling us toward our True Center, not as the earth would pull a stone when dropped toward its core, but toward Himself. For He is our center and the place of most attraction for a believer that truly knows Him. Just as children love the sensation of flying upward from the arms of their father, so we too yearn to be drawn upward into our Heavenly Father's waiting embrace. We should anticipate this as our hearts soar toward Him, daily giving our lives anew to His love and walking with Him another day in newness of life. For one day, it will more than a spiritual soaring of our hearts and minds toward our Savior, but we will see Him in the sky and we will be changed, in the twinkling of an eye (I Corinthians 15:52), and we will fulfill the mighty attraction that He began in us when we were first saved by His blood. On that day, no power on earth, in the earth, or under the earth will be able to keep us from His awesome magnetic pull. There will be no disappointment of ever being drawn back to earth. We will all defy both physical and spiritual gravity for the last and final time, and soar to be with our Lord forever and ever.

Holy Father, we desire to defy the "spiritual gravity" of this world and the lusts thereof. We soar to you in our thoughts and prayers in an attitude of separation from this life that would seek to encumber us. For in your presence, that is where our true home lies. Continue to draw us by your loving attraction until we finally rest in your Eternal Arms. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,


(photo courtesy of

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Bare Soul - A Divine Home - November 8, 2015

Luke 9:58 - And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."

Jesus never quibbled about his cutting of family ties and his seemingly "hobo" lifestyle. He was the first to admit His divine vagabond status to all who wished to follow him. The Lord had given up everything to become everything for those who desperately needed the salvation that only He could afford. He was on a timeline with destiny and knew He only had a short time to complete His mission on earth. Hence, the disciples found themselves with this "Jesus", who owned all yet possessed nothing, living like tramps as they followed Him for three years and ultimately to His crucifixion. Even after Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem at His last Passover, we might expect that some of the well-to-do disciples that met Jesus would offer the Lord and His twelve accommodations within the city walls. After all, He was like the HUGE guest speaker coming into town. Surely, they could put Him and the "boys" up in one of the finer inns of Jerusalem? Along with His lodging, shouldn't they take care of a "love offering" to provide for His needs while in town? The reality is diametrically opposed to what many today would expect a holy man of God to be offered.

The scripture tells us that Jesus and His disciples retreated nightly to Mount Olivet (or the Mount of Olives) which was close to the city (Luke 21:37). This limestone ridge runs about a mile in length, and in Jesus' day was probably well-forested with olive trees (hence its name). The Garden of Gethsemane was one area on the mount where Jesus and his disciples would regularly "lodge". (Compare it to spending a full day in New York City and then sleeping in Central Park, yet with not as much grassy undergrowth!) This area was a familiar "campground", if you will, for the poor, the hapless, and for many who had generally lost their way in life. Those who could not afford accommodations in the city would retreat to this area to bivouac under the stars. In this open-air hotel, there were no restrooms, no places to tidy up before lying down on the most comfortable place one could find in this uncomfortable setting. Places of this sort commonly experienced crime such as robbery and murder. On the night of Jesus' betrayal, it was just another night like so many others to the disciples. They knew that once again they would be huddled together for warmth under the boughs of an olive tree that would help keep the morning dew from covering them and chilling them to the bone. Yet, this night was different. There was a sadness that they had not known. Jesus said that He was going away, yet they did not understand. He told them not to let their hearts be troubled ... that he was going away to prepare a place for them and in this place were many mansions (John 14:1-2). Possibly, the disciples dreamed that night of sumptuous pillows and silken sheets rather than the sandy soil they were so accustomed as their nightly resting places. Even as they nodded off to sleep between their times of grief, their Lord was being betrayed into the hands of the ungodly. They would not sleep restfully for some time as they witnessed the One whom they had followed for three years being lead away bound by those with swords and torches to be crucified as a common criminal later that morning. Ironic to the crime of that area, they were the ones that were robbed of their friend and master that night in the garden and were at a loss when He was murdered by means of a mock trial.

Many in Jesus day could not understand the importance of Jesus giving up all to become everything for all humankind. They just didn't "get" that if someone was truly the Messiah and if they possessed all things, why it was necessary to become destitute in this life. Many today don't understand that about our Lord. They say it with their lips but it is far from their hearts. It is evident in the way a large majority of the religious class of our day shuns those who have nothing, and yet buddies up to the rich and affluent. The scripture is very clear that Jesus would not have spent much time or effort with these sort of folks. It's quite certain that Jesus' disciples would have enjoyed the home of a rich person versus sleeping on the hard Palestinian ground with a rock for a pillow! But Jesus knew that the things of this earth can never serve us the way we believe they inevitably will. They are an illusion and a vain piece of trickery set up by the evil one to cause us to waste our lives in these vain pursuits. Until one truly believes John 14 when Jesus said that he would go to prepare a place for us -- a place of exquisite beauty and richness like the world has not seen -- then we will all secretly crave the "good life" on this earth which is destined to burn with all the elements at his return (II Peter 3:10). We will pass up the most amazing "home makeover" ever to be devised as Jesus Christ promised He would accomplish on our behave in His Father's house.

St. Francis of Assisi was one of these that understood the importance of releasing and relinquishing all ties to his earthly home to gain an eternal one in the heavenlies. A final denunciation of his father's wealth as a cloth merchant led to a vow of poverty that the young man would never regret. Francis lived a life of abject humiliation toward all things temporal, taking great joy in ministering to the poorest of the poor which included society's castaways such as lepers, the blind, and the disabled. He understood that in order to attain to a true lodging that would never be swept away by fire, flood, or calamity that he must empty himself of all desire to become anything in this world and become everything to those around him. Hebrews 11:37-38 states that many others had likewise lived an example of homelessness upon this earth and were looking to an eternal abode: They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. Just as the world was not worthy of these, neither was it worthy of the One who gave up everything to live as the scum of the earth.

As in Christ's time and before, God is raising up many today that have no desire regarding how they might appear to their contemporaries. They have given up all things in order to look forward to that heavenly home that will out-dazzle anything here on earth. Does God want us to leave behind family and friends and live a life of abject poverty as our Lord? I truly believe that is the call for some. We see it every day as someone will commit their lives to serving as a missionary somewhere in the world. So what about the rest of us? Jesus Christ has called ALL of us to disenfranchise ourselves from the things of this earth, for in the end they hold no value. It matters not whether we have the nicest home on the block with the prettiest yard. What matters is what we have done for those around us by opening not only our homes to those less fortunate, but to open up our entire lives and to give unreservedly. God gives to us not to spend and consume on our own selfish ambitions, but to empty ourselves for the sake of others. Only as we truly understand that we are aliens and strangers on this earth as Jesus did, then and only then will we behave in compassion and humility to those all around us. It will truly give us a new perspective on those we might have looked down on, sleeping out in the open in a contemporary "hobo jungle" or under an overpass as those did, comparatively, in ancient Palestine. Our better judgment, born of true humility and understanding, would tell us that some of these might be like a band of twelve nearly two-thousand years ago who were looking for a more lasting home -- a divine home that their Savior has gone to prepare.

Father, thank you that your Son has gone to prepare a place for us. That by His death, burial, and resurrection on that glorious Resurrection Day so long ago He has been awaiting the day to welcome us to our heavenly home. Lord, we anxiously look forward to that day and are reminded that You have MANY mansions. Lord, help us to bring others to an understanding that this wonderful place of divine habitation awaits all who would believe in You. In Jesus' precious name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,


Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Bare Soul - Fools Rush In - November 1, 2015

John 18:10 - Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave's name was Malchus.

English poet Alexander Pope once stated: For fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Quite possibly the 17th century poet was referring to a juxtaposition between fear and faith. For with the spiritual eye of an angelic or supernatural being comes an eternal perspective, while a mortal fool can only grit his teeth, close his eyes and charge ahead not knowing the outcome. Impulsive behavior is not characteristically thought of as faith-driven, as demonstrated by Peter when he went into defense-mode for the Lord Jesus. While Peter's sudden burst of zeal to protect his Lord might look courageous and full of faith in the moment, we soon find that his supposed show of strength was nothing more than his own fear of accepting the stark reality of this dark hour in time. Jesus' admonitions to His disciples about His betrayal and death had become more emphatic and pronounced the weeks leading up to this fateful night. However, the true horror of the moment had not gripped any of Jesus' companions until that evening in the garden when they came for the Savior with torches and weapons. As the co-leader of this band of followers, Peter somehow must have felt a responsibility to "act", for certainly to do nothing would be a denial of the Lord Himself. Or would it? Oftentimes, the very act of impulsiveness or the need to "work for the Lord" can betray the very faith that we might claim in knowing Him. Actions often times speak louder than words, but not in this case. Peter's faith was aborted that night not by merely an impulsive act, but more poignantly by denying his Lord three times.

It is much easier to die for Christ than to live for Him, day after day. Death brings about a sense of the heroic sentimentality where our sympathies are drawn out toward those who would give their lives in the spirit of a martyr. Yet, giving one's life is final and complete whereas living daily for Christ requires a fortitude of courage and will that is uncharacteristic of the drama of this type of death. Jesus Christ did not dramatize His impending demise to His disciples, but merely stated its certainty. However, Peter conceived in his own mind that Christ's death could not be divorced from an earthly struggle, hence he took impetuous action against those who had come to arrest Jesus, in particular Malchus. (It's ironic that Peter lacked the "ears to hear" the Master's plan regarding His betrayal and death, and this is what the apostle took from the high priest's slave in his zeal.) Peter could only imagine dying for the Lord and not living without Him beyond that night. However, Jesus had planned that Peter would come to the end of himself that evening and to be stripped of his fear of abandonment by His Friend and Lord.

Impulsive actions and reactions often have their roots in fear. In personalities such as Peter, they manifest with a sense of bravado yet they are very much selfish in their origin. Often times, the desire is to "fix" something that might be broke or as in this case to reconcile a situation that has gone askew. Insecurity and fear of losing something becomes the touch point of this inward struggle that manifests in impetuous ways. As leaders in our homes, many men often feel powerless in the face of what seem to be overwhelming situations. We grow accustomed to making decisions and acting abruptly because we often feel that is what the situation warrants. However, there are other times when we need to step back and reassess. What if one of our teenage children becomes involved in something illegal and gets arrested, whether it be for underage drinking or drug use or any number of other things? Or, what if our unmarried daughter comes to us and announces that she is pregnant? How do we react, or better yet, act in such a situation. Oftentimes, as parents, we know it is best not to react or pass judgment in the moment. As a father raising teenage children, I came to a point where I would often defer "decisions" until the next day or possibly later. This was against my nature because I am not a procrastinator but I like to keep my proverbial plate clean at all times regarding life's decisions. By deferring action, the Lord was teaching me important lessons regarding self-control while I was not rashly saying or doing something that I would later regret. Death of self was coming in daily doses when I had to deal with such situations. It would have been much easier for me to rush in and appear that I had the whole affair under control, but this would have been merely a ruse and a dramatic flourish. Like Peter, I needed to learn that the drama of Gethsemane was not to be played out with weapons to inflict harm, but that the garden scene needed to be waited out until the perspective of the morning.

Beloved, we all have our areas of influence whether they be over our homes, our businesses or merely over our own souls. We must train ourselves through the Holy Spirit to not move impulsively but to wait on the Lord and His guidance. For some of us, that will be easier said than done. We must control the temptation of "fixing" something that very possibly might have a different perspective the following day. A night's rest has a remarkable ability to restore perspective as well as give us the grace to proceed in a spiritual way (Lamentations 3:22-23). While Peter's grief of acting rashly and denying the Lord was profound and life-changing in the end for the disciple, we can learn from his misplaced loyalty to his own self-centered agenda. We, as followers of Christ, must stop and reassess the situation when the "darkness of Gethsemane" surrounds us. For truly, the light of dawn will come which will give us new eyes to see what He desires. Then, and only then can we move forth with stalwart wisdom rather than the impulsiveness that is the hallmark of the foolish.

Lord Jesus, thank You for your wisdom and that we don't need to foolishly rush into life's problems that come our way. Help us to step back, take a breath, and come at the problem with Your faith and grace. If we must defer to the wisdom of the following day, Lord, give us the patience to do so. For only in your will shall we be successful and full of victory in any given situation. We thank you and glorify You. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,


Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Fruit of the Spirit - Self-control - October 25, 2015

Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Many would agree that our society is plagued by a lack of self-control. One only has to tune into the local news to hear about the latest shooting, stabbing, or abuse victim. Often, once the perpetrator has been brought to justice we hear how they somehow had "just lost control". Situations like these are often exacerbated by the use of drugs or alcohol which unlock the chains that are keeping a person's demons from taking over and reeking havoc. However, lack of self-control is as old as sin itself and was even Solomon's partner in his undoing as a godly king (Ecclesiastes 2:1). There's a particular reason that self-control is the last fruit of the Spirit listed by Paul the Apostle in the fifth chapter of Galatians. Without self-control the other fruit are constrained, so to speak, especially if the deeds of the flesh are allowed to usurp the Divine Nature. We should think of self-control as the "watchman" that ensures the old selfish sin nature stays dead (Romans 6:66:11) and buried so that the Holy Spirit has free reign in our hearts to cultivate the other eight fruits, uninhibited. Self-control exists always in this lifetime to arbitrate between the life that we once lived as a sinner and that which the Lord desires we grow in as a believer.

Of all the fruit of the Spirit, self-control is the determining fruit that actually allows us to see the Lord in this life and the life to come. For without sanctification, or the manifestation of His fruits of the Spirit "no man will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). In the book of Acts, Paul spoke to Felix regarding the Roman governor's eternal security. Acts 24:25 states: But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, "Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you." In this scripture, self-control is sandwiched between righteousness and judgment and for good reason. It is one thing to know the righteousness of God in Christ and it is another to live it out daily through constant acts of self-control. Paul stated in I Corinthians 15:31 ... I die daily. The apostle knew the importance of buffeting his outward man so that the inner man might be manifest. By living a self-controlled life, Paul knew that he was allowing the righteousness of the Lord to reign supreme thereby preparing himself for judgment not only in this life but in the one to come. Living the crucified life with the Lord Jesus means judging oneself in this lifetime and not waiting for the awful and terrible day of the Lord's judgments on the last day. By allowing the resurrected Lord to take the reins of our hearts, is to allow Him the rightful control and to focus us on finishing our respective races.

It is no secret that Paul must have been a lover of sports. In several passages he uses sports metaphor to convey a particular message. In I Corinthians 9:25 the apostle by the Holy Spirit states: Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. In the previous verse, Paul uses the example of a runner while making the point as to "run in such a way as to win". It is one thing to say that we desire to live a crucified life to our passions and desires and it's another to live out this discipline day after day. Ancient Grecian as well as today's athletes must lay aside their former lives of selfishness and wanton living and buffet their bodies with a new set of habits that will allow them to reach their goal. There is no substitution for a daily, rigorous routine that is marked by training meant to establish regular habits in accordance with their goal. In the same way, God requires of each of us who call Him Lord to daily turn over our will and life to Him -- that we would allow Him to coach and mentor us to that place of victory. Roger Bannister, the British running sensation of the 1950s was the first to break the four-minute mile. In Helsinki at the 1952 Olympic games, Bannister finished a disappointing fourth in the1500m. After the devastation of his failure, Bannister spent two months deciding whether to give up running. He finally decided on his new goal: To be the first man to run a mile in under four minutes. The following is a brief excerpt from a June 2002 interview with Bannister regarding how he developed consistent habits tempered through self-control which inevitably allowed him to reach his goal:

In those days, I didn't train very much. We didn't really know how to train in modern terms. There was this thing called "burning yourself out." I didn't want to burn myself out at 18, and I had a notion that if I looked after myself, trained carefully, I would go on improving, not by training two to three hours a day, but by training three quarters of an hour a day. It seemed to me logical that you could go on improving, and you didn't have to spend all day running.
This young athlete intuitively knew that overtraining could be as counterproductive as undertraining. So, he controlled his impulse to do neither but instead to discipline himself for a tempered approach. It took Bannister two years and several failures, but he finally hit pay dirt on May 6, 1954 at Oxford University. The audience waited with bated breath as Norris McWhirter finally announced Bannister's time of 3:59:4. The crowd erupted in joy!

There is a certain elation that we all experience as we develop new habits and we finally reach a point in our lives where these new character traits testify of the fruit of self-control as the Holy Spirit intended. In the beginning, it is hard and laborious. We may struggle but if we are patient we will reap the peaceful fruit of righteousness by allowing the fruit of self-control to be manifested. Just because self-control is the last of the nine fruits, it does not diminish its importance. Instead, it is the fruit that will ultimately allow righteousness to manifest through the other eight fruits. While the our planet continues to teeter on the brink of insanity, and as humans struggle to keep "under control" in an increasingly uncontrollable world it is comforting to know that our God has given us all the ability to live controlled by His Spirit. We only have to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and the fruits of His Life as freely given through a self-controlled man or woman given wholly to God.

Your Barefoot Servant,


Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Fruit of the Spirit - Gentleness - October 18, 2015

Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

When reading scripture about the life of David, it's not difficult to view the mightiest king of Israel as a "man's man". David became an aggressive warrior through years of warring -- from his early days of slaying Goliath, to engaging and conquering multiple enemies under his commander Joab. When David wanted to build the Lord a house for His Presence, the Lord stated that his son Solomon would build the house of the Lord, for David had too much blood on his hands (I Chronicles 22:6-10). While many kings and commanders in ancient Israel did truly great things, there were none as great as David. As no other ruler in Israel, we are allowed to see King David's life through the eyes of his own soul. Through the many psalms written by David, we can see how this warrior king was propelled to greatness. In Psalm 18 we read of David who was finally at peace with all his enemies round about about him, including Saul. The relentless pursuit of the former king and the consolidation of the kingdom of Israel was a daunting feat, fraught with much bloodshed along the way. However, David makes a startling statement in verse 18: You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great. Consider this, beloved; that in order for the newly crowned king to have achieved the near impossible, that is rising from a lowly shepherd to become the ruler of Israel, that there had to be a steadying influence over David's heart. Otherwise, his own blood-guiltiness would have caused him to implode. That calming and patient influence was the gentleness of God. For as David experienced the Lord leading and guiding him through the mayhem of war, in the same way he was able to be gentle and loving while pouring his heart out to God through the Psalms. This in turn, caused him to be loved by his people as he united the nation. His greatness was rooted in the fact that he had learned gentleness from his Heavenly Father. David was merely giving back what he had so abundantly received.

David's gentle spirit coupled with his warring, kingly outcome can be validated through Jesus' own words. In Matthew 5:5 our Savior stated: Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. For King David, the only sure way to bring peace was through war. A good offense is oftentimes the best defense as is customarily the case, especially in Middle Eastern cultures. Yet, we know that David possessed a dual nature that seemed brutal on the one hand but gentle on the other. Jesus confirms that David inherited his portion of the earth by juxtaposing his war-like mentality with the gentleness of God which made him great. Gentleness HAS to be demonstrated from a place of strength otherwise it is weakness devoid of any real power. A more recent example of strength through gentleness is Dr. Martin Luther King. While King never used violence, he was still strong in his position and therefore could afford to show gentleness in his dealings with all men, regardless whether they agreed with his stance or not. Therefore, gentleness through strength is not necessarily the use of military power or force, but it is using the wisdom that God gives to reinforce one's position. The apostle James stated: Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom (James 3:13). Ironically, King Solomon alluded to this place of strength through wisdom. He states in Ecclesiastes 3:8 that there is a time for war and a time for peace. As his father found greatness coupled with gentleness through much warring, Solomon found the same gentle strength through peace and the "gentleness of wisdom".

Jesus will always be the quintessential example of someone possessing greatness while demonstrating sublime gentleness. Of course, since he was the gentlest man to ever live, He did indeed inherit the earth as previously stated. The example is there for us all to follow. A few chapters later in the book of Matthew, Jesus is imploring those who would seek to follow His example. In Matthew 11:29 the Lord promises us that if we will indeed take up His yoke that we would have the opportunity to learn from Him. He said that in so doing, we would find that he is "gentle and humble of heart". Jesus never had an agenda other than doing the will of His Father, which ultimately was to redeem humankind. Through this selfless life, we see the greatest man who ever lived with a strength unparalleled. Through His wisdom, He conquered all His enemies in the greatness of His humility and gentleness. The same can be said for our other examples, yet there are differences. Two of the aforementioned characters epitomize strength though gentleness. Both Solomon and our more contemporary Dr. King lived lives of peace, demonstrating the greatness of their wisdom by the gentle strength they exuded. Yet, there is an incompleteness to their destinies even through their peaceful legacies. It is not happenstance that Jesus is referred to numerous times in scripture as the "Son of David". While Jesus lived "gentleness in strength" better than anyone, there is a day when the Lord of Lords will come back to set things straight on this earth. Even as David not only conquered his foes and vanquished them to a place of subservient obedience, so Jesus Christ is coming back to vanquish those whom He conquered on the cross at Calvary at His second appearing. The greatness of His strength will be manifest as he ruthlessly deals out retribution to His enemies, yet gives comfort and compassion to those who have waited on Him day and night for His returning.

While the Lord tarries, how should we live in the fruit of the Spirit known as gentleness? We should look to our examples, who learned that wisdom in strength is not self-serving. David laid down his life for the nation of Israel and became their greatest king through his tender heart toward God and his people; Solomon prayed to the Most High not for riches and glory but wisdom to lead the nation of Israel; Dr. King laid down his life in peaceful protest; and finally, our Lord gave everything that He might redeem a people through the strength of wisdom demonstrated in gentleness. Beloved, that is our heritage. To not live as a self-serving church, but to lay down our lives before those who might hate and revile us. Our commission is to love these with a love borne from wisdom -- a life that is "yoked" with the Lord's and with his gentle, humble heart.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the strength in wisdom that You give us from a gentle, humble heart. Thank you for Your gentleness and the examples that you have shown us both in Your Word and through others that have gone before. Help us to be a loving people in the gentleness of wisdom. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,


Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Fruit of the Spirit - Faithfulness - October 11, 2015

Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Everywhere we turn in our current world-climate we see breach of faith. One cease-fire leads to one side or the other pulling the trigger and igniting the situation afresh. United Nations sanctions are snubbed as rogue nations state "good will" and right intentions in the beginning, and then turn around and openly defy the agreed upon edicts. Large corporations have destroyed the public trust by mismanagement and greed. Closer to home (so to speak) the institution of marriage is under siege both from those who would seek to destroy the God-given mandate between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:4-6) and those within said marriages who seem intent on breaking covenant with their spouses through their unfaithful behaviors. An 11 year old study states ... About 24 percent of men and 14 percent of women have had sex outside their marriages, according to a Dec. 21, 1998 report in USA Today on a national study by the University of California, San Francisco. While I am uncertain whether these statistics have changed remarkably in the past 11 years, I can state with reasonable assurance that they have not improved demonstrably. Rather than faithfulness on a wholesale level, we are seeing an unparalleled rise in anxiety and fear, which indeed is the opposite of faith or faithfulness. The scripture states in Luke 21:25-27 that in the end time, men's heart will fail them due to fear. In a world that is teetering on the brink of broken promises, lies, infidelity, and unfaithfulness there is still One who can be trusted as the Father of Faith. As He is the One that can always be trusted, His great desire is to produce within His beloved the same faithfulness that comes directly by living intent on believing and trusting Him for all.

God has always been faithful. It is impossible for Him to be otherwise. The scripture states that faithfulness actually surrounds the Lord Most High: O Lord God of hosts, who is like You, O mighty Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You (Psalm 89:8). Demonstrative of His nature is His behavior -- the faithfulness He typifies day after day. His faithfulness is written with unseen words that cry out through His creation (Psalm 19:1,2) as all nature speaks of the glory of God. The sun, moon, and stars are constant in their respective fixations within the heavenlies and the seasons know their times of appearing and waning. God is faithful in all things. In the same respect, He requires the same faithfulness from those He calls His own. Even as He has called us to be ... holy as He is holy, He requires His beloved to emulate all of His nature. Faithfulness is no exception.

In ancient Palestine lived a man turned prophet named Hosea. God spoke to this holy man in what might appear to some in a dubious manner. In Hosea 1:2 He tells the prophet to take a wife that is a harlot because the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel had committed flagrant harlotry against the Lord their God. Hosea's new wife, Gomer, bore Hosea two children and the Lord commanded they be named symbolically to epitomize Israel's unfaithfulness (See Hosea 1). The second chapter of Hosea is all about how Israel, as well as Gomer, is unfaithful to God and Hosea, respectively. The Lord allows the prophet to experience the grief of a faithless bride, demonstrating just a small measure of what the Father in heaven experiences through faithless Israel as they play the harlot with their innumerable idols. Ultimately, Gomer apparently leaves Hosea permanently and returns to her harlotry because Hosea is instructed in Hosea 3:1 to join himself with an adulteress. This is Hosea's second and last symbolic marriage. While the status of the seer's second marriage is never clearly delineated, it is very clear the message the Lord was attempting to send to Israel through His prophet -- that the Lord God was a faithful, true husband to His betrothed and He expected the same faithfulness in return. Though He was angry and hurt by Israel's unfaithfulness, yet He promised a complete healing and a restoration of their conjoined love. Hosea 14:4 states: I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, For my anger has turned away from them.

No matter how faithless Israel behaved toward the Lord, or for that matter, how the church of today might resist His wooing and lovingkindness, His faithfulness will never wane. Not only are the gifts and the callings irrevocable (Romans 11:29), but his faithfulness never expires! Psalm 100:5 states: For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations. As long as we are alive, God's faithfulness will always surround us. Solomon acknowledged that with the living there is always hope: For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion (Ecclesiastes 9:4). It is such a tragic loss of God's eternal, watchful gaze and His tender coaxing once a person dies without accepting Christ as their Savior. Isaiah clearly stated that faithfulness was only for the living -- once we have passed through the veil there is no longer any hope to change our eternal status. Contemporary to Hosea, he stated in the 38th chapter, verse 18 of the book of Isaiah: For Sheol cannot thank You, death cannot praise You; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness. While the Lord desires that all be saved and come into the knowledge of His salvation, tragically the scripture states that few will accept His faithful gift of eternal love. For those who turn and receive the Eternal Christ into their hearts, these are the ones who can once again begin the restorative journey back to the heart of God and learn of His faithfulness in all things. Psalm 37:3 states that first we must trust in the Lord, secondly that we do good, and then finally to cultivate faithfulness. Infidelity and faithlessness are deeds of the flesh that took years to "fine tune" in our sin natures. In the same, way God wishes us to grow in the garden of His Divine Nature the faithfulness that surrounds His beloved. By cultivating the soil, or literally to dig into to who we really are, this allows God's watering to accomplish its desired result. Let not any whom He has called hide from themselves and allow their ground to turn "fallow", but may all rigorously confront their true nature and allow the Spirit to have His way.

Some would say there is little difference between the apostasy we see today compared to ancient Israel. Others would say it is much more pronounced today with the preponderance of not only false religions but also the idols of greed, lust, and the sin of Sodom -- careless ease with no thought for the Lord and those around them (Ezekiel 16:49). With the rise of unfaithfulness as seen in the media and entertainment, in the same regard the Lord Jesus Christ is raising up a Bride that has sown righteousness and cultivated lives of faithfulness. While infidelity continues to demonstrably pronounce itself in marriages, corporations, and national and international detente', Jesus Christ is calling together a people that have a deep sense of their own belonging in the very bosom of the Lord. These will possess a fidelity that is Divinely empowered and passionately engendered for the Lover of their souls -- a faithfulness that will not be compromised for it is rooted in the faithfulness of God's very nature.

Heavenly Father, we thank you that you surround those who are Yours with Your faithfulness. Our striving would be in vain without Your divine help. Open the eyes of our understanding to see You in all Your faithfulness toward us who believe. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,