Sunday, September 14, 2014

Honoring God - September 14, 2014

Psalm 50:23 - He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.

It has been said, "to sacrifice your happiness for the happiness of the one you love, is by far, the truest type of love". While this is a noble aspiration, it nonetheless smacks of humanistic endeavor. Happiness is contingent upon outward circumstances rather than an inward sense of well-being. Jesus never promised happiness in this life, but He did promise joy as we would abide in His presence (Psalm 16:11). To live a joyful existence is to recognize that Jesus gave Himself as the greatest sacrifice known to mankind. He offered Himself up as the sacrificial lamb to honor the Father with the promise of many sons and daughters. While we can never equal His sacrifice (by living a perfect life and then laying it down for others) we can humbly honor the the Lord by continual thanksgiving for His most gracious gift of eternal life. As the Son honored the Father by giving His life, so we must honor Him with daily sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving for His mercy and grace. Giving Him praise is a selfless act that takes time away from ourselves and gives it back to God. To remove oneself from vain pursuits in order to invest time worshipping God, is the noblest endeavor of a child of God. However, everything that is at enmity with our Maker will seek to distract us from this undertaking.

We are all called as priests to serve before the Lord, continually offering up our sacrifice of worship and praise to the Lord (Exodus 19:6; Revelation 5:10). A few take this calling seriously and with earnest, while the vast majority of believers believe that their "priestly" duties, if any, are nominal and reserved for an hour on Sunday morning. What determines a true priest and a false priest to the Lord is our sacrifice of time, or if you will, our very lives in all that we do. The household of Eli in the second chapter of the first book of Samuel gives us a look at the apostasy in 1100 B.C. Israel as well as a parallel to the passion-less, religiosity of much of the westernized church today. Eli lived a compromised life as the chief priest at Shiloh, while he allowed his sons to live lives of robbery and debauchery. A man of God came and prophesied to Eli that surely his priesthood would not endure as the Lord had formerly promised because of the sins of Eli's sons. In Samuel 2:30, the prophet pronounced judgment on the House of Eli: Therefore the LORD God of Israel declares, "I did indeed say that your house and the house of your father should walk before Me forever"; but now the LORD declares, "Far be it from Me -- for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed." This prophetic word declared that very soon the sons of Eli would end their robbing God of the praise and honor due His name, as God was raising up another (Samuel) who would do all that was in the heart of God. No longer would God be dishonored by a priestly order that was at best, compromised. Through the order of Samuel, God would accord Himself honor through a model life that spoke thanksgiving and praise from a heart that was totally the Lord's.

The prophet declared the word of the Lord to Eli with a promise. Samuel was to prove this promise and walk in it all of his life. When God states that He will honor those who honor Him, it is not an idle statement. The Lord raised up Samuel above all others in Israel and made him a judge over the land. There was no other more honored and respected then Samuel. However, this wasn't something that happened overnight. Samuel set this dynamic in motion early in life, allowing it to mature in his latter years. Through Samuel's faithfulness to offer up righteous sacrifices, rather than those taken by robbery by the House of Eli (I Samuel 2:29), he was able to command the people's respect and more importantly, God's. Through his integrity, he offered up sacrificial offerings that "cost something". After all, a sacrifice that is not sacrificial in nature is not a sacrifice, but merely an offering. Samuel knew what it meant to sacrifice daily for the people by living obediently, praising and worshipping the Lord with a heart to honor the Almighty. Thus, no man could dishonor him, for God had first and foremost honored His servant.

Truly, we are all called as priests to serve before the Lord. It is our choice whether we serve as priests of the House of Eli or those of the House of Samuel. Those who dishonor God, He will dishonor. Likewise, those whom honor God, He will also honor. As noted in our lead verse, a life that is sacrificial in giving thanks to the Lord is a life that honors Him. It is not only lip-service, but a life committed to stand in the gap between God and mankind -- a life that is freely given for His glory. This, beloved, costs everything we possess. Are we willing to be priests like Samuel? Or, are we content with compromise and living lives of excessive selfishness? Only as we sacrifice everything will we find true honor. May we all find this place of high distinction before our God as we lay down our lives as Jesus laid down His, both today and throughout the rest of our earthly lives.

Lord God Almighty, help us to honor You with a life of sacrifice. May our worship and thanksgiving be a continual testament of lives that are totally yielded to You. May we honor You always, not looking to be honored ourselves, but accepting it with humility and grace as from Your hand. We give You thanks and praise. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Excellency of Love - September 7, 2014

I Corinthians 13:13 - But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Throughout the millennia, mankind has written about love and all its redeeming attributes. Philosophers, poets, and songwriters have either lamented our collective lack of love, or they've extolled the great possibilities if we would but only "love one another". My question to those who say "all we need is love" ... what is the origin of this panacea that can make the world right? If love is the answer, then why haven't we harnessed its power to create a veritable utopia here on earth? What most fail to understand is that man is a fallen creature, excluded from the love of the Father by his treasonous act of sin. The love of God which many think should bind us together in some type of "brotherhood" is in reality just theoretical nonsense in light of the rebellion of the human race. The only way to achieve a loving world is by embracing a loving God. However, to know God means that we must first confess our sin along with our lack of love and then to cling to His life. This is the only way to know true love. Everything else is merely a shadow of the reality. Only when we share the life of Christ Jesus will we know the true substance of love. Any so-called "affection" that does not come from the Lord is a mere counterfeit that is destined to perish along with everything else of this earth.

Paul's first letter to the Corinthians contains arguably the greatest chapter on love in the entire New Testament. Furthermore, it is not a coincidence that this chapter is situated between two chapters dealing specifically with spiritual gifts. Chapters 12 and 14 of Paul's letter instruct believers regarding the attaining of the fullness of Christ through the proper use of the gifts. However, Paul is quick to point out that these gifts are not the "end all". They are merely the catalysts that propel us into that spiritual dimension of love that he writes about in chapter 13. The church at Corinth found themselves in the same dilemma that many Christians as well as unbelievers do today. For instance, the world runs after pleasures and comforts of this earth, thinking that is the "end-all" to their existence. They believe this is the expression of God's love when in actuality it is merely the kindness of God pointing them to repentance (Romans 2:4). Many Christians also have this worldly mindset that has its origin in their unregenerate past. While pursuing the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the power of their manifestations, they forget what is the goal of their spiritual equipping, which is love from a pure heart (I Timothy 1:5). Everything else is merely a shadow of the reality -- which is the perfection of love. That's why Paul instructs both the church at Corinth and all believers in what is the apex of our pursuit in I Corinthians chapter 13. In Ephesians 3:19, Paul tells us ... to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Beloved, to understand the fullness of God is to understand His love. The knowledge of God and of spiritual things pale in the light of knowing God's love. This, my friends, is the wisdom of God which supersedes any knowledge that is meant for this earth, but ascends to the very eternal wisdom of God.

When we arrive on eternity's shore, faith and hope will give way to total love. As our lead verse states, we need to cling to or to abide in faith, hope, and love while on this earth. However, there will come a day when faith and hope will melt away in the presence of pure love. No longer will we look for that which is unseen (Hebrews 11:1) nor hope for His appearing (Romans 8:24-25), but we will see Christ in eternity and will be perfected in His love. Many believers reason that by perfecting their gifts and moving in some dramatic ministry that this will perfect them in the heart of the Father and they will know His love in a new way. We will never earn God's love or affection by performing for Him or by fulfilling what we believe is our "spiritual destiny". Our greatest goal in this lifetime is not self-discovery and finding out "who we are" but it is discovering "who God is". By abiding in faith and hope while earthbound, the Apostle John states that we purify ourselves for His great appearing (I John 3:3). Our supreme goal in life will never cease to be less than what Jesus stated as the greatest commandment: And He said to him, " YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND". (Matthew 22:37) This, beloved, is our destiny and our eternal heritage. Our aim should be to become so enraptured with the love of God on this earth that it will be a small change as we cross through the veil. After all, we will be drinking from His fountain of love for eternity. Why not learn to love the refreshing of His springs of eternal love while here on the earth?

The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. (Jeremiah 31:3) Can we begin to fathom coming face to face with Everlasting Love someday, beloved? How about a waterfall of liquid love washing over and through us until we drown in His Presence? While we cannot know exactly how it will be we can only imagine. Through our imagination, we can perfect love through faith and hope, knowing that our Loving Father is desiring the perfection of His child-bride for His Son. The world will continue to bemoan our lack of collective love as a species, yet it is still our responsibility as believers to perfect the Body of Christ through love's maturation. May we all forsake the desire to become "somebody" in Christ through the gifts He so abundantly gives and may we seek to be known only to Him as a lover of God in all that we do. In so doing, we will not fail to fulfill His desire for our lives. We will overflow with His presence to others as we submit to His perfect love, both now and forevermore!

Lord Jesus, I pray the prayer of Paul for us all: For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. - Ephesians 3:14-19

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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