Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Hope of Thanksgiving - November 23, 2014


Romans 5:5 - and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

What does Thanksgiving mean to us? Is it that once a year gathering together of friends and family when we refuse to count calories and we enjoy food, family and football? For many of us in America, that is the hope of this annual fourth Thursday in November. For others, it has a deeper meaning. The food and fellowship are still important. However, there is a deeper dynamic that occurs during this day we call Thanksgiving. For those with a faith in God, it becomes a time to ruminate upon our blessings and to give thanks for our bounty. Whatever our station in life, those possessing a relationship with Jesus Christ understand that gratitude of what has been given from the hand of God is not to be taken lightly. We must thank the Lord no matter our lot, even as those struggling Pilgrims did nearly 400 years ago at Plymouth Plantation. While we have so much more than they could ever dream, I sometimes wonder if they had more than we possess? There is a singular quality in these Puritans of old that stands out in stark remiss in many of today's celebrations of Thanksgiving. I submit that that the depth of one's thanksgiving is birthed in the womb of hope -- a hope that comes from above.

If the ordinary man or woman were asked the definition of hope, there would undoubtedly be many answers. However, I speculate that most would equate hope with wishing rather than believing. We might wish for something to happen and we may or may not have the outcome we desire. However, someone who knows the Savior can place their hope in the promises of God. This, beloved, is not wishful thinking. For not one of God's promises has ever failed, nor will one ever. There is always hope if we have put our trust in God. The decision for the Pilgrims to venture forth -- first from England and then from Netherlands to journey to the New World -- was not based on wishful thinking. Those who embarked on that perilous journey on the Mayflower possessed a profound hope and faith that God would not only lead and guide them but establish them in the new land. Their hopes were somewhat dashed as they clung to life that first winter. However, the Lord delivered them and gave them reason to rejoice in the early autumn of 1621 when they enjoyed their first Thanksgiving with their native neighbors. The near hopelessness of losing 45 of their original 102 person company in that first year was somehow less overwhelming as they looked to the future with hope. They had survived only by the grace of God and the faith and hope that their mission would truly be successful due to the aforementioned favor of the Lord.

As God-fearing, Bible believers, they must have taken great solace in the Word of God. I believe the Pilgrims would have often reflected on Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, where he speaks of faith, hope and love (I Corinthians 13:13). Truly, they had left all they had known in the Old World in faith and hope of a new life in America. Their love for their Savior was apparent, as they only desired a place where they were free to worship as they discerned from God's Holy Word. While both their faith and their love were important, I believe hope's placement between faith and love in Paul's first Corinthian letter resonated with their most trying circumstances . Without hope, disappointment will be birthed in the womb of hopelessness. This would certainly be true if the Pilgrims had succumbed to their predicament and likewise for us also if we give up in the face of severe loss. In short order, this will lead to the loss of love and respect for God and finally to shipwrecked faith (I Timothy 1:19). However, if we know the love of God, and allow faith to nurture hope, we are told in the apostle's book to the Romans that disappointment cannot be spawned when hope is present (Romans 5:5). The love that has been shed abroad in our hearts by an indwelling Savior becomes the lifeline that allows faith and hope to anchor our souls (Hebrews 6:19). Out of this place of fluid faith, hope, and love can flow true thanksgiving that is born out of a truly grateful heart.

I suggest that it is impossible to know true gratitude and thanksgiving unless one is grounded in the love of God. What others might experience is a shadow of reality that has its roots in human sentimentality. For the love of God to prosper in our hearts and lives, it must be quickened by faith and be grounded in hope. In this regard, we expect far too much from those who don't know the Savior to understand the significance of Thanksgiving. It has deep, spiritual roots that drink deeply from the wells of everlasting hope. Those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior will never be disappointed if they surrender their lives to Him. For those who will but trust Him, Thanksgiving will never again be the same. It moves from a purely sensual experience to a spiritual one that is grounded in hope and love for the One who has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Like the early Pilgrims, we can have the assurance of hope that does not disappoint with an outcome of love and thanksgiving.

Heavenly Father, thank You for your blessed hope. Thank You that Your love enables Your hope to anchor our souls with an assurance You will always be there for us, no matter what may come. Thank You for the gift of thanksgiving that comes from persevering through the hope of Your promises. For as we give thanks back to You, we receive a bounty that we cannot contain. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, November 16, 2014

For Conscience Sake - November 16, 2014


Acts 24:16 - In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.

Many of us can remember from early childhood the adage, "Let your conscience be your guide". Most children are taught from an early age what is the difference between right and wrong. Even those with little or no parental involvement inherently know when their behavior is acceptable or not. According to British researchers from a 2008 study, "children have an inbuilt sense of right and wrong". This is just one of many research groups that have found similar results during the past century. Scripture has long confirmed what to many of us is the obvious. The Apostle Paul explains that, like children, even those without someone to tell them what is right and wrong will invariably know the difference. He writes to the church at Rome, stating: Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them (Romans 2:14-15). Paul declared that no person is without excuse to obey the law. No matter if you are Jew or a Gentile, a religious person or pagan, no one can stand before God someday with a supposed alibi regarding their behavior. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). And, if all are honest, they will admit to this truth on this side of eternity where there is ample time and opportunity for repentance.

During Paul's defense before the Roman governor Felix, the apostle was only too aware that both his Jewish accusers and his Roman imprisoners understood this law of conscience. Whether they wanted to admit it or not, he knew that every man's life either accuses or defends himself in his actions. Paul's rebuttal to those who sought his death in the twenty-fourth chapter of Acts was meant, first of all, to show the Jews he was bound by the commandments handed down by Moses. Secondly, and of greater importance, that he was restrained by a greater law -- the law of conscience that was dictated by love for God. In our lead verse, Paul states that he does his "best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men." Of interest to our study, however, is the phrase "In view of this" which precedes his statement of conscionability. We must therefore retrieve "that" of which he speaks of previously. In verse 15, Paul states "that": ... having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. The apostle cleverly appealed to his Jewish accusers sensibilities by stating all men must live with conscience before God on a daily basis, ensuring their right-standing with the Father. In addition, he also spoke a stinging word of rebuke to his Roman captors regarding their garbled view of eternity. Ancient Romans held to many belief systems regarding an afterlife. Some believed that there would be a judgment at the river Styx when they either had eternal coinage to give to the boatman, Charon, or they didn't. If they did (which was symbolic of living a good life) then the ferryman would transport them to the Underworld to live for eternity. If not, they were left to wander the shores. Other viewpoints, depending on which Greek belief system they might have inherited, lived rather nihilistically and believed that this world was the end of their respective journeys (e.g. the Cynics, where our contemporary word derives).

In a brilliant defense, Paul recognized that he could never win by going on a punitive tirade against his accusers. Instead, he merely stated the facts of man's relationship with God. He told his audience that someday, on that last day, there would surely be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. Notice that he didn't say "the good and the bad". Paul would have known those to be much too relative terms to give this mixed group of listeners. Instead, he defined them as those who had either accepted the forgiveness of Jesus through "having a hope in God" or those who had shunned the Savior and His salvation for their lives. Through the Holy Spirit, Paul set them up to ask themselves the same question that he invariably asked himself on a daily basis, "Have I lived today with a good conscience before God and men?". He knew that the only answer they could honestly provide in their defense was "no". That is the case of any of us. If we do not know the Savior, there is no cleansing of our conscience before our God. If we have not accepted the blood of Jesus as the redeeming work in our life, then our consciences are "wicked" and not "righteous". Only through Christ is there the hope of salvation -- that we will be resurrected into newness of life. That is the reason why we look to Jesus for His power to cleanse our consciences and to make us stand in His presence, not by our own works, but by His death on Calvary (Hebrews 9:14).

At some level, we all know when we transgress God's ways. Paul elevated Jesus in himself to his accusers, stating that the only way he could stand before them blameless and with a clear conscience was by the redeeming life of the Son of God living within. Today, many know the righteous way to live, yet they deny the power to do so. They have rationalized God to the point, like the Romans, that they have adopted a conscience that is fitting for their lifestyles. Through their self-deception, they have prevented both themselves and possibly others from finding the Truth as outlined in the scriptures. Their consciences, as Paul states to Timothy, have become seared in the fire of their own lust to live separate from God (I Timothy 4:2). However, there is healing and restoration for all who would but humble themselves and submit to the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8). Whether we have become religious "prudes" like the Pharisees, believing our own righteousness will save us, or we have dumbed down our consciences to the point of not believing anything, the Savior is there to resurrect any and all who would call upon His Name. Newness of life can begin, right now, when we receive Him into our life. May we all experience the resurrection from the dead through a blameless conscience, both now and on that final day.

Heavenly Lord, grant us the ability like your servant Paul to live blamelessly before You, everyday, with a conscience that is cleansed through the blood of Jesus Christ. Help us to live before You with hearts sprinkled clean by His redemption. And, help us, like Paul, to testify of Your goodness to others. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Our Victorious Heritage - November 9, 2014

Jeremiah 15:11- The LORD said, "Surely I will set you free for purposes of good; Surely I will cause the enemy to make supplication to you in a time of disaster and a time of distress."

Most humans desire a peaceful existence -- to live a life free from dread or uncertainty. Someone has candidly said, "Freedom isn't free". Oftentimes, the best way to keep and maintain our respective freedoms is by maintaining a forceful opposition to all that would desire to relinquish us of these precious liberties. Probably no one believed this more passionately than General George Patton. While it is questionable whether Patton had any credible spiritual beliefs, he did understand that the best defense is often a good offense. Through his life, he displayed a courage and a tenacity toward his beliefs regarding a victorious outcome, no matter the price! As a leader of men in Europe during some of the most critical battles of World War II, he understood his responsibility as a commander and he rose to the occasion. Patton characteristically spoke about being a leader and stepping up to the challenge at hand at various times. One of his quotes is as follows: A man must know his destiny ... if he does not recognize it, then he is lost. By this I mean, once, twice, or at the very most, three times, fate will reach out and tap a man on the shoulder… if he has the imagination, he will turn around and fate will point out to him what fork in the road he should take, if he has the guts, he will take it.
We are all responsible for our respective destinies. For those of us who know Christ, we all have a heritage given to us regarding how we should live in this present world. The Apostle Paul, in many regards, gives us insight in how to live like "Christ's Commanders" here on earth as we meet and defeat our enemy on a daily basis. Paul tells us in the book of Romans that we are "more than conquerors" as we live surrendered to Christ (Romans 8:37). He told his beloved Timothy that ... God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline (II Timothy 1:7). As our lead verse states, the Lord has set us free to complete and fulfill destinies of "good purpose". The spiritual dynamic of surrendering to God will inevitably set in motion the paradox of victory through Him against our enemies. Jesus, of course, is the supreme example of how a surrendered, obedient life caused hell's minions to shake and tremble in His presence. Jesus' understanding of who He was in the Godhead allowed Him to rule over the enemy with a powerful assurance. When Christ encountered the demoniacs in all three of the synoptic gospels (see Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-17; Luke 8:26-39), they were distraught to see the Son of God (to say the least). In Mark and Luke's gospel, we are told that the demon-possessed men came and knelt before the Savior, entreating Him not to torment them "before their time". Jesus did not have to state His authority to the enemy. Nonetheless, they recognized his total submission to the Father and therefore made supplication to Him. Jesus was totally assured of His destiny and who he was, and the demons knew likewise regarding both Christ's and their own futures. They knew that they were the defeated and He was the Victor, and there was no compromise in their fallen situation.

As Jeremiah points out in verse 11, there are times of disaster and times of distress for all men. However, these "times" should not be relevant for those who choose to walk as Jesus walked. We possess a stated heritage as victorious conquerors, if we will but submit to the One who first submitted Himself to His Father. While we may never encounter a demon-possessed person as our Lord did, there will be numerous times when we will be confronted by the "enemy" in our lives. Our foes can take on much different forms than just demonic manifestations. The majority of the time, the enemy moves in much subtler ways. People, places, and things will often work as detractors to get our eyes off our position in Christ as a victor. They often work as instruments of this world that attempt to vanquish our faith and to rob us of our birthright. However, our heritage is always intact, if we are children of God. It will always be the goal of our flesh, the world, and the devil to dissuade us from that certainty. Once we give in to the aforementioned, then we begin to "make supplication" and to bend the knee in obeisance to the enemies of our soul. However, if we will but keep our eyes on Jesus, then every circumstance, every ill-willed person, or any worldly situation must bow the knee in surrender to the Lord within us. This will be the case not only in good times, when our soul is full of God's presence, but in those previously mentioned times of darkness and distress that we all go through.

It takes "spiritual guts" to walk out the destiny that the Lord has prescribed for all who know Him. He has given us a heritage of goodness to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our respective world. While we may never experience a demon-possessed person bowing down to us and entreating us not to torment them, nonetheless there will be instances in our lives where we command our subtle enemies to be exorcised from our circumstances. And, if we are walking with Jesus, it will not be a struggle. As we abide in the Lord, our heritage is to watch the enemy destroy himself all around us. For truly, Christ has given us the victory if we will but accept that reality. His heritage as "more than a conqueror" has become ours as we rest in the Beloved. The battle is the Lord's and the victory is ours!

Lord God Almighty, thank You for Your victory. Thank You for our inheritance as sons of the Most High God. Thank You that enemy is defeated and that they must bow the knee to the Risen Lord who lives within us. You are mighty to save, O God! Help us to live in the revelation of this truth. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Law of Love - November 2, 2014

Matthew 24:12 - Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold.

Have we lately considered that law and love are inextricably linked? One really can't exist without the other. In our respective societies, laws are enacted for the general welfare of the populace. While we may not always agree with each and every law, they are created to provide a sensible, safe living environment for all its inhabitants. For instance, we my not agree with a jaywalking law, especially if we are the one that decides to dash out in traffic to avoid walking to the protected corner crosswalk. However, we impinge on the rights of drivers who have to avoid hitting us, or worse case, the trauma and horror of actually running us over! Our insistence on our supposed "rights" has violated someone else's rights by our selfish, self-centered act. So, by abiding to simple laws, we commit ourselves to the common good. We allow just laws to draw us into a collective sense of community that is a form of love for all.

However, there are forces at work that disdain and actually despise any form of law. Anarchists say that we should have no laws that arbitrate or dictate against a human desire to fulfill themselves through self-expression. This is a most dangerous mind-set. The enemy of our souls can only wish that all mankind would arrive at this demonic conclusion for living. As far as the devil is concerned, we should all live by the law of relativity, which is really no law at all. Satan's desire is that there would be no absolutes other than that absolutely anything is permissible. After all, he might say, as long as we're not hurting anybody, right? For example, people inspired by this devilish thinking will often say, "If I want to take drugs, or drink myself silly, or use pornography, what business is that of anyone else? After all, don't I have the right to live and die for myself?" The short answer to this type of logic is ... no. We were created as individuals, however, we were not created to be singular in our mores and life values. While it is arguable whether drug use to the point of overdose would affect the health industry (e.g. if someone lived as a hermit in the woods and drank or drugged themselves to death), it is NOT arguable, according to scripture, that lawlessness against God's word does not become a detriment to society at large. To continue with the example of one drinking or drugging themselves comatose, the scripture states that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:10). Also, the Proverbs tell us that those who drink to the point of intoxication are not wise (Proverbs 20:1). Regarding drug use, the book of Revelation states that outside of the kingdom are the "dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons". In the Greek, the word for sorcery is pharmakeia where we derive our English word for pharmaceuticals or drugs. As previously stated, one's own behavior may not affect others in the physical sense, but it does go against God's laws which creates a spiritual paradigm that "stores up wrath" for the impending judgment of God (Romans 2:5). Literally, every sin committed that isn't covered through the redeeming power of Jesus Christ's sacrifice, becomes a foul stench in the nostrils of God. This, ultimately, affects us all.

Jesus' words in Matthew 24:12 is an indictment of our current end-time society. The Savior's implication is that love is "temperature-sensitive". Cold hearts are directly created by lack of love, or in other words, relativism against the absolute law of God. Relativism, while seemingly benign in many of its outward manifestations, has at its heart a hatred toward God and all that He stands for. However, wherever sin increases, grace does abound all the more (Romans 5:20). The Lord, by His infinite mercies, allows an escape for all who have icy hearts. He tells us in His word, when addressing the Laodicean church, that He would wish that they were either hot or cold for Him. Their lukewarmness or indifference becomes the catalyst of God's displeasure. This relativity, or lack of the law of love, creates a hostile relationship between man and God. Fortunately, for those needing His grace, coldness of heart is the most desirable place to be other than being hot or on fire for the Lord. At least with a cold, icy heart the Lord is able to reconcile himself to a sinner by showing him or her the lack of love by the presence of His great mercy. For example, if a man's heart has become so embittered against their family or friends or life at large, then the Lord can invade this man's conscience with His presence. By the very lack of love, the Spirit of conviction can show this man his extreme disparity of anything of God, thereby bringing him to a saving knowledge of Christ (John 16:8).

While humankind's hearts will continue to grow cold in these end-times, there is still hope for their redemption. As stated, God's laws and His love are inextricably linked. It is impossible to have one without the other. The hope for all mankind is that they would discover the law of liberty (James 2:12) which ultimately allows a man to truly live as an individual, accountable only to God. Only in Christ, is there true liberty. Only as we follow the Lawgiver can we know true freedom. Though hearts be cold and stony, God has promised that He can break into these ungodly lives. He only needs the fire of His love, that is bound to His laws of mercy and forgiveness, to come into a man's heart and to melt and mold him for His good pleasure. He waits, He longs, and He will not relinquish His quest to bring us the to His law of love. May we all yield to His irresistible, powerful presence that will truly set us free!

Lord God Almighty, thank You for Your laws because they draw us to Your infinite love. Help us to be on fire for You, always embracing your law of love. In Jesus Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Waiting Upon the Lord, Part II - October 26, 2014

Isaiah 40:31 - Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

What does it mean to wait upon the Lord? For many this might imply inactivity or even a pious solemnity typified by a cloistered monk. These assumptions are far from what Isaiah meant when he penned the words of our lead verse through the leading of the Holy Spirit. While this passage is one of the most quoted Old Testament scriptures, one must read it in context with the previous verses that lead up to this climactic end of the chapter. In so doing, one will understand the writer's intent. In the preceding verses, Isaiah attempts to reason with wayward Israel regarding the strength of Yahweh compared to that of feeble man. The prophet knows that God's people have lost their understanding regarding God's omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence. Throughout chapter 40, Isaiah attempts to teach Israel, once again, the great God who has called their nation His own.

In Isaiah 40:12, the prophet first declares: Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales? The seer has seen with God's eyes and knows that the Lord is everywhere and and that He is omnipresent in all of His creation. Isaiah, like his predecessor David, knew that there was no place one can flee from God's presence (Psalm 139:7-8). As in ancient Israel, many today believe that God is not concerned with the minutia of a solitary life -- that God has more important things to do than to concern Himself with an individual's thoughts, attitudes, or actions. Isaiah might tell us, as he might have told his congregation, that to think in this regard is to limit God and his omnipresence within His own creation. The limitlessness of God allows Him to be in earnest concerning every molecule of the universe. His eternality commends His ability to master everything in our time-bound space.

In the next two verses, Isaiah lays out in God's defense His eternal knowledge. In Isaiah 40:13-14 he states: Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding? The Lord as speaking through the prophet tells us that there were none before Yahweh and there will be none after. His knowledge, wisdom, and understanding is inscrutable and without human definition. God has put within the heart of man to know that there is an eternity, yet man's feeble attempts to explain it with a finite mind creates an enigmatic dilemma of trying to discern something he has never experienced (Ecclesiastes 3:11). And, that is the wisdom of God. For as time-bound creatures we should be in awe of a Creator that holds everything together by His word (Colossians 1:17). As David wrote: Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it (Psalm 139:6).

Finally, Isaiah speaks about God's awesome power or His omnipotence. In verse 14 he states: Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust. The prophet might very well have said to his people as well as us today: "If God can lift the islands like fine dust, then why would he not lift the burdens that we carry day to day needlessly?" The Lord wants to shoulder our anxieties and trials because He is not only all-powerful but he is also all-seeing and all-knowing regarding every circumstance we are going through. Through these and subsequent verses leading up to verse 31, Isaiah has laid the groundwork to say that it is foolish to attempt to save oneself from life's calamities. The sin that would so easily beset us is something that Christ carried to the cross in His body to crucify forever. Through Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection we have become partakers of the divine nature and the power thereof. Isaiah has set us up for the glorious revelation, proclaiming: Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

Beloved, God has laid out His defense in Isaiah the 40th chapter, proclaiming to us His rest if we will but wait for Him and His strength. He has proved to us by His words that he is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent in all His ways. Does it not seem ridiculous to trust in our own self and our own powers to deliver when He is ever-present to intercede on our behalf? He has promised us that if we would but wait on His deliverance, that He would imbue us with strength and power to soar above our problems on eagle wings. He has vowed that if we trust in Him, that He will give us legs to run the race before us without faltering. And, he has covenanted with His people to always walk with them with a promise of reaching our eternal destination. This is the God whom we serve -- The Almighty who will give us His divine strength if we will but only wait on Him.

Lord God Almighty, we thank you that You are the One who holds the universe in Your hand. So why should we not allow You to hold our lives in Your hand also? We yield to You and wait for You to work in our hearts the way that You will. We thank You and bless You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Waiting Upon the Lord, Part I - October 19, 2014

Psalm 27:14 - Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.

Waiting is not easy for most folks. As time-bound creatures, human beings understand that our waking (and sleeping) hours are not limitless. There is only so much that we can pack into any particular 24-hour period. So when someone or some thing "intrudes" into our already hectic schedule, it becomes easy to get impatient with the interruption. Many of us grit our teeth and more or less tolerate the inconvenience rather than accepting it as possibly a lesson in patience. The very act of impatience often testifies that we are fearful of losing something that we can never hang on to in the first place. In the case of lost time, it is more likely the crux of the problem referring to it as such. It is only lost if we believe it is. If, however, we have entrusted our time to the Lord, then nothing is ever lost or misplaced. As Paul states, we have made the most of our time by surrendering it all to the Lord (Ephesians 5:16).

Once we possess the attitude that all our time belongs to Him, then waiting for traffic or in the check-out line becomes a moot point. It doesn't matter what we are doing if we are centered in Christ. However, this attitude that spills over into our everyday life has its origin in the inner man. It starts by cultivating a view of eternity that swallows up time, because time no longer is a guiding factor. When one learns the "secret" of waiting upon the Lord, then all that we do takes on a peaceful, confident dynamic. Many scriptures allow us a glimpse into the life that tarries after God. Some teach us actually how to become an eternal watchman, waiting upon God as a servant with His Master. King David reveals both instruction and encouragement in our lead verse. This is what I like to call a "sandwich scripture" because the bread or the long-term sustenance is on the top and the bottom and the meat or the substance is in the middle. Whenever God says something, we are of course to pay attention. When the Lord reveals His word to us TWICE in the space of a single verse, then the matter is of utmost importance and should be heeded with diligent obedience. In Psalm 27:14, David through the unction of the Holy Spirit tells us to "wait for the Lord" at the beginning of this verse, but then he repeats Himself stating, "Yes, wait for the Lord". Why does He repeat Himself? The importance of waiting upon God is revealed in two commands that are sandwiched between His double admonition to tarry.

Without a mindset to wait upon God, it is impossible to "Be strong" and to "let your heart take courage". Surrendering rights to react in a defensive way or to vindicate ourselves in any matter is the only way to gain this point of power. Imagine for a moment a man who was falsely accused of something he said that others regarded as malicious and slanderous. For this man to react and to defend himself would send a direct message to God that he did not need the Sovereign's deliverance, but that he instead trusted in his own justification. In a very real way, this man had tied God's hands from supporting him, thereby making God impotent rather than omnipotent in his regard. Instead, this man must learn that in order to live with power from on high he must die to the power down below -- namely of the flesh and more precisely, self-assertion. However, once a man, woman, or child learns to die to the impulse to control the situation but rather to turn it over into God's hands, then a new and powerful dynamic unfolds. By the act of waiting on the Lord, he finds the lust to deliver oneself has abated. Rather, the heart is strengthened to look not toward the problem but toward the Solution for this and subsequent testings which it will certainly encounter. Through this strength, the heart is then allowed to take courage. The fortitude of the heart through its initial strengthening and then through victory after victory allows the heart to grasp onto or to "take" courage, building upon a foundation of strength.

Waiting upon the Lord is profoundly simple to those with childlike trust, but is equally difficult for those practiced in their own salvation. For those who have surrendered to Him, these know that there is salvation in no other except for the Lord (Psalm 37:39). Waiting is a form of death -- it is succumbing to another force that we have allowed to control our lives until some sort of deliverance is achieved on our behalf. Whether it be in traffic, or at the grocery store, or wherever or for whatever we wait, we are still surrendering ourselves to someone or something that we believe will inevitably change our circumstances on our behalf. If we as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ would practice waiting for Him and Him ONLY to deliver us, then we would experience a new freedom from anxiety and strife. Imagine if we waited on God with an expectancy that our time, our reputation, or any and everything about us belonged to Him? Beloved, we would be caught up in eternity with Him and the things of this earth would pale in view of His management of our surrendered state. Oh, for lives that would wait only upon the Lord! Yielded lives such as these, my friends, would be lives full of His presence and absent of the impatience that this world so generously throws our way each day. May we all learn the secret of waiting only for God. For as we wait upon Him, only then will we find both strength for today and courage for tomorrow.

Father, help us to wait upon You and You only. For only as we surrender do we find true victory. Only as we wait for Your salvation can we experience true freedom. We ask for Your grace and Your mercy to bow our hearts in humility to You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jesus the Messiah - October 12, 2014


Matthew 23:39 - "For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'"

As the adage goes, familiarity often breeds contempt. Ask those who are hosting in early December, how they might feel when their visitors are still house guests in early January. As Solomon stated, The end of a matter is better than its beginning ... (Ecclesiastes 7:8). In the case of the aforementioned illustration, this is undoubtedly true in many cases. However, the end of something can also bring regret that particular opportunities were not seized, or worse yet, lost altogether. Jesus' woes to the Pharisees regarding their stiff-necked resistance to the Gospel was a manifesto of their eternal doom. Hopefully, a few heeded the warnings. Unfortunately, we can surmise that collectively they remained hard-hearted toward Christ's rebuke. The religious order of that day had undoubtedly taken for granted the Person that none should discount or dismiss. And by their ultimate denial of Christ's Messianic personage, they received a promise yet to be fulfilled from the Lord regarding their rejection. Until the Jewish people could receive Jesus as the Messiah, they would not see Him. Until they could say in all humility, "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord", their hope of salvation was hopeless.

While Christ's pronouncements were directed primarily toward the Pharisees, his indictment also rang true for many of those in Jerusalem who were either Pharisaic followers or who were guilty by indifference. Many of those who were looking for a messiah that would ultimately restore the state of Israel and its former glory were undoubtedly dismally disappointed in this "Son of David" who had made his triumphant entry only days before. They wanted a savior that fit into their own lives, irrespective of what God desired or sought on their behalf. When Jesus didn't fit their expectations, many undoubtedly fell in behind the religious order, dismissing the true Savior as another messianic-wannabe. Jesus was quick to point out to all in his heartfelt cry for Jerusalem that they would not see him until they had eyes to see their folly (Matthew 23:37-39). His heart broke over their obstinacies, yet He would never force compliance. By their freewill, He knew that someday the Jewish remnant would cry out with passionate hearts of love, embracing His return with the same zeal as the rest of His end-time Bride. As Paul states in the book of Romans, an end time remnant will be saved (Romans 9:27). However, this won't happen until the fullness of the Gentiles (or the ingathering of the nations) occurs (Romans 11:25). The Gentile church has a remarkable opportunity of "seeing" the truth before the end. It is all about seeing Christ through an acknowledgement that He is the Savior of all mankind.

Jesus told the Jews in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew that they wouldn't see Him until they possessed the humility to do so. Comparably, those who are of the Gentile nations (who is anyone that isn't a Jew), have the privilege of seeing Jesus NOW through the spirit of humility and trust. Many who aren't Jews fall into the same category as their Semitic counterparts by looking for a messiah that will fit into their belief system. Some might say, "Jesus demands too much ... He is too narrow-minded and doesn't give me the power of self-expression. I want a god that will let me be me!" Unfortunately, the devil made this same claim upon the God-head, touting his prideful independence and rejecting humility before the Most High. Every other religion in the world is based on this demonic lie of self-assertion through self-awareness. It's all about actualizing their own "god potential". Jesus rejected this mind and heart-set with the Pharisees and He continues to do so today with everything that would raise itself up against the wisdom of His salvation. This "narrow-mindedness", as labeled by some, is the kindness and mercy of God that leads many into His saving grace (Romans 2:4). Rejecting Christ and the "narrow way", is denying one's blindness and the inability to see Him for who He is. Christ will never be what our sinful natures desire to see, but He will always be the changeless Savior that will restore our sight to see and understand His great salvation if we will only heed His grace.

As Jesus dealt with the stiff-necked Jewry in ancient Palestine, He likewise deals with those in our present age who refuse His grace. Conversely, those who will humble themselves, confessing that the "messiah" they've been seeking is a self-centered counterfeit of the true Messiah, to these Christ has promised to give them eye salve to spiritually see (Revelation 3:18) and a heart to repent. While we still have breath and before His second coming, we all have the opportunity to say, "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord". By saying this, we lay down our rights of assuming what our Savior should resemble. We give Him the liberty according to His irrefutable Law to be the Messiah according to His loving will. May we all see Jesus as we bless Him for who He is, as we wait expectantly for His great appearing.

Lord Jesus, thank You that You are the Messiah. Thank You that whomever will come to You with humility and contriteness, You will grant eternal life. Help all these who don't know You to acknowledge that You are indeed the Savior of mankind and that You desire none to perish. Help those of us who know You to continue to submit to You as our Eternal Savior, knowing that Your return is imminent. Give us all eyes to see the Blessed One in all of His glory. In Your Name, Yeshua, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick