Sunday, February 26, 2017

God's Fires - February 26, 2017

Psalm 97:2-3 - Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. Fire goes before Him and burns up His adversaries round about.

While fire has for millennia offered to humankind an energy source to both light and warm our respective lives, most either learn or instinctively know a safe distance to keep from its incandescent glow. A "burn barrel" set up on a cold day at a frozen lake or a snow-laden sledding hill is a pretty good indicator of the degree of daring individuals might have toward approaching its warmth. As a child, we all collected brush wood to feed the flame as we sledded or skated, returning to the warmth of the roaring fire to unthaw throughout the day. Some of us had sense to stay away from the direct flames and the heat of the 55 gallon steel drum. Others got too close and ended up either singing their hair or eyebrows, or melting a pair of nylon gloves or mittens by drying them too close to the heat. A "normal" reaction to fire should generate a healthy respect in most people. However, some might have an irrational desire to be around fire, hence they might be classified as having pyromaniac tendencies . On the other end of the proverbial spectrum are those that have a morbid fear of fire. Dictionary.com defines the word pyrophobia as "... an excessive or abnormal fear of fire". Panic-stricken individuals that run from its relatively safe illumination may have experienced a traumatic experience earlier in life that might cause them to retreat with such vehement fear. Witnessing a loved one that lost their life in a house fire can often traumatize an individual to the point of phobic episodes. While a healthy fear and respect for fire is a normal reaction, irrational and terrorized behavior toward fire are not. Phobias such as this are not easily reversed and often take years of constructive counseling to overcome. Unless, of course, God intervenes.

A normal respect for fire would include not getting too close to the flame, nor too far away in order to enjoy its comfort. God has given us all natural understanding in this regard. However, how much of His wisdom do we possess concerning the nature of God as the Living Fire to both the righteous and the wicked? For surely, scripture states that His nature is as a consuming fire to both sinners and saints (Hebrews 12:28-29). The question that every man, woman, girl, and boy must ask themselves is this: Do I wish to embrace His flame, or shall I run from it in terror? For with God's fire, there really is no "middle-of-the-road, living in the comfort of His glow" existence. One might say, "Let my preacher burn brightly for God ... that's his job, right? As for me and my house, well, we'll just enjoy the warmth of Sunday morning services. After all, don't want anyone to think I'm a fanatic or anything. That's just not my style!" Beloved, God will burn all of us up one way or another. We will either burn for Him in this lifetime, or we will burn without Him in the life to come. Certainly, there will be some saved by the skin of their teeth, so to speak. Paul talks about these in his letter to the Corinthians when he states all men's works will be revealed by fire.

Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. - I Corinthians 3:12-15

If there is indeed nothing left that is built on the foundation of Christ's redemption, then the scripture is clear that these will indeed inherit eternal life. However, on that glorious day when standing in His presence, they will have nothing to offer Him but their own selfish lives. Having resisted the sanctifying fires of His presence in their earthly existence, they are now saved only through God's mercy as He sanctifies and glorifies them on that last day. Yet, what is the price to pay if one has lived a selfish life and has in reality deceived themselves regarding their eternal position? Is warming oneself by the "fires of this world" worth the gamble of jeopardizing where they will spend eternity? His Spirit is ours today to both sanctify and purge, creating a vessel that is surrendered for His use (Ephesians 2:10).

In reality, there is far less burning for God in our present world than burning for sin's passions. There will always be one that will prevail at any given time and place in human history. Sin has been allowed to burn out of control because the church has not burned in prayer for a lost world. While homosexuals march in the streets for equal rights, and baby killers speak about the rights of a woman, God grieves that there is no one to stand in the gap and burn with a holy fervor over these blatant expressions of sin that parade through our land. For these are only symptomatic of a much deeper and deadly rebellion towards a holy God. The crux of the problem is this -- THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES! They no longer fear the fires of passion that desire to consume them in this life, nor the fires that will consume them in the one to come. Instead, they should be reverentially giving themselves to a loving God that will consume them with His holy fire in this life and cause them to burn with the brightest of the sun in the next (Revelation 1:16; Romans 6:5). If there were more saints burning for God to send revival to this earth in a global way, then we would hear the words of Isaiah the prophet once again, stating: Sinners in Zion are terrified; Trembling has seized the godless "Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?" (Isaiah 33:14). Beloved, when the lost are saying in a wholesale manner once again as the Philippian jailer: What must I do to be saved? (Acts 16:30), then we will know that the Spirit of Burning has been loosed upon this world through the power of men and women burning in prayer (Isaiah 4:4).

There are defined moments for every living person to make a decision for Christ. These decisions will dictate how we are to burn for the Lord, for as stated earlier, we will burn for Him one way or another. Some may think of us as being "pyromaniac" for God, intent on burning for Him and nothing else. Many will think that this behavior is socio-imbalanced or psychotic in behavior. Others, may view those with a terror or an angst toward God as those who might be diagnosed as "Theopyrophobic" (fear of the fire of God). These could be atheist or agnostics who subliminally or subconsciously use their supposed denial of God as a cover for their deep-seated fear of the unknown. Then, there are those who try to hover between the comfort of the fires of this world and the Fires of the Lord. This is a most precarious position. While this is normalcy when dealing with natural fire, it is lunacy and a bad gamble when dealing with a God who is a consuming fire. Our first desire should be to give ourselves to Him in this lifetime -- to allow Him to purge and remove from us anything that might hinder His Spirit. Our ongoing desire should be to burn long and bright in this life for His purposes, allowing us the right to shine with Him throughout eternity.

John answered and said to them all, "As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." - Luke 3:16

Lord Jesus, May we all burn with You and for You!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sin's Separation - February 19, 2017

Isaiah 59:2 - But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.

Many of us who have been around Christian circles for any length of time have heard our share of sermons on prayer. A favorite saying that many preachers will interject into their message is "... God ALWAYS answers prayers. It may not be on our time-table, but God always answers prayers!" I believe this emphatically. However, I also see how this can be a cop out. It is easy to say that God always answers prayers when nothing demonstrably happens once a so-called man or woman of God pray. How often have we seen a television evangelist pray over someone and then when the miracle doesn't materialize, they simply tell the person being prayed for to keep believing in the miracle and that it will come in due time. They loose themselves from all responsibility of the miraculous occurring by putting the fault back on the one being prayed for if it doesn't happen. After all, the "pray-ee" just didn't have faith to receive the miracle, right? Hogwash! My soul feels revulsion for the lack of power in prayer by so-called healers and workers of miracles, telling those being prayed for that they must provide all the faith for the miracle to manifest. In only two instances in the Gospels were Jesus' healings contingent on the faith of those receiving prayer (Matthew 13:58; Mark 9:23-24). Preachers and healers love to quote these scriptures when there are no demonstrable results from their petitions. However, the vast majority of the time Jesus is chronicled as healing people indiscriminately, whether they had faith or not. Without a doubt, it pleased the Lord when those He prayed for possessed faith. The scriptures show several examples including the Centurion's son (Matthew 8:5-14) or the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:23-28) but it was not the determining factor in most instances. The Gospels are clear that Jesus went into areas and did "wholesale" healing, if you will, laying hands on all and healing them with His immediate touch (Matthew 4:24; Matthew 8:16; Mark 1:34; Luke 4:40; Luke 5:15).

Jesus stated in the Gospel of John: Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father (John 14:12). His promise to His beloved are works or manifestations of His power greater than what He did as a sojourner on this earth. So what is the problem? Why do we not see more immediate answers to prayer as Christ demonstrated in His ministry? Personally, I believe the answer is much simpler than most would feel comfortable believing. The scripture tells us point blank why God does not hear our prayers ... we STILL have a sin problem! I'm not talking about our position in Christ because clearly all who know the Risen Lord and have trusted in Him for salvation have died to sin, POSITIONALLY that is. Too many, I fear, have not taken Paul's admonition to heart when he instructed us to die to sin CONDITIONALLY, once and for all (Romans 6:11). As our opening scripture states, God has hidden His face from us because of sin (Isaiah 59:2). Most have not allowed God to truly sanctify them, to live lives of 100% obedience which would first mean a time of deep introspection and confession of sin. James the brother of Jesus is very clear on the progression of steps to command fervent, effectual prayer. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16). Beloved, first we must confess our SINS to one another. I'm not talking about SIN which was what we confessed to Jesus Christ when we acknowledged that we were sinners in need of His grace. But James is stating that we need to "clean house" and sweep away every thing that is not of Jesus. It must be destroyed. According to this scripture and many others like it, we can only find healing as we confess our sins to another human being. This will allow the Holy Spirit to come in and fill our hearts and lives as never before. Then, our prayers will begin to take on a power that we never dreamed. It is not by happenstance that James goes on in the following verses to compare effective prayer with that of Elijah. This prophet prayed for the sky to be shut up for three and half years and it happened according to his word (James 5:17-18). The apostle is not merely making a comparison here in the attempt to give a flourish to his writing, but he genuinely believed that those who live clean and obedient lives can invoke heaven in much the same way as the Old Testament prophet.

A remarkable instance of God coming in an extraordinary way through confession happened on February 3, 1970 at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky. What was supposed to be a 50 minute chapel service on a Tuesday morning turned into a 185 hour manifestation of God's revival power -- a 24 hour prayer and praise meeting that would be the spark for the Jesus Movement of the early '70s. And, it all started from a deep sense of conviction (John 16:8) and then a confession of sin(s). Before long, students and faculty were lined up to come to the microphone, confessing their sins and testifying of the Lord's goodness through their repentance. (An account of the Asbury Revival is available on video here.) Asbury is just one example. Every revival or manifestation of God's power was predicated by a deep conviction of both SIN for the unsaved and SINS for those who knew the Savior. No matter if it was during the Great Awakening in John Wesley's day, or Charles Finney during the Second Great Awakening of pre-Civil War America, or the more recent Azusa Street Revival of Los Angeles in 1906, these all characteristically began with the Spirit of Conviction regarding sin resting on those God both moved on and through during these momentous manifestations.

Beloved, many of us who desire to see God move in our time as He has done so faithfully in the past can only concur with God's desire to move in like fashion. I say this with an assurance given to me by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit and by His holy scriptures that God will move once again on our darkened world when we cry out from hearts that are completely His. What we see in many parts of the world with the Global Prayer Movement is an awesome thing! Many of these prayer meetings have been going strong for years, covenanting with God on a 24/7 basis. God is going to move in a powerful way through prayer as it births world-wide revival. However, there must come a holy conviction first that we have yet to see in order for God's Spirit to be poured forth. Once God grants us the Spirit of Conviction that convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8), THEN we will begin to see and hear the fervent and effectual prayers of righteous men and women as they invoke the fire of God upon this dying world. No longer will He be hiding His face from His beloved, but He will be rapturous with expectation along with His Bride regarding the workings of His Spirit within our midst.

Come Lord ... come and bring to us conviction of sin both to the sinner and to the saint. We confess our sins to you, O Lord, and to one another. May You move with a power and an unction we have never imagined. In Jesus' Precious Holy Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Holy Groaning - February 12, 2017

John 16:21 - Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.

Pregnancy is such an awesome wonder to behold. As a man, I am bereft of any real understanding regarding what a woman goes through during her time of incubating another life within her womb. (Bear with me, ladies, as I state the obvious!) The nuances of two human lives developing a relationship from the moment of conception is an extraordinary thing to ponder. However, I do know what it is like as a father to wait with expectancy as the time of birth draws near. It is an assurance of not IF it will happen but WHEN! It is a mix of excitement and tension as the exact time of birth can be hard to pin down. While I have been told repeatedly that a pregnant woman does not want to be told she is "glowing", it is a true statement whether they like the acknowledgement or not. Women seem to accept this more in the beginning of their pregnancy, but toward the end of the third trimester they are just ready to have their child. They don't want to be told that they look beatific in their maternal way, as many feel tired and "ugly", if you will. Until they shed this "precious poundage" that has dominated their lives for the past several months, there is an inner groaning and an outward discomfort until the birth of their child is finally realized.

In a very real sense (and just as a woman's pregnancy), the church is beginning to witness the early signs of a spiritual pregnancy that will culminate with Christ's return and the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23). The church is beginning to radiate a modest glow and an ever-so-slight witness, if you will, that would be demonstrative of a spiritual pregnancy. The expectant church has been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit in these latter days much in the same way as Mary the mother of Jesus was impregnated as she submitted to God's will. For this to be reality in the church collectively, it has first to be a reality in believers singularly. God has called out many saints in their respective church bodies first and foremost to become holy vessels through obedience and the fear of the Lord (II Corinthians 7:1). As set apart believers that are intent on His will, the Lord God is raising these up as intercessors who will continue to plead the Court of Heaven until the Eternal Judge sends forth both His mercy and justice upon a dying world. We are in the beginning days of God raising up a mighty team who would travail -- a veritable Garrison of Groaners that would not rest night or day until God's will is done on this earth (Isaiah 62:6-7). There is much at stake as men and women join with others to petition heaven. It is the very beginning of the end of days -- the great end-time ingathering of souls (Revelation 14:14-16).

While many believe that the Lord's return might occur at any time, I believe that this is incongruent with scripture. While there are several things that have indeed occurred that would point to Christ's return, there are just as many that have as yet to happen. (One of these, for example, is the need for the Jerusalem Temple to be reconstructed. [Acts 15:13-18; Revelation 11:1-2; Daniel 9:24-27]) The beauty of the Lord delaying His return allows His bride to ready herself, adorning her vestige with holiness which is befitting of a chaste virgin. Even as Mary told the angel Gabriel, may it be done to me according to your word (Luke 1:38), even so there are those who are submitting to the Lord for what might seem a long pregnancy. I can assure you, beloved, that this will be a gestation not of months but of years. It will require a continued birthing of prayer meetings, global prayer rooms, intercessory halls, and every other form of gathering for night and day prayer until God breaks forth upon this earth and reaps His greatest desire -- the hearts and lives of men, women, and children. However, we should not grow faint at heart in our waiting. As long as we prepare ourselves, even as the five prudent virgins in Jesus' parable (Matthew 25:1-13), then we will be full of the oil of His Spirit. The oil of gladness (Isaiah 61:3) will keep us expectant, longing with a fortitude that will not be denied no matter how long He delays.

We should all be asking ourselves particular questions if we truly believe we are in the last days. For if we are in the end time, it means our redemption is drawing near and we should be rapturous with expectation (Luke 21:28). Has God given you a joy of expectancy in your life? Have you the flush of being of pregnant with what the Spirit of God is doing in our generation? Is He brooding over you to bring forth an outpouring of His Spirit not seen since the days of Pentecost? In all honesty, beloved, I have witnessed very little of the brooding Spirit of the Holy God in our present time. Even in our respective prayer groups in the midst of the burgeoning global prayer movement, we see enthusiasm and fervor but the majority of it can often appear as repetitious rote. However, before you think I am coming down on the present day prayer movement, understand that I believe we are doing all that God is asking us to do. In the midst of our apparent deadness, there is a wonderful life that has begun to grow and to be nurtured in the very womb of His Body, the church. Its life and sustenance is the prayer room as men, women, and children groan for a birthing of Holy Ghost power the world has yet to see. The pregnancy is not noticeable on a wholesale manner, and especially to the world -- yet. However, the beginnings are already starting to reach out and arrest those God has called to become intercessors to help birth this great movement. It will take a collective body, a chaste virgin that first glows with anticipation and then groans for its completion. Shall we be counted worthy to be part of such a marvelous work? May God give us all the grace to be that man or woman to join hands with others in this joyous labor of love.

Once again and a million times over, Lord, we cry out with John the Revelator, The Spirit and the bride say come! (Revelation 22:17). May Your kingdom come as we join hands and hearts to birth the greatest awakening ever known to humankind. We humbly submit to this awesome endeavor. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Lie With Me - February 5, 2017

Genesis 39:7 - It came about after these events that his master's wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, "Lie with me."

Genesis 39 begins with Joseph's ordeal of being sold as a slave into the household of Potiphar where the young Hebrew quickly rises in stature and rank amongst his new lord's servants. As the meaning of Joseph's name means "God increases or adds to", so he rose to second only to Potiphar himself in this royal official's household. The scripture tells us (Genesis 39:1-6) that Joseph was both successful and prosperous in whatever he put his hand to do. This young man had risen, in a relatively short period of time, from being a slave sold in the Egyptian slave market to quite possibly the highest station a slave might hold in Egyptian culture. It appears that Joseph made the best of an imperfect situation by prospering both his master and himself in his once dire straits. However, this was not the end of God's design for Joseph's prosperity nor that of the Hebrew people in the land of Canaan. By a set of dastardly circumstances, Joseph must rise above his station and command all in Egypt in order to save his people. And the catalyst for this rise to power would come by the words and actions of Potiphar's own wife. The road to Joseph's destiny lie in a jail cell before it ended at the throne room. For Joseph, his success as Potiphar's slave would prepare him for his glorious future as the redeemer of the known world through his wisdom in staving off a catastrophic famine.

Our opening text tells us that Potiphar's wife looked with desire at Joseph. However, Genesis 39:7 is clear that this transpired "after these events". What were these events? As previously stated, the first six verses of Genesis 39 contain Joseph's rise to prominence in the house of Potiphar. Clearly, this handsome and strong young Hebrew that was successful in everything he touched became a desirous target to the possibly neglected wife of his master. As often happens, men of integrity and character are challenged morally by evil to determine if they truly are whom they might appear. (One only has to look at any number of moral failures in recent years of mega-church pastors and televangelists.) If Satan can use a temptress or a tempter to try to seduce a man or woman of God, then many times he might bring them down in their folly (Proverbs 6:26). However, if the Devil loses his bet, then the very one he seeks to pull down will often rise stronger in the end by persevering through the trial. We know from the remainder of Genesis 39 that Joseph held fast to his integrity and suffered the lying accusations of Potiphar's wife rather than lie with the woman and destroy all that he had thus achieved. Oftentimes, to stay true to oneself means to disregard any self-preservation, no matter what the cost.

Through the years, I have talked and counseled many that have been at this very crossroads where Joseph made a stand for his own character and integrity. As a practicing alcoholic, I knew what it meant to get a few months of sobriety and then to once again be wooed by the seductress alcohol. As a recovering alcoholic and a sinner saved by grace for many years now, I understand how the world can woo and tantalize those of undetermined wills. I have talked and prayed with many regarding any number of addictions or life style choices that once seemed controllable in their lives, but led them to a place of self-imprisonment that they could not free themselves. There are many such "couches of sin" where the wavering of faith might lie with their respective seductress or seducer. However, that is the time when moral character must be dredged up out of the inner man or woman to counter the attack. If we choose to lie horizontally on "beds of iniquity" and compromise ourselves, then our vertical, spiritual posture will be bowed down with the weight of guilt and shame. We cannot walk with straight backs and uplifted heads if we have given in to our besetting sin and it has once again mastered us. Just as Joseph undoubtedly learned character long before arriving in Egypt, we too must lay claim to small victories in our lives until once again we (as well as others) begin to regard us as people of character. Ah, but then comes the challenge and temptation! For when a man thinks he stands, let him take heed unless he falls (I Corinthians 10:12). Testing and trial will always be the examiner or the tutor, if you will, of the pupil of integrity. As success and prosperity overtake us in our respective journey's of sanctification, the adulteress or the adulterer will be there to try to destroy what we have accomplished by the grace of God. At this critical crossroad, we must stand firm, knowing that ... No temptation has overtaken [us] but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow [us] to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that [we] will be able to endure it (I Corinthians 10:13; I Peter 5:9).

God's promise is that He will never give us more than we can handle. As with Joseph, when things seemed the bleakest in his Egyptian prison, then the Lord broke forth and redeemed his chosen in a marvelous way. We, also, must hold on and never succumb through every trial and temptation, awaiting each subsequent victory. As certain as the Devil hates our successes and the goodness we are germinating within our own lives and those around us, even so he would like nothing better than to kill, steal, and/or destroy these seeds of hope. There may come a time when it seems that God has abandoned us to a proverbial "jail cell" in our own respective Egypt. We may once again sense a loss of hope when just recently we experienced such success and prosperity. And now here we are once again in this dark, dank period where there is no apparent deliverance. Take heart! Fear not! Your redemption is close at hand -- only He can bring us out of the dark. As we allow Him to do it in His time, then we will see in hindsight the wonderful creature that he has created in us through our trusting in Him.

Holy Father, forge our characters in the furnaces of heaven while keeping us from succumbing to the fires and the passions of this world. Allow us to succeed and prosper in all our endeavors knowing that even these must be tried with fire. Let us pass through the flames of these trials, refined in character as precious gold, useful to the our Master and His will for our lives and others. We pray this in Jesus' Name and for His glory, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Consumed in the Fires of God - January 29, 2017


Hebrews 12:28-29 - Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

You never have to advertise a fire. Everyone comes running when there’s a fire. Likewise, if your church is on fire, you will not have to advertise it. The community will already know it. - Leonard Ravenhill "Why Revival Tarries", Bethany Publishing

Between barefoot running, the Lord's barefoot running ministry, work, and home life, there is not much time left for anything else. I like it that way. I enjoy being consumed with the things I love. Although my running schedule is time-consuming, I love the opportunity it affords me to have one-on-one time with the Lord. And, though the webpage and my writings take time, I thoroughly enjoy these also. We all make time for the things we really love. God, as we know by definition in the book of I John, is love in the most perfect sense. He is also a consuming fire as stated in the aforementioned scripture. So, which is He? He is both, and much more! As love personifies His nature, so fire is both literal and metaphoric for the passionate consummation He projects through His character toward the object of his intense focus -- humankind!

As we were made in the image of God, we were also made in the likeness of His character. The Lord said, "Be holy, as I am holy". "Be imitators of God". "... For God is love and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God". God does not merely want us to be casual observers of his character but partakers. He desires for each and every one of us to acknowledge our utter barrenness of ANYTHING good within ourselves and trust in His nature to kill the "old self" of sin within our respective bodies of death (see Romans chapter 6). Do we know that our self has been crucified with Christ, that we are dead to sin and alive to Christ? Our passions will testify to the reality of our position before God and man. If we love the things of this world, we will be drawn to the "fires" of this world as a moth to a flame. In the same respect, if we are truly born of God, we will desire the things of God and His will for us. Obedience to the things of God will merely be a joyous exercise of love if we truly belong to Him.

I quoted a favorite author of mine in the beginning of this devotional, Leonard Ravenhill. I had the privilege of hearing this great evangelist and revivalist in the late 1980s. Even at 80 years of age, his heart still burned with holy fervor for the Lord. Talking briefly with him one immediately recognized a heart and a voice of earnestness for the things of God. He had no time to talk about trifles. He was busy with the Lord's business. A.W. Tozer wrote about Leonard Ravenhill in the preface of Ravenhill's book "Why Revival Tarries?" stating that ...

Those who know Leonard Ravenhill will recognize in him the religious specialist, the man sent from God not to carry on the conventional work of the church, but to beard the priests of Baal on their own mountaintop, to shame the careless priest at the altar, to face the false prophet and warn the people who are being led astray by him.

Tozer could have just as easily been writing about any number of great spiritual, biblical leaders such as Moses, Peter, or Paul. Likewise, he might have referred to more recent godly men such as George WhitefieldJohn WesleyCharles FinneyD.L. Moody or Billy Graham. The fact is that God and His truths are timeless. No matter what generation, men and women that are truly called of God will turn aside just as Moses did to see the wonder of a bush that is not consumed. Then, and only then, can God put within these a desire for the "burn of holiness" that will transport an individual to lead others into the promised land of God's true rest. Oh, that those of us who know the Lord would burn with that desire! We do a huge disservice to those who do not know the Risen Lord. May they one day not have to stand before the Giver of Life and accuse us of denying them the truth of His Presence. I pray that we who are believers would truly begin to burn with a desire and a passion for souls that all those that we would touch in our daily lives would come to know the all Perfect One who consumes with a Perfect Love.

Dr. W.E. Sangster knew the consuming fire of His Lord as he sought to revive the Methodist Church in post-WWII Britain. "In 1949, Sangster was elected president of the Methodist Conference of Great Britain. The denomination's leader now, he announced the twofold agenda he would drive relentlessly: evangelism and spiritual deepening." The following describes his earnestness regarding the Lord's work:

How shall I feel at the judgment, if multitudes of missed opportunities pass before me in full review, and all my excuses prove to be disguises of my cowardice and pride?
Until his death in 1960, Dr. Sangster continued to be consumed with the fire of God's heart. "He longed to see lukewarm pew-sitters aflame with that oceanic love which bleaches sin's allure and breaks sin's grip and therefore scorches and saves in the same instant."


Truly, what ever consumes us is inevitably what we love. And, what we love is generally what we adore. And, what we adore is ultimately what we worship. If you are not consumed by God (or desiring to be so), then you are consumed with self. There is no middle ground. Jesus said the most important commandment was to "Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind". What is consuming you? Friends, if we are not consumed with and moving toward this "Burning Bush of Love" then we deceive ourselves. "God is a consuming fire" and will have nothing less than all we are.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Moral Living Versus Living in Christ - January 22, 2017


We all know good people. These are folks who would never lift a finger to hurt anyone. To the best of their ability they have always tried to live the Ten Commandments. You would also think about the "Golden Rule" if you considered how they would certainly "do unto others as they would do for themselves." Yet, as "good" as these folks are, if they have not placed their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is all for naught. It means nothing in the light of eternity. The very sad truth is that there will be myriads of "good" folks in hell. I didn't say this but it was said long before I came along. The scripture is clear when Jesus states in John 14:6 ... "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." Even with the clarity of this and many other scripture references pronouncing a definite way to salvation, I would never tell someone they are or aren't saved. That is between them and God. All things will be revealed in time.

However, how does one distinguish between good, moral living and living in Christ? Folks can certainly put on a good exterior and look like they are pious by displaying certain attributes that are applauded within our society. If one does not lie, does not cheat, does not swear, does not drink, does charity work, is kind, etc. then it is fairly well accepted that this person must be a godly character. However, as they say looks can be deceiving. While someone may smile on the outside they may be full of despair. While one may be giving ten percent to their church, they may have a covetous heart and a grasping attitude in their business that totally nullifies their supposed generosity. The scripture states in Luke 18:9-14 that the Pharisee was feeling very good about himself as he considered himself "moral" -- that he was not a swindler, unjust, an adulterer, or like that tax-gatherer! The tax-gatherer could not even raise his eyes to heaven but said "Have mercy on me O God, a sinner!" Jesus said that the tax-gatherer went up to his house justified while the Pharisee stood condemned. The tax-gatherer obviously had a change of "heart" whereas the Pharisee was not in the least concerned about examining his heart but was merely relying on his actions to justify him before God. This seeming "morality" of the Pharisee did nothing to commend him to the Eternal God, but rather it condemned him.

Morality in and of itself when it does not spring from a heart given to God leads us in the wrong direction, only strengthening self and leading us AWAY from salvation. Ask yourself: Why should ANYONE care about a moral compass when its compass points will always point straight to hell? Morality will never save me, but Jesus will. And, He is the one that will give me the power and the joy to live the normal Christian life. What is a normal Christian life, some may ask? JESUS LIVED IT! That is the normal and credible testimony of how a Christian should live. Paul said in I Corinthians 4:16 "Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me." WHOA! We either just read the most arrogant statement made in first century Christianity or we have happened on someone who is confident that their life has been crucified with Christ and that they no longer live but Christ lives in them. Thank God, it is the latter! What a glorious living testimony was Paul to the power of a Christ-resurrected man. Who needs to live up to the Law when there is One who has fulfilled the Law and now lives it through any who would but accept Him for who He is.

Recently, I had someone tell me "Keep being the good man you are!" I shuddered inside, because if they only knew. This person is not a believer (by their own admission), but a good person and so therefore was congratulating me from their own point of reference. There are a couple of things wrong with their statement. For one thing, I am not good but for the grace of God. Some of you who knew me in my pre-Christ years can attest to that. It is only by His grace that I am anything today. Secondly, if he mistook "morality" in me rather than "Christ-likeness" than I have done him a huge disservice and have not offered him anything that can stop their eventual slide into hell. Friends, the world is not looking for good people. There are lots of "good" people doing lots of noteworthy and wonderful things. Humankind is looking for LIFE -- an eternal personage that is full of the fruit of the Spirit -- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Humankind is yearning for men and women who have been transfigured by the person of Jesus Christ. They are thirsting after the Living Water that only He can give. There are rivers of intellect, and moral turpitude, and high human ideals that are flowing temporal and wide, just waiting for the masses to jump in so that they can be swept into hell with the rest of "good" humanity. However, there are some who will refuse to be jettisoned down this metaphoric river of Egypt into the abyss -- those of us who will but choose to be identified with Christ and drink from the river of Living Water that is eternal, never to thirst again.

Commandments, Golden Rules, and compasses are what they are -- merely tools to define direction and position. They can not save because they are inherently "tools" to point us to the One who can save. That One IS the Law fulfilled, the Just and Righteous Ruler, and the One who points us to the cross, and ultimately to our own resurrection and that of others. Hallelujah!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Ambitious Living - January 15, 2017

James 3:16 - For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

When I started barefoot running, my reasons were two-fold. One, I definitely wanted to run pain free. My knees had been giving me fits for months and barefoot running seemed to force proper technique which alleviated the lateral shock to my legs and knees. Two, I wanted to be noticed and applauded for doing something that very few were trying and most wouldn't do. To most sensible folks, the second reason smacks of arrogance and pride. I attempted to masquerade my selfish ambition of wanting accolades for what I was doing with the reasoning "... it was for my health". The truth? I was steeped in selfish ambition which the Lord out of His abundant mercy allowed. God knew, that like anything else of this world, that I would eventually grow tired of it, experiencing its emptiness. In His infinite wisdom, He had other things in mind for my barefoot running. He inevitably wooed me into a place of submission and humility to eventually turn the attention that I was receiving over to Him, in order that He might use it for His glory.

Today, I pray that my heart is more and more His. To assume that I am free from self-promotion would be ludicrous and self-deceiving. As I walk in the ways of the Lord and allow Him to shape His ministry around me, I see the importance -- no, the imperativeness of letting Him be Lord and allowing Him to strip me of all selfish ambition. This is actually going beyond mere submission to Jesus and all He is -- for even an enemy can bow down to his victor and give feigned obedience. Beyond submission, the Lord requires identification and substitution -- the fact of what Christ has done on the cross for mankind, how he gave His life so that I might live through His death, burial, and resurrection. If I am not living a substituted life, identifying with all He has done on my behalf, then I am living a life of self. For truly my only hope is Christ living in me. As Paul so eloquently and profoundly stated in Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."

The horror of living selfishly ambitious is that I put the Lord up for open shame every time I choose to self-promote. As He lives within me and I am not living through His ambitions, He is subjected to this body of selfishness and sin. It is like I make a mockery of the Risen Lord who gave me the power over the body of flesh to walk in newness of life. According to James in the opening scripture, EVERY evil practice exists where envy and selfish ambition reside. One could easily say the so-called Seven Deadly Sins would be as eggs incubating in these nests of hell called envy and selfish ambition. I will go beyond that and state that any and all sin, EVERY evil practice as James states, are ovum gestating in the womb of selfish ambition. Can you imagine every evil practice? This suggests that every disgusting, revolting, sinful practice that you can even imagine is rooted in envy and selfish ambition. For truly, were these not the characteristics of Satan's sin against God? Did it not first start with envy of God's power and then inevitably to selfish ambition where he was cast from heaven? Even today, the Holy Spirit speaks through His scripture telling me that anyone who wishes or desires to be the Lord's must understand and live a life of submission. Otherwise, the opposite is a hellish devotion to self that reeks of spiritual death and self-sufficiency.

What is my desire today? Is it to only satisfy my own ambitions? If so, James through the Holy Spirit states that these desires will lead only to a more "practiced" life of evil. However, the Lord Jesus lays before me this day another choice -- Life -- His Life. It is there for the asking. It is there for the taking. This should be my main ambition in life!

Lord, take my life, my dreams, my goals,
And make my ambition, yours for souls!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick