Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Bare Soul - He Knocks - July 27, 2008


Revelation 3:20 - 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.'

What does it really mean to have Jesus knocking at the door of one's heart? We are all familiar with the picture in this week's devotional of Jesus standing outside the door, looking patient and loving as he waits for the door to swing open. The context of this verse is far different than the hallowed painting of the meek and mild Jesus. The Laodicean church took the strongest rebuke of any of the seven churches in the first three chapters of the book of Revelation. If we go back to verse 17, the Lord rebukes them with the following words: 'Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, ... Jesus goes on to tell them that they should buy for themselves gold as refined by fire (His Holiness), white garments that they might clothe themselves (His Righteousness), and eye salve that they might see (His Wisdom). In the context of these verses, how do you now see the Lord as pictured in verse 20 ... angry, sad, mournful? Possibly all of these. However, I am quite certain that the Lord is in a forgiving frame of heart and mind. He states that He has the greatest intention of coming into the hearts of these believers and dining with them and they with Him. This is a grand picture of communion and fellowship of the greatest degree. All has been forgiven at this point as the Lord dines with the forgiven.

We can certainly personalize this picture in our own lives. There was that point where those of us who believe invited Jesus in and the fellowship and the communion was grand! Then, one day we excused ourselves and pushed Jesus out the door because we had more "pressing" matters. Once we desired His fellowship again, we might have opened the door to no avail, because the Lord was not standing there waiting, but He was grieved and had departed. There came a time, once again, when we heard the familiar knock and we opened to Him once again. Did we treat Him the same way? Did we tire of His company and excuse ourselves for more "important duties". This time, we told Him that we were busy doing the Lord's work and that He should excuse us because we had so much to do "in His name". What we didn't realize is that He wanted to be involved in His work along side of us. He didn't want us to sacrifice His fellowship and communion while serving Him -- He wanted us to live and love while walking in His sweet light.

Just as Jesus stands at the doors of our hearts and knocks, He is setting an example for us to follow. The Lord told his disciples in Luke 11:9-10 to ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, and knock and it will be opened for you. The implication in the original Greek text is to keep on asking, keep on seeking, and to keep on knocking. Even as we have allowed the Lord to stand outside the doors of our hearts and to "keep on knocking", so He desires us to do likewise when knocking on the "door of heaven" in prayer. We must be as persistent and as resolute to bring down heaven on our situations as Jesus is when awakening our hearts to His love. Are we ready and willing to allow the Lord to come and dine with us? Are we equally as ready to join with the Lord in prayer to bring down the blessings of the Lord on our circumstances, our friends, our family, our world? Let Him in, dine with Him, fellowship with Him and then join Him in His work. It will be a mighty union that will make the gates of hell shake!

Lord, here we are and we open the door once again and invite you in to fellowship with us and to build us up on your most holy love. Join with us as we beseech the Father for blessings to pour out on those here on earth -- changing minds and hearts forever. For His kingdom's sake and for Jesus' glory. Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Bare Soul - Patience - July 20, 2008

I Corinthians 13:4a - Love is patient, ...

One can not be impatient when learning to run barefoot. It takes months, even years to perfect in order to run long distances injury-free. I can sometimes detect the feeling of impatience when others write or talk to me when learning. I can tell they are trying to pick my brain to see if there is not an "easier" way to accomplish what I have done. They usually want to know if it gets easier, if they will quit blistering, if they will be able to one day run as fast as they could with shoes. These are all relative questions for each individual to find out for themselves. People progress through various stages of learning to run barefoot in very different ways. Most, I have found, do not have the diligence and patience to reach the "holy grail" of barefoot running which I regard as marathon distance or beyond. There is just too much to give up to a previous shod runner such as their acquired speed and ease of running in trainers. They usually don't have the patience to re-learn how to run at a slower more deliberate pace. Many start this journey, but few finish.

When someone wants to become a long distance barefoot runner, It is difficult to explain to them what is required. One really does not know until starting and progressing for some time on the journey. Here in the Midwest, barefoot running is complicated by the changing seasons. It takes a robust soul to persevere through hot, humid summers and wet, cold winters. I always tell the aspiring barefooter, it will get easier and better if you just hang in there and have patience. In other words (as the scripture implies at the beginning of this devotional) one must understand that without a love and a passion for what they are doing they will never have the patience to continue. It is not something to be worked up -- it is either there or it's not. A lack of patience in this regard equates to a lack of love.

I John 4:8 states that God is love. This is the defining nature of God, it is not simply a characteristic. By God's very nature, His very being cannot do anything that is not love-based. One of those love-based characteristics is patience. It is not a feeling or a decision, but it is a characteristic of the very nature of God. One could just as easily state that "patience is love" just as "love is patient" for they are synonymous outflows of the divine nature. It is quite easy to say "Well, I love that person and they are the desire of my affection, but sometimes they wear on my patience". For instance, if a parent states that they love their children and yet are continually losing patience with them and becoming unduly angry, then I would question their love. Of course, no one will be 100% patient of the time with those we love, yet if we truly love the object of our affection, to the most part we will be generous with our patience and long-suffering toward that individual.

True patience is not a learned characteristic of God, but it is one of His "fruits" (Galatians 5:22-23). It is the natural outflow of a life that is connected to His love and is remonstrated by the spontaneous appearance of His attributes in situations that would baffle the world. Speaking of parents once again, I have seen mothers and fathers that have truly been gifted with the ability to patiently nurture their children with no other goal than to selflessly give themselves in order that their child will be all that they can be. Conversely, I have seen parents that have been so caught up in themselves that they have lost all vision of what God desires to rear their offspring. Consequentially, these parents display their detachment by obtuse impatience and growing anger toward their children as the little ones seem to further inconvenience the parent's selfish lives.

No matter if it is barefoot running, parenting, or any number of "passions" in our lives, the Lord desires to perfect His patience through His love in our lives. The marvelous thing about understanding whether we are truly in love with our personal ambitions is how much patience we have that is characterized in our daily dealings toward our pursuits. Only He can give us the passion to begin and the patience to finish.

Lord, As we give to You our life's pursuits, please take them and perfect your love and ultimately your patience in all our endeavors. Make us shining examples to the world how one can be passionate to pursue those things which you desire and the patience to perfect their completion. In Jesus Christ' precious name. Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Bare Soul - God's Opportunities - July 13, 2008

Colossians 4:5 - Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.

While out on a run the other day, I noticed a hawk intently soaring above but clearly following a tractor as it brush-hogged a grassy field. Surely, the bird of prey was waiting for that perfect moment when a frightened rabbit or mouse would come tearing out of its hiding place and into plain view of the raptor. It made me think also how the robins and starlings can't wait for me to finish mowing my backyard, as they are quick to take over. Opportunistic by nature, they take advantage of the mown grass and the ability to see creepy crawling things that are absolutely delicious to them.

All it takes is a little uncovering or exposure and the right set of eyes, and often the possibilities present themselves quite extraordinarily. Even as God has given birds the uncanny ability to see at great distances, there is often still the high grass and weeds that will give cover and hide their prey. However, once the cover has been destroyed, the keen eyes of those on the wing quickly move with determined force upon their booty. Too often, we can go along in our daily lives unaware of those around us even as a hawk or a falcon might not be aware of a rabbit or a mouse cowering under high grasses. We soar above the world and don't realize that there are others that are in need of our help. Our minds and our hearts can be covered by the "brush and the weeds" of this world, choking out any usefulness that we might have toward our fellow man. Truly, all of us who are in Christ Jesus have the eyes of our Lord if we would but use them. Often, it takes God to once again step in, clearing away the brush and brambles that we might see with clarity what He would have us to do.

When seeing hawks and falcons, I often think about my brother who is a licensed falconer. Through his 40+ years of "hawking", I have been a participant many times as he will take one of the birds out on a hunt. By planned purpose, he will take the bird to an area where he knows will be game, usually ducks. It's fascinating to watch as he "un-hoods" the bird and allows it to see its surroundings. The falcon will set itself up as the hunter and position itself accordingly in the sky above or on a nearby tree, because the falconer has brought it to a place of opportunity. There will come that moment of decision as the falcon sizes up its prey and takes the best opportunity to attack. The results are usually very good for the falcon and equally decisive for its prey.

In the former and latter analogy, God will similarly bring us to situations where we can be of most use to Him. Whether it is the proverbial mown field, or an area where He leads and guides us, He will make the opportunities if we will but heed. Surrendering our will is paramount in this endeavor as it is for a falcon with its falconer master. If a hawk or a falcon does not perform well for my brother, then he will "shelf" the bird and hunt one of his others. He wants the bird to be as interested in hunting as he is. Conversely, if we do not act on the opportunities then God will "shelf" us and use another. (Beware of not hearing His voice if He calls today. He will most assuredly call again, but "when" is always uncertain.) We must all be "hungry" for the work of the Lord and not be content with the pittance that we all give by our presence and our giving once a week in church. We must step out and be opportunistic, knowing that the field of humankind's souls are ripe and the harvesters are few. God will strip away every hiding place, encumbrance, and excuse for not seeing the world as He sees it, if we will but allow Him to move on our lives. He will then give us glorious opportunities to seize His work with passion and purpose, making the most of our time for assuredly the days are evil and there is much to be done.

Lord, make us all willing participants of your harvest. Opportunities abound as the fields are ripe, and the laborers are few. Allow us to put in the sickle of your love and bring those who are hurting into that hiding place under the shadow of Your wings. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Bare Soul - The Narrow Path - July 6, 2008

Matthew 7:13-14 - Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

There is nothing like a heavily painted center stripe on a road that is somewhat rough to a barefoot runner. Paint has the tendency to fill in the pits and pocks of an abused road surface. Barefoot runners will normally gravitate towards these type surfaces because of their predictable smoothness and also because of their white or yellow opaqueness which allows one to spot rocks, glass, or any other foreign object with great ease.

Ah, that life would afford us the ease of a heavily painted line that is clearly marked, giving direction for all to follow! Of course, there is such a way yet most don't heed the written Word of the Lord. Most look at the scriptures as archaic, symbolic writings that have little meaning for the present day, but of course nothing could be further from the truth. I can deduce that "most" can or will not find the way because Jesus said that "few" find the true path to eternal life. This week's verse is a cold, stark reality that there is a way that all men should follow, yet only the minority will find it. Proverbs tells us that there there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is destruction (Proverbs 14:12). All of the world's intellect and so-called wisdom will lead a person to hell as decisively as open defiance to the Almighty. I say that the former is a greater treason to the Most High because those who rely on the wisdom or the Sophism of this world have sought to define salvation other than by the blood that Jesus Christ shed on Calvary's Cross for you and me. At least with outright rebellion and defiance to the Lord, one has delineated a clear position with respect to the free gift of salvation. The other is being an accomplice of the slapping and spitting toward our Savior and the public mockery of stating through our actions that his crucifixion was not necessary. Those who would argue that there are many "roads of salvation" would defy everything the scripture says about the Lord. Jesus stated in John 8:24 that unless a person believes He is the Messiah, they will die in their sins. There is truly no other way under heaven and on earth to be saved from the wrath to come.

Christians are often defined as "narrow-minded" individuals that don't have the wherewithal to think for themselves. In the eyes of the sophists of this world, these Neanderthal, knuckle-dragging simpletons don't have the ability to think logically and rationally. The Lord gave a resounding declaration of these so called simpletons in the Sermon on the Mount or what I like to call His "State of the Kingdom on Earth" address. The Lord said more in the first few verses of the Beatitudes than in all the so-called collective wisdom of the world. In verses 11 and 12 of Matthew chapter 5, the Lord validates those who are truly traveling the "narrow way" for His name's sake: "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; ... ." Jesus qualifies in these two verses the "narrow mindedness" of the scripture that infuriate those around us if we are truly living and speaking the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Friends, let me ask this poignant question. When was the last time you were insulted, or cussed at, or slandered for the name of Christ? I will further challenge us with this: If we are not taking up our cross daily, and taking verbal abuse, or slander, or whispering behind our backs, or outright persecution then we have fallen short of the glory of God. We cannot be passive in this "passion play" that the Lord desires all of us to be players. We shall either be those who publicly hold Jesus up for shame by our mockery of not taking the narrow path that He has shown, or we will bear the marks of Jesus scorn. True discipleship will always be walking in His footsteps. Are we all ready, this day, to pick up our crosses and follow Him up that narrow way to Life Everlasting? May all who have ears to hear the voice of our Lord, hear and follow.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick