Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Bare Soul - Temple-building, Part I - August 31, 2008


I Chronicles 22:19 - "Now set your heart and your soul to seek the LORD your God; arise, therefore, and build the sanctuary of the LORD God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the holy vessels of God into the house that is to be built for the name of the LORD."

David's admonition to the people to help his son build the temple of the Lord did not come without a price. In the previous verses, King David reminds his son Solomon that he was a man of bloodshed and that the task of temple-building would be entrusted to David's offspring, namely Solomon. David would become known as a "blood warrior" that gave Israel the ability to become a land of peace during his son's reign. Oftentimes, the best defense is a strong offense which in this case ultimately allowed Solomon and the people of Israel times of security in order to build the temple of the Lord.

This scripture is a magnificent metaphor of the work of the Holy Spirit and how He sanctifies the life of those who surrender all to Him. In this passage as well as in much of scripture, David is symbolic of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this instance, David typifies Jesus Christ as having vanquished all his foes by the blood of their sacrifices and the blood of the Lamb of God, respectively. They have both defeated their enemies and have held them up for public display (I Chronicles 18; Colossians 2:15). Solomon is suggestive of the Holy Spirit as he eventually leads the people in the work of temple-building. It is a glorious union of what David (Jesus Christ) has commissioned Solomon (the Holy Spirit) to do through his people. Looking closer at this verse, we see some particular action verbs that are command-oriented yet sequential in their intended results. As in the days of David and Solomon, temple-building is still the order of the day and the Lord tells us exactly how to do it.

"Now set your heart and your soul ... -- How does one "set" their heart and their soul aright? Romans 12:1 tells us not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. If we change our minds, in time our hearts will follow if we are set upon Jesus as the Author and Finisher of our faith. A man or a woman is always converted in their minds and in their thinking before a transformation takes place in their inner being. The tragedy is too often when some don't allow the transformation to happen, but they hold a form or concept in their intellect without humbly asking the Lord to make it real in their life. Head-knowledge alone will ultimately kill while heart-knowledge will inevitably heal and meld the two into one.

... to seek the LORD your God ... -- The phrase "to seek" has an open-ended and interminable meaning. It is of the same sense as in the Gospels when Jesus told his disciples in Luke 11:9 to ask, seek, and knock. The implication in the Hebrew in the I Chronicles' text and later in the Greek in the Luke passage is to keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking. We shall never truly find all of what God has in store for us but it is a perpetual quest of the highest order.

... ;arise, therefore -- To "arise" implies a change in position, a readiness to DO! Nothing will be done if we don't enter into partnership with the Holy Spirit to perform His will. It is time to take action!

... and build the sanctuary of the LORD God, -- It is now time to put into practice all that the Lord has shown a believer. Of paramount importance, is to heed all that the Holy Spirit prompts regarding obedience and holy living. The Lord will not tolerate "shoddy" construction where He will dwell. To put oneself in order for the Holy One to dwell within means a life committed to listening and heeding His voice. Maybe He is telling me I need to get a relationship right, or to make amends to one I have wronged. Maybe I am a glutton or a waster of time in front of the TV or my computer. Maybe I am a gossip and I have murdered someone with my words. Whatever God shines the light on, make it right in that moment and your light will break forth like the new day!

... so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the holy vessels of God into the house that is to be built for the name of the LORD." -- Not anyone could handle the ark of the covenant. Uzzah found out the hard way (see II Samuel 6:6-11). Only those of the tribe of Levi, the priesthood of God, were allowed to transport the ark of the covenant. For within the ark dwelt the Holy One in His most magnificent splendor. Peter declares that we are a royal priesthood in I Peter 2:9 -- that we only need to accept and sanctify within our hearts the Great Priest, Jesus Christ who gives us license to minister as priests before His Father. It is our responsibility and our privilege as sanctified believers to open the doors of our hearts and to bring in the holiness of God to dwell within our spirits.

Temple-building was not an easy task in Solomon's day nor is it today. It took a lifetime to build the temple in ancient Israel, and it is not any different today. Sanctification is an ongoing, never-ending process of giving body, soul, and spirit to the Lord for his choosing. It is a perpetual "setting, seeking, arising, building, and bringing" as a child of God and ultimately as a part of His most holy priesthood in these latter days. He is seeking true temple-builders even today. Do you hear His voice? Have you heeded His commands? Don't delay for there is much to be done and a lifetime of construction ahead!

Heavenly Father, we hear the call. We desire to be Your temple-builders. For those of us who have heeded your voice, we ask you for a clarity and new vision to serve as your priests, building and sanctifying Your temple within. For those who don't know you Lord, call them and convince them of this noble task at hand -- to allow a dwelling place for the Most High God in all His splendor. Empower us all to build with Your wisdom and to Your glory. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Bare Soul - Deliverance - August 24, 2008

Matthew 8:29 - And they cried out, saying, " What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?"

On our recent trip to London, Rebecca and I were returning to our apartment via the "Tube" (the London Underground Subway). She found a seat and I sat diagonally across from her as we carried on a conversation. Seated diagonally to my left and facing me, there was a young man that I didn't give much notice to -- at first. As my wife and I continued chatting, the bizarre behavior of the young man became more and more apparent. I turned to look at him at one point and he started cursing at me, telling me "Yank, go home!!" I cut off my conversation with Rebecca and turned back in my seat to try to find out what was troubling this soul. I started out by telling him that Jesus Christ could and would help him, if he would but trust in Him. He swore at me some more and started kicking the empty seat next to me, the one he was facing. He was obviously very agitated at the name of Jesus and my promise that I would pray for him. He kept kicking the seat saying, "You have a devil" and "You're a devil". This went on for a bit longer as I continued to tell him that Jesus loved him. He finally ended up getting off at a stop as we continued on to our destination.

In today's world, it is not a popular notion to believe in demons and the Devil. People with anti-social behavior in our modern world are generally diagnosed as sociopaths, to a lower or higher degree of sickness. Those with more apparent madness or insanity are generally diagnosed as schizophrenic or even psychopathic. I do not profess to be a doctor, however I do know behavior that I have witnessed at various times fitting in one or two categories -- mental illness or spiritual sickness. With the former, there are the aforementioned labels. With spiritual sickness, there is the implication that a deeper, more sinister force is at work -- a force that will affect some people's lives in moderate ways while with other it seems as if they are truly "possessed" by another dark personality. For some, it is truly unnerving to believe that there are random spirits of devilish design that seek to control and ultimately destroy their apparent victims. It is much more comfortable in our educated society to believe that such wild, erratic and dark behavior is merely a physiological or psychological malfunction that can be treated by medication, therapy, and rehabilitation. The stark fact is, however, that we know very little about mental illness even with our broad medical knowledge. Yet, Jesus knew exactly the cause and the remedy when He encountered these sort of persons. Probably the most famous scripture regarding Jesus' dealing with the demon-possessed is in Luke 8:26-39. The man was possessed with "Legion", a name spoken by the demons because they were many. Interestingly, they begged Jesus not to send them back to the abyss (or Hades as some translations infer), but to send them into the nearby herd of swine. Jesus does what they ask and the pigs perish, but the man is totally delivered -- a true demonstration of the power of God!

The church has struggled through apparent times of powerlessness the past two-thousand years. Throughout the centuries, Holy Ghost power has ebbed and flowed as societies have either needed it and cried out for it or they have discounted it, turning to the world for its answers. Today, God has moved in powerful ways to set the oppressed free on the Asian, African, and South American continents. He has moved powerfully because there is no equivocation or argument that people are "demonically possessed" and are in need of deliverance. These cultures believe it, and are thereby seeing more people set free from their afflictions than so-called western societies. Are these mislead and superstitious? Should they be relying on western medicines and therapies or practicing what God has said in Mark 16:17?: These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, ... . Remember, Jesus is either who He said He was or He is a liar. Either we believe all that He says to us through His scripture or we discount it all. There is no picking and choosing.

Personally, I came up short with my recent encounter. I would have desired to be able to look that young man in the eye on the "Tube" in the London Underground and to rebuke the demons out of his life in the name of Jesus, for I truly believe that the man was demon oppressed. Sadly, I am a believer that lacks belief on many days of my Christian walk. My future hope for myself and others is that God would begin to raise up those who would not equivocate with evil when confronted by it, but to stand against it with the power of Jesus Christ. It is good and fine to tell a demoniac about the love of Jesus Christ. It is a far better thing to be able to GIVE them the love of Jesus by breaking the bonds over their heart and life. My friends, are you as struck by your lack of power in the face of evil as I was on that day? Have you poured out your heart to your Savior and asked Him not to leave you any longer as an orphan that's bereft of His life-changing unction toward others? Until we do, it will be status quo. We can rationalize the demonically oppressed as those merely needing mental health and therapy. Jesus was clear and unapologetic about those needing liberation from their devilish oppressors. When we open our eyes and believe that there truly is evil that seeks to bind every human life and separate them from the love of God, then we can draw upon the Grace of the Lord in prayer to become the men and women of God that He desires.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Bare Soul - The Miracle of the Mundane - August 17, 2008

Matthew 13:58 - And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

Reading the Gospels, it is relatively easy to chide the disciples when they seem to have a lapse of faith that Jesus Christ could deliver on His miracles. It always baffled me to read Mark chapter 6 and the feeding of the five-thousand, and then later to read of the disciples lack of faith in Mark chapter 8 in feeding the four-thousand. I mean, after all, hadn't they learned anything by the feeding of the five-thousand? Or, was something otherwise happening that we have overlooked? The same can be said for Lazurus' resurrection from the dead in John the 11th chapter. Martha and Mary seemed unbelieving that Jesus could be speaking of bringing back their brother from the dead. Surely they had heard of Jairus' daughter whom He had raised from the dead, or the widow's son from Nain when he touched the coffin and the boy was given back to his mother alive. Did they have a lapse of memory? Or had they simply become too familiar with the Lord as their friend the healer and had forgotten that he was also the raiser of the dead? As we shall see, what is not said within the scriptures can often times be as powerful as what is.

To read the Gospels, one would think that it was a non-stop road show of signs and wonders -- that the disciples were constantly being brought into an awareness of Jesus' mighty power as He performed miracle after miracle. If that was the case, I believe we would have much different reactions from the disciples rather than disbelief such as Jesus' ability to feed the hungry or raise the dead. Just as important as the days of miracles were the days of the mundane. As I stated, I believe it is just as important what the Gospel writers don't tell us as to what they do. The scripture never mentions the lives of Peter, Andrew, James, and John when they toiled away in their mundane lives as fisherman. Even after they were called by the Lord, there is no mention of the days when it was just hour after hour of walking from city to city. And then, how about the times when the power for Jesus to heal was not readily present? You might say, "Well, Jesus would always heal if there were someone in need!" Don't be so sure. The scripture in Luke 5:17 states that the "the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing." This statement validates what is also not said which is that there were obviously times when the power of the Lord was NOT present to perform healing. My hunch is that it was more often than we are sometimes led to believe by the rapid pace of the Gospel's narratives.

While we may look with disbelief at the disciples unbelief, it is important to realize the juxtaposition of His miracles with the days of the mundane. The days are not mentioned when the disciples told Jesus to send the crowds away to buy food for themselves in the local environs. How else would they have had the the "chutzpah" (guts) to tell Jesus in Mark 6:36 to send the crowds away to buy themselves food? Obviously they had seen the scenario play out time after time where Jesus did not feed them. These were the days of the mundane -- hearing the parables and the teachings of Jesus and then just going their own way. Of utmost importance is that Jesus will not be put into that proverbial box of expected action. He is not a genie or a Santa Claus that can be expected to move and react to the masses whims. He is God Almighty and He operates both out of love and compassion but also out of faith of those around Him as He sees best in His infinite wisdom to move.

It is quite easy and presumptuous of us to believe that God will act on our behalf with miraculous rapidity if we will but only ask. Those of us who have been "sensualized" by the world look for the instant gratification of "non-stop" miraculous Christianity. Many of us who have been delivered from drugs or alcohol had been so conditioned by the instant relief and euphoria they offered. Once free, we had to learn how to go through life without needing the daily intoxication of what these substances could give us. In the same way, God does not want us to take His Son for granted, but to walk with Him whether our love for Him feels mundane or exhilarating. In the midst of Martha and Mary's friendship with Jesus, they forgot that not only was He their friend and healer but that He was also the One who raised the dead. Are we limiting God by not seeing Him as He truly is in the mundane days? Has He become merely a friend that is somewhat boring and "everyday" and we have been surprised when the miracle happens? The Lord wants us all to wait expectantly for Him. For only as we rejoice in the miracle of the mundane, then truly we will not be surprised when the signs and wonders in our respective lives appear.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

The following is a message titled "The Miracle of the Mundane" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on August 14, 2008.

The Miracle of the Mundane - August 14, 2008

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Bare Soul - Our Sanctification - August 10, 2008

1 Thessalonians 4:3a - For this is the will of God, your sanctification; ...

Ever struggled with understanding God's will for your life? This week's verse states in just two words what His will is for us -- our sanctification! Without sanctification, it is impossible to live the Christian life as Christ intended. How is it that a man or a woman could truly "love the Lord your God with all their heart, soul, and mind" without the sanctification of the Lord? In simplest terms, sanctification means "to be set apart" -- to live a life of love-obedience to the One who gave His life for us all. To truly understand what sanctification is and to be moving downward and upward in both humility and growth, respectively, is the essence of the sanctified life. To know Christ and to understand that He has done so much for those who can return so little, and to respond in humility and obedience is to accept the life of sanctification.

What puts us on the path (and keeps us there) to sanctification? Obedience! True Godly obedience can only come by an understanding of what Christ has done for us on Calvary's tree. God is not so much concerned about what we think are the end goals of obedience, rather He is concerned how we get there through obeying Him. We can never expect to grow as Christians if we continually deliberate with God on what we know He is telling us to do. The accomplishment of the "doing" is not what God is looking for as an end-product, but He is looking for the continual "turning" toward Him or the process of obedience. For only when we learn to turn toward Him in all things, then we are truly learning what it is to live a sanctified life.

Undoubtedly, sanctified living is keeping the external law, such as the Ten Commandments. However, it is so much more! As a believer allows Him entry, God will perfect obedience to the Law of Liberty that He puts within the heart of every man and woman. For instance, God may speak to a person to give up something in their lives. Let's use caffeine as an example. Is there anything inherently evil or bad about caffeine? Certainly not! However, if someone had acquired an unhealthy dependence on this stimulant, then the Lord might want to test their desire to follow the Lord absolutely. This would not be a command for anyone else but to whom the Lord had GIVEN the command. (Unfortunately, that's how sects and cults are created, when those "enlightened" by the own personal direction impose these "revelations" on others.) What may seem like a restrictive command in the beginning, turns into a liberating aspect to the one who would follow the Lord's individual direction. This "law" becomes "liberty", not so much because the person quits this or that, or started doing this or that according to the voice of the Lord. However, it becomes "life" within the believer because he or she has obeyed and continues to obey. Therefore, the end result is not really what God is after, but the obedience along the way that will perfect the saint into Jesus' likeness. For Jesus said, "I am come to do the will of the Father". This does not necessarily mean to win so-and-so many souls to the Father or to create a church here or there. Obedience is the natural outflow of the believer's life -- the very asphalt that paves the road of sanctification and true usefulness to the Lord.

Many believers may feel their proverbial roads of sanctification have "crumbled", that their ways are strewn with "potholes" of sin and disobedience keeping them from their focus on loving the Lord and obeying him. Souls that have become trapped and snared in ways they know are not pleasing to Him need to cry out to God, confessing their tolerance of disobedience in their lives, asking that He would grant them the spirit of repentance to move onward and upward from their pit of despair. Then, they must accept the Grace of the Lord regardless whether they "feel" they have received it or not, but they must start obeying what they know the Lord is speaking. In time, they will once again experience the smooth way of the Lord. Will there still be difficulties in life? Certainly, but they will grow fainter and less consequential. Of utmost importance, there will be in the soul of that believer a growing peace and resolution to not offend their Lord with the slightest deviation of what they know to be the law of liberty in their own lives. This truly is the will of the Lord to be delighted in -- sanctification's journey that will only be complete as we pass from this life to the next!

Lord, we thank you for your voice in all of our lives. We thank you that you are directing us daily to walk closer with you by your life-giving commandments. Help us not to shrink from or ignore your direction, but to embrace your laws of liberty that will ultimately set us free to do Your will. Sanctify us in your holy name, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Bare Soul - Spiritual Cathedrals - August 3, 2008

Ezekiel 10:4 - Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub to the threshold of the temple, and the temple was filled with the cloud and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the LORD.

Traveling abroad, one of our favorite places to visit are old cathedrals. The grandeur of these centuries-old places of worship are certainly awe-inspiring. Once a person steps through the doors, the majestic columns, high vaulted ceilings, and gorgeous stained-glass are breathtaking expressions of the architect's intent to bring the beholder closer to his or her Maker! It is quite easy to understand how the common people would find inspiration when attending worship. The ordinary person in the middle ages lived in squalid conditions to say the least. It was probably a breath of fresh air to enter these places of devotion and to be immersed in such beauty, both in sight and sound. The soaring vocals of the choirs must have sounded like bands of angels to both kings and peasants.

On our recent trip to Europe, we had the privilege to attend three Evensongs at three different cathedrals. The music and the vocals were captivating as we allowed our hearts to be taken up in the Spirit to the Most High! While it is not necessary to be in a place of extraordinary beauty and phenomenal acoustics to experience God's presence, things of this nature can definitely help us draw near to the Lord. Sitting in the services, I would reflect how undoubtedly countless others had sat where I sat centuries before and were encouraged and transformed by the worship. One might be critical today and say, "Why were such grand, opulent, and apparent wasteful spending undertaken for these majestic structures when the poor were dying in the streets?" However, one must also consider the living in those times, and what hope these structures obviously brought to so many.

I have experienced the joy of European cathedrals and the majestic sense of God within. I have equally experienced "mountain cathedrals" where I was on top of a Colorado mountain and the vaulted roof was the blue sky above and my song of praise echoed to the valley below. God's beauty is truly to be experienced wherever we worship. Both the rapturous beauty of a man-made cathedral and one manifested in God's nature are not the end, but merely the means by which we may come to God's purpose in worship. Spiritual cathedrals don't necessarily have to have outward beauty. We have the power to transform our surroundings into a place of worship. Paul experienced his own "spiritual cathedral" in the depths of a Philippian prison with his cohort Silas as they sang and gave glory to God in their praise and worship (Acts 16:25). It didn't matter that they were in the deepest, darkest pit of human depravity. They had found a "spiritual cathedral" within their own souls -- the very temple of the Most High that is part of every believer's heritage. For truly, as Paul and Silas knew, this was the most extraordinary, beautiful place to dwell -- in the very presence of God!

Jesus said to the woman at the well that there was a day coming when those who would worship God would not worship him in Jerusalem or in Samaria, but that they would worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:21-24). For truly when a man or a woman is a true worshipper of God, then their spiritual tabernacle or cathedral is always with them and their situation is not determinate on their surroundings, but on their heart's disposition toward their Lord. However, the Lord will sometimes give us eyes to see and ears to hear, and to be captivated by the beauty around us. A person with such a disposition of continual worship is keenly sensitive when they enter into this special place of beauty that highlights their worship to an even higher degree. May we all find our way to the "spiritual cathedrals" that will both edify and lift our spirits to the Father of Life!

Lord, we are restless until we rest in you. May we find our own "spiritual cathedral" that will be a place of unending worship and praise to you. In Jesus' holy name, Amen.

"I've sung in mountain cathedrals
With steeples rising high
And altars made of evergreen -
Windows made of sky
And windows made of sky"

From the song "Mountain Cathedrals" by Bob Bennett


Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick