Friday, September 26, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Hebrews the eleventh chapter is one of those scripture references that shines with optimism. I question whether there is another portion of scripture containing forty verses of such uplifting hope that is modeled for the believer. As stated in verse six and throughout this section, the defining characteristic of a believer pleasing the heart of God is faith. Faith is unseen in its origin as Hebrews 11:1 shows us, otherwise it is not faith. It is evidenced by its outcomes. We are once again reminded of the "characters" of faith throughout this chapter. God can use imperfect humans that once were drunkards like Noah, murderers like Moses, and prostitutes like Rahab. Praise God that we can truly approach the Throne of Grace just as we are and receive His mercy and forgiveness!
v29 - By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.
v30 - By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been
encircled for seven days.
Heavenly Father, You are the One that has defeated all our enemies before we have even asked. You are the One wooing us to enter and possess the "eternal land" of Your promise. It's not by what we have done, but what You did on Calvary. The inheritance is ours to claim by rights of the blood of Jesus. Lord, we accept your faith and lay our lives before You as a living sacrifice that we may live to obey You. In Jesus Christ's holy name, Amen.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
The following is the sermon text for a message delivered at the Kansas City Rescue Mission on September 11, 2008.
When I finally put the “plug in the jug” in 1992, I knew that I needed to make amends to all those whom I had used throughout the years. While many of them were unreachable, I did the best I could and made amends, accordingly. Most people are forgiving and understanding when you tell them what you’re trying to do. Most offer a hand of reconciliation and are glad to help patch up the past. When I say most, I am thinking of one individual who would continue to be elusive and unable to pin down regarding offering and receiving his forgiveness.
That person was me.
Often, we are our own worst critic and we can be far more critical of our past than any of our peers. We can beat ourselves unmercifully for a lifetime of missed opportunities and lost chances. We can bemoan all the “could’ve, would’ve, and should’ves that haunt our memory. It took me several years of being sober and “giving back” before I actually felt whole again from the inside out. It took making restitution by giving of myself to others until I could finally feel healed and set free from the condemnation of the past.
When I drank, I didn’t care about you or anyone else. Most of all, I really didn’t care about me. I didn’t care enough to get up and go to work, so therefore I would lose my job. Money would run out since I wasn’t working, so I would steal from you to satisfy my addiction. After waking up from a black-out of the night before I would feel terrible remorse; but more terrible was the need to get drunk again to forget about the remorse. So, I would do what I needed to get some money to get drunk again – steal, sell plasma, collect aluminum cans, or whatever I could do to turn a dollar or two so I could get drunk and ease the pain. Alcohol had crippled me as a human being. However, alcohol was merely the tool Satan used to fan the flames of sin in my life. Alcohol had become the “rapacious creditor”, as it says in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, “that bleeds us of all self-sufficiency”. I was wasted of SELF, and needed to find someone bigger than myself to set me free from this body of death. (That Person, the only One that can set any of us truly free, is Jesus Christ the Almighty.)
although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
There have been countless stories of countless men and women since the life of Paul that have experienced the life changing forgiveness of Christ. I can attest to being one of those. Another is a man named John Newton:
John Newton was born in London July 24, 1725, the son of a commander of a merchant ship which sailed the Mediterranean. In July of 1732, thirteen days before his seventh birthday, death took his saintly mother who had since his third birthday been his teacher and friend. He took the death of his mother hard. In fact, it became evident that he was bitter at God over his circumstance because he began as one author puts it, "a decline into rebellion and degradation that lasted until his 24th year." At 11 years of age he went to sea with his father and made six voyages with him before the elder Newton retired. In 1744 John was forced into service on a man-of-war, the H. M. S. Harwich. The conditions on board were intolerable to him, so he deserted but was soon recaptured and publicly flogged and demoted from midshipman to common seaman.
Finally, at his own request, Newton was exchanged into service on a slave ship, which took him to the coast of Sierra Leone. He then became the servant of a slave trader and was brutally abused. Early in 1748 he was rescued by a sea captain who had known John's father. John Newton ultimately became captain of his own slave ship. And what kind of captain was he? Lindsay Terry writes, "It is reported that at times he was so wretched that even his crew regarded him as little more than an animal. Once he fell overboard and his ship's crew refused to drop a boat to him. Instead they threw a harpoon at him, with which they dragged him back into the ship." But God intervened in Newton's life and got his attention through a violent storm. The gale was so severe that all the livestock were washed overboard and the crew tied themselves to the ship to keep from being swept overboard. As he was attempting to steer the ship through the violent storm, he experienced what he was to refer to later as his "great deliverance." He recorded in his journal that when all seemed lost and the ship would surely sink, he exclaimed, "Lord, have mercy upon us." Later in his cabin he reflected on what he had said and began to believe that God had addressed him through the storm and that grace had begun to work for him. For the rest of his life he observed the anniversary of May 10, 1748 as the day of his conversion, a day of humiliation in which he subjected his will to a God.
It doesn’t matter who or what you’ve done or been – whether you have been an addict, alcoholic, a murderer as Saul of Tarsus, or slave-trader like John Newton. God has chosen to forgive us all. And, if He has chosen to forgive us of all our past, shouldn’t we? Are we not saying that we are greater than God Almighty if we choose to do differently? May we all, with Paul the Apostle forget what lies behind and choose rather to reach forward to what lies ahead. There is much to do for the Lord. Truly, his Amazing Grace is there to help us! Glory to the Lord!
Your Barefoot Servant,
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Those of us who know the Lord have a similar task at hand. We have all embarked on a similar mission of temple-building and yet, if we are honest, we are not quite certain what this temple of the Holy Ghost should look like. Many of us have been conditioned by years of teaching that a "holy" person will resemble something like this -- someone who reads their bible daily, someone that prays, someone that tithes, or someone who does lots of service work. These all can truly be aspects of someone that has allowed the Holy Spirit a place of residence in their heart, but it begs the question: Has the Holy Spirit been the "general contractor" of His dwelling place within, or have sub-contractors compromised the construction by pride and ineptitude? I hear so much chatter these days about being "spirit-filled" or "spirit-led" yet I see believer's lives devoid of the beauty of the Lord from within. There is a lack of the resplendent grandeur of the Lord's temple that shines forth in the soul of a sanctified believer that makes all their works truly faith-inspired. Instead, way too often, there is the soul-weary expression on a pilgrim's face that tells me they are "trudging along for Jesus", yet they are very much doing so in their own power. There is nothing captivating or beautiful in these type of "religious" expressions. They rather smack of self-indulgence and self-knowledge which are ultimately works of the flesh.
The apostle Paul knew and understood David's sentiments when he spoke to the Corinthians. In I Corinthians 6:19, Paul asks the church of Corinth a simplistic question that they should have realized if they were truly Christ's: ... do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? To understand that we are not our own, as Paul knew, comes from a deep sense of who we were and who we now ARE in Christ. Even as Solomon understood that he was just a mere child trying to lead the people of Israel, he knew that without God's understanding and wisdom that he would be a failure. Not only would he fail at building the temple according to the will of God, but he would fail in his commission to the kingdom of Israel. His humility and sense of his "human-ness" gave Solomon the needed understanding to fulfill all that the Lord desired. Even so with us. We must get out of the way and let Him have His way in our lives, or we will be plagued by constant disappointment and general dissatisfaction regarding what He is doing in our respective "building projects". We must understand that only as He is given full reign to do and to build as He desires, only then will we have true peace and success in this lifetime. We are not our own -- how much less everything we attempt to do for the Lord unless it is first rooted and grounded in Him? There will be no true sanctification until this happens -- only a shadow or a passing vapor of the real thing. In reality, there will be no true substance in the heart of the believer until He is given full building rights within our hearts.
I have personally visited many beautiful religious edifices in this country and also in western and eastern Europe. The cathedrals, mosques, and synagogues all have one thing in common -- they are grand expressions of man's desire to create a connecting point of beauty between earth and heaven. They desire to reconcile man's heart with the heart of God in a spacious environment allowing a close encounter of the divine kind. Often, man has sought to substitute these grand meeting places with the meeting place of the heart where God truly desires to dwell. This is not to say that one cannot experience God in one of these grand structures, but it is a pity if that is the basis of meeting Him. He desires a relationship to meet us long before we come together to meet him in a grand setting. Only as we truly give ourselves to Him, will he take ownership of the temple within and will then build to suit His desires. Only then will the true temple of the Lord be a place where He lives, He works, and He manifests Himself in all His glory through the beauty of His temple. Only when we know we are not our own and that He is the true owner, can an eternal building rise up within us. May God be glorified as the Master Builder within us all!
Lord, you are the owner of the land of our hearts. You own the building materials and all that goes in to building Your temple within. We give you full access to build as You see fit. We give you the keys to our temple and hereby give you total rights to come and go forth through us as You will. Use these temples, Lord. Sanctify them for Your glory. In Jesus Name.
Your Barefoot Servant,