Friday, May 29, 2009

The Bare Soul - The Fruit of the Spirit - Faithfulness - May 31, 2009

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "The Fruit of the Spirit - Faithfulness" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on May 28, 2009.

The Fruit of the Spirit - Faithfulness - May 28, 2009

Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Everywhere we turn in our current world-climate we see breach of faith. One cease-fire leads to one side or the other pulling the trigger and igniting the situation afresh. United Nations sanctions are snubbed as rogue nations state "good will" and right intentions in the beginning, and then turn around and openly defy the agreed upon edicts. Large corporations have destroyed the public trust by mismanagement and greed. Closer to home (so to speak) the institution of marriage is under siege both from those who would seek to destroy the God-given mandate between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:4-6) and those within said marriages who seem intent on breaking covenant with their spouses through their unfaithful behaviors. An 11 year old study states ... About 24 percent of men and 14 percent of women have had sex outside their marriages, according to a Dec. 21, 1998 report in USA Today on a national study by the University of California, San Francisco. While I am uncertain whether these statistics have changed remarkably in the past 11 years, I can state with reasonable assurance that they have not improved demonstrably. Rather than faithfulness on a wholesale level, we are seeing an unparalleled rise in anxiety and fear, which indeed is the opposite of faith or faithfulness. The scripture states in Luke 21:25-27 that in the end time, men's heart will fail them due to fear. In a world that is teetering on the brink of broken promises, lies, infidelity, and unfaithfulness there is still One who can be trusted as the Father of Faith. As He is the One that can always be trusted, His great desire is to produce within His beloved the same faithfulness that comes directly by living intent on believing and trusting Him for all.

God has always been faithful. It is impossible for Him to be otherwise. The scripture states that faithfulness actually surrounds the Lord Most High: O Lord God of hosts, who is like You, O mighty Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You (Psalm 89:8). Demonstrative of His nature is His behavior -- the faithfulness He typifies day after day. His faithfulness is written with unseen words that cry out through His creation (Psalm 19:1,2) as all nature speaks of the glory of God. The sun, moon, and stars are constant in their respective fixations within the heavenlies and the seasons know their times of appearing and waning. God is faithful in all things. In the same respect, He requires the same faithfulness from those He calls His own. Even as He has called us to be ... holy as He is holy, He requires His beloved to emulate all of His nature. Faithfulness is no exception.

In ancient Palestine lived a man turned prophet named Hosea. God spoke to this holy man in what might appear to some in a dubious manner. In Hosea 1:2 He tells the prophet to take a wife that is a harlot because the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel had committed flagrant harlotry against the Lord their God. Hosea's new wife, Gomer, bore Hosea two children and the Lord commanded they be named symbolically to epitomize Israel's unfaithfulness (See Hosea 1). The second chapter of Hosea is all about how Israel, as well as Gomer, is unfaithful to God and Hosea, respectively. The Lord allows the prophet to experience the grief of a faithless bride, demonstrating just a small measure of what the Father in heaven experiences through faithless Israel as they play the harlot with their innumerable idols. Ultimately, Gomer apparently leaves Hosea permanently and returns to her harlotry because Hosea is instructed in Hosea 3:1 to join himself with an adulteress. This is Hosea's second and last symbolic marriage. While the status of the seer's second marriage is never clearly delineated, it is very clear the message the Lord was attempting to send to Israel through His prophet -- that the Lord God was a faithful, true husband to His betrothed and He expected the same faithfulness in return. Though He was angry and hurt by Israel's unfaithfulness, yet He promised a complete healing and a restoration of their conjoined love. Hosea 14:4 states: I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, For my anger has turned away from them.

No matter how faithless Israel behaved toward the Lord, or for that matter, how the church of today might resist His wooing and lovingkindness, His faithfulness will never wane. Not only are the gifts and the callings irrevocable (Romans 11:29), but his faithfulness never expires! Psalm 100:5 states: For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations. As long as we are alive, God's faithfulness will always surround us. Solomon acknowledged that with the living there is always hope: For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion (Ecclesiastes 9:4). It is such a tragic loss of God's eternal, watchful gaze and His tender coaxing once a person dies without accepting Christ as their Savior. Isaiah clearly stated that faithfulness was only for the living -- once we have passed through the veil there is no longer any hope to change our eternal status. Contemporary to Hosea, he stated in the 38th chapter, verse 18 of the book of Isaiah: For Sheol cannot thank You, death cannot praise You; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness. While the Lord desires that all be saved and come into the knowledge of His salvation, tragically the scripture states that few will accept His faithful gift of eternal love. For those who turn and receive the Eternal Christ into their hearts, these are the ones who can once again begin the restorative journey back to the heart of God and learn of His faithfulness in all things. Psalm 37:3 states that first we must trust in the Lord, secondly that we do good, and then finally to cultivate faithfulness. Infidelity and faithlessness are deeds of the flesh that took years to "fine tune" in our sin natures. In the same, way God wishes us to grow in the garden of His Divine Nature the faithfulness that surrounds His beloved. By cultivating the soil, or literally to dig into to who we really are, this allows God's watering to accomplish its desired result. Let not any whom He has called hide from themselves and allow their ground to turn "fallow", but may all rigorously confront their true nature and allow the Spirit to have His way.

Some would say there is little difference between the apostasy we see today compared to ancient Israel. Others would say it is much more pronounced today with the preponderance of not only false religions but also the idols of greed, lust, and the sin of Sodom -- careless ease with no thought for the Lord and those around them (Ezekiel 16:49). With the rise of unfaithfulness as seen in the media and entertainment, in the same regard the Lord Jesus Christ is raising up a Bride that has sown righteousness and cultivated lives of faithfulness. While infidelity continues to demonstrably pronounce itself in marriages, corporations, and national and international detente', Jesus Christ is calling together a people that have a deep sense of their own belonging in the very bosom of the Lord. These will possess a fidelity that is Divinely empowered and passionately engendered for the Lover of their souls -- a faithfulness that will not be compromised for it is rooted in the faithfulness of God's very nature.

Heavenly Father, we thank you that you surround those who are Yours with Your faithfulness. Our striving would be in vain without Your divine help. Open the eyes of our understanding to see You in all Your faithfulness toward us who believe. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

The Fruit of the Spirit - Faithfulness - May 28, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Bare Soul - The Fruit of the Spirit - Goodness - May 24, 2009

Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

If questioned about the goodness of God, most people who believe in Him would say that God is a good God. However, if you continue to query them on how good God truly is then you might hear some vacillation. While most folks see God as a loving, good Creator they still may question some of His dealings with humankind and our world as a whole. They don't understand how a "good" God could allow pain and suffering in the world. As we discussed in The Fruit of the Spirit - Love, it has never been God's desire for humankind to be plagued by sin and sorrow -- this was a choice made long ago by the first man and woman. We inherited from them that choice through our sin natures. We perpetuate sin and sorrow in this world by our fallen state from His grace. However, even in the midst of all that tries human's souls, His grace is demonstrated over and over again by His love and goodness that draws us toward His presence. Oh, what a glorious redemption it is that He continues to woo and to draw all those whom He has called to be his beloved!

Of course, there will always be those who believe that the Heavenly Father is a mean tyrant that dealt them and everyone else a bad hand by even allowing them to be born. Amazingly and benevolently, God Almighty continues to allow these hearts that spurn Him to continue to beat. Even as millions and millions curse God daily, shaking an angry fist toward heaven, the air of life continues to fill their lungs as they enjoy the goodness of life that God continues to bestow. God loves all and as Jesus Christ stated in the gospels: ... He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). While God is good and His goodness is poured out on all humankind, there are special relationships that He has with those He calls His own where His goodness is a continual and eternal outpouring of His Divine Nature. While there are many ways that the Eternal Yahweh reveals Himself and His goodness to those who know Him, let's look at three verses and the modus operandi of how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit reveals, enriches, and follows them who love and fear God. For truly, those who seek Him will find Him and know the fullness of His goodness.

God's Goodness Revealed to the Righteous
Exodus 33:19 - And He said, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion."
Moses was the friend of God (Exodus 33:11). The relationship between close friends is a unique one even as that of Moses with the Most High. God knew that his friend Moses could be trusted with the knowledge of seeing and experiencing the goodness of His Nature. One might say, "I could never have the type of relationship that God had with this ancient patriarch!". By stating or believing this is to call God a liar if that is indeed the type of relationship He is calling you to. God said that He would decide with whom He would be gracious to and show compassion. It is not ours to limit God and His desire to reveal Himself to us. Embodied within His goodness is the revelation of His name and what that means. While Yahweh is the most widely used Hebrew name ascribed to the the Maker, He is also manifest in "attribute names" -- much like "goodness" is an attribute of the Lord. As God is all things creative and restorative, He manifests these through His name. Below are just a few manifestations of His name in attributes:
  • Jehovah-Jireh -- "The Lord will Provide" in all instances (Genesis 22:14)
  • Jehovah-Rophe -- "The Lord Who Heals" implies spiritual, emotional as well as physical healing (Jeremiah 30:17)
  • Jehovah-Nissi -- "The Lord Our Banner" is the God who fights for us (Exodus 17:15
  • Jehovah-M'Kaddesh -- "The Lord Who Sanctifies" is He who makes us holy (Leviticus 20:8)
  • Jehovah-Shalom -- "The Lord Our Peace" is being in right relationship with both God and man (Judges 6:24)
God's Goodness Enriches the Righteous
Psalm 31:19 - How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You, which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, before the sons of men!
An everlasting, inexhaustible supply of everything that is good about God is laid aside for the believer. It is a treasure house or a bank account, if you will, that can never be overdrawn. The "shock and awe" of God's good Nature is the ticket to unlocking these storehouses of continual riches. Solomon stated that ... the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). Living a holy and upright life before the Lord and reverencing Him as the Almighty is the beginning of a successful treasure hunt of everlasting worth. Wisdom is undoubtedly the key to unlocking the storehouses of God's goodness. The scripture is very clear that this is not for some day in the "sweet by and by". No, beloved, this is for NOW as David writes specifically that this will be manifested ... before the sons of men! As we draw upon the goodness of God, may we provoke others to jealousy as they see the inexhaustible supply of goodness that the Lord continues to bestow. Then, we may say with the Psalmist to those who would be moved with desire for the Lord: O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalm 34:8).

God's Goodness Pursues the Righteous
Psalm 23:6 - Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
The remarkable thing about His goodness is not only is it always available to those who love and seek His presence, but it is working and active in our lives even when we don't realize it. The statement that goodness and lovingkindness is following or doggedly pursuing the righteous has the implication that it will overtake us on those days where we may stumble or become confused regarding where the path of life has brought us. It is comforting to know that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) and that He always has His goodness "tailing" us, as it were, because He cannot deny the Spirit which He has put within us (II Timothy 2:13). He watches our every step and sends help in the form of all of His goodness to help in the day of trouble if we will but continue to call upon Him. Even as many have been abused and jailed by rogue governments, we have a "Heavenly Diplomat" that will rescue us no matter how unsavory a situation we fall into. He has the resources to extradite us from any situation that the enemy may conjure against us.

While most will admit that "God is good", few will experience the depths of what God's goodness truly entails. Most acknowledge a God of goodness yet live as if He were the God of continual retribution, just waiting to smash them if they make the slightest error. The Heavenly Father desires for us all to enter that place of friendship and trust with Him. He desires to not only reveal all of His wonderful goodness, but to also give us an everlasting storehouse to draw upon. And, even in those times when we become blind-sided by the world or the snares of the evil one, we can rest assured that our Heavenly Father through the Lord Jesus Christ is pursuing us and WILL overtake us with His love and goodness. We have been given the key to unlock the wonderful treasures of all his goodness if we will but surrender all our "supposed" treasures to Him. What He gives in return is the eternal and everlasting gift of His Nature -- a Nature so full of goodness that will never come to an end!

Heavenly Father, show us all your goodness as we surrender to You. Enrich us daily with the good things of Your nature, and pursue us and overtake us with your love and goodness now and forever. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Bare Soul - The Fruit of the Spirit - Kindness - May 17, 2009

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "The Fruit of the Spirit - Kindness" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on May 14, 2009.


Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Mark Twain once stated that ... Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. King Solomon said simply and poignantly in Proverbs 19:22 (New American Standard Version) that ... What is desirable in a man is his kindness ... . The wisdom of these two men concur in that kindness is most evident when it is present, and when its not, is equally evident in its absence. As all the fruits of the Spirit are grounded and based in love, so kindness is oftentimes the direct manifestation as love gets "acted out". The other eight fruits of the Spirit are often more positional, meaning that they are evident within a human soul by simply the in-working of His presence. We are full of love, because God dwells within us and He is love. We are full of joy because God is full of joy. However, kindness is often conditional and can be measured more so by "acts" toward others. Certainly, all the fruits of the Spirit can be both positional and conditional, but as we will see kindness is often the hallmark manifestation of its fellow fruits and most demonstrably by love. While the word "kindness" is found only 44 times in the bible (New American Standard Bible), the word "lovingkindness" is found 182 times, denoting the conditional outworking of kindness from the positional fruit of love. Kindness is simply the outworking of the nature of God's love in all instances.

"Acts of kindness" appear every day all around us. All are noteworthy and important to sustain a balance of love on this planet we call Earth. The Law of Reciprocity, which many believe to be a universal law, states that what we give we will get back in return. Those of us who believe in God and Jesus Christ know that ... whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap. With a belief and an understanding of this immutable law, it is important for all humankind to look beyond themselves and extend kindness to others. However, being kind to others can have its roots in humanism and new age beliefs and also diametrically rooted in the fruit of God's Spirit. One will have a temporal, time-bound result while the other is eternal and everlasting. It all has to do with whose nature one is operating from -- God's nature or that of the unregenerate, fallen nature of those who don't know Christ as their Savior. Peter talks specifically about operating from the Divine Nature in II Peter 1:4-8. He begins by stating that those who know Christ have become partakers of Christ's Nature. With that Godly Nature, Peter exhorts the churches in Asia to both "apply" and "supply". As Jesus Christ's gift to all humankind was His Divine Nature, it is our responsibility and duty to make sure it is manifested throughout our lives. Peter states in verses 5 through 7 that you who have accepted God's gracious gift should be ... applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. As stated, diligence is the only thing that should be applied, and we should then supply the remainder from His Nature He has bestowed. Peter hits a crescendo by finishing with love which of course is the main driver for all the fruits of the Spirit. Brotherly kindness is tied directly to love, for without the out-working of this potent fruit there is a lack of validation of true love. Love should always be tied inseparably to kindness as it manifests its way. Peter goes on to say in verse 8: For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle knew that to be growing in all the fruits of the Spirit, especially brotherly kindness in love was "true knowledge", not the knowledge of this world that would seek to imitate that of the Divine Nature.

As previously stated, kindness can be recognized daily in numerous instances. However, where there is genuine, sincere kindness that is borne from above, there is ALWAYS a counterfeit that Satan conjures up to mimic that which is of God. If the devil can get folks interested in being kind and benevolent to others, devoid of having accepted Christ and being rooted in the Divine Nature, then he has succeeded in masquerading kindness to appear to be godly. Without a doubt, there will be many on that last day when standing before the Lord who will say "Lord, were we not great philanthropists and did we not give all of our time and money to charity to help others?" He will say on that day to many of these, "Depart from Me, for I never KNEW you." Jesus is not interested in people giving of themselves unless they first accept that He GAVE everything in the greatest act of kindness the world has ever known. That supreme act of love and generosity is being patiently worked out daily as God woos the lost to accept His free gift. Paul wrote in Romans 2:4: Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? Beloved, before we can be kind or before we can be loving, we must first accept Him and allow His Divine Nature to live through us. Otherwise, it means very little in our temporal states and NOTHING for eternity. Sure, if someone does not know the Lord and is kind to another individual, they will enjoy a brief moment of affirmation. They might even experience good things happening in their lives due to their generosity and kindness in others, due to the Law of Reciprocity. However, as Paul stated by the Holy Spirit in I Corinthians 13:3, And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Paul speaks of the kindness and love that only come from that Divine Impartation, for without His kindness motivating us to help others it is futile and of no lasting value.

Jesus taught a remarkable lesson in His parable regarding the tares and the wheat. In this life lesson, Jesus reveals how "good and religious persons" might look in comparison to those born of His Spirit and producing the fruit therein (Matthew 13:24-30). According to the parable, an enemy planted tares amongst the wheat of a landowner. The tares, or the "counterfeit" wheat did not become evident until they had grown side by side with the wheat for some time. (Tares have a remarkably similar plant structure, and are not easily identifiable except by those who know the difference until they reach maturity.) Rather than pulling up the tares, the landowner told his servants to let them both grow until the harvest and then the tares would be thrown into the fire. Beloved, there are many nice, kind-hearted people all around us that are doing seemingly wonderful acts of kindness, yet they are counterfeits in the eyes of God if they have not given their lives to Jesus and are not living in His nature. There will be a time and a day when we all stand before God to give an account of our lives. Many will seek to justify themselves BY their "acts" or their deeds. Jesus Christ will be attesting to those who loved Him and served Him by the acts that they did THROUGH Him. The only difference between the genuine and the counterfeit boils down to relationship. What is the motivating power behind the acts of kindness we demonstrate? If it is not motivated through His nature it amounts to nothing other than selfish, earthly interest that has a temporal lifespan. However, if our acts of kindness are born through a Divine relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, they will last forever having been born out of the eternal source, God Himself!

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your kindness in that while we were yet sinners, You died for us. Let us go forth as ambassadors of your love and kindness to a dying world. In Your Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Bare Soul - The Fruit of the Spirit - Patience - May 10, 2009

Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Patience is often misunderstood in the carnal, fleshly mind. What many believers regard as the fruit of patience is often a reluctant tolerance toward something or someone that is in reality irksome to them in the present moment. Some might judge their level of patience by how well they can handle rush hour traffic when the guy in the next lane swerves in front of them without a turn signal or even the slightest notion of intent a moment sooner. Those who don't lay on the horn will probably judge themselves as patient and loving, able to turn the other cheek. At least this time. The same set of circumstances the next night might reveal totally different behavior. A new day of life situations may be setting up this seemingly patient fellow from the evening before into a predictable tizzy. The following morning (after his "gracious" behavior) he found out that his proposal for the new contract would need more work, according to his boss. Later, he can't find a set of keys for the storeroom that he borrowed from a co-worker. Not to mention his computer (that IT said they had fixed) crashed twice today, thereby losing three hours of work time trying to restore his system. Now, as he tries to hurry to the house so that he can get changed and head to his son's baseball game, some guy tries to "steal home" by cutting him off. This time, he has had it and lays on the horn. Then it hits him. It was the same circumstance as the night before. What had changed?

The truth is ... nothing had changed. This normal, usually good-natured, even-keeled person was merely revealing his own character. To the same degree that one might be surprised at these times of impatience which demonstrably manifests themselves, in the same token a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ might be equally taken aback when these moments display the very opposite. Most of us are familiar with I Corinthians 13 which is known as the Love Chapter. In verse 4, Paul begins listing a number of descriptions equating with love. He first mentions Love is patient. We know from I John 4:8 that God is Love. His very nature is love, as is His nature the embodiment of patience. God has no other way to react to any given situation rather than in patient love. Anything less would be selfish impatience, which carnal, fleshly humans manifest with ease since this is a natural out-working of the sin nature. However, a believer that is growing and maturing in the Lord and bearing fruit in some of the most unlikely places will begin to demonstrate a patience beyond anything that they themselves could contrive. The Lord Jesus Christ always showed perfect patience toward all humankind, because He was perfect love made manifest in mortal flesh. To live like Jesus on this earth would mean to display a patience that would typify the examples that Christ gave on the Sermon on the Mount. Does someone want your shirt? Give him your coat also! Did he strike you across the cheek, or did he rather hit you full-fisted? Give him the other cheek to strike also! Not only does this display divine love but it shows the patience of God at work -- knowing that He is the one who rewards both the righteous and the wicked. It is not our place to be patient with some and not with others. God will sort out the victors and the villains, the righteous and the wretched in the end. He just told us to be patient with all.

Before we can be patient and loving toward humankind, God allows us to learn from Him and His nature regarding patience. A dear friend of mine lay paralyzed from the neck down for 33 years before the Lord took him home. Pat was injured in a high school football game that would leave him many times in a fight for his life during these years of paralysis. Through the years, this patient man never lost hope that God would someday heal him. That was not to happen in this lifetime. However, through his endurance Pat learned how to be an incredibly patient, loving friend to all those around him. He learned love through his long-suffering, thereby passing on this depth of character he had learned to many others. Patrick had a special love for young people and with his loving, nurturing ways was able to steer many a wayward teen back on the right path. His patient soul spoke volumes to these who needed a caring ear to listen and to understand which inevitably provided them an anchor to hold fast during the storm which soon passed as they matured. Redemption is always waiting for those who will but wait for the Lord. For Pat, it came in May 2007 when the Lord called him home.

As Pat endured his hardship for more than 30 years, he would sometimes reflect on biblical characters such as Abraham who waited on the promise of God. This patriarch believed God, with the patient love from the Father, that His promises would be fulfilled. Furthermore, Abraham believed God was able to provide him an heir and patiently waited for another 15 years for God to perform this miraculous feat through his aged body of 100 years and that of his wife Sarah's of 90 years (Romans 4:18-25). Through the apparent deadness of their own bodies, God was able to bring forth life. Another was Job, who in his seemingly hopeless state where all of his offspring, livestock, and possessions were taken from him despaired not but patiently waited for God to vindicate him. Even in his plagued state of mind and body, he refused to subject his situation to selfish impatience. He knew whom he had put his trust in and would not falter in his trust toward the Lord. It is a spiritual axiom that out of death, sickness, and weakness, God can and does bring life, health, and strength. However, It is not always how we might imagine. Abraham imagined that God would make a great nation from his seed, Ishmael, whom Sarah's maid Hagar bore him yet it was through Isaac the blessing would come. Job despaired of life and thought he was ruined, yet God brought abundance once again to him by giving him greater wealth including more sons and daughters (James 5:11). Pat never realized that he was actually waiting for his own death to be complete once again in the new life. Through the last few years of his life there was a resignation to the will of God, and a patient attitude no matter what the outcome might be.

Impatience is a lack of love and an attitude of mistrust toward God and the final outcome of His dealings in our lives. No matter if it is waiting on traffic or waiting on healing from paralysis, God is to be patiently trusted in all circumstances. Once we get past our own selfish desires to understand and orchestrate our lives, then God can take over as we patiently surrender. Just as patience is synonymous with love, so does God desire for us to love Him and wait patiently for His deliverance in every situation of our lives. Love IS patient -- just as God is love and is patiently shaping us in to vessels of honor that He can us for His Glory!

Lord, who hast suffer'd all for me,
My peace and pardon to procure,
The lighter cross I bear for Thee,
Help me with patience to endure.

- Prayer for Patience - William Cowper -

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Bare Soul - The Fruit of the Spirit - Peace - May 3, 2009

Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Aristotle ironically stated ... we make war that we may live in peace. I will take it a step further and say that without conflict there cannot be true lasting peace. Just as light must have darkness to juxtapose both dark and light qualities, respectively, so too must peace have conflict to reveal its true character. In the greatest conflict and victory in the annals of human history, Jesus Christ became our peace by destroying the enmity between God and us, namely sin (Ephesians 2:14-15). He made war on transgressions by becoming sin for humankind's sake when He was nailed to the cross, and then by dying to sin once and for all. Once raised into newness of life, he reigned victorious over sin establishing eternal peace for us all to dwell in. God is not a respecter of persons -- this is His gift to all humankind. As Paul states in Philippians 4:7 through the Holy Spirit: And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. The only prerequisite to share in this peace is to be "in Christ Jesus". Without His indwelling presence, there is no true peace (Isaiah 48:22).

Paul shows us a sometimes overlooked characteristic of peace in this passage, namely that it "surpasses all comprehension". If Christ's peace is beyond comprehension, then it certainly would be impossible to adequately describe. However, while we may not grasp the fullness of God's peace, we can understand it through the character of Jesus and the early disciples. Furthermore, the truest examples we have of peace in the scripture are in the midst of intense conflict. As aforementioned, the greatest example of peace portrayed was in the passion of our Lord's scourging and crucifixion. Throughout this horrendous and barbarous affair, the Lord Jesus displayed perfect peace in the face of a demonically-inspired attack, both physically and spiritually. From His nature flowed peace and assuredness that His Heavenly Father would not forsake Him, but would accomplish through Him all that He intended regarding humankind's redemption. Isaiah 53:7 states that the Suffering Servant, Jesus the Messiah did not open His mouth but like a sheep being led away to the slaughter, He humbly gave Himself up for our sins. As the devil directed all his hate and discord toward the Lord Jesus, the Son of God demonstrated the fruit of peace as He humbly submitted Himself to God. (It is important to remember that Jesus never submitted Himself to man's wishes and desires, but only to God's. He knew that perfect submission to His Father meant that man had no power over him.)

The early church offers many examples regarding conflict and the subsequent out-flowing of peace. Peter knew and understood the shalom of God as he waited in prison to be brought forth before Herod. From the scripture in Act 12, it is clear to see that Peter had submitted himself to God in the midst of this conflict. Verse 6 states that the apostle was so much at peace that he was actually sleeping between his guards! This passage tells us that Peter is miraculously rescued from the clutches of Herod that night by an angel who leads him out of the prison. Peter of the book of Acts is a different person than that of the gospels. This man was once an unpredictable, impetuous and sanguine character that would often speak inadvertently at just the wrong times and would then act with foolish zeal as with attacking the high priest's servant. After Pentecost, we see a man that is sure of himself because he is sure of the One who leads and guides his life. Peter had become a living testimony of the Person of Jesus Christ and the embodiment of peace within. Paul and Silas were a couple of others incarcerated for the testimony of Jesus. Did they fret when those in Philippi committed them to the inner prison? No, they sang spiritual songs and hymns, testifying of the Lord's goodness and faithfulness (Acts 16:25). They understood that their submission was not to the Philippian jailer or to the Roman officials, but that their lives were submitted to Him who was peace in the midst of their conflict. As with Peter, God miraculously delivered Paul and Silas as they bore the righteous fruit of peace in the midst of a dire situation fraught with danger.

A more recent and notable example of peace that passes all comprehension is the story of Horatio Spafford. Wikipedia gives us a summary of how this bereaved man wrote one of the most endearing hymns out of tragic loss and conflict of soul:

This hymn [It is Well With My Soul] was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer). Then in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the S.S. Ville Du Havre, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with another ship, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone." Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.
Horatio Spafford is just another example of someone that went through a tumultuous conflict of supreme loss yet yielded the fruit of peace as a gift back to the Lord Jesus. Just as Peter, Paul and Silas experienced their respective "Calvary's" complete with repeated conflicts and humiliations, so did they also experience their subsequent "Pentecost's" overflowing with the power to live in a peace that confounded their attackers. While the fruit of peace may be something that is beyond comprehension or description, it is notably understood and marveled upon once it is yielded up from broken vessels such as these examples. The peace which comes from this type of brokenness and conflict of soul is eternal and will stand the test of time. It is the very peace that He Himself became for us as He entrusted Himself to the One who was His shalom -- the Perfect Peace from above.

Our Lord and Savior, thank you that you are our Peace. Thank you for the ultimate conflict that you endured. By enduring the cross, you won the victory for us. And with that victory, we are living in the peace of your Holy Spirit for all time and eternity. We rejoice in it and give you all the glory as you confound the wise of this world with a peace that defies comprehension. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick