Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Bare Soul - Sin's Separation - November 1, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Bare Soul - God's Fires - October 25, 2009

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "God's Fires" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on October 22, 2009.

God's Fires - October 22, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Bare Soul - The Beatitudes - Persecution - October 18, 2009

Matthew 5:10 - Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

What does it mean to be persecuted for righteousness' sake? To define Christian persecution as people ridiculing you if you have a bible on your desk at work, or that you say a prayer in a restaurant over a meal narrowly addresses Jesus' intent when speaking to His audience on the Mount. An insulting word regarding one's faith, to be sure, is a minor form of persecution. However, when one understands the true biblical definition of persecution, it is evident that we as American believers have not experienced persecution like others in various parts of the world. Many Muslim nations in Asia and Africa forbid the preaching and proselytizing of the Christian faith. It is more than just civil disobedience resulting in a fine in areas hostile to the Gospel -- the price is often the loss of life. While America was founded by those fleeing from religious persecution, we have yet to experience those who would seek our lives for living and sharing our faith in a state-sponsored manner. However, as Christianity continues to be denigrated in the United States as a supposed "right-wing" intolerant faith, the days of physical persecution may not be far beyond the proverbial horizon. (In the near future, it may be a so-called "hate crime" and a civil liberties violation to even talk about the sin of homosexuality for what it is -- a perversion of God's ordained love between a man and a woman!) American believers may experience what their brethren in many parts of the world partake of on a daily basis in short order. We too, may be harangued and persecuted as our foreign counterparts. And why should we expect differently? For as Paul stated: Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (II Timothy 3:12).

In Matthew 5: 10, the root phrase in the Greek, "who have been persecuted" is dediōgmenoi which literally means "to put to flight or to pursue". This implies a pre-meditated, calculated attempt by those in power to impede or stop those who call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ in whatever means are at their disposal. As in the other beatitudes, Jesus declares a blessing on those who would be harassed and hunted like a wild beast for His Name's sake. Luke, the author of the book of Acts, uses a derivation of this word to describe the actions of Saul of Tarsus (later to be known as Paul) as he sought out Christ's followers to have them imprisoned. When Jesus asked Saul in the vision on the road to Damascus, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?", Luke chooses a form of dediōgmenoi, using the present tense diōkeis which translates "is persecuting" (Acts 9:4). Little did Saul know that up until that moment of clarity on the Damascus Road, he had been a tool of the devil and yet a catalyst of blessing to those he sought to inflict harm. However, it was not in God's Master Plan for Saul to remain in his present state. He desired to transform the Pharisee Saul into the Apostle Paul. By Jesus' declaration of who Saul was in the eyes of God, this epiphany empowered the zealous young man to be converted for the Lord's work.

So, what kind of persecution should we expect in our western civilization if we desire to live godly lives? In our present societies, most of us will not be hunted down as did blindly-zealous Saul the first century Christians. However, we should expect verbal abuse at times that is hateful toward our lives as believers in Jesus Christ. The Lord made a distinction in the verses following Matthew 5:10 marking the difference between verbal abuse and physical persecution. In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus states: 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; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. In these verses, Christ mentions oral persecution twice with the implication of physical abuse just once. While verbal persecution in and of itself is not life threatening, it can quickly evolve into a physically abusive scenario. (Psychologists tell us that physical abuse nine times out of ten will be preceded with verbal abuse.) Jesus relates that to suffer insults, character defamation, lies, and evil dispersions are all cause for rejoicing. As He points out, the prophets were treated with contempt and abusive speech often years before they were martyred for His sake. And, why were they were treated as such? Because they spoke the truth and did not compromise God's message in a turbulent, idolatrous time! Do we see any of the same parallels today, beloved? Has the Christian faith become so watered-down in many churches that there is no longer any distinction whether the so-called flock is Christian or of some other eastern philosophy that panders to a belief that "all roads must lead to heaven, since all roads lead to Rome"? I tell you with sober conviction, that if we are not at the very least ruffling a few folks around us regarding our faith, I would question whether we truly have any real faith. If we are not incurring the occasional gossip behind our backs (or in our presence) or the overt insult to our face of our so-called intolerance toward others because of supposed "narrow-mindedness", then we should be crying out to God for a life of conviction that is once and for all led by His Spirit.

While we may not experience the depth of persecution that some of our global brethren may be experiencing, there is little doubt that we should be manifesting a certain joy in our present struggles in our encounters with a hateful, anti-Christ world we live in. Nobody that I know in America is currently being hunted down for their faith. However, I can assure us of this -- if one cannot endure the insults and the evil that others might say against us today, then we will not be ready to endure the persecution that may be on our very doorsteps. Do we feel blessed when others might insult us for our faith? Or, have we not garnered that type of response from others because we have not submitted ourselves to our Lord for this to happen? If we are living obedient lives full of His presence, He has promised us persecution to one degree or another. Blessed are we if we will embrace these occasions for they ensure our citizenship in that glorious kingdom above!

Father, we seek not persecution for persecution's sake, but we desire to be pleasing in Your sight. As we are insulted or abused for our faith in You, remind us that we are blessed in heaven and while on this earth for our testimony. Remind us that the kingdom of heaven is ours if we shrink not from the good news of Jesus Christ and Him crucified and resurrected. In Christ's Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Bare Soul - The Beatitudes - Peacemakers - October 11, 2009

The following is a video recording and message text of a sermon titled "The Beatitudes - Peacemakers" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on October 8, 2009.

The Beatitudes - Peacemakers (PowerPoint)


Matthew 5:9 - Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Much has been written and stated about the peacemakers of our time. Many notables have attempted to bring about lasting peace regarding their respective spheres of influence. While all never attained to their highest ideals, some failed more demonstrably than others. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain sought a peaceful solution to the rise of Nazism in the late 1930s in Europe, yet his naive appeasement only led to millions dead in the wake of World War II. Others such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. saw passive resistance as the way to join the hands of those who hate. Unfortunately, both were assassinated for their cause. Others such as President Bill Clinton who helped engineer the so-called Mideast Peace Accord of the 1990s saw the unraveling of peace nearly as soon as the pen met the paper. Throughout our present history, United Nations ambassadors have often been lost in an "ocean of dialogue" in the halls of diplomacy while lasting peace has languished amidst bloody chaos back in their own countries. While some would say that peace is a noble, humanistic endeavor that needs to be striven after and that will one day be obtained, the scripture tells us otherwise. While we may know "seasons" of truce between warring factions, there is always the slow simmer of hatred and unrest under the cloak of detente'. Millennia-old tensions and resentments await just the right catalyst to once again stoke the fires of hostility. Not only is this true with governments and cultures dating back to the dawn of time, but it is also true in an individual's life. While this is the sober state of unregenerate humanity, it does not have to be that way. There is One who is not only the Creator of peace, but who rules a kingdom where its very charter is empowered by the spirit of reconciliation.

True and lasting peace is not an ideal that carnal man can attain to in a humanistic endeavor, but it is realized in a Person (Ephesians 2:14-15). It is the embodiment of the Lord Jesus Christ and how He lived His life on this earth. Once again, we see in this beatitude (as in all previous) Jesus revealing a particular facet of Himself and of His Father in heaven. The implied definition of a "peacemaker" is someone who possesses or owns the power of reconciliation and is amply supplied within their respective character to give it to others. As the embodiment of peace, Jesus spoke with authority into people's lives (John 14:27) as well as into the creation itself (Mark 4:39). This was diametrically different than the authority others had wielded over the nation of Israel in Jesus' time. While many spoke of peace with the Romans and those who threatened their homeland, they were impotent to render a peaceful outcome. However, the Lord spoke of a heavenly kingdom and a kingdom yet to come on this earth where His peacemakers would act with the same divine authority that He possessed from the Father. Christ tells us that if we know Him and have accepted His life into ours, then we too will epitomize His vocation as peacemaker. As such, we will be unable to avoid this divine calling since we are inextricably joined with His life. And, as so, we become not only sons of God but brethren to our Lord (Hebrews 2:11). And, as sons of God we join in His labor for the Father's longing -- a harvest of souls through the ministry of reconciliation.

The Apostle Paul understood the true character of a peacemaker. Commending the ministry the Lord had entrusted to him and others, Paul instructs the Corinthian church on first comprehending being rightly related to God through new birth, and then the responsibility of every believer to bring others in relationship with the Father. In II Corinthians 5:17, Paul states a familiar passage to most believers: Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. By Paul's declaration, anyone who has identified themselves with Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection has now become a "super-naturalized" citizen of another kingdom (Colossians 1:13). Through this new birthright into another realm, Paul is telling us that we all have been given divine appointments as ministers of reconciliation. Therefore, just as Christ drew us to Himself and saved us from our sin, so also should we be drawing others from the grasp of hell into the kingdom of light by the authority and power of His Holy Spirit (II Corinthians 5:18-19). As holy ambassadors of heaven and a future redeemed earth, we are given the same power to bring lost souls into the Father's arms (II Corinthians 5:20).

Not a lot has changed in the Mideast in 2,000 years. Peace is not attained through weakness but through a confident show of strength and authority. Many say that this is the only thing Semitic and non-Semitic Middle Eastern cultures understand. As Jesus spoke and acted with authority, he garnered the common people's respect and the established religious-political authorities' ire. Similarly today, if we speak out in the name of Jesus as ambassadors of His peace and His salvation, then we will encounter resistance from some but also respect and gratitude from others. As Christians, we must stand up for truth because, at the end of the proverbial day, we will know that we are laboring with God as peacemakers. By our testimony of His love and salvation, we are seeking to restore the broken relationship between a lost man, woman, or child with a loving, forgiving God. While the work of Chamberlain, or Gandhi, or King may have been noble for this lifetime, we must seek a higher calling of closing the chasm between humankind and God the Father. As peacemaking is commendable between nations, cities, communities, and individuals, the loss is much more incalculable if peace is not brokered between a man and His God. It is only by trusting in our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, that we may first have peace for ourselves (Romans 5:1) and then are equipped to give it to others.

Father, we thank you that Your Son gave us all the ministry of reconciliation through the gift of salvation -- that we ALL can be peacemakers of a righteous kingdom that will one day fill the earth, even as it does heaven. Help those of us who know You to draw from Your Spirit as we bring others to you through your spiritual diplomacy. Allow us to participate as holy ambassadors for the great work of peacemaking between heaven and earth. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Bare Soul - The Beatitudes - Purity - October 4, 2009

Matthew 5:8 - Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Cultures throughout the millennia have valued purity in one way or another. Precious metals such as gold or silver have always carried more value depending on their degree of overall purity. As such, gold and silver are refined in the smelter's heat to bring greater value to their owner. The purification process may go through several refinements until that state of 99.9% purity is obtained. However, no matter how much refining might be done to precious metals such as gold or silver, there is nothing on this earth that can be made 100% pure. Likewise, honey is refined by heat and gives off a translucent glow when under the refiners fire. Yet, even though this sweet product might be advertised as "pure honey", it will always possess traces of unrefined substances that are impossible to extract during the purification process.

In this beatitude, Jesus knew that his audience understood the difference between the pure and impure. Undoubtedly, many in this crowd either worked as smelters or they knew relatives that worked with metals such as copper, bronze, silver, and gold. They understood the painstaking criticality of heating the furnaces to just the right temperature and the art of not over-heating the molten metals. An inexperienced smelter might ruin a batch of precious metal by not applying the right amount of heat at the critical moment. However, the artisan metallurgist knew the precise moment to remove the liquefied batch from the oven. In so doing, he ensured a purity that only the experienced could render.

Throughout the Old Testament, God has spoken through His prophets regarding the refiner's fire and His desire to purify a people that would walk after His own heart. In Malachi 3:2-3 the prophet states: But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness. Through this scripture and many others (see also Psalm 66:10; Jeremiah 9:7; Daniel 12:10; Zechariah 13:9), we see that God is the purifier, not us. We have no power within to purify ourselves, no more than the gold or silver has the ability to purify itself. We, like the crude ore that is mined from the earth, must submit ourselves to God, allowing Him to "smelt" us in the Furnaces of His Desire. Personal purity, or sanctification if you like, comes in no other way than by obeying God in every instance of our lives and granting Him total permission to form us according to His will. Unfortunately, most flinch or cringe under this type of "burning" from the Lord. Beloved, God will always come as a fire when He desires to make us His own. Many wish to experience His Holy Ghost fire as He manifests Himself in signs and wonders -- divine healings, prophetic words, et al. However, to experience His supernatural outpouring of signs and wonders through the fire of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, one must first experience the fire of His Divine Furnaces. It cheapens God in our day and time when men and women pray over souls for a baptism of fire in their lives, when they themselves have not first experienced a baptism of obedience! They are trying to impart to others the very Spirit they themselves are yet to receive, and it's all because of their carnal knowledge and love of this world (II Timothy 3:5). To the degree that a man or a woman has emptied themselves of their own self-serving ways, is to the degree that God can come in with His Holy "Flame Thrower" and bring this man or woman to their knees in repentance for their sinful disobedience. Then, God will have purified vessels that He can send anywhere in this world -- under any circumstances -- knowing that these will never waver in the face of the Flesh, the World, or the Devil. They have become Christ's ambassadors, filled with a Holy Ghost unction born in the Furnaces of Obedience to the Lord.

Most believe that the Lord, like the inexperienced smelter, will ruin them if they totally submit to the Holy Fire of His love. They may not say that in words, but they say it in their actions. Otherwise, there would be many more who would give themselves unreservedly to the Holy Smelter of our hearts. Most believe, by their actions, that God could never love us the way that He claims. For if we really understood that He loved us with a love that was eternal and infinite as He is, then we would trust Him to immerse us time and time again into the Fire of His Holy Desire until we came out that purified vessel of honor. Beloved, without a doubt, we will all be glorified someday and will be pure as we stand before His throne and see Him face to face. However, there is so much of heaven that we can live here on this earth. Purity of heart is not just for the "sweet by and by". It is to be embraced NOW, as we submit to the Flames of His Love. Do you desire to see Him? It should be the most normal thing for a Christian to experience on this earth. For as we give ourselves to the Master Purifier, He will allow us to see Him as we never thought possible in this lifetime. And, oh, what sweetness that will provoke for a lifetime of seeing Him both now and in the age to come! Glory be to God for His gracious Gift of Burning. May we embrace it with a trust and a love that can only come from Him!

Heavenly Father, Lover of our souls ... take us this day and have your way with us. Help us not shrink from your fire, for only from Your Furnace of Love comes true life that is pure. As we are refined by Your love, may we see You in all Your fullness. Oh Father, thank you for your Son who has shown us the way. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick