Friday, May 28, 2010

The Bare Soul - God's Ownership - May 30, 2010

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "God's Ownership" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on May 27, 2010.

God's Ownership - May 27, 2010

I Corinthians 6:19 - Or 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?

Ownership of large ticket items such as property, houses, or cars are easily taken for granted in our western civilization. Advertisements bombard consumers via all forms of media, telling us to enjoy life to the fullest and pay later. Many "WE FINANCE" auto dealers claim that all you need is a job and they will ensure your immediate credit approval. Promises of enjoying life's pleasures cause many to be drawn in by this seduction to "buy now and pay later". The fallacy of this mindset is that nothing ever gets paid off. For the self-absorbed, a new car or house will be the panacea for the vehicle that might not be quite as shiny as a couple of years prior, or the new house one financed a few years earlier which is now showing signs of aging. For one to flash their new sports car or to welcome friends into their new 10,000 square foot home is merely an illusion for some folks. Most live beyond their means and don't truly own anything, but have become stewards for their financial institutions. As Proverbs states, the borrower becomes the lender's slave (Proverbs 22:7). Many think they own their possessions, however they are merely paying for them over and over again through interest payment, thereby creating wealth for those who truly DO own their assets.

What is often true in the material, is true in the spiritual. If most westerners have this attitude of fulfilling every desire in the present and not worrying about the future, then how much more so will they consider their most important asset? If they consider that life is to be enjoyed and the after-life is something to not concern oneself with in the present, then how will they ever understand that which they thought they owned wasn't theirs in the first place? While it is understandable that most unsaved persons know only self-indulgence without a care for God, many so-called Christians live this way under the pretense of Christianity. In our hedonistic western society, Christians are often looked at as "kooks" if they can't carry on a conversation with their worldly counterparts about the latest episode of "Sex in the City" or who will be bumped off the latest "American Idol". Beloved, if you call yourself a believer and know as much about current entertainment as unbelievers, then you might want to check where your devotion lies. Your ownership might have changed hands, or then again, may have NEVER changed hands. For truly, we all belong to one spiritual entity or the other. We either belong to God, or we belong to the devil. If we belong to God, do we shine in such a way as for all men to see our good works? (Matthew 5:16) Or, do we we shine with the effervescence of neon and marquis lights of Broadway and Hollywood? It will all depend on who truly owns us.

As stated, many have grown accustomed to owing and not taking ownership for their finances, not to mention their entire lives. In the past several years, we have seen millions in the US live well beyond their means and then walk away from their creditors when they couldn't pay. Foreclosures were rampant in 2008 as well as record numbers of auto repossessions. Once again, what is true in the material is also true in the spiritual. There are spiritual principles at work that know and understand their right of ownership. God knows His for certain, and will take possession of His own in one way or another. In both his letters, Paul spoke to the Corinthians telling them that carnal or fleshly living would only result in a life wasted and burnt up in the fire to be revealed at Christ's Judgment Seat (I Corinthians 3:12; II Corinthians 5:10). The sowing and reaping factor will be a factor not only in believers lives but also for the unbeliever, for Satan knows his rights of ownership also. There will come a day when the "Repo Man from Hell" will come knocking on the door of the heart of everyone who is not Christ's. Whomever did not heed to the Savior and His knocking will truly know the pounding and the door breaking strength of that cruel master as he takes possession of what is rightfully his. There will be no more time to accept the "installments" that Christ has already paid for this doomed life. The true owner has come for what is his and he will have it forever.

God spoke through the psalmist most poignantly in the 50th Psalm regarding His ownership here on earth: For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:10) While God may own all the cattle, He does not own all the hearts of men. However, His greatest desire is to captivate the hearts of mankind in such a way as to allow Him to take His rightful place of ownership. Christ's death purchased ALL humankind, redeeming us from the devil's cruel possession. Sadly, most will never accept Him as the Great Redeemer. Many will not know until that day when they step into eternity that they had borrowed WAY more than they could ever repay by assuming their lives were their own. If only they had trusted in the Savior. Their lives, just like all of our lives, are not our own. We have been bought with a price. A price so incalculably high that we will not understand its true cost until we too step through the veil to that place of eternity. We will know then what the "bank of heaven" spent to ensure that we might be wise stewards of this earthly tent he gave us to watch over. Beloved, the decision is ours -- to live a life that delights in seeing our true owner take rightful possession of His property. Or, to delude ourselves into believing that our lives are our own and that we will answer to none. My prayer is that we would all know and love Him who paid the supreme price for our hearts and give to Him the ownership He so greatly deserves!

Heavenly Father, thank you that we are not our own, but that your Son bought and paid for us through His blood. Help us to shine as lamps filled with Your oil, showing others that friendship with the world is broadcasting to all who truly owns our soul. Give us wisdom and revelation to know who truly possesses us and help us to snatch others away from the cruel one's clutches. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,
Rick

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Bare Soul - Living Words - May 23, 2010

John 6:68 - Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life."

Peter revealed the profundity of the disciples position in this passage in the Gospel of John. They were quite literally between the proverbial "Rock and the hard place". On one hand, they saw their "Rock" - their Friend, Teacher, and eventual Savior alienating both common people along with the Pharisees and religious folks of the day. On the other, no one knew Jesus as they did. They understood that there was no one else who spoke or did the things of God as their loving teacher. They had put themselves in the position to follow Christ, no matter what He might do or say, simply because they understood that He possessed life giving words. Peter merely voiced what the other disciples felt in our lead verse. They had come to know their friend Jesus enough to trust that He would not lead them astray. Yet, at the same time, they understood little where they might be headed. Only after they themselves were indwelt by the Spirit of Christ post-Pentecost did they truly understand what it meant to possess words that could bring forth both life and death. For some, as those 3,000 souls on that fateful day discovered, there was life in the words of the Apostle Peter as he instrumentally snatched these persons from the bowels of hell. But what of the others who heard but did not yield? For these that did not repent on that day or any other, the same words sealed their fate for eternity.

Words carry the weight of our eternal fate. Depending on what we hear, and what we say, these will ultimately determine where we spend eternity. Jesus told us that we would give an account of every careless word that we speak (Matthew 12:36). Proverbs 18:21 tells us, Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Without exception, we will either confess Jesus Christ as Lord with humility on this side of eternity and be saved (Romans 10:9-10), or we will deny his existence by our abeyance to confess Him as Lord yet at the same time "idolizing" every worldly pleasure by our constant worldly chatter. It all depends on how we receive the words of eternal life. If we receive them implanted, then they are able to save our souls (James 1:21). If we, along with the fool, say there is no God (Psalm 14:1), then we have hardened the soil of our heart to the point where God's eternal seed can find no place to grow (Luke 8:5). The road is broad to destruction and many are on this super-highway to hell (Matthew 7:13). The exception will be those who yearn after righteousness and will not retreat from the path of life, no matter what. Peter and his cohorts understood this. The patriarch Job also understood that there was nothing in what his friends offered, no matter whether they had the best intentions in their misplaced sympathies. Job declared that even if God should slay him, he would continue to trust only Him and to put forth his case before his Maker and no other (Job 13:15). Beloved, have we come to that place in our respective walk with the Lord? Have we made a covenant with God that we shall not betray Him no matter what the cost? Friends may say that our faith is insanity, that we are trusting in archaic "fairy tales". Have we acknowledged that we too are between that "Rock and hard place" and desire no other?

Pentecost changed everything for the disciples. Likewise, God's indwelling in a manifest way will change ANY man, woman, or child. We merely have to want it and to wait for it until it comes. While God has most certainly given us all things including the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, the understanding and the actualization are often disconnected from the daily experience for many of us. That's why it is paramount to continue to pray for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation as outlined in Ephesians 1:17-19. Many of us are where Christ's disciples were in the sixth chapter of John when the Lord asked that probing question, ... You do not want to go away also, do you? (John 6:67). We must be honest and forthright at this juncture and say to the Lover of our souls, Lord reveal to me the words of eternal life that will truly make me free! Jesus did not tell us to become experts at quoting scripture or knowing the Bible, but to hear His voice and to be changed by its revelation (John 10:3, John 10:16). The more we hear His words and act upon them the more we will be changed according to His image, for faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of His testimony (Romans 10:17). From faith to faith we WILL be changed if we continue to cry out for wisdom and understanding of Christ. Then, we too will understand the power of Pentecost. The recipe is simple -- watching and waiting with humility, weeping and wailing for more wisdom and understanding, and witnessing the wonderful experience when He sheds His Spirit in us and through us to others.

Beloved of God, there is no greater joy that the Lord desires to give to us then to experience more of Him through His life-giving words. We must understand, however, that these are not given glibly or without meaning. When God gives Himself in full measure, it is because a man, woman, or child has emptied themselves of any possible retreat into the world. There is a determination in their souls that they will have more of God or else they will die trying. Just as God will not share His glory with another, neither should we share ourselves with anything less than eternal words -- words that will ultimately cause a finality of decisions to the hearers. It is our responsibility as Christ's ambassadors on this earth to live lives as nothing less than those that speak the language of heaven to a dying world. May we all cry out to our Heavenly Father for MORE revelation of who He is within us all in order to change this world around us.

Lord Jesus, thank you for Your words of eternal life. Teach us the language of angels and of Your heavenly abode, convincing some of Your love for them by Your supreme sacrifice. Allow all who hear Your words to be changed forever. In Your Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Bare Soul - The Burden of the Lord - May 16, 2010

Matthew 11:30 - For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Often in our 21st century living, we may tend to believe that our society is more harried and stressful than at any any other time in history. I'm not so sure about that. The human condition divorced of God's life will always seek to strive and struggle for peaceful preeminence no matter what generation or century one might live. The truth is that humans can often feel overwhelmed and see life's burdens as too heavy to bear. That is why so many in this generation as well as others preceding have turned to alcohol, drugs, or any other diversion of sin to help them escape what they feel is the tortuous weight of life itself. How often have some said, "If only I had his or her life, then everything would be okay. Look how they sail through their days without a care!". No man knows what load a man bears except that man alone. However, we can know one thing for certain -- we need not bear our loads in a solitary manner. There is One who came before us to bear the weight of sin and who also seeks to help us with our daily burdens. He desires that our burdens become His burdens as we yoke together with Him.

Yoking animals is not an arbitrary exercise. Neither is it with our Lord. As with yoked oxen, one is the lead and is usually the stronger animal and the weaker will submit and follow as the other leads. It is no different with the Lord and the believer. He requires that we be yoked to Him but He is not unreasonable and demanding. He knows that we cannot carry the load of sin that has weighed us down all our lives, so He lovingly takes it when we accept Him as our Savior. And, it is the same regarding our daily cares, concerns, and yes -- sins! He patiently takes all that is not of Him and not borne from His Spirit (e.g. the fruit of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22-23]), and takes it upon His shoulders never to give it back. Unless, however we desire it back! This is often the dilemma. For we gladly accept that Christ died for our sin and we begin to move toward Him in sanctification, surrendering our old nature with gratitude that He wishes to carry it. However, oftentimes when we begin to feel good about ourselves (in a self-righteous way) we are apt to want to take back our "old man" and grieve the Spirit of Jesus within. If only we would allow Him to carry not only our sin but also our cares and anxieties each and every day. What freedom we would possess!

Many confess a child-like "lightness" after giving their burden of sin to God and walking in that new found freedom of giving up their sins daily to the Almighty. Some have expressed that they feel like an adolescent again without a care in the world! That is what Jesus desires us all to experience when we first come to Him. He wants us never to be burdened again with the weight of sin. However, he does still desire us to bear a load, albeit a light one! As aforementioned, Jesus has taken on not only the burden of sin but also the burden of the Father's heart for a dying world. We as frail humans can never know the heartache that the Lord of Heaven experiences as he aches for the souls of humankind. However, He does desire to share a portion -- a small measure of His heart with any believer that would take up the yoke of Jesus. Any burden that God desires to impart to us is miniscule in comparison to what He bore on Calvary. Furthermore, his burden of prayer is slight that He wishes us to bear in comparison to his unceasing intercession for His beloved (Hebrews 7:25). It is incomprehensible that our loving Father has sent His Son to be yoked with us in any other way. Even as a spiritual yoke determines suitable partners in achieving the righteousness of God upon this earth, so Jesus Christ's burdens should generate awe and humility in us as we submit to him as the Suffering Servant that overcame darkness and overwhelmingly conquerors as we submit to His awesome power (Romans 8:37).

The yoke of the Lord can never be borne alone, nor was it ever intended to be so. Only as we partner with the Lord and understand the enormous burden that He carried and still carries for us, can we then understand the brevity that we are meant to endure our relatively light loads upon this earth. We should count it a privilege and honor to be counted worthy to endure life's day to day troubles. Jesus said that if we are in the world that we will have heartaches and tribulations, but that He had overcome all that is not of God (John 16:33). Beloved, let us not struggle with the yoke the Lord has given to all who call on His name. We may believe that we are carrying our burden alone. However, if we will but look closely next to us we will see that our Lord Jesus has never abandoned us to carry His yoke by ourselves. We must not struggle but submit to the power of His will and allow Him to take the burden He is so willing to carry. For the load He gives us is not too heavy. It will never drag us down to despair, but it will always be light enough to remind us that He will continue to lead us through this life until we come to our final rest. For only as He leads, can we truly follow as we are bound to Him in love.

Lord Jesus, I submit to You and to Your yoke of love. Bind Your light burden upon my shoulders with Your loving care and ever remind me that You are the All Powerful One, bearing burdens much too heavy for me to bear. Lead and guide me to glory, Lord Jesus. In Your Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Bare Soul - The Beauty of Holiness - May 9, 2010

Song of Solomon 2:13 - The fig tree has ripened its figs, and the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along!

Springtime is a wonderful expression of God's renewal. In the Midwestern United States, we are blessed to have beautiful Red Bud, Dogwood, and Lilac that titillate the senses as they burst forth in bloom. Recently, I was watching a television program regarding how nature will put on this grand pageant as a means of survival. Plants and trees that bloom yearly rely on winged creatures such as bees and wasps to be attracted to their lushness. In so doing, they travel from plant to plant, pollinating flora and fauna's respective counterparts and ensuring another lifecycle of their species. The competition can be fierce to woo these airborne couriers to select their nectar thereby ensuring cross-pollination. Bright, vivid colors along with strong scents are the main attracters. Through these sensory stimuli, one is struck by God's plan as He created less hearty plants with a fragrance and nectar that is irresistible to nature's pollinators. But isn't that just like God? He often takes those who would be less strong than others and ensures their survival by equipping them to be more desirable in their weakness.

In nature, it is is not fair to judge a plant's strength by its apparent beauty, especially if it is not able to reproduce itself. If, however, it is able to ensure generation upon generation by its ability to make itself desirable, then it has accomplished God's purpose. For example, a number of different birds and mammals eat a variety of different fruit from vines and trees. These seeds they ingest become deposited in a multitude of locations as they pass through their systems. The number of seed deposits by animals defecating them back into the landscape ensures that this lottery will once again produce the next generation of fruit bearers. The diversity of our Creator ensures that all plant life are ensured a chance of propagating their prodigies no matter how the transferences might take place. The will of the Father is there, and He has certainly made a way for all to "be fruitful and multiply".

If we look closely at any of God's creation, we see that it is perfect in its design and utility. Likewise, humankind is perfect in form and function when we are abiding in that One whom we were created to reflect. Just as in the plant or animal creation, beauty has to have purpose within man's sphere of influence. If beauty and fragrance is only of this world, then it will only produce a momentary pleasure of the eye or for the nose. However captivating it may be, it is fleeting and will only satisfy the beholder for the moment (Proverbs 31:30). True beauty is when a person is emanating the character of their Maker, which is the beauty of holiness. This is a righteous behavior that is free from malice or guile and is full of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). When one is living and moving in this way, their outer appearance is of little importance. A vine may look like any other when it is in dormant in the dead of winter or later when it puts on its leaves. Many wild vines will continue this way throughout summer without ever producing fruit. However, when a vine has been tended by the vinedresser and when it distinguishes itself by bearing glorious, succulent grapes then it is desirous to many. In much the same way, if we are bearing fruit for our God then many will wish to "taste" of our lives. The consequences of a seemingly inconsequential life before bearing fruit will change dramatically once fruit is bore and shared. While the fragrance of our "blooms" may be the thing that first attracts our attracters, what will keep them coming back is when we bear fruit and continue to bear it. They will take and share it indiscriminately, being carriers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as they deposit a little bit of us throughout this world. Is this not what we desire, to become so One with the Father that we share the beauty of His holiness with others? Our state of abiding in that Great Vine whose name is Jesus Christ becomes such a natural state that we allow our fruit to be freely shared without a thought otherwise.

The beauty of nature reproducing itself is really no different then how God desires to reproduce Himself through the beauty of holiness. In both cases, He takes a willing participant in His creation and He allows the respective flowers, fragrances, and fruits to manifest in such a way as to beckon those who would supplant His reproductive wishes. God loves His creation, but above all He loves humankind and desires a spiritual reproduction that is multiplied time and time again much in the same way as His original procreation command (Genesis 1:28). However, to do this He needs spiritual beings that are alive to righteousness through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. As we submit to His Lordship, then we too can live in the beauty of His holiness, producing life upon life as His fruit is manifested in us and through us to a dying world.

Lord Jesus, we thank you that You are the Vine and we are merely the branches. But, O what branches! We have the honor and the privilege of producing much fruit for You as we are found beautiful in Your holiness. Allow us this great opportunity through our realization of Your great love for us all. In Your name Jesus and for Your Father's glory we pray, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick