Friday, June 25, 2010

The Bare Soul - God's Workmanship - June 27, 2010

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "God's Workmanship" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on June 24 2010.

God's Workmanship - June 24, 2010

Ephesians 2:10 - For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

When God rested from his creation labors after the sixth day, He meant it. He saw that all which He had created was GOOD, especially humankind. Truly, the wondrous detail of His creation is seen in no greater splendor as that of man. Nature gives us a myriad of examples of His loving nature and how He reveals Himself through that which He has made. However, humans are the zenith of His handiwork. The bible tells us that the hairs of our heads are all numbered (Matthew 10:30). Extraordinarily, the average head has over 100, 000 hair follicles. That is nothing compared to the other complexities of the human being. It is estimated that the skin contains approximately 640,000 sense receptors, scattered unevenly over the body's surface. There are about 9,000 taste buds on the surface of the tongue, in the throat, and on the roof of the mouth. Also, the body carries approximately 25 trillion red blood cells, creating life giving oxygen to our vital organs. In total, the human body contains over 100 trillion cells. These are just a few examples of the magnificent work of the Almighty when He created you and me. The list goes on and on. If God numbers the hairs of our head, He is well aware of every atom that makes up our existence. The eternal God knows EVERYTHING about our seeming limitless structures.

It is understandable that God desires for us to be perfect, even as He is perfect and holy (Matthew 5:48; Hebrews 10:14). After all, He created perfect human beings and gave them a garden to tend in Eden. But something sinister happened -- the Fall of Mankind. What was once perfect became "soulish" and devoid of God's Spirit. When man and woman sinned, God had to depart this perfect union with humankind's spirit, for a holy perfect God cannot live in a compromised position with man. The redemption of Jesus Christ made it possible once again for mankind to be "perfect" in the sight of God through the shedding of Christ's blood and His death, burial, and resurrection. He became the One to restore us to that state of perfect reconciliation with the Father. When Jesus stated emphatically on the cross, "It is finished", He was entering into a state of reclamation, taking back what His Father had done and finished on the sixth day of creation. That is why it is so important to know the significance of the SEVENTH day of creation, for God rested from all His works on this glorious day (Genesis 2:2). That is why Christians claim the seventh day of the week as Sunday, because this was the day that Jesus rose from the dead to rest from all His works. There was no more that He could do for you or me after that glorious day. He defeated hell, taking back the deed to this world and all its contains from the devil. In so doing, he gave us everything pertaining to life and godliness through His victory (II Peter 1:3; Ephesians 4:8).

It is ludicrous for us to believe that since God the Father and God the Son have rested from their works, that we can do anything for God by our own works. Our lead scripture in Ephesians states that ... we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. God made us all perfect in the beginning of time through our father Adam, and then recreated us through His Son (I Corinthians 15:45). The "good works" that we are privileged to live out are those that come from our relationship with God and our understanding of who we are in Christ. Jesus Christ has come to indwell all who would but trust in Him, giving us the power to turn away from the "soulish" existence that our father and mother Adam and Eve possessed after the Fall. As we embrace Christ, more and more, through the understanding that he truly dwells within (Ephesians 1:17-19), then we will love the Restorer of our souls as we grow in truly living under His gentle prodding. We delight to follow the inner inclinations that He tells us to do. This, beloved, is working the works of God (John 6:28-29). To be obedient to God in all things is the greatest calling that any of us will ever have as believers. Once we understand His deep love for us in how He created us and then redeemed us, we will follow Him and trust Him to take us to the ends of the earth.

People often get confused regarding whether they are doing God's works or their own. It is really very simple to know the difference. Has the realization of who you are, how you were created, and then redeemed captured your imagination? Have you come into such a place of gratitude toward the Most High that you are love struck with heart palpitations whenever the name "Jesus" is mentioned? Beloved, I guarantee if this is your disposition and you are ever seeking to do His will in every aspect of your life, then you are doing the works of God. The vocation of the Lord can never be divorced from His relationship. Once that happens, dryness and religiosity sets in. We must all find that place of understanding -- that we are His workmanship both through creation and redemption -- and then walk in a devotion that is ever longing for more of Him. If this is your present situation, rejoice! If not, I pray that you would look to Him, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) and beseech the Lord for a heart that would be melded to His. He has finished His work. He only desires that we would enter into relationship with Him to become co-laborers in His rest until that day when He calls us home.

Holy Father, what more can you give? You've given us everything in a perfect creation and a holy redemption. May we enter into your rest by understanding that your works are finished and that we must simply trust in You. Anything that we might do for You in obedience is an act of restful trust. What a glorious relationship, Lord, as we yoke together with You in passionate love! In Jesus Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Bare Soul - True Worshippers - June 20, 2010

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "True Worshippers" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on June 17, 2010.


John 4:24 - God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

What does it mean to become a true worshipper of God? Jesus stated unequivocally that those who worship God must worship Him in both spirit and truth. Many fail to understand how to commune with God on this supernatural "footing" because many don't understand what it is to worship the Father. Pass by most mainline denominational churches and many will invariably display their "times of worship", whether Sunday morning, Sunday evening, or Wednesday evening. A large part of Western Christendom has become comfortable with the idea of giving God an hour or two on Sunday, and for the more devoted, even a Wednesday evening from time to time. Even those who are regular members, who tithe and are busy with church activities, may oftentimes not truly understand what it means to be a worshipper of God. I think I have a decent description of a true worshipper of God. Many use the example of falling in love with their mate, how they couldn't stand being apart and where they would spend every waking moment thinking about their true love. While this is romantic and a passionate example, it is also sentimental and unrealistic for the "long haul". What must develop from this passionate longing are times of loving trust and confidence. Just as a couple who has been married for decades can ascribe, there must be a mutual love that has the underlying spark of passion but more importantly the fires of undying love that keep the furnaces of love burning. This, beloved, is a contentment that is honest and forthright. Even so, this is the type of worshippers God desires -- those who will trust in Him no matter the intensity.

It is impossible to be a true worshipper of God on selective days. Hebrews tells us that we must come boldly before the throne of grace, displaying great confidence in the One whom we've believed (Hebrews 4:16). The author of this book to Jewish believers points out that we must seek Him in this regard in our time of need. However, as the sanctified believer knows, our days of need are daily without abate. When we come into relationship with the Father through the Son, then we truly understand that to stand aloof is an attitude of infidelity and sub sequential idolatry. For if we are not relying on His throne of grace, and worshipping Him face to face, then we will not be capable of worshipping Him from afar. If we are not captivated by His presence then we are held captive by another. In order for our spirits to commune with the Father, we must first accept His Son as our Savior and know that He paid the price for our sin. Once this contractual understanding has occurred, then you or I have the same rights as those of every godly man and woman that have gone before us. We can join our spirit with His in faith, rejecting the world and all its fleshly attachments. If we are communing with the Father in faith, and have humbly given ALL of our lives to Him, then we have become worshippers in spirit and in truth. It is impossible to divorce either spirit or truth in the equation to be God's worshipper. For without His Spirit, we will never know the truth about ourselves. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16), but He also convicts us to help us grow to be men and women of God (John 16:8).

One might say, "It is impossible to be a worshipper of God every minute of the day." If God gave us the command to be holy as He is holy (I Peter 1:16), it means He has given us everything to become holy, worshippers of God. Failing to do otherwise is our fault. To the level that we will trust and obey His Spirit (who lives within those of us who call Christ our Savior), is the degree that we will satisfy the Father's hearts. In John 4:23, Jesus states that the Father is looking for true worshippers that would worship Him in spirit and in truth. II Chronicles 16:9 states: For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His ... . Beloved, worshipping the Father with a whole heart is not a one way street! He desires to STRONGLY SUPPORT all those who would come to Him as worshippers, with spirits totally yielded to the Almighty. He promises through the prophet Malachi that if we worship Him with our tithe that He will open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings (Malachi 3:9-11). How much more if we worship Him with our entire lives! If God gives an abundance from giving Him a tenth of our wealth, how much more when we surrender all to Him? If we are truthful with our God, allowing the Spirit to rule within us and not giving any opportunity for the flesh to usurp His sovereignty, then we will know an abundance of His presence that will fill us continually with the fruit of His precious Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Do we really desire to be true worshippers? We will not experience true worship of the Father until we are truly His. Only as we lay down our lives before Him, will He then allow us to come before His throne of grace with boldness and confidence. He would have no greater delight than if we did so unreservedly. However, He knows we are but flesh and that often times the spirit is weak in its present state (Matthew 26:41). That is why He tells us to come, and to keep coming. Give to Him, and keep giving until there is no more to give. Expend what you can this day on the Father's behalf, and He will give you grace to give more tomorrow. We must always seek to become true worshippers by continually giving back to the One who gave us everything. For He is truly worthy of all our worship. May He find true worshippers in us all, as He continually draws us to Himself through His eternal mercy and grace!

Father, help us. Give us the desire to become sold-out, passionate, worshippers of You. Give us the fire within that will not be quenched as we seek You with all our hearts to give You the worship You deserve. We ask You to continue to draw us into Your presence. We love and thank You! In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Bare Soul - Divine Appointments - June 13, 2010

Acts 8:26 - But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, "Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza." (This is a desert road.)

Philip the Evangelist was an ordinary fellow made extraordinary by his obedience to God. A good part of Acts chapter eight gives us a glimpse into the life of Philip as he ministered the gospel. To understand his effectiveness, one should first look at the scripture references to Philip up until the time of his being sent forth. The "Philip" spoken of here should not be confused with Philip who was one of the twelve apostles. Scripture clearly shows that this Philip, who later became known as Philip the Evangelist (Acts 21:8), was one chosen by the twelve to help serve the Hellenistic Jewish widows (Acts 1:6). Which begs the question regarding how Philip became known as "the Evangelist". It would be quite easy to read over these passages and not really understand the preparation of heart that this disciple of Christ undoubtedly submitted himself to before demonstrating his evangelical anointing. We read that Philip was commissioned to help these widows then we see nothing of him in scripture until the Great Persecution arises as a result of his fellow servant, Stephan (see Acts chapter 7 and the beginning of chapter 8). At this juncture, the twelve apostles are the only stalwarts to remain in Jerusalem and the rest of the church is scattered throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1). Everyone including Philip, the soon to be evangelist.

Philip's character is only spoken of in regard to the other seven and their criteria for selection. However, these traits were paramount in shaping the destinies of at least two of the seven which we read about from chapters 6 through 8 of the Acts of the Apostles. Acts 6:3 states: Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. Through the simple appointments to wait on widow's, one man's destiny would bring him to a death by stoning as the first martyr of the early church (Acts 7:58). The other man, Philip, would take the things he learned as a disciple and would spread the Gospel throughout ancient Palestine. He came to a place where he had grown in such an intimate relationship with His Savior that he was compelled to testify of His grace. This anointing came by what we see in verse 3 of Acts chapter 6. First of all, Philip was one of these that had a good reputation. Character is different than reputation. Character is who a person really is, deep down. Reputation is how others perceive one's reputation. Philip undoubtedly had a life that was unquestionably upright in the sight of all. Was he human and did he have failings? Most assuredly he did. However, a good reputation is often perceived by how honest a person might be, whether they were always right or not. A person of good reputation in God's sight will admit their failings yet give God the glory regarding the man or woman they've become. This is the outward manifestation of an inward work that can only come by the second criterion, being filled with the Spirit. Only by the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit, can one develop the good reputation that the seven possessed. And how does one stay filled with the Spirit? Obedience! Jesus said that we are His friends if we keep His commandments (John 15:14). (This, we shall see will be critical in the development of Philip for his life-calling.) And lastly we see in Acts 6:3, that being filled with the Spirit is not enough but one must be filled with wisdom. This is critical in knowing how to deal with situations that would baffle most worldly-minded people but clearly shows the working of God as it is demonstrated.

From what we have discussed, we now can see Philip as an anointed servant that has been brought up at the apostles feet in a life of obedience and love toward the Lord Jesus. So, when the persecution arises, we see a fully-equipped disciple set upon the path of evangelism to tell others of what God has done for him. Philip is rife for divine appointments. And that is exactly what happens when he meets the Ethiopian eunuch. But before we discuss that encounter, let us look once again at our lead verse. Luke the author of Acts makes a point to tell us that Philip was so in tune with the Spirit of God that he heard an angel give him a command. Now, if Philip (or you or me) were not walking closely with God, he might have dismissed this as a demon from hell or even his own mind in trying to trick him. Luke also tells us as a piece of background information that where Philip was commanded to go was a desert road. Many might have considered this ludicrous and dismissed this "angel" as a figment of their imagination. For, after all, why would God want this disciple of His to go out and evangelize on a desert road? If it was today, one might say, "It doesn't make sense. I know that God wants me to have this high-profile ministry and speak to hundreds and thousands of people. Surely, God does not want me to go out to some proverbial "desert road"?" However, what Philip found on this barren expanse was an Ethiopian eunuch that would forever change both of their lives. This extraordinary event is detailed in Acts chapter 8, verses 25 through 40. As we know, the eunuch is part of the royal palace of Candace, queen of Ethiopia. Through Philip's obedience and leading this eunuch to the Lord, it undoubtedly sparked a move of the Holy Spirit that is still being felt in that African nation. (Many Ethiopians today say that they can trace their spiritual lineage back to this eunuch.) The point is that through one man's obedience a whole nation was touched. And it came from the heart of a humble servant who waited tables and who eventually turned a nation upside down for the Gospel.

Philip is one of these touchstone characters in scripture that show us how God can create divine appointments through simple obedience. God is not looking for supermen or women. However, He is looking for that man or woman of good reputation, those that are not "perfect", but are people of character that would demonstrate that to others. This, of course, comes from being filled often and repeatedly by the Holy Spirit, ever allowing God to shape the character within. And finally, to have God's wisdom to know when He is speaking and to act upon it with His words to set the captive free. This, beloved, is possessing a life like those seven. While Stephen had his divine appointment with death, Philip lived for years spreading the gospel to a dying world. Will we be as Philip, people of high repute, filled with the Spirit and the wisdom of the Lord? If so, I can promise that we too will experience the adventure of a life-time -- a life filled with divine appointments orchestrated by heaven itself!

Holy Father, make us a people that heeds your voice, shaping our characters so that our good reputations would be known to all. Fill us with your Spirit and give us the wisdom to encounter those whom you've ordained for life eternal. Thank you Lord! In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Bare Soul - Light of the World - June 6, 2010

Isaiah 60:1 - Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

If we know Christ, and we are one of His, then we all possess the light of God. As the scripture states, we have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of light (I Peter 2:9). While this may not be evident in many believers lives it is nonetheless a true statement. It is ultimately our choice whether we decide to let His light shine or not. Jesus Christ's redemption is certainly the free gift of God (Romans 6:23), however the word of God is also very clear that we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Forgiveness of sin through justification is the bedrock of the Christian faith, and without it there can be no salvation. We accept the finished work of Jesus on the cross when we come to the Lord in humility and accept His free gift. Many stop at this juncture and merely use the gift for themselves and their eternal well-being. They either don't understand or refuse to yield to the Holy Spirit who desires to allow the light within them to shine to others. The sanctifying work of the Spirit of God is ordained for all believers to manifest first within their hearts and then to broadcast to a dying world. Manifestation of the Person of Jesus in a believer's life is dependent on so little yet so much. The simplicity of the gospel and the sanctifying power therein can be surmised in one word -- obedience. Without it there is no possibility of shining forth His glory.

Are we manifesting Christ? Everything according to life and godliness has been given to us (II Peter 1:3). However, as previously stated, we still need to work out our salvation from the inner man to our outward life. In one of His parables, Jesus taught that those who trusted in Him were lights to the world (Matthew 5:14-16). Jesus drew upon an example for lighting their homes that everyone would understand. Lamps in ancient Palestine were dependent not only on oil as their source of fuel, but also the wick. Oil lamps as used in Jesus' day have not changed much throughout the millennia. A pottery bowl with an opening for an oil reservoir and a wick were fairly standard. One would fill the bowl with olive oil and make sure that the wick was touching the oil. However, one thing was very important. Before inserting the cotton wick into the opening to touch the oil, it needed to be immersed in oil in order for the oil to be drawn up through its fibers to create a continuous light. This is what Jesus was telling the crowd on that day by not telling them the obvious and something they already understood. Those with "ears to hear" comprehended that He was telling them that it was not enough to be in contact with God and to be "dry" within -- lacking the manifest presence of His being. But Jesus was telling them through this analogy that they must immerse themselves in God, in the very oil of the Holy Spirit so that they might draw on His light to make even more light for all.

Paul tells us that we are like earthenware vessels that carry about within us the life of Jesus Christ (II Timothy 2:20). How much more so are we all like pottery lamps that God has entrusted the Holy Spirit to live within? Those in Jesus' day understood that when the Savior referred to them as "lights and lamps to the world" that He spoke a metaphoric lesson with trichotic implications. The triune elements of the olive oil lamp and those of the body, spirit, and soul of the human being were not accidental similarities to those who understood Christ's teaching. Just as the lamp represented the body, so the oil represents how the Holy Spirit and our human spirit become joined when we come to know Christ. The wick, or the soul of man, is the crucial element in how Christ becomes manifest in a person's life. Will that man, woman, or child allow themselves to be immersed in the obedience of the Holy Spirit? For in so doing, one is truly baptized in the Spirit of God. Will one allow their soul or their "life wick" to become submitted and immersed in the oil of the spirit that their lamp will burn clear and bright? This is the dilemma, beloved, whether a mans mind, emotion, and will (which is their soul) can be brought under the rule of God. When we have immersed our proverbial "wicks" into the oil of His Spirit, then great things can truly happen as we burn for Him. However, it won't happen unless we are fully immersed in God. Olive oil has one of the highest flash points of any fuel (550 degrees Fahrenheit). Likewise, unless one is totally given to God they may burn with a flicker for a short season and then their flame will be extinguished. That is why it is imperative to be soaked in His Holy Spirit before we can burn as He desires.

It was Christ's great sacrifice that gave us salvation, but it is now our responsibility to burn for Him in obedience and lighting the way for others. It will all depend on how we submit ourselves to this task. We must align ourselves with His purposes, His desires, and ultimately His will in all things. As we do so, we will be immersing ourselves in the oil of His Spirit, allowing us to burn as few do in this dark world. Jesus told us to trim our lamps, to take the necessary steps in order to make ourselves holy while on this earth. We have no power within our proverbial "wick" or within our own soul to do this. However, as we draw upon the Holy Spirit and His precious oil then we too can walk as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the light of Your Son, who teaches us how to shine on this earth -- to draw upon Your Holy Spirit and to bring life and hope to others. Help us to be "wicks" totally immersed in Your oil, ever ready to obey and submit to You in all things. May You be glorified by the light within our hearts. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick