Friday, August 27, 2010

The Bare Soul - The Fear of the Lord, Part II - August 29, 2010

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "The Fear of the Lord" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on August 26, 2010.


Psalm 19:9a - The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever ...

When most of us hear the word "fear" it frequently brings up a negative connotation. This is often the case because fear drives less than desirable consequences as its result. We might think of all the lost opportunities because of a lack of confidence and faith in ourselves. Or, we might remember the times when we compromised ourselves because of what others were thinking about us. Then, there was that occasion when the boss told the off-color joke and we laughed along with everyone else, knowing the moment we were doing so that we had grieved the Spirit of the Lord. Or, the time when we didn't speak up to defend someone who was falsely accused when we knew they were not at fault. When we live beneath the standard which the Lord has given us to live out, we can feel defiled or "dirty" within our respective souls. However, when we conversely live uncompromisingly we experience a purity and cleanness of life that is unparalleled by worldly standards. Purity is not our goal or even so-called clean living -- our goal is to abide in Christ and to allow His life to exude from us. If we seek consecration and eventual sanctification as the end-all, then we have made it our god rather than Jesus Christ. Consequently, cleanness created by a walk with the Lord is merely a result of a life yielded to God in the fear of the Lord. Once we have accepted the Lord and the work of His blood, we find that fearing God rather than man provides the catalyst to live an uncensored existence before the Almighty.

Fear is a God-given emotion much the same as any of our other emotions. Humankind has an innate need to fear much the same as the need to love. If man cannot satisfy this basic need through the fear and reverence of God, he will seek it out in other ways. And, most of these ways are a type of regulated fear where the person still feels they possess some control. Billions of dollars are spent annually on the horror entertainment industry. Horror films, haunted tours, or Halloween itself with its plethora of haunted venues are geared to evoke fear. However, most people who study the phenomena of fear tell us that the payoff is not the shock and awe of the fright but the relief that comes afterward when we regain control. However, there is a Catch-22 with this type of scare. Fear of this sort is fleshly and of this world and will always lead to dejection of heart. However, the fear of the Lord and that which is born from the wonder and awe of the revelation of God always leads to further love and an uplifting of the soul and spirit to the Lord. While the fear of the Lord leads to continual and ongoing life, the fear instilled through this world leads to continual and prolonged death. (Imagine what those in hell are experiencing as their horror story is without end and continually frightening beyond earthly comprehension!)

The Apostle John contrasts the fear that is born from this earth and that which is born from above in his first letter. In I John 4:18 he writes about how one cannot mix love with fear that is born from this world -- it is an impossibility. Just as transplant patients often run the risk of their body rejecting a foreign organ, so also love will always reject fleshly fear because it is not born from above. However, love's counterpart, hate, will always embrace fear because it originates from its father the devil. It was born in hell and that is why there is always a feeling of "dirty" guilt attached to the outcome. John writes that perfect love casts out all fear. So, what remains? The fear of the Lord is then perfected in love and the holiness of the Most High (II Corinthians 7:1). We know that John was speaking of an absence of fleshly fear, for we are told that Jesus Christ lived continually in the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2-3). Just like Jesus, we are given the opportunity through His life to live free of guilt and shame that is born in fear and punishment. That is the purpose of the blood of Jesus Christ -- it washes us clean from sin (I John 1:7). But what keeps us cleansed is first our understanding of the work of Calvary, and then second the fear of the Lord which continues to draw upon Christ's gift. Our greatest joy should be to abide in the Savior who gives us all the power to live in purity on this earth. May our lives be consumed with this pursuit, beloved, for without it we may one day tremble before Him in terror if we have failed to do so while upon this earth.

As previously stated, we all have the need to fear. However, our flesh through the devil has corrupted this God-given attribute and brought guilt and punishment as the reward for its suffering. However, Jesus Christ paid the price for us all -- through His pain and suffering -- to share in the wisdom and insight of His Father. He allows us to see with spiritual eyes the wonder and the majesty of God thereby granting us the cleansing power of His blood. This humility born through Christ's sacrifice gives everyone the gift of cleansing, to be purified in the fear of the Lord. While the world will persist to defile and prepare themselves for their eternal home by functioning in a place of fear, those chosen of God will continue to cleanse themselves through the fear of the Lord. And, ultimately, the redeemed shall stand in His presence one day as a bride prepared for her Groom. Beloved, may we continue to equip ourselves by perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord. Only then, will we be "clean" and pure for that marvelous day when we will be consummated in matrimony with the Lover of our Souls. Come Lord, Jesus, come!

Heavenly Father, thank you for the blood that has cleansed us from all sin. And, thank you that the fear of the Lord that continues to cleanse us for both this life and the one to come. May we be consecrated, sanctified, and ultimately glorified for your pleasure. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Bare Soul - The Fear of the Lord, Part I - August 22, 2010

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "The Fear of the Lord" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on August 26, 2010.

The Fear of the Lord - August 26, 2010

Proverbs 8:13 - The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.

What does it mean to hate evil? Much of the world has lost the ability to discern this most basic, God-given knowledge. Sadly, when we hear of some debating whether Muslim extremists blowing up innocent people are evil terrorists or "freedom fighters" then there is cause for alarm regarding basic discernment. This is just one example in a world racked with evil. Unfortunately, the majority of mankind has likewise diminished the definition of wickedness to the point where it is unidentifiable. And, if you can't put a tag on it and call something what it is, then you surely can't hate it. Conversely, by ignoring evil in all its forms, the world has inadvertently embraced it and loved it. Modern society accepts all lifestyles without placing judgment on any. To do so, in their mind, would perpetuate a world of intolerance. Instead, it has created a world of relativity minus any absolutes which is a passive yet powerful strategy of the enemy to entrap the souls of humankind. Unless there is a violent reaction to evil in this world, it is impossible for collective mankind to draw near to God. Those who would go to church on Sunday and fulfill all their worldly desires the rest of the week are wasting both their time and God's. What He seeks is a people that would fear Him in all of His splendor and omnipotent power, for in so doing it expresses a love for his majesty. As we come to the Father through Jesus Christ, then we will begin to hate sin that separates all men from eternal salvation. We will grow in hatred toward iniquity by simply growing closer to God, much in the same way that the majority of the world grows closer to the evil they love and inevitably to the one who hates their souls with an eternal hatred.

Some might say, "God is not to be feared for He is a God of love". Often, these are folks that somehow equate a God of judgment as related by their Sunday pastor. They have never known God, so they seek to justify their own shortcomings by stating that God is some mushy, feel-good deity that is only interested in wrapping His big powerful arms of love around all humankind. However, the Father would not be a loving God if He betrayed His nature and compromised who He is. They fail to realize that without the judgment of God there can be no mercy. These juxtapose one another making their counterpart possible. What these naysayers are really stating is they have never experienced the mercy of God and all they know is the guilt of their own soul, which they rightly equate to God's anger. And, probably for good reason as these have probably never submitted themselves to God to allow His Majesty to have His way in their lives. Therefore, they could not know that God is an awesome God, full of power and might, that upholds them by the word of His mouth (Colossians 1:17). When we begin to grasp God's totality and our own insignificance, we start to see and understand the Holy One for who He is. Another way to state this is that we come into agreement with the character of the Sovereign Lord. Once we see the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for who they are, we can begin to stand in agreement regarding those He loves and that which He hates. Most of us have undoubtedly heard the expression "Hate the sin but love the sinner". The catalyst for this is the fear of the Lord, for He tells us that this is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). It catapults us into a new dimension of understanding because we begin to see with His eyes and feel with His heart. Likewise, fools are educated in folly by their continual dismissal of the fear of the Lord and accepting His life. As their foolish hearts become more darkened to the truth (Romans 1:21), they earn lower degrees of depravity until they graduate with dishonor to hell itself.

The standard, or the plumb line if you will, whether we truly fear the Lord is quite straightforward according to the second part of our lead verse. Solomon mentions pride and arrogance, the evil way and the perverted mouth as those which the Lord hates (Proverbs 8:13). The first two, pride and arrogance, are the condition of the unregenerate heart. The evil way is the outworking of the same (Proverbs 1:16), and the perverted mouth speaks from what fills the heart (Matthew 12:34). Just as the mouth speaks and testifies of God leading a soul to salvation (Romans 10:10), so also it confirms what is in a wicked heart leading to destruction. Are our lives filled with pride and arrogance? If so, we will be manifesting "evil ways" of anger, lust, deceit, hatred toward men, gossip, or any other lawless expression against God's holy way. Beyond that, we will be testifying of these evil ways by our arrogant speech that disregards God's order. However, if we are fearing the Lord and walking in His ways, we will be testifying of His goodness and love. Both our behavior and speech will markedly hate evil by our love for the Lord.

Beloved, if we are truly hating evil in our lives and the world at large, then we are fearing God. And, with that fear there is no judgment because the one who seeks to bring a charge against God's elect has been cast down (Revelation 12:10). Mercy will always triumph over judgment if we will but yield (James 2:13). Once we understand from a place of humility who God is, and what He truly loves and hates, then we too will share in His passion. The determiner will be whether we dare to give ourselves to Him, fearing Him as the all-powerful One that holds the universe in His hands. In all of His splendor and awesome wonder, He still desires to share His life with you and me. We must only answer one question: Whom shall we fear? Shall we fear God out of respect and love, thereby hating sin? Or, shall we fear and bow down to the world and embrace evil? Friends, we shall either fear Him with love in this lifetime, or fear Him in the one to come as vessels of wrath. The choice is ours this day.

Heavenly Father, help us to loathe evil by loving You. Help us to draw near to You, thereby driving evil far from our hearts and our lips. Give us the desire to fear You, to love You, and to worship You always. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Bare Soul - Leading Others to Jesus - August 15, 2010

Mark 7:33a - Jesus took him aside from the crowd ...

So often, Jesus' dealings with people were enigmatic to say the least. The dynamic of conflict seemed to generally be the rule when the Lord taught and healed. When Jesus instructed the people, He often brought tension by stating the way the Pharisees instructed and then disavowing it by the way of God. Many instances support this, however Jesus does a rapid succession in the Sermon on the Mount that countermands in short order what most thought a righteous man was in Jesus' day (see Matthew 5:21; Matthew 5:27; Matthew 5:33; Matthew 5:43). Healing was no different in ancient Palestine, both from Christ's and the religious order's perspective. Most healing in Christ's time was done by priests in a temple setting or by those that would go to the home of those sick. Usually sums of money were paid in order to buy favor and to thereby expect a healing. When Christ healed in a synagogue, it usually brought the ire of the religious folk because Jesus made a point to heal (non gratis) on the Sabbath. However, we also see Jesus moving in the miraculous outside the confines of the institutional religious setting. These were usually marked by a lack of confrontation by the Pharisees, but also a freedom and simplicity as Jesus was able to move unrestrained as others would follow His bidding.

In two separate instances in the book of Mark, we see Jesus dealing with a deaf and blind man, respectively. What is so remarkable about these two encounters is how Jesus chooses to administer God's healing.
  • Mark 7:33-35 - Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, 'Ephphatha!' that is, "Be opened!" And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly.

  • Mark 8:23-25 - Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, "Do you see anything?" And he looked up and said, "I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around." Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly.
One might read these scriptures and get side-tracked how Jesus Christ healed the deaf and dumb man and the blind man. We might think this is rather unorthodox how the Lord uses His own saliva as the catalyst for these men's healings. While this is extraordinary in itself, it is quite easy to miss how these men came to their place of respective healing. In both cases, Mark tells us that Jesus led them away from the clamor of the crowd. Why is this significant? Because Jesus wants us to know that his salvation is personal. It is not an uncompassionate act of "hocus pocus" on a wholesale manner. No, it is much different than that. It is the Living God taking a man by the hand or leading another who cannot hear or speak to a place of solitude in order for Him to administer His love as He sees fit. The healings of these two individuals is momentous, to be sure. But how they came to a place of healing is of much greater importance. It was from nothing they had done, but from the care of others. If we read the prelude to both healings, it mentions that others brought these men to Jesus for healing. These were obviously those who cared a great deal about these men and desired to see them healed. Through their faith and desire to see these men healed, they led them to the Great Physician who was more than able to administer His love and grace and to ultimately restore them to perfect health.

Too often we might forget that Jesus is still in the business of restoring lives. It is quite easy to believe that if we have brought someone to the Lord in prayer that we need not do it again. However, those who have "prayed through" and have known when God has lifted a burden for someone that has been on their heart, know when a release comes and their prayer subject has been placed in the hand of Jesus. This is a glorious understanding when an intercessor knows that their prayers have allowed those they have prayed for to be released to the Lord's care. Then, comes that phone call or that email confirming indeed that the Lord has taken that soul by the hand and has led them to that quiet place where He has ministered His grace. Beloved, I am assured that whenever God moves upon a man, woman, or child in a special way it's because others have spent the time praying for this to happen. Just as they brought the infirmed to Jesus in His day, so we must also continue to bring those that are spiritually lost or physically stricken to the Lord Jesus Himself. There is no other way that they will get there. And if we don't bring them, they will not know the wonderful touch of His hand.

Has Jesus ever taken you aside from the crowd of religious folk to create in you something new and living? If He has you will never be the same! And, if He has it is without a doubt a result of the intercession of others that have prepared the way for God to come take you by the hand to experience that wonderful encounter. No one comes to Christ on their own accord, whether it is salvation or healing or whatever. It is always through the burdens of others as they have borne the prayers to bring these close to the Savior. Are we bringing others to Jesus? They will never get the chance to be led aside by our wonderful Lord if we do not bring them before Him in petition and prayers. But once we do, we shall see the wonderful works of God demonstrated time and time again. God's ways are not our ways -- He will continue to save and to heal in what we often consider enigmatic manners. However, He will always do so in a loving, caring, compassionate manner that will only be manifested as we give Him the opportunity through our leading of others to the Lord.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the example that Your Son gave us to lead others to Him. You are desirous to save and to heal. Allow us the privilege to draw others to Your Throne of Grace that they too might know Your consummate salvation for body, soul, and spirit. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Bare Soul - Thirsting for God - August 8, 2010

John 7:37 - Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, " If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink."

Thirst can compel a person to go to great lengths to quench its desire. I have been struck lately by the juxtaposition of extreme thirst and once it is satisfied. The summer temperatures have been well into the 90s Fahrenheit here in the heartland of America for the past couple of weeks. Upon finishing a 10 mile run, I am struck how grateful I am for cold, clear water. There is an appreciation wrought by the need that makes it that much more satisfying. The body goes into a state of relief once this vital need has been fulfilled. Those who have been rescued from near death dehydration often describe their liberation as a state of euphoria. Often their tears of gratitude and embracing of their rescuers will continue for some time as they express their intense emotion of being delivered from death. A person can go without food for weeks, but water is different. In extreme environments of hot or cold, the body will start shutting down many times within three days if not properly hydrated. There is nothing more important to life, other than the very air we breathe. Physical laws of nature such as the need for water often have a spiritual counterpart, and this is no exception. It is not a coincidence that the scripture is full of references to water and its life giving power. There are probably no greater instances of these in scripture other than John the fourth and seventh chapters.

The implication of John 4:14 is Jesus proclaiming a place of eternal relief from thirst of a spiritual nature. He tells us that ...whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life. The satisfaction of quenched thirst will always be the heritage of those who come to Jesus. The problem for so many is a lack of understanding that their thirst is something that will either be quenched in this lifetime, once and for all, or it will never be fulfilled. As long as we attempt to satisfy our craving with those things of this world, we will never quench the REAL thirst in the physical and most importantly in the spiritual. Jesus gives us an example of a man who sought to relieve his physical appetites throughout his life on earth. As told by Jesus, a rich man once lived opulently , "joyously living in splendor every day" (Luke 16:19). Conversely, a poor man named Lazarus begged alms at the rich man's gate. Apparently, Lazarus was very poor in the eyes of the world but he did not thirst, for God had quenched his thirst with his presence. Hence, he was carried away to Abraham's Bosom when he died and the rich man was taken to hell for eternity. You see, one had an encounter with the One who gave Living Water where he would never thirst again. However, the rich man invariably found that the same thirst that he was never able to satisfy in life, was now his for eternity. Luke 16:24 states: And he cried out and said, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame." The eternal flames that never say "enough" (Proverbs 30:16) continue to torment this man even to this day. While some may believe Jesus was telling a figurative story about figurative people, I respectively disagree. I believe that Jesus spoke from an all knowing, all seeing place of omniscient omnipresence that allowed Him to see those suffering eternal damnation. I am certain that this rich man, this very moment, is suffering excruciating torment in the same way as he did when Jesus told his sad story. There will never be relief for this man or countless others who chose not to quench their thirst in this lifetime by the Water of Life.

There is no hope for those who have rejected Christ, as we see from the life and death of the rich man. Too many of us believe that we can live the life that we choose, seeking to quench that eternal thirst within by the things of this world. It will never happen. Jeremiah spoke poignantly in prophecy against the nation of Israel: For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:13) Like Israel, those who choose to satisfy their thirst with the things of this world have two indictments against them. First of all, they have forsaken God. Secondly, they have embraced other gods such as worldly pleasure, sensuality, sexuality, and greed which amounts to idolatry (Colossians 3:5). They have delivered themselves to their father the devil to thirst forever after the things that could never satisfy them in this lifetime, nor can in eternity. If only they had longed for God during their short stay on earth, for now they will experience nothing but "distress and sorrow" in its bowels for eternity! (Psalm 116:3) Better to seek God in a "dry and a weary land where there is no water" (Psalm 63:1), knowing that there is the hope and the promise of His deliverance. Beloved, He will answer us if we continually cry out to Him to fill us with His life-giving river. The alternative will be worse than the most terrifying horror film that we might conceive. To be hopeless, knowing that salvation is no longer an option will be the fate of far too many.

When a person experiences severe dehydration from extreme temperatures, there is always the hope of relief that only water can give. As aforementioned, the senses react with profound gratitude once the rehydration process begins. How much more should we know, that if we do not know Christ, we are languishing in bodies that are dead while we live? His streams are there for us to imbibe, if we will but only "come". Isaiah saw the Messianic beckoning of Christ years before the incarnate Son walked the earth. The prophet writes: Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. (Isaiah 55:1) We can either continue to seek those things in this lifetime that will never satisfy our thirst, or we can admit that what we truly long for is God and His Living Water. Beloved, we will either thirst now in this short life span for God's redemption, or we will thirst forevermore like the rich man. The torment of that rejection will be diametric in comparison of the glory to be revealed to those who accept His invitation to drink deeply of the free gift of salvation. May all who read this be those of the latter, choosing never to thirst again either in this life or the one to come.

Lord Jesus, we accept Your invitation to come and to drink of Your Living Water. Lord, we confess that we have tried to quench our thirst with the things of this world. But truly, these have just made us more thirsty. Give us the fortitude and the humility to continue "coming" to you and to always drink from Your life giving fountain. In Your Name we pray, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

The Bare Soul Archives