Friday, March 25, 2011

In God's Light - March 27, 2011

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "In God's Light" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on March 24, 2011.

In God's Light - March 24, 2011

Psalm 36:9 - For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.

My two and a half year old grandson is continually teaching me about God's ways. My office is located in the basement and for some time we have left the basement dark. I can see my way down the stairs without the light and make it to my office usually without any trouble. However, to make it more agreeable for the little fellow to come visit his papa, we have been keeping a light on to make his trip less scary. It is a joy to see him opening my office door before his bedtime, knowing that he and grandpa will share a snack before he heads back up for grandma to tuck him in. He knows that as long as the light is on, that he has nothing to fear. He can boldly totter down the stairs and head right to papa's office. However, before we turned the light on for him he would stand at the top of the stairs and cry out for me to come get him. His simplicity toward life is so wise in many ways. While we as adults have learned to traverse the dark places in our home with assurance, children demand otherwise. I think it is for good reason. For why should any walk in darkness if the light switch is just a flick of the finger away?

Too often, we as believers tend to expect less of God as we rely upon our own senses to get by. We choose to walk in the darkness of our own "common sense" rather than simply asking God for more light in our respective lives. How simple it would be to look to the Lord and ask Him to turn on the "light switch" that chases away all the fears in our lives? Problem is, most of us have grown accustomed to living with the things that live in the shadows rather than shining God's light in the basements of our hearts. It becomes all too easy to say, "Well, it's really not that dark in those gray areas of my life. After all, every one gossips now and then. And, when I look at a beautiful woman, it's just to admire God's handiwork." While these examples may seem benign, they are in actuality the things that bring most Christians to a place of unfruitfulness. Satan will seldom use overt temptation when he can use subtleties to cause us to muddy God's clear spring that He desires to run through His beloved. Compromise to sin's subtleties is the trap that the enemy will seek to pull most of us into its grip. If he can keep us walking in the shadows rather than coming to the light, he has beaten us down to non-effectiveness in God's kingdom. However, if we will demand and persist for the Almighty to shine His light, we too can walk in continual light. It can be as simple as standing and insisting the Lord help us, much as my grandson did for me to turn on the basement light.

The Apostle John spoke much about coming to the Light, and why most refuse to do so. It is inherent for mankind to avoid the light of understanding that could bring them salvation because they, by nature, hate that which the Light would reveal. In John's Gospel, Jesus explained man's inability to come to the Light on their own due to their sinful nature:
This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. (John 3:19-21)
In this passage, Jesus tells us that men have a fear of being exposed -- that through this exposure they might experience a loss of reputation, social standing, or even how they view themselves before God. However, God is not fooled and knows what is in the hearts of men (John 2:24-25; Matthew 15:18-19). There is no way that we can hope to walk before God uprightly if we haven't brought everything to the light. That includes every negative word or thought against another person, or every lustful thought or ambition to have a little "more". That might include that extra piece of pie or dish of ice cream. Or, it may mean a wandering eye of adultery or fornication dressed up as "beauty appreciation". Maybe it's that "white lie", all in the name of not wanting to hurt someone with the whole truth. All of these subtleties are Satan's window dressings to keep the saints of God locked away in darkness, never coming to the full splendor of the Light of God. Beloved, that God would throw each of us from our proverbial "high horse" like he did Paul on the road to Damascus and blind us with His unapproachable Light (Acts 9:3,8). If the Lord would strike us blind with heaven's light, we can be assured we would no longer walk in the darkness of this world. May God do so, giving us all a baptism of His wisdom and revelation through the Light of Heaven!

By the mercy of the Almighty, Paul was granted light that would forever change his life. However, most of us must seek God for the light of His Presence. In John's first letter, the apostle drops a plumb line regarding fellowship with the Father. God is not interested in a compromised relationship, but desires hearts totally submitted to His "Heavenly Searchlight". The Apostle John states:
If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (I John 1:6-7)
There is no other way to come to the Lord but with a heart of surrender to His Light. And, we have a promise from the Father that the blood of His son will cleanse us from all sin if we will but come. If we do not cry out to the Lord, asking Him for His light, how will he ever know we desire to commune with Him in fullness? Much in the same way that if my grandson did not cry out to papa, how would I know he was standing at the top of the stairs, desiring to come down and have a time of intimate one-on-one before bedtime? Similarly, both he and we need to cry out to our respective "papas" and insist on the Light. Without it, there will only be scary shadows and fears that drive us away from the Father's love. May we come to Him, insisting that our Father share His light with His beloved children.

Heavenly Father, You've given all who know You a light within. Cause our lights to burn bright for You. May the oil of the Holy Spirit be plentiful within us all through obedience to Your Son. May we come to You in blessed fellowship, always. We pray this in Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fathers' Hands - March 20, 2011

Jeremiah 47:3 - ... The fathers have not turned back for their children, because of the limpness of their hands.

As a grandfather, there is nothing quite like my grandson reaching up to grab hold of my hand as we walk. It is a special connection that speaks of a child's trust toward someone that loves him deeply. I remember holding my children's hands when they were small, and that same childlike trust. Their adoring eyes would meet mine as I would pick often them up and hold them tight. Ideally, attachment to our children is not supposed to turn into emotional and spiritual detachment. Children will continue to love and trust through pubescence and into adulthood if they are not disappointed to do otherwise. What will frequently initiate a severing of paternal ties with our offspring is a lack of care and concern for them, and an overriding preoccupation with ourselves. Oftentimes, parents can become so detached from their children that their self-absorption is evident to all, especially to our children. While our offspring often look to mothers for comfort, they look to their fathers for protection. A child will rightly feel grossly violated when a father fails to keep them from harm and without a sense of security.

Paternal trust by our children is as old as mankind itself. In the book of Jeremiah, we see a breach of this trust nearly 2600 years ago amongst Israel's ancient rival. As our lead verse implies, a horrific theme of forsaking had occurred which continues throughout the chapter. The prophet is speaking a prophetic word against the Philistine nation regarding their devastation by the hand of Pharaoh. Jeremiah's inference in this futuristic foretelling is that the Philistine fathers would abandon their children, being terrorized while running away from the onslaught. Upon the fulfillment of this prophecy, some had undoubtedly escaped Gaza (a chief city of Philistia) without concern for the welfare of their offspring. He spoke judgment to these weak fathers for their self-centered preservation, who would sacrifice their own children to their ruthless conqueror. The prophet characterizes their lack of strength as both a man and as fathers by the "limpness of their hands".

A day of forsaking such as portrayed by Jeremiah did not happen because of this solitary event. In order for fathers to forsake their children in a time of distress, they undoubtedly had forsaken them days, weeks, months, or years before in their hearts. Their lives had become so busy with their own pursuits that their children became pushed down the priority list. We see other examples in scripture of fathers forsaking their children in much more demonstrative and horrific ways. The Old Testament mentions the Ammonite god Molech eight times and it is always in conjunction with child sacrifice. Twice in the book of Leviticus, the Lord warns the children of Israel of this detestable practice of the nations they are soon to dispossess from Canaan (Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2-5). Sadly, in the book of Kings, we see its establishment by none other than King Solomon (I Kings 11:7). Whether Solomon himself sacrificed any of his own children to Molech is not revealed in scripture. However, we can surmise that this was an invitation to all who desired to do so to complete this ghastly form of idolatry. We are told that two later kings of Judah, Ahaz and Manasseh, did indeed "make their sons pass through the fire" (II Kings 16:3; II Kings 21:6). One might ask, "How could someone do such a thing? It would never even enter into my mind to do a crime such as this against children!" Before we cast judgment on these ancient idolaters, let us first establish the fact that idolatry of ANY kind is an abomination before God. The Lord stated in His first commandment, "You shall have no other gods besides Me" (Exodus 20:3). While child sacrifice is horrific, it is merely a progression of idolatrous behavior that had become socially acceptable. To give a more contemporary example, we might say that we would never have participated in the holocaust against the Jewish nation in World War II Germany. However, once something becomes acceptable, there is no telling what atrocities will be awakened in the human psyche.

While this is a horrific thing for us to contemplate -- fathers abandoning their children to idolatry -- it is indeed a reality happening around us every day. Fathers with "limp hands" are giving in to their own desires rather than sacrificing themselves for their children. (Indeed, there will be a sacrifice, whether it is the father or the child!) We see it happen as children are allowed to grow up much too fast, exposed to the overt sensuality of this world. Through paternal blindness, their innocence is sacrificed in the name of social acceptability. "After all," both fathers and children might reason, "Everyone else is doing it so I guess it's okay, huh?" What they fail to recognize is that it's not okay. These fathers with no moral compass have allowed their children to "pass through the fire" and to be sacrificed to the god of this world, all in the name of compliance to social norms. What they fail to recognize is that they have run away from the enemy much like the Philistines before Pharaoh, sacrificing their children rather than protecting them. By not sacrificing themselves, they have created an insufferable breach in relationship that can only be healed by the Lord God Almighty. For those of us who have sacrificed our children to our respective "Molechs" by our neglect and selfishness toward them, there is always opportunity for healing. If we confess our sin of idolatry to the Lord, He will begin the restoration. We must be willing to tear down the altars of selfishness and do whatever it takes to bring reconciliation. May God give us all strong hands and tender hearts to bring the children back to a father's heart of love and sacrifice.

Heavenly Father, teach us to be remarkable fathers. Allow us first to surrender our lives to Your Fatherhood. Then, give us tender hearts and strong hands for those You've called us to father. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Friday, March 11, 2011

God Almighty - March 13, 2011

Psalm 18:7 - Then the earth shook and quaked; and the foundations of the mountains were trembling and were shaken, because He was angry.

Throughout our lifetimes, we hear or read about various natural disasters that are cataclysmic in scope. At the time of this writing, the news story of the 8.9 Richter-scale earthquake and tsunami that devastated northern Japan is only a few hours old. New information continues to flow out of Japan regarding the loss of life and property. Many are saying the most surprising thing about this massive quake was its total surprise. With all the effort given to measuring fault lines and seismic data, this one literally "shocked" the scientific community. There were no apparent "rumblings" that would have made this one subject to prediction. With all of our supposed knowledge about the earth and its tectonic meanderings, we still can't accurately predict earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, or for that matter, meteorological and atmospheric changes created by these abrupt disturbances.

After something as devastating as events such as this, the question is often asked ... "Why?". Some folks that don't believe in God will chalk it up to a "natural lotto" that occurs at the whim of nature. Then there are those who believe in a Creator. Many will ask, "If there is a God, then why does He allow things like this to happen to His creation? If He is a God of love this seems to be such a contradiction regarding His supposed loving nature!" What many fail to understand is that the earth has been operating under a curse since man's fall in the Garden of Eden. Paul tells us in the book of Romans that the earth groans and travails for redemption from its fallen state (Romans 8:22). Through this travail, there will be rumblings in the earth and upon it. Jesus tells in Matthew 24:7 that there will be earthquakes in various places as the end draws near. In the 20th century alone, more people died from earthquakes than from all that century's wars (see Twentieth Century Earthquakes - Confronting an Urban Legend). Some argue there have been more seismic disturbances in the past century than in combined centuries in the past two millennia. We can only surmise that the earth is trying to tell us something. For those of us who believe in God and His scripture, it is only confirmation of the inevitable. One day soon the Lord Jesus Christ is coming back to redeem not only His people but a planet that has been scarred by man's sin for thousands of years. Until that day, God will continue to use natural disasters such as this terrible earthquake in Japan to awaken His most prized creation to His love.

Some might say, an earthquake is a strange way to show the love of the Lord. Those of us who believe in Jesus Christ know that God causes all things to happen for a purpose. Paul tells us in the book of Romans that there is nothing that happens that God doesn't use for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Even though the Father is angry at the proliferation of sinfulness upon the earth, doesn't mean that He loves His most noble creation any less. (This would be like claiming that a parent doesn't love a child merely because they have angered their parent due to disobedience.) A case can be made for His mighty love being poured out more than a hundred years ago as a result of another devastating earthquake. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 is still the greatest natural disaster to ever occur in the United States. It is estimated to have been a 7.9 earthquake (a full point below that of Japan's) that turned out to be secondary to the huge fire which resulted in its seismic aftermath. By today's standards, it is estimated to have resulted in approximately 8.2 billion in damage. No one is quite certain, but officials from this period estimate that over 3,000 lost their lives while over 200,000 of a 400,000 population were left homeless. Yet, from this widespread loss of property and life, God caused life to spring from the ashes. Frank Bartleman, who chronicled the Azusa Street Revival of 1906 in Los Angeles, believed that it wasn't a coincidence that the earthquake occurred in the very same month as the outpouring of God's Spirit 500 miles south of the epicenter. He wrote in his book the following: The San Francisco earthquake was surely the voice of God to the people on the Pacific Coast. It was used mightily in conviction, for the gracious after revival. Through the result of sin's curse, the devil was having a heyday of murder and mayhem through the devastation of that fateful day in San Francisco more than a hundred years ago. Yet, there was God Almighty pouring out His Spirit and granting repentance through His kindness (Romans 2:4). While the earthquake in San Francisco has little lasting impression today on this vast metropolis, God's outpouring on the Pacific coast more than a hundred years ago is still bearing fruit. From this move, the entire Pentecostal movement originated. Denominations such as Pentecostals, Church of God, and Assemblies of God sprang up as a result of this gracious outpouring. The Lord only knows how many souls have been reaped into His kingdom through the result of sin's curse and the mercy of His love.

We all mourn for the loss of what the Japanese people are experiencing. Their tremendous loss is something that most of us cannot comprehend. However, those of us who know the Lord must believe that He will indeed bring good out of this calamity. The devil is certainly rejoicing because of the loss of life and destruction in Japan. However, we must know that God is strategically using this horrible disaster to bring glory to His Name. As Christians, we have the responsibility to help in whatever way the Lord directs. Most of all, these people need prayer that God would not only meet their physical and emotional needs, but that He would give them the greatest gift of all -- redemption from sin. The Lord is still God Almighty and will always be. His hand did not cause this calamity, but He will use it to bring His Name glory. May those of us who know the Lord as the Savior of the world go before His throne and seek Him for a great deliverance for the Japanese people. May revival spread over the Japanese peninsula and shake the world for God's glory!

Lord God Almighty, though the earth may shake through the curse of sin, You will shake the nations with Your glory. Help those who are most in need in the Far East, granting many salvation through Your loving grace. These are but a foreshadowing of the time of the end of creation, Lord. Help us to heed the times and to seek Your face for those in need of Your love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, March 4, 2011

Greatness - March 6, 2011

Jeremiah 45:5 - "But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I am going to bring disaster on all flesh," declares the LORD, "but I will give your life to you as booty in all the places where you may go."

Nineteenth-century humanist writer William Hazlitt once said, "No really great man ever thought himself so." Even an atheist such as Hazlitt understood the simplicity of what makes someone great. The greatest Man who ever lived was someone who definitely knew who He was upon this earth. However, He also knew who He wasn't. Jesus Christ, even though God in all respects, chose not to regard Himself equal to God while He lived His life on earth. Instead, He chose to empty Himself and take on the life of a servant for all mankind (Philippians 2:5-7). Greatness, as understood in a man, will always be measured by the degree of humility one possesses. Without the sacrifice of self, there can be no true greatness. Ironically, anyone who seeks great things for themselves will never grasp what they seek. Only as one chooses to give themselves for others will the aforementioned find their respective place of greatness. Unfortunately, many judge greatness by outward recognition from others. They gauge their so-called success by the accolades they might garner. Once again, the benchmark is Jesus and how he emptied Himself and lived for others. He looked only to the Father and for His approval, rather than the empty praises of men.

What many don't realize is that in order to find God's greatness for their lives, one must seek little for themselves and much for God. Many abort God's goodness and His desires when they contradict His will and claim to know what will make them great in His kingdom. They argue they are working to build God's kingdom, but they are more correctly building their own little fiefdoms irrespective of the Lord. These attempt to leverage the power of God in their lives for their own ends, remaining shallow without much depth to show for their selfish efforts. They have refused to allow the Holy Spirit to dig a deep foundation in their lives by submitting to Him in humility (Matthew 7:24-27). As Jesus states in the parable of the two foundations, the criteria to live as a great man or woman of God is both hearing and acting upon God's word. As we die to self, God is then allowed to go a little deeper and to dig out the self-absorption that plagues us all. The stability of a man or woman who allows God to dig out self is sometimes not so apparent on the surface. However, there is a strength that prevents them from being moved by what anyone might say or do, both negative and positive. Their concept of greatness has been divorced from themselves and instead has been transfixed on the greatness of what God has done in their lives.

To seek greatness invites disaster, according to our lead verse. Those who build foundations upon the sands of pride and self-assertion are destined for destruction. Jesus' disciples allow us to understand through the Gospels how it is possible to be close to the Lord, hearing His words daily, but not acting upon them. In one particular instance, they manifested their shallowness and their relative "smallness" by seeking greatness for themselves. James and John were part of the Lord's inner circle, yet they had not received the word implanted which was able to save their souls (James 1:21). When the sons of Zebedee came before the Lord and sought preferred seating in Christ's kingdom, they revealed their hearts and their own "kingdom building" rather than seeking Christ's will (Mark 10:35-37). The disciples scorned James and John for their self-seeking. Jesus' response was a gentle reproof, stating ... whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant (Mark 10:43). This paradoxical statement must have flabbergasted the disciples! However, Jesus continued to model the attitude of a servant right up until the night before His death when He abased Himself by washing the disciples feet. A rabbi in ancient Palestine would never think to do such a thing. Yet, here was the most complete Man who ever lived doing just that! Jesus not only gave His disciples a lesson in greatness through servitude, but everyone who would read His example of humility in John 13. By seeking God's glory, Christ tells us that our flesh will die each time we submit to the Father's will regarding His greatness for our lives. If we will but "have this attitude in ourselves that was also in Christ Jesus", then God's disaster will not find us on that day when He judges all flesh. Beloved, it is hard to judge a dead man! And, if we are living dead to ourselves and to our sinful flesh, then we have already pronounced disaster to our own flesh (Jeremiah 45:5). As Jeremiah the prophet further states in our lead verse, we will then find our lives as "booty" because we have lost our sinful lives for Christ's sake (Matthew 16:25).

The door to greatness is not one that many feel comfortable entering. And, it shouldn't feel comfortable. If it does, then we have entered through a door of pride and our self-serving greatness will undoubtedly make us smaller than we would ever desire. However, if we seek God's greatness and to increase His glory upon this earth, a peculiar thing begins to occur. God will have begun His excavation within our souls to rid us of the last vestiges of our old sinful nature. He will then begin to backfill within us the peace and serenity of His presence that ensures us we have begun to partake of Him in a whole new way. Once a man or a woman is totally surrendered to God as a servant for all, there is no telling where their greatness will end. And most ironically, they will be shocked and dismayed that anyone would ever think of them in such a manner. They have entered into that sublime place of greatness through their smallness of stature, by not ingratiating themselves to their flesh and its desire to be a "somebody". However, before God, they will powerfully tower before their Maker as a servant for His good pleasure. May we all find this place of greatness, in humility before the Great King.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Jesus' example. Help us to get small so we can live in greatness before You. No matter what the world says, we don't care. We desire to spend our lives on You and to live as spiritual giants through humble service to You. Help us to be like Your Son. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives