Thursday, June 30, 2011

Salvation That Works! - July 3, 2011

Philippians 2:12 - So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;

How should we define salvation? If we think of salvation as merely being redeemed by the blood of Jesus and secured a place in heaven, then we mock the greater intent. Salvation from sin is a continual, ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives Who gives us the power to live free from our past lives and to embrace the newness of life as spoken by the Apostle Paul (II Corinthians 5:17). We must daily strive to enter into the fullness of what Christ has given us through His death, burial, and resurrection. It is not our heritage as sons and daughters of the Most High God to remain the same. Indeed, He has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness (II Peter 1:3). With that gift comes the responsibility to work out what He has worked in those who call themselves "redeemed." If we call ourselves Christians, it is our destiny to first embrace the salvation He has granted, and then to allow it to permeate every area of our lives. While this may be simple in concept, it is often not easy in application. True, it is relatively straightforward to love those who love us. But what of those who despitefully use or abuse us? On these occasions, we are confronted by our inability to love, and are more apt to behave quite the opposite from that of our Savior.

For someone to say that all we need to do is confess that we are Christ's children in order to love those who hate us, have missed an important lesson regarding working out our salvation toward sanctification. To simply say, "I love all people because Christ is in me" is naive and unrealistic in respect to the reality. I can repeat over and over again that I love someone who slanders me, yet if I don't possess that love toward them, then my confession is flawed. What is often needed is an "act of love" to reinforce the confession toward this unseemly person. To say that we love someone and then to do nothing to show otherwise is an empty gesture. Proverbs tells us that ... "a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (Proverbs 15:1) This is a demonstration of how the confession of love becomes an act of love. The Apostle James calls this dynamic putting works with your faith. (James 2:20) If we believe that Christ has given us His love, then we should be acting it out. Too often, I believe that many Christians don't really believe that Jesus has given them "all things in the Beloved" for their actions deny their confession. If they truly believed that all things godly were theirs, doesn't it make sense that they would be living out their reality? Instead, many continue in their old way of thinking and acting, letting their unregenerate self rule their existence. They lack the understanding or the revelation that God lives within them. For many, they lethargically believe that their Christian life is "okay" and that there is no reason to attempt anything different. These don't see a need to cry to God for His Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation that would reveal who they truly are in Christ, and how they should be acting out the precious gift of salvation to others. (Ephesians 1:17-19)

In his writings, Paul's desire was for all to understand who they were in God's Son, even as Jesus knew who He was in His Father. Paul spoke the words for the Philippians to "work out their salvation with fear and trembling" only after giving them the model of how Christ Jesus accomplished this in the previous verses. In verse seven of Philippians chapter two, Paul tells us that Jesus Christ emptied Himself of His Deity, taking on the flesh of man. In so doing, He denied Himself the limitless power of God and chose instead to understand who He was, and how He was to act. Jesus understood, through divine revelation, who it was that lived within Him. However, He still needed to WORK OUT that relationship to the world at large. His life became that of the REVELATION of God within Him, the INSPIRATION of what God could do through Him, and finally the DIVINE COMMISSIONING to work out the Father's salvation to a lost and dying world. By perfectly drawing upon the grace that His Father provided to Him in earthly flesh, He perfectly moved in the exact representation of His Father's will while on earth. Therefore, God highly exalted Him once again to His place in the eternal Godhead.

While we will never achieve Christ's perfect submission to the Father, we are commissioned to look to Jesus as our role model regarding salvation. God has given us the Divine Nature, the very Spirit that dwelt in Christ Jesus, to reign in our mortal bodies. It is therefore our spiritual duty to "empty ourselves" of the old nature and to work out salvation in both our lives and those around us. It is not enough to know that Jesus has justified us according to His work on Calvary. We must keep coming to Him, seeking Him to fill us with His enduing power as we empty ourselves of our past, carnal life. Only as we give ourselves to Him in perfect submission, can we be equipped to work out the salvation He has so graciously given. Faith without works, beloved, are inseparable. We must understand that God has given us all power through the cross of Christ. It is our highest duty to act like Christians, and to allow His Spirit to work through us. Without Christ's demonstration of His Person in our lives, can we truly claim to be His? May God give us His wisdom in this and much more!

Heavenly Father, help us to work the works of Jesus by demonstrating His love through us. May the gifts of the Holy Spirit be manifested through lives that are emptied, intent on working out salvation both in our hearts and lives and those of others. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Power of Silence - June 26, 2011

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "Pursuing Peace" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on June 23, 2011.

The Power of Silence - June 23, 2011

Exodus 14:14 - The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.

Anyone who has watched a crime drama, either in a movie or on a television program, is familiar with "the right to be silent" when law enforcement has arrested a suspect. The Miranda Rule was developed from a 1966 Supreme Court ruling to protect the individual's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The High Court recognized that every one detained on United States soil, whether citizen or not, was afforded the right to not speak until they were duly represented by legal counsel. However, one could arbitrarily waive those rights by speaking to an arresting officer. In those cases, anything they say could be used against them when their day in court arrived. Lawyers work hard to throw out testimonies or confessions offered before their clients are duly represented. In most cases, silence by the defendant is a place of strength and an unalienable right under the constitution. It should not be lightly disposed of, but recognized as possibly the greatest power those arrested may possess. While most arrests are warranted, there are always those instances where they are not. This might be something as simple as a driving infraction (legally, in all 50 states, when one is pulled over they are technically under arrest until released by the officer). Or, it could be something much more heinous where there is a mistaken identity or a misunderstanding that seems to make someone culpable, but indeed is not the case. With the advent of DNA testing, more and more cases are being exonerated in the courts due to wrong or erroneous evidence. It is one thing to suffer through injustice, denying that a person is responsible. It is quite another to remain quiet in the midst of a prejudiced circumstance.

The children of Israel were in a situation where they had been locked away, or incarcerated if you will, for nearly 400 years. They had not been silent, but had cried out to the Lord, and He heard their voice (Exodus 3:7). Then, along came the man, Moses, whom God had raised up to bring His people out of bondage. He promised the Hebrews freedom and a return to the land of their ancestors. Through the first twelve chapters of the book of Exodus we see the Lord acting strongly on behalf of His people, finally garnering their release from a hard-hearted Pharaoh. However, the situation turned diametrically for Israel once the Egyptians regretted their decision to "let God's people go." Once the pursuit was on by Pharaoh's forces, the children of Israel were terrified. Moses calmed this vast crowd by stating not to fear and to know that ... The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent. (Exodus 14:14) Their crying out to God for generations had finally come to a climax, but now God was saying, "It's time to be quiet and see My deliverance!" The wisdom to know when to speak and voice their complaint and to stand and see the salvation of God was now being manifested in their own sight. The day of their redemption had come and all they needed to do was shut their mouth in the midst of the injustice that was seeking to devour them.

So, how do we know when to be silent or when to complain to God? The children of Israel sought to learn that lesson for the next 40 years after He destroyed Pharaoh and his armies. Their wandering aimlessly through the deserts of the Sinai was a testimony of their foolishness. It spoke loudly about their lack of understanding regarding when and when not to cry out. Others in scripture give us a glimpse into this struggle between knowing when to speak up to God and when to sit silently and wait. Through all of Job's struggles and complaints, it did not change the verdict against himself or his friends. We are shown in the beginning of the book and finally at the end how God was working in the background, accomplishing His purposes. Being privy to God's dealings helps the reader understand the Lord's workings in the case of Job. But what of others? David, we are shown throughout the Psalms, offers complaints and entreaties continually for God's deliverance (see Psalm 31, Psalm 55, and Psalm 64 for just a few examples). However, his son Solomon gave us these words in Ecclesiastes 3:7, telling us there is a "... time to be silent and a time to speak." Jeremiah the prophet on the other hand reminds us that it is good that a man wait silently for the salvation of the LORD (Lamentations 3:26).

While there seem to be conflicting accounts in scripture regarding whether to wait on the Lord's salvation silently or to cry out for it incessantly, I believe there is a guiding principle to lead us through this seeming dilemma. Some of the best advice when knowing when to act or simply to do nothing is "... If in doubt, DON'T!" Paul tells us to allow the peace of God to rule in our hearts (Colossians 3:15). Is there turmoil in your heart regarding a seeming injustice that has been dealt to you? Then take it to the Lord in prayer. His promise is that He will give you peace beyond comprehension, if we will but ask. Do you feel that you've done all that you can and you now possess God's peace even though you might be wrongly accused? Then stand and see the salvation of God. Stand resolutely, yet silently, and wait for God's vindication for it will come. With David, we will be able to say: Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14) Once we have gained our position in Christ's peace, there is nothing that can defraud us if we will but wait silently for the inevitable victory. Praise God for His victory as we wait upon the Lord!

Heavenly Father, we rejoice in the wisdom to know when to speak up and when to shut up. The victory is ours if we will but listen to You rather than to continually listen to the noise of others and of this world. Grant us ears to hear, that we might find that place of peace and rejoice in the silence of your deliverance. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, June 17, 2011

Holding Things Together - June 19, 2011

Colossians 1:17 - He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

We've all heard expressions such as "I'm holding on" or "I'm holding on by the skin of my teeth". Others might say they are doing all they can to "hold things together". In our fast-paced world it's easy to become overwhelmed by life and all its responsibilities. However, as frail human beings, we were not designed to hold everything together, either in our own lives or our families or our businesses. Jesus Christ gives us a model to understand that a greater power exists to sustain us in this life and the one to come. If we are trying to hold things together, then we are scripturally working against the Lord. As stated in our lead passage, Jesus is the One who holds all things together. Is this indicative or every instance of life, no matter to what granularity we apply it? We must believe if Jesus is interested in holding together the Universe by His power, then He is interested in all of its particulars -- even down to the very molecular structure of life as we know it.

Careful review of our lead scripture draws our attention to "... and in Christ all things hold together." To "hold together" derives its meaning from the Greek word sunistemi. This quite literally means to "stand together" or "to adhere to one another". From a scientific viewpoint we might apply this so-called "Colossae Theory" to the study of atoms and nuclear energy -- the building blocks of all physical matter. Physicists generally agree that atoms are held together by weak and strong forces. Simply stated, an atom's nucleus contains positively-charged and neutral particles. Electrical forces would ultimately drive the particles apart and cause a nuclear reaction if it were not for the "strong force" which holds the nucleus of the atom together. This unexplained force is positively identified in scripture as the power of the Lord Jesus as he "upholds all things by the word of His power". (Hebrews 1:3) Furthermore, we know that Jesus, according to John 1:1, is Himself that word. Therefore, all power to hold the cosmos together is encompassed in the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

Whether one is a believer in God or agnostic or even an atheist, there will come a day when we all believe in the power of the Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit, that He indeed is holding all things together. We will, on that fateful day, know with great certainty that He "has the whole world in His hands" as the old hymn states. That day will be manifested as a day when He no longer uses His "strong force" to hold all things in their proper place, as we have known them. That last moment in time will be manifested in His "letting go", thereby allowing a nuclear explosion unparalleled in the history of the earth, allowing everything to be enveloped by eternity. The Apostle Peter states it in this manner:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements (atoms) will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. (II Peter 3:10)
Everything, as we know it, will be consumed in a fiery atomic reaction that will disintegrate every physical particle that is seen. While this sounds horrendously frightening to some, it can at the same be time comforting to those who know the Lord. Those of us who have trusted in Jesus understand that He is the One that has not only been holding the Universe together by the power of His word, but He has been holding our lives together by the word of His grace. Believers in Jesus' redemption know that our bodies will someday be transformed by the power of His resurrection. We also know that He is loosening His grip on our mortal bodies and that one day we will succumb to death (unless He first appears to redeem us in "the twinkling of the eye" [I Corinthians 15:52]). However, His grip remains firm on our soul and spirit that is forever redeemed by His grace.

Often, we can limit an omnipotent God by denying that He is not concerned with every instance of creation. Even as believers, we can become agnostic or even atheistic in our beliefs if we limit our perception of His power. For God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, to be so connected with every molecule and atom by holding them all together is a mind-boggling thought. However, we must understand that if He is so intimately involved with every iota of what He created, to dismiss that He isn't passionately concerned with His chief creation is sacrilegious toward His Deity. If God uses His limitless power to allow creation to continue, day after day, holding it together by His immeasurable strength, then why should we not believe that He is doing so for us? He suspends His judgment by "holding things together" to allow still others to accept His free gift of love and eternal life. What an awesome, all-powerful God we serve! May He continue to hold us and to love us until that day when we are consumed and wrapped in eternity, to be with Him always!

Heavenly Father, may we know that You uphold us by the strength of Your right hand. May we understand that the power of Your might holds us together on this physical plane until we go to join You in that eternal new earth that exists for Your good pleasure. Cause us to yearn for that day when we no longer look for You to hold us together in this life, but to be one with You in the world to come. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thriving in Adversity - June 12, 2011

Ecclesiastes 7:14 - In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider--God has made the one as well as the other so that man will not discover anything that will be after him.

In some churches today, it is quite common to hear a prosperity message that doesn't reflect the total doctrine within scripture. While God desires for all His children to prosper, it is sometimes misunderstood how that prosperity should be manifested. I have been around enough of this teaching to understand that there is an undercurrent of disapproval if a person seems to be struggling with finances or possibly personal or family issues. Some church- and lay-leaders will often try to comprehend the source of a person's "misfortune" by seeking to explain it through cause and effect. If someone is struggling financially, then there is possibly a tithing problem. Or, if the tithing is in order then maybe they just need to give more to "open the windows of heaven" upon their lives. If there are family problems or personal issues, then maybe there is a generational curse that needs to be broken "in the Name of Jesus". Believe me, friends, I am not discounting these as possibilities. However, I believe that some churches seek to explain too much through a formulaic approach. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people, and vice versa. We would do well to remember the words of Jesus, that God "... causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous". (Matthew 5:45) The world in which we live is affected by both sin and righteousness, and seemingly it is beset by certain arbitrary outcomes. However, we know that as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, He causes all things to work together for God for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). We often just need a spiritual adjustment regarding our perspective to understand what is happening in regard to our lives and those whom we love.

Job is the classic biblical example of someone suffering under seemingly unjust circumstances. We are told throughout the Book of Job that the defendant, Job, is being treated unjustly and has been ruined without cause. The patriarch's friends defend the formulaic belief that supports the reciprocity theory -- if a person does good, they will receive good, if bad then bad things will come their way. It is not until the final few chapters do we learn that God is working behind the scenes in what would appear arbitrary ways. However, He was there all along, causing good things to spring forth through adversity that appeared to be misplaced upon Job. Calamity and adversity became the means by which God justified Job before men and angels. His testing became Job's testimony of how God would not only take away prosperity, but how he would then restore. As the Sovereign Lord, He had every right to deal with this saint of old in this manner, as he likewise has with anyone he desires. Too often, we seek to discern God's dealings with others, even as Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad tried with Job. However, we may too often revert to the "formula" that is not iron-clad, leveraging the spirit of suspicion rather than true discernment from God's Spirit.

There are those select few, like Job, who understand that God is sovereign and He does as He will, working everything for His glory. Then, there are countless others who look at the adversity that God may allow and they react much differently. The children of Israel were chronic complainers with a catalog of murmurings those 40 years while wandering in the wildernesses of Sinai and Kadesh-Barnea. We are told in the Book of Numbers that the Israelites "complained of adversity" in God's hearing which ignited God's anger toward His chosen people. Numbers 11:1 states:

Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD; and when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.
What was the difference between Job and the nation of Israel? Did they not both complain to God regarding their adversity? Scripture tells us that the difference was heart attitude. We know that Job believed God and trusted God, without seeing Him. The Israelites doubted God continually, but saw His goodness and miracles for 40 years. We are told that Job was righteous in God's eyes -- upright, fearing God, and turning from evil. (Job 1:8) Yet God still inflicted him with adversity as a righteous man. However, the Lord God threatened repeatedly to destroy the Israelites and to make a great nation from the man, Moses. (Exodus 32:10; Deuteronomy 9:14; Numbers 14:12) This was all because they refused to believe and trust in the One who continually provided for them in the wilderness. So, we can look at both examples and surmise, from human standards, that God's dealing with the wandering Israelites was just. However, without reading the final chapters of Job, we are led to believe that God deals unjustly on certain occasions with select individuals. We see from Job's restoration, that this was not the case at all.

It is easy to judge another when they are going through a personal, financial, or family problem. It's quite easy to make a religious judgment over someone who is entering bankruptcy. Some might say, "If only they would rebuke the devourer off their life, then God would be able to open the windows of heaven and all would be good!" As I stated previously, this can indeed be the case for some select individuals. However, to create an equation that says to do this and to do that and it will result in blessing is unscriptural in view of all of God's word. Adversity is sometimes meant to be embraced as well as the prosperity that God so graciously gives. We can thrive in one as well as the other. The Apostle Paul, we are told, learned the "secret" of living with much and living with very little. (Philippians 4:12) Should we think that we are above the likes of Job or even that of Paul? Or, do we feel a sense of entitlement as the children of Israel who perished because of their unbelief? We must all take what is our allotment, always seeking God's best no matter how that might manifest itself. While we should always prepare for God's blessings and the good things He desires to give, we must also not flinch when these blessings sometimes depart for no good reason. We should be able to echo Job's proclamation regarding God's sovereignty ...

He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb,
And naked I shall return there
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the LORD."
- Job 1:21
Lord God Almighty, No matter our lot, teach us to say, "It is well, with my soul". May we always cling to you through prosperity and adversity. Cause us to be those who thrive no matter how the circumstances might turn. Give us hearts so in love with You that we trust you implicitly. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, June 3, 2011

Wealth Management - June 5, 2011

Proverbs 18:11 - A rich man's wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own imagination.

According to a recent news report, a certain gentleman had it all, or so he thought. A few years previous to this news story, he found out that he was the lottery winner from a more than 300 million dollar Powerball ticket. Years later, he says he wishes he would have torn up the ticket because it left a curse on his life. He had dreams of helping people with that large sum, which he did for the first few years. However, the greed of those who knew of his "fortune" soon became overwhelming. Countless pleas for money poured in over the years. Some were as outlandish as someone wanting new carpet, to another needing a new entertainment center for their home. He ended up giving millions away to help others, as well as to build churches. However, lawsuits became frequent during this time against his construction company. Many considered him to have "deep pockets" and they apparently felt no qualms about trying to put their hands therein. He was led to despair, turning to alcohol and illegal drugs. Someone very close to him was also the victim of a heinous murder. He believed this was a direct result of him having won the lottery. This once normal businessman and family man, in his opinion, was driven to desperate straits, all because of having won this inordinate amount of money.

While this man's account is certainly not everyone's story who might win the lottery, it does suggest an important lesson taught to us in scripture. As Proverbs 18:11 tells us, worldly wealth is an illusion. It is something that the rich, and those who undoubtedly desire to be so, imagine giving them security in this life. As the wisest man that ever lived (besides Jesus), Solomon was also one of the richest. He had a thing or two to say about the deceptiveness of riches bringing security, and he did not shy from stating the truth regarding this matter. The wise king suggests that just when we think we have an understanding of how to manage our wealth, it will inevitably disappoint us. As soon as we set our eyes upon it and determine in our hearts that our future is secure, it "makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens". (Proverbs 23:5) Not allowing this to happen seems to be the key to not giving abnormal place to wealth in our hearts. It is to understand that riches earned respectively and honestly are to be viewed as a tool and not as an idol that displaces the One who helped us create the wealth. For truly, whatever we set our affections toward will eventually own us. That is why the Lord desires that we would build wealth according to His desire. Often, that wealth has nothing to do with earthly riches but has everything to do with using what God has given us to further His kingdom on earth.

When I read this news story, it made me think of another Proverb that promises a curse when money is gained in an unnatural manner. Proverbs 20:21 states: An inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning will not be blessed in the end. How true this is for the man in our aforementioned story. However, are there others among us that have done similarly, possibly not with the lottery but with our desire for wealth and comfort? I have known men that have sacrificed their friends, family, and all that they hold dear for their careers and the opportunity to attain "success". They have side-stepped God, telling Him they will give their heart to Him once they have made their mark upon the world. In their minds, it may be making that first million and creating a retirement portfolio that promises a life of relative leisure by the time they are 50 years old. Jesus told a story about a man that planned much like many today for a retirement where they lacked nothing. However, the Lord called this man a "fool" because his life was taken from him before he had a chance to enjoy all that he had schemed for throughout his earthly life. (Luke 12:16-21) Jesus told the crowd to be on guard against every form of greed, because it will often take the most benign forms and deceive us.
Those who have won the lottery or have gained wealth through other objectionable ways have created a situation that is rife for exploitation. Not only by greedy individuals or other human agencies, for these are just the physical manifestation. Of even worse consequences is the spiritual dynamics of greed and lust that is loosed in the unseen realm. Beloved, we can be assured that if people are clamoring jealously over ill-gotten gains, there are spiritual forces at work behind the scenes creating destructive scenarios to trap humans in their covetous dealings. Jesus told us in simple terms how we should manage our wealth upon this earth in order to be free from these snares. The best advice is from the Lord Himself when He told the crowds during the Sermon on the Mount:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. - Matthew 6:19-21
For those of us who call ourselves Christians, it is questionable whether we should ever put ourselves in the position of acquiring wealth through something such as a game of chance. Many say, "Oh, but I could do so much good helping others with the money!" However, is it really blessed money or is it cursed? Has it been created on the desperate hopelessness of millions of others trying to strike it rich? Jesus told us to avoid "every form of greed", no matter how altruistic we might think we would be with the payout. He told us to not trust in earthly riches, but to set our minds on building the kingdom with what he entrusts to us. The earth is the Lord's and all it contains. Surely, He is able to give us what we need, and not what we want. He desires to give us all His riches, yet they will often not be in the form of earthly treasures. May we yearn for ONLY the riches that He desires to give, and when He decides to give them.

Heavenly Father, may we store up heavenly treasure, always looking to You to make us good stewards of the wealth You have entrusted to us. May we give our hearts toward Your wisdom for our lives, and shun the temptation of managing our own "wealth". Free us from all forms of lust and greed. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives