Friday, August 26, 2011

Songs of Deliverance - August 28, 2011

Psalm 32:7 - You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; you surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.

Ever notice how effective music is to transport us from one place to another at a moment's notice? Music has this uncanny ability to work emotionally with both our senses and our memories to recreate specific times when particular songs may have meant a lot to us. My most poignant memories of when and how music felt monumentally important to me was in my later teen years. When I hear certain songs from the early 1970s, they transport me back to a place of strong recollection. Not only can I remember precise things I was doing, but I can also recall certain smells and sounds. Music certainly has a powerful ability that allows us to relate emotionally with a past event in our respective lives. I believe that is why music is so important to young people -- it helps to define both their individuality and their present culture. Likewise, I believe that is why music is so important to both the powers of darkness and the Kingdom of Light. Both understand that there is power to enslave and set free in both the melody and the lyrics. This has been the case throughout man's history and even before, when Lucifer rebelled against his Maker in the heavenlies (Isaiah 14:9-11). Throughout history, we have seen the constant struggle regarding who would successfully lead humankind in worship of their god. In these last days, there is probably no other tool that the enemy uses with greater affect. However, the Lord is the creator of music and will always command a greater supremacy over melody and lyrics. As we shall see, Satan can create nothing, but only mimics the Holy One's creation. Music is no exception.

Whether we realize it or not, there are songs that surround us continually. The devil seeks to pump into our earthly senses melodic cacophonies that will lead to our destruction. The obvious are songs that have devilish lyrics that talk about drugs, murder, rape, and any other heinous crime one can imagine. Most people would see the logic to steer clear of this type of "entertainment," because it blatantly idolizes those things in our society that are not acceptable. However, what about more seemingly benign music? While other genres may not be giving direct "glory to hell," in the same regard they give no glory to God either. Many would say that they don't see a problem with this. Many believe that they should be able to listen to music purely for their own edification and not have to classify it in a particular religious camp, whether it be born in hell or heaven. While many may not like hearing this, music, just like anything else, is either born from above or is counterfeited from below. That is why it is critically important to be very careful regarding what we allow to become emotionally charged within our own souls. As mentioned previously, music surrounds us continually. It's our decision what melodies we allow to become part of us. David knew this a musician and a psalmist. He probably understood how music is a tangible and free-floating in the spiritual realm. Possibly King David understood that many of the inspired words and music of his psalms were merely eternal expressions of the glory of God. What if he just helped himself to God's spectrum of praise in the heavenlies through his musical gift? How much more would the enemy also try to mislead others in the same way! As I write this, there are hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of songs being broadcast over the airwaves at this very moment. How are these souls allowing themselves to be surrounded by this music? Are their spirits being lifted up to God or being dragged down to the pit? It all depends on the music's origin and the intent of the receiver.

I've often thought about the eternal responsibility of those who fill the airwaves and now the internet with various genres of music. My hope is that Christian radio DJs would know they are providing a ministry to the body of Christ that leads believers into the presence of the Lord. This is a very real expression of worship leading. However, in the same regard, I have often considered how other secular DJs and radio programmers have been leading a very different worship. At best, their "worship" often centers on a narcissistic, self-centered approach to life that hinges on fulfillment through the love of self or to another. This is not a bad thing, to be soulfully committed to romantic love. However, it is hellish if it is not through God's leading. At secular music's worst, is how radio personalities will flirt with transgressing what is permissible through the Federal Communication Commission's mandate of so-called decency. Shock jocks will often take morality to the precipice of acceptability and then mock those who would prevent them from going further. These devilish "worship leaders" have surrounded the souls of their on-air and on-line congregations with sensuality and emotional fervor manufactured in the depths of Hades. It's no wonder that the majority of our youth continue their downward spire as the spirit of this age surrounds, seduces, and inevitably suffocates them with the darkness of godless music.

Even though it would often appear that the Babylon of our age has drowned out the heavenly choruses, God continues to raise up those (like David) who have an understanding concerning the spiritual domain and the ability to wage war against the enemy in song (Psalm 149:6). What was true 3,000 years ago in the time of David is still the case in the 21st century. Some would argue that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit allows us a greater measure of discernment and authority than those Old Covenant saints. Nonetheless, it is clear that God continues to surround those who trust in Him with songs born in heaven as our lead verse states. Of even more importance, these are songs of deliverance that embody the salvation of the Lord. Just as there are many today that are being overcome through the hopelessness of music born in hell, there are those who are rising from strength to strength through spiritually-charged songs of victorious warfare. As previously stated, music is all around us. Whether it is coming over our radios, through the internet, or in some other subtle (or not-so-subtle manner), our souls are feeding on it constantly. It is our choice to be nourished by the manna of melodic music from heaven, where we can return our praise to Jesus Christ for all He has done. Or, we can choose to be spiritually starved by the media of the malcontent. His only long term goal is to drag as many down the highway to hell as possible. Through his effective use of music, he sways millions to dance to his tune. As believers, it is our responsibility to allow God's collective chorus to resound throughout the earth by recognizing that His praise surrounds us. As we gain more understanding of how He desires us to fill the earth with His praise, then we can join together in faith to bring His kingdom to earth through His praise. May we all join with the heavenly choirs, even while in our earthly home, to bring heaven once again to this needy world. Praise the Lord!

Lord Jesus, may we join with You in praise. May we lift our voices in faith and praise Your Father for His goodness. Let the songs that surround us become a swelling chorus of joy and gratitude as You prepare to reclaim this earth. In Your precious Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Glory of God - August 21, 2011

Leviticus 9:6 - Moses said, "This is the thing which the LORD has commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.”

Most of us have either witnessed or participated in the following exchange. Parents will often explain to their children that if they do as they are expected, then a certain result will be their reward. For instance, some parents or grandparents will tell their offspring that if they bring home a good report card, then they will be rewarded accordingly. Some use money or privileges to motivate their brood. Of course, no reasonable parent or guardian would keep basic necessities from children, depriving them of shelter or nourishment. However, added "perks" can often be a strategy to get youth to behave in an acceptable manner. Whether this is wrong or right, it serves as a good illustration regarding how God our Father interacts with us. He would never deny us the simple necessities of life. (After all, as He said through the Lord Jesus, how much more important are we then the ravens that He watches over daily! [Luke 12:24]) While He watches over us, providing for all our needs, scripture tells us that He reveals His manifest presence primarily to those who seek to be obedient to Him in all things. Of course, the main point of obedience is humility, recognizing when we have sinned against the Lord and then asking for His forgiveness. Through humility, we then learn to grow in grace where disobedience is a seldom rather than frequent occurrence. Our objective should always be to understand what the will of God is for our respective lives, and then to fulfill it by our daily obedience to Him. Unfortunately, too many of us seek to live on yesterday's direction rather than seeking God's bidding each and every day. We find that it is often more comfortable to rely on our former counsel from the Lord rather than seeking the fresh manna that He provides morning by morning.

In our lead verse, we see Moses stating a simple principle to evoke the presence of God on behalf of the nation of Israel. What comes before verse six is important if you are studying this chapter in context. (For those who must know, it concerns specific elements of grain and animal sacrifices to be offered to the Lord.) However, for the case of this study, it is only important to note the particularity of something preceding which is identified only as "this." Regarding this adjective, it prescribes a demonstrative condition resulting in a definite outcome. That is, if it is completed as intended by God's command. How many of us struggle with doing THIS that the Lord commanded rather than doing THAT which may look good and religious? For instance, God is as likely to tell a believer to fast or not to fast, to give or not to give in a certain situation, or to speak or not speak admonition to another, just to mention a few. Our dilemma is often knowing when to act on what we might believe are "God impressions" or not to. Learning to hear the voice of the Lord is paramount regarding the type of intimate obedience that Jesus desires from His people. However, we often rely too heavily upon others to hear the word of the Lord on our behalf. Tragically, this is where many a well-meaning saint has erred and pursued after the wrong word for their respective lives. The Apostle Peter appropriately called it the error of Balaam. (II Peter 2:15) This ancient seer, who chose unrighteousness over God's righteousness, compromised his ability to hear God's voice for the prestige and power that Balak, king of Moab offered. Instead of doing "this", as the Lord originally told him (which was to stay in his own land and not journey to Moab) the conflicted prophet chose rather to do "that" which set him in rebellion against his Maker. (Numbers 22:22) Instead of God's glory being revealed to Balaam on behalf of Moab, the Lord exalted His chosen people Israel and abased the arrogance of both the prophet and the nation of Moab.

As obedience is the catalyst to invoke Yahweh's glory, the opposite is often the reason why it departs. There may not be two better examples of provoking God's displeasure in choosing "this" over "that" as the example of King Saul's presumptive sacrifice and his subsequent disobedience of the complete destruction of Amalek. Saul had learned that when he listened to the voice of God's prophet, Samuel, that God's glory was manifest in all he set his hand to do. In I Samuel 13:8-14, we read how Saul disobeys God's prophet by sacrificing before the allotted time prescribed by Samuel -- "the voice of the Lord" for Saul and Israel. By appearances, it would seem that he made a logical decision and sacrificed before the people scattered since it seemed that Samuel was running a bit late. However, as many of us know, the "good" can often be the worst enemy of the "perfect". In this case, the good decision that Saul made was born in hell itself because it was not part of God's plan as spoken through Samuel. The same can be said for Saul's disobedience in sparing some of the choice livestock of the Amalekites as well as Agag their king. Good reason would suggest that some of the prized cattle and sheep would make excellent sacrifices to the Lord, as Saul suggested to Saul. (I Samuel 15:1-21) However, God is not interested in human reasoning or logical conclusions. He is ultimately interested in strict obedience so that He can bless His people for their faithfulness. Saul failed to see the importance of hearing God's voice through the prophet, so God rejected Saul from the kingship and the glory departed from the disobedient ruler. (I Samuel 15:22-23) It would take a new king (who was currently shepherding sheep for his father) to once again restore the glory of God to Israel's throne as he became "a man after God's own heart." (Acts 13:22)

So, what must we understand to provoke God's glory in our lives and those around us? To believe that anything less than an obedient life to God will commend His glory to our lives, our families, our nation, or our world is presumptuous and unscriptural. God is not going to "side up" with us just because we profess God and tell everyone that He has purchased us with His Son's blood. Beloved, if we are not humbly seeking to live for God with all that we have, we might want to question whether the blood has had any affect on our eternal prospects! Sanctification through obedience is a requirement to see the Lord and His glory. (Hebrews 12:14) Shall we rest on our laurels and not seek God fervently, on a daily basis, for His word in our respective lives? Only as we seek to do "this", which may be different for each and every one, may we be kept safe from doing "that" which will ultimately separate us from His glory in this lifetime and possibly in the one to come. Jesus tells us that MANY will say in that day "Lord, Lord, did we not do this and that for You and for heaven's sake? (Matthew 7:21-23) The horror for many will be the realization that they sought something other than God's glory. For Christ's sake, may we all seek Him today, for He jealously desires His glory to rest upon us all!

Heavenly Father, we repent from not listening more closely to your simple, daily instructions for our lives. Speak to us again, even now, and guide us in Your obedience for our lives. Through this loving, caring relationship, reveal your glory to us and change us forever for Your Son's sake. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, August 12, 2011

Unskakeable - August 14, 2011

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "Unshakeable" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on August 25, 2011.

Unshakeable - August 25, 2011

Psalm 16:8 - I have set the LORD continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Ever wonder why some people seem so unmoved by tragic circumstances? Those who are affluent often have vast reserves of wealth, giving them insurance against life's upheavals. Yet, those who possess everything that this world might offer, often display as much or more insecurity towards day to day trials as someone with little or nothing. Just because someone can afford to live in a remarkably beautiful home doesn't mean the proverbial "roof over their head" gives them security. Likewise, if someone can afford the best healthcare offered doesn't mean that they won't die an untimely death from an incurable disease. While wealth is helpful, it is not what any of us should rely upon concerning a secure lifestyle for ourselves or our families. This is confirmed over and over again in scripture, and especially in the life of David, the shepherd who became king. While it is uncertain the particular background that led David to write Psalm 16, it is probably safe to imagine any number of precarious situations as illustrated throughout the Davidic scriptures. Many times we are shown throughout the books of Samuel how David struggled against adversaries such as his predecessor, Saul, or even his own son Absalom. These historical scriptures ascribed to Samuel give us a look into the events that surrounded David's reign. However, the Psalms give us a look into the heart or the emotions of these situations. Psalm 16 is atypical of how David addressed the Lord when in distress. Verse eight becomes the crescendo of David's trust in this familiar psalm as he proclaims with assurance: I have set the LORD continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

To believe that David hadn't learned this lesson of faith years before would provoke naivety on behalf of the reader. When talking to Saul regarding his ability to defeat the giant, Goliath, David matter-of-factly stated how the bear and the lion did not shake his resolve. (I Samuel 17:34-37) These were faith-builders, preparing him for the contest with the Philistine from Gath. While David's victory and accolades over killing the giant were short-lived, the coming trials experienced between himself and the House of Saul were God's tests as he continued to hone the future king for the greatest reign of any earthly ruler of Israel, both past and future. David had learned the secret that no matter what happens, God is not to be denied regarding His ability to show Himself strong on behalf of those who would but trust Him. (II Chronicles 16:9) Of course, David is only one example of countless others who have trusted in their Savior to remain unshakeable in the face of impossible odds. Often, it merely takes God's perspective to understand how strong He really is regarding our faith. Elisha, like David his predecessor, understood God through eyes of assurance, that God would do far beyond all his expectations. He did not shake with fear when the army of Aram surrounded him and his servant. We are told in the second chapter of the second book of Kings that the man of God's attendant was distraught when he witnessed this great army surrounding their house. His faithlessness was countermanded by Elisha's faith concerning whether this earthly army was any match for the heavenly hosts that were soon to strike this impotent expression of temporal might. (II Kings 6:15-18) Did Elisha understand this great epiphany of the Lord's might just "all of a sudden?" I suggest that he learned his "unshakeability" by serving his master, Elijah. The understudy to the old prophet had surely heard of Elijah's steadfastness against Ahab and Jezebel, how they sought Elijah's life on more than one occasion. Then, Elisha experienced first hand his mentor's resolute faith -- day after day that he ministered to the wizened seer -- up to the very day that Elijah was swept away into heaven by the fiery chariot. (II Kings 2:11)

David and Elisha, king and prophet respectively, were archetypes of the greatest King and Prophet to be born centuries later to the House of David. Jesus Christ gives us many examples of his unshakeability in the face of any circumstance. The instance where Jesus fell asleep in the stern of the boat while He and His disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee gives us a clear picture of how calm Jesus was in the midst of apparent danger. (Mark 4:38) His reserved behavior, when the Pharisees were vehemently questioning Him and accusing the woman caught in adultery, was a testimony of His relationship with His Father. (John 8:6-8) Nothing could remove Him from His relationship with His Father and nothing could shake Him from His resolve to do the Father's will. He completely fulfilled His role as the Son of David, perfectly fulfilling all things that David's lineage (up to that point) was unable to accomplish. Jesus Christ fulfilled Psalm 16 and gave mankind the ability to move toward God and to remain unshakable in any situation.

While Christ fulfilled this Psalm and many others perfectly, it is our heritage to receive the gift of God and to remain unshakeable in situations that used to baffle us in our own power. Psalm 16:8 is a promise of degrees since the outcome is contingent on how we respond. To the extent that we view God as the solution to anything we might face, is the degree that we will not be phased by what this life might seek to throw at us. Shall we trust God in all situations, trusting Him to be our Rock no matter what happens? Or shall we fold without allowing our faith to embrace His promises? Our lives, both now and for eternity, are contingent on how we choose.

Heavenly Father, You are the Rock of our salvation. There is no other that we can look to for salvation. May we remain resolute, unshakeable regarding the storms of life that might come our way. May we, like David and like Your Son, look continually toward You and Your salvation. For only in beholding You will we be saved. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick



The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, August 5, 2011

Prisoner Exchange - August 7, 2011

James 4:8 - Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Many of us have probably seen movies where one prisoner has been exchanged for another. I can remember a couple of East/West German exchanges in some old black and white movies from the 50s or 60s. The respective powers were swapping one high-profile prisoner on one side for another on the opposing side. On a trip to the German capitol several years ago, I saw this first-hand in photographs and video clips at the Check Point Charlie Museum in what was previously communist-controlled East Berlin. Somber, focused individuals that were extremely business-like made the handoffs with calculated coolness. The tension mounted as the prisoners walked toward their respective borders until finally reaching the safety of their comrades. Finally, there was noticeable relief on both sides as the prisoner swaps were completed. Both sides felt they now had their prize in hand. Bottom line, the stakeholder countries possessed something the other side wanted. Therefore, there were terms drawn up long before they ever "toed the line" on the actual day of the exchange.

Similarly, there is a type of prisoner exchange that occurs when we decide that we are done playing games with God and when we finally wish to get on with dying to self and living for the Almighty. The terms for this spiritual "prisoner swap" were determined millennia before the current conflicts we may have seen in museums or in film. Jesus Christ, Son of the Almighty God, determined to give Himself ages ago for the sin of humankind. Our treasonous betrayal of God was the catalyst that set Him on a course of sacrifice for the human race. So, when James, the brother of our Lord tells us to ... draw near to God and He will draw near to you ... this is describing a legal, spiritual-political contract that has been secured against the powers of darkness by the resurrection power of Jehovah on behalf of His beloved Son. When this agreement was being worked out in the heavenlies nearly 2,000 years ago, the enemy of our soul undoubtedly misunderstood the terms of the contract. Otherwise, those hell-bent on destroying the Savior would have thought otherwise. (I Corinthians 2:8) That is why Satan works tirelessly to cause the redeemed to forget their legal position in Christ Jesus. His strategy has always been to first keep human beings from drawing close to God in humility, accepting their Creator's forgiveness. Of paramount importance to the devil regarding those whom have already come to the Lord and accepted His salvation is to cause a proverbial wall to exist between God and man. This comes through the lies and deception of the enemy, telling us that we are unworthy of Christ's salvation and that we need to earn His favor somehow to be accepted in the Beloved. That spiritual separation that once existed before we knew the Lord is Satan's plan to keep us away from the Father's love. A contemporary example would be if Germans decided to once again erect a wall separating East and West Berlin. To do this, there would have to be some ludicrous understanding that communism is still in effect, and that German solidarity is some type of a myth. When we consider this, it seems silly to those of us with rational thinking. However, many make the decision to re-erect the wall separating themselves from the love of God. Then, we have to be reminded, once again, of the prisoner exchange provided on our behalf -- how Jesus loved the human race with an eternal love and walked that lonely distance to exchange His life for ours.

Whether it concerns our initial salvation, when we come to the Lord to accept His gift of redemption, or once we relinquish the deception that might keep us from His presence, then we are in the position to change our condition. Drawing close to our Lord is our responsibility -- God's promise of His closeness is then His promise to those who would do such. Only when we have given ourselves to Him in humble submission can He regenerate us according to His Son's image. THEN, we begin to see the promise of salvation manifested in our respective lives. Once we draw close to our Maker and He draws close to us, this catalyst causes the other elements of this verse to begin to emerge. We are then given the grace to set ourselves apart for God's purposes. The action verbs in this scripture are largely dependent upon the other. A chain of events begin to occur once we accept that we are no longer prisoners of an evil regime. We begin LEARNING to sanitize (or consecrate) our actions by TURNING our minds toward the things of God, while we inevitably YEARN for Him from our hearts. This exchanged life therefore allows us not BURN in our affections for the things of this world but for the things of the Lord.

This, beloved, is simply the normal Christian life -- a life that is sanctified and set apart for the Lord. And, it all starts by believing that He has provided this new life if we will but only accept it. We can continue to live behind the walls of doubt or selfishness. If we do, we will never experience the closeness that He desires for His children. The exchanged life is a fact, a reality that will not be changed regardless what lies the enemy tries to throw our way. Christ Jesus walked that lonely path to provide us His life in place of our sinful existence. None of us could have taken that walk between the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness. Only One, the Perfect Man, Christ Jesus, was able to die for a race of people that He valued more than His own earthly existence. He has given us the power to become the sons and daughters of God by His magnificent gift. (John 1:12) It is therefore our responsibility to reconcile this fact and draw near to our Savior without doubt. While Satan would have us believe that we need to continue to try to exchange ourselves for our own salvation, Christ has forever smashed that lie by the truth of the Gospel. May we all seek only to walk together with our Lord and to never try to walk out our salvation through our own efforts.

Gracious Father, thank You for sending Your Son as the greatest example of a prisoner exchange ever known to mankind. We accept Your gracious substitution that will forever secure us a place of reconciliation to You. May we never doubt that the Man, Christ Jesus, gave His own life that we might be set free from the prison that held us in its eternal grip. We praise You! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives