Friday, January 27, 2012

The Bare Soul - Residual Evangelism - January 29, 2012

Matthew 13:3 - And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, "Behold, the sower went out to sow;"

When I was young, my father worked a variety of jobs. However, he seemed the happiness when he was in sales. No matter what he sold, I remember him telling me how important it was to gain the trust of his clients. When he enjoyed a reciprocal relationship of trust with his customer, then they usually continued month after to month to buy his wares---whatever goods or services that might be. This was his favorite type of selling, returning every so often and simply writing up the orders. This is commonly called residual or passive sales where my father did little or nothing but continue to keep his customer amply supplied. He was merely reaping the benefit of either himself or others in his company who had done the work prior to gaining this lucrative client. There were usually only two reasons why the customer would discontinue their regular orders. The first and foremost reason was customer service and the second was product quality. Customer service could mean any number of things ranging from price to delivery or even my dad's likeability. Product, including quality and overall need would often be downplayed if customer service was exceptional. Often, passive sales would continue long after their need basically because many folks who bought from my father liked him and wanted to continue to support him.

I have often thought about what our ledgers in heaven might look like regarding our Christian witness. What type of spiritual income is being reaped for the kingdom? It is estimated that only 5 percent of believers share their faith in the Lord Jesus. Of these, only 10 percent aggressively seek to make "quota" as the Lord commanded us in the Great Commission, to take the gospel to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:19). There is something to be said for the man or woman who will continually go forth and sow seed, as Jesus outlined in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23). The sower's attitude is not one of indifference regarding the seed that will not reach maturity, but of deference to the seed which will. For he knows there must be of necessity those who will not respond, but he must channel his hope toward those who will sprout and bear a harvest. Sowing seed is much like going on sales calls. You can't "cherry pick," my father would say. In other words, a good salesman doesn't try to pre-determine where the sale will come from. He simply must blanket an area thoroughly. The sower does the same thing. He has no idea which seeds will spring to life and which won't. He can only cast the seed and God causes the growth.

When a farmer turns a field under after harvest and lets it lie fallow the next year, he often finds a predictable outcome the next growing season. A volunteer crop has sprouted and begun to grow from the seed of the previous year. The sower put forth no effort to sow this seed, yet it nonetheless sprang forth as faithfully as the year before. This residual or passive growth was the result of previous effort and was a testimony of the seed both planted and harvested in previous seasons. As in both sales and in sowing seed, there is never any assurance when or if prospective clients or crops will be harvested. However, the diligence to present both a product to a customer or to plant a seed in the earth are essential. Otherwise, there can be no favorable outcome if only wishing is the strategy and action is not present. Regarding evangelism, Paul spoke of the importance of him planting the seed and Apollos watering, and finally God causing the growth (I Corinthians 3:6). Continual sowing and watering will lead to eventual harvest. This is the principle in Paul's words. Of great importance is not to give up. Spiritual seed that is sown into someone's life may lie dormant for two, three, or 10 years until someone else comes and waters it. Then, salvation is birthed in that heart because of the faithfulness of both the sower and the one who waters. This residual or passive evangelism is often the work of others who have labored before us. All we need to do is be faithful to sow and reap as the Lord instructs.

Many of us have been sowing seed for years into others lives. While some of us have sowed, others have watered seeds which are just now coming to life after a long period of dormancy. Others have tried to "sell" the gospel to those who would never buy in the past. Now, however, some are finding these more than ready to "buy in" to the good news. We can never know when our words or actions will be leading someone closer to the Lord. The next time a person hears the gospel invitation may be the time they accept Christ's offer. We cannot know. That is why it is our responsibility to get out there and continue sowing and watering the seed while others continue to sell the gospel (which, of course, is freely given!). While it may appear some are reaping residual harvests, these are merely souls who have been sought for, prayed over, and finally brought into the kingdom through much diligence. The great tragedy will always be those who won't "buy in" or who's soul will always lie dormant and dead, not responding to the word of God. However, it is not ours to know who is destined for the eternal kingdom and who isn't. We must simply continue to work God's field and leave the results to Him. The residual field others have labored in is ripe for harvest. May we have God's wisdom to know where to put in the spiritual sickle and reap His great desire.

Heavenly Father, May we continue to sow seed and reap Your harvest as You empower us. Help us to have the courage to present Your gospel with love to a dying world, for they are wanting what You are so freely giving away. Allow us the honor to be Your co-laborers. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, January 20, 2012

Household Evangelism - January 22, 2012

Acts 16:31 - They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Many believers have taken the words of Paul to heart regarding God's promise to save one's household. While some might suggest this is applicable to only the Philippian jailer's situation, there are many other scriptures which affirm God's desire for us to lay hold of this promise for our own families. Some of us may have seen this pledge fulfilled in a brief amount of time for our our next of kin. Others (including myself) may have seen certain of our loved ones turn to the Lord, while others continue to languish in their sin. If anything, the ones we continue to pray for seem further from God rather then coming closer to Him. While this can be frustrating as a mother, father, brother, sister, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, and so on, we must not lose heart. As stated, there are numerous scriptures telling us to persevere in our belief for their conversion and ultimate salvation. A good source to help us further understand and grow in faith toward this promise is ScripturePromises.com. (You might want to print the following and reference it often when praying God's word back to the Lord regarding your family's salvation: http://www.scripturepromises.com/promises/family.pdf.)

We should not falter regarding our hope of salvation for our loved ones. To do so is to disregard the power of God's word concerning what He states in scripture. If we cannot rely on what the Lord has told us, then where is our hope? Nonetheless, as previously suggested, we still often falter in our belief because we "see" differently than what God's word states. "Johnny" at one time at least listened to what you had to say about the Lord and His wonderful love, but now you find he is either completely indifferent or possibly even hostile to the mention of Jesus Christ. "Lucy," on the other hand, may have once been totally self-consumed in her own hedonistic pursuits, but now is pursuing mysticism of a new age variety. This consumes you with worry, knowing she has fallen for a cleverly devised plan of the angel of light to steal her soul. These are just two examples of how "seeing" with our physical sense seeks to rob us of seeing with our spiritual eyes. No matter what we "see" happening in the lives of those we love, we must continue to stand upon God's word. His desire is infinitesimally greater than ours for their salvation. We must agree with Him and His word, no matter what we see, knowing those whom we love will one day share eternity with us.

Which leads us to an extremely important point to grasp and to ultimately embrace with our entire being. What if their salvation is wrought at their dying breath? Are we content to allow them to continue through this temporal life only to be saved on their proverbial death bed? Poignantly, can we trust God to save them as we continue to believe? I am of the opinion that many souls have been lost to the evil one and his domain because loved ones have given in to unbelief. For instance, "Uncle Charley" has never given any indication of wanting anything to do with Jesus. However, we must never discount the power of the Lord to save souls such as his during their last mortal breath. Or possibly, those previously mentioned have become so discouraged over "Johnny" and "Lucy" not giving their lives to the Lord and sharing the rest of their temporal lives with them as Christians, they have therefore all but given up on any possibility of the Lord saving them. We can often become so fixated on desiring their lives to change upon this earth, yet we disregard how this life is but a vapor which appears for a little while and then vanishes away (James 4:14). We must come to a place of resolution, determining that if we never share in the joy of our loved one's salvation in this lifetime, we will indeed have all eternity to rejoice in their eternal redemption. That's why we cannot depend on what we behold with our mortal senses regarding their salvation. We must believe with godly tenacity for no other outcome than the certainty of their eternal life.

David tells us in Psalm 27:14, Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD. We must allow our hearts not to falter in unbelief, but through the promises of God, permit our hearts to grow in faith and courage that our loved ones will indeed accept God's great gift. His eternal love toward them and through us will provide perseverance even when we stumble in our faith. However, we must confess our sin of unbelief as we renew our minds with God's promises for their salvation. As we do, He will continue to transform our hearts to accept the inevitability of their redemption as the final outcome. Beloved, we must wait upon the Lord and His timing, even if it means we don't share in their changed lives in this world. However, we must understand and believe that we will dwell with them in all eternity as we all join together in praising God for His mercy to bring them to His eternal home. May God give us the grace and faith to believe Him for all those whom we hold dear to our hearts!

Heavenly Father, help us to never surrender to unbelief for our loved ones. Give us hearts that are resolute to the end, believing You will honor the promises of Your word, telling us to believe for the salvation of those whom we love. May You increase the faith and resolve of all who pray this prayer, knowing you will complete this in Your way and Your timing. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, January 13, 2012

Prophetic Evangelism - January 15, 2012

Revelation 19:10 - Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he *said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

Have you ever considered how each of us can move in the prophetic according to scripture? Regardless of our denominational affiliation or dispensational beliefs, we all have the opportunity to function in a prophetic manner. I'm not talking about the gift of prophecy (I Corinthians 12:10) or the office of a prophet (Ephesians 4:11). I am referring to our lead verse and how the angel declared to John the Revelator how testifying about Jesus is synonymous with the spirit of prophecy. So, how do we testify concerning Jesus and what exactly is the spirit of prophecy? These are important distinctions to make in order to understand the intent of this verse. Possibly our paradigm needs to change in order to comprehend what exactly it means to give a "testimony" or to testify about Jesus and also the difference between the "spirit of prophecy" and prophecy, itself.

Let's first look at the difference between prophecy and the spirit thereof. Prophecy, we are told in Paul's letters to both the Romans the Corinthians is a gift manifestation of the Holy Spirit, given discriminately as He chooses. It appears this gift works as the Holy Spirit determines how best to manifest it for God's glory. In Revelation 5:6, we see the seven spirits of God which are sent out into all the earth, presumably to bring God's glory to earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). Some believe these seven spirits are those mentioned in Isaiah 11:2 in regard to Jesus Christ. These are the Holy Spirit, and the spirits of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord. This seems plausible as the aforementioned are certainly characteristic of the attributes of God the Father and His Son. So, it is important to distinguish while the Holy Spirit may speak through an individual through the gift of prophecy, the testimony that proceeds from Jesus Christ encompasses the seven-fold manifestation of God's spirits. For instance, Jesus certainly moved in the gift of prophecy when he spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem and the end-times in Matthew 24. According to the model of gift manifestation, we can assume from scripture that Jesus was granted this insight from the Father through the Holy Spirit. However, in day to day living, Jesus moved in the seven-fold spirit as prophesied by Isaiah the prophet. His testimony, if you will, embodied wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord as directed by the Holy Spirit within His Person. This indwelling resulted in Christ's life as a constant embodiment of testimony through the Spirit at work in and through Him. This prophetic or "testified" expression of Christ's life resulted in the evangelization of many in ancient Palestine.

Just as the Holy Spirit testified through Jesus about the Father, in the same manner the Holy Spirit desires to bear witness about Jesus through us to the glory of the Father. This "prophetic testimony" is not the gift of prophecy but a manifestation of the seven-fold spirit as foretold by the prophet. Whenever we testify about God's great gift of salvation through Jesus His Son, we invoke the spirit of prophecy and the seven-fold manifestation to those with whom we share. It is important to note at this point how not all testimony regarding our Savior has to be verbal. We may very well speak and testify with our mouths concerning God's goodness. However, what about how we live? Our lives are often pouring forth a witness of Jesus much more so than our lips. How we live our lives may be the strongest and most convincing witness regarding the life of Christ within. Is this the spirit of prophecy as we testify to others regarding our surrendered (or otherwise) life to God? I believe it is. In fact, God may cause our everyday pursuits to bring glory to His Name. In my case, as a barefoot runner, I believe God uses the witness of my "feet" to shame the conventional knowledge of this world in bringing further understanding regarding God's wisdom for me to run sans shoes. Whether people agree with my "wisdom" to do so is inconsequential. What is important is to first be obedient and then to be in agreement with God, allowing Him to use whatever "testimony" He desires---whether from mouths, feet, hands, or lives to testify of His Son's love. When we offer up ourselves as a "living sacrifice" to be used in whatever manner to glorify Jesus, then we are moving in the spirit of prophecy regarding the testimony of Jesus Christ (Romans 12:1).

How has God challenged us to testify of His Son? We cannot shrink from speaking about Him with our lips, for hearing and believing will often come by us speaking the word of God (Romans 10:17). However, we can often set up the perfect opportunity of speaking God's word by living it first in obedience to Him. God has called us all to be "prophetic evangelists" through the testimony of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit may or may not give us the gift of prophecy so we can speak the secrets of men's hearts (I Corinthians 14:25). However, He does give us the manifestation of the seven-fold spirit that allows us to testify of our Lord through our "living sacrifice." May we all give Jesus the glory through surrendered lives that prophesy of Him through our respective testimonies.

Father, may we may glorify Your Son by speaking through the spirit of prophecy, testifying of His love and greatness. May the glory He receives through our obedience come back to You to make You all in all. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit and His manifestation in our lives to bring praise to the Godhead. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, January 6, 2012

Heart Wisdom - January 8, 2012

Proverbs 4:23 - Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.

What is the heart of a man? Some might suggest it is the inward person as manifested by the workings of the mind, emotion, and will. These are often equated as the soul of a man, which give definition to individual character. However, the soul left to its own devices will always defer to its natural inclinations which is carnality. For when Adam sinned, the spirit within man died, no longer providing guidance to the soul (Ephesians 2:1). The great story of Christ's redemption is how He once again quickened the spirit of man with His Spirit, making us born again through His eternal life (I Corinthians 15:22; I Peter 1:3). Therefore, the heart of man could once again be led by the regenerated spirit within the man---empowered by the Holy Spirit. When Christ is allowed to reign supreme in the heart of a man, He thereby drives the mind, emotion, and will to do according to His will. This "holy bridle" causes the body to be turned in whatever direction the Lord so desires, much like a horse is turned by the reins and bridle of its rider. The degree of submissiveness, much like a horse, will depend on its brokenness toward its master.

Solomon tells us in our lead verse to put a "watch" over our hearts to protect it with all diligence. As suggested previously, this is impossible without the spirit of a man knowing the regeneration of the Holy Spirit of God. The spirit of man is dead without Christ and incapable of supporting the man in any measure. However, once the spirit is enlivened by God, then the understanding to set a watch over the heart is possible. So, in practical terms, what does this mean to the Christian believer? I believe the ability to set a guard over our hearts is grounded in surrender and humility of mind and spirit. Just as the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10), so this reverent brokenness toward the Lord invokes the spirit of wisdom to direct our lives according to His great purpose. While Proverbs 4:23 commands us to watch over our heart, verses 24 through 27 provide the process or the mechanics on how to successfully protect the treasure within. The impossibility of this task by the unregenerate man is only juxtaposed by those born of God's spirit and equipped with His power.

Consecration is only possible with God's help. In the following verses, the Lord shows us through Solomon's wisdom how to achieve the carnally impossible with the help of His Spirit of wisdom.

24 Put away from you a deceitful mouth
And put devious speech far from you.
25 Let your eyes look directly ahead
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.
26 Watch the path of your feet
And all your ways will be established.
27 Do not turn to the right nor to the left;
Turn your foot from evil.

In verse 24, we are told we must surrender our speech to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. No man can tame the tongue, according to James the brother of our Lord (James 3:8). Only the Lord through His Spirit can make our speech, as it were, full of grace and edification for the hearer (Ephesians 4:29). However, we must submit our spirits to allow Him to control our mouths in all instances, not allowing our words to tear down but to build up through His direction. With our mouths muzzled only for His bridled bidding, we then direct our attention to verse 25 where we are told to be careful what we behold with our eyes. It is true that whatever we continue to behold, we will eventually become. Just as David declared, "I will set no worthless thing before my eyes" (Psalm 101:3), so we must also consciously and willingly submit our gaze to the Lord rather than on the world and its lusts. As we command our soul to return its gaze to the Lord within, then we are renewed in the spirit of our mind, causing us to grow in maturity (Ephesians 4:23). Finally, we see how the direction of our lives is determined by the choices we make, or the paths we take. Verses 26 and 27 teach us how to discern our choices through the spirit of wisdom and revelation (Ephesians 1:17-19). By choosing the "straight and narrow" path before us, we ensure salvation both for us and also those whom God has appointed to benefit from our obedience.

Simply put, if we will but yield our members (Romans 6:19) according to God's wisdom through the power of the Holy Spirit in our inner man, we will be watching over our hearts with all diligence. This, beloved, is consecration empowered by the Spirit of Christ within. A marvelous outcome is the eventual result. A deepening sanctification will overtake the man or woman who would continue to surrender their spirit in this manner, allowing God's wisdom to flood their inner person. The glorious manifestation is an individual becoming more and more like their Savior. They are being revealed as the righteousness of God in Christ---not only positionally but now conditionally by God's sanctifying power.

If it seems hard to "watch over your heart with all diligence," I would suggest that we must surrender to Christ before we can procure His help. We cannot do this in our own power, beloved. We must draw upon His wisdom through brokenness and humility. It is imperative that we protect our "springs of life" through His strength. For without the Lord enabling us to consecrate ourselves for His purposes, we will never know the joy of His sanctifying grace. May we all experience His holiness in this lifetime which ensures us entrance in the life to come! (Hebrews 12:14)

Heavenly Father, grant us the wisdom to watch over our hearts with the diligence You provide. Allow us the power to consecrate ourselves to You, thereby granting us the holiness of Your grace through sanctification. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives