Friday, March 30, 2012

Whose Fool Are You? - April 1, 2012

I Corinthians 1:18 - For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Most of us in western civilization have either been the perpetrator or the victim of a joke or a gag on the first day of April. While no one is absolutely certain regarding how April Fools Day began, most relate it to the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in the late 16th century. The Julian calendar which had been used since the days of the Romans began around the first day of April which was in accordance with the vernal equinox or the arrival of spring. So, when Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar to begin on January 1, those who continued to insist that April 1 was the start of the new year were regarded as "fools." Supposedly, from this sprang the idea of making April 1 "All Fools Day" or April Fools as it is now most commonly referred. From this 500 year old edict to change the start of the new year, we now have a day in which jokes and foolishness reign supreme. All because of the supposed resistance of some to not submit to the obvious. They would forever remain symbols of man's foolishness to resist change.

A similar group resistant to change is the Flat Earth Society (FES). In a mostly tongue and cheek fashion, they challenge whether indeed the world is round since only a few have truly witnessed this phenomenon hanging in space as it does. Of course, with the vast amount of empirical data proving them wrong, they have removed themselves from a place of ludicrous ridicule from when they first began to a place of questioning the reality of anything that cannot first be experienced by anyone at any time. While "April Foolsters" of centuries past and contemporary FES members look foolish to us today, how much more foolish must we appear to God when we reject the overwhelming empirical data supporting Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World? Once the data was introduced for both a new calendar and a round orb, most of the naysayers were silenced out of respect for the conclusiveness of the facts. However, no matter how much proof the Christian community offers to the world regarding how Jesus is the only way to salvation, they refuse to believe. Of course, those of us who have come to a saving knowledge of our Lord understand that the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so they cannot come to a knowledge of the saving grace of Jesus (II Corinthians 4:4). However, for the sake of those who are appointed for eternal life, let us look at the facts.

While there are numerous specifics regarding the scientific and historical accuracy of Scriptures, I will present only only the mathematical proof due to the limited size of this writing. In his book Science Speaks, Dr. Peter Stoner applies the principle of probability to Jesus fulfilling just eight of the more than 300 prophecies in the Old Testament about Himself. (To see the particular prophecies Dr. Stoner uses, please access the following link: http://www.goodnewsdispatch.org/math.html) The odds are astronomical in scope! The mathematical probability of Christ fulfilling just eight prophecies is 10 to the 28th power. Or, for simplicity sake and to see the sheer size of the number, the possibility that Jesus could fulfill just eight prophecies as He did is a one in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 probability! If there is so much certainty regarding His legitimacy regarding prophetic and mathematical proof, we would be wise and not foolish to ascertain who Jesus said He is and to act accordingly. Since there is undeniable proof that Jesus is the Savior of the world according to fulfilled prophecy, is there another savior that others can worship and expect entry to Paradise? If we take scriptures such as John 14:6 which clearly state that "no man comes to the Father but through Me" then we must concede that Jesus is who He said He is and that He is the only way to salvation. Others such as John 8:24 and Acts 4:12 reinforce this fact. His credibility of proclaiming His own deity and His mission to this earth is undeniable by His fulfillment of Scripture. Therefore, we must believe all that He says about Himself, or we become those most to be pitied because of our foolish resistance.

While April Fools Day is a way in which our current society uses a little humor to lighten our daily loads, the origins of this annual day for pranksters has its roots in foolish resistance. While those original foolsters were probably tongue and cheek (much like the aforementioned flat-earthers), it makes no sense to defiantly resist the facts provided by the burden of proof. As Paul dealt with those in ancient Corinth who prided themselves in their great Greek learning, he referred to those who resisted the facts as foolish (I Corinthians 1:18; I Corinthians 1:27). Later, in I Corinthians 4:10, he tells the church in this great city how he has become a fool for Christ through the seeming foolishness of the gospel. We must ask ourselves: Whose fool are we? Will we continue to believe as we desire so we can live lives unimpeded by God? Or, will we finally submit to Christ and the preponderance of data which supports who He is? The simple fact is this: we will be someone's fool, whether Christ's or our own sensibilities. May we all submit to Jesus and the foolishness of the cross, for only in Him is our hope!

Heavenly Father, thank You for such a simple plan of salvation that all might accept Your Son. Thank You that all we must do is resist the foolishness of our own concepts of life and salvation and trust totally in You and Your wisdom. May all who read this come into an understanding of the wisdom behind what seems to many as such foolishness. Thank You for Your great gift to us. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, March 23, 2012

You Must Be Born Again - March 25, 2012

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "You Must Be Born Again" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on March 22, 2012.

You Must Be Born Again - March 22, 2012

John 3:7 - Do not be amazed that I said to you, "You must be born again."

From the dialogues of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, we are introduced to the mythological ruler of Corinth, King Sisyphus. Because of a series of dastardly events which the king cleverly engineered throughout his lifetime, he was assigned a fitting punishment in the land of the dead. Sisyphus was to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill with the belief that he would be free from his punishment once he was able to reach the summit. However, as he neared the top, the boulder would invariably roll back on the king and back to the bottom of the hill. Throughout eternity, Sisyphus must continue to work the large stone up the hill only to see all his efforts frustrated. This judgment of useless efforts and unending frustration would never have an end. While this is a mythological morality tale regarding how no one can redeem themselves once under the judgment of the demon gods, it is nonetheless a good analogy to point us to Christ and the significance of Him taking away our judgment through His gift of the new birth.

Before knowing Christ, we may have found ourselves not only amazed at much of the Lord's words, but also a bit irritated that much of His teaching seemed so unattainable. Or, possibly we considered Jesus' teaching superfluous, not really understanding His intent. Like Sisyphus, we believed we could roll this massive boulder (symbolizing our life) up this ponderous hill (depicting our redemption). As the mythological character, we often thought we were gaining while trudging up this steep incline. However, circumstances would too often dash all hope of conquest. Many continue through this life and never find hope to help them in their summit. Then again, a few do find liberty they so earnestly desire. Relief often comes in unexpected ways and through divine encounters. Like Sisyphus, Nicodemus thought he was doing an admirable job of conquering the hill. He undoubtedly felt the strength of the Law of Moses on his side, commending to him how he had lived a righteous life. But then comes Jesus, the fulfillment of the Law to show him otherwise.

Possibly Nicodemus was feeling a bit self-righteous when he came to the Lord that fateful night. Perhaps he was acting on a sense of conciliation as he mentioned to Jesus in the first two verses of John chapter three how his colleagues considered Jesus a great teacher and a man of God (John 3:1-2). However, Jesus' reply was like a blow to the stomach which knocked the religious wind right out of the Pharisee. When Christ told Nicodemus, "... unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” this invariably shook this master of the Law, challenging the very paradigm he had built his life upon (John 3:3). The rattled Pharisee then began questioning the Lord, not believing his ears. It was as if this Sisyphean had just realized he was never going to accomplish his task of redeeming himself through his own efforts. He suddenly came to the conclusion that this mighty boulder he had been pushing through life was large and mighty because of the weight of his sin. We know Nicodemus is dumbfounded and amazed, for the Lord tells him not to remain so, as our lead verse points out. Throughout the remainder of this glorious chapter, we see the Lord laying out to Nicodemus the way of salvation---that he no longer had to push his cumbersome rock up the hill. Jesus was telling him, through simple scriptures such as John 3:16, that He was the Rock and He would make that climb up Calvary's hill in his stead. All he had to do was to believe.

Like Nicodemus' amazement, we can also react similarly to a supernatural requirement that seems beyond our abilities. Once we understand we cannot save ourselves, self-redemption becomes a hopeless endeavor which only produces more hopelessness. The great desire of the flesh will always be to save itself through "good works" and possibly seeking the good of mankind. While this is noble, it is high treason to God without first becoming born of God's Spirit. Only then are we empowered to perform His goodness, not ours. We cannot continue pushing this enormous rock symbolizing a life weighed down by our shortcomings and sins, but we must believe He has already pushed it to the summit and has obliterated it with His resurrection. Beloved, to be born again has nothing to do with doing more for God, but BEING more in God. Without the being, there can be no doing that will have lasting value. May we all understand that He is the Rock who has redeemed us by removing the large stone from that tomb entrance nearly two thousand years ago. He is risen, friends, and He desires us not to live in a Sisyphean way but one of surrender through which we might always push through this life with victory!

Father in heaven, May we all understand how we cannot rely upon our own efforts to redeem us. There is salvation in only One, for He is the Rock who overcame the hill of Golgotha and rose from the dead to give us the power to live. Allow us all to be amazed at our inability to save ourselves, and our wonder at the love of Christ for doing so. May we all be born from above so that our lives will emulate our Father both now and forever! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ignoring Jesus is Choosing Hell? - March 18, 2012

John 8:24 - Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.

Several months ago, at the time of this writing, I became intrigued regarding a bumper sticker on a car in the parking garage where I work. The dark blue letters on bold yellow background seemed to jump out and assault the reader. While I am not a big proponent of "bumper sticker theology," this one definitely caused me to ponder its meaning. While seemingly harsh, there is nothing unscriptural regarding the words "Ignoring Jesus is Choosing Hell!" In fact, one might argue the point whether they are meant in an angry, judgmental way as some have since commented. I suppose it all depends upon one's perspective. I can understand why a few might think it is meant in a condemning way, because that is possibly their point of reference from past experience. However, personally, I believe it can just as easily be said by a tearful, mourning God who is beseeching a dying world no longer listening. While some see a vengeful, angry person as the author of these words, I tend to see a Holy Spirit inspired entreaty to a stubborn, calloused world that does not have eyes to see nor ears to hear. I envision the Father God pleading through these words and telling mankind He has done all He will ever do to redeem us. The result of our indifference and outright choice to ignore Christ's gift will mean an eternity in the very hell prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).

As our lead verse clearly states, Jesus was not one to mince words when it came down to delineating exactly who He was upon this earth as well as His reason for being here. If we were to suggest Jesus came merely to point us down one of the many roads which leads to a blissful eternal life, we would be of the same opinion of the vast majority of humankind. However, if one reads the Scriptures with an honest appraisal, they will come to a different conclusion about this Man, Jesus Christ. As others have so aptly stated, Jesus is either who He said He is, the Messiah of all mankind, or He is both a lunatic and a madman! Those who believe the latter, for whatever reason, may choose to stop reading at this point. My intention in this writing is not meant to dissuade these from their preconceived notions. However, for those who believe that Jesus Christ was divinely sent to this earth but are unsure of what God required of Him and then also requires of us, I invite you to read on. In most instances, the Bible (as some have erroneously suggested) is not cryptic and subject to many interpretations. The following passages are but a few which make this point.

Jesus told his disciples in John 14:6 that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one would come to the Father but through Him. Is this not clear enough? If we conclude that Jesus is who He said He is and not a lunatic, then this very statement states there is salvation in no other manner. Peter, when preaching to the people after the lame beggar's healing, stated in unequivocal terms when speaking about Jesus' power to save: "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) And, what about the most quoted scripture in the entire New Testament? If we truly believe Jesus is who He said He is and we believe the Father sent Him to save us from our sins, then we must take John 3:16 for what it says at face value. Jesus was not cryptic when He said: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." Does this sound like an angry God who is seeking to commit us to eternal suffering? On the contrary, He is giving us a most gracious escape from what we deserve through the sacrifice of His own Son. If we could pick out a mission statement of Jesus Christ it would probably come from John 10:10, for His desire is that we would have life and have it abundantly. God's yearning has never been that any would perish, but that all would come to repentance (II Peter 3:9). Through these scriptures and many more like it, we must see that God has not ignored us, but we have ignored Him. By our eventual acceptance of Him or our continual ignoring, we will make our ultimate choice.

Salvation is a gift God has granted for all to accept. However, individual perspective to acknowledge Jesus for who He is (or not) will be the final arbiter. I suppose it depends on whether you view the proverbial glass half empty or half full. Some might regard an angry, vengeful God with no basis for condemning the human race because of sin. These would be those who would see the glass half full of God's judgment and the remaining emptiness His indifference toward His prized creation. Others of us will choose to see a glass half full of God's love toward a wayward, blind race of people who choose not to respond to His great desire for fellowship with them. The tragedy is the other half of emptiness of this analogous glass typifies God's broken heart and our isolation through utter meaningless. The Father is crying out, constantly, through His Holy Spirit with a heart of reconciliation saying "Ignoring Jesus, my gift to you, is inviting a future of eternal hell away from My presence!" What will we choose today? He has done all He can do. He is now waiting for us to respond.

Heavenly Father, may we not ignore Your Son but embrace Him for all He has done for us. May we look full into that wonderful face and see His great desire for His greatest love which He purchased with His blood. Help us see not an angry, vengeful God but one who is pleading with a prodigal race destined for perdition without their choosing otherwise. May we all come to know You and not continue in our ignorance to do otherwise. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, March 9, 2012

Joy to Overflowing - March 11, 2012

John 15:11-12 - These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

We all desire to live happy lives. Some will succeed, even outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ. However, to live a life filled with joy is only possible by knowing the Savior. David tells us in the Psalms that to be in God's presence is to experience fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). To experience God's presence and conversely His joy to overflowing, is a paradigm jointly supported by both parts as joy and presence are dependent upon each other. Simply, if we are experiencing God's presence then we will know His joy. Likewise, if we are overwhelmed with His joy it's because we are in the presence of the Almighty. There seems to be no divorcing the two. Having established that the two are inseparable the question remains: How do we get there and stay there? I believe the word of God tells us plainly how we can experience the joy of the Lord. However, I believe it also shows us how to experience joy to overflowing.

It is simply not enough to cloister ourselves away in study of God's word to experience the fullness of His presence. We cannot expect God's overflowing joy to overtake us through continual prayer and fasting. While these are necessary tools to the deeper things of God, they are not enough in and of themselves. There is a final ingredient to fullness of joy and living in the presence of God and that is revealed in verse 12 of our opening scripture. Jesus first tells His disciples that the commandments He has given them, if obeyed, will make their joy full. He implies they must love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength as the great commandment states (Mark 12:29-31). However, He then reinforces the second greatest command stating they should love each other perfectly, even as He loved them. This must have been one of those moments for the disciples similar to the Sermon on the Mount where they understood Jesus was once again expecting perfection (Matthew 5:48). They had been the recipients that very evening of their Lord humbling Himself and washing their feet. They must have thought it impossible to behave as their Lord served them, because it would have never entered their minds to do such a thing! Probably not until after they received the infilling of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost did they understand how God could fulfill all His expectations through them. Once empowered by the Holy Spirit, they found serving one another an effortless undertaking as they held each other in higher regard than themselves (Acts 2:44; Acts 4:32).
How do we practically go from the place of impossibly loving as Jesus loved, to the the place of being the servant of all? I believe there are four criteria to entering into a life of joy overflowing.

Confession -- It is much like when we come to the Lord initially in repentance, telling Him we are a sinner in need of salvation. We must come to Him with an honest appraisal of ourselves and tell Him we need His help in drawing closer to Him. As James stated, if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (James 4:8). Unfortunately, many believers don't make it past this elementary stage, leading to a frustrated, unfilled walk with God.

Profession -- We must profess who we are in God. Paul reminds us throughout his letters how we are children of the King and we possess all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:3; II Corinthians 5:21). To allow the devil or the flesh to tell us differently is contrary to Jesus' love message to His beloved church.

Obsession -- If we say we love God, we will want to be with God. That means time in prayer, reading His word, and meditating on His love for us. It means obsessing on our Lover, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many Christians believe if they have given their lives to Jesus through the aforementioned acts of consecration, then God's joy should overtake them. After all, are we not continually in His presence if humble and walking with our Lord? There is one more criterion.

Expression -- Without expressing the love of Christ to others, we have failed the Great Commission to make disciples of all men. Who will enjoy the fruit of the Spirit in our lives if we don't allow those who are hungry for God to taste of His goodness through us?

If we are expressing the love of Christ through a confessed, professed, and obsessed life, we will know the fullness of God's joy. In the same way as there is joy in the presence of the angels when someone repents on earth (Luke 15:10), there will be fullness of joy when we are pouring out our lives for others as Christ commanded. Are we content to just enjoy Jesus without ever dying to self and living for others? We will not experience His fullness if we are. Once we begin to pour out our lives for mankind through His great expression of Christ within, then we will know His overflowing joy like we have not imagined!

Heavenly Father, allow us the privilege to be poured out wine and broken bread for all who would hunger for You. As we draw near to You, draw near to us and even nearer as we fulfill Your Great Commission to make disciples in the image of Your Son. Consecrate us and then empower us for this wonderful endeavor, Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, March 2, 2012

Rapture Ready? - March 4, 2012

Revelation 19:7 - Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.

A wedding day is a marvelous event. We have all been dazzled by the beauty of a bride on her special day. There is a glow and a warmth as the soon to be married is flush with beauty and adorned in her best to receive her bridegroom. The expectancy of her entrance is often announced by the familiar tune of Mendelssohn's Wedding March. When we all stand at a traditional wedding when this song begins, we are expecting the appearance of a bride in all her glorious beauty. Often, the father of the bride is proudly escorting his daughter down the aisle in a lavish setting. How tragic would it be if all the guests turned to see the bride without an escort, appearing in a t-shirt with dirty blue jean shorts and flip-flops! The stark contrast between her and the rich setting of the event is not lost on the observers. While those drawn together to witness these nuptials are in their very best, the bride has chosen to appear otherwise. Furthermore, the absence of her fatherly escort is painfully clear to the guests. Her attitude comes through clear and strong as she saunters up the aisle to join her groom: It's not what I look like on the outside. If he really loves me, then he won't care how I'm dressed!

While this may seem like an exaggeration regarding how a bride would show up to her own wedding, it is a suitable analogy for the attitude of much of the present day bride of Christ toward her future Husband. Our lead verse tells us about a bride who has made herself ready for the Lamb of God---or more clearly--Christ the Bridegroom. We are reminded over and over in Scripture that Jesus Christ redeemed us by His blood to purchase for Himself a people who would be holy (Revelation 5:9). However, to look at much of the church today, one would wonder if they have received this message---or if the church even cares! We continue to see concerning trends of compromise toward sin in the 21st century Western church. The post-modernist viewpoint has changed the Christian landscape remarkably in the past 50 years. Many of today's youth in denominational as well as non-denominational bible churches see no problem with homosexuality as a "life choice." Even more frightening, is how this is being reflected in our state legislatures regarding the attitude of homosexual marriage. At the time of this writing, seven states plus the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. Beloved, the devil mocks the church because we have allowed the spirit of this Babylonian age to take our society into captivity. How Satan must laugh when God's holy plan of marriage between a man and a woman is mocked continuously by evil! What was once a holy institution has become a defiled, base form of idolatrous hedonism as our society embraces homosexual unions. However, this is only an outward manifestation of a much deeper problem.

The perversity of these unholy unions are only one expression of the infidelity within the hearts of all men. Not only does the world join themselves in unrighteous relationships, but the church is increasingly turning a blind eye to sin and embracing similar associations. The reason is simple---sin within the church has reduced God's absolute standard to one of relativity. No longer does the bride of Christ call out sin within its congregations as it once did. How is it we suppose we will not be influenced to believe like the world when we are acting like the world? So-called Christians carousing with friends, drinking and drugging is not righteous living, beloved. Neither is spending a Saturday night at the casinos living like Christ. Or, how about sitting in front of a television set every night watching the filth coming out of Hollywood? Is this not loving the world rather than the Savior? It is no wonder the Millennium Kids and GenX'ers believe in relativity and an "anything goes" attitude. They have seen it modeled for years!

In many ways, the church is like that careless bride who expects Jesus to accept us "just as I am." However, many will say to Him on that day "Lord" and He will say I never knew you (Matthew 7:21-23). He is returning for a bride that is spotless, beloved. Not just through His work in justifying us through His blood, but through our obedience. Only then can he sanctify us for His purposes. If we recall the words of Peter, he likewise tells us to prepare ourselves for Christ's great appearing. He states: "Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless" (II Peter 3:14). A cavalier attitude like the careless bride in the previous analogy may very well mean that the Holy Spirit has forsaken us as our escort to Jesus. Furthermore, we may find Christ is not waiting for us at the altar as we might have hoped.

Is the church, Jesus' bride, ready for the marriage of the Lamb? Our opening verse states it has nothing to do with our righteous standing by justification before the Lord. However, it does state we have the responsibility to have "made herself ready." This means holy living, beloved. This means obedience and consecration so we might be sanctified by His power. Is the bride ready for her wedding day? Are we "rapture ready" to meet the bridegroom? Thank God He has not come in our present state! Jesus desires a bride who has made herself ready for Him by perfecting holiness and sanctification. For without these things, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). May we, the church, get busy removing the idols from our hearts and tearing down everything that would set itself up against the King of Kings. Then, beloved, He will come for a spotless, consecrated, sanctified bride.

Heavenly Father, May we not shun the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. May we surrender ourselves in humility, understanding Christ desires a faithful bride that is not marked by this world. Even as unholy marriages mock Your perfect order, so also the church mocks Your command to make ourselves ready by loving the world. May we allow the Holy Spirit to escort us through this life through our obedience to present us to our Bridegroom who longs for us with purity of intention. May we come to the altar and die to ourselves that we might be made alive to Christ. May we give ourselves in thought and action toward that blessed day. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives