Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Guise of Familiarity - April 29, 2012

Proverbs 22:28 - Do not move the ancient boundary which your fathers have set.

There is something to be said for tradition. While some practices may seem archaic and out-dated to younger generations, traditions often have more significance as a person ages. Possibly there is some fear of losing touch with the past and the uncertainty of the future. However, if we take a close look at many family and societal customs, many were born out of the Puritanical eras of the 17th and 18th centuries as well as the 19th century Victorian era. Rather than re-embracing these qualities later in life, previous generations often lived this way from cradle to grave. As stated, much of the younger generations have lost an appreciation with many of the manners these prior generations engendered. However, it would appear we have lost something in our age by the insistence to forsake these values. To understand how this has affected our society at large, it would help to look at one of the most intact cultures in the world---the Jews.

Of all the Middle Eastern cultures, the Jews, to the most part, have survived with their culture intact. Why is this so? One only has to look at what they value. First of all, they believe in the Torah (Pentateuch), the words handed down from Moses. Within these first five books of the Old Testament there is a respect for each other, the earth, and most of all, God Almighty. Secondly, their later development of the Talmud elaborates on the written law, defining life to finite detail. Through the centuries, the Jews have attempted to live up to the expectation of these prescribed laws and edicts, at times more successfully than others. However, they have done it well enough to keep their society intact. Conversely, one would be hard-pressed to find a contemporary Hittite or Phoenician. They did not survive because they, like countless cultures, compromised their lifestyles to "fit in" with others. Therefore, the blending became ubiquitous with no outstanding characteristic of any other Middle Eastern people. They simply disappeared because of their lack of identity.

As aforementioned, traditions often become more "valuable" to someone as they age. Then again, I have witnessed large families who seem to keep traditions alive because they refuse to give them up. Others have to reach a certain age to see their importance. We may look at the example of the Prodigal Son parable (see Luke 15:11-32) and understand when the wayward child "came to his senses" that he realized the importance of family and what his father had sought to create for his posterity. The "ancient boundary", as suggested in our lead verse, became of paramount importance as the son realized the stability of their family's heritage. Many today might seek to forsake family and to minimize the importance of cultural traditions. Personally, the older I get the more I yearn for the common respect I was taught as a child. I remember growing up and how most people would not dare call someone by their first name unless the other had given permission to do so. I am constantly taken back when customer service people on the telephone or otherwise believe they have the liberty to call me "Rick". They are often taken aback when I ask them for their last name. If it is Smith or Jones or whatever I often say, "Well, Mr. Jones, I don't know you well enough to call you by your first name and I would appreciate you calling me Mr. Roeber as I will refer to you as Mr. Jones. If we ever become better acquainted, we may feel the need at that time to go to a first name basis." This is shocking to many people in our society today, but it shows a common respect which does not take for granted a familiarity that must be earned over time. As the saying goes, "familiarity breeds contempt". The ancient Jews did not allow it to compromise their culture, and neither should we.

I believe that respect toward the authority of tradition in our culture is directly tied to how we either reject or embrace it. If we do not regard it as important, our children and grandchildren will likewise not show respect to cultural mores which have built society. A simple thing such as a child calling an adult by their surname is a small step toward the revival of cultural norms in our modern world. The absence of regard toward authority and the ancient boundaries will only result in further decay of long-term cultural norms. If, as adults, we do not show respect to each other, how will our children behave? They will grow up with an attitude of familiarity which says I have a right to treat people however I deem appropriate, without any consideration otherwise. It is time to step up as the church, as fathers and mothers, as grandparents, as uncles and aunts, and insist upon respect. Only then will others learn the importance of not moving the boundaries related to ancient and tested traditions. These are what helped the Jewish people survive for millennia and inevitably what will also allow us to survive in this crumbling modern society in which we live. We must stand up for the family and for common respect, otherwise we will be diminished to the point of no return.

Heavenly Father, may You give us the wisdom to see how traditions and their values are indispensable to our survival. May You open our eyes for our need to stand up against familiarity and not to allow us to be diminished as a church, a society, or as a culture any further. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


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Friday, April 20, 2012

Coveting - April 22, 2012

Ephesians 5:5 - For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Most of us who have raised children or who have been around nieces and nephews know how children can get rather possessive of what they believe is theirs. I went through it with my children and now experience this with my grandson who is nearly four years old at the time of this writing. If it is something he doesn't care about that much, he generally has no problem giving it up if I ask. However, say I have given him a soft, chewy chocolate chip cookie. "Can grandpa have a bite?" Usually, the answer is "No, it's mine!" In all fairness, however, sometimes he does decide to share even if it is something he really wants.

We learn so much about ourselves from children. They are honest looks at ourselves, both the good and the bad. The example of the cookie can be an exaggerated expression of how we react all day long to various situations. I once heard a good definition for lust which is I want it and I want it now! Likewise, covetousness can be defined as I want what YOU have and I want it now, or something I possess and I refuse to give up! Children are upfront and usually honest about their feelings in this regard. Sometimes as adults we dress up our wrong desires by other names. In Luke 12:15, Jesus warns his disciples and us stating: "Then He said to them, 'Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.'” The King James Version uses the word "covetousness" in the place of "greed." Either are appropriate, for the root of both are wanting something someone else has at their expense. The Lords warning to be on guard against "every form" should give one pause. Of course, we know we should not covet according to the Ten Commandments. Some of us may refer back to the Mosaic Law when we hear the rather archaic word "to covet." However, it is important for us to know what coveting is and to seek forgiveness for it if it is part of our lives. Paul tells us in our lead verse it is imperative if we seek entrance to God's kingdom. So, what does the commandment command? Exodus 20:17 states: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” At this point, it is important to determine what "belongs" to my neighbor.

First of all, the Scripture reveals the nature of coveting from another of Paul's writings in the book of Romans. We are told how Paul became so acutely aware of the law that it revealed in him coveting of all types. He confesses his plight in the following: "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the law; for I would not have known about coveting if the law had not said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COVET.' But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the law sin is dead." (Romans 7:7-8) Like Paul, when we seek to please God in all we do, the law becomes alive in us and condemns us for falling so short. In addition, there is the desire within that proceeds from our old nature to actually WANT to sin. I call it the "wet paint principle." When we see a sign that tells us "wet paint" on a park bench, our desire is to touch the bench to see if it is really wet! It's the same thing with the law of God, which none of us can keep except for Jesus. When we become more and more aware of God's desire for us to walk by his commandments, we see how miserably we fall short concerning the ability to do so. The more we see of the excellence of God's law, the more we see we cannot keep it. We must cry out as Paul did in Romans 7:24-25: "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! ..." Only then can we find true freedom from the law. The knowledge of our failure to keep it is our redemption if we run to Jesus!

We might say to ourselves, "I don't desire what my neighbor owns. I am free from coveting." I challenge you to pray to God that He would reveal to you the truth. How about in traffic? Do you covet your lane and refuse to give place to anyone else? Do you covet your place in a grocery store line, not giving place to someone with a crying child? Have you considered how we covet that last piece of pie? Or, how about how we covet our time when all someone needs is another person to listen? Remember, covetousness is something I have which I refuse to give up or something someone else has that I desire. In our lead verse, Paul equates it to idolatry, the act of worshipping and deferring to something or someone in our lives which is not God.

If you still believe yourself to be free from covetousness and idolatry, here is a test which will prove the legitimacy to your claim. Pray daily for a month, sincerely, that God would reveal His law to you and to help you love it. Then, see what He shows you regarding your desires. Beloved, I have been doing this for some time and the Lord continues to show me areas which I need to repent of and bring to the light. That is the point. If we refuse to own our covetous hearts and ask Him to reveal them, then we are no longer responsible for them once we repent. Just as Christ cleansed us positionally through His blood when we accepted Him into our hearts, now he is sanctifying us through our confession and turning us into the image of His Son while still mortals. The time has come for the Body of Christ, His Church, to rise up and call sin what it is. However, we need revelation to do it. May we all love His law and our inability to achieve it so He might empower us to walk as Christ both now and forever.

Heavenly Father, we desire to love in all respects. Show us how we often covet our own ways above Yours in our daily lives. However, with that knowledge, help us to lean upon Jesus who already fulfilled the law for us and set us free from coveting. Help us to draw from His strength, for that is our only hope to conformed to Your Son's image while in our mortal flesh. We ask all this in Christ's Name and for His glory, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


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Friday, April 13, 2012

Children of the King - April 15, 2012

John 14:18 - I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

In our present culture of westernized Christianity, there is much buzz regarding the "signs of the times" and the rapture of the church. While biblical prophecy certainly points to Christ's imminent return, we could conceivably still be years from witnessing His reappearing. Regardless of when the King does return to earth to restore His Lordship over planet earth, we are told to be vigilant in our waiting as those in Jesus' story about the ten virgins (Matthew 25:13). As these were instructed to have oil in their lamps, so we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and to quench not the Holy Spirit---a metaphor regarding the spiritual oil that comes down from heaven (I Thessalonians 5:19). He is truly our Helper in the absence of the Son. However, where is His evidence in our waiting for the Lord's return? While some are crying out for revival and for God to do a great ingathering in these last days, there is a mindset in many churches today to simply wait for His return rather than waiting on God. Many of us would rather fellowship at the local buffet than seek God in a church basement on our knees for souls. While we claim to be children of the King, we more closely resemble those whom we should be asking God to save. We are counting on that sinners prayer we prayed long ago to ensure us entrance into Christ's kingdom. However, little we have done in the meantime would make someone say to us, "You must be a Christian, for you resemble Jesus!" These may be in for a shock someday as they are standing at eternity's door, realizing they have no oil whatsoever in their lamps (Matthew 25:1-13).

Jesus' discourse to His disciples in John chapters 13 through 16 gives us a clear understanding of what it means to enter into relationship with Christ and His Father. Throughout these chapters and verses, the Lord tells us we must obey, love, and abide in Him. This is simplified, of course, as there are other themes in Christ's Johannine Discourse. However, love through obedience and Christ's promise of His presence through the Holy Spirit is a major thrust of these scriptures. (Just as John 17 is Christ's intercession to the Father to make our unity with Him possible.) Some will use the text in the middle of this discourse in an attempt to merely sit back and wait on Christ's appearing. These have no intention of living like Christ, but they want and desire the eternal security these verses offer. For instance, many like to use our lead verse as validation of their soon anticipated escape from this earth by the rapture of the church. However, this is not what Jesus was saying in context. The Lord is talking about the Helper or the Holy Spirit in the two previous verses (John 14:16-17). What many fail to see is Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit, but few embrace Him as they should while many grieve Him. These are expecting Jesus, but they don't want to be bothered by this "Holy Ghost" that wants to meddle in their day to day living. This is the reason why so many of us still look like pitiful orphans "wandering through this world of woe."

We cannot say we love Jesus and not love the Holy Spirit whom He has sent to do Christ's bidding until He returns. Their natures are exact representations of the Father's whom we may claim to love in word, yet often deny when it comes to how we obey. Without accepting both the Son and the Spirit, we have not the Father (II John 1:9). How do we embrace the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit? By obeying Christ's commandments. We sing "O, how I love Jesus" but do we obey Him? This is the reality of loving Him according to John 14:15: "If you love Me, you will keep my commandments." This means looking toward heaven with an expectation of Christ's return, but also to busy ourselves with the work He has left us to do through the Holy Spirit. This means no compromise, beloved. If we are counting on Christ to save us someday in the "sweet by and by," we best understand that the Holy Spirit is here to perfect us in salvation. For without sanctification, no man will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

It is our decision: Will we sit on the sidelines and wait for Christ and His return? If so, we may be eternally disappointed. However, if we decide we want to be "in the game," suited up by the Holy Spirit for whatever God has for us, then we are wise like the virgins in our aforementioned example. The more we obey accordingly, the more we prove to be Christ's disciples. Then, beloved, He can say to the Father, "They love Me, Daddy, because they listen and do what I say through the Helper We have left them!" If we resemble spiritual orphans, it is our fault because we have resisted the Holy Spirit. However, if we will but trust in Christ and embrace the loving hand of the Helper, then we will become one with the Triune God and will forever resemble children of the King.

Heavenly Father, help us to look to the clouds, yet at the same time allow us to look within our hearts to ensure we are obeying Your Son through the Holy Spirit. May we anticipate Your return, yet be at peace with whatever You desire us to do until You return. We submit to Your love. Change us into Your image as sons and daughters of the Most High. In Your perfect Son's Name, Yeshua, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, April 6, 2012

Unlimited - April 8, 2012

Habakkuk 3:4 - His radiance is like the sunlight; He has rays flashing from His hand, and there is the hiding of His power.

Time, as well as our spatial experience, limits everything. We are earth-bound creatures who have learned to measure most things in our temporal existence. However, the more we understand about life's building blocks, we continue to discover how infinite it seems as scientists strive to break matter down to its lowest common denominator. Many would say this is only a glimpse into the mind of God -- how He exposes Himself and His eternal, infinite Self through time-bound limitations. How extraordinary will it be when we throw off time and we experience unveiled expressions of the Divine? When time gives way to eternity, how will God appear to His Son's beloved bride? We might suggest, since God is eternal and unlimited in power, that there will be a withholding of His attributes even in Glory. As our lead verse states, the prophet suggests how God's power is veiled, in time and possibly eternity. It is not clear whether it is both, for Habakkuk doesn't tell us. However, we can be sure whether we witness His power on earth or in heaven, it will be marvelous to behold.

God is unlimited in power, therefore He has to hide the vastness of His nature for it would overwhelm us. When some might think of God's unlimited power, they may consider His power to destroy or judge. I prefer to meditate on unlimited love. Can you imagine, beloved, a God with eternal, limitless love? We may swoon when we experience human love between our betrothed or maybe when we catch a glimpse of God's love toward us that takes our breath away. But can you imagine the depth of His love to be revealed? No wonder the 24 elders fall down before His throne, casting their crowns at the Lord's feet. They are overwhelmed by His great love. The elders and the entire host of heaven must understand how His presence is so exquisite, yet He hides His full glory because of its intensity. Since we will share in eternity as eternal beings, will we have the ability to grow in love through God's impartation? While there is no specific scripture which tells us we will continue to evolve in God's power and love in eternity, we know as sons and daughters that we are made in His image to emulate Him. I believe from Psalm 89:2 we can deduce how love will continue to grow in us, where we have the capacity to take in more and more of God's presence. This scripture simply states: "For I have said, 'Lovingkindness will be built up forever; In the heavens You will establish Your faithfulness.'” What a mind-boggling concept to understand how our God will continue, throughout all eternity, to reveal more of Himself to us!

It behooves us as believers, since God is an unlimited God, not to limit the possibilities of what He can do while we are bound by time and space. God gives us glimpses into eternity through the book of Revelation and through scriptures such as the aforementioned one in Psalms 89, showing us the grand possibilities if we will but only believe. If we have an eye on eternity, then we can understand how an unlimited God can move on behalf of our prayers. Paul pointed out in Colossians 3:1-3 the necessity to keep our eyes trained toward heaven because in so doing it enlarges our hearts to believe. He admonishes the church at Colossae saying: "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." The apostle in his letter to the Ephesians also commends his readers to understand they already possess every spiritual blessing that God has in store for us in heaven (Ephesians 1:3). We must simply believe God for these unlimited resources while in our time-bound existence. Paul is telling us we can have the very things while on earth that we already possess because of Christ's great gift to us. We might as well exercise our rights to it now, for we possess an unlimited supply to draw from.

Some might say this sounds a bit mystical and not worth the time to consider God's unlimited power and love in eternity. However, I would suggest that to do so prepares us for that place where we will spend the most significant part of our existence. We must become so heavenly minded upon this earth that we are no longer any good for this world. When we consider God's unlimited character and how we will continue to grow in His image, it does matter how we approach our time on earth preparing for eternal life. A right understanding will only cause our faith and character to grow while here, beloved. For the day will come when we will be changed in an instant into His image. What happens after that and how we grow in God is only to be imagined! May Jesus continue to reveal the greatness of His power to us all, especially His love, until that day when time is swallowed up by eternity.

Lord God Almighty, may we continue to understand how great is Your power toward us who believe. May we allow Your presence through our faith to transfigure us, even now, drawing upon Your unlimited attributes. May we continue to become like Your Son until time finally gives way to the eternal. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


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