Friday, June 29, 2012

Salvation Without Reason - July 1, 2012

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "Salvation Without Reason" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on June 28, 2012.

Salvation Without Reason - June 28, 2012

II Corinthians 11:3 - But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

"Unless I can explain it, I refuse to believe it!" Such is the claim of many atheists I have encountered throughout the years. They refuse to believe anything that cannot be reasoned or rationalized by a scientific explanation. Regarding religion and man's need to believe in a creator, Sigmund Freud once stated: "The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life." While Freud and others like him who believe in reason rather than faith in God are woefully wrong, at least they are consistent in their beliefs. Conversely, many Christians say they believe in God and trust in Him for their salvation, yet act quite differently. It is one thing to say we believe in God and another thing to put that belief into everyday practice. For when we begin to reason out our day to day to affairs without much thought toward God, are we not behaving much like our atheist counterparts? That is why there are so many different religions in our world, including the religions of science and reason. Different brands of devotion attempt to marry aspects of religion with humanism, resulting in nothing more than a diluted form of Eastern mystic thought. All of these so-called "faiths" have the age old pride of Satanic ambition, desiring to rise above God and to wrest self-deliverance without the Divine's help (Isaiah 14:13).

Much of the problem in contemporary Christianity is that many believers say one thing and live otherwise. Many of us often live atheistically through reason rather than through faith and obedience. If we really believed the Bible, then we would not reason our way around scripture and accept it for what it says. Do we really believe there is a place of eternal torment for the damned? If we did, it would be criminal not to plead continually with those who do not know the Savior to turn off the road to destruction! Or, do we truly believe God will care for us as He does for the sparrows of the air? If we did, we would not be anxiously upset over a shortfall in our finances. Or, even worse, to discontinue our support towards God's work through our giving in order to make ends meet! We too often try to rationalize our Christianity, bringing an atheistic flavor into our belief system. After all, when Jesus told us to give to anyone and everyone who asks of us, wasn't this merely rabbinic hyperbole? (Luke 6:30) He didn't really expect us to give our house away if someone asked for it, did He? To be certain, there is God's reason enthroned in the mind of Christ which is thereby empowered by faith. If and when God would tell us to do such a thing, He would most certainly give us a faith and assurance this was His will. However, there are also times when we reason falsely out of fear of losing something or holding on to something in an insecure fashion. These instances are born in unbelief and smack of atheism. They are deeds of the flesh as old as the curse of Adam and the fall of mankind.

When we succumb to our own counsel devoid of God's help, we revert to the deception of the serpent as stated in our lead verse. If Satan can get us to reason with the word of God, then he has robbed us of the wisdom of the Lord. For many of us as Christians, we would never imagine to think of the Bible as anything other than the infallible, inerrant word that it is. Where we get into trouble is when we attempt to interpret it with minds of reason. If one looks at the Bible, reasonably, there are some passages which do not make sense. For instance, why would a loving God keep fruit that was desirous from Adam and Eve? Just as the deceiver asked Eve, "Did God really say?" in the same does he want us to question God's word and to reason it out in our own minds (Genesis 3:1). For in so doing, we will abort the mind of God's reasoning on our behalf and will give power to our own flesh (or our carnal minds) to do accordingly. This leads only to a life of faith in humanistic endeavor which can only end in hopeless futility.

The only reasonable salvation and belief is that of God and His plan for our lives. The reasoning of mankind, whether based in the world's religions or the religion of science, is built upon the assumption that the human race can come to the needed answers regarding all the world's problems. As C. S. Lewis stated, there are really only two viable religions in the world -- Hinduism and Christianity. While the former embodies every conceivable attempt to save ourselves through self-actualization, the latter relies totally on accepting the finished work of Christ the Savior. Every "Hinduistic" system attempting to work out mankind's salvation---whether religion or scientific, humanistic endeavor---is based on the age-old idea that God is irrelevant and that with enough struggle, mankind can save himself. However, Christianity's faith states how those who give up, give in, and give themselves to God are those who find the truth. As Christians---if we truly believe we are---then we must quit haggling about what God says and believe it. We must quit our atheistic form of Christianity by only believing parts of God's word and embrace it all. When we do, we will find a salvation that is entirely reasonable because it is full of the peace of God. Anything less than this is a self-made salvation with no hope of redemption. May we all cling to God's wisdom and truth, for in doing so will we find Jesus, our true salvation.

Lord Jesus, may we surrender daily to You, humbly asking You for Your wisdom daily. May You cover our minds with the mind of Christ and give us Your reasoning for everything we do throughout our day. May You convict us where we have so falsely relied upon ourselves and may we quickly turn these areas over to You and Your Lordship. For only in You is our hope. In Your Name, Jesus Christ the Almighty we pray, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick


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Friday, June 22, 2012

Godly Imagination - June 24, 2012

II Corinthians 10:5 - We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

My grandson is a joy to watch as his young mind takes him from one pretend instance to another. He might be a policeman one moment, and then a race car driver the next---all depending on his imagination. A child's make believe is innocent and full of wonder as they create various roles and circumstances. The operative word here is "create." Children's imaginations are empowered by creativity, often in a more simple manner than their adult counterparts. They do not limit themselves with what might seem ridiculous and far-fetched to grown-ups. Their faith is full of incredible possibilities. That is why Christ said we must have faith as one of these little ones to enter the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:14). When imagination embraces faith, there is creation. God demonstrates this in the creation story when He imagined and then spoke things into being (Genesis 1). Just as the Father created, so He desires His children to do likewise.

Jesus gave us what appears to be a "ridiculous" example of godly imagination when teaching His disciples about faith. In Mark 11:21-23, the Lord tells his followers to first "have faith in God." Then, he uses the following example: "Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him." Some might suggest this is rabbinic hyperbole -- just an exaggeration to get across his point. However, I believe the Lord is doing more in this example. By using an extreme, or seemingly ridiculous illustration to some, Jesus is expressing how faith is only limited by our imagination. As believers, once we align our thinking with the Father's desire, then we are unlimited in possibility. Even so, Jesus was always in agreement with His Father's imagined desires as He said He only did those things which He saw His Father in heaven doing (John 5:19). Just as Jesus limited Himself to His Father's imagination, so also Jesus desires us to come into agreement with the Father through the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16). Then, no matter how outlandish the will of the Father may seem, we know it is doable according to the working of grace through faith.

Paul understood this dynamic when he spoke to the Ephesians concerning their spiritual maturity. The bulk of the third chapter of Ephesians is Paul affirming his stewardship to the church at Ephesus and their need to understand their spiritual heritage in Christ. Directly after his prayer for these brethren, Paul declares the incomprehensibility of God's imagination. He states: "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us" (Ephesians 3:20). Just imagine! The abundance of God's thought and imagination are only limited by the power of God working in and through us. Once we agree with God's creativity and allow Him to move through us, then we begin to experience the richness of His will for humanity. What we once thought impossible, He begins to manifest instances of His creative power. For example, the person we once believed could never be saved is now walking with Lord and praising Jesus! Or, the paralytic who doctors believed would never walk again is now running, jumping and glorifying God! Some might scoff, believing these to be ridiculous impossibilities. However, Jesus told us only to have faith and then the Holy Spirit would give us the imagination to believe for these things and much more.

Beloved, it is time for the church to once again return to believing in the impossible. The Body of Christ must once again become dreamers that dare to create impossibilities which only faith can secure. We must once again become as children and exercise the God-given imagination within us to secure great things for the kingdom of God. When we refuse to be limited by what might seem ridiculous to some, then we are touching the mind of God and creating situations where anything might happen. All we need to start is that simple child-like trust that must be drawn out of the heart of believers. Then, we must imagine great things to be done for God's glory. May Christ have His way in this regard with us all.

Heavenly Father, cause our imaginations to come into union with Yours. Help us to imagine mountains of doubt and unbelief vanishing as Your faith grows and matures in us. For only as we become children do we really grow up in You. Help us for Your glory and for Christ's sake. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick



The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fathering on Purpose - June 17, 2012

Colossians 3:21 - Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.

Anyone who has been to Israel to see the holy places has certainly visited Jerusalem. On our trip to the Holy Land last year, my wife and I spent a week in in an apartment in Jerusalem, very close to the King David Hotel. Down King David Street where it intersects with Hebron Road is a prayer room named Succat Hallel (Hebrew for Tabernacle of Praise). This is a 24/7 prayer ministry dedicated to raising up prayer intercessors for the restoration of Jerusalem and the salvation of Israel. During my morning run, I would stop and sit in the prayer room as the musicians ministered to the Lord. Through the east-facing windows the walls of Jerusalem would be drenched in the early morning sun. However, the valley between the prayer room and the enormous walls would also be awash in the morning light. This is the valley of Ben-hinnom, or Hinnom as mentioned in the Old Testament---the sight of unspeakable atrocities to children. For whenever Israel backslid into their apostasies, the worship of idols such as Baal, Ashtoreth, and Moloch came to the forefront in Israel's worship. They rejected Yahweh, the Lord God Almighty and made their children "pass through the fire" in the valley of Hinnom. While this began in the days of Solomon, it grew more in acceptability during the time of one Solomon's descendents, King Manasseh.

In II Chronicles chapter 33, we are introduced to Manasseh, son of good King Hezekiah. As good as Hezekiah's reign, his son sought to be diametrically wicked. Among Manasseh's most detestable sins was his worship of Moloch. We read the following where he sacrificed his offspring in the fires of Hinnom, with no apparent pity toward his own: "He made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom; and he practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger." (II Chronicles 33:6) Through all his wickedness, he never sought the Lord. At least not until he was taken by hooks into captivity by the king of Assyria. (In the Jewish Talmud, one can read a story how the king placed Manasseh in a copper barrel and began roasting him!) We know from scripture that Manasseh cried out to the Lord and was delivered. In II Chronicles 33:12-13 we read: "When he was in distress, he entreated the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God." The verses following these tell about Manasseh's "revival" and how he sought to do right the remaining years of his life.

Both in the prayer room those days we stayed in Jerusalem and on subsequent occasions, I have meditated on Manasseh and others like him in scripture who sacrificed their children in the fires of Hinnom. It seems inconceivable to us in our modern world to do such things to our own prodigy. However, how many of us who are fathers or who father children have sacrificed our children in more subtle ways? In sundry fashion, I failed my children when they were growing up, being often more concerned about my sobriety and staying sober rather than getting them to church and raising them amongst other believers. Today, they are products of this subtle abuse. If they do know the Lord, they are far from Him as they walk in a way which seems best to them. My neglect of keeping them centered on the things of God has led to their present-day apostasy. However, like Manasseh, we who have failed our children in the past can only look toward the future. While many of us have inadvertently offered our children up to Moloch by our lack of care and concern in their regard, we can now only look to the future concerning their redemption. The Lord spoke to Jeremiah the prophet an important lesson for all of us as fathers to consider: "The LORD said, 'Surely I will set you free for purposes of good ...'" (Jeremiah 15:11). While Jeremiah was set free from a literal prison, how many of us were set free from a spiritual prison? In both instances, the Lord tells us we can no longer serve ourselves, but we must serve "purposes of good." For those of us who are fathers, this means giving ourselves to prayer for our beloved children. And, when possible, devoting the necessary time to them in order to show them they are important. Just as God desires our time, so do our loved ones. It is the one thing, if done consistently, which will show them our love.

I will never forget the emotions I felt when looking over the valley of Ben-hinnom in Jerusalem. I carry that emotion with me always as I pray for my children, desiring their full redemption to God. However long it takes, it matters not. I am devoted to pray and support them until they come into a full understanding of God's incredible love for them. Sacrifices to Moloch have not occurred outside of Jerusalem for millennia. However, unless we as fathers commit to the redemption and restoration of our children, we continue to sacrifice their spirits to this evil demon. May we cry out, day and night, for our children's redemption. Only then, will we be fathering on purpose and seeking good for those whom we love most.

Heavenly Father, teach us as fathers to love as You do. Cause us to father on purpose and commit to seeing our children on fire for You and not on fire for another god through our neglect. May You give us wisdom how to pray and act in this regard. Thank You for Your love for both us and our offspring. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick



The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, June 8, 2012

Enabling God - June 10, 2012

Isaiah 45:11 - Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: "Ask Me about the things to come concerning My sons, and you shall commit to Me the work of My hands."

Ask most fathers or mothers about their children and they will gladly tell you their hopes and dreams. God is no different. He is committed to our success through the Lord Jesus Christ. When the Lord proclaimed those eternal words from the cross, "It is finished," nothing more could ever be done concerning our salvation. The riches of Christ's redemption, as told by Paul the Apostle, are seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Ephesians 1:3). However, this treasure chest of divine richness is worthless to us unless we appropriate it by faith. That is why God wants us to come to Him, beseeching Him for those things which will allow His church on earth to be overcomers. By doing so, we enable God to shower down those things that allow the body of Christ to prosper in the earth. To do otherwise is to disable God's goodness, kindness, and mercy to be poured out in its full measure.

The church's greatest disability in these end times is a lack of faith and desire to see God's glory revealed. As Hebrews 11:6 states, it is impossible to please God without faith. His great pleasure, to build up His Son's church on earth, is what He yearns and desires to demonstrate through us. For when we allow Him, we permit God to move and to act as He desires on our behalf. The lie of the devil and his minions is that the church is unworthy to do so. Even now, the church in America is coming to a place of much needed repentance in regard to our excesses. We know we are fat from the world and its sinful delicacies, yet so many of us are bound to these from years of practice. However, God is telling us continually, "Come to me and I will give you rest," (Matthew 11:28). The enemy would lie to us and say that if we do not obtain rest right away, then God's promise is a lie. However, when we have created a stronghold as colossal as the Titanic, it often takes time to change direction. The important thing is to keep turning toward God. Then, we allow our faith to commit God to the work of His hands in completing the church of Jesus Christ upon this earth.

Deliverance from a besetting sin may take a season of continual coming to Christ to realize the victory. However, just as often, particular epiphanies or revelations can redirect our church or our individual lives in an instant. These moments of clarity often enable us to turn from a deception quickly and to set our course straight for God. Clear vision of this sort comes through the spirit of wisdom and revelation in which Paul speaks of in his letters to the churches (Ephesians 1:17-19). The apostle understood the importance of invoking God's wisdom and insight both individually and collectively. In so doing, God then allows faith to grow in the hearts of believers, enabling Him to move on their behalf. If we do not seek God and His wisdom, we severely limit the Lord to move in demonstrative ways. However, when we allow Him to function according to His nature of love and mercy through our prayers, then we move closer to time's conclusion and the embrace of Jesus Christ and His bride.

The greatest tool or weapon of Satan is to make us believe our unbelief. If he can make the church of God see themselves as "content" with their powerless existence, then he has won the day. We should never succumb to this lie that we will not or cannot attain to righteousness and holiness while we live in mortal flesh. In doing so, we create in our God a disability of gigantic proportion. We must never allow the enemy tell us that God is ashamed of us for failing in this or that. As long as we are continually coming to Christ, then we are His to brag about. It is our commission, as the church, to seek out God's wisdom regarding His purposes. When we do so we commit Him to the work He longs and desires to complete in us.

Heavenly Father, we acknowledge the finished work of Jesus Christ. We understand how He has given us all things to live godly. Now, we come to You in faith to acquire Your great purpose for His church. We enable You, Lord, by our faith to have Your way with Your bride upon planet earth. Move with full enablement to do as You desire. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick



The Bare Soul Archives

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Power of Hope - June 3, 2012

Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

A casual reading of the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews tells us the importance of faith. However, faith would not be possible without hope. If we did not hope for something God promised was possible, we could not cling to the belief that God was going to do what He states. If faith is the assurance of things hoped for as Hebrews 11:1 states, then we understand how hope is the underpinning of faith, allowing our trust to remain stalwart in troubling times. Allow me to illustrate by the following examples.

Hope is often dictated by our experience. We may say, "My, I hope it doesn't rain today!" A statement such as this may be precluded by the appearance of angry storm clouds gathering. Whether we choose to believe it will or it won't is often based on our observation. Possibly a better example is air travel. We may believe in the law of aerodynamics. We may even trust so wholeheartedly that we decide to put it to the test by flying from Chicago to Los Angeles. However, where and when did this trust first occur? Before we actually believe something to be true, we either have a sense of hope or hopelessness in its regard. If the airlines were continually crashing over the Rocky Mountains in their attempt to reach Los Angeles, one might conclude that it was a hopeless endeavor to attempt this journey. If there was a 50/50 chance of making it to the west coast, then hopelessness would likely be the result of ever reaching the City of the Angels by air. However, if there had not been an airplane crash in more than 20 years on this route, and 20 flights flew this route daily, then a person would have every right to feel hopeful they would arrive in Los Angeles. Their hope had now become faith by the assurance of arriving at their destination.

Romans 5:5 tells us how hope does not disappoint. It is important to understand in context the reason for Paul's declarative statement. It is impossible to suffer disappointment if we are first grounded in the love of God. Unlike the aforementioned examples, hope does not necessarily need to be dictated by experience. Whether we experience God's love which is poured out within our heart is up to the believer. However, it does not belie the fact that the love of God has been poured out in the heart of a child of God as it states in this verse. That is where faith works in concert with hope. We hope because God's word tells us our hearts are filled with love and that hope does not disappoint. Whether we believe it is superfluous. It is a fact. However, when we do believe in faith, it creates a stronger bond of unity between faith, hope, and love. Hope then becomes assured through the faith of the believer and then we see as God sees.

Abraham is a good example of someone who hoped despite his experience. We know from Romans 4:18, Paul tells us that Abraham juxtaposed the hope of his experience, an aged person incapable of producing children, with the hope of God which was guaranteed not to disappoint. Through this hope, the ancient patriarch was able to believe God for His promise of Isaac, therefore resulting in faith leading to righteousness (Romans 4:20-22). He did not waver in unbelief because he set His heart and mind to remain hopeful regarding God's promise.

While Abraham is certainly a worthy example, we might shake our heads with skepticism regarding our own situations that may seem hopeless. For instance, why hasn't God saved those family members that we have prayed for years? It may seem hopeless to us as we see sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, and others continuing on the path to perdition they have walked without any seeming conviction to do otherwise. However, whom or what shall we believe? Shall we succumb to hopelessness because that is our past experience? Or, shall we cling to God's promise that He will save us along with our whole household? (Acts 16:31) Experience should not dictate our hope, beloved, which should therefore not influence our faith. Just because experience may command my hope in natural things, such as the weather or air travel, there is no reason why it should with spiritual matters. The word of God supersedes all hopelessness regarding a child of the King and instead gives us great hope in all of His promises. As we understand how His love and faith are tied inextricably to His hope within us, to that degree will we be at peace, knowing Christ is enthroned in every outcome of our lives.

Heavenly Father, may You open the eyes of our hearts to see how Your hope will never disappoint. It is impossible for it to ever do so, because it is grounded in Your love. May our faith grow and may we draw nearer to You in our experience as we live out this important truth. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick



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