Sunday, February 24, 2013

Longing for Redemption - February 24, 2013

II Timothy 4:8 - In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

In many ways, Paul's longing for his eternal home was foreign to Jewish sentiment. The Jewish culture has always been more in touch with the "here and now" rather than the the "sweet by and by."  Certainly, many who followed Pharisaic teachings believed in an afterlife. Diametric in belief were their counterparts, the Sadducees, who believed in only an earthly existence with no hope of a life after death (Acts 23:8). However, both groups and most Jewish people looked mainly for betterment of life here on earth. They believed their position as children of Abraham made them secure for whatever heaven would offer them. So, when Paul spoke of the heavenly realm as the reward of the believer, this was a paradigm shift, especially for Jewish believers. His Gentile audiences knew less about the Jewish sense of entitlement regarding birthright. Therefore, Paul's letter to Timothy was not one of special privilege regarding the aged apostle's heritage as a child of Abraham, but instead his right to be a child of God according to faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12).

Some of the Jews who followed Jesus undoubtedly grew angrier as He did not manifest the kingdom of God on earth. That is the only thing that interested many of them. They did not want to hear about a heavenly kingdom, but one where they would prosper socially, economically, and politically here on earth. Their arrogance as the "chosen people" made them blind to the paradoxical teaching of Jesus concerning a kingdom where the poor in spirit reigned (Matthew 5:3). Rather than fortify this earth, they were being told to abandon it and to prepare for a new heaven and a new earth. Instead of considering their country, position, social standing, or wealth, Jesus was telling them to forsake all and prepare for something infinitesimally superior. However, they could not have both. They would inevitably trust in one or the other, deciding which kingdom they chose to give their allegiance.

What is remarkable is how Paul -- a Pharisee of Pharisees -- threw off former preconceptions of Jewish acculturation and embraced the Messiah and His promise of the hope of Glory. Or, how Peter, Andrew, James, and John abandoned their families to follow Jesus! This was unheard of in ancient Palestine, for a son to walk away from his family. Our westernized mindset built on individualism really does not comprehend the closeness of Semitic families and what this meant.

Similarly, if we have truly loved Christ's appearing in our lives and hearts on the day of our salvation, we will be anticipating His return and not be seeking to preserve our earthly heritage. Consider King Hezekiah and how he begged God not to take him to heaven (II Kings 20:6). It can be argued that Hezekiah is the reason why the Babylonians later pillaged Jerusalem. If he had not been around to show the Babylonian emissaries Judah's wealth, they might not have bothered with this distant land (II Kings 20:12-19). However, the king was only interested in the "here and now." He did not understand how loving his earthly life would have ramifications for centuries.

How many of us would react similarly? How many of us love our comfortable lives here on earth and would be saddened to see Christ coming in the clouds? Like those of the Jewish nation, are we as Christians enraptured with our earthly lives? Have we become so busy with the temporal things that we do not long for the things of heaven? (Luke 14:18-20) So many of us loved His initial appearing in our lives when He saved us. Yet, now there might be some reservation regarding His second coming to snatch us away. We should all beware of loving the "here and now" and long for the "sweet by and by." If not, then have we truly loved His appearing?

Heavenly Father, may we long for Your Son's appearing. There is nothing this imperfect earth can give us that You have not already granted us if we will but trust in You. Help us to have great patience, forbearance, and wisdom, knowing Your return is soon. May we love Your appearing in all aspects of our lives. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick



The Bare Soul Archives

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Power Through Wisdom - February 17, 2013

Luke 10:19 - Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you.
 
How exciting it must have been for the disciples to receive their commission directly from the Lord! Having traveled around with Jesus for months or years and witnessing the wonderful miracles He wrought, the thought of going out in that type of power undoubtedly gave them great excitement and expectation. After their great evangelistic outreach, "The seventy returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.'” (Luke 10:17) Shortly following their exclamation, the Lord uttered the words of our lead verse, declaring what they had just experienced. The gospel was real and they were an active part in bringing heaven to earth---helping to heal, deliver, and give great hope where there was previously hopelessness.
 
One might ask why Jesus did not give them this revelation of their authority in the Name of Jesus before they set off. He did give them some fundamental instructions about how to conduct themselves. However, He waited to confirm what He spoke in Luke 10:19 after they returned and in regard to what they had experienced. Possibly this was to keep them in a place of humility with the ability to receive from the Lord on an as needed basis. Rather than going out with a sense of dramatic intensity that everyone they laid hands on would be healed or delivered, possibly Jesus wanted them to go out and experience power through wisdom. Rather than having carte blanche and a belief they were able to heal every illness and cast out every demon, Jesus instead wanted them to rely upon God's wisdom and move according to God's will and purpose. Remember, there were many in Jesus' time that were not healed or delivered. Case and point, the lame beggar in the Gate Beautiful which Jesus undoubtedly saw day after day during His ministry. (The Lord had a divine appointment for this man with His servants Peter and John [(Acts 3:1-2].) Possibly some days the power of God was not present for Jesus to heal, as stated in Luke 5:17. Therefore, as in the case of the seventy, He wanted them to go forth in God's wisdom first. Then, He could demonstrate His healing through them as He willed.
 
The disciples knew they were being sent out under Jesus' authority. However, by their exclamation of joy and surprise on their return, it is clear they did not understand the full implication. Authority is administered best when it is done so with both wisdom and power. Just because someone has the authority and the power to exercise it, does not mean they have wisdom to make sure it is passed along with grace. Merely look at any number of authority figures in law enforcement, government, or even religion to understand this dynamic. Once the disciples understood the necessity of using God's authority first with His wisdom, then it created great joy in them. Misused power will often create more problems than the solutions it seeks to remedy.
 
Luke 10:19  is intended to show us the strength of God over this world while giving us imagery that is powerfully descriptive. Yet, we must be careful not to allow romantic sentimentality to rocket us away from its intent and to discourage us. As the disciples learned wisdom from daily learning with Jesus, so we must slog through commonplace days to get to the days where we are demonstrably treading on the enemy. Many days, we live out the miracle of the mundane where we allow God's character to grow within a little at a time. We live as fathers and mothers and sons and daughters, doing the next right thing that God desires of us. These days are usually without spiritual drama and can look very much like what our worldly counterparts are accomplishing. However, the exceptional is made exceptionally grand when we have been living right every day. Then, when we come upon someone who truly needs a touch from God, we can be the one to offer them God's peace while we grind the enemy under our feet. This, my friends, is the real Christian life.
 
Lord God Almighty, lead us not into the temptation of possessing Your power without Your wisdom. May we spend time in Your presence, understanding how Your authority is perfected in humility. Grant us the joy of Your presence as we minister to others for You and Your glory. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
 
Your Barefoot Servant,
 
Rick

 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Anguish to Joy - February 10, 2013

Isaiah 53:11 - As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.

The birth of children is something truly remarkable to behold. I was privileged to watch the birth of all three of my natural children. Of course, childbirth for the father is much different than the suffering of the mother. I often reflect on this when I think how Jesus brought back the human race from spiritual death. Jesus Christ's death, burial, and resurrection acted much like the womb of new birth as the Holy Spirit came along side as the mid-wife, ensuring success. The Father looked on, as many sons and daughters were restored to Him on that day. What a glorious moment it had to be! If only we could have heard the rejoicing in heaven when Jesus said, "It is finished" and later when the stone was rolled away. The joy of the Father was certainly inexpressible in our human capacity to understand it.
 
In his great wisdom given by God, Solomon states in Ecclesiastes 7:8 how "The end of a matter is better than its beginning." How Jesus must have known and believed this as He prepared for His death. We know from the word of God that Jesus was certainly concerned about His upcoming demise. Some have speculated a variety of reasons for his angst regarding His crucifixion. Regardless the reason, we know He did not sin, but kept entrusting Himself to the One who would deliver Him (I Peter 2:23). As John relates the words of Jesus: “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour" (John 12:27). The hope of mankind's deliverance was the great motivator that revealed Christ's perfect love for humanity.

Isaiah tells us in our lead verse that "He will see it." I believe this is speaking about the Father when He witnessed His Son dying on the cross. He looked at the spilt blood of His Son and surely wept as sin's penalty was satisfied! However, with his weeping there was a joy breaking forth that no sadness could overwhelm. Isaiah 53:10 tells us Christ will see His offspring by offering Himself as a "guilt offering." Likewise, He would find satisfaction knowing He had brought many sons and daughters back to His Father through the "anguish of His soul." The pain the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit incurred to save us was incalculable. Conversely, as already mentioned, the joy likewise was indescribable regarding our deliverance.  Jesus prophetically tells His disciples in John 16:21 that  "Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world."

Joy is often the direct outcome of pain. Our great gains in Christ are often recognized through His extraordinary loss. When we begin to really understand what it cost the Godhead to bring about our salvation, it should first pain us remarkably. However, if it is truly a God-given revelation, it should then give us joy inexpressible regarding what He has done. Are we walking in great joy today, beloved? If not, possibly we do not truly understand His great anguish which lead to His great joy. Ask God for this understanding. Cry out to Him that He would reveal the cost of Calvary. When we truly understand it, we will likewise know His anguish but also His great joy in bringing many sons and daughters to salvation.

Heavenly Father, may you grant us all wisdom to know what the cross of Christ cost. May we enter into the fellowship of Your sufferings that we might attain to the resurrection of the dead according to Your servant, Paul (Philippians 3:10-11). Show us Your heart, Lord, and Your great love for us. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick



The Bare Soul Archives

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Possessing Our Souls - February 3, 2013

Luke 21:19 (NKJV) - By your patience possess your souls.

I heard a pastor once preach on "Love is patient" out of I Corinthians 13. His premise was how the two are interchangeable. Love is the very essence of patience and conversely it is impossible to be patient without being loving. I agree with this. I believe our Savior's patience was extraordinary as He dealt in a spirit of love with everyone He met. (However, the Pharisees might have seen things differently.) Just as God is love, so also He embodies patience (I John 4:8).

 
When we look at Luke 21:19, we should look at Jesus' admonition as exhorting us to "self-care." In context, it is of course speaking of the last days and the hostility others will show against those who stand up for the gospel. To bring my mention of I Corinthians 13 into this context, I believe both Paul and our Lord would tell us that the best self-care comes from first loving God who dwells within us and then allowing that to overflow to others. In other words, if we are loving and patient with ourselves, we will be patient and loving with others. To go back to the context of Luke 21 once again, this will mean the difference of possessing our souls or betraying them out of fear. When we are perfected in love, it casts out all fear, allowing us to live with God’s integrity through love (I John 4:8).

Jesus asked the question, "What will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26). To possess one's soul means that we have surrendered to our Savior all impatience to do otherwise. We have come into that perfect place of sanctification where we no longer wonder if we are set apart and holy for the Master's use. The thought does not even occur to us. We just know we are imbued with a marvelous sense of His love and patience in how He is living and moving and having His Being through us. This, my friends, is self-care that will become demonstrable soul-care to all with whom are hungry for an encounter with God.

One might well ask how this paradigm shift occurs? Where we no longer concern ourselves with possessing anything let alone our souls? (Of course the paradox is that when we no longer seek to possess anything we possess all things.)  Furthermore, how do we perfect this place of patience which is imbued with God's presence and love? It is wonderful to speak in theory of being loving and patient, but how does this happen? The reminders are constant throughout the word of God and especially in Paul's letters. Paul's desire for the churches to whom he wrote his letters to "put on" Jesus Christ was a constant theme and probably a frequent prayer of his. (Romans 13:12, Ephesians 6:11, and Colossians 3:1are just three instances of more than a dozen given by Paul.) The paradigm shift is as simple as doing the "do's" and turning away from the "don'ts." When we turn toward Jesus, and allow Him to renew us according to His image, then we are allowing the possession of our souls to become a reality through Christ's love. May we patiently turn toward Him as we give more and more to Him daily.

Heavenly Father, may you show us how we really do not possess anything. Yet, You allow us stewardship over these vessels you have created for us to live in. May we possess them in Your love and patience, wholly sanctified for Your use. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

 
Rick