Sunday, July 28, 2013

Personal Revival - Psalm 119 - July 28, 2013

I love reading the Psalms. They are truly eloquent, heartfelt demonstrations of souls crying out to God. Part of my daily bible reading is the Psalms. I have always thought that Psalm 119 was one of the most beautiful and poignant examples of a heart crying out to the Lord. I have read this Psalm probably hundreds of times, but verses 33-40 jumped off the page to me on this occasion. I occurred to me that I was reading a wonderful blueprint for personal revival. And of course, personal revival once achieved can become collective revival as more and more souls cry out for the same things for their own churches and communities. Here are some of my thoughts about this passage and how a proper understanding can lead a soul to a revived relationship with the Lord Jesus.

Psalm 119:33-40 
Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, and I shall observe it to the end.
This passage doesn't say "teach me Your statutes" but teach me the "way of Your statutes". It is a much different thing to be tutored to understand every dot and tittle of God's law, but it is quite another to be instructed in the way of His statutes. Once a person understands the "way" of God's thinking, then the law does not need to come down one by one, but there is a deep understanding of His nature and how He would respond to every situation through the law written on a person's heart. Jesus proclaimed in John 5:19 that He could only do those things which He saw His Father in heaven doing. Once we are led in the "way" of His statutes then we will better understand the nature of the One leading us.

Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law and keep it with all my heart.
Understanding comes in levels. As a child, I understood that I must stop and look both ways when I crossed the street because my mother told me to and I respected her enough to obey her command. As I got older, it became clear that in order to preserve life and limb, that this was a good practice. I may not totally understand God's laws and why I must obey, but it will become clearer and clearer the more I grow in Him and learn to trust that His laws are good.

Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it.
Psalm 36:9 states "... In Your light, we see light". Any trail runner can tell you that a good headlamp or handheld flashlight is essential when night running. As those of us who are believers head down life's dark paths, it is good and comforting to know that our Father lights our path so that we turn not to the right or to the left. I don't need the entire area illuminated, for when there is too much around me to "see" (the lust of the eyes) then it is easy to get my sight off the path in front of me. Thank you Lord Jesus for illumining just where I need to go in the next few steps and that I don't need to know where I am going days and weeks down the proverbial path. You make me walk (or run!) in the path of your commandments by illumining my way!

Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to dishonest gain.
Webster defines "incline" as "meaning to influence one to have or take an attitude toward something". It is quite easy in our world to give way to relativity and compromise allowing our "gains" to be something other than honest. I believe this verse is talking much more about character than money, although money and how we deal with it is a fruit of our character. What I believe the Lord is saying here through the psalmist is that first I must have a strong inclination toward the testimonies of God. The testimonies of God are all around us. Psalm 19:1 states that "The heavens are telling of the glory of God". This is a testimony of God that he controls nature, the seasons, the stars, the planets, and so on. Testimonies of God regarding marital faithfulness say that it is wrong to commit adultery. Even primitive cultures understand this truth because it has been written on their hearts. So, my desire should be that God would strongly influence my heart toward His testimonies so that I would not gain dishonestly. Dishonest gain is the catalyst for the deeds of the flesh -- anything that comes from selfish ambition (James 3:16) rather than Godly direction. This is will only strengthen the "portfolio of the flesh" and not the Heavenly Kingdom.

Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways.
David stated in Psalm 101:3 that he "... will set no unworthy thing before his eyes". That is a tall order, no doubt. Especially, in this sin-soaked world we live in today. Turning my eyes from vanity is a constant endeavor and something I will never conquer to the point of "graduation". There are things at every turn that would seek us to behold, and through the beholding, to become defiled to the point where we have sacrificed our fellowship with the Lord. The more often that I turn my eyes from the things of this world that would seek to pollute my inner man, the more opportunity the Lord Jesus has to come and to revive His wonderful presence within me. Paul stated in Philippians 4:8 "... whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." The most amazing thing happens when we overcome evil with good. Jesus rejoices with us and revives us!

Establish Your word to Your servant, as that which produces reverence for You.
It is easy to speed read the bible which allows about as much retention as the effort to understand what's been read. When I look at this scripture, I think about concrete workers and how they make sidewalks and driveways. All the prep work has to be done first -- digging the footings, laying the rebar, and setting the forms. Once the concrete is poured, can the forms be readily taken up and discarded? Not until the concrete has set and cured! That is the way I look at the Word of God and how He wishes to establish it in our hearts. Too often we want God to pour in the blessings of His word without US doing the needed prep work, laboriously preparing for his "spiritual concrete". Once we have laid the ground work, then the Lord God can pour His Word into us. This is the type of revelation that will set firm and sure and cause Godly reverence for our Lord.

Turn away my reproach which I dread, for Your ordinances are good.
Through all the above prayers and actions, our reproach and the sin our old nature is evident and glaring. We have come to understand the law of the Lord, have walked in His commandments, inclined our hearts toward Godly ambition and through all this revelation have become uncomfortably aware of our bodies of sin that God so zealously wants to bury once and for all. At this point, we can truly cry out as Paul did in Romans 7:24: "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?" And in the next verse he gives the glorious answer to his rhetoric question: "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" The turning away of reproach that the psalmist prays for is so much more doable once we have realized that we need a Savior who can truly turn our reproach over with a proverbial shovel and bury it totally, completely!

Behold, I long for Your precepts; Revive me through Your righteousness.
If we have been thorough regarding the previous prayers and actions, and God has broken through and accomplished a true change of mind and heart then we will be in LOVE with his precepts or commandments. We will know at this point that He only wants good for us and to establish us as sons and daughters of the Most High. Then, the miraculous happens! God takes us and sanctifies us for HIS pleasure and HIS work. For truly when one is revived in God's righteousness, one has been identified with the Righteous Servant who came to lay down His life for the entire world. We will truly be revived to do similar works of love as we lay down our lives for those around us.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick



The Bare Soul Archives

"Personal Revival - Psalm 119" was first published on February 3, 2008

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Kings and Priests - July 21, 2013

II Samuel 6:14-16 - And David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouting and the sound of the trumpet. Then it happened as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.


King David was a complex character. It might be argued that there is no other person in the scriptures that we know so much about and yet his life is still enigmatic. Notably, 38 chapters in I and II Samuel are devoted to the life of David. Of greater importance is how these 38 chapters reveal the multi-dimensional character of this man who would bring together Israel and unite it as a kingdom state. We are first introduced to David in I Samuel 16 when the prophet Samuel is directed by God to go to the house of Jesse to anoint the next king of Israel in the place of disobedient Saul. In the following chapters, we see a young man that is obviously graced by God. David becomes an important part of King Saul's retinue (I Samuel 16:17-23) as he becomes the king's armor bearer and also his personal psalmist that would invariably drive away the spirits that vexed Saul. The scripture states that after David had skillfully played on the harp that the king would be "refreshed and be well".

In subsequent chapters in I Samuel and the beginning of II Samuel, we see a young warrior that establishes himself firmly in the hearts and minds of the Israelite nation. From his first victory of killing the giant Goliath (I Samuel 17:49-50), to the uniting of all the tribes under his commander Joab (II Samuel 5:1-5), David grew with a warrior mentality that would serve him well as he ruled the nation with a strong hand. David was both feared and respected by both his nation and those nations round about. Those who knew him both intimately and from afar had grown comfortable with his warrior-king motif. So, when David paraded himself through the streets of Jerusalem in a linen ephod (basically a thin robe-type garment worn by the priests), some may have been taken aback. In II Samuel 6 the scripture tells us nothing whether those who lined the streets were shocked regarding their king's behavior as the ark of the covenant was carried to its resting place. We only hear of his wife Michal's contempt and how she despised him in her heart. Some bible commentators say that she hated David because he had left her when Saul was pursuing David, and that she had therefore married another. David later reclaimed Michal as his wife with much misgivings by her counterfeit husband (II Samuel 3:16). However, this was the first reference in all of scripture that Michal had expressed anything other than love for her husband and king. No, I believe the reason she felt disdain and loathing toward David was that she had never seen the type of behavior he was displaying to all Jerusalem. In II Samuel 6:20 she states: "But when David returned to bless his household, Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, 'How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants' maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!'" Clearly, she speaks through her embarrassment as she never believed that a king would consider behaving as she saw David behave that day. Surely, she had never seen her father, King Saul, act in such a manner. And that, beloved, is where the great delineation between Saul and David is clearly revealed.

Saul was a king who ruled by proxy, sometimes by his own weak mind and sometimes by the prophet Samuel (when he would listen and obey). Saul did not have the connection with God that King David learned. David knew how to step from one character, a warrior-king, into the ephod of a priest and minister with love and joy to the Lord. Those who lined the streets dared not say anything regarding their king's behavior, but Michal who was close and intimate with her husband and king undoubtedly believed she had license to speak her mind. In conclusion of this royal tirade, Michal was spurned by the king and she remained barren the rest of her life.

There's a reason why King David's life is so vividly recorded for us in scripture. It goes far beyond just thinking what a great guy David was and how he united the nation of Israel. In truth, God desires His people to discover what it means to be both a warrior-king and a priest unto the Lord. To be able to war in the spirit with a vengeance -- to learn how to get a hold of the mind of Christ in intercessory prayer and pull down strongholds that He is wanting us to war against. There are evil forces that seek to destroy and splinter our families, our churches, and ultimately our nation. They are like a corrosive rust that seeks to eat away all that is good and upright from the inside out. By the time the damage is done, the damage is so demonstrative that it crumbles all around us. We see sensuality and perversion on a rise that is unparalleled. We need to pull down this wicked spiritual stronghold in the name of Jesus Christ. We see homosexuality becoming an accepted "alternative" lifestyle. We need to pull down this wicked spiritual stronghold in the name of Jesus Christ.  We continue to see thousands of babies aborted in the U.S. every year, many in their last trimester. We need to pull down this wicked spiritual stronghold in the name of Jesus Christ. We see greed, hate, murder, and every sin against mankind on the rise. All of the humanistic, selfish, sinful acts of mankind need to be warred against, much like David did in his day against the pagan, idolatrous nations that surrounded Israel.

As with David, even in the midst of our warring in the spirit, we need to take up the linen ephod and minister to the Lord "with all our might". This means taking time to refresh ourselves in His presence, to sing and dance before Him with all our heart, mind, and soul. For truly the "joy of the Lord is our strength" and "in His presence is fullness of joy" (see Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 16:11). No matter if some might think that this kind of behavior is wasteful. No matter if some might despise us because it seems "undignified" to  be giving ourselves in abandon to our Lord. For those of us who are redeemed, we need to learn this behavior here in this lifetime, for the age to come has us reigning in this manner as "kings and priests". Revelation 5:10 states: "And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." (King James Version) Beloved, this is our destiny -- this is our calling as true believers in the Lord. Not to be merely warrior-king intercessors, embodying the spirit of King David to pull down the forces of wickedness that would seek to dismantle our nation. This alone is a high, holy calling but it is only one piece of this dichotomy. As there will always be warfare for to be waged for our wicked world, we still need to know our way back to our respective "Jerusalem", having the wisdom to know how and when to minister to Him. Only as we know how to make war with the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) and at the same time minister as a priest to our Lord, will we experience the depth of character as a king and priest that so dynamically typified King David.

Psalm 149:6-9 
Let the high praises of God be in their mouth,
And a two-edged sword in their hand, 
To execute vengeance on the nations
And punishment on the peoples, 
To bind their kings with chains
And their nobles with fetters of iron, 
To execute on them the judgment written;
This is an honor for all His godly ones.
Praise the LORD!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick




The Bare Soul Archives

"Kings and Priests" was first published on April 5, 2009

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Depths of God's Wisdom - July 14, 2013

Job 42:5-6 - I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You. Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.

For Job, his greatest vindication from the onslaught of his friends came when God revealed Himself in the thirty-eighth chapter. As the Lord spoke to this small gathering of men, His wisdom became evident as He instructed them of His creation and its complexity. God's discourse in this chapter concerning how He set the stars in the sky, to His wisdom regarding all the living creatures He created in subsequent chapters, reveals to us how things can not be calculated merely with knowledge. God's wisdom far surpasses anything we might think we know about Him. His desire was to show Job and friends the foolishness of trying to calculate the ways of His Almighty power. In His foreknowledge, He knew this encounter would not only set Job and his friends straight, but it would continue to set the bar for countless others who would seek to wrestle meaning out of God's plans for mankind.

To say that one knows God is to say little regarding actually knowing His depths. We can certainly understand Him from His written word. However, to understand how God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes is often perplexing at best (Romans 8:28). For instance, how can the death of a child (Job experienced the loss of many children) be in someone's best interest? How can something like this work for good? Those of us who are counselors have no doubt listened to a grieving mother and father express sentiments regarding their loss. While this is definitely not the time to use this verse to try to help ease pain, the same concept might also be couched in patient listening. Often, people don't want us to offer them a scripture. They just want us to listen. This is how they begin to make sense of the sovereignty of God. Simply having the knowledge of God's ways do not mean we possess the wisdom of His ways. These come through not only "the hearing of the ear" (knowledge), but are perfected by eyes that see (wisdom).

Knowledge is definitely not the same as wisdom. While the former may lead to the latter, there is no guarantee this will occur without God and how He chooses to reveal Himself. When we finally start to understand the Lord in a particular area, it becomes a wisdom epiphany that often changes our entire paradigm of belief. For instance, we might tell ourselves that we must be more patient with others. However, until God starts working that part of His character through us, we have only known it in concept. The reality of God is always demonstrated in action.

Repentance will always result in returning to our source. Since our flesh and bone are made from the dust, we might revert to "dust and ashes" as Job did in our new found awareness. (This might manifest figuratively or possibly even literally, depending on our religious practices.) If nothing else, we may bow low and prostrate ourselves under His revelation. Even as our body relates to its origin, our soul will fall toward God as its source. Much like the law of gravity will always take effect when a weighted object is dropped, we too will return to our Center which is God when we allow His law of love to enlighten our knowledge with His wisdom.

Plainly, the more we know God, the more we should understand how little of God we actually comprehend. However, knowledge can often be that great catalyst that reveals God's wisdom. That is the difference between us and the world. That was also the difference between Job and his friends. We must allow our knowledge to become substantive through a humble mind and spirit. Then, as it is demonstrated to a lost world, it can become the very thing that provides an epiphany to those who otherwise would have no hope.

Father, we ask You to allow our hearts to not only hear Your word, but to see how You lovingly cause it to work for wonders in the hearts of all mankind. Grant us insight through our desire for You and Your wisdom. Establish the fear of the Lord within our hearts so that we might know You more fully now and forevermore. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick



The Bare Soul Archives

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Beyond Ourselves - July 7, 2013

Jeremiah 15:11- The LORD said, "Surely I will set you free for purposes of good; Surely I will cause the enemy to make supplication to you in a time of disaster and a time of distress."

As many of you know, barefoot running literally set me free back in 2003 from achy joints and the possibility of knee surgery. As time passed, I have realized that not everyone has "ears to hear" what I purport about my running recovery. That's okay. I realize barefoot running is not for everyone. However, I have realized that God has given me an extraordinary gift that garners some attention. It is my responsibility as a believer to "decrease so He can increase". It is with joy that I try to give back through my witness and charity work to those around me, both in person and through cyberspace.

Everyone that knows the Lord Jesus Christ and has trusted in His grace has been set free from their respective lives of sin. God does not merely set us free to lounge in His pleasure, drinking in the fellowship of His love and goodness. Each and everyone of us who know the Lord have been set free to help to set others free. It is our responsibility to be faithful to Jesus' admonition to go forth and make disciples of all nations. That literally means to make others like myself! Around 400 years ago, John Donne the Jacobean Poet/Preacher stated "...No man is an island, entire of itself ..." Certainly Jeremiah felt this affinity toward the nation of Israel. He identified with it -- he wept for it as God moved through him with His own aching heart. Jeremiah 15 is atypical of the "weeping prophet's" dilemma of standing in the gap between God and the nation of Israel. The prophet has been shut up in prison by evil King Manasseh and the Lord is pronouncing the king's and his rebellious nation's doom. In verse 10, Jeremiah cries out to God and says, "Woe to the mother who bore me" and began his complaint to God for even being borne to such a grievous task. God quickly stops Jeremiah and states that He has a higher, nobler call for the prophet rather than languishing in a prison. The Lord stated that He would set Jeremiah "... free for purposes of good." Beyond that, God stated that Jeremiah's enemies (the ruling class of Israel) would humble themselves to the prophet when Jerusalem was besieged from without by the Babylonian army.

While most of us have not spent time languishing behind bars, many of us have spent years enslaved to sin and its dire consequences. While my selfishness was fortified by alcohol addiction, others suffer just as debilitating "prisons" in their own lives. Jesus said, "If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed". Following this freedom comes the very ambassadorship that Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 5:20 where we have the privilege of representing our Lord and helping others be free from a similar "prison". I take my "ambassadorship" very circumspectly to the men at the local mission where I volunteer. I continue to build friendships with these men because they know that I too have come from a similar background of homelessness aggravated by addiction. When I share the Word with these men once a month in chapel, they understand and relate. Truly, if I were a Japanese ambassador for our country, I would not be as comfortable with an interpreter as I would be knowing the language and communicating directly. Truly, I know these men's "language" when it comes to the heartaches of what sin produces in its many manifestations. Even as in Jeremiah's time when the rulers came to him and released him from prison and sought his advice regarding Israel's onslaught, so even today those who are truly set free from sin will experience those who once were hostile to the Gospel actually coming, asking, "What shall we do to be saved?"

Then, there are those who are so duped by the enemy that they haven't a clue that they are still in their own prisons of sin. There are countless folks who have attempted to turn this scripture around and try to do "good" through lives of giving and helping others to balm their conscience and to gain their salvation. While there are numerous noble works of charity being accomplished by millions throughout the world, it all means nothing in the light of eternity if they do not know the Lord. Jesus said in John 8:24 "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He [the Messiah], you will die in your sins." Jesus Christ offers a way out of our prison pits of hopelessness. Then, He will equip us to do good.

For those of us who know the Lord, let us ask this question of ourselves: "What is our personal message to a dying world around us? Is our ambassadorship being received in a noticeable way? Are others understanding that our lives were once sin-stained and without hope until we came and laid them at the feet of Jesus? Friends, he has commissioned all of us to GO and to be His ambassadors to a dying world. We were not saved to be safe and content, but to pour out our lives even as Christ poured out His. If we are not giving, we are truly dying inside. What are the "purposes of good" that God wants you to accomplish today? If we have not experienced and known that He has truly set us free from the dungeon of sin and despair it is unlikely we will feel much compelled to be a thankful people ready to do His will. May we all understand that He brought us all out of treacherous rebellion to Him and into a place where we can lead others to His pastures of delight!

Father, allow us the gift to look beyond ourselves. Grant us Your heart for others. Equip us to do Your will as we humbly submit our lives for Your glory. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Barefoot Rick



The Bare Soul Archives


"Beyond Ourselves" was first published on April 13, 2008